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Setting yourself free through mindfulness


I’ve been thinking a lot about how to address the issue of loneliness or isolation and mindfulness.

What happens if, as a part of your mindfulness, you discover that your life is not fulfilling?  That something is not in sync or that you have in some way given away an important component of yourself?  This can result in a sadness or loneliness.

Getting in touch with deep loneliness or isolation can be distressing.  It can stop a person in her tracks and cause her to rethink a lot of her relationships and how she is connected to others.

When I think about the issue of mindfulness I think of it as a connecting tool – helping others connect with each other or couples become more deeply acquainted with one another.  But when it results in an aha insight/knowing that is painful or disturbing then I find it can be disconnecting and result in a person pulling inward or away from others.

Mindfulness is about seeing figure and ground and understanding another’s perspective, but what if through your mindfulness you discover that the other is actually not the best fit – that as you understand more fully the other or yourself, you are unable to find connecting points.

This is a distressing moment and may cause someone to pull away or to pull in – but I suggest this can be interpreted as a freeing time as well.  An opportunity to reset your picture of yourself and expectation of other in relationship.  Sadness may be a part of this, but strength too and alignment with yourself is also a great joy.

In observing certain people in relationship what I have discovered is that some individuals utilize mindfulness, or empathy, or seeing the other as a way to diminish their own needs – it’s a quirky co-dependence.

They deny their own needs and then give – in a way that I observe to be unconditional – but then feel lonely and isolated – not really ever connected to the other.  This over time can result in resentment, anger and frustration.  These feelings are confusing and the person feels misunderstood or unseen when in reality they are not showing themselves or making themselves visible.  They hide their needs and rush toward understanding the other, diminishing their own self-worth, while feeling diminished by the other because the other does not see them.  It’s convoluted to describe.

I perceive this as a description of confluence in boundaries.  The person is able to see the other but doesn’t fully distinguish his own needs and then merges to complete himself by giving to the other.  The individual is unable to see where he ends and the other begins.  I observe this as an unconditional giving, in that there doesn’t appear to be conditions, but when the person feels bad about their invisibility they want to take back their kindness.

Using that same mindfulness focused on themselves to tease through the convoluted feelings will help them to see how to best care for themselves in relationship; applying the same kindness toward themselves and their own needs as they do to the other with whom they are relating.

This kind of situation may find triggers back to the person’s early childhood and how they found they needed to deny their own needs in relationship to care for a significant other/caretaker.  They feel invisible because they were truly invisible to that caregiver’s psyche and their only way to be seen was to be needed.  They developed their empathy and mindfulness toward the other very early in childhood, generally earlier than is expected according to the developmental structures, in order to survive in their childhood environment.  They merged their boundaries with the other to have a knowing of the other’s needs and sense of self – this is the confluent boundary – but in order to do this the other’s needs took precedence over their own needs.

Their mindfulness, compassion, and empathy became second nature to them as a survival tool.  What an amazing gift, yet a prison too – a habit reaction pattern developed for survival.

In order to disentangle the beautiful skill of empathy and mindfulness from the diminishing of one’s self-worth, the individual must apply the kindness he applies to others to himself.  He must create a connection to his own inner being, his own needs and wants, and love himself first – creating an internal knowing/sense of visibility, before he can attain visibility in his present moment environment.

He must define where he ends and the other begins, still maintaining a caring for the other and an empathetic, mindful understanding of the other, while simultaneously keeping his needs in the discussion and in the negotiation of the relationship.

If you see yourself in this description try to develop a loving connection, and boundary to yourself and your needs so that they are definable, descriptive, visible, and real to you – then see if you can begin to have a conversation with the people in your life that really matter to you about this internal change.  This will help you to create a deeply profound connection to those in your life that really matter to you.

It will also open you to a whole new level of mindfulness, compassion and understanding in your relationships.  You will find that you are more free to be yourself and that you will feel a much deeper and sustaining connection in your relationships.  This will go far to help you extinguish feelings of resentment, invisibility, and frustration in your relationships and it may even open up a new path of success in other areas of your life.

See you tomorrow.


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Building Character through Virtue, Mindfulness, and Lovingkindness


Remember when you didn’t get something you wanted and your dad said that’s okay it will build character?

Well, that may not have been part of your childhood, but it was part of mine.  The lesson was often about how I dealt with a negative situation or loss and what I turned loss into, more than how to get what I wanted.  Not to say that I didn’t get what I wanted – I often did, but the teaching points were about when I didn’t.  Building character was defined by being a good sport – both a good winner and a good loser, trying harder, competing with myself rather than another, and building on my losses to make them into wins.

It was perfect for developing mindfulness.

The lovingkindness part seemed to come out of observing how my father applied compassion to his evaluation of circumstances when meting out punishment and consequences.  He had different expectations for different people based on his perception of what their capacities were.

Virtue was about doing my absolute best, but also about doing what was right even if it meant that I would not result in being the winner.

My father, without ever having read any Buddhist thought, lived his life through Buddhist principles.  I am sure he would say they were Greek principles… and maybe they are when you consider the work of Aristotle and Socrates.  He definitely taught through the Socratic method.

I was expected to think my way out of a situation and then take action, both.  He taught but, he expected me to have thought about the problem and tried to solve it before he would give me the corrected answer; no blanks on my proverbial answer sheet were accepted. 

I had to have identified something as an answer with my work showing about why I thought my answer was right.  Then I could be taught to see more clearly all the aspects of the problem to come to the best conclusion.  It was torture then, but now I see what an amazing gift it was to be taught by such a powerful thinker.

What these great thinkers had in common is this sense of mindfulness.  Viewing and re-viewing the problem from various perspectives.  It is a method of gathering information, observing one’s senses and increasing one’s awareness, looking for patterns and describing these to put together a paradigm or picture of the world within which a decision is being made, or action taken.

Building Character through Virtue, Mindfulness, and Lovingkindness is a style of being in the world that allows one to use one’s losses as teaching opportunities, to deeply understand oneself, and to have a style of relating that is empowering.

Character is a deep quality of inner strength, of having an internal center and making choices from that center.  It is something that both differentiates a person from, as well as connects the person to, the group and it is tied to virtue, mindfulness, compassion, and lovingkindness.

It is the more difficult path; it leads to what the Buddhists call Right Relationship, and Right Labor.  Making choices about partnerships and career that supports the person’s true inner being as well as the community within which the person lives. 

It results in a sense of resilience and inner strength that reminds a person that she is able to walk through life connected to source and herself, no matter how difficult the events in her life are to withstand.

I am interpreting loss both in terms of the loss of a situation, relationship or beloved one, as well as loss in competition. 

I think that it is great to win.  I think it is great to be the best and be chosen.  And I think not being the best is the best avenue to develop character so that one can win and be the best from their true center.

Applying lovingkindness, mindfulness, and virtue to all one’s situations and relationships increases one’s character and strength.

See you tomorrow.



Ebb and Flow or What goes up…


I find it interesting that often just before someone makes it big they have deep loss or just after they do they have problems in another part of their life.  I see this often in the entertainment world probably because the media covers these individual’s lives so closely.

The I Ching describes an ebb and flow in the cycle of life.  That deepest yin becomes yang and visa versa.  Balance is the goal, so ever-growing height or depth is not feasible.  There is a hexagram that seems to allow for expansion without loss but that has to do with the idea of bringing others in on the growth – so as to make the space bigger in a quantum-like way, like an upleveling of consciousness, a paradigmatic shift.

I find this concept of an ebb and flow of life as somewhat comforting.  It reminds me that there is a cycle and that if I am at the nadir of the cycle it will soon go in the up direction.  Loss will result in renewal; and a destruction or death of something gives rise to the space for rebuilding or rebirth.

Taking this broader, fuller view allows for me to feel more in sync with the fabric of life.  It helps me to have perspective and a sense of empowerment by remaining in the flow rather than getting stuck in the loss.  It helps me to look for how the loss can be positively incorporated into my world view, knowing that a sense of future or imminent joy may be on the horizon.  Or that I may now have the opportunity to go in a different direction that I may not have observed, if my life had not incurred the loss or change with which I am dealing.

It’s not quite as comforting when I am at the apex of something.  When I feel myself at a great peak in my life I like to embrace it. Fully incorporate the beauty of what is, like a picture of perfection.  I try to set it into my consciousness so that when the energy begins to wane I can remember that peak.

In some ways the ebb and flow or waxing and waning of the energy of life can feel like a dance or interplay among various themes in your life.  Sometimes the flow is not so much a loss as a mundaneness in life.  When it is a loss, I like to consider that the loss may be necessary for some new kind of growth – or a loss of something that may no longer serve me in some way.

Viewing life from this perspective of an ebb and flow allows for connecting to the tapestry of life and remaining in the present moment and standing still in the center of your world.  One is then able to respond to the things that are happening in a meaningful and connecting way, without getting stuck on high or low, but flowing through with a sense of strength.

In the loss as in gain it is important to mark the connection to the lost thing in some meaningful way – understanding how that individual, being, situation, or experience was powerful and how the lessons from that can move forward in your life even when the relationship is changed.

Change is the constant in our existence.  Stagnation, no change, leads to standing still and degradation.  Accepting the aspect of change that is ever-present and undeniable helps to respond to change with a more flexible and open heart and mind, so that movement with the flow will lead to growth and renewal and development in the various aspects of our tapestry of life.

See you tomorrow.


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Love is a profoundly powerful experience.  Really loving or feeling loved opens a person’s heart to forgiveness, and also to unending strength.  Sometimes that strength is the strength to let go with love.

Feeling loved has the qualities of acceptance and feeling seen.  Really loving has the qualities of seeing with acceptance and understanding.

Most people spend their lives looking for love and or acceptance.  The best way to feel love is to love another.

A book by Eric Fromm called The Art of Loving, is one of my guiding sources for how to love as well as the book The Road Less Travelled by Scott Peck.   These books provide a view of love that is an offering for a paradigm shift from the traditional concepts of loving and seeing.  It’s about how to see the other, to experience and offer love more fully with acceptance and compassion.

The opportunity to really love is present in every relationship.

It is a way of being and interacting in the world.  This is the shift in paradigm.  It is a choice of how to respond in the moment toward both positive as well as negative interactions with others.

When I get triggered by another’s negative interaction with me I feel anger or sadness or some other drop in energy.  If I respond from that angry place I find that a wall or boundary is created that interferes with conflict resolution.  If I come from that reactive paradigm then I am not open to how to resolve the conflict.  I am in an argument or defending position of my position.  This only creates a defensive reaction from the other person which leads to a standstill – no resolution.

If I choose to respond with a connecting energy then I begin to feel my energy rise and fill me positively.  That is a function of love.  It allows for the space to be expanded so that both paradigms can be evaluated and a place of understanding and acceptance can be created – this then allows for an opportunity to experience a paradigm shift and connection between and among individuals.

Here I am not talking about romantic love, but rather Universal Source love; that which is required to overcome deep and powerful wounds, or habit reaction patterns, or historical injuries.

What I am referring to as Universal love is spiritual in nature, the love described in Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist traditions.  It is a position of being in the world; a style of lovingkindness which incorporates forgiveness, acceptance, and compassion as basic components of being or interaction.

The Buddhist tradition talks about a concept of Right relationship, or Right action – not right as in right versus wrong but right as in correct – a correctness in balance of spirit, mind and body, in sync with the situation, the environment, and within one’s being. 

Opening to love in a way that is consistent with right relationship allows for evaluation from a neutral compassionate, accepting place so that the BEST aspects of all involved are incorporated into the relationship and solution, view.

Ways to know that you are in sync, or not in sync, include an inner scan of your emotional and physical sensations.  Increasing your awareness of your own inner senses helps to give you information about how you are responding or reacting in the world or in a given situation. 

Notice if you have a drop in energy, a negative attitude, a loss of hope or a feeling of fear/anger – these indicate you are reacting and not coming from an understanding compassionate perspective.  Often in these situations you will notice that you are breathing shallowly or holding your breath. 

If you notice a feeling of warmth or heightened sense of understanding, an attitude of gratitude, feeling a smile on the inside of your being then you are open to a compassionate, lovingkindness perspective.

Focusing on your breath, breathing in, and breathing out and bringing your attention to your breath can allow for you to get into balance so that you can be open to love, compassion and be able to view the situation from a more balanced perspective.

Love opens our hearts, and breath opens our space for love. 

See you tomorrow.


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Clearing Out the Attic


I like to think that what we see in our home may be a reflection of what happens in our brains.  Especially when it is something that we have to deal with on an ongoing basis – like clutter or disorderliness.

Ever met someone who just can’t get started on a project until they clean up their workspace?  I think that is a function of clearing out the space in their brain to get moving on the project.

Some dream analysts interpret dreams about our homes as belief systems or elements of our consciousness.  So if you dream about your childhood home you may be working through some belief system from your childhood.  I have found some correlation of this in my practice.

So clearing out the attic is a way of looking at how to re-view old belief systems that we have saved in our memories that may not be serving us.

Using your environment as a reflection of your inner world fits with the concept that how we see the world is how we are.

If you connect this with looking at paradigms or perspectives and then using that information to inform your decisions and actions in the world, you can then utilize a view or re-view of your environment to get some insight into the inner workings of your brain.  Equally if you change a way of being in the world you can then change your belief system or your style of being in the world.

I like to use this with individuals who have difficulty with letting go of material items that no longer serve them – I encourage them to evaluate what belief systems they may be holding onto that also no longer serve them.

I remember working with a person who was generally strong in new environments but then after a while she would seem to lose sight of herself or what mattered to her.  I noticed that when this became too difficult she would then seem to find strength in getting all her stuff together and leaving that situation.  When she began in the new situation she was again strong, decisive, and self-confident.

It was as if she took her power and placed it in a drawer somewhere but then when it was time to leave that situation she would go and retrieve her power and take it with her.  Her work was to discover how, when, and under what conditions she hid her power in the drawer and further how to keep her power with her.

In this situation she had a belief system that in order to be in relationship she had to be smaller and only support the other person – she couldn’t be big and create something equally with the other person.

She had to change her internal belief system about this.  She had to develop a belief system congruent wit the action of being personally powerful and be (or while being) in relationship.

Clearing out the Attic is a metaphor for living in the now rather than in a survivor scenarioor a habit reaction pattern.  It’s about being fully present and connected to the current environment with your full authentic self.

Look around your environment and see if there are structures or behaviors that are not serving you – do you have a messy study that is really telling you that you are holding onto things (and or thoughts/belief systems) that no longer serve you?  Or do you find that you have skills in one area of your life that you cannot incorporate into another area of your life?

Think about changing these and feel or view what sort of change happens in the other areana – either in your phyiscal environment or in your perspective of the world/yourself.

It can be very cleansing and enlivening.

See you tomorrow.


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Patience’ gift of space in responding


I read an amazing quote from the Dalai Lama

One of the best ways to begin familiarizing ourselves with the virtue of patience is to reflect systematically on its benefits. It is the source of forgiveness. It has no equal in protecting our concern for others, however they behave towards us. When patience is combined with the ability to discriminate between the action and the one who does it, forgiveness arises naturally.

It really epitomizes the importance of space in relating.  Patience allows for one to stretch out one’s response, so that compassion, neutrality, and forgiveness can be incorporated.

Patience requires a sense of centeredness and it keeps you centered.

Some of the things that help to develop patience are related to developing space for a response and interaction.  Yoga or meditation, prayer, and exercise are ways to get a break from the situation so that you can view or re-view it with perspective.

Thinking things through before acting, keeping the big picture in mind (figure and ground), allows for a paradigm shift so that your response is more thorough and full.

Breathing, staying centered and focused, and recognizing how you are doing  physically – overworked, stressed emotionally or sleep or fuel deprived  – are ways to allow time and space before responding to the situation.

If you are out of sync in any of these areas it’s really difficult to center – and a lack of centeredness often results in a lack of patience.

When faced with a difficult situation apply patience to increase your space for responding –  you want to Stop, Look, and Listen before responding – giving yourself the space to respond fully and with compassion.

As soon as you notice that you’re being challenged to be patient – try to focus on what is actually happening, what may be going on for you – are you tired, frustrated or stressed; what may be going on for the other person – is she tired or stressed in some way.

After noticing and observing these aspects then pay attention to the sound of your voice or that of the other person is it angry or whinny.  Each are indicative of someone who is dealing with a conflict that they may be bringing to the situation. 

Incorporate this information into your response.

Focus on your breath – consciously try to focus in on your own breath.  Breathing connects you into the now and allows you to get into your center.  Take the time and space to Breathe deeply, remembering to breathe in for a shorter period of time than breathing out.

From that space, see what perspective you can attain about the situation – ask yourself in the scheme of things how important is this?  If you are focusing from the now, and not the past, future, or to get another’s approval, you can elevate your response to one of compassionate, forgiving, love and acceptance through patience.

Increasing your mindfulness and your centeredness allows patience and the space to take an action that is informed by the actual situation and this typically results in increased patience and increased mindfulness.

Practice allowing the gift of patience and space so that you can increase your mindful response to others.

See you tomorrow.



Joxer’s Way; The Path to Grace


When I was in college there was a popular psychology or spirituality book called Joy’s Way. It’s focus was on reframing and refocusing your thoughts and response patterns on being in Joy.

I think being grateful can really be a form of being connected to joy.

Sometimes our focus is on what isn’t working too intensely so we miss being grateful for all the things that do work.   And then there is the reframe that sometimes the thing that seems to be the worst is actually a gift for which to be grateful.

I have written about the loss of my beloved Robbie when I was in college.  It was devastatingly painful and took a long time from which to recover.

It was a defining experience in my life.

I think that often defining experiences are not joyous.  I’m not sure why that is but it is something that I have observed over the years.

I have endeavored to really put into my memory a conscious marker, a focused meaningful bookmark of pictures and memories of when my life was perfectly joyous, in sync, or definitively loving.  I have done this to balance out the times in my life where what has happened has seared into my memory a painful event.

I have also spent a great deal of mindful focus on looking for the lessons that were positive from those painful events.

I have found that these actions bring me more joy, connection, and peace, and less fear reaction, distance, and anxiety or insecurity.

The experience of Robbie’s death created the space for me to focus on mindfulness – being mindful in my relationships, being congruent in my speech and action, and being grateful for what is.

Not much more than 36 hours ago I held my beloved dog who had been my dear companion for almost 13 years in my arms while he struggled with life and death.  He died feeling, hearing, and I think knowing how much those dear to him loved him.

Some people do not connect to dogs in the way in which I connected with Joxer so this may seem like an odd attribution that I am going to describe – but for me he was my best teacher.

He was loving and compassionate and forgiving.  I mean really forgiving in the way that dogs have the capacity to be – unconditional love, always seeing the beauty in me and all the individuals close to him.  He loved to run and hike really experiencing in the moment all that is beautiful in the environment, and he loved to be with his people.

He was happy and alive, really alive, experiencing every step, smell, and being around him.  He loved to play – barking and jumping around engaging the people close to him to be a dog and get on the ground and bark back with him.  Paradigm shifting to create space for laughter and joy.

He understood how to be present without being pushy or intrusive – although he might give a gentle paw reminder if you have food on your plate and you’ve been ignoring it for 15 minutes.  Or in his later years give you a little bark as if to say “hey can’t you see me here”.  His being was with you in a calm, connected full way that allowed a person to feel accepting and loving,  engendering space for compassion and mindfulness.

He had the capacity to find the good in every person he encountered.  It was a peaceful style of connecting, like a sage or Sensai who is gently directing a student on his path.  He made perfect relationships with each person in his family – perfect in that he seemed to intuitively know what they needed or how they could best connect and he matched himself to that quality so that each person felt they were definitively seen and loved by him.

His eyes were pools of understanding.  Looking into his sweet face one experienced acceptance, earnest, love, and playfulness.

He had a hummingbird spirit energy – he couldn’t tolerate yelling, or fighting, conflict, or anger – so he engendered an environment of caring and mindfulness.

He tried hard to do what he perceived was desired of him and he appeared to feel bad when he wasn’t able to or broke the rules.

He was the epitome of mindfulness, compassion, playfulness, and love through his actions, connections, behaviors, and relationships.  We knew he had a fear of separation but he appeared to overcome it through these actions and how he was able to engender a compassionate, mindful, accepting environment.

He seemed to fully and completely understand intimacy in relationship.  He was exhaustingly patient.

He found purpose in his life through caring for Kate, loving me, individually connecting to my patients, our families and friends, loving Ron and Max and helping them trust the love of a dog, and protecting us all with his amazing heart.

He exemplified the picture of unconditional love, and the unyielding patience of true love.

Each person close to him felt special to him because every one was.  He created individual loving relationships with each of the people in his life.

He was a teacher, a sage, a role model for compassionate mindful living and the great benefits of connection, being real, and being alive.

If you look at these various qualities you can see the way in which his presence in our lives increased our understanding of how to be in relationship to increase our connection to joy – to increase our connection to each other and life – to love and play and fully experience the joys in the world around us.

He was my best friend, and even though I have so many lessons and memories in my heart and mind and I can feel still feel his spirit, I will miss being with him for many years to come.

His way of being in the world led us to a living experience of Grace.

Having him with me all these years has revolutionized my picture of the world and what can be.  I am truly grateful.

See you tomorrow.