Positivity Comes From Within

The negativity and suspicions that are your first response in most situations is a survival skill. It is a skill deeply rooted in your old brain – that part of the  brain that we share with cats and dogs, toads and even alligators. It is the fight or flight mechanism that has kept us alive and brought us to the top of the food-chain over the past few millennia.

It has worked wonderfully up until now. But in the 21st Century world we have created for ourselves, what once kept your ancestors alive is now holding you back from living the life you want to live, happily, positively, and productively.

The key to winning your life back is not to get bogged down in how to rewire your brain, but in how to hit the pause button; to help you overcome your old habits and begin the process of living your life, your way. Something we like to call Humanity 2.0.

Doing this is a lot easier than you may think. All you have to do is to work backward.

  • First, simply be aware of the way you respond to the world around you. Keep a journal for this if you need to, but do it. It can be as easy as emailing yourself from your mobile device, or as deeply rooted as stepping away and writing down your emotions to the triggers in your life.
    • Take note of the moments when you first start to feel defensive, or when you first feel as if you are being attacked. It may be during your commute, or by someone in your office. It can even be with someone you love and trust within your own family.
    • Make a note of what this feels like. Do you feel anger or frustration, even jealousy? It will probably include a brief adrenaline rush, as your amigdala pumps more adrenaline into your system, preparing you for what it thinks is a fight or flight situation.
  • Second, rather than responding immediately to the provocation, physically step away from the event and make a note of what just occurred.
  • Breathe deeply. As you settle into that breath feel yourself calm down and smile.
  • Third, when you have time return to your journal or re-read your emails in search of those things that sent you spiraling into your old habits of responding before having the chance to think. They may not be found in the events that happened, but in the way those events made you feel.
    • You will quickly find a connection between the incidences that set you off, your triggers, and the emotions they stirred up.
    • Your triggers may include a car that cut you off on your commute, or a person who cut in front of you as you walked down or the look on an associate while in a meeting at work.
    • Make note of your triggers, also make a note of how they made you feel. Your emotions are what connects the triggers within your brain, and are the key to creating a more positive response to the world around you.

Take note of the kind of events that your old brain recognizes as a threat. You cannot stop these events form happening, what you can do is train your brain how to respond to them in a way that you are comfortable with.

As you grow aware of your triggers, you can begin to avoid those situations where your triggers are more likely to be activated. You can also go further. You can train your brain to respond in a way that is more befitting of the world you now live in. You can even set your base reaction to be no reaction at all.

This frees up your mind so that instead of generating the negative thoughts of your ancestors, you can put a smile on your face as you seek out a more positive response to your situation.

You know, a more positive internal conversation like “I wonder what is wrong in that person’s life, that they feel it necessary to race in front of me,” or “what a shame they cannot enjoy this beautiful morning,” or “Look at the rain, how beautiful it is even when it comes in sideways.”
Get the idea?

Remember, you cannot change the world around you, but you can change how you respond to it, and that will make all the difference in your life. What you will notice is that at first it may seem impossible, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Even better, your positive responses will expand into other parts of your life.

Instead of reaching for food or alcohol as a temporary solution, you will begin to search for other, healthier solutions. You may start yoga or running to bring calm into your life. You may approach the person who carries your trigger and suggest a better way to handle situations. Or, you may simply smile as you ride the waves of your life with happiness, rather than suspicion, as the core to your new response mechanism.

Try this, and feel free to respond to let me know how it has worked for you.

Be well, and I hope this helps…

Jeff

Stop Grasping

The Simple Truth is that many of you do not need meditation. you simply need to stop grasping.

Centuries ago, letting go was probably enough to bring calm into someone’s life. It was really all you needed to do to remove the stress that may have built up in your life. Life back then was pretty immediate, but there was simply not that much information moving back and forth to cause the kind of stress you have in the first few minutes of your day.

In today’s world, however, you are connected 24/7. You are overwhelmed with Megadata and microbytes. The level information spinning you comes in through all of your devices. The Simple Truth to it all is that most of it has little direct relevance to your life. The result is that you spend a lot of time on irrelevant topics and fail to actually live your life, in your way.

This year, make your life less about “Letting Go” and more about not rasping in the modern the first place. The simple truth is that most of the information coming across your screens is irrelevant. Most of it deals with subjects that will never effect your life.

Some of the rest may be important, but there is little, if anything, that you can do about it; no matter how hard you try. What remains is so distorted by the media that uncovering the truth is rarely worth the time and effort you will have to put in, in order to dig it out.

What this means for you is that if you truly want to find your own peace and calm, then stop grasping at the straws that inevitably fly by. Why hold onto opinions from pundits so that you can “Let it Go” later on. Stop carrying all of this information around with you. It will only add weight to your already complex life.

In the short-term it will prevent you from being nimble and able to move quickly. In the long -term it will wear you out and exhaust you. Either way, stop grasping at straws. Simply before those straws become issues you now need to Let Go of.

Teach yourself to live with an appreciation of the present moment you are in. Train yourself to see the information that is out there, but to ignore the distractions that are all around you. Do not put on the blinders all together, but recognize what is relevant  so that you are free to focus on the things that effect your life directly.

Once you are able to do that you can begin to expand your sphere of information and to begin taking on additional topics when you are ready.

It is okay to admit you cannot do it all. Nobody can. There is simply too much going on in today’s world for your brain to handle it all, and that is okay.

When you stop grasping, you will no longer need to let go. Better still, you will be free from the weight of all that irrelevant information you now have in that baggage we call life.

 

I hope this helps –

 

 

 

j.

 

Zen For Busy People

Join us at the New York Public Library on February 22nd at 5:30 pm for this FREE event – Zen For Busy People.

As part of our Meditation4All program, there is no cost to you. It is simply our way of sharing meditation to everyone interested in learning, resetting, and improving their ability to overcome the roadblocks we all face in the contemporary world we live in.

Stay for forty-five minutes and leave with a series of simple techniques that are both meditative and mindful, that you can use at anytime to help you:

  • Calm your nerves for the Event Image NYPL-Mulberry 010816day ahead
  • Reset and Re-balance no matter what happens
  • Learn to Take Life in Stride
  • Be resilient & overcome
  • Let it Go

This will be a fun and enlightened evening that combines guided meditations, open conversations, tips and, insights more. You will leave feeling calm and relaxed, as well as rejuvenated and prepared to live your life, Your way.

It may just be the best 75 minutes you will spend in 2016, and beyond.

New York Public Library – Mulberry Branch –

FREE

10 Jersey Street, Nolita

February 22nd, 5:30pm – 6:45

www.simple-truth.com/event-calendar

 

Is Your Style of Meditation a Cup or a Sword?

Which style of meditation or yoga is right for you?

Some people tends toward the cup, while others tend toward the sword. One reflects the masculine side of human nature, the other the feminine. Neither is right. Neither is wrong. Each simply connotes the basic nature of the human experience. They have little to do with being a man or a woman, and everything to do with the nature of existence. One speaks toward nurturing, the other toward a well defined path. They are simply facets of our humanity.

Many teach a softer form of yoga and meditation; that is more reflective of the cup. Yes, there are elements of the sword in those styles, but for the most part, they are soft and gentle. The other style, found in practices like Zazen, are more reflective of the sword, providing a strong foundation and a solid path upon which to grow.

Many men find this style more reflective of their natural state of mind. The important element to keep in mind, is not hard or soft, but which is right for you and when. The Simple Truth Method is created to help men and women from all paths to decide for themselves which techniques to use for different purposes. Yes, our students learn to weave a tapestry that aligns with your natural state. At some times, that state tends toward the sword, at others it tends toward the cup – depending on what you are going through in the modern world we now live in.

If you are seeking a style of meditation that reflects who you are, and have not found that in such styles as Samatha or Vipassana or Transcendental, then you may consider the Simple Truth Method, a style that helps you become who you are.

It is why so many men and women have found themselves more comfortable weaving traditional techniques together, into their own practice. On that fits their needs, in a way that works for them, free from judgment, free from the need to fit into something that they simply are not.

Sword or Cup – which are you? Which do you naturally tend toward?

Morning Meditation

Before waking this morning I lay in bed, one hand on my stomach, the other on my chest feeling the slow rise and fall of each inhale and exhale as I allowed my mind to stir in a gentle Buddha Breath. My mind woke, but not too much, never leaving the gentle meditation of my waking.

As time slid by the light changed across Manhattan. I rose and walked to my cushion. There I sat. I brought my Waking Buddha Breath with me as I lowered myself into a formal seated meditation. I started with a Pranayama OutBreath to clear my head of my dreams and focus my mind. The rapid chuffs of air that escaped through my nose in the short, sharp puffs that has given this technique its name were strong and even. One every second or so which started in my abdomen and worked themselves up to the room and the world around me.

When there was no more air to give I was left floating on my seat, my awareness followed my meditation, naturally landing on that place where my sit bones met my seat. It drew my attention down, to my feet, to my ankles as they pressed against the floor, tooting me  to the pillow and the earth below. Each reminded me of the roots of the tree that my body began to emulate.

They rose up the trunk that was now my spine and body as my consciousness gently scrolled through my five senses. My eyes, I was aware of the patterns on the back of my eyelids as the last dreams left me. My ears, as I heard the sounds of the room, the building, the world gently coming to life around me; aware of each, acknowledging and welcoming them into my world, my awareness, my consciousness. My sense of touch as my sense of self dropped to my hands and my heart.

My meditation paused at my heart for a moment as my breath slid from quiet into a mantra meditation. Less a mantra actually and more the wonderfully rasping sounds as I felt it stir against my vocal cords, delivering that wonderfully deep and soulful sound one associates with monks; resonating low and vibrating deep as if reaching to the energy that surrounds each of us.

That same resonance and vibration found its way downward to that place in my lower abdomen and centered itself within me. It wrapped itself around my chakra and shifted into the thoughts of safe, healthy, happy. My own mind followed those thoughts as the vibration of my chanting extended those thoughts of me to you, from I to us, and from us to a feeling of one.

My mind, my awareness, my consciousness shifted somewhere in there I became nestled in that wonderful network of Love that is the backdrop to our world, that we so easily forget is there. With the feeling of energy coming back to me as I connected with each of you, I smiled and continued to breathe. I let go of the callings of the morning and they let go in return.

There is no need to start my day just yet. The day will come soon enough. I simply need to watch the morning sun lighten the sky. I simply need to watch myself to stay centered in the bliss that my morning practice has given me this morning and every morning that I remember to follow it.

 

Much Love

Meditation: Peace is Within You

Did you know that peace is within you?

 

It is there every moment of every day.

You simply have to settle your mind

With Meditation

And reach for it.

You simply have to acknowledge

That you are out of sorts

And off of your best

You simply need to admit

That you cannot do everything.

 

It is okay

Nobody can.

 

We all have our limits

But the beauty of admitting what your limits are

Makes your brain aware

That you are okay with them

 

So smile when you are overwhelmed this week

Breathe when you are finding the stress and anxiety

We all so often talk about

Let your mind settle

And admit that you are human

 

As we all are.

 

Meditations & Seizures to Recovery – Seizure Pt I

This past Saturday I practiced yoga for the first time in two weeks – it helped align my muscles.

Yesterday morning I enjoyed a walking meditation along the Hudson River – it helped align my mind.

Yes, the birds do sing along the Hudson. Yes there are quiet places in the middle of the world’s largest metropolis. It simply depends on where you decide to place your attention and what you decide to focus your attention on.

This post is a story of what you can do when you place your attention on a single point of focus, and where that focus can take you.

Both practices, the yoga and the walking meditation, were the first time I was able to abide them since I had a rather massive seizure on September 20th. It knocked me down and took me out for several weeks. There was no convulsions. There was a simple shutdown as my brain experienced an overload and quietly rebooted itself.

In between these events, the September seizure and my walking meditation, I have floated in a muddle of missed connections and forgotten streets, of thoughts that have gone unexpressed, and of the constant reminder that the human experience is a glorious thing to behold.

Throughout it all, I knew the information was in there, I was just unable to access it. The process of which has been a process of breathing and patience, of stopping in silence, interrupted by flashes of knowledge as my brain awakened itself.

It has been a path of following the tried and true, interrupted by frantic thoughts and the need to quiet my mind, of getting lost in a city in a well laid-out grid, of waiting on random corners as my neurons settled down, of not moving until my sense of space and direction returned to me. Of getting lost in time on a park bench, blankly contemplating a leaf in empty silence until something sparked a memory in the back of my brain and stirred my mind to life.

 

The Seizure

On September 20th, the last coherent text I sent out was at 4:39 in the afternoon. After that my wife received a call from a stranger at 6:49, telling her I was sitting in our lobby, unresponsive and not moving. Unseen by either of them, the electrical pulses in my brain had quietly lapsed as it seized.

During this time, my brain was reducing the input, shutting down my sight and my hearing as it went through its own reboot. My sight closed in on me, reducing my field of vision to a very narrow band of light. My hearing began to fail as my brain, the good computer that it is, shut off the sounds that overwhelmed it a short while before. My fingers tingled and went numb as my sole focus was to painstakingly scroll through my phone to my wife’s number in the hopes that I could find someone to dial it before everything went dark.

What usually takes seconds took me well over an hour that afternoon – all with the thought of preparing for the chance passing of a stranger.

If I could have spoken intelligibly, I knew what I would have said, but the words and thoughts were trapped deep in my mind at this point, unable to be expressed. So I sat down on the stone steps of the lobby, resigned to setting things up; remembering, forgetting, taking each step one at a time before forgetting and having to reverse direction once again, reminding myself what it was I was trying to do – prep my phone so that I could hand it to a stranger and point to the dial button.

This was how I spent the seventy minutes between those two points of contact.

I remember the conversation going on inside my head. One voice saying “this could take for hours,” the other voice saying, “Well, it’s not like we’re going anywhere anytime soon, so just breathe and focus, and move as smoothly as you can so you don’t make any mistakes.”

It was a meditation of remembering, of forgetting, of focusing and of letting go.

As luck would have it I saw movement somewhere in the lobby. I tried to speak and showed him the screen of my phone. I may have said the word “wife” but I am not sure if that is what made it out.

He called her from his phone before realizing his phone was a stranger’s number to her, and he pushed the send button on mine.

In minutes I began to hear the wail of sirens as the ambulance raced my wife for the lobby to take me to the Emergency Room at NYU.

 

Collapse & Recovery

My seizures are somewhat unique in a way. They are the result of 9 brain surgeries that have removed more than 20 tumors in as many years, as well as a few rounds of radiation that have left my brain swollen and angry.

It is not that I lose consciousness of what was going on around me. I am actually hyper-aware of the input coming in – I am just unable to process it into anything meaningful. I can walk up to a door, I know that on the other side of this door is my destination, but I am unable to understand how the door works. I can see the key in my hand, but I have no idea how to fit it into the keyhole, let alone to turn it in order to open the door.

In this case I was able to make it into the lobby of our building, but that was about as far as I could get. So, there I sat, in a stupor, patiently abiding my breath as I gave myself up to the actions of those around me, trusting they would do the right thing.

In so many ways these seizures remind me of the inherent kindness and goodness that is within us all. It would have been so easy for someone to grab my wallet, my mobile, or to shuffle me off to some nightmare scenario that screenwriters are so quick to turn into a blockbuster. But this has never happened.

Not once in all my experiences has anyone ever done anything other than to help, to assist, to see me through. For that I am eternally grateful. I am also eternally optimistic that the human experience is not one based on hate or anger or fear, but on love and compassion and understanding. That it is within each of us to reach out and lift up those who are in need, as has happened to me again and again and again.

 

The Fall

This seizure followed a fairly predictable pattern. I was running a number errands and had forgotten to take my Keppra – an anti-seizure drug. I dehydrated myself and skipped lunch which lowered my electrolytes and blood sugar, in order to get one more errand done. I put myself in what I call the danger zone, by adding level of stress to the whole situation, until I ran into a market that was loud and crowded and bright with more food choices than you could ever hope to see, and that is what flipped the switch. It over-stimulated my senses with brighter lights and jostling people and more noise than I could handle; and that is when my brain just said enough.

When then the seizure starts, it comes on pretty quickly. The signs give me perhaps a thirty or forty minute warning. It is like watching my brain shut down the inputs so that it can reboot. My field of vision quickly diminishes to create a tunnel. I begin to see flashing lights. My hearing begins to dim, and I get a numbness and tingling in my fingers and toes.

On this occasion I determined I had enough time to get home.

As I focused on the streets I knew it would not be long until my speech become unintelligible. I also knew I would start forgetting how to make the connections we all take for granted – like how to use a key in a door, how to take an elevator upstairs, or how to make a cell phone work. It is the funny thing about my seizures, I conceptually understand what something does, I simply cannot for the life of me make the connections that are necessary to make it work.

It’s kind of like being a car without a driver. The engine is idles just fine, but it’s not going anywhere without someone turning the wheel or stepping on the gas, let alone being ready to step on the brake.

In some cases if I catch it in time, I can stop the seizure by taking a cold shower to lower my body temperature, drinking an electrolyte replacement designed for marathoners called Skratch, or meditating to quiet down my brain’s activity. I can even nap for a few hours, or collapse into a deep unmoving sleep, until things seem to return to a normal path of recovery.

Needless to say, this time I missed that window of opportunity.

Instead, I felt the growing disassociation with the world as it shrunk in around me as I headed home, key in hand. I remember putting myself on as direct a path as possible. It was only a few blocks to our loft, not even ten minutes, but by the time I got to our front door, I wasn’t sure how to use the key that was in my hand in the lock.

I knew what was going on, so I stopped and breathed and settled things down. I focused on my breath until a connection was pulled together and slowly slid the key in, turning it, and opening the door.

In front of me was the steel door of the elevator that would take me to our loft. I knew what the elevator was for, but by this time I could not sync up the concept of the elevator with the idea of how to operate it [i.e., put the key in the lock, turn the key and push the button for the right floor].

I also somehow knew having my wife find me collapsed in the apartment would be less desirable than accosting someone in the lobby and getting them to call her. Don’t ask me how, but this is the way my brain works in times like these.

So I sat inside the lobby with my keys in my hand and waited. My vision continued to degrade into a very narrow band of light, into which I scrolled my phone one step at a time. I remember thinking to myself, “this is just like yoga, one movement for each breath. Slow and steady,” with the idea that if I could set everything up, if someone came in, if I could catch their attention, I could just push send and give them the phone.

As you already know, a neighbor eventually did come in. I managed to garble out the idea for him to use my phone to call my wife. How he understood I have no idea, but he made the call.

Alex, I thank you for that.

06:49 – Laura sent a text that she was on her way down and calling 911

 

Into the ER at NYU

I remember sitting there, sweating and listening to the sirens as they approached. Alex stayed with me until the ambulance arrived. I acutely aware of my head hanging down as I focused on my breath. I was aware of everything going on around me, without placing too much attention on any one detail. It was as if my brain was absorbing the events in a very distracted way. It was detached, but taking it all in, as if floating just beneath the surface of a lagoon, watching what was going on above the surface without being able to interact with it; calm and serene.

I could not see the EMT when they came into the lobby, but remember hearing them. I was trying to say something, but realized whatever I was saying made no sense. I knew what I wanted to say, but could not get the words out, so I just let it go and let them handle the situation.

I could feel them moving me this way and that, strapping me onto a stretcher and loading me out the door. It occurred to me that this was what Stephen Hawkins must feel like. Able to take in the world around him, observing and noting from afar, without the ability to interact.

Laura climbed into the ambulance and told them NYU, and off we went. The ride itself was a benign trip through which I closed my eyes. I felt safe, knowing that from this point on, everything would be fine.

When I opened my eyes, it was to the noises and lights of the ER. We had arrived at the NYU Medical Center where the doctors have had me on file for decades.  The orderlies were taking vitals and placing electrodes on my chest and head. The nurses were securing IVs into my arms. There was nothing for me to do but lie there and breathe. Everything that could be managed was being managed. I was stable.

 

Recovery

When I woke, it was to the flashlight of a nurse checking the dilation of my eyes. It wasn’t great, but they would get better.

The key difference between my seizures and the seizures caused by something like epilepsy, is that in my case, it is all about the buildup. I hover in the yellow-zone for hours until something pushes me over the edge. I get over-stimulated by some trigger, my brain gets overloaded and simply says enough as it starts to shutdown.

After the seizure occurs, the event is over. There are no follow-up seizures. It’s a one-time event before my brain goes into repair mode, busying itself as it re-establishes the neural connections it once mapped my life to. There are no cascading of electrical impulses where the brain continues to misfire. I am not sent down into a series of seizure after seizure after seizure. And yes, I consider myself extremely lucky in this sense.

It took a day or two of observation for the doctors to confirm that my brain’s activity had normalized, after which they saw little reason to keep me. In effect, releasing me on my own recognizance.

 

The Road Back

What I have learned over the various surgeries and seizures that I have had, is that the physical brain is a truly remarkable organ. Not only does it have millions of connections that not only keep the body alive, but it reorders those connections every second of every day in an infinite number of combinations to create the thoughts and dreams we call the mind.

It also reprioritizes the way in which those connections are put together, in order to better respond to the world around us. A London taxi driver’s hypocampus, the area responsible for mapping and directions is heavier and more deeply folded than yours or mine. It is a survival skill they need having to drive through the more than 10,000 streets of London that have been built up over the past several thousand years – few of which follow any kind of a grid pattern.

I was reminded of this as I began to look out the window of our apartment at the streets of Soho in Manhattan. This is the haphazard area that was laid down before the grid on Manhattan was established. No right angles. No first, second, third or fourth. Instead it is a mishmash of Spring and Mercer, Prince and Wooster, it was this pattern that I needed to access before I could leave the loft.

The amazing part of relearning the streets is that the harder I tried to picture them, the more difficult it was to do so. Instead, the more I relaxed, that more I let go, the quicker the image of the streets would come to me.

On the one day I went out thinking I would wander around the reacquaint myself with the neighborhood, I got lost within half a block. I could not remember what was North or South, East or West, uptown or downtown. I had to stop against a building and breathe for several minutes until I slowly realized where I was, and more important, where our loft was.

That was enough to send me back home for a very long nap.

On my second trip out, I thought of taking a different approach. I would take a left out of the apartment and stick to one street. As I walked down the street I read the signs as they begin to spark my memory. I could feel my brain make the familiar connections that were already there.

After several days of this I begin to visualize a grid around me. It was only a few blocks, but I begin to remember the names of the streets several blocks away. I even began to see the stores on the next block as if they were appearing out of some recess in my memory.

In between, there were moments of standing on a corner for minutes on end, unwilling to go any further until my brain could catch up with where I was. I was taking baby steps, allowing my brain to familiarize itself with the neural network it had slowly established over decades.

As my brain mapped the streets of the city, I could feel other aspects of my mind coming online. I learned it helped to put everything in a very specific place, and to not take any shortcuts. Life became easier when I was able to create familiar patterns that I could return to. As these patterns established themselves within my head, I could expand upon them more easily.

The moment I took a shortcut, was the moment I would get lost or confused, and have to take several steps backwards before starting over.
My conversation begin to get tighter. My writing became crisper. I could even remember the focus of a paragraph from the time I started and finished writing it. Oh, and autocorrect no longer confuses me by misspelling my words.

 

Q+A – Learn to Surf Your Meditation

Q:

How do I go further in my meditation? I feel like I’m getting stuck early on and I’m becoming frustrated by my inability to go further.

A:

Where are you trying to go and why do you need to get there so quickly?

The beauty to meditation is that it is a journey to nowhere. In so many ways it is a circle within a circle. You sit, you quiet the mind, and you let go. When you arrive to that place of calm you realize you are right where you are. You have gone nowhere. You have experienced what it is to have a clear vision of nothingness; free from the need to pay attention to thoughts or the interruptions of the world around you. With practice you become aware that the distractions of your mind are really no different than the distractions of the world you live in.

You see, meditation is not a place to travel to. There is no destination or linear path to follow. There are no road signs for direction. Instead there is an endless ocean upon which to float, and within that ocean there are entirely new levels of freedom to explore once you are able to free yourself from the inner-workings of your brain and allow your mind to stretch beyond itself. When you are able to do that, you will find that you can reach beyond the world of your five senses.

I often describe meditation as a walk into the ocean.  When you first close your eyes in meditation, it is like walking into the ocean. You are buffeted by waves that push you back and knock you over.  These are the thoughts and ideas, lists and regrets, assignments and tasks that your brain distracts you with.

It is as if a cerebral surf is crashing down on you, keeping you from reaching the calm swells that rise and fall beyond the waves. You know they are out there, but you struggle to reach them. The more you struggle, the more off balance you become, and the more difficult it is to stay focused on your destination.

Once through the surf, you begin to feel the calm rise and fall of the ocean swells. In time, you will even find that you can float on top of the beautiful water, rising and falling as if floating on the ebb and flow of the tides of existence.

With practice, you may even feel yourself slipping beneath the water, safe and quiet, watching the thoughts pass above you, above the surface.  There you can rest in quiet, aware they are there, but knowing that you do not have to interact with them.  You will find that you can stay in that place for a while, until you become aware of an even calmer point that is deeper, quieter, with even less motion from the waves and the currents of the outside world.

And so your journey goes until you are resting in that null space between your thoughts and your breath.

The key to getting to that point is learning how not to fight the waves of distraction, but to surf on them.  And that requires climbing onto a metaphysical surfboard, free from attachment and from ego. It is not the same as “letting go.” Instead it means embracing the world you are in so that you can be one with the waves of your mind.

At first, don’t even worry about “meditating.”  Instead just allow yourself to drop in on your breath.

Simply be aware of the air as it flows in and out of your body.

Be aware of your lungs expanding and releasing with each inhale and exhale.

Pay attention to the quality of that breath.

Notice how cool and dry it is as it enters your nose.

Notice how warm and moist it is as it leaves.

Notice the feeling of your body as it sinks into your pillow or seat.

Gently move your awareness to the pattern of light that plays on your eyelids.

With each breath surf to another of your senses and explore what you see, hear, taste and smell.

Don’t jump, just surf through your five senses gently by moving your awareness and your attention to whatever you are experiencing.

When you are ready, return your attention to your breath.

Do not force your attention to go anywhere, simply follow it through your nostrils and own your windpipe.

Feel it enter your lungs.

Be aware of the currents that air creates as it swirls around your lungs and through your body.

Feel the energy that flows from your abdomen to your scalp, your fingertips and your toes.

Then, when you are ready, return your attention to your breathing and enjoy your meditation on the calm waves of your own ocean.

 

Be well,

 

Monday Moments: Curate Your Authentic Self, Mindfully

In so many ways Authenticity is the Art of Simplicity; both are about removing that which is not you, rather than trying to add that which is. Each is often the product of tempering a great idea – the dream of who you want to be – with modest expectations that are in line with your true self. Neither happens overnight, but is the result of time. That is not to say you will never get to be who you want to be, knowing that it takes time will help you avoid the frustrations that inevitably come when you discover that finding your authentic self rarely happens fast enough.

The path to authenticity is a journey of baby-steps; gently placing your foot out and testing the terra firma beneath you, before placing your weight and lifting your other leg from the ground.

When you simplify your life you do more than quiet the noise and distractions that can undermine your growth. You open those around you to the idea of change, and that can be a very scary thing. Especially when they see you leave the nest they are still in.

So take your time and relax. There is an inevitability to your growth that others may not be so comfortable with. Learn to test the combination of friends and food and art and clothes that are all around you. Learn to cultivate the people and the objects in your life in a way that will bring you and your dreams together. At the same time, learn to gently let those things that do not support you go. As you do, you will learn the pleasures that come from living a life that is both simple and authentic at the same time. One that is true to your Simple Truth.

Living a simple life does not need to be boring. It simply needs to be true to your needs, cultivating those things that bring you joy.

The concept of living a simple life is one reason I teach meditation. Unlike what many think, meditation is not an end unto itself. It is a tool to remove the distractions from your life, so that you can create a community of people around you with whom you can share the same ideals.

You see, family and friends should always be more than a random selection of stragglers you end up with. They are the people who acknowledge the joy that can be found within your subtle nuances. They touch the same notes of music you enjoy and smile.  They savor the same sights and the smells that are a part of who you are.

It is why curating your life is about so much more than just letting go of the bad. It is about replacing the not-so-good with the good.  It is about creating a path to the joy that you should find in every article of clothing you own, in every candle you light, in every window you open, and in every meal you enjoy. Clearing the clutter from your life is about peeling back the layers that have prevented you from being your authentic self and opening yourself up to an enlightened life.

Do not be afraid of being your authentic self. It is who you are, and will sooner or later find its way out in the end.
The next time you hesitate to be you, smile and ask yourself, “what am I waiting for?”

After all, it is your life. It is time to start living it your way.

Learn more about living an authentic life by clicking here and discovering what we call The Strategy for Happiness. You may be surprised how easy it can be…

Monday Moments: Zen & Your Mindful Meal

Summer may be coming to a close, but we all know the beach body mindset is far from gone. Even when it’s time to wear those baggy sweaters and heavy coats, how you look affects how you feel about yourself, how you treat yourself, and how you treat the world and the people around you.

So forget about fitting into somebody else’s idea of beauty and start fitting into the body you were given – perfectly.  After all, having a great body is not about fitting into a double zero.  It’s about being happy with who you are; right here, right now.  So forget the extreme diets, forget the sweat mentality.  It’s time to find grace in the beauty that is you.

The Simple Truth is that there should be no restrictions to living your life.  After all, living life isn’t about fitting into the right outfit, it’s about creating great memories wherever you are.  This is why your diet should not be about losing, but gaining .  Gaining balance, gaining calm, gaining happiness without carrying around the weight that so many people can throw on you.  Because that is what you really carry around; not the pounds, but the guilt, the fear, and the self-loathing society created for you.

It sounds funny, but when you change your relationship with the food you eat, you don’t gain weight, you shed the angst of your old life as you gain health.  And yes, that is very, very visible no matter what season it is. It is also something that meditation and mindfulness can help you with.

Why not start your own Mindful Diet with these helpful tips that will reduce your stress and fill you with joy for the remainder of the summer, and for years to come:

Mind Before You Eat
Food is sometimes more a habit than a necessity.  We eat what we are comfortable with rather than what we really want.  So slow down before you dig in.  Stop and take three slow, deep breaths.  With each breath in, feel your body slow down.  Become comfortable with where you are and ask yourself what it is that you really want.  It will help you get rid of the stress that social occasions often create and the auto-responses we often have around lunch and dinner time. It will also help you take the emotions  out of your meal.   The result is a calmer meal that you can fully without all the extras.

Use All of Your Senses
Stop just eating and start enjoying.  Take the time to see and smell and yes even hear your food.  Don’t take a bite until you have run through all five senses and are aware of the full experience that is your meal.  You will learn to appreciate your food on a whole different level.  With all that joy flooding into your body, you will also eat less.

Slow Down & Enjoy
When your social calendar comes calling, it’s easy to rush into everything you find.  It is also easy to forget what you are eating and drinking as you try to fit it all in.  Use your meals as a chance to slow down.  The next time you feel yourself rushing through a meal, stop, breathe and give yourself thirty seconds to come up with a good answer as to why you are craving what you are craving.  It will teach you to be mindful of your meal and to enjoy it a whole lot more.

Love Your Body
Don’t just accept your body.  Don’t just appreciate your body.  LOVE YOUR BODY!  Love your curves and your freckles.  Love your hips and your stomach.  No matter what shape you were born with, LOVE IT! OWN IT!
Sure, you can lose a little here or there.  You can add some muscle tone and get in better shape.  You can even nip and tuck, if you want to go there – we all can.  But before you do  that, the next time you feel self conscious, take out two minutes to stand in a Superman pose – feet spread wide, hands on hips, chin up and shoulders back and smile.

Feel the self confidence rise up in you.  Feel your adrenaline rise and your cortisol drop – which means you will feel more confident and powerful no matter what you’re wearing.  And that helps you make the right choices whether you’re in a clam shack or the juice bar of some spa.

Learn to enjoy your meals mindfully and live life fully.  After all, this is your life.  It’s time to life it YOUR way!

Jeff Cannon
Simple Truth Project