I don’t normally think of myself as anxious. I tend to see the bright side of most things and utilize lots of techniques I’ve picked up over the years to handle stress. But truth be told, every now and then something will happen, and I find my mind spinning out of control. Certain triggers will spark, and I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a crazy loop spinning like a monkey in my head. How about you? Fortunately this week I listened to an online lecture explaining how our minds work in relationship to habit, addiction and obsession. During that talk I learned about the biological process our minds typically use. Even better I discovered a fairly simple way to reduce any thoughts of worry, fear, anxiety or attachment—including those crazy monkey thoughts in the middle of the night. So, if you prefer a good night’s sleep, or are interested in letting go of any fears or stress that might plague you during the day, you might find it helpful as well.
As every writer knows, words matter. But what about the words that come out of our mouths or the words we hear in our heads when someone is talking? Perhaps one of the greatest things we can learn, and teach one another, is how to speak and listen with empathy, kindness and connection. Sound simple? It’s not. In fact, after reading Say What You Mean—A Mindful Approach To Nonviolent Communication by Oren Jay Sofer, I am convinced that I have much to learn and years to practice. Ultimately it’s SMART to remember that communication, especially the mindful nonviolent kind, is far more than figuring out the right words to say in any given moment. Thankfully there are books like this that offer perspectives and tools to increase our awareness, fulfill our mutual needs, and build relationship.
As most of you know, I’m a planner. Not only do I find it enjoyable to research options and then chart a course forward, I’m a big fan of nexting. (Yes, there’s a blog post which explains nexting!) For the most part, planning benefits my life in many ways. It helps me to form great habits, examine different options in order to make good decisions, and allows me to anticipate the future with optimism. But as with most things, there’s a catch.
The “downside” to planning is that sometimes it locks me into a course of action that can be rigid if not downright obsessive. Even worse perhaps, it distracts me from being present in the here and now. The good news is that every new moment offers me (and all of us) another opportunity to practice being here now, to appreciate the beauty right in front of me, and to always remember that “this is it.” [Read more…]
Do your thoughts determine how you age? The answer is “Yes” according to Professor Ellen Langer. During the last forty-five years, this Harvard social psychologist has studied the way our mindset affects both our health and how we age. At the core of her work is unifying the mind and the body rather than how the conventional medical and psychological world typically treats each as separate. Langer is convinced that a unity offers a far better understanding and hope for making positive change. Fortunately, her studies provide us with plenty of science to back up her assertions. [Read more…]
Something Thom and I always wanted to do was to try a float tank*. A couple of weeks ago in honor of my birthday we literally took the plunge. One of the more interesting things about it was the reaction others gave us when we attempted to explain the experience. Most offered a perplexed look on their face while some reacted in barely disguised repulsion. Questions like, “It’s completely dark? You’re floating in water? Do they lock you in?” were common, including the surprise, “You’re in there for a whole hour?” Like so many situations, how a person reacts says more about them than the experience itself. So when I later read an article that reported many people prefer electric shocks to being alone with their own thoughts, I wasn’t at all surprised. But what’s really going on here? Are we so addicted to stimulation that we can’t stand the silence, or could it be that we are more afraid of who we might be and what we might find if we stop all the noise? [Read more…]
This weekend Thom and I attended our first Dzogchen Buddhist Retreat. As seminar junkies, we’ve taken tons of spiritual classes and workshops of an hour or two here or there that focused on Buddhism or meditation. But this was our first official “retreat.” And while an evening and one day may not appear to be much of a retreat, it certainly served to get us out and away from our usual lives. More importantly, it pulled the focus of our attention away from our usual thoughts and concerns, and placed it instead on the experience of “mindfulness” or inner awareness and spiritual compassion. That switch of focus is a SMART thing to do every now and then, regardless of who you are or what you call it. [Read more…]