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.

 

Monday Moments: Reset With A Meditation Outbreath

I know this may not be your thing, but I want you to give something a try.

I’ve been getting really great feedback from clients – including entrepreneurs and moms, executives and stay at home dads – on how good this is in breaking that thought loop and interrupting that mind chatter we all become trapped by.

It’s called the Out Breath, and it is something I wove into my meditations from a breath practice called Pranayama. Try it when the world starts to get too much for you, or when you simply need to reset.

It goes like this:

  1. When you become aware that your mind is getting stuck in a loop, or you notice that inner voice getting to be too much, gently place your attention on your breath. Just rest your awareness on the feeling of your stomach moving against your shirt and feel the fabric as it moves against your skin.
  2. Once you have caught your own attention, take a nice, slow, deep breath and feel yourself relax. When you are comfortable tighten your diaphragm and quickly back it up and back to send a small huff of air out of your lungs and out through your nose.
  3. It should feel like you are pulling your navel back and up towards your spine.
  4. Your mind may panic for a moment, but simply smile into it and take one out-breath every second.
  5. Do not worry about your inhale. Your body will take care of that on its own. Start slow and simply focus on the air as it rushes out past your nostrils.
  6. Try 12 to 15 of these in a row before pausing to take a long, slow breath in to fill your lungs.
  7. With practice you will be able to do this exercise for minutes at a time, but to start simply relax into 12 – 15 breaths, drawing your mind away from the distractions of your day and into that little huff of air that you are pushing out of your lungs.

That’s it.

When you hear the silent emptiness where your mind-chatter once was, simply smile and continue your OutBreath for a few moments more, before returning to whatever it is you were doing.

It’s an incredibly powerful way to hit the pause button in your life, day or night, and get back to enjoying your life without anybody knowing what you are doing.

I would love to hear how this has helped you refocus on work or while on a weekend escape, before or during a meeting, in the middle of a date, even while on your daily commute…

Be well and enjoy –

Monday Moments: Meditation & Doodling

By definition, a doodle is “a drawing made absentmindedly.”
Interesting.

Perhaps it is time to update the dictionary.

Now that we know what is going on in the mind of the doodler, or at least in some of the minds…

In fact, research is tells us that the mind of a doodler, either absent minded or not, is active.  Very much so.

For some, the act of doodling helps them visualize the problems and issues that the subconscious is working on. For others, it is a way to free up the subconscious to enable it to explore unchartered areas.

Recent research in neuroscience and psychology shows that doodling can actually help people stay more focused, understand new concepts and retain information more readily. A blank page can serve as an extended playing field for the brain, allowing you to refine and improve on creative thoughts and ideas.

In fact, according to a 2009 study in Applied Cognitive Psychology, people who were encouraged to doodle while listening to a list of people’s names being read were able to remember 29% more of the information on a surprise quiz later, than those who did not.

If you’ve never doodled before, or you are not sure how, I want to introduce you to a classic exercise called Blind Contour Drawing. It is a classic intro-to-art exercise that involves drawing an object without looking at your paper while you do so.

No, you should not expect your drawing to look like a Monet or to win any awards, but you may be surprised at how alive it actually is. As some have said, “It is a way to see, without seeing.” Better still, it is a way to truly see the object before you, free from your own interpretations that might hold you back from your own creativity and from drawing what is truly there.

If at first this is uncomfortable for you, try taking a moment to find your seat and your breath. Breathe slowly and deeply as you fix your gaze upon an object in front of you. In time to your breath and without looking at your paper, reach out and pick up your pen or pencil. Clear your mind and begin to draw without look at your paper. If you do, simply smile, blink a few times, and begin again.

Refrain from looking at your pen or your paper. Instead, notice the lines and the angles of the object before you. See the curves  and the shadows, and allow your hand to flow freely.

Allow yourself to let go as you let your hand float for a few minutes. Do not worry, your mind will not allow you to go too long. It will bring you back; and when it does feel free to look down at what you have drawn.

At first you may laugh. But as you continue to look from paper to object, you will begin to see points of connection. You will begin to see where you hand took a turn that mimicked a turn in your object. That is your cue to smile. That is the point of connection between the object, your mind and the paper before you.

It is okay to set your drawing aside. It is okay to toss it in the bin. It is also okay to remember this exercise when you need to let go of the noise in your head so that you can focus on the task before you, as we all do from time to time.

Be well, and enjoy your Blind Contour Drawing.

A sort of doodling all on its own.

 

 

 

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Monday Moments: Meditation & Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a powerful tool.  As a not-so-simple man said eons ago, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

In those simple words I am constantly reminded that forgiveness is not just an essential part of being human, forgiveness is a very powerful tool for letting go.

Forgiveness plays a part in every major religion out there. It is also a crucial part of the human condition. But we must also remember, forgiving others is just one step along the path of humanity. The next step lies in your ability to forgive yourself.

The dictionary definition of forgiveness is the complete and unabsolved release of past transgressions without any expectation of payment in return.

It is an interesting definition; but it leaves out two key elements that are important in the modern world. First, it fails to include the act of self-forgiving, and second, it fails to account for transgressions that may happen in the future.

After all, forgiving yourself is a key part of getting rid of the regret and remorse you most likely carry with you from the past. Forgiveness is also an important part of starting over and starting anew. If you are always thinking about something someone did in the past, how are you going to trust them in the future?

The answer to both lies in your ability to forgive…

“You ripped my heart out, but I forgive you” “you cheated on me, but I forgive you” “you hurt me, but I forgive you.” Do these sound familiar? At what point will you say, “I forgive you, but enough is enough, and this time we are going to do things differently.”

How many times have you found yourself berating yourself with words like, “I am so stupid, I can’t believe I just did that””, or “I am so out of my league, what am I even doing here? We are going to fail miserably.” As versus how many times have you heard yourself say, “Okay, so I messed up. What happened, happened and there is no way to get it back. So, I forgive myself, let’s let it go and move on.”

The truth is, no matter how much you forgive publicly, you still harbor some guilt or shame or resentment on the inside. Until you forgive yourself and those around you completely, your words will  never have the power they should. And in the end it will sound more like “I forgive you, but you’re still kind of wrong,” or, “Okay, I forgive myself, but I’m still an idiot for not seeing the truth.”

Either way, it is still okay. Forgiveness is such a powerful part of who you are, that even partial forgiveness will help to clear the air. Just do not forget to act on it.

If you truly want to get ahead of the game, learn to forgive unabashedly and completely; and yes, even for things that have yet to occur.

You know what your own faults are. You also have a pretty good idea about the faults of those around you. Why carry them around? Why not forgive them in advance and let it go? You might be surprised at how good it feels, freed from the weight of anticipation.

Starting now, forgive yourself of the inevitable. While you are at it, forgive those around you.

That does not mean you have to accept things as they are, you simply have to welcome them as a very real part of being human, and focus your energy on fixing them, rather than holding blame.

With forgiveness, you will quickly find how much easier life can become.

When you stop anticipating what others might or might not do, and just let it happen, your temper will flair up less. When you forgive yourself for whatever slips may occur, you will find that voice of doubt will take its leave.

Learn to acknowledge life as it is for all its faults, and it will simply begin to flow.

And isn’t that what you want?

Be well this week, and forgive.

 

 

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Monday Moment – A Productive Mindset with Meditation

There is more to a productive mindset than being focused at your desk, because there is more to your work than the time you spend at your desk. Having a productive mindset is about creating a flow that connects your work, your play, you waking and your sleeping hours together.

Having a productive mindset is about a balance between your up-time and your downtime so that your subconscious brain continues to produce the aha moments in your life when you least expect them. And that does not happen if you are filled with anxiety, stressed, or worried about your life; personally or professionally.

Those seemingly random ideas that end up being the aha moments of brilliant breakthroughs you wait for? They do not come out of nowhere. They are not sitting on a cloud that you wander into. They come, like anything, out of the hard work of your subconscious mind, and that subconscious mind only works when the noise and distractions that so often clutter it are gone. so learn to let go, not just to relax, but to open your mind up to all the wonderful possibilities waiting.

Years ago, when I was producing or ran my own agency, I found that I separated my work into several categories. The hours I actively worked on a project – perhaps two hours a day – were the only ones that “really counted,” or so I told myself. The hours I spent researching, thinking, and developing creative solutions for my client’s issues somehow did not really count as “real work.” Oh, and those hours I spent pondering in bed or during my commute – it was as if those did not even exist.

Looking back, I remember the stress and the anxiety. I also remember how there were never enough hours in the day for all the work I had to do. I remember how my anxiety often prevented me from coming up with the kind of solutions my clients so badly wanted.

Oh, how wrong I was. For it was in those seemingly wasted moments that my brain was actually free to work in its own way. It never occurred to me that the flashes of brilliance that came while listlessly staring out at the ocean on a weekend, or while feeling the water splash on my face while in the shower, only came when I felt calm and balanced and open. Rarely did they appear when I was at my desk, in my mind, “actually working” the few hours each day that I actually gave myself credit for.

It is funny, in a way, that is wasn’t until I was able to step away from my desk that I was able to see the solution that was there all along, waiting for me.

To fixate the results that end up on your desk to the time you spend at your desk is to dismiss the real work you put in all along the way. And, I equate that mindset to the post-war, industrial world most of us grew up in.

Yes, when we were an industrial nation, work was a much more physical task. The time that mattered was the time you actually spent farming, or fishing, or building. But this is the 21st Century, and your physical labor is often not what drives your results. The decisions you make at home and at play, with friends and family all influence your frame of mind, no matter what your occupation. And if your mind is filled with anxiety and distracted by the noise of your life, then there is no way that you will be able to come up with the solutions that equate to success in today’s world.

If instead, you are calm and rested, the solutions will come to you whether you are at the office every day or not. So learn to balance the different aspects of your life; both personal and professional. That includes finding a thread between work and play, health and finances, family and love and spirituality, even with your own sense-of-self. It is there waiting for you, if you know what to look for.

Only when those elements are in balance, will you be free enough to truly deliver the kind of results that you can be proud of. Only then will you be truly productive, feel accomplished, and satisfied every day and every week.

Remember that having a Productive Mindset is about more than being productive at your desk.  It is about creating a thread throughout your life in a calm and focused way.

So breathe, smile and remember to give yourself a break from time to time.  That is what will create a focused sense of calm across all of your efforts; at work or play, with family or friends, or even when you are all by yourself.

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Q+A – Meditation & Anxiety in the Modern World

A student asked me, “Why is there such angst and anxiety in the world today, and how do I cope with it?”

“Why do I worry about Russia sending warplanes over the Baltic Sea? Why do I worry when our government begins to break down? Why does my wife take a tone sometimes? Are these the same?”

My first answer is yes, they all basically come from the same place. They come from a place of fear. It is how your old brain was programmed to respond to everything in the world around you; and while you cannot change the way your brain works, you can change the way your brain processes and responds to that information.

Instead of having to respond with your fight or flight auto-response, you can train yourself to pause, to contemplate – even if for a second – and choose to take a different route than the one your primordial brain has laid out for you. In truth, you can choose to live your life your way.

The net/net is that the brain creates pathways that you live by.  We call them habits. Neuroscientists call them auto-responses; but they are so much more. They are the responses that you live your life by, and they can often lead you down a path that you will probably regret later on.

Neurologists have a saying – neurons that fire together, wire together. Eastern Philosophers have another saying, you are what you think. They are the same.

All that nervousness, that anxiousness, that angst? It is the result of the patterns that have been developed over eons of evolution. And this is the problem. Many of them date back tens, and even hundreds of thousands of years. They worked wonderfully in the past, they got us to the top of the food chain, but in the modern world you now live in, most of them have little relevance in your life.

The fear that rises when you read about other countries becoming more aggressive is no different than when a primal ancestor saw a shape moving on the horizon. The fear that rises to anger when you read about our government is no different than the worry that was felt about a field of crops failing. And the perceived tone that your wife is taking? Again, it is your old brain preparing for the worst.

If you doubt this, just think about what your brain scrolls through when any of these events take place. They are always worst case scenarios.

Always remember, there are two parts to your brain. There is the old brain that has just one objective – your survival. Then there is the modern brain, the part that most of us think of when someone asks us about the brain. It is that magnificent organ that sits on the top, the part that is responsible for the executive functions in your life.

The old brain becomes uncomfortable with anything that implies risk – taking a new route to work, watching as a new employee enters your workplace, hearing your loved one take a tone. It jumps at every ping and chirp from your mobile device just as it did when a twig snapped in the forest thousands of years ago. It keeps getting distracted by all the things going on in the world around you, looking for danger; even though most of them are completely irrelevant to your survival.

When you begin to get involved in any higher-level thinking, preparing a report, reviewing a PowerPoint file, or looking toward the future, your modern brain focuses in on the task at hand. But, your old brain is still working in the background. It kicks in when it hears a ping, sees movement out of the corner of your eye, or detects a tone. At that moment it begins releasing adrenaline and cortisol.

It starts slowly, preparing you for a potential threat, but as you respond by getting nervous, it elevates your threat-level and starts to release larger and larger amounts of these hormones [adrenaline being produced by the adrenal gland]. It is what happens when your boss calls you into a meeting out of the blue. It is what effects an architect when a client changes a floor plan.

Your modern brain realizes that taking a calculated risk is often the safest path to a secure future. Your old brain does not, and that is where the problem begins. One still thinks that the old way is best.  The other knows that in today’s world the new path is more often the right one. The result is you feel doubt and insecure as the two battle it out.

The key is to remind yourself of this when you start to feel anxious or when you feel self-doubt. Remind yourself that all that angst is simply your old brain trying to keep you safe, and bless it’s heart, what it thinks is safe is dated by more than 40,000 years.

This is why you should step back the next time you feel off and take a meditative breath to calm yourself. Then acknowledge whatever it is that is before you and label it for what it is. It may sound like “boss calling me into his office,” or “client changing something that we agreed on,” or “the one I love is using a tone with me.”

Breathe into the issue that is before you. Take a moment to contemplate just how serious it is, and then let it go. Let each issue go for now as you return to whatever it is you were doing right before it came up. Smile as you give yourself a moment to calm down before responding. If it’s on text, give yourself an hour; email? a day, because the moment you are in is probably different than the moment your old brain sees you in, even though it is right here, and right now.

Monday Moments – The Sounds in Your Life

You live in a tactile world, yet not everything is soft.

You touch the granite of the buildings as you pass.

You touch the cold glass and steel of the car before you enter.

You enjoy the hard foundation that Terra Firma provides you.

So why do you allow yourself to grow angry at the hard sounds of your life?

Perhaps it is time to rethink your approach to them.

Instead of turning away from the harsh sounds, embrace them and welcome them. Allow them to flow into the wonderful cacophony of white noise that is your world. Instead of viewing the experiences of your life as good or bad, begin to see the world as it truly is.

Learn to limit the noise in your life as you create harmony in the sounds that are all around.

  • The people talking at the table next to yours? Let it go.
  • The noise of the traffic? Let it go.
  • The annoying pitch of your boss’s rant?  Let it go.

See the world as it is all around you.  Refuse to let your brain weave patterns for you as you grow aware of the substance rather than the noise.

Take the time taste the air with every breath. Smile at the scents as they play upon your tongue. Enjoy the thoughts your mind creates. Just do not feel the need to live in them. Be aware of each, without feeling the need to respond.

Hear, taste and smell the details of the world you live in – then decide what to focus on and what to let slide into the background of your world.

Are you actually nervous, or are you smelling the pheromones of an ancient beast about to attack?

Is it your ego playing on your response based on 40,000 year old programming, or is there really a modern day threat?

Make sure the choices you are making are truly your choices, and not some pattern created by that fight or flight response that kept our ancestors alive.

Be aware of the noise in your world, and choose what you want to let it and what you want to let go.

It truly is up to you…

After all, it is YOUR life.

Why not live it as YOU want?

Meditate to Embrace Your Emotions

Embrace your emotions
Without feeling trapped in having to pursue them.
That is the goal and the path to the calm you seek.

Emotions are not the problem.  It is how you deal with them that is.

If you lose yourself to the emotions you feel, then they become your master.

The next time you feel an emotion rising.  Love or Hate.  Anxiety or Comfort.  Lust or Disgust.  Do not respond to it immediately.  Stop.  Breathe.  Separate yourself from whatever it is that is triggering it.  Train yourself to contemplate what you are feeling even if for a moment.  Acknowledge it, label it, contemplate it, and then ask yourself if responding is really what you want to do.  Or do you simply want to let it go?

It is not the emotion that is the problem.  That is simply your brain telling you something out there is about to effect you, in here.

It is up to you to decide how you want to respond.

After all, it is your life.  Living in a meditative manner is the difference between pain and anguish, Love and joy.

 

 

The Simple Life – More of Less

When I search for more, I am, in reality, seeking less.

Every time I hear someone saying they need “more” I am reminded that it is not more things they are looking for, but more authenticity.

I am no different.  The more I am looking for in life, the less that I am willing to settle for.  It is not more for the sake of having more stuff, but more for the sake of being able to live a richer, deeper, more passionate life.  And it is a bit of a trap, because the more authentic you become, the more your life is lived in the details.  Which means having less of the material, but making sure that what you do have is the most authentic, real objects you can find.

The inevitability of this means less product and more you. Items that are more reflective of your true self, and for where you want to go.

Once you realize that, living a richer life is about simplifying.  It’s about getting rid of everything that does not support who you are at your core.  Getting rid of those things that no longer support your authentic self and your Simple Truth.  If I were in advertising I would say something like, “It is about being true to the core values of your brand.”

But I’m not, and we’re talking humans not brands.  But the idea is the same, as it should be.  After all, inauthentic brands, just like people, exist to sell. They become whatever it is you want them to be. Which is exactly why they fail in the end.  Authentic brands, just like authentic people have a strong personality. They have core values and insights.  They have integrity with which they build trust.  They have lines they will not cross.

Which is why the products you buy, the food you eat, and the places you go are so important to who you are.  They reflect your own personality.  After all, the values of the products and people and places you support reflect who you are.

Which is why having more means taking your time to find the right food, the best books, the small things that support your life as you want it to be.  And yes that goes for people as well.  Letting go of those people who do not support who you are in favor of those who do.

So that’s a nice manifesto, but what does it mean?  It means stopping, looking around, and most important looking inward.  It means looking back and looking forward.  Because once you reset your priorities to your own authenticity, your own Simple Truth, then it simply becomes a matter of maintaining it, rather than searching for it.  And that is truly a strategy for happiness.  Letting go of those things that do not support your true nature, in favor of those things that do.

For me, this means visiting more museums and galleries to find upcoming artists and talent that fascinate, enthrall, excite and stir.  It is about jazz, in all its forms.  It’s about cooking and exploring food.  Of late nights with good friends knowing that you’re doing is creating.  It’s about living in the city for as long as I can take it before escaping to some seaside town to enjoy the salt in the air and the sound of the waves.  It is about writing and creating in my own way; and realizing that whether it sells or not is not the goal, but in having my voice heard is.

In the back of my mind this all points to a destination, a place where people can go to escape and enjoy and relax and be inspired to do whatever it is they want to do.  After all, isn’t that why we remove tumors from heads and get people back on their feet – to give them a voice and enable, no empower, them to express all of those wonderfully crazy ideas that they’ve kept hidden and bundled up deep down inside them for years and decades – afraid to bring them to life?

Isn’t this what this crazy thing called life is about?

Or simply put , to LIVE and LOVE and BE.