Unconditional Love

Unconditional Love, as versus conditional love, is so rare. Conditional Love is easy. I give you Love when you do something for me that I want you to do. You do the dishes, I kiss your cheek. I hold the door for you and you smile at me. You do something in the bedroom I enjoy. I return the favor. It is a give and take. At times I give more than I take. At others I receive more than I give.

But it is not give freely. There is a cost, a condition, to this kind of Love. Compliance. You will do what is expected of you if you are to receive the Love and attention you desire.

With unconditional Love there is no compliance. It is the act of simply giving. It is so rare, simply giving again and again and again. Not expecting anything in return, not asking for anything with one’s eyes or hands or heart – simply giving.

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Can you imagine what this world would be like if everyone simply gave without expecting anything in return? It would be a world filled with Jesus’, Buddhas, Mohammads and Abrahams.

I have experienced unconditional Love on occasion. At my bedside, when my mother fed me ice chips when I could not sip from a cup. When my wife lifted me up when I toppled over in rehab, neither asking if I wanted it, each simply offering, helping and assisting without expecting anything in return. On the rare occasion that I turned it down, they simply accepted that without a word, and smiled with more Love for me.

It is the Love a mother gives to her child when going through labor or when nursing. It is Loving through the pain. It is the Love a father gives to his child when explaining why the world is the way it is, free from feeling his own pain or regret, or acknowledging if his own needs are being met. Simply being present to the needs of the growing consciousness that is before them.

Unconditional Love is about caring for someone else’s happiness without a thought to the needs of the self. It is about being fully awake and aware, being fully present to the world around you, the person in front of you, to yourself.

It is not an excuse to stay in a bad marriage or relationship. It is saying I love you no matter what happens to us, not I love you no matter what you do to me.

I will love you when the sun is shining or the skies are grey.

I will love you even when I have a horrible day.

I will love you even if you do not return my love.

I will not look for love elsewhere even if you do.

For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health.

No matter what happens to us, I will Love you.

Because when I love you, I also love me.

I Love you no matter what conditions occur around us is unconditional Love.

Do not bother looking for it.

It will find you when you are ready to accept it.

If you want to feel unconditional Love simply open yourself up to it. It is all around you. It is within you.

Give it to yourself first. Hold yourself in your own heart unconditionally. Respect yourself, Love yourself, free yourself from those undermining comments you allow to fester within you. Free yourself from the self-loathing, the self-bashing you waste so much time on. All of that does nothing but distract you from the Love that is within you.

Once you see the Love within, you will begin to see the same unconditional Love within those around you. When you can feel the Love pass through you as you send it out unconditionally.

Try it.

You will be amazed at what will transpire.

Not just with others, but within yourself.

Unconditionally.

Meditation on Sex & Intimacy

Sex and Intimacy – separate threads that are often woven together. Sex without intimacy quickly becomes a meaningless act of copulation. But intimacy, with or without sex, is never dull, let alone disappointing.

I know the two words are used interchangeably, but they are really quite different. It is like the brain and the mind, one is physical, the other emotional, bordering on spiritual. One is brief, ending quickly in an explosive flash, the other a flowing tide without start or finish.

Intimacy is a tapestry woven with the threads of trust and understanding. It takes time and effort to nurture, it needs only two people who are willing to be truly present with each other as they join paths in a deep relationship, rich on so many levels that it can leave you exhausted by the sheer enormity of the tapestry you have woven together.

When intimacy overflows the boundaries of friendship it can lead to sex and even better, to Love. Depending on which route you decide to take sex can be nurturing, even transcendent. It can also be very destructive, when confused with, or takes the place of, Love.

In many ways a river is a wonderful metaphor for intimacy. The journey from friendship to Love is like the melting snow of a spring thaw. What starts a a trickle of water in spring joins with other trickles as they merge and break apart, but always moving downward.

As it continues to flow, from trickle to spring to river, it runs faster and faster. It sometimes joins with other streams along its journey, sometimes overflowing its banks or reshaping the course of the river itself.

It can cause catastrophe or bring water to what was once parched earth; all depending on how the waters flow.

When two people’s friendship reaches a level of trust and honesty their friendship becomes more intimate. It can become Love. Or not.

If it flows on the course toward Love it can continue to grow and expand, it can also become something quite different. Sometimes it can be a wonderful event as the waters of intimacy flow toward the sea.

The old riverbed can also turn too quickly, throwing old twists and turns for the new waters to flow in. Life can become erratic. It is as if past experiences are out to disrupt the flow two people created. It can disrupt the Love that in a more secluded moment would continue on in a pure and good and quieting way.

We have all seen two people whose Love has overflowed their boundaries. Family pressure, societal pressures, ill-health, even the stress of work can create unexpected twists and turns in the course of the river that force their intimacy to overflow. It can cause two people to doubt themselves and each other. And if their relationship relies on sex, rather than intimacy, they will find themselves lost, fighting a current that is stronger than they can survive.

This is when divorce, separation, or breakups threaten to break them apart. When the intimacy of a relationship is no longer enough to keep it going, this is the outcome.

Sex is an experience, on the other hand, is an experience. It can augment intimacy or not. It can heighten a loving experience and bring two people together in an act of transcendence. It can also rend them apart.

When sex replaces intimacy, it can become an outlet for the pain and confusion each person feels. When this happens what was once pleasurable becomes abusive. What was once transcendent becomes a trap.

When the sexual side of a relationship no longer satisfies the feelings of loss from the intimacy that was, it begins to hurt more than it helps, and that become a loss that is harder and harder to repair.

I hope this helps.

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Meditation on Tea & Intentions

This morning has been one of meditation, tea and intentions in my New York apartment studio. I woke to the warmth of this late spring day.  A comfortable reminder that we still have June, July and August to get through before feeling the cooling breeze of summer’s end.

My wife was up early for her flight.  I helped her with her bags and returned to bed, only to wake and have some tea at nine.  There was a time when I would have started to work, losing my focus and my steam as the day passed by me by.  But today I sat in a calm meditation. I closed my eyes, to spend a mindful moment in calm. Thirty minutes later I sipped my tea as the intentions I set came to realization within the tasks of the day ahead.

I knew my day would fill quickly enough, as most days do, with writing and clients, calls and naps of various lengths. I have found balancing my day between work and rest laid out a productive path for me.

There would be moments of meditation and moments of re-calibration as long as I chose to take them.  This moment I was in was one such moment.  Rather than share this morning with clients or friends I chose to be greedy and use it all myself.

I breathed into my tea and enjoyed the rich smoky scent of my Lapsang. The aroma my cup returned to me was deep.  I enjoyed the flavors with every sip. I admired the brownish color and smiled at the quiet calm that settled in. Sight, sound and smell were all focused on just one point.  A point of calm.

“This is what I will do with my day,” I announced to no one in particular.  “I will live it mindfully, and get all of my tasks done with a calm smile and calm pace.  Not hurriedly  or frenetically, but with the balanced calm of accomplishment.”

I checked off my first task and smiled at the progress I had already made.

Why not join me and do the same?

Be Your Meditation Master

Meditation is not something one can teach. One can only share their practice with your. It is for you to take what resonates with your life, to layer it with the teachings of others, to question what you do not understand, and to develop a practice that works for you, in your world.

Meditation is a practice you develop over time. It is not a one-time program that you learn from just one teacher in one sit. It evolves. It grows. It becomes a part of you just as you become a part of it.

With every moment of growth, you will exceed the teachings of the one before you. As you establish yourself in The Way, you will learn to share your own insights with those around you. This is how you create community. This is how you learn to straighten the crooked, even within yourself. If you are ever to grow, to become more than you are, you must continually strive toward a harder task, even within your meditation. It begins within yourself and reaches out to those around you.

Just as your practice starts with a breath and grows as you layer that breath with a count. As you learn to acknowledge your thoughts and to let them go, you will also learn to open your heart so that you can reach out to those around you. In so doing you will learn to straighten yourself; not in solitary contemplation or meditation, but in the shared community we are all a part of.

As you grow you will uncover the master within yourself. This is your only true master. When you surpass what you were you will find enlightenment. Just as meditation is not a one-time event, enlightenment is not a one-time moment. Each is an ever evolving series of steps, each leading upward to the next.

If you ever ask “who is my Meditation Master?” It is you. Who else could it possibly be? Who can know how your heart and mind works as well as you?

Just remember, only after you subdue yourself can you release yourself into the world around you with a new-found sense of focus, peace, and calm

Yours is a never-ending experience that requires more than an occasional sit. It requires that you open yourself to the peace and Love that is within you. It also requires that you share same peace and Love with those around you. That is how you emerge from your chrysalis.

Yes, enlightenment and even transcendence can be found in solitary contemplation. It can also be found in community. Neither is better or worse than the other. They are simply different paths to the same end.

Trust yourself to make the right choices for you. They will always lead you forward, toward the next fork along your path. If you are to make good choices you must learn from your past so that you can apply that knowledge to your future, the one that is happening in the present moment, all around you.

 

 

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The Network of You

The Network of You.

You are not an individual. You are a collective, and the collective that is you extends in every direction – inward and out. It can be found in the mitochondria that power every cell of your body. It can be found in the bacteria of your gut; which doctors are just now discovering how important they are for your health, and without which you would not be alive today.

As much as you all like to think of ourselves as an individual, you are simply not. You are part of a collective linked together physically, psychologically, even spiritually with those around you. It is only now that we are all beginning to realize just how strong the threads that bind us together truly are.

Long before we had two arms and two legs, the ancestors of the bacteria in your gut banded together to create cells. They adapted in this way to survive. They still do to this day – ever changing to respond to the environment around them. Just as you and I do.

The thread of our collective past is still alive today. It lives in our need to connect with each other. The same need that our ancestors followed forty or one hundred thousand years ago. Back then it was to protect each other, to hunt and to farm. Hundreds of years ago it drove our forefathers and mothers to venture into the unknown in pursuit of freedom.

It is why the internet was created and continues to grow so quickly. It is why apps like Facebook and Instagram are so popular. No matter how much you think of yourself as an individual, you are part of a collective – always have been, always will be. It is in your DNA.

In so may ways I know you are trying to escape the psychological trap of the internet. On one hand you are inundated with useless information that you may think of the internet as the trash bin of humanity. On the other you are still searching to expand your circle of friends. You may call them your “online friends.” But there is a psychological connection with them. It is not right or wrong, it simply means your world has expanded beyond your physical self, on a global scale.

It is also why, in times of trouble, you should not retreat into a solitary corner of yourself. I know it is hard, but this is exactly the time to reach out to the very collective of friends and family, associates and even strangers, that is the network of you.

So where will you go from here? Might I suggest taking a step back in time; to the network that existed long before the internet was created? It is a network of energy that is all around you. It always has been. It always will be. There are no subscriber fees to plug into it. All you have to do is reach out and tap into the energy that is already there.

In many ways, reaching this network of energy is no different than reaching into the practice of meditation. You first need to settle your body in order to quiet your mind. Only when your mind is quiet can you open your heart, and only when your heart is open can you connect to the Love and energy that flows around and through each of us. It follows that wonderfully familiar pattern of Body, Mind and Spirit, or as some say – Physical, Mental and Spiritual.

The Evolution of Solitary to Collective

Even the practice of meditation changes and evolves. It used to be a solitary act, practiced alone, enabling the person meditating to become one with him or herself; to become enlightened. While it is still practiced alone, the path to enlightenment has become a communal practice. People talk and exchange. There is a back and forth as people share their experiences online and off.

Perhaps it has always been a communal act, and we are just now recognizing it as such.

Just as the evolution of the human race is the story of individuals banding together out of survival, from individual bacteria to collective cells, from collective cell to the creation of invertebrates, vertebrates, animals, mammals, and eventually modern humans, the human experience has always been one of evolving past the individual to form a collective on every level, physically, mentally and even spiritually.

Transcending the physical to the spiritual has never been something you could readily do simply by closing your eyes. It has always required a slow journey. One that first requires you to cleanse physical self so that you can open your mind. Once free from your ego, you discover you can you open your heart and touch upon the love and the energy that is all around you. Only when your heart is open can you release your spirit and touch upon the spiritual side we all carry within us.

This is not something that is easy to do alone. It is an act that is far easier to do in a community, a collective, of like minded souls. However, only you know yourself well enough can you prepare yourself for the next step in your journey – that of transcending the physical for the divine.

Transcendence does not mean you will disappear from this plane as you rise up to the heavens. It simply means you will see the world around you with a growing realization that this is not all there is. That what exists goes beyond the physical on so many levels, you will understand why you felt trapped with every choice your path gave you.

Now is the time to break through whatever walls you created for yourself. Just reach out into the network that is all around you, even though you may have never realized it. You may be very surprised at how easy it is to feel whole and complete. But you will never know until you reach out in times of trouble.

Be well, and I hope this helps –

 

 

Jeff

Meditation & Mindful Consumption

In our media-rich world, be careful of what you ingest. It may not always agree with the life you live or aspire to life. I am not only writing in terms of food and drink, but in terms of what you watch and listen to, what you read and even write.

Everything you bring into your life effects your outlook and world view. The violence you see on television or in the theater, will resonate in how your treat those you love. The podcasts you listen to and the blogs your read online all their opinions which sooner or later end up in the way you speak and think. When you hear candidates berate and undercut each other, their words affect relationship to the world around you – whether you agree with them or not.

So just stop. The residue each of these leave behind will weigh on you and drag you down into that dark world of anger and depression. It’s okay to take a break from the news, to let go of slasher films, to put down the gossip magazines and simply be who you aspire to be.

It is called Mindful Consumption – the art of placing your breath and your awareness on the things that you are bringing into your space physically, mentally and even spiritually. If, as you eat, drink, watch or listen, feel yourself sinking into self doubt or anything that resembles the darker side of yourself then simply stop and change the channel.

If you find this difficult, stand up and take a deep breath. Put your hands on your hips and curl your lips into a smile. Feel that smile spread across your cheeks and down into your lungs as you attach your smile onto your breath.

If you need to gather your inner strength, assume a power pose by standing up straight and putting your hands on your hips, or reaching your arms above your head in a big V. Give yourself the gift of a clean spirit as you shed the residue that the world wants to weigh you down with.

Mindful Consumption is easier than you may think, especially if you build it on top of a foundation of meditation.

Either way, just be careful with what you ingest. You know who you are. Don’t let them bring you down to their level. Rise above and smile into the sun that always shines above.

Be well, and I hope this helps.

Learn more about Mindful Eating and Consumption by clicking here.

 

 

 

Jeff

A Meditation on Labels, Borders & Boundaries

Many of today’s problems are not due to bad people, they are due to bad labels and bad boundaries. No, we did not create them; we inherited from our parents and their parents before them. The entire Middle East crises was not created because of something we did. It existed long ago. One could argue that it was created shortly after World War I and II. This was when the victors decided to go into the middle east to “tidy things  up” without any idea of how politics in the middle east had worked for centuries. Instead it was created with the idea of portioning our the oil fields.

For centuries the Middle East had been open to the nomadic tribes. For the most part those tribes passed freely in and out of each other’s territories. But then the wars ended, and everyone discovered riches beneath the sane, the oil fields, the victors  [Britain, the U.S., France and others] decided to give each their fair share. So they divvied  up the Middle East and into what is now Iran, Syria, Iraq, Israel and Palestine based on resources and land claims rather than an actual knowledge of how the different tribes of the Middle East interacted.

It is no wonder so few people respect the borders placed on them and why there are so many claims to overlapping territory – the current borders are not based on anything more than a number of old Europeans sitting around a table, divvying up the world as the victors had done after every war before them.. If we had allowed, what were their tribal nations to create their own borders, we would still have issues, but on a much lower level, than we do today.

The same is true of the racial, gender and even sexual issues of the world we now live in. Most of today’s individuals care far less about a person’s race, let alone sexual preference [LGBT] than did our parents or their parents before them. It is why I always say, when asked, when will racism be over, “Unfortunately not for several generations.” It is not out of anger, it simply out of fact that the generation dubbed “The Greatest Generation” still has a lot of closed minded people in it, and until that generation is gone from every nationality, the fighting, the racism, and the bigotry will still be around to teach their fears and insecurities to yet another generation.

Do not worry. Society is changing, but change never happens as quickly as we want it to.

It is what John Lennon sang about in the song Imagine, and who knows, but perhaps this is the generation that is able to overlook the lines, labels, and borders of previous generations – geographically or politically, or based on race, religion, gender, or sexual-preference.

This post his is not to bash everyone from any generation. This is to simply say it is finally time to come together, once and for all, based on a single idea of Love over hate and Love over fear. Each of us needs to slow down our innate reactions, the ones we were taught, and think through the logic of them.

The vast majority of the issues we now face today are not real. They are the result of the fears, the hatred and the bigotry of the older generations being handed down to us without validity other than a flaccid “this is the way it has always been done.”

I am sorry, but moving forward this is simply not good enough to hear someone from “The Greatest Generation” to say, “That’s the way it’s always been done.”  We have enough issues in this world that it is time to question everyone and everything. It is time to overturn those ideas that are simply not real, and to start playing by a new set of rules, that is realistic.

One that we create in the here and now.

What do you think? Feel free to comment on this, or email us at info@simple-truth.com.

I am curious to hear what you have to say….

Jeff Cannon Initial

 

Your Energy Is Collective

The quickest way to slow someone else down is to slow yourself down.

The energy you breathe out is the energy they breathe in. The energy they breathe out is the energy you breathe in.

It is part of the collective mass we are all a part of.

If you want a quieter room, smile outwardly. Breathe alowly and watch as those around you begin to do the same.

Modern Meditation Profile – Shalini Bahl

Shalini Bahl – “…what was left, was the most profound silence I had ever experienced.”

In many ways, Shalini Bah, the founder of The Mindful Universe, is like myself. She is like so many of you. She pursued a conventional path until she faced an awakening of sorts; within a shaman’s circle in the jungles of Costa Rica.

It was, as she put it, “a pivotal point in my life. It is where I started breaking down my barriers and discovered my true calling.”

Shalini grew up in a very loving space, and a very comfortable environment in Kuwait. She got married and started on the path that was expected of her, but not one she necessarily chose for herself. Her marriage was not what she thought it should be, and increasingly dissatisfied with the life before her, she asked for a divorce – something a woman in India simply did not do.

After her divorce she began to question what she had grown to accept in her world. It was at that time that she, by her own admission, came out of a very dark place in her life. She moved to the United States to pursue a PhD. It wasn’t until several pauses occurred in her life, that she began to reflect upon all that she had gone through.

She remarried and began following a traditional path, when she had an opportunity to travel to Costa Rica with her second husband and son to take part in a Shamanic ritual. Upon arrival there they were explained that the ritual involved drinking Ayahuasca and would last all night long.

As someone who grew up in a culture where alcohol was shunned, let alone hallucinogenics, she was skeptical about trying it. Her husband decided not to participate. She remembers thinking that she “should not” drink a hallucinogenics when a small voice in her asked, “says who?” She felt that she was there for a reason and had to go through it, even though it was the most frightening thing she had done in her life – sitting with 100 strangers in the middle of the forest for an all-night ceremony that involved drinking Ayahuasca.

The first time she joined the Shaman’s circle and drank the Ayahuasca, she felt her senses open up for the first time. It was enough of a taste that she decided to attend the second ceremony. On the second night she received a larger amount and within minutes could feel the energy being pulled out of her body. She felt like she was being asked to jump off into the unknown at the end of a dark roller coaster ride. As she put it, “I could hear my very academic voice, my parental voice, giving advice that this was not real, but the fear was real. I could feel my fear of death, my fear of life, echo within me. I resisted all night and eventually in the early morning hours I gave in and surrendered to it. What was left was the most profound silence I had ever experienced.”

“I realized the noise of my mind, a noise I had relied upon my entire life, that everything I had prided myself on was meaningless. I realized how so many of the conversations that we have are there to show how smart we are. I was always an “A” student, and suddenly here I was in a place where a lot of that was without importance. As were a lot of my ideals – right or wrong.”

It left her feeling shaky and ungrounded. She knew her experience was not real, but then she began to ask, if that was not real, then what is?

When she returned to the United States and to U Mass, she used her experience as a subject for her dissertation. It was during the writing that she realized what the various voices were. They were the same voices we all have, that compete for our attention.

The title of her dissertation was; Multiple Selves and The Meanings They Give to Consumptions

Her dissertation was published in a top marketing journal. It led to a job on the faculty of a well known university. All was going well, but her changed perspective on her experience kept coming back to her.

She was somehow changed by her experience in a way that others began to notice. Even her son, at one point, commented on her new ability to remain open and say “that’s interesting. Let’s explore that,” instead of shooting a new idea down.

“When things are going fine, you don’t ask. It is only when things begin to turn upside down that you begin to explore the source of your suffering and very often you are the source.”

It was not long before her second divorce was finalized, “when I wondered what I should do, I realized it was not my husband, it was me who had changed. I was not trying to be a rebel, but realized that the choices I had made in the past lacked awareness of who I was and what I wanted in a relationship,” she recalls.

“I was stuck on a track I had been set on by society and by my family. Never once did I ask what I wanted in life. It was only after leaving my job as a tenure track professor to marry and this time with more awareness, did I ask myself, if I could do anything, what would it be and the answer was clear, it was to teach mindfulness.”

Because of her academic training and business experience she chose to bring mindfulness to business and academia and started to look for a training that would be secular and accessible to these audiences. “The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program was ideal for what I had in mind and was only 45 minutes away from where I lived, so I underwent my training there. I remember the first time trying the choiceless awareness meditation and finding it so clinical and boring. Immediately something within me realized that all along I had used my practice to find bliss and get into a particular state rather than be ok and fully present with what ever is arising. In that moment I was able to see my striving even in my practice.” It opened a new door – a level of peace and calm, away from all the striving – and allowed her to just feel what was.

Earlier on she had explored Zen and different forms of Meditations. Neither really fit her life or her style. Neither aligned with her views, or her need for a less dogmatic approach. After leaving such a formal growing up, she did not want to be tied to any specific doctrine. Like many of us, she wanted a touch of spirituality but she also needed to fulfill the scientific approach she had grown with, to create a solid foundation from which to launch. The mindfulness meditation gave her the freedom to explore each experience for what it is with curiosity and compassion and has been her practice of choice since then.

“When I feel that I am tight, I can contemplate what is going on around me and understand how that relates to what is within me. Once I identify the dominant thought in my life, I can then choose what I want to do with that thought instead of the thought dictating my actions on autopilot.”

Today, it is these times of mindfulness that bring her back to a sense of balance. It affords her a point of balance with which to calm herself and enhance the quality of her awareness. Creating the quality of her awareness so that she can understand what she needs in that moment.

She laughs, “I still get triggered in certain situations, but I find I now step back to pause, so that I can return to a state of objectivity. This can happen before sending an email or enjoying a true dialogue. I find that I bring my practice of non-judgment and of curiosity so I can respond more skillfully to the world and the people around me. It is amazing to see the mind – and realize how you still cannot be objective.

“I realized at one point, that you can live your life without seeing past the blind spots, without even seeing the blind spots. They are blind spots, so by definition you cannot see them. But with the training of meditation we can confirm our own experiences. So when an experience triggers the wrong response, we can create a change in the actions that we take while being kind to ourselves.”

“Only 5% of decisions are made consciously. The rest are made based by our subconscious mind, which is very often in a fight or flight mode, which can lead you down the wrong path, to make the wrong decisions. But this is nothing to be afraid of. In the end we can be relieved to know that we all make mistakes. We are all human. It is how we learn.”

This is one of the lessons found within her new project and her new website – The Mindful Universe.

 

[learn_more caption=”Click to See The Full Interview”]

What drew you to yoga and meditation?

What drew me to meditation was my suffering. There were personal transitions in my life in India that I didn’t take the time to process at the time. Once I moved to the US I found myself in a new country without my usual support system – family and friends – that left me feeling empty and void. This feeling of emptiness was the start of my search for answers to questions I didn’t have. I naturally fell upon meditation as a way of quieting my mind to access answers that were beyond my usual thinking mind.

Soon after I experienced my first spiritual breakthrough at a shamanic journey in Costa Rica, where I experienced complete silence of the mind after going through a night of near death experience. That broke away many beliefs I had held all my life as reality and opened me up to experiencing life in an entirely new way. I came back from that looking for a formal meditation practice and teacher. This was way back in 2002 and have been meditating since then, albeit more regularly in the past 8 years.

How have they changed your life?

Mindfulness practice has touched every aspect of my life.

The most important discovery for me has been to see the limits of my thinking mind and how mindfulness – a curious and compassionate attention to what is – helps me expand my lens to get a bigger perspective and choose more skillful responses even in challenging situations. And when I fail, this training has taught me to learn from my failures and be kind to myself.

Being an academic and researcher by training I love the inquiry based framework it offers to view my experiences with open curiosity and kindness so I continue to learn each day about places I am still stuck in autopilot, very often without my conscious knowing. It is such an aha moment every time to see that – I had no idea that I was living that aspect of my life in a limited and reactive way. We are blind to our blind spots and this practice is helping me see my blind spots.

The other thing I am working with is how can I have impact while living with ease. I am finding that once I have clarity around what it is I truly value then all I have to do is align myself with that vision and get out of my own way. Breaking away from dogmatic principles and practices.

How should a practice make someone feel?

Mindfulness meditation is an exploration into what is going on for you in this moment. When we explore with an open, gently and curious mind we reconnect with our mind, body and emotions with clarity. With this clear seeing we have access to more information about us and can make more skillful choices indtead of running on autopilot. The practice is a little counter intuitive in that we come closer to even the negative sensations and discomfort without trying to push it away. In learning to be with whatever is arising, we see our own reactivity and how we might choose differently to be a little kinder, a little more aware, toward ourselves and others.

There are times when you want to retreat to your own comfort zone, but the practice is there to see if there are any attachments you are holding onto or striving for, that can hold you back, or push you away.

People often talk about whether they are a good or bad meditator.  How does this resonate with you?

There is no wrong way to meditate. Just your intention to sit is the practice. That will help you develop the tools to be more present, more curious, more kind. You should always ask yourself if you can be more kind, more gentle, more quiet. It is okay if your mind is racing, and when you notice that you come back with kindness again and again. It is all about coming back to the present with the quality of compassion and equanimity.

The practice is about showing up each day. At a macro level, mindfulness is not a panacea for all of our problems. However, it offers a foundation for exploration in all sectors of our society. It is a broader lens for people to see the bigger picture and interconnectedness of all our actions so we may work toward finding solutions to make this a better world for everybody.

At what point did you decide to teach others?

This was a natural happening. It is not something I thought of doing but was natural to who I am in that situation. I was an assistant professor of marketing at a business school and ended up speaking with many stressed out students. At some point it became inevitable bringing in what I know about meditation and started organizing the Science of Breath seminars on campus and helped introduce the Art of Living classes on campus and in the community. Interestingly, at the time I was told by my colleagues it wasn’t my job to teach mindfulness or worry about the students’ stress and now it is my full time job. I changed my career from being a full time academic to part time and my main focus now is in bringing mindfulness to business, academia, and my community.

What do you find most rewarding about working with others?

Every time I teach I am touched by the experience of our shared humanity. It is in these moments I see how we are all one and the same no matter where we come from and what our personal history is. It has made me more empathetic in how I see people now. It is a rewarding feeling that no matter how challenging my day was, when I go in and let go of my strivings, which is an essential aspect of teaching, we all come out of the class feeling just a little more open or compassionate, in very small and big ways the difference it makes in our lives when we do this work together. It is humbling and empowering.

The other aspect of this work that energizes me is bringing mindfulness into corporate and academic settings because that’s where the rubber meets the road. Now we are not just talking about finding inner calm but how that inner calm can help us make better decisions. Exploring and seeing how mindfulness opens people up to finding their potential when they were feeling stuck or making decisions with more empathy and clarity to come up with creative solutions that maximize the well being of all stakeholders is very encouraging. It gives me hope that we can bring empathy and wisdom to make more skillful choices in education and business and now even in politics and other sectors of society.

What is your advice for someone just starting on their journey?

I know there are many self help books and programs but I recommend finding a teacher and a class that resonates with the person when they are starting out and then using the books to compliment and deepen their learning. This work and knowledge is subtle and many nuances can be missed when trying it on your own. It can leave people disillusioned or with the wrong impression that this is not for them simply because they didn’t know that what they are experiencing is normal and expected. So having a teacher who can guide through these misconceptions and the rich experience of learning from others in class and sharing in an open, authentic way is as important as the practice itself.

What should someone look for in a studio or an instructor?

I recommend trusting your intuition if the teacher’s style resonates with you. Try a free intro class with the teacher and see if it is the right fit. I would also add that humor, ease, and authenticity in the teacher typically are telling of the teacher’s embodiment of the practice. When checking out a teacher you may want to see where they got their training from since I am finding many people starting to teach mindfulness without sufficiently immersing themselves in the work. A final thing to look out for in a teacher is if they hold the interests of the participants up front or are their behaviors self-serving.

What does the term Modern Meditation mean to you?

To me modern meditation means a practice that is neither dogmatic nor prescriptive but works for every individual taking into account where they are and their personal needs. There is personal discipline involved even within modern meditation but the approach is fundamentally kind and flexible to accommodate the needs of the individual. The important question to hold gently is if the meditation is making you a little kinder, a little less reactive, and more aware in your life.

How have you adapted traditional meditation and yoga in your life outside the studio?

My formal practice of attending to the present moment with the attitude of kindness and curiosity is what I bring into life outside of the practice. It is not a striving kind of focus but a gentle awareness and presence that I remind myself to bring in my work, interactions and all activities.

How has expanding and deepening your practice, improved your life?

I lived the first half of my life without this practice and know that I lacked self awareness and agency to create a meaningful life. I ended up hurting others and myself, even when I didn’t mean to, because of my lack of awareness. This practice has changed my life and I cannot imagine living without it.

Research tell us that 99% of our DNA is shared. How can we use this concept to further humanity and the world?

The science of genetics and evolution is useful to remind us of our shared humanity. But I am always blown away with the authenticity of the connection that we feel when we come together to practice together. We all tend to judge, but at the end of an eight-week class we realize that we are all the same, we have all experienced the same emotions and want the same thing in life, to be happy.

There is an exercise I use all the time. It is to look into each other’s eyes, to acknowledge that this person across from me is just like me. They have suffered just like me. They have laughed and cried, just like me.

When I see people participate in this exercise, it is common to find people break down their barriers and cry, being moved by this person across from them. It is worth trying it. We call it Just Like Me.  It can be a very profound experience to bring out the natural state of empathy and compassion within everyone in addition to the intellectual knowing that we are connected.

What is your Simple Truth?

My simple truth is to live with open awareness, gentle curiosity and compassion. This reminder helps me to stay open to what is and notice where in my mind, body and thoughts am I holding on or resisting. What can I let go of so I may access the wisdom in this moment to choose skillful actions for the highest good of all involved? [/learn_more]

Monday Moments: Let it Go/Let it Be

Every window and every door is a reminder.  Or at least it should be throughout your day.

It should remind you that whatever happened on the other side of that door is over. It is gone. It is now in the past, and that there is nothing you can do to get it back. It should be a reminder to Let It Go, and to Let It Be.

It should also be a reminder that even though it is in the past, that does not mean you are powerless to do something about it.

Yes, the moment you pass through a door is the moment you move forward  toward the next opportunity in front of you. It is also an opportunity for you to look back, and to ask yourself, “is whatever it is that happened just now worth revisiting, worth carrying with me as new baggage, or should I just Let It Go?”

If someone shot down your new idea in a meeting, is it really worth going after them? Or should you just Let It Go and get on with your day? If someone cut you off on your commute, is that space you have opened up for them, really worth it? If not, and I doubt it ever is, then Let It Go and do not dwell on it.

If, however, that event keeps happening, that person keeps berating you, or the affections you have for someone continue to be unreturned, then you have to ask yourself, is it worth pursuing knowing that they will not change. Or, should you yourself be the one to change and just Let It Be.

Let them go about their lives without you, or with only a limited part of you? Because that is the other half of letting it go. Knowing when enough is enough, and knowing when to walk away.

Tell your ego to be quiet, let the anger subside, and get on with your day. As fun as it may be to think up awful ways to get back at someone, all you are doing is giving them a home within your heart. You are giving them fertile ground in which to drop a seed. And that seed, with enough attention, will grow into a weed with the potential to suck the life out of you.

So stop it before it starts. Smile to yourself and breathe. Feel that smile radiate across your face and follow your breath down into your heart. Let the glow within your heart spread across your body as you push out whatever anger or ego was trying to arise, as you Let It Go and/or Let It Be.

Then get on with your day as you walk through the next door that awaits.
I hope this helps you.

Be well,