Hitting the Reset Button on Ourselves

Jim:    Welcome ladies and gentlemen, and all friends of the universe.  This is Jim Ellermeyer and welcome to our continuing series of mindfulness on Fishing Without Bait – a life without expectations.  And, as always, today I’m joined by my good friend and producer and co-host, Mr. Mike.  Mr. Mike, tell me about yourself today.

Mike:    Oh, I’m doing great.  A busy, busy day around here at the Sorgatron Media studios.  But, I’m happy that you’ve joined me and we can have a conversation today.

Jim:    Mike, I understand – and I know you well.  I know that you’re hooked into all types of social media, kind of all things electronic.  Mike, tell me this, do you ever turn your phone off?  Do you ever reset it?  Do you ever reboot your computer?  Do you ever reboot a tablet?

Mike:    Certainly.  Especially when it’s giving me some trouble.

Jim:    And, why would you do that?

Mike:    Typically, it gives a refresher to the system.  Then, a lot of things that kind of – this cruft of stuff that builds up of the information and the tasks, just kind of slow it down.  You just need to clean your slate a little bit.

Jim:    So, what you’re telling me is you’re resetting the phone.  You’re resetting the computer, so perhaps it operates according to its function?

Mike:    Exactly.  Even though it’s 1s and 0s it is kind of temperamental still.

Jim:    Tell me this, Mike, can your phone run forever on a charge?

Mike:    No.

Jim:    Have you had a solar-powered computer yet?

Mike:    Not yet.  There are bits out there.  But, that’s not terribly common yet.

Jim:    So, what we do here is we have – and, our mind is like that, too.  Did you ever think of mindfulness and meditation, and love and kindness as resetting yourself?

Mike:    I hadn’t.

Jim:    And also, as recharging yourself.  So, quite often we could use reset, could we not?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    So, this is what we’re talking about.  This reminds me a story about the Buddha when he had his night of enlightenment under the bodhi tree.  And, when he got up and he began to talk to people, first of all they asked him if he was a god.  And, he said no.  And, they said well, are you an angel? And, he said, no, I’m not.  And, then they said, are you a saint?  And he says, no I’m not.  And he said then what are you? And the Buddha replied I’m awake.  So, the term Buddha means awakened one – enlightened one, which is the Buddha, which is what we’re talking about in our mindfulness journey.  We spoke the last time, Mike, about the relationship between pain and suffering, and how it’s part of the human experience.  And, the way we approach it from the perspective that we take it makes all the difference.  What I’d like to talk to you about today is exactly what to do – what type of medication.  Have you ever had a bee sting?

Mike:    Yes.

Jim:    What’d you do to it?  What did you do for it?

Mike:    Ran to my mother because it was long, long time ago.

Jim:    You haven’t got stung by a bee since then?

Mike:    No, I haven’t.  I don’t have a lot of opportunities to run into bees here in the city.

Jim:    How about getting sunburnt?  

Mike:    Certainly had a bit of that.

Jim:    You’ve had sunburn?

Mike:    Yes.  Yes.

Jim:    Are you unfortunate enough to be blessed with getting poison ivy?

Mike:    Yes, I have.  Real big trouble with that here in the last couple years.

Jim:    Tell me what you do when you get poison ivy.

Mike:    You put something to soothe the itching so you won’t scratch it.

Jim:    You put something to soothe the itching. So, you self-soothe yourself.  You put some balm on.

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    Quite often, when we’re in pain and when we’re suffering, isn’t our mind enflamed?  Our bodies enflamed?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    What we’re going to talk today about is the practice of loving kindness which is a self-soothing device.  Let’s imagine your whole body is covered in poison ivy and we’re dipping you into a lake of cool balm to soothe you.  This is what loving kindness can be.  This is not something that people just made up, or we tell you to jump rope because it’s good for you.  There’s been many studies.  And, one of the most recent ones, Mike, was a study at the University of North Carolina by a professor by the name of Barbara Frederickson.  She had a class for 6 weeks meditate on a loving kindness for an hour a day for 6 weeks.  What it is – you begin to tell yourself may you feel safe, may you feel happy, may you feel healthy, may you feel at ease.  And, how they measured this, Mike, you know – how do you measure happiness?  There’s no barometer for that.  You can’t take a temperature.  What they did was they looked at the Vagus nerve.  That’s not Las Vegas, it’s V-A-G-U-S.  The Vagus nerve runs from your heart to your digestive system through your body.  And, also what it does – what they did was measure the heart rate variability of the Vagus nerve.  The Vagus nerve regulates how effectively your heart changes with your breathing – and hence, why do we talk about breathing all the time.  So, the greater the tone, the lower your risk of heart disease.  It also regulates glucose levels and immune response.  Also, the Vagus nerve also links to nerve that can, over time, connect to patterns of speech, eye contact, and emotional responses.  The more that we connect and acknowledge and observe, practice ourselves with love and kindness – these people that did that, they were able to regulate the tone of the Vagus nerve and their heart response, and found that it was greatly, greatly beneficial for them.  Have you ever thought about charging your own battery, Mike?

Mike:    A little bit.  I definitely notice that bit where you just feel drained.  

Jim:    Sure.  Absolutely.  Quite often, people get stuck.  They get lost.  They get bogged down in what is the content in their mind.  And, is there anything more painful sometimes in our existence and loneliness, Mike?

Mike:    No.

Jim:    Have you ever been lonely?

Mike:    Certainly.

Jim:    We get stuck.  And, we get confused.  And, we get caught in the minutiae and the detail of memories and thoughts.  We get stuck right in that maelstrom.  It’s the only thing that we can think of.  What does living kindness do, Mike?  What does some of that do?  What it does is it builds a gap.  It makes a gap between the connectiveness of those thoughts.  It makes a gap.  And, it makes a buffer when you’re thinking about, when you’re dipping yourself into the salve.  Let’s take addiction – and quite often, when we deal with people in addiction, addiction to anything, what we do is we look for that break, that brief buffer that we can put in between the obsessive thought (the urge) and the action.  If we can make just a millisecond’s pause and get people into a wise mind to observe and judge, will they do those things?  Will they generally take drugs, or use alcohol, or steal, or gamble?

Mike:    No.  Not as much, because they wouldn’t have as much need to.

Jim:    Absolutely.  There won’t be need to.  Quite often, what people do, Mike, is they react to –in the present, the painful experiences from their past.  Many things in life – often we’ve talked about living life in a rearview mirror, have we not?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    When we look at the world, and I am in recovery from the news in the newspapers.  I suggest that everyone out there might consider that also.  So, tell me what’s in the news today, Mike.  Tell me what’s in the newspapers.  Tell me what’s on the news.

Mike:    I’m also kind of on a vacation, but I know there was a hurricane recently.  I’m sure there was some kind of robbery or fire of some sort.  Thankfully, I have people that work in the news here locally in Pittsburgh, and that’s the kind of stuff that I hear about.

Jim:    Right.  And, what is it?  Pain?  Misery?

Mike:    Mm-hmm.

Jim:    So, if more people practiced loving kindness – if you practiced loving kindness, if you got up every morning and were compassionate to yourself and showed compassion to other people, would you ever consider hurting another human being?

Mike:    No.  I don’t think so.

Jim:    Would you be nasty and mean to the cashier at Sheetz?

Mike:    No.  No.

Jim:    No.  Would you be mean and nasty to your wife?

Mike:    No.

Jim:    No.  Absolutely.  So, when we consider other people’s suffering, and in terms of our own, we give much, much better.  What we try to do is we observe the process, because quite often we get lost in the content, Mike.  We get lost in the content of our thoughts.  We get lost in the content of the pain.  What loving kindness does, there’s a physiological/biological reaction, and also can create that buffer – that brief moment between compulsion, urge, and action.  Quite often these actions are more self-destructive thoughts.  So, I was reminded of a story.  We’re going to end with this today, Mike.  I was reminded of a story by Leo Tolstoy.  What it is, it’s called Three Wondrous Answers.    So, there was this king and he asked a hermit.  And this was written by Leo Tolstoy – and this is going to lead into our next broadcast – he was a radical, a real evangelical, a real Christian.  And, the three questions that the king asked him is what is the best time to do each thing?  What do you think the hermit answered?

Mike:    Right now.

Jim:    He answered in the present moment, right now.  And, who were the most important people to work with?  Who are the most important people to work with?  The people who you are with – right here and right now.  And, the third question that the king asked the hermit was what is the most important thing to do at all times?  It’s to seek the happiness of the person who’s with you.  This was written by a Russian novelist, and  who is a Christian.  What we’re going to get into in our next podcast is talking about that.  So, what we’re talking about, Mike, is bathing ourselves in loving kindness.  We’re talking about resetting ourselves every single day – every single morning, which is why mindfulness and the meditation practices are recommended in the morning so we can begin that day, so we can have that reset.  We can recharge.  We can have that reset.  When your phone gets a little funky during the day, what do you do?

Mike:    Stop and restart it.

Jim:    You stop and reset it.  Quite often I think one of the greatest inventions to mankind was these navigators that they put on these phones.  And, quite often – sometimes my phone will give me really strange things.  It’ll get confused.  However, if I take a moment and reset the phone, amazingly enough it begins to follow correctly and do its intended purpose.  Is your intended purpose to be mean and nasty, Mike?

Mike:    No.

Jim:    Is your intended purpose to be lonely?  Is your intended purpose to be sad?

Mike:    Nope.

Jim:    Absolutely not.  So, I’m asking everyone out there to give themselves a reset.  Give themselves a reset each day, and bath yourself with loving kindness.  Acknowledge your pain.  Acknowledge your suffering.  Acknowledge that it’s there.  We’re going to cease fighting anyone or anything.  So, until then, Mike, it’s so good to be with you today.

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