Monday, February 24, 2014

Quelling the Monkey Mind

Thanks to my good friend Dan Hagen for this amazing meme! Words we should all remember and strive to live by. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Microwave Mentality

"Society promotes overnight delivery, express checkout lines, 24-hour customer service, instant rebates, instant messaging, and instant coffee. Constantly encouraged to expect what we want, how we want it, and to have it right away, we are conditioned to move more quickly, multitask, speed-read, and drive-through, which leaves no room in our lives to learn patience, tolerance, listening, or conscious breathing..."
— Timber Hawkeye

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Perfect Argument

In your mind have you ever had the perfect argument? You know the one. You're replaying the argument you had with someone earlier today. Or maybe it was earlier in the week, last year perhaps, or even years ago. Or maybe, just maybe it's the argument you wanted so badly to have but never got the chance. 

You've played it over and over in your mind. Planned out every little zinger, and every vicious response. And when you've trapped that person in your clever web of words, you release the hounds. They're so stunned. The look on their face says, "How could you be that cruel to say such a thing?!" Direct hit! You've struck them at their core, right where it really hurts. They slink away in total defeat. You. told. them!

You finally got have your say, and you crushed them! And all the other person could do is stand there and take it, mouth agape. How does that make you feel? You're smiling on the inside, aren't you? Victory is yours! 

Is it really, though? What did that little mental skewering of the other person really accomplish? Chances are the argument in your head didn't end there, did it? You kept going and kept hammering them right where it hurts, didn't you? Notice anything? That's right. You want to keep going. You want to bury that person with all the clever and hurtful zingers you can muster. That kind of anger is really addictive, isn't it? You can say what you want to whomever you want. And they have to take it. But take a look at who's more worked up. Is it the other person? Who has the elevated heart rate? Which one of you is gritting their teeth? Who's the one digging down for more ugly, hurtful words to hurl? It's not the other person, is it? Nope. It's you. 

So after all that, who do you think really won that argument?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Anger and Shredded Wheat

"Anger is like a piece of shredded wheat stuck in your dentures. If you leave it there, you'll get a blister and have to eat jello for a week."

— Sophia Petrillo

Before you react in anger, take a moment to think. Is it really worth eating jello for a week?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Odin's Ravens: Attention Must Be Paid (For)

"Over the course of months, I’ve become increasingly convinced of the underrated existential importance of the simple act of shifting your attention.
For example, this morning I awoke before dawn, started the coffee and read a front page newspaper article about further cuts in higher education to be caused by the state’s terrible finances."

Click here for my friend Dan's early morning insights 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

How Do I Get To Carnegie Hall?

We've all heard that timeless joke, haven't we? There are those, however, who are under the delusion that some things don't need practice. They just happen without effort. We wouldn't be expected to sit down and produce a masterpiece the first time we try painting would we? Of course not. And no one's expecting us to play a Mozart piano piece like a virtuoso on the first try, are they? Nope. Just like getting to Carnegie Hall, these things take practice.

And it's no different with mindfulness. It's not something we breathe in or gain by osmosis. To achieve mindfulness we need to practice. A case in point, I found myself today dealing with a situation that was running me through all sorts of emotions. Anxiousness. Embarrassment. Despair. Elation. Hope, and at times a sense of helplessness. Then it hit me. I wasn't accepting these emotions, I was railing against them with gritted teeth and a heart pounding with anxiety. My mind had leapt miles and weeks ahead into a scenario that hadn't come to pass yet. I had forgotten all my practice. I wasn't being centered. I wasn't in the moment and being present. I wasn't being mindful. To get back to that state I returned to what I had practiced and seemed to work well for me. I concentrated on the exhale portion of my breathing. Within a few minutes, I was able to see through the muddied emotions, accept them, and embrace the core of my issue. I was in the moment. I was able to return to a mindful state.  

So if you want to be a good painter, practice painting. If you want to play the piano well, practice playing the piano. And if you want to be more mindful? 

"Hey friend, how do I get to mindfulness?"

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mantra for the Day

The Rock and the River

I was talking with my good friend Argenis a while back about life’s obstacles and how we deal with them. As he was talking, in my mind flashed an image of a very ugly, craggy rock covered in uneven, sharp edges. This rock sat steadfast in a river with extremely strong and dangerous currents. I asked myself where the image came from and what it could mean. In a flash the image and what my friend was trying to tell me merged into clarity.

I am the rock. The river’s swift currents are life’s obstacles. I have the ability to choose how they affect me. With a stubborn resolve I can work harder at resisting those obstacles. I can steel myself against them and never, ever give in to them. That resistance, however, comes with a price. I am chipped away at, worn down, parts of me breaking off in the "current of life," making me craggier, uglier, sharper, more jaded and weary. Or I can embrace the obstacles swirling around and over me like the currents flowing over that craggy rock in the river. In doing so, I use life's adversities as a tool to polish my rough edges and turn me into something beautiful over which life's impediments simply flow, never able to latch on, consume me, and carry me away. 

The choice couldn’t be simpler.

Monday, February 3, 2014


"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
— Paul Atreides, "Dune" by Frank Herbert
Fear is indeed the mind-killer, the tiny acorn that if given the opportunity, blossoms into the mighty oak tree of inaction, mental and physical paralysis. Fear of failure. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of rejection. Fear of success. Fear of what has already happened. Fear of what is happening now. Fear of what hasn’t happened yet. The list is as endless and vast as the scenarios our minds can dream up.

Fear is the fog that blankets our core, the essence of who we truly are. And when the essence of who we are cannot be seen, the beauty of who we are cannot flourish and be appreciated. Alcoholics Anonymous has a saying that defines this perfectly. When we admit to and face our fears, those fears cannot hold power over us anymore.

Buddhism tells us when we practice mindfulness (the attentive awareness of the reality of the things around us) we employ a powerful antidote to things like fear. There are many ways to achieve mindfulness; my personal favorite is to concentrate on the exhale portion of my breathing. When we practice and achieve mindfulness, we allow ourselves to become quiet and centered. When we become centered, the fog of fearfulness is lifted. Our fears no longer have power over us and we are allowed to step into the warm sunlight of the here and now, achieving a calm awareness of our bodies, our minds and our feelings.