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changing focus and making that change HABIT


My friend, Elene at,  sent a copy of this to me thinking it might resonate – it definitely does.  Written by Leo Bahauta, this list is his suggestion about how to create ZenHabits – I thought it was cool – I have added some of my own comments.

7 Little Things That Make Life Effortless
Post written by Leo Babauta.
From ZENHABITS smile, breath, and go slowly.
Take what you want from this list. I find these things work, but your mileage will vary.
1. Do less. This is my productivity mantra, and it’s counterintuitive. I actually don’t believe in productivity, but instead believe in doing the important things. Do less, and you’ll force yourself to choose between what’s just busywork, and what really matters. Life then becomes effortless, as you accomplish big things while being less busy.
2. Having less is lighter. Start asking yourself if you really need everything you have, or if you just have it out of fear. Start to let go of what you have, so it doesn’t own you. And then, as you have less, you feel lighter. It’s wonderful.
3. Let the little things go. People who struggle often fight over little things. We obsess over things that don’t really matter. We create resistance instead of letting things glide off us. Let the little things go,breathe, and move on to the important things.
4. Clean as you go. I haven’t written about this for a long time, but early in the life of Zen Habits I wrote about the habit of cleaning as you go. Instead of letting the cleaning pile up, put things away when you’re done. Wash your bowl. Wipe the counters clean as you pass them. Sweep up dirt when you notice it. By cleaning a little bit at a time, as you make messes, cleaning up becomes a breeze, and it’s never difficult. By the way, this applies to everything in life, not just cleaning.
5. Make small, gradual changes. Most people are too impatient to follow this advice — they want to do everything at once. We have so many changes to make, but we don’t want to wait a year for it all to happen. As a result, we often fail, and then feel crappy about it. Or we don’t start at all, because so many big changes is intimidating and overwhelming. I’ve learned the hard way that small changes are incredibly powerful, and they last longer. Gradual change leads to huge change, but slowly, and in a way that sticks. And it’s effortless.
6. Learn to focus on the things that matter. This is implied in the items above, but it’s so important I have to emphasize it. Swimming (or any physical activity for that matter) is best done when you do only the motions that matter, and eliminate the extraneous motions. Stop thrashing, start becoming more efficient and fluid. You do this by learning what matters, and cutting out the wasted activity.
7. Be compassionate. This makes dealing with others much more effortless. It also makes you feel better about yourself. People like you more, and you improve the lives of others. Make every dealing with another human being one where you practice compassion.

I think my favorites are:  Breathe, clean as you go – because it offers a way to create structure and balance without too much thought or action; and practice compassion.

And I think the idea of doing less is interesting – I have some thoughts about this.  I understand the negative connotation of lazy and how he is shifting the perspective of lazy.  I do not fully accept his underlying perception of the communication of lazy from ones body.

I will say that I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of going with the flow and not pushing the river – and to the extent that following or riding the flow is “lazy” then I am in agreement.

I take the position that going with the flow is an active process and not a lazy lack of attention, but rather an earnest, attune, active response to information; as is resting choosing to do less as more and listening to the clarifying messages from within about the importance of balance rather than over action/yang energy.  Doing too much, having too much, over-abundance –  can create a lack of balance within the cosmic order of things that will need rectification.  How that plays out is different for different people but as in the I Ching there is a need for balance, I view that a person’s life requires such balance – a great accomplishment and great abundance has a deep loss generally attached to it.

His idea of gradual change is lovely; it incorporates the elements of change that most trick us up – inertia and fear.  If you embrace the change and feel joy about it you can then shift into a new way of being more easily and with a more sturdy reserve.  This is an obvious thing when working in therapy.  Those that change quickly and make too big a change find they lose their reserve and fall back into old habits.  Those that shift slowly , gradually and with a sense of renewal and light excitement create new habits that complete eradicate the old pattern so no falling back is available.

Joy and breathing are definite keys in my opinion.

You can follow the links to some of his other ideas within the body of his list.  I found his ideas on compassion to be poignant and beneficial ideas for creating a life focused on compassion.

Habit comes from shifting and practicing the shift in an active, consistent, ongoing way.

See if you can find a few things in the list to increase how you live simply so that you can create a sense of fuller living; rather than running from event or commitment to commitment – feel deeply, breathe, experience each moment and each event and see if your life isn’t both less full  (of required events) and more full (of deep emotional experiences, living).

Doing more can be interpreted as the number of things outlined on your schedule and the depth of experience in each event.  Going for the latter is what he seems to refer to as being lazy and what I refer to as having an active, fuller attention.  Regardless of what you call it – we each seem to be  suggesting that more living and being comes out of doing less while being more fully present.

See you tomorrow.



Shifting Perspectives, my personal adventure


When I was in college I spent a semester abroad studying Italian Art, Architecture, Language and Literature in Roma, Italia.  It was a very powerful period in my life.  I had been studying Sociology in school and was intrigued by paradigms, cultural relativism, and Gestalt figure/ground perspectives.  I was an open-minded person with a sense that I would or could do anything and had a naive belief that I could effect a positive change in the world.  I was young and enthusiastic.  My experience in Italy was painful, transformative, joyous, strengthening, and enlightening.  It was an adventure.

I had not planned to go to Italy.  My boyfriend, who was an art major, was going and I thought “oh I should go too”;  I didn’t realize that he had wanted to go without me so he could experience the world unencumbered.  In retrospect it would have been more useful to ask him what his plans were before inviting myself along.  This discovery was painful – finding him happily courting a tall woman from Oklahoma – I mention her height because it was the thing that was so irritating about her to me being a small petite girl – she was like an amazon woman stealing my boyfriend away from me.  He was, of course a complicit and willing partner – no stealing – I was the only one who was unaware of the situation.

I was stunned.  Alone in a foreign country and so sad.  He and I had been the best of friends for a longtime and I wasn’t sure of exactly how to proceed.

For the days that followed my discovery I was on auto-pilot, disconnected, unfocused, just putting one foot in front of the next.  Then after a while I began to re-focus on the beautiful amazing country that surrounded me.  I started to identify what I wanted to do, see, accomplish and experience.  In this re-evaluation I discovered myself.

There was a lovely young man in our group from England he was polite, handsome, kind, and ever so smart.  I liked him and he seemed to like me.  He was good friends with a young man who was very involved with Roman politics.  It was exciting to hang out with them and learn about how young people in Rome spent their days.  Quite different from my own experience they were VERY involved in politics, very early.  Paolo, my handsome friend’s friend, had lost his best friend to a bomb due to political issues two years before when he was a teenager.  He had strong opinions and sound arguments to back them up.  It was so exciting to be in their company and begin to develop my beliefs about politics, my country, and theirs.

My handsome young man whose care I had fallen into was even more intriguing.  He had gone to school in England but his family was Persian.  He was one of the kindest and most gentle men I had ever known but he had dealt with great tragedy and difficult situations.  We came to be very close and he showed me a fascinating world that I could never have imagined.  His gentle eyes had both a sadness and a playfulness in them and I felt the safest I had ever felt with anyone when I was with him.

In the middle of our time together we went to Austria.  It was beautiful and magical.  I saw Freud’s house and we played together.  It was like a fairytale.  But the purpose of our trip there was far from the magic and fantasy of Disney.  He needed to get a visa to come to America.  He had gone before and followed the stealthy steps outlined by whomever was assisting him to do so, and he had lost money, and he had been denied.  Half of his family resided in Iran and half was in America.  There was still a great deal of wariness about young Iranian men coming to the states and so he had to go through this secret process not knowing the outcome and risking treachery from outside.

He was successful and this was a celebration that he would be able to join his siblings in the states.

We had a blissful time together in Rome through the rest of our time in school. After, on my way back to the states I joined him briefly in London and then we separated.  I returned to my home and he to a new home in San Francisco.  I visited him once later for a brief time when I went out to a college friend’s wedding, and then we lost track of each other.

He once said to me, while we were still in Italy, that his father would never have approved of him seeing me because I was American.  His father was no longer alive and his mother was still in Iran.  I never thought about how my parents would have responded; they seemed to be open-minded and accepting.  But I was aware that to me he was not his country or his culture but rather an individual person with whom I was in love.  I had not considered the problems between our countries until he made this comment.

Both these men, the boyfriend with whom I went to Italy, and the boyfriend I met in Italy, had perceived their time in Italy as a time to experience being with someone not accepted in their real or home world.  They each had seen it as a break from the cultural and normative expectations to experience more fully a deeper self that they would not take with them except in their memories; and that however their experience may have changed them it must be left in Italy.

I had been so naive that I didn’t understand any of that and yet my experiences with each of them left indelible marks on my sense of self and my character.

I have studied sociology all my life and I would say that I view the world through a sociological lens and yet even with that I experience each person individually.  Sociology takes the position that one’s self is completely bound up by one’s culture and that self and mind are really just an introjection of the society or culture within which you live; but my experience is that individuals interact with their culture in innovative and unique ways to develop intricately specific and personal selves.  That one can see the culture and beliefs within another’s personality and characteristics but that self, and character are profoundly personal.

My dear beloved boyfriend with whom I traveled to Italy said to me upon our return that although he abandoned me for this exciting opportunity to be with that tall girl he ultimately had a depressing and uneventful experience because she went on to another boy and he was left without either her or me.  And I, in my action to respond to his abandonment, had a true adventure.  Sadly, for him this was true.  Joyfully for me, he was right.

How you respond to your world is your only true offense and defense in the action of life.

And perspective is everything.

I think of my dear boyfriend that I met in Italy, living in America, and I wonder how well he is thriving.  I wonder if his family still in Iran is faring well through the strife in his country, and I pray that he and those individuals like him will be able to develop a country that better speaks to their needs.

See you tomorrow.


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Creating Internal Space


Space creation is more than just a starting point to a project it is a requirement for any new creation to happen.  Often the first thing one does is create a space in which to work – cleaning off your desk, starting a new page on word, or cleaning out the space for drawing and construction.

Sometimes clearing out the space physically performs the function of creating an internal space for change.

Other actions that can help create that internal space are mindful meditation, yoga, focused breathing, prayer, writing about the issue, and listening both to others and yourself.  The latter is a modality you can use all the time in relationship and interaction.

Listening to the non-verbal components in conversation, the tone, and the language or word-choice all offer ways for you to increase your understanding in communication.  Through these techniques you can see or hear where you are out of sync with reality or how you are acting or thinking based on an inaccurate belief system.  It opens your internal system of thinking and being.

The most difficult space to create is the space within to change thinking and behavior patterns.  Changing habits requires identification of the problem as a first step.  The space creation to change is like a stretching out so that you can observe from a different perspective.  Often influence from outside is the first glimmer of understanding that shifts your focus to the inaccuracy of your habit.

This can be an aha experience or it can be insidious, a slow developing awareness over time.

Creating that inner space starts with the questions What is at the center of this thinking or this behavior ?- What is the underlying belief or value that drives it?  And then once discerning the answers, defining if that value or belief is consistent with what you actually believe.

It requires a slowing of actions and a reworking of thinkings.  Breathing, applying mindfulness, looking for and creating balance, applying compassion and understanding – all these allow for an increase in awareness and delay action to allow for re-working thinkings with a renewed perspective.

Recently I was struck by an internal belief that I had been using to organize my behavior and thinking.  I discovered that it was not actually an accurate description of reality, but rather a picture of a misunderstanding from my early childhood that had been frozen in time, not allowed to incorporate new information or ongoing analysis; it was a stuck, rigid, fear-based belief.  I had been acting from a position that I must prove my worth and my intelligence.  That I had to bring something extra to a relationship because just being myself was insufficient for friendship.  This was the opposite of what I taught my children and patients, and yet here I was acting from this inaccurate perspective.


It was a powerful and profound experience to discover both the internal belief and  that I no longer had to act from this inaccurate space.  Seeing it, recognizing it, and understanding its etiology allowed me to create the internal space to let it go and to shift my perspective to incorporate the full or whole of my life experiences, not just that one event.  It was so freeing, and so opening; it created the internal space to make a change in my thinking and my behavior with respect to this issue.

Mindful reflection and paradigm shifting create internal space so that change can happen.  Utilize the methods that best suit you to open a space for you to view and review your internal systems and create a space for internal change.

You may find you are freed from a restrictive belief system that is not an actual representation of reality.  In doing so you may create a space to live more freely and more happily.

See you tomorrow.