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In this moment, an opportunity to be free

April 2, 2024

How will you engage this moment?  Will you flip the switch into autopilot? Or will you accept the invitation to step fully into the here-now?

Within every moment, we have an opportunity. We can continue to reinforce the habitual, the tried and true, the known. And in doing so, we will continue to arrive at the same outcome of all the past moments.


Or we can accept the invitation to step fully into this moment. To completely inhabit body.  What might we discover in this exploration of the here-now?  Who knows? And this is exactly the point. For it is in this moment that Life is unfolding. It is only in this moment that the answers dwell. It is only in this moment that we experience all that Life offers.


Leaving the familiarity of auto-pilot can be scary. Even though auto-pilot leaves us at the whim of our thoughts, at least the territory is known. At least the demons that dwell there carry no surprises as we have done battle time and time again. But what would it be like to drop the sword, expose those demons for the illusionary wisps of thought that they are? What...


Tags: freedom, mindfulness, thoughts

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From Know to Go: How to get unstuck and move forward into Health and Wellness!

March 16, 2024

By now, most of us are aware of the benefits of eating healthier, exercising more, and decreasing stress. And yet how many of us make these habits part of our daily routine? You two in the back can put your hands down now! For the rest of us, we struggle and slip back into too much of this and not enough of that. This reality reveals the gap between “knowing” and “going” with healthier behaviors. So how do we get unstuck and make the shift from know to go?

The secret to this stuckness lies in understanding the power of familiarity and the challenge of change. From studies on quitting smoking, Prochaska and DiClemente revealed the process of change is more than a simple shift, but a series of stages. Change begins with the acknowledgment that the status quo is in some way harmful to our well-being. Even with this acknowledgment, we tend to fall into “yes, but” - yes, we recognize the need to change, but the benefits of the current behavior outweigh the potential future benefits of the change. This current gains/future benefits hill seems like an insurmountable mountain. The sweetness of the chocolate cake or ease...


Tags: health behavior change

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For less ruminate, mindfully meditate

February 1, 2024

What is our brain up to when we are doing nothing?  Just like a car in idle, studies reveal an idle mode for our brain, as well. Amisha Jha’s research demonstrates a default network active at rest.  This network includes regions of our brain associated with self-referencing and negative affect. In other words, when we are doing nothing, we think about ourselves and become depressed! And just like a car's engine, we do not actively choose this mode. We naturally slip into the default network when we are not actively engaging our brain in a task.  Our typical escape from rumination is the denial/distraction reaction.

Except the denial/distraction reaction is a lousy alternative. Studies by Matt Killingsworth reveal denial and distraction are of limited benefit. Forty-three percent of the time, we are mind-wandering – not focused on the present moment. So even when we are doing something, we are off somewhere else as far as our brains are concerned!  We mind-wander during pleasant (even sex!) and unpleasant activities. And our wandering does not even make our unpleasant moments any less unpleasant.  We just (mentally) leave the unpleasant task and instead go ruminate about ourselves and feel...


Tags: meditation, mind, rumination

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Renegotiate your relationship with stress

January 3, 2024

What is your current relationship with stress? Do you hide from it, or try to run away? Or do you make a deal that if you work hard enough, it should go away.  If your current relationship is not working, how about renegotiation? 

First, let’s understand what stress is. From the original definition by Dr. Hans Selye, stress is “The non-specific response of an organism to any pressure or demand.”  Notice how stress is not judged as good or bad, but simply a generalized response. Our first clue to this new relationship: non-judgment.

And what is this generalized response? When we perceive a threat, hormones are released into our body. In response, these hormones trigger an elevation in heart rate, increase rate of breathing, blood shifts from the central core out to muscles of arms and legs and senses become more acute. The second clue to our new relationship: stress is about our body preparing. 

And what are we preparing for?  The stress reaction allows us to take action.  The “Fight or Flight” reaction mobilizes our resources toward this end.  Now to the third clue towards our new relationship. After we take action, our body naturally returns...


Tags: new years, stress

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Balance - responding to Life's ups and downs

December 7, 2023

Walking along a beautiful wooded path when suddenly your foot slips – how does your body respond? With a small tilt, we stiffen head-to-toe. Simply by becoming rigid, we stay upright and continue on our way. A larger stumble demands more flair – we flex and sway to bring our wayward body back under center.  For a big tumble of the “OMG!” variety, we step into the spill. If all goes well, we stay upright, breathe a sigh of relief and continue unscathed.


With our body’s example of a multi-dimensional response to keep us on our feet, why do so many of us settle for just one option to maintain our emotional balance: the denial/distraction reaction?  Denial and distraction are the emotional equivalent of our body’s stiffening reaction. We experience a short-term respite.  During greater distress, this emotional rigidity quickly results in diminishing returns.  Being limited to just one trick, we slip into “If I only try harder, it will work this time.” And down we go!


How can we expand our repertoire of responses to life’s emotional ups and downs? Mindfulness broadens our range of options through two steps. First, we begin to...


Tags: balance

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Coming home to body

November 1, 2023

When the air turns crisp and white frost blankets the ground, we are drawn to return home, to reconnect, to remember. This Thanksgiving, consider a homecoming of another sort: coming home to our bodies.


What drives us from our bodies? We become lost in doing mode: I have to get somewhere and do something. Our mental world becomes a trap of lists to do, problems to solve, decisions to make. Over time, this doing mode becomes our standard operating procedure, creating a separation between the realms of mind and body. We become James Joyce’s Mr. Duffy, who “...lived a short distance from his body.” Taking time to be is relegated to “I will get to that later,” but later never arrives.  What is the outcome of this all do and no be? Anxiety, exhaustion, dullness. 


For some, due to trauma or pain, body may no longer be a welcoming experience. Being in body may seem like a strange and foreign land to venture into. Unknown dangers seem to dwell there, so instead we seek solace in distraction and denial. But distraction and denial never offer a lasting haven, but just a momentary respite. ...


Tags: body, homecoming

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The Prison of Pain

October 1, 2023

(While this article addresses physical pain, much of the same brain processes are also active when experiencing emotional pain.)


During a walk in the bush, Lorimer Moseley experienced a sensation of something touching his ankle. He dismissed the sensory experience as just a stick and continued on. After returning to consciousness, he found himself in the hospital being treated for an Eastern Brown snake (the world’s second most venomous) bite!  Six months later and fully recovered, walking in the bush, he again experienced the sensation of something touching his leg. This time he experienced “white hot poker pain screaming up my leg.”  Upon the ground, writhing in pain, his mate pointed out the source of the sensation: a small scratch from a twig. What is going on here?  The answer to this question reveals how mindfulness helps us to manage chronic pain.


Moseley just so happens to be a neuroscientist who studies pain. In his lab, they have demonstrated how some simple visual cues can radically alter our perception of pain. Viewing a red light will make a cold probe feel more painful on the skin than a blue light. Viewing a number on a...


Tags: pain

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Back to School Mind

September 1, 2023

Remember the excitement of back to school?  All the potential within empty notebooks and freshly sharpened pencils.  A new teacher and new classmates.  Something about the novelty that awakens our minds to fresh ideas.  


Then we have the final graduation and get a job. September looks a lot like August. Same drive to work.  Same desk with old worn pencils. Same coworkers across from the lunch table.


As adults, can we reclaim this season of new learning?  Yes!  We can access Beginner’s Mind: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few,”  Shunryu Suzuki shares in the classic, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.  Expert Mind may have knowledge, but lacks openness.  Trafton Drew illustrated the limitation of Expert Mind in action in a study of radiologists.  He asked the radiologists to review a scan of a patient’s lungs for nodes indicative of cancer. Pasted into this scan was a photo of a man in a gorilla suit. While these radiologists were extremely skilled at identifying the cancerous nodes, 83% missed the gorilla.  Eye scans revealed they had looked directly where the gorilla was present in the photo.  What was going on...


Tags: gorilla, selective attention

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A cool day in August

August 1, 2023

After weeks of the 80s and 90s, today dropped down into the 70s - ahhhhh.  In late summer, we spend our days between a blast furnace outside or inside frigid offices and stores.  Then, mother nature offers us a respite. One day we throw open the windows and feel a cool breeze. 


As I enjoyed this day, I am reminded of how I feel following a session of meditation.  Depending upon the day, when I arrive upon the cushion, I may initially find myself carrying in all the clutter and chaos of the preceding hours.  Mind may jump from reactions to what has already unfolded to a waiting To Do list; regret over something said or not said to fear of consequences of something done or not done; questioning choices made to the uncertainty of decisions yet to be made.  For those who do not meditate, this litany may make them question the merits of putting myself amid the day’s events.  Most of us become quite skillful at a whole host of methods to avoid such exposure: our favorite social media, a game on our phone, or binge-streaming.  


Why in heaven’s name would anyone want to make direct...


Tags: meditation, respite, summer

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"Good or bad," you be the judge...

July 1, 2023

In the Taoist tale “A Farmer’s Horse Ran Off,” we encounter a wise farmer and his neighbor. Each day, an event unfolds for the farmer: his prized horse runs off; the horse returns with a beautiful mare; the farmer’s son breaks his leg when thrown by the new mare. On and on, the neighbor witnessing these events insists that the farmer judge them to be good or bad. In response, the farmer replies, “I do not know if it is good…or if it is bad.” What is this farmer’s deal?! Seems clear, or is it?


Each day, each moment, events unfold in our lives.  We typically label these events as either good or bad. As the day unfolds, we accumulate events until one category prevails and the day is labeled “good or bad.” The labeling continues to accumulate into weeks, months and years.  The natural outcome of all this labeling: my life is either “good or bad.”  While the “good” label may seem inviting, the ensuing attachment and craving for more good can create as much suffering as the label “bad.”


But labeling does not stop with events. Labeling spills over into our evaluation...


Tags: judgement

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