…and you? What are you grateful for today?

When I was young and upset my mother would say,
“Ten fingers, ten toes, be grateful for those.”

As she lovingly touched each one, distracting me from whatever or whomever it was , and the hurt went away.

It was a meditation of sorts as her fingers touched my hands, my toes, my heart.

It was a reminder that led me to what was right in the world, rather than what I had to be sad or upset or angry about.

It still reminds me to this day, to ask myself “what am I grateful for today?”

As I touch each digit while breathing slowly, deeply, evenly into myself.

 

And you? What are you grateful for today?

Are You a When I?

Are you a When-I?

You know, the person who refuses to be happy, or even satisfied, until they reach some future accomplishment? They can be found saying things like, “I will be happy when I get a million dollars,” or “When I find that perfect boyfriend or girlfriend, then I will be happy,” or “I will not be satisfied until I get that promotion”, or “…a new car,” or “…a new title on my business card.”

I call these “when-I’s.”

It is that person, and we have all been there from time to time, who keeps pushing themselves to reach that next step, that next stage, that next place of accomplishment. Some people even chase that sense of achievement into the afterlife; thinking that whatever misery they endure or and sacrifice they make now, will be satisfied with a higher appointment in the ever-after. Some even try to speed the process along, thinking that their happiness will be found once they escape this world. Sadly, they realize, all too late, that happiness, contentment and satisfaction was right here all along. In this moment.

You see, happiness and satisfaction do not come in reaching some destination, or in acquiring an object. It is found in the journey. It is found in appreciating the adventure you are on and enjoying the human experience in all its failures and glories. 

All those titles and trophies are wonderful marks of achievement, but they are not what this is about.  

I will never forget, years ago, when a student asked our Hapkido instructor, Grand Master Bong Soo Han, when he could test for his black belt. Now, Grand Master Bong Soo Han was a man who grew up in occupied Korea after World War II. He was a man who learned martial arts under Japanese occupation. He was also the man who brought the art of Hapkido to the United States. He was slight in stature, but so quick and powerful. He was also very, very wise.

He looked at this student and smiled. “The test for a black belt is a formality. It is an event. It marks what we already know to be. We know when we invite you to test that you are already a black belt. We watch how you carry yourself, how you act. So, do not worry about being invited to test. Worry about living your life, every day.”

No, that student was not invited to test that day or that quarter. But we all noticed a change in him. As a red belt, he began acting as if he were a black belt. He began to approach his exercises with newfound sense of humility and a sense of focus on the moment. He changed from being a When-I, to being an I-Am.

Which are you?

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?

Zen & The Art of the Mindful Diet

Zen and the Art of The Mindful Diet

Summer may be a long way off, but the image you have of your body is not a seasonal topic. It is with you every day of the year. Beneath those baggy sweaters and heavy coats in winter, it effects how you feel about yourself, how you treat yourself, and how you view the world that you live in.

You do not have to flash on the beach, for your body to show.  It is visible in how you feel every day of every year.  More important, those around you feel it in how you treat them and in your attitude.  After all, having a great body is not about fitting into a double zero.  It’s about being happy in who you are.  It’s about fitting into the body you already have perfectly.  So forget the extreme diets, forget the bathing suit and the stretchy yoga pants.  It’s time to find grace in the beauty that is you.

The Simple Truth to the Mindful Diet is that there should be no restrictions to living your life.  After all, living life isn’t about fitting into the right outfit, it’s about creating great memories wherever you are.  This is why your diet should not be about losing, but winning.  Winning balance, winning calm, winning happiness without carrying around the weight that so many people can throw on you.  Because that is what you carry around, not just pounds, but guilt, fear, and self-loathing.  It sounds funny, but when you change your relationship with the food you eat, you don’t gain weight, you shed the angst of your old life as you gain health.  And yes, that is very, very visible.

The Mindful Diet is a program created by the Modern American Monk, Jeff Cannon.  Jeff is a leading voice in the Modern Meditation Movement who has dedicated his life to applying meditative techniques to resolve the contemporary issues we all face in the modern world.

Jeff survived eight brain surgeries that collectively removed more than twenty tumors in as many years.  With each surgery he refined his own diet in an effort to slow down new tumor growth. Along the way, he removed carbohydrates and processed foods.  He incorporated caloric restrictions.  He also applied Modern Meditation to reduce his stress.  The results was not only slowed tumor growth, but a healthier, happier and lighter self.  He became more aware of who he was in the world around him.  As that happened, he became more confident and more secure.  And that is something everyone around him noticed.

The simple practice of mindfulness that he lives his life around today changed his relationship with food and eating on every level.  For Jeff, it left him with just 15% body fat.  He still enjoys food and an occasional cocktail when the event calls for it.  Now, he just does so mindfully – and that makes all the difference.

The Mindful Diet is his gift to you.  It will help you  live a richer, fuller life while helping you maintain a healthy balance in everything you do.  While you will lose weight along the way, the real benefit is to leave you feeling great in a natural, healthy and mindful way.

The Mindful Diet is not about counting individual calories.  It avoids the starvation/sweat mentality so many people rely on.  Instead it is about slowing down and enjoying life every minute of every day by simply being present wherever you are.  Some people have called the Mindful Diet the “un-diet,” because it does not matter if you were born strikingly slender or with rich beautiful curves.   What matters is that you breathe in a positive body image and breathe out the toxins that hold you back.  When you learn to do that, you learn to transform your body and your life for the better.

Why not start your own Mindful Diet with these helpful tips that will reduce your stress from your vacation and fill you with joy for years to come:

Mind Before You Eat

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

Use All of Your Senses

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

Slow Down & Enjoy

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

Love Your Body

Don’t just accept your body.  Don’t just appreciate your body.  LOVE YOUR BODY!  Love your curves and your freckles.  Love your hips and your stomach.  No matter what shape you were born with, LOVE IT!  OWN IT!

Sure, you can lose a little here or there.  You can add some muscle tone and get in better shape.  You can even nip and tuck, if you want to go there – we all can.  But before you do  that, the next time you feel self conscious, take out two minutes to stand in a Superman pose – feet spread wide, hands on hips, chin up and shoulders back and smile.

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

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

 

If you want to learn more about The Mindful Diet – just visit us at www.simple-truth.com/mindfuldiet.

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.