Thursday, September 29, 2016

What? Me Worry?

“Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want”.
I seldom worry.  My life experience has been that most things work out as they should so why waste energy worrying?  My lack of worrying doesn’t mean I don’t have concerns.  I just see most concerns and obstacles as inconveniences and not as crisis’s.  I have also learned that most worries are in our head and not based on reality.   As Mark Twain once said, “I have been through many terrible things in my life.  Some of which actually happened”.  My experience of people is that many of them worry ceaselessly.  I wondered why some seem to worry more than others.  My observation is that women tend to worry more than men.  Maybe I don’t worry because my spouse worries twenty four hours a day.  According to one personality type theory that I have found to be very true, all the basic personality types fall into one of three subtypes, i.e., gut types, heart types, and head types.  I am a gut type.  I tend to react to life quickly and from my gut.  Typically I over-react.  Of course, I prefer to think of this as being passionate.  Later, I think myself into being reasonable.  Heart types are always wondering how they look to others and what others think.  They often base their actions on how others will react.  The third group is head types.  This type of person lives “in their head”.  Head type personalities are fear based personalities.  When you think about this you realize that fear is in the head.  Most of what we fear in our heads never actually happens in reality.  The largest percentage of the general population falls into this category.  This is why it seems that so many people are “worry warts”.  

Be Here Now

To dwell in the here and now does not mean you never think about the past or responsibly plan for the future.  The idea is simply not to get lost in regrets about the past or worries about the future.  If you are firmly grounded in the present moment, the past can be an object of inquiry, the object of your mindfulness and concentration.  You can attain many insights by looking into the past, but you are still grounded in the present.
-Buddhist saying
Be Here Now.
-Ram Dass
Zen is being where you are and doing what you’re doing.
-Michael Brown
Being here now, being where you are, and doing what you’re doing sounds incredibly simple until you actually try to do it.  I feel reasonably grounded within myself but my mind and my body are rarely in the same place.  As I write these notes I am already home in my mind, happy that another work day is over.  It takes some effort to be mindful.  The truth is that I don’t always like where I am or what I am doing.  To be one with reality and to be one with a desired reality is not the same thing.  Most of us struggle on a daily basis to accept reality and to flow with it.  I realize after many years of introspection that I have a personality that often fights reality.  Sometimes I feel that when I am trying to be mindful of reality by being her now and doing what I am doing, I am sleeping with the enemy.  The reality I want and the reality I have are sometimes in conflict.  Still, I try to practice my Zen and my mindfulness, hoping for an insight that will give me a new way of seeing things.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Non-Striving & Acceptance

The fifth element, or habit, of mindfulness is Non-Striving.  Non-Striving is described as “the state of not doing anything, just simply accepting the things that are happening in the moment just as they are supposed to”.  This is a very tough challenge for many people in our American culture.  We pride ourselves on being busy, productive, driven, and goal oriented people.  In addition to this many of us are also control freaks who want to alter the outcomes of as much as possible to suit our own agendas and needs.  The idea of non-striving and allowing life to unfold as it sees fit is almost abhorrent to us.  We spend a great deal of energy holding on when the best move might be to simply let go.  Many of us are wound a little tight because of the tension within ourselves that is caused by our driven, competitive, and controlling natures.  Keep in mind, however, that Non-Striving is not the same as being lazy or not caring.  I think Non-Striving is like white water rafting.  You don’t necessarily allow yourself to be tossed to and fro by the rapids of life.  You learn to be one with the running water.  Some of the time you just flow with it.  Other times you use your paddle to make the occasional course change to avoid crashing into a rock.  If you fight the river or attempt to change the course of the river you will eventually crash and sink your boat.  Those with skill learn to flow with the river and tap into its energy.        
The final element, or habit, of mindfulness is acceptance.  In this scenario, acceptance is defined as  “completely accepting the thoughts, feelings, sensations, and beliefs that you have and understanding that they are simply those things only”. 
Today we finish my thoughts on mindfulness.  When it’s all said and done, a lot of mindfulness is accepting reality as it is without judging, with patience, with a child-like “Beginner’s Mind”, with trust in our personal abilities to deal with the moment, allowing life to unfold as it will by non-striving, and finally, what is often the most difficult part, acceptance.  Whatever our individual moments add up to be, for most of us they are not the moments we probably dreamed of in our youth.  I’ve always felt like most of my life was an accident.  The life I have is not really the life I wanted.  It is, however, the life I have.  Just because the life I have is not the realization of my early dreams does not mean it’s all bad.  I strive to not see anything as good or bad .  My life is what it is and many twists and turns brought me to this point.  I can bemoan the fact that it’s not everything I hoped for or I can accept it and strive to better understand why I am where I am and what I am supposed to do with what I have been given.  Such acceptance does not come easy and I am not totally there.  However, even my feelings must be accepted as “they are what they are”.     

Thursday, September 22, 2016


The 4th element, or habit, of mindfulness is trust.  In this scenario trust is defined as “having trust in yourself, your intuition, and your abilities.  So far we have talked about non-judging, being patience, and having a beginner’s mind.  When we are in the moment and present to our reality, not only do we have to be non-judging, patient, and childlike in our curiosity and openness, we also have to trust that the moment is as perfect as it can be.  Keep in mind that trusting that the moment is as perfect as it can be does not mean that the moment is perfect.  Rarely in our life is the moment perfect.  Many of our moments are imperfect and during those times we often must rely on ourselves, our intuition, and our abilities to deal with life’s challenges.  By having trust we believe in ourselves and our capacity to meet life’s challenges.  This is also a reminder that mindfulness is not living in oblivion and mindless bliss.  Mindfulness is being present to reality.  Certainly there are those blissful moments when all is well and life is beautiful.  However, there are also those moments where life is painful and challenging.  While we all want to experience the joy filled moments, we must be present to our more painful realities as well.  As someone told me the other day, if you want to experience life’s rainbows, you must also be willing to experience a few storms. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Beginner's Mind

The third element, or habit, of the mindfulness attitude is “Beginner’s Mind”.  What is beginner’s mind?  It is “having the willingness to observe the world as if it were your first time doing so.  This creates an openness that is essential to being mindful”.
Most adults have a difficult time having a “Beginner’s Mind”.  As we get older our minds become so filled, mostly with junk, that being open enough to have the curiosity of a child is very challenging.  When it comes to “Beginner’s Mind”, my greatest teacher is my granddaughter.  I spend time with her most weekends and during this time she teachers me to see life like a child.  However, as she gets older she is losing some of her childhood innocence.  Now she is more questioning of life as she should be and as I would expect.  People with “Beginner’s Mind” tend to see life, not only with curiosity, but with simplicity.  When one sees life directly, and with the simplicity of a curious child, one is usually very present to the reality of the moment.  Life is not usually seen as complicated to a child.  It just is.  I remember once asking my granddaughter if she was happy.  At first she seemed confused by the question.  She looked at me as though she was wondering why I would ask such a silly question.  Her eyes said, “Paw Paw, isn’t being happy the normal way of being”?  Only someone with a “Beginner’s Mind” would think being happy is the normal way to be.  My granddaughter’s mind was open and fresh and her vision was pure.  She was full of curiosity and could be present to the moment in a way I can only hope to be.  Sadly, growing up and seeing the world a little more realistically has affected the purity of her vision.  Unfortunately she will likely grow up to be like the rest of us and she will lose her former effortless ability to be present.  At some point she will need to consciously work to regain it just like her Paw Paw is trying to do now.   


The second element or habit of the mindful person is patience.  Patience is “cultivating the understanding that things must develop in their own time”.  Patience is a trait that usually comes easy for me.  Of course, what I call patience is sometimes seem by others as me being non-assertive.  Admittedly, one of my coping strategies in life is simply waiting things out.  Despite how I am sometimes seen by others, and acknowledging that I do sometimes act in dysfunctional ways, patience is a gift that I believe I have been given to me as part of my personality.  We live in an impatient world where everyone seems to be in a hurry and many people want everything yesterday.  I remember a joke from my days in project management.  It was said that it takes one woman nine months to give birth to a baby.  You cannot give birth to a baby in one month by using nine women.  In other words, “things must develop in their own time”.  Certainly there are situations in life that require a sense of urgency.  Things sometimes happen that require us to kick it up a notch.  However, not everything in life can be done quickly nor should they be.  You can open a can of soup and pop it in the micro wave for a quick and usually unsatisfying lunch.  You can also slow cook a variety of ingredients in your crock pot and have a culinary delight for dinner.  You can pressure cook your life or let it unfold naturally.  As I have said before, in a world of pressure cookers, I am a crock pot.  In the end, patience gains all things.  Move quickly when life demands it but if you are running and pushing all the time, it will catch up to you and you will regret it.     

Monday, September 19, 2016


I once discovered something called the “7 Elements of the Mindfulness Attitude”.  I think it could also be called “The 7 Habits of Highly Mindful People”.
The first element, or habit, is “Non-Judging”.
Taking the role of an impartial observer to whatever your current experience is.  This means not making a positive or negative evaluation of what is happening, just simply observing it.
It is so hard to not judge.  I once heard someone say “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see”.  In other words, almost nothing is what it seems.  Most of our opinions are based on perceptions and perceptions are sometimes seen as truth in the eye of the perceiver.  How does one be truly objective and non-partial?  How can we remove the filters from our own eyes?  I haven’t achieved this yet.  Certainly the times I have become aware of my own misjudgments have been learning experiences.  I would also say the times I have been misjudged have also been learning experiences.  In my own journey of self-awareness I have become a little better at stepping outside of myself and observing my own behavior.  Of course, even when I do this it is still difficult to not judge myself.  I am a very feeling type person with strong emotions.  It is difficult for me to remove my feelings from most situations.  Sometimes it helps to say to myself, “You’re having an emotional response.  What is really happening now”?  My experience is that it is not easy to be impartial and it is very challenging to simply observe what is going on around me.  I guess the only real progress I have made is by being more aware of my own emotions and how they can misrepresent reality.    

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Middle Path

Most people see things as either/or.  Things or people are seen as good or bad, right or wrong, black or white, liberal or conservative, successful or unsuccessful, attractive or unattractive, and on and on.  People tend to walk around and consciously or unconsciously make judgments.  We all do this.  This type of thinking is called dualistic thinking.  Imagine a day where you don’t do this.  Imagine a day where you don’t see life as either/or but rather both/and.  This type of thinking is called non-dualistic thinking.  It is non-judgmental.  I also like to think of it as walking the middle path.  When one walks the middle path, and ceases to judge everything as good or bad, you experience a oneness with life rather than a separation from parts of it.  There’s a common phrase that simplifies this.  I’m sure you’ve heard people say “It is what it is”.  It’s a phrase I tend to overuse but I like it.  I admit that it is sometimes challenging for me to make a decision because I can usually see both sides of an issue.  Because of my desire to walk the middle path and to be a non-dualistic thinker, I try to find an answer in the middle of conflicting opinions.  This seems to be a lost art in modern day politics.  No one seems willing to compromise and meet in the middle.  Always seeing everything as either/or, and never being willing to compromise and meet in the middle, gets us nothing but gridlock and standoffs.  When everyone is holding their ground you can never move ahead.          

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Expect Nothing But Be Grateful For Everything

Better indeed is knowledge than mechanical practice.  Better than knowledge is meditation.  But better still is surrender of attachment to results, because there is immediate peace.”
-Bhagavad Gita
Christians have the Bible.  Muslims have the Koran.  Buddhists have the Noble Eightfold Path.  Hindus have the Bhagavad Gita.  This quote brings many thoughts to me.  In the early days of my career we trained people how to do things.  We basically said, “If this happens, then do this”.  People learned the appropriate response to particular problems but most didn’t understand why.  They knew the “how” of things but not the “why” of things.  We taught them mechanical practice without the knowledge of understanding.  Another thought that comes to mind is our obsession with results.  We are always focused on the destination to the point that we miss the journey.  As the Buddhists say, “The journey is the destination”.  I just had a conversation with my wife yesterday about how she’s always five steps ahead.  Before we land at our destination, she is already working on the trip home.  In her mind, she’s just being proactive.  In my mind she needs to relax and chill out.  Attachment to results is also another way of having expectations.  Expectations are usually planned disappointments.  We may have hopes that we want to come true but most of our expectations are doomed to failure and bring us nothing but disappointment.  One of my co-workers has a motto that goes “Enjoying everything, regretting nothing”.  It is a great way to live.  Another similar stance towards life would be to “Expect nothing.  Be grateful for everything”.  This is the way to inner peace.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Stop Shopping For Enlightenment

Two Buddhist monks are sitting side by side while meditating on the side of a river.  The older and wiser monk finally says to the younger monk, who has a look of dismay on his face, “Nothing else happens.  This is it.”
If you are like me, then you surely sometimes wonder to yourself, “Is this it?  Does nothing else happen”?  Much of my life’s journey I have been on a quest to find meaning in my life.  More often than not I do not feel successful.  Sometimes I wonder if I am searching for something that is simply not there.  Too often I feel like life is a treadmill and I’m getting nowhere.  Is it possible that this is it and nothing else happens?  Is my life nothing more than a revolving door with me doing nothing but coming to work, going home, falling asleep on my couch, waking up so I can go to bed, and then beginning the whole process over again the next morning?  This is what my life often feels like.  I want to believe I make a difference but do I?  Occasionally I feel passionate but more often than not I feel like I have lost my mojo and that I am turning into a grumpy old man.  The constant search for meaning can be exhausting.  After originally writing these thoughts I got home one day and waiting for me was an email from a friend containing an article that she said reminded her of some of my previous thoughts.  It was an article that talked about three major phases of life.  The first and longest is the time we devote to accumulating wealth and material well-being.  The second is the accumulation of spiritual things, i.e., gurus, seminars, retreats, and mystical experiences.  The third phase is called divestment.  You stop shopping for enlightenment and you make peace with not knowing.  You make peace with life and accept that life is not a question to be answered or a problem to be solved but a gift to be enjoyed.  I think I am now in this third phase.  I need to relax in my “not knowing” and simply enjoy life as it unfolds.       

You Are Good Enough

Whether we realize it or not, most of us have been told our entire lives that we aren't good enough.  Our life has been filled with messages telling us that we are inadequate and imperfect.  Most of the messages were unintentional but real never the less.  They have been from our parents, our teachers, our spouses, our significant others, our children, our relatives, our friends, and our employers.  We don't measure up, we disappoint, or we don't meet someone else's standards.  I, too, have heard these messages my entire life.  A friend once recommended a book to me that I finally read.  I would have read it sooner but I am imperfect and lazy so it took me a while to get to it.  As you can see we often give ourselves these negative messages too.  They don't always come from others.  Our biggest critic is often ourselves.  Anyway.....the name of the book is Regardless of What You Were Taught to Believe.....There is Nothing Wrong With You by Cheri Huber.  It is sub-titled "Going Beyond Self-Hate, A Compassionate Process for Learning to Accept Yourself Exactly as You Are".  The book begins with a list of the messages all of us received in our early childhoods.  I was amazed how many I had heard, how many I said to my own children, and how many I have even said to my granddaughter who I love more than anything in the world.  According to psychologists most of these messages are set in concrete before we reach age seven.  I know this may all sound terribly negative but it is not meant to be.  Consider it an eye opener and a wakeup call to stop listening to the voices around you.  Today is the day to start loving yourself.  Quit trying to improve yourself.  Quit thinking you're inadequate.  Quit thinking you're imperfect.  You're perfect the way you are.   

The Elimination Of Non-Essentials

Beside the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.  The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.
Most of us spend much of our lives performing all kinds of tasks that we believe must be done.  I’ve come to the conclusion that much of what we do is either the result of our own personal agendas or the agendas of others.  Think of all the things you do.  If you died today would someone else assume your tasks?  If you stopped doing some of the things you do, would anyone notice?  Abraham Maslow, the famous psychologist and author of the “Hierarchy of Needs” made a statement once that “80% of all work is BS”.  How many of you reading this think that many of your work related tasks have no real value?  The above quote, however, is not just about the non-value added tasks that too many of us perform.  I think it is also about discerning, not only what is essential or non-essential, but what needs our involvement and what does not.  We human beings want to control and manipulate everything to suit our needs.  The damage we have inflicted on our planet is proof of this.  There are way too many control freaks and micro-managers in life and not enough people of wisdom whose desire is to influence and not to manipulate.  Life is not a competitive sport.  We don’t have to control or beat everything.  Certainly there are essential tasks of daily life that must be completed.  However, much of our activity is just self-created busy work or the demands of someone’s else’s agenda.  The universe knows what is essential and what is not and I’m pretty sure the universe can manage itself without our ego-centric agendas.  Some things we need to do, some things we need to influence, some things we need to let be, and some things we need to simply ignore.      

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Way back in the early 70’s I discovered an album called “Inside”.  It was a recording by a jazz musician named Paul Horn.  He plays the flute which is one of my favorite instruments.  On this particular recording he visited the Taj Mahal in India and then hid inside when they closed for the day.  He had his flute and a recording device.  During the night, when he was alone inside the Taj Mahal, he played his flute and recorded it.  It’s a beautiful recording.  It’s contemplative, prayerful, and a bit cosmic.  If you’re stressed this recording can bring you some peace.  When I listen to it I am reminded how much I love being one with the universe.  Everyone’s life has challenges and disappointments.  Mine is no exception.  However, I have been given many gifts by the universe.  One of the gifts is having the awareness to recognize perfect moments.  I call them Zen moments.  I have such moments frequently when I listen to music.  I can listen to a recording of a concert from many years ago and in my mind I am right there in the front row.  Time travel is easy for me when it comes to music.  I recall another time when I got home early from work one day.  I was alone, the house was quiet, and it was the middle of winter.  I made a cup of hot chocolate and sat in my chair, looking out my window while watching huge snowflakes fill the air.  I was lost in the moment and one with the universe.  I believe I learned to see and recognize such moments when I lived in the monastery.  I was very young and idealistic but also very serious.  I would go for walks in the woods and sometimes I would just sit on a log and listen to the wind in the trees.  These types of experiences showed me a whole new way to see life.  You should look for similar opportunities in your own life to go “inside” and be one with the universe.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

How Much Are You Willing To Pay?

The price of everything is the amount of life you exchange for it.
-Henry David Thoreau
If you are depressed you are living in the past.  If you are anxious you are living in the future.  If you are at peace you are living in the present.
Lao-Tzu is a Chinese philosopher and Henry David Thoreau is one of my favorite thinkers and writers.  Whenever I read any of their stuff they are usually right on the money.  This particular Lao-Tzu quote ties in well with all my previous thoughts about mindfulness.  How many of us are depressed or unhappy because we compare our current life to a romanticized ideal of how great we thought our life used to be?  How many of us fail to see what’s really good in our current life because every waking minute we are daydreaming about some life we wish we had and we’re worrying about whether or not we will ever achieve it?  We spend too much times thinking life used to be great or it could be great if only things were different.  When we are truly present to the eternal Now I believe we see things differently.  Part of being mindful is noticing things.  When we are living in the past or dreaming of the future we are not likely to be noticing the good realities of the present.  I once read a quote of unknown origin that went “These are the good old days”.  Remember that today used to be the future and soon it will be the past.  Where you are now is where you will always be in the sense that only the present truly exists.  Notice the present and be at peace.  Thoreau reminds us that everything in life has a price.  Do you want to be the most successful person at Humana?  OK, go for it.  However, there is a price.  Do you want to be well educated and have an impressive degree?  OK, but there is a price.  Do you want to be single or have a spouse and family?  OK but both have a price.  Do you want to run the street, howl at the moon, and abuse your body?  OK but there is a price.  All of our choices, good and bad, have a price.  Each person has to decide what amount of life you are willing to pay for whatever choices you make.       

Free Us From Anxiety And Worry

In concentrating simply and solely upon what is happening at this moment, anticipation and anxiety vanish.
-Alan Watts
Right before I started writing this daily thought I consumed an entire bag of sweet and salty trail mix.  Notice that I wasn’t writing the daily thought while I was eating the trail mix.  I didn’t mean to eat the entire bag but I was in a state of heavenly bliss and lost all self-control.  However, in the moment of trail mix consumption, all anticipation and anxiety vanished.  This mindfulness stuff really works when you practice it enough.  You cannot think two separately thoughts at the same time.  If you are having multiple thoughts, you are bouncing around from one thought to another.  If you think I am wrong, I challenge you to think two separate and distinct thoughts at the same time.  It is the same when you are concentrating on one activity at a time.  When you are concentrating simply and solely upon what is happening in the moment, nothing else exists.  When I was concentrating on the consumption of my trail mix, I was relieved of all work anxiety, at least until the trail mix was gone.  Multi-thinking, or having too much going on in your mind at the same time, and multi-tasking, doing too many things at the same time, is the source of much stress in our lives.  When you eliminate anxiety, you eliminate stress.  In the Catholic mass, one of the prayers said by the priest is “Free us, Lord, from all anxiety”.  Even on a spiritual level, anxiety is seen as something that oppresses our lives.  We will still have occasional moments of stress that are beyond our control but most of our reactions to life are within our control.  May we all be free of anxiety and worry.        

In The End Everything Will Be Perfect

“In the end everything will be perfect.  If it’s not perfect now it’s because the end is not here yet”.
This is a line from a wonderful movie I once saw called “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.  It’s the story of a random group of senior citizens who decide to retire in India.  Admittedly I may have identified with the characters because I am older.  However, I think the movie has a message for everyone regardless of their age.  The message I took from the movie is this.  You are never too old to find yourself.  In the movie the different characters come from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences.  None of them have any idea what to expect from moving to India.  The “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is in many ways a dump that has been highly over rated on its website.  Everyone seemed apprehensive when they first arrived.  There was the obvious culture shock.  Eventually all but one settled into their new home and culture.  By jumping into the flow of life in India, and not resisting it or fighting it, they came to a new self-awareness.  The movie reminded me that all of life is a journey and the journey is the destination.  It also reminded me that most of us have no idea where the journey will take us.  The important thing is to enjoy the journey, be open to all of life’s possibilities, and when the journey is over, everything will be perfect.  If your life is not perfect yet, your journey is not over.        

Friday, September 02, 2016

A Week With My Granddaughter

My granddaughter has been at my home since last Friday night.  This means my wife and I have been full time grandparents all week.  First of all, hats off to all grandparents who are raising their grandchildren full time.  I was 27 years old when Chloe’s father was born and 31 years old when his brother came along.  I spent my thirties and forties raising my children.  I am now 65 years old and my wife is 63 years old.  We are not used to having a 12 year old girl in our home 24/7, especially one full of teenage existential angst.  Young girls have quite a lot of drama in their life.  I love my granddaughter to the moon and back.  She’s a really cool kid and she has given me a lot of joy.  However, I am not used to being the home work police or a chauffeur doing the school drop off each morning as well as the after school pick up.  I feel like I am driving a thousand miles a day in rush hour traffic.  When it is bedtime and grandma and grandpa are more than ready for dreamland, she is bouncing off the walls with endless energy.  Most of this energy is spent doing things that make me laugh.  I guess it is obvious why most of us have our children when we are young.  It takes a lot of energy to be a parent, especially if you are a single mom or dad.  In spite of these challenges to my old age, I treasure this time.  It feels like Chloe was just born yesterday and she is already 12 years old.  It won’t be too many more years when hanging out with grandpa and grandma will be low on her priority list.  I feel very blessed that Chloe and I bonded very early in her life.  There is not much we don’t discuss although she sometimes gets weary of me giving her so many “life lessons”.  I told her that’s part of my job description as a grandfather.  Most of the time we just hang out together and each do our own thing.  I feel very blessed to have her in my life.     


Thursday, September 01, 2016

I Could Tell You Were Meditating

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment!
Being calm does not come naturally to me despite how I often appear to other people.  Sometimes I get fired up and do what my family calls “Dad flailing”.
The quote above is from a book I once read called Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh who is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk.  The book is about practicing mindfulness in everyday life.  One passage I read was about how we all think too much.  For most of us our minds have a never ending tape loop that plays over and over.  Much of what we think about is not worth the time and a great number of our thoughts are negative.  By focusing on our breath, we can reduce the amount of time wasted on unnecessary and potentially negative thinking.  Realistically, we cannot stop all thinking.  Many of life’s daily tasks require some level of intellectual activity.  However, I give you this challenge.  Today, when you are not involved in a task that requires you to think, don’t think.  Between your tasks that require thinking, focus on your breath and enjoy the stillness that it will bring.  If you choose to have a cup of coffee or tea during these moments, smell the aroma of the coffee or tea, pay attention to the taste of your coffee or tea, and finally, enjoy it in a very mindful way.  For those few moments let your attention be on your breathing and the experience of your drink.  Such intentional focus is what mindfulness is all about.
Focusing on your breath can also help with anxiety.  On my last airplane excursion I had to fly one leg of my trip on standby.  Minutes before takeoff my family got the last six seats on a flight and they were scattered all over the plane.  I ended up at the back of the plane in a window seat with two strangers sitting next to me.  This would normally give me great anxiety.  I thought it was a good time to practice what I preach.  I sat in my seat, closed my eyes, and began focusing on my breath.  The flight lasted about an hour and I did not feel any anxiety.  Eventually I got into a conversation with the lady sitting next to me.  We talked about mindfulness and I told her I had been practicing mindfulness on the flight.  She replied, “I could tell you were meditating”. 

Living In Your Head

“Whenever you are in the head…thinking, brooding, calculating, cunning, clever…you are not total.  Slowly, slowly, slip out of those moments.  It is just an old habit.  Habits die hard.  But they die certainly, if one persists, they die.”
Among the many personality variations, all people fall into one of three psychological sub-groups.  There are people who live in their heads.  There are people who are relational and how they appear to others is of primary importance to them.  Finally, there are people who are gut types that tend to react to life in ways that are not always logical.  I am most familiar with gut types because I am one.  Of course, human behavior is much more complicated than these simple generalizations.  Regardless of which type we are most of the time, I think all of us tend to spend a great deal of time living in our heads.  The mind is a whirling dervish of ideas, dreams, fantasies, and unsubstantiated fears.  If you are a person who is constantly afraid you are probably a person who lives in your head.  You probably worry endlessly about things that either haven’t happened or are unlikely to happen to you.  Most of your fears are not based on reality.  It is based on your own thoughts and fantasies.  Many people think of their heart as the engine of their bodies.  However, I would like to suggest that for most people their mind is what drives their life.  Your mind is not a computer that is programed to respond in specific ways to specific life challenges.  In reality, your mind strives to program you and how you respond to life.  Your mind can be a source of great intellectual and creative ideas as well as the source of all your imaginary fears.  Your mind doesn’t change reality.  It changes your perception of reality.  Control your mind and you control your life.         


This is an old daily thought but one I think about on a regular basis, especially in a world with nonstop bombardment of noise, images, and news, most of which is bad.  I want to be open to lifer and what goes on around me but I also want to control as much as possible who and what I allow in my life.
Monasteries have something called an enclosure.  In some cases this is an actual wall that separates the monastery from everything outside the monastery.  At least in the past, when a man or a woman entered a monastery, the attitude was that they were leaving the world behind.  In a sense, the wall, or enclosure, was a metaphorical and physical way to be separated from the world.  In today’s highly technical world this has become much more challenging.  There are now computers in the monastery and the internet has crept into sacred spaces once free of most worldly influences.  We can all have some version of an enclosure in our lives.  We can decide, most of the time, who and what we allow to enter our personal enclosures.  For example, I struggle on a regular basis whether or not I should watch the news, especially the local news.  It seems to be totally filled with negative stories about murders, robberies, serial killers, scams, or many other real and imaginary dangers to our lives.  I find it all quite depressing.  I want to be informed but I don’t want to allow all that negative energy and fear into my life.  Imagine that your five senses, especially your sight and your hearing are like open windows to your home.  Do you want everything to have access to your home?  Do you want everything to be able to just fly in whenever it wants?  Probably not.  That’s why most people have screens on their windows.  You want the fresh air but you want to screen out the insects and other things that the wind might carry in.  Therefore, make sure your screens are in good condition.  Build yourself a personal enclosure wall to keep out those people and things that bring you down or create unnecessary fear in your life.  

Mindful Eating

When was the last time you practiced mindfulness while eating?  Recent news articles have lamented the loss of the “lunch hour” for many of today’s workers.  Everyone thinks they are too busy to eat.  I think among some management people the need for a break or lunch is seen as a sign of weakness or lack of dedication.  I don’t care who you are or what you do, your life would be better served by taking occasional breaks along with a mindful lunch where you actually taste your food and enjoy the experience.  I am not talking about a rushed trip through the McDonald’s Drive Thru and a quick consumption of your Chicken McNuggets as you drive back to the office.  I am talking about taking the time to be totally present to yourself and your food.  I am talking about a relaxed and mindful time where you can be one with your meal.  You can smell it’s aroma, feel it’s texture, and taste it’s flavors in an unhurried and relaxing manner.  Today I challenge you to pay attention to whatever you eat.  Think about what you are eating.  Where did it come from?  If you are eating a piece of fruit think about the farmer who grew it.  Say a blessing for the person who picked it.  Remember the truck driver who delivered it to your local market.  Remember that many people worked so that you can have this food.  Most of all, be thankful and grateful that you have something to eat.  Many people in this world will not eat today.