Well Being & Meditation Are Skills

Having been through my share of surgeries and health issues, trust me when I say that well being is not something you just happen upon. It is a skill that you can learn and apply to your life at any point in time.

It does not have to involve a laborious effort or a large-scale change in your lifestyle. It does not have to include weeks spent in an ashram or retreat. It does not have to involve giving up everything you have worked so hard to attain.

It only requires taking baby steps toward a better you. It means making minor tweaks to various elements of your life that I assure you will go unnoticed until one morning you will wake up feeling clearer, more focused and simply better about who you are and what you are doing.

What follows are some simple and easy steps to creating a healthier, happier and calmer you for a life that is easy to maintain no matter where you are, and that will produce real results you will witness every day.

Try these, and let me know what worked for you. Also, if you have other tips, please feel free to share them. We are always interested in what works best for you and what does not. After all, having a greater sense of well being is about smart positivity, without feeling the need to go overboard with the whole thing.

So take it slow, even being positive can create a backdraft if taken too quickly for some people:

  • Surround yourself with a good support system (start with family and friends, but do not be afraid to seek out a group, that give you time to release and even heal if need be)
  • Discipline yourself to frequent the right places at the right times so that you can be with the right people doing the right things.
  • Do not allow your pride or ego to get in the way of your health. Staying true to your old self is a great way to stay unhealthy
  • Know your triggers and avoid situations that put you in a high stress/high tension situation
  • Avoid angry ad toxic people, or people who raise themselves up by putting those around them down
  • Be prepared and Role Play. Think of an unpleasant situation in the past and come up with an alternate way to handle it. Rehearse different outcomes and create a plan to pursue that outcome. Being prepared is half the battle.
  • Create space in your schedule to recharge
  • Smile and touch people below the elbow or on the shoulder in a non-offensive and non-threatening way. You will be surprised how much energy is created by simple human contact.
  • Identify your negative behaviors and replace them with positive behaviors you are more comfortable with.
  • Keep a list of what you are grateful for, and remind yourself of this before you start getting down on yourself.
  • Reward yourself for your good habits. It is okay to buy yourself something special, to have a nice meal, and to enjoy life. Your health depends on it.
  • Oh yes, and cut out the white foods [white flour, white sugar, high starch potatoes], after all is is about body, mind and spirit.

Most important, live, laugh and enjoy your life to the fullest. Living life is why you are here, so enjoy it in every way possible.

Learn more at Simple-Truth.com.

Be well, and I hope this helps as we head into summer.

j.

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.

 

Just 1 Thing

One Thing.

That truly is the answer – to simply focus on just one task at a time.

Your brain is a wonderful organ, but it is not meant to multi-task. It is only meant to address one task at a time. What you think is multi-tasking is actually your brain ping ponging between individual tasks very, very rapidly. The result? Exhausting you and reducing your ability to perform tasks that require higher cognitive functions.

The moment you try to multi-task is the moment you lose it all. You brain gets overwhelmed. You become more easily confused, more easily frustrated, and unable to identify and manage the details.

How many times have you arrived at your desk to find all that work you did the night before to be a mess?

Removing stress and distractions from your life simply means returning to a point of singularity again and again. That means approaching a single point of focus by bringing your mind and your body to rest on doing one thing at a time. And yes, a key to this lies in your breath and your ability to focus on it.

And that is called meditation. It is why meditation works so well in the modern world we have created for ourselves. There is no mystery to it, it is simply bringing our brain from  a confused state while attempting to do everything, to doing just one thing at a time.

So mono-task instead. When you are washing dishes, simply was dishes. When you are eating, simply eat. When you are working on a project, Simply work on that project. Do not try to squeeze one more task into what you are doing.

Instead, slow down and focus on the task before you.

Learn more at our event on this Monday evening [February 22, 2016] at 5:30. It takes place at the Mulberry branch of the New York Public Library. Learn more by clicking here or send us an email.

We are here to help.

The Red Silken Threads of Life

It is said that there is a red silken thread of destiny that connects us all. This magical cord may become tangled or stretch, but it never breaks. When a child is born, an invisible thread connects that child’s spirit to all the people he or she will meet – past, present and future – who will play a part in that child’s life. Over time that thread becomes woven with the threads of those souls, of those people into a tapestry we call life.

Over time the threads of different spirits shorten and shrink, bringing closer and closer those people who are fated to be together.

This is a wonderful image for each of us to keep in mind. It is a reminder of the paths we all walk throughout our life. That sooner or later, we will make choices, not out of anger or hate, but because your tapestry can only contain so many threads. As much as some of you would like to include everyone in the world, the weight of your tapestry would submerge beneath the gentle waves, forcing you beneath the sea of consciousness unable to move.

Think about this image when someone new comes into your life, or your head starts to spin and your heart begins to sink. Do you have the threads in your tapestry that will weight you down, or that will catch the wind and lift you up?

Every once in a while it is time to comb your tapestry, to search out new spirits and souls that will help you continue to weave your life’s tapestry, before it becomes too heavy for you to continue on your journey.

 

Look Forward – Meditation & Baby Steps For 2016

Welcome to Monday and to the year ahead.

Do not look back. Look Forward to School, to Work, and to  Life.

The holidays are over, so it 2015. It’s time to face 2016 with elation, excitement, and energy.

If those feelings are not there, meditate for a moment but no too long. If there is some trepidation, do not allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Turn that knot into a fiery ball of energy from within and without.

Know that some loose ends will never get tied up. Simply assess the hand you have been dealt and move on – past the loose threads that are left behind.

Better still, use them to plot your course for the year ahead. Take one step in the direction you want to go. Do not over think the year past or the year ahead.

Life does not come with a cleanly pressed hem. Life presents a rough edge that it is tattered and frayed. It is up to you to accept that as the beauty that is found in the imperfections that is.

Take one small step in the direction you want to go. Reflect on where it is leading you. Find the inevitability on where your path leads. If an opportunity comes, take it. If it moves you in the right direction, stay with it. If it doesn’t spread out your hands and find another path to follow.

Forget about those big resolutions you used to make. They will only end in disappointment. Forget about setting goals for the physical world you may never meet – there is too much going on outside to take it all on your shoulders.

Instead, focus on how you want to maintain yourself. Focus on your intentions, on how you want to live your life, how you want to be known, or how you want to look back at the end of 2016 and realize how you want to see yourself.

Then become that person.

 

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?

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.

 

A Meditation on Hipsters & Hippies

My brother returned one evening while visiting. “I had the most amazing conversation with a cabbie today.”

Don’t get me wrong but he has this innate ability to strike up the most amazing conversations with the most amazing people wherever he goes. It’s a knack he has had for most of his life.

The cabbie had just left San Francisco because “I swear, you can’t walk into a coffee shop without some self-important hipster pontificating on something they know absolutely nothing about. I don’t know, am I just an old fart pontificating about ‘In my day? Perhaps. Do I care? Not really. But in my day, you went to a coffee house to have a conversation, which means listening and talking about some subject of mutual interest. These “hipsters” today, they don’t care about learning anything new. They just care about being heard.’

I could not help myself but I wanted to learn where the terms hipster came from and did it have anything to do with the word hippie. I did a little research to make sure I had my facts in order. So I write this not as some treatise on hipsters and hippies, or on the fading coffee shop culture,  but in the hopes that history does not repeat itself; which is something I already see happening all around us. I care more about a generation who cares more about how they look than what experiences they have and how they leverage those experiences to form the opinions they have, all on their own.

I do not say that idly. I say that because I have seen it here, in New York City, as well as in most cities I have been to. Recently graduated and somewhat flush with cash [even though they will swear to their poverty] and yes, believe me, we all lived three or more to a one-bedroom  apartment at some point in our lives. Rather than moving home or complaining about it, we just took our lumps as part of the learning experience this all was and quietly crept up whatever ladder we happened to be on. “If you don’t like it jump to whatever ladder suits you, and start climbing that one. It ain’t gonna get easier, so you might as well make sure you’re on the right ladder,” was the advice I received one night from a grizzled elder.

Either way, the moniker “hipster,” comes from a group back in the 60s who wanted to be hip and cool. They wore clothes to separate them from the mainstream, slung guitars on their backs and filled the coffee houses to hang out and discuss the issues of their days; which included the Cold War, Landing on the Moon, Communism and McCarthyism, and yes, The Man. But, did they do anything about it? No. Which is a shame, because the hipsters were a group of coffee drinking, self-aggrandizing/self-pontificating group who did little to help the world.

It is a shame, but they were eventually replaced by a group who called themselves the hippies who actually effected change at most steps of the way. Yes, they had some great parties Kin Kesey’s Electric CoolAid Acid Test, Woodstock of course, but more important they opened their eyes to Eastern philosophies, they started a whole Back to Nature movement, they lived in Yurts and brought the nation’s attention to eating natural foods free from pesticides and fertilizers, all of which helped launch the movements you see today.

I write this not as a way to bash today’s hipsters, but as a sage bit of advice to not follow in the steps of the hipsters before you. Learn from those before you. Take your ideals and your passion to actually make a change in today’s world that lasts well into the future. Think of two generations away, and ask yourself, “what is my legacy going to be?”

Believe me, tomorrow’s Hippies are already nipping at your heels. They are already asking employers about their efforts to green the future, they are already turning down jobs from companies who are not acting upon a People/Profits/Planet agenda, and they are putting their money where their mouths are.

You probably have all the clothes you need. So turn away from the consumerism that is tugging at you, think as the hippies did before you about things like meditation, getting back to nature, putting your hands in the soil and breathing in the loam. Believe me, it will do more for your life and your conscience than looking cool and pontificating in whatever coffee shop you call home…

Q+A – What Does It Feel Like When The Brain Reboots? Seizure Pt II

Moments of Enlightenment

This is the wiring diagram of a human brain. It helps me to understand the complexities of the brain and of my recoveries.

I used to describe the recovery from a seizure as a series of awakenings, as an ongoing experience that rolls out before you and continues to grow and expand as my brain reconnects itself and comes back online. But it is more than that. It is part physical, part psychological, and yes, part spiritual.

I would describe it as an expanding experience that includes a higher level of cognition which pushes beyond where my experiential limits used to be. It is as if, once opened, the pathways that were at once limited become limitless – beyond where the eye could at one time see.

I know this is as much physical as it is metaphysical. I realize much of this is a function of my brain repairing itself and my neurons re-knitting the old pathways, but I cannot help but drop the limiting thoughts that used to define me, to peek into the void beyond the horizon.

Physically, I understand that the myelin that sheathed my nerves was probably weakened during my seven weeks of radiation. [Myelin is the insulating covering of protein and fatty substances that protects the nerves of the brain, spinal cord and body. Unlike the insulation of a power cord, it is not designed to prevent electrical shocks as much as it is to hold the electrical impulses within the neurons, enabling them to transmit signals more quickly and efficiently along the neural network of cells.]

It is one reason the doctors and I think I had my seizure  in the first place. Seven weeks of radiation has a way of wearing away the myelin, leaving the nerves a bit raw.

As the myelin rebuilds, the synapses in the brain become stronger, the neurons engage and mesh together, recreating the network and the memories that I remember having. I am sure a certain level of neuroplasticity comes into play as the brain takes into account what is going on around it, enhancing the most relevant areas first, even letting go of some areas it deems less important.

In a way, I get a new brain. As this happens, it feels as if I am witnessing my memory expand at a rapid pace. The result is a hyper fast experience of watching my mind expand, not just rebuilding its old self, but often going beyond where it was, pushing past the old boundaries, and sometimes even forgetting or ignoring where they were.

In terrestrial terms, when I first left the hospital I had a very limited awareness of where I was. We often speak of being present – well, this was it. My focus was on the pavement immediately in front of my feet. I was not worried about what happened yesterday or the day before. I was not worried about what was coming up. The past and the future were not even concepts I could grasp. Mine was a very immediate and present-moment experience, all day, every day.

As my memories and my cognition came back online, I became aware of the entire block in front of me. I began to realize at some point I would reach the end of the block, and with it the concept of the future came into being. With that concept the street names beyond the block I was on became real.

I quickly learned if I went out on a ramble I would easily become lost, as in 100 feet out, I would lose my sense of direction and have to stop for a few minutes to regain my bearings. If instead I followed a set path, i.e., walking down a street I was familiar without turning down a side street, the streets in front and behind me would start to scroll as if a map was being unrolled with every step I took. Even the side streets would start to roll out and expand in every direction.

It was a fascinating experience to watch as my brain reconnected itself. I would have sudden realizations of the stores that were on this block and the next. I would not always remember their names, but I would often remember the smell of a bakery, the energy and the bustle of a coffee shop, or the emotional connection to a bookstore. The memories were not just physical, but emotional as well.

As the grid around me expanded from one block to three and to ten, I found myself having to stop on a corner, standing still and staring blankly at a sign or a tree, as my awareness and cognitive abilities caught up with my physical location and my brain’s growing network.

When I finally made it to the Hudson River – perhaps six blocks away – I practiced a walking meditation as I took in the smell of salt in the air. I removed my shoes to feel the cold planks of the boardwalk beneath my feet. I kept to the edge of the path to feel the reeds against my legs; it was the sensations I was after.

As those came in, I begin to smell the more subtle scents along the path, I could hear the birds singing, I could even hear the wavelets along the banks of the river. I became aware of the individual sounds that make up that wonderful tapestry of white noise that we all live in.

Perhaps this is why I teach a meditation that enables my students to embrace the world around them; to acknowledge and appreciate the individual sights and sounds that make up their world without feeling the need to attach themselves to each one.

About this time I also looked across the river to see the trees and the sky and the clouds that are beyond the walls of Manhattan. I can see where the Hudson flows out into the ocean and my mind quickly puts it all into place, that yes, there is a big beautiful world out there.

This is also the moment where I let go and allow my mind to roam, not stopping it at the edges where my brain says “real” or “not real”, or separating the “physical” from the “metaphysical.” Instead I enter a playground where I allow the sensations from each to overlap.

I begin to remember what happened during my seizure. I remember feeling the overload. I remember my brain shutting down. I remember my body closing off, and I remember giving myself up to the kindness of strangers, unable to move or to respond. And it is about this time that I am reassured of the kindness of human nature. Where not once has my experience tuned into the torture scenes so often found in the movies we are forced to endure.

Instead, people have always reached out, helped, and done so with kindness. It is about this time that I find myself smiling, knowing that I am on the right path.