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.