You can calm your anxious mind, have greater focus at work and home, feel more empathy toward yourself and others, approach difficulties with more grace and less stress, and be aware of what is most important to you. The secret is in the spaces.
A leader in mindfulness psychology, Dr. Elisha Goldstein demonstrates how to use the space between stimulus and response to break free from habitual beliefs and thoughts that don’t serve you. Offering practical techniques to make deep, permanent life changes, Dr. Goldstein’s techniques will allow you to connect to the present moment to make deep, permanent life changes and to connect with the good in life and with what really matters. In essence, this book teaches the foundation for how the now—this very moment—can change the rest of your life.
To enhance and ease the reader experience, the text contains Microsoft tags of Dr. Goldstein demonstrating his exercises, and the ebook includes embedded videos.
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Read an Excerpt
THE WISDOM IN GOLF BALLS
It is not too uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.
A professor stood before a philosophy class holding an empty jar. As the students took their seats, she began filling the jar with golf balls. When they reached the top, she asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then took a bag of pebbles and poured them into the jar, and they made their way into the spaces between the golf balls.
Again she asked the students if the jar was full, and they agreed that it was.
But the professor had another trick up her sleeve. She brought out a bag of sand and proceeded to pour the grains into the jar, filling up more of the remaining space. Again the question came: “It’s full now, correct?” The answer was a resounding “Yes.”
The professor then took a sip of her coffee and dumped the rest into the jar, filling up spaces that no one thought were there.
“So what does it mean?” the professor asked.
A witty student raised his own coffee mug and asked, “There’s always room for coffee?”
The professor, along with the rest of the class, had a good laugh. Then she said, “Imagine that this jar represents the space in your life. The golf balls represent what’s most important—family, children, health, friends, things that you’re passionate about—the things that at the end of your life you would be glad you paid attention to.
“The pebbles are essential but less important, such as your house, your car, maybe your job.
“The sand is all of the small stuff in life that we’re trying not to sweat.
“The coffee, well, you already answered that one.”
The professor continued, “There is room for all of this only if you put the golf balls in first. If you put the sand or pebbles in first, there won’t be room for the golf balls. The way we pay attention to our lives works the same way. If you spend your attention or mental space sweating the small stuff in life, you won’t have the capacity to pay attention to what is most important to you.”
This is a classic story that speaks to becoming more mindful of what really matters. I do the same exercise with my clients and students. Why? Thoughts of what is most valuable fly into and out of our minds all the time, and we don’t see the space between our awareness and these thoughts. This exercise provides a physical representation of thinking about what really matters and simultaneously makes us aware of the space in which we have the opportunity to choose a response. The practice of intentionally paying attention to what matters primes the mind to become more aware of what is meaningful.
The biggest question at this stage of the process is, what in life really matters to you? Is it your relationship to your partner, paying attention to your children, taking care of your body, sharpening your mind, being kind to yourself or others, making room for play, or living with greater ease?
Paying attention to the things that you value in life is fundamental to your happiness. We know that our minds have an inclination to follow the path of least resistance, so we need a compass to help us intentionally come back to our priorities.
Creating a way to be aware of our values can help us break out of autopilot and guide us back to what really matters.
1. Sit in a space to take care of the golf balls first—the things that really matter. What are your priorities in life? Let’s bring some awareness to them, because at the end of the day, the rest is just sand. Make a list in your mind or write down what truly matters.
2. Sitting exercise: Take a few moments to relax, close your eyes, and practice “Breathing in, I am aware of what truly matters, breathing out, I let go of living on automatic.”
3. Go find a jar and a box of golf balls or some nice stones. Label each golf ball or stone with something that really matters in your life. If you don’t have a physical jar, you can draw a picture of a jar on a piece of paper along with golf balls or stones or perhaps just picture them in your mind. Actions speak louder than words, so check to see where in your life you’re bringing action to your values. Maybe you’re taking your partner out to dinner, responding to people and yourself with greater kindness and compassion, being less judgmental, playing games with your kids, getting back into exercise or yoga, making space for that round of eighteen holes, or spending time in meditation.
4. Put the jar in a prominent place somewhere in your house or office where you can’t miss looking at it. Every time you intentionally look at the jar, your mind is more likely to incline toward what truly matters. As you do this, you prime your mind to respond to those values during the spaces of your daily life.
© 2012 Elisha Goldstein, PhD
Table of Contents
Part I Getting Started
1 The Wisdom in Golf Balls 3
2 Paying Attention to Your Intention 7
3 Understanding What Really Motivates You 10
4 Playful Discipline 13
5 See, Touch, Go 15
6 Now Is the Way 20
Part II Training Ground
7 Say "Yes!" 27
8 Where Am I Starting From? 30
9 Feel the Spaces in Your Body 34
10 If You Can Name It, You Can Tame It 43
11 STOP 46
12 Go 49
13 The Red Lights in Life 51
14 A Space for Mindful Eating 53
15 It's Like This … and This Too 56
16 One Minute to Bring You into the Now 58
Part III Know Your Mind, Change Your Brain
17 The Movie in Your Mind 63
18 Rewrite the Movie in Your Mind 67
19 Memory Matters 71
20 Thoughts Are Not Facts 74
21 Top Ten Hit List 77
22 Your Mind Traps 80
23 The Ineffective Art of Blaming 85
24 Now on Your Diet 88
25 Maybe So, Maybe Not 92
26 Now at Work 95
27 Thinking Small Can Produce Big Results 99
Part IV Priming Your Mind for Good
28 Be Kind Whenever Possible. It Is Always Possible 107
29 Compassion Is a Verb 110
30 I Think I Can, I Think I Can 114
31 Give Up All Hope for a Better Past 117
32 Count Your Blessings 120
33 Present Nostalgia 123
34 A Smile Is a Source of Joy 125
35 Do Small Things with Great Love 127
36 The Seeds of Resiliency 130
Part V Know Your Brain, Change Your Mind
37 Hi, I'm Your Brain 137
38 Driving Your Brain (Crazy) 140
39 The Wonderful World of GABA 143
40 The Narrator 146
41 Free Your Mind 149
42 "That's Not Fair" Neurons 152
43 Your Intuitive Brain 154
44 Wired for Empathy and Compassion 156
Part VI Working with Difficult Emotions
45 Welcome Your Pain 163
46 The Committee in Your Mind 167
47 Befriend Your Fear 170
48 The Anxious Traveler 173
49 You Are Imperfect Just as You Are 176
50 Your Joy Is Your Sorrow Unmasked 180
51 Your ACE in the Hole 183
52 Anger: Constructive, Destructive, or Both? 186
Part VII Getting Connected
53 The Biggest Disease 193
54 Disconnection Is Delusion 196
55 The Science of Connection 198
56 Why Are You Waiting? 201
57 Brother Bruno and the Frog 204
58 Buddha in the Bedroom 207
59 Relax, Parents, the Answers Lie Within 211
60 The Aikido of Communication 214
61 Keep Your Heart Open in Hell 219
Conclusion: The Now Effect Lessons 223
Appendix A Deepen Your Practice 227
Appendix B Five-Step Cheat Sheet 243
Appendix C Training Ground Cheat Sheet 245
Additional Resources 265
What People are Saying About This
“The Now Effect offers wise and simple guidance that is immediately helpful, compassionate and playful. It is a genuine invitation to be fully present, to open yourself up to life.”—Jack Kornfield, bestselling author of A Path with Heart
"If you are looking for a handbook on how to improve the quality of your life, reduce your stress levels and help build a better future for yourself, your family, your community and your country, this book is it." Congressman Tim Ryan, author of A Mindful Nation
“The Now Effect shines with a fresh simplicity and wisdom that will make you see your mind and relationships in a different way. With practical guidance, this book gives you important tools to make changes for a better life. A genuinely uplifting and very enjoyable book." Jeffrey M.Schwartz, MD, Co-author of You Are Not Your Brain
"What we most cherishlove, aliveness, creativity, playarises only in moments of presence. In The Now Effect you'll get an invaluable map for coming home to the life that is here and now. With a beautiful clarity and simplicity, Elisha Goldstein offers anecdotes, science, perennial wisdom and practical exercises that will guide you in working with difficulties and in living with an awakened heart." Tara Brach, bestselling author of Radical Acceptance
“These wisdom-packed offerings teach beautifully how the relevant aspects of neuroscience can help illuminate what otherwise might seem like magic: The way we pay attention to the here and now of our experience can free our minds, enhance our relationships, and transform our brains toward well-being. Soak in these powerful lessons and enjoy!" Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. author of Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation and Co-Director, UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center
"The Now Effect reminds us how to have fun with our lives again. Who would think that sitting quietly and watching our breath would teach us how to be kind, smart and have a sense of humor? With his book, Elisha Goldstein has done his part to create the conditions for world peace!" Chade-Meng Tan, Jolly Good Fellow at Google and author of Search Inside Yourself
“Written with a lightness of touch and chock full of practical advice, this book is a broad and generous portal for those interested in bringing the power of present moment awareness more fully into their lives” –Zindel V. Segal, author of The Mindful Way Through Depression
“We all want to move beyond the dead-end, conditioned responses that derail our best intentions and hold us hostage day after day, year after year; in these pages, Elisha Goldstein offers real tools toward that end. A wonderful book!” Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation
"Shot through with stories, poetry, and down to earth lessons, the brief chapters in this book are entertaining but never trite and make mindfulness practice refreshingly accessible. Accompanied by Elisha’s clear online video instruction, The Now Effect will become a valuable resource for clinicians, doctors, patients, teachers, and anyone else who is looking to rediscover and rest in the present moment." Pat Ogden PhD, Founder, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute
“Grounded in the science of how the brain tricks us to dwell in the past and the future - anywhere but now - and full of practical methods, The Now Effect will help you feel stronger, less stressed, more present, happier, kinder, and more effective.” Rick Hanson, Ph.D., author of Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom