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Centering and Breath, Focus on Connection


The expression of anger and fear, can be a charge that creates or triggers the unconscious habit reaction patterns in another. Or, it can allow for a powerful communication that can lead to connection.

The degree of expression, the level, tone, and word choice are the factors that affect how another responds or reacts.  Using breath to get you into your center and remaining centered is the most helpful way to begin to use the mindfulness process to assess what may be happening in the interaction.

When you are feeling angry or put off by someone’s comments it may be one of your boundaries has been crossed, or that you are reacting from an unconscious habit pattern, or that the other person’s  comments are the result of their unconscious habit pattern.

The most difficult of these to deal with is the latter.  The first two are within your control you can look at what boundary is being crossed and take steps to respond to that OR in the second case you can become more mindful by questioning your anger and habit reaction to help you get into a more centered space to respond more clearly, and in a more defined way.

However when it is the other person’s unconscious reaction pattern, you can only get through to them if they are wiling to hear that they are not in the present moment reacting with you.  This is difficult because the basic position of the unconscious habit reaction is defensive so it negates the opportunity for being open to insightful information.

Usually your level of intimacy can increase your ability to help the other person look at their behavior; but sometimes the closest people to us are the least willing to learn from us about themselves.  Especially if they are invested in the relationship not growing – in other words if the pattern of the relationship serves them from an unconscious habit pattern.

Emotion and feeling can mediate between figure and ground.  Using feeling, “I” statements, to evoke a softening of the defensive position of the other person is the best strategy to help to unravel the unconscious habit reaction pattern.  Go for connecting statements rather than separating statements.  This is counterintuitive most people want to define how they are different when they feel at odds with someone but actually that just increases the defensive reaction.

Focusing on the connections brings down the wall of defensiveness so that mindfulness can come in to play to replace the unconscious reaction pattern.    After this is secure then you can look at where you and the other person diverge and perhaps see if you are actually dealing with a figure/ground dichotomy.

Gestalt is roughly translated to mean ‘the whole’.  Gestalt figure ground illusions show us there are (at least) two perspectives that make up the whole.  In order to make the transition to one from the other one has to be mindful – and open to the possibility of the other perspective.

Breathing and centering, using feeling and connecting statements, these actions all allow for the line between the two to be less bold so that one is more able to view the other perspective.  And in some cases move back and forth between the two – between the figure and ground perspective.

This allows for connection and increased understanding of each point of view as well as the whole.

In Reiki a type of energy medicine, two of the guiding statements are very useful in focusing one into a state of mindfulness and creating the opportunity for connecting and centering.  One is Just for today I will have the attitude of gratitude and the other is Just for today I will not Anger.

I encourage you to pick one of those statements and use it as a mantra as you go through your day.  It may help you to focus in on yourself and the situation in a more mindful way and open new pathways for change and connection in your relationships.

See you tomorrow.


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Outer, Inner; The Spiral and The Tree.


Child development seems to follow this course of outer, inner in its focus.  Develop new skills, incorporate the skills into your self, practice the new thing learned, and then build on it.  So when you look at child development literature you’ll notice this spiral of skills development and then integration.

Psychotherapy follows a similar course: address the outside layer and then go deeper uncovering layers and then recombining into a new self, so to speak.  Often I will hear people say:  “I’ve already worked on that.”  And indeed they have – but there is a spiral to personality and character development where we learn skills or coping strategies and then we have to incorporate them, and then we have to sometimes unlearn and re-incorporate.  Over time it’s a spiral:  outer work, inner work, outer work, inner work and so on.

Change seems to have this dynamic focus as well.  Identify something you want to change, comprehend what interferes with change, make efforts to move the block and incorporate the new behavior (outer), then after time the change occurs internally  and there is both a new thing or cognition (inner) about the identified thing as well as a new action or behavior (outer).  Outer work, inner work, outer work and so on.

These shifts in focus are like mini-paradigm shifts of figure and ground.

Letting go of unconscious habit patterns follows this spiral; you notice the habit reaction patterns are there and how they are interfering with living in the now.  Then you increase your mindfulness to see if you can be more present and respond from a centered and mindful place.  This process is dynamic and it is spiraling which means you may feel as if you’ve already dealt with an issue and then find yourself dealing with a similar issue in a different context – outer, inner.

The emotional charge or energy that’s connected to the unconscious habit pattern gets released once the inner change has rooted.  So just as you don’t feel the charge you are more centered and able to connect to yourself from the inside out.  So you feel simultaneously more flexible AND more stable.  This allows for you to remain flexible and centered even when something from the outside goes wrong.  You are not thrown off by the unexpected event but rather you are able to bend and be flexible and respond to the event without anger, fear, or any other emotional charge.

The visual for being simultaneously flexible and centered is the tree bending in the wind while safely rooted into the soil.  It can respond to the environment around it without losing its center and grounding.

The Spiral and the Tree.  Keep these two visuals in your mind as you go about your days for the next two days as you view yourself, and yourself in your world.

You may even want to attempt the Yoga Tree Pose.

See you tomorrow.


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I pressed my nose against the window of his life


Today I’m going to share a poem I found in an old book, that I wrote a long time ago.  

No matter how hard we try to ignore it 

There are people who are special. 

The light always turns green 

Just as they step to the edge of the curb. 

He was one of them. 


When I first met him 

I pressed my nose against the window of his life, 

With the fear, curiosity and interest 

Of a five year old. 

It was the safest scared I’d ever been. 

And then, he let me in. 


It’s not to say that there are those among us who are totally exempt. 

But there are a few….only a few 

Who display great courage and style. 

They break away and enhance their lives. 

They are people with imaginations that multiply 

Like rabbits. 

And, no matter how hard we try to ignore it, 

There are those among us who are special. 

He was one of them.                  …….bgineris. 


The thing that’s cool about poetry is that it plays on how we develop images in our brain to match what we’re reading.  

Figure and ground, values and valence, psyche and reality all play into the interpretation of the poem as we read it. 

A successful poem, like any successful communication has to be able to hit the figure and the ground of a thing such that others can come away affected or connected. 

Try writing a poem about something that matters to you and see what you find is the figure and the ground of you and that thing.  It’ll be fun.  

I have a friend who writes what seems to be a limerick a day – and he’s pretty good at moving between figure and ground when he needs to in communication.  

It’s like exercise for your brain.  🙂 

See you tomorrow 



How we see the world


In The Talmud, the guide for understanding the Jewish 613 mitzvot, there is a saying we see the world not the way it is; We see the world the way we are.

For me this is interpreted that my first reaction may be informed more intensely by my previous experiences and personal history, values and roles, than by any actual information.

In order to get to neutral and respond rather than react one needs to know one’s own frame of reference and paradigm.  This is especially true when interacting with others who haven’t the same frame of reference.  I’ve been writing about the importance of slowing down the unconscious habit reaction and that continues to be very important.  In addition consider what you may be bringing to the situation.

Angle of vision is affected by perspective.  The same is true for our perceptions.

Many miscommunications happen because people think they are talking about the same thing when indeed they are talking about different things.  Part of that comes from how much inference we use when communicating.

Another important part is that words, phrases and expressions don’t actually have globally accepted meanings.  Language is imbued with feeling and energy.  We learn to speak and write in the context of our early childhoods.  So we actually link extra meaning to words and phrases.  These take on the contextual information as well as their formal definition.

An example of this that is generalized more globally, is a colloquialism.  One I used to struggle with was a french one Je ne sais quoi.  The meaning is: that certain something – but if you interpret literally the words in the phrase they are: I don’t know what.  So the phrase has imbued extra meaning that then got generalized to the global language.

Most of us have many words and phrases that mean more than the dictionary definition, that have expression, and charge and intensity for us when we hear and use them.  This is a source of Major miscommunication.  Because we also presume that everyone is using the words the way we Know them.  But they aren’t.

There is a lot of work on this subject from the fields of Phenomenology and Existentialism.  Thought and Language by Lev Vygotsky is a discourse on how children think out loud first, that the child talks through problems and situations out loud  and then it becomes an internal conversation – thinking.

My favorite two books on this subject are On the Way to Language by Martin Heidegger and Words as Eggs, Psyche in Language and Clinic by Russell A. Lockhart.  These are dry but fascinating and pithy.

So it is my observation and assertion that each of us has our own language and successful relationship is the process of learning each other’s language.  Individual’s in long-term relationships, children and caregivers, and close siblings (especially twins) have their own shared language .  This increases the intimacy between the shared language group and excludes those outside the group.  We see this in high school where small groups develop new words with personal meanings that hold them together as a group and exclude those who don’t know the language.

What words mean to us, how we see the world and communicate within it, these things are dramatically affected by our experiences and our interpretations to those experiences.  That’s a frame of reference.

Knowing yourself means understanding what has meaning for you and how much of that is transferable to and/or agreed on in your relationships, work, groups and situations.

To begin to interpret meaning in your own language and that of those close to you – notice when you have/hear emotional expression with specific words.  Try to follow the thread of that emotional expression back to its source.  It can be revealing.

See you tomorrow.


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Argue for Your Limitations…


Argue for your limitations and sure enough they’re yours… another great line from Richard Bach’s Illusions.

I think this speaks to habitual reaction patterns and victim scenarios.  Arguing for your limitations is the way in which our history defines us and sure enough they’re yours has to do with the way energy seems to work – what you focus on is what you see.

One way to change your perspective is through affirmations.  There is a lot of work out there about the use of affirmations to recreate your view of the world.  Of course the most famous is Louise Hay, she developed a whole system of symptoms and affirmations.

I have a couple of favorites on this subject currently, one is Joel Osteen’s work called Become a Better You, and another is Esther Hicks’ work Ask and It Is Given.  They come from VERY different paradigms, one is a Christian Pastor and one is a New Age Channeler, but they actually say the same thing.

And that is this:

FOCUS on WHAT you WANT rather than what you fear.

They each, in their own way, discuss the importance of reorienting yourself away from what you don’t want toward what you want to create.  This is a great internal mantra.  It keeps you focused within for your guidance, so that more of you and your goals are in your life.  When you do this, life stops happening to you and You start living.  You move from the passenger seat, to the driver’s seat of your life.

Remember from the Gestalt perspective anxiety is a function of being in the past or the future.  Another kind of anxiety comes from not living in your own world, or from getting guidance from outside sources rather than within.

The theory behind this is that what gets created is just a function of energy.  If we put a lot of energy into fear and anxiety then that gets created.  If we focus on what we want we actually create more of that.

Affirmations have gotten a bad rap ever since Al Franken did his SNL skit with Stuart Smalley about I love myself and gosh darn it people like me. Try not to link what I’m writing about with this.

Affirmations are statements that are affirming rather than disconfirming.  It’s a way to question those negative misbeliefs that are the basis of our habitual reaction patterns.  You’re affirming yourself rather than disconfirming yourself.  The negative misbeliefs are not you, they’re historical definitions of yourself in a specific situation rather than true aspects of yourself.  The trick with affirmations to work, is to get the right one.

I’m not suggesting that there is a specific one for everything; I’m suggesting that simply stating to ourselves a mantra that is affirming will help us maintain a positive connection to ourselves, so that we can then allow our best self to guide us from within.  This is reconnecting to that instinctive aspect of yourself that is hidden by the habitual reaction patterns, the victim scenarios,  and negative internal self talk.

Start with just saying the opposite.  If you feel like you’re stupid.  Say I’m smart.  Then look for supportive evidence.  If you want to create something, say I can rather than saying I can’t.  Focus on what you want rather than what you fear.

Try it with something small first.  Don’t pick your biggest challenge.  Notice how you feel.  It’s a little stilted and difficult at first but as you get the hang of it, it gets easier.

See you tomorrow.