Paths Are Made by Walking: Practical Steps for Attaining Serenity

Overview

According to the latest scientific research, regular spiritual reflection has a direct effect on the brain, and can actually create new neural pathways. It's been proven: Drugs are not the only way to permanently change our emotional responses. In this unique synthesis of science and the study of spirit, psychologist Therese Jacobs-Stewart not only explains the phenomenon of the emotional brain, but, more important, shows us how to reap the valuable rewards of using it every day. Drawing on the Tibetan practice ...
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Overview

According to the latest scientific research, regular spiritual reflection has a direct effect on the brain, and can actually create new neural pathways. It's been proven: Drugs are not the only way to permanently change our emotional responses. In this unique synthesis of science and the study of spirit, psychologist Therese Jacobs-Stewart not only explains the phenomenon of the emotional brain, but, more important, shows us how to reap the valuable rewards of using it every day. Drawing on the Tibetan practice of Tong-Len, Indian Tantric disciplines, Christian contemplative thought, and other traditions, she offers twenty practices that help you improve relationships, develop leadership qualities, and calmly deal with the frustrations of daily life with sanity and poise. Paths Are Made by Walking can be used as a step-by-step guide, a workbook (spaces are provided for notes), a reference, or a volume to browse through from time to time for inspiration. Go beyond the analytical mind. Don't be defeated by the frenzied pace of modern life. These pages provide a blueprint for serenity that will open your consciousness and increase your compassion for yourself and others. But it takes doing. One step. Up and over. And again...
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jacobs-Stewart, a psychologist and organizational consultant, provides a self-help program designed to combat the stress of modern life. Drawing on the latest brain research, she explains how a neural cluster (the amygdala) reacts to a threatening situation by triggering a fight-or-flight response. This neural response cannot, however, distinguish between real physical danger and an emotional threat based on unrelated experiences that leads to counterproductive reactions. For example, if your trust in someone close to you was once betrayed, you may regard the world with a suspicious attitude that will hamper not only your personal relationships but the ability to progress in a chosen career. According to the author, this and other negative thought patterns can be overcome by a series of mental exercises that she provides, involving acceptance, reflection and deepening awareness of emotional reactions. Largely based on the Buddhist practices of meditation and mindfulness, the progressive mental exercises are carefully and clearly described. The suggestions provided by Jacobs-Stewart, a psychologist and spiritual teacher, depend on setting aside a significant amount of quiet time for body/mind work and spiritual reflection. This program will appeal to those who want to understand and change their emotional reactions and to improve their relationships with others. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641657955
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/17/2008
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.12 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Paths Are Made by Walking


By Thérèse Jacobs-Stewart

Warner Books

Copyright © 2003 Thérèse Jacobs-Stewart
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-53067-0


Chapter One

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence, in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song-but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny.

sikkim province, india. 1995. We began our Himalayan trek as strangers with a common goal: six Americans decked out in jewel-toned Gore-Tex, Polarfleece, and state-of-the-art hiking boots; a team of yaks bearing tents, ropes, gear, and wicker-caged chickens; three Sherpa cooks balancing baskets of potatoes, turnips, pots, and pans atop their heads; all climbing to the spectacular western rim of Kanchenjunga peak. A Sikkimese guide led the way, wearing tennis shoes, thin cotton pants, a lightweight jacket, and a rag bandanna.

By the fifth day, two Americans had succumbed to altitude sickness, one carried back to the village on a yak, the other leaning on the shoulder of a Sherpa who volunteered to go back down. The rest of us continued up the mountain, cutting through fog and mist and haze to a clearing at eleven thousand feet. We made camp by a lake near a rock-pile shrine to the "weather gods" and ate lentils and fry bread. Only the braying of yaks, the flapping of prayer flags, and the occasional, distant call of a hawk broke the silence. To keep warm in the cold moist air, we put hot-water bottles in our bedclothes and went to sleep beneath a low, heavy sky.

At morning's first light, a Sherpa tapped on the tent. "Madam. Wake now. Snow. Big snow." Peeking out, I saw the ground covered in a thick white blanket. Clouds concealed our destination: the summit of Kanchenjunga. It would be a difficult day for trekking.

After hurrying through a breakfast of fried egg sandwiches smothered in hot pepper sauce, chai, and the daily dose of garlic soup to prevent altitude sickness, we started off-snow still falling, fresh water and chocolate bars in our packs. The Sherpa cooks and yaks had gone ahead, but when we left an hour later, the trail was blocked, buried beneath the blowing drifts. We set out in another direction, stumbling, unable to catch a full breath in the thinning air.

The new route led us into a deep, ice-encrusted valley. Without a clear path to follow, we shared the grueling task of breaking our own. Even the strongest among us grew exhausted after only ten or fifteen minutes in the lead. We distracted ourselves with small talk about movies and the warm comforts of home. Now and then the guide would pause, adjust his rag bandanna, and squint into the unforgiving glare. Gradually, his air of authority became a look of uncertainty. We were lost.

Talk of movies ceased, leaving only the silence of falling snow, the squeak of boots, and a strained chorus of breathing. "Too far east," said the guide, pointing. From that moment on we kept a code of silence, fearing that even the whisper of a complaint would crack our will to continue. Forced to change our direction again, we had to cross into more unfamiliar territory, break more trail.

Slight in frame and older than the others, I struggled to lead for even five minutes. Numbed with cold sweat and melted snow, I found just keeping up at the back of the group difficult. In order to forge ahead, mental focus narrowed to the simple act of taking the next step. Muscles quivering, I used my arms to hoist my legs up and over the surface of the snow before they crunched back down through the crust for another step forward. Up and over. One more time. And again.

We plodded on, sharing water and rationing chocolate, glancing back at our tracks-our record of progress. As we caught sight of our rendezvous point, whoops and hollers of exhausted joy broke the grim silence. As we made our way to the trekkers' shed, disheveled and shivering, the Sherpa cooks grinned, clapped, and raised their arms in welcome ... and relief. We took long breaths of garlic soup and smoke from the cooking fire-civilization at last. Inside, we peeled off wet layers, huddled by the fire, and drank hot tea with sweet milk. Strangers no longer.

Upon my return from India, I resumed my consulting work throughout the United States. Listening to people talk about pressure on the job and conflict with loved ones, I reflected on my own struggle during the trek in Sikkim. The difficulty of changing our lives for the better is very much like the effort required for each step on that path to Kanchenjunga.

When confronted with the gathering storms, high winds, and deep snow of our emotional minds, we must make a parallel effort to etch new pathways in the brain. Like creating new trails on the way to the summit, we can, through mindful practice, change our behavior-passing through the undiscovered terrain of self to the warm shed of better relationships and shared experience.

As we prepare for this journey, it may help to first look at the map, get a feel for the territory, and examine in greater detail the topographic features of the emotional brain. A closer look will familiarize us with the well-worn neural trails that make up our emotional habits. Though our existing habits often get us to our destination, we may miss some of the emotional richness-the more sublime scenery and hidden beauty-found in new behaviors and reactions.

And then there are times when our habits lead us entirely in the wrong direction. We get lost or hurt, or do damage to our relationships. To determine the most rewarding route, it helps to understand how and why our habits and reactions are so strong-and not always in keeping with our intentions. To get a closer look at why this is so, we turn now to "the brain" inset on the map of self-discovery.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Paths Are Made by Walking by Thérèse Jacobs-Stewart Copyright ©2003 by Thérèse Jacobs-Stewart . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction xiii
Part 1 Breaking Trail 1
Chapter 1. The Path 3
Chapter 2. The Science of Emotions 7
Part 2 Self 23
Chapter 3. Tuning In 25
Taking Time to Breathe Mindfully 28
Pausing in the Moment to Breathe 29
Walking and Breathing 30
Scanning Your Body for Tension Spots 35
Chapter 4. Naming Your Experience 41
Doing a Daily Examen 47
Sitting in Meditation 53
Chapter 5. Accepting What You Feel 59
Reflecting on Your Emotional Habits 63
Welcoming Your Feelings Like an Old Friend 68
Chapter 6. Looking Deeply 72
Investigating the Poisons of Your Mind 76
Asking Five Whys 82
Seeing the Smoke in the Mirror 93
Visualizing a Positive Model 96
Chapter 7. Staying Poised 100
Creating a Circle of Protection 112
Visualizing Blue-Black Light to Counteract Anger 119
Imaging a Still Mountain 126
Part 3 Other 133
Chapter 8. Deepening Empathy 135
Exchanging Yourself with Another 148
Breathing with One You Love 154
Doing Tong-Len: An Advanced Breathing Practice 156
Chapter 9. Living in Harmony 160
Picturing the Effects of Anger and Hatred 172
Resolving Conflict 178
Asserting Limits with a Difficult Person 186
Chapter 10. Letting Go 197
Meditating with Equanimity Phrases 206
Parting Words 211
Appendix 213
Notes 217
For More Information 218
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