Mind–Would you please shut up already!?

Have you ever felt that no matter how hard you try, no matter how many tools you use, your mind is still a runaway train? Good news, you are not alone. Calming your busy mind can be a frustrating process, and there will be times where you want to scream out at your mind to just stop! You can try this, but I have not had much success with this technique! Force does not work.

There are times where you just have to ride it out. Let me give you an example of how this worked for one of my clients. She writes:

I thought I would share my practice this morning as I felt it was a good one and I had not had a good practice in about a week.  I did them except for last Sunday but I just didn’t feel like I was letting things go.  This week was really busy for me.  I had visitors from other offices and I had a doctor’s appointment dealing with a continuing issue.  So after my visitors left yesterday I decided (because I have the luxury of good technology) to work from home today.  I got home last night and I was tired but I decided to go for a walk –it was cool but not as cold as it has been.  So I walked 2 miles and tried to make some of it mindful but of course many thoughts were on the doctor’s visit and the week at work.  I did not do any meditation last night as I was just too tired.

So this morning I got up and got my tea and emptied the dishwasher and then went up to my meditation room.  I read 2 days of Deep Breath of Life and both readings hit home for me. One in particular was about something that I’ve been working on for a while.  

 I did some deep 3 part breathing and I did about 6 of these.  And then like Ellen’s meditation CD, I brought my focus to how my body was feeling and then back to my breath. Then I started saying some Loving Kindness. Then a bird started singing outside my window and I just let myself listen to the wave of the birdsong and it was so very lovely.  I was able to gather the thought that no matter what ends up happening with the doctor–it doesn’t matter –I am still me; I can still continue to do what I want to do.  In addition, a different bird starting singing and it sounded like it was right over my head. I finally felt the peace that I had been looking for this week.

Yes, it is a process. Do not to get stuck in wanting some kind of wonderful, peaceful outcome. That is a set-up for chucking your practice out the window–leaving you feeling like a meditation loser (not sure if there is such a thing!)

Hang in there–it is a process. Stay present with what is happening in the moment, and who knows, maybe it will be a bird, a plane, your cat, or something else happening that will help you make the shift to a calm, centered you.

Would love to hear about your experience.

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Meditation: It Is Not Granola Anymore!


This is the title of a recent LA Times article, and another confirmation of the power of Mindful Based meditation. The most intriguing part is who is reaping the benefits. IT not only yogi’s anymore. A few exerts are:

“The room was full of hospital executives and managers in lab coats and scrubs, jeans and sports coats at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. And the teacher was Marturano, once a top executive at General Mills.”

“The unrelenting siege on our attention can take a good share of the credit; stress has bombarded people from executives on 24/7 schedules to kids who feel the pressure to succeed even before puberty. Meditation has been lauded as a way to reduce stress, ease physical ailments like headaches and increase compassion and productivity.”

I have said over and over (and over…) again that simple mindful based practices will save you from the harmful consequences of stress that are imploding in many of us.

Mindful based practices are not about getting rid of stress because that is unrealistic. The practices are not about disappearing from life (that is not practical when driving!)

Let’s get real… you can go to the mountain top there will be a cloud or bug that is getting on your nerves. The problem is: No matter where you go, you take yourself with you!

The realist in me realizes that stress is here to stay.

So, what is causing all of our stress? It is your reaction, not the event that causes your stress. The good news is- you can make a shift, and it only takes a moment.

Next time you have the thought that meditation is “out there”, think again. It is old as the hill, here to stay and spreading like wildfire. Why not give it a try?

If you are a business person, why not increase your stamina and productivity?
If you are in healthcare, why not avoid burnout and get back to loving your work?
If you are a stay at home mom or dad, why not enjoy your kids even more?
If you are ill or caregiving, why not get back to enjoying life?

This list will keep on growing because meditation works. It’s that simple…

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No B.S. Perspective: Calm is feisty!

When I use the word “calm” to describe how you want to live, what comes to mind?

I asked that question when I was writing my book. I remember a conversation with a friend. She is a corporate executive, mother of two, and crazy busy. When I asked her about the word “calm”, her response to me was “boring.

At that point I should have realized that the notion many have of calm living meant you were a Zen flower, slowly skipping through your day. No wonder why busy people are hesitant to learn about calm living. They are afraid they will lose their edge. The irony is that you will have a bigger edge. Here is my list of what calm living gives you:

  • More focus
  • More energy
  • More fun
  • More clarity
  • More relaxed
  • More effective
  • More passion
  • More organized
  • More vitality
  • More solutions
  • More control
  • More ease
  • More peace
  • More efficiency
  • More effectiveness
  • Better communication
  • Better memory
  • Better digestion
  • Better sleep
  • Better health
  • Better relationships
  • Better decision making
  • Better sex (do I have your attention now?)

I am sure I am missing some, so feel free to share yours.

It is clear that calm living gives you a richer, fuller, more vital life. I am trying to convey this message in my marketing and website. After some feedback, I have decided that my predominately pastel blue website and literature gives off the “Zen” message, so you will now see more oranges and gold’s, with stronger blues. It is much more of a representation of my work and who I am.

Yes, you can have it all. Living calmly with all the gusto you can muster!

If you are intrigued to live more calmly now, join my upcoming workshop. If you have questions, feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email.

Hope to see you soon!

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My No B.S Calm Living Perspective: No, it’s Not PMS!

Lately I have been a bit moody (my husband might say “very”). If I were not in menopause I would say it was PMS, but alas I cannot use that excuse anymore. So I ask myself; how can I feel so excited about my work one day and the next, question what I am doing? After all, I teach calm living–I should not feel negative, right? Wrong.

This is the human condition and as much as I do not want to admit this–I am human. When I allow myself the luxury of being human, life gets easier. The word compassion comes to mind. Christopher K. Germer says, “A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.“

One of my favorite teachers is Brene Brown and she highlights three elements in cultivating compassion.

  • Self-kindness: Be warm and understanding of yourself.
  • Common humanity: You are not alone in feeling this way.
  • Mindfulness: Stay with what is rather than try to negate or obsess on your experience.

What I love about mindfulness is that you do not get lost in your feelings because you simply stay aware of what is happening without judgment.

What I realized about my mood was that as an entrepreneur, I spend a lot of time alone. There are times that being with my own thoughts all day is like going into a bad neighborhood–I should not stay too long or hang around there alone! This became clear as I went to a networking event later in the evening, and just being around community filled the well–it is the common humanity on Brene Brown’s list. It was not about the networking. When I connected with other entrepreneurs (talking to my dog only helps so much) and shared a bit about my experience, I felt better.

No matter what is going on in life, when you are able to cultivate self-compassion, awareness, and understand that you are not alone, your entire experience will shift. We are all traveling together in life. I venture to say that nobody is immune from the shared experience of struggle.

You do not have to muscle your way through the up’s and down’s of life. That creates more tension. Live in the shared experience of the ups and downs of life and allow yourself to be human. It’s a whole lot easier that way. Trust me, I have spent much of my life muscling my way through and it is exhausting. Compassion was a foreign word–I thought that was for the weak. In reality it takes more strength and fortitude to be vulnerable and share what is really going on.

That is why I do the work that I do. I am grateful every day.

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Stress Buster: Technique of the week: What??? That is too simple!

We hear it over and over, breathing is good for your health. I guess if you weren’t breathing you would not be among us–so we can all agree it is good for your health! I would think at this stage of life, we would know how to breathe, but alas, there is much to learn.

The recent Wall Street Journal article: Breathing for Your Better Health says: Controlling Your Breath Is an Easy Way to Improve Mental and Physical Health. Slow, deep and consistent breathing has been shown to have benefits in treating conditions ranging from migraines and irritable bowel syndrome to anxiety disorders and pain.

When I teach stress and pain solutions, I begin with breath. It is a tool for both body and mind, it is free, and with you everywhere you go (you do not have to go home to get your lungs).

The suggestions of controlling breath and breathing deeper feels a bit daunting to many. What I see is force and the mind wanting to get it right. Let’s begin with a simple practice to get you going. 

Technique of the week: Practice this three times morning and evening.

When first starting out I suggest you place your hand on your belly and notice without judgment if your belly is ballooning out. (If you are one of those people who suck in your belly to look thinner, for this practice–let it all hang out!) If your belly rises, you are getting breath into the lower lobes of your lungs. If not, no worries. Simply place your hands on your ribcage instead. If your ribcage expands you are getting breath into the middle lobes of your lungs.

Here is the practice:

  • Take an inhale without force, while having your hand either on your belly or ribcage.  This will help you direct the breath.
  • Slowly exhale and make your exhale slower than your inhale.
  • Notice how many counts it takes you to inhale, and then add two counts to your exhale. This will help you get in the habit of slowing down your breath.
  • Do this practice each morning to get your going and each evening to help settle you down for sleep. Throughout the day, when you feel stressed, do one or two.
  • My goal is to have you practice daily so it becomes natural.

You might be thinking, Ellen this is too simple. I know how to do this. If that is your reaction, then this will be easy for you. If you choose to not practice, then you might want to look at your resistance and in the world of Ellen, resistance is futile! I keep it simple because it works and is approachable for all.

From my own experience, I was a stressed out breath holder. When I was first taught to deepen my breath, like a good overachiever I tried hard, forced, and got dizzy. This is not a breathing contest, so ease up and make this an exploration. There is not good, bad, right, or wrong. It is what is more or less effective.

If you live in Atlanta and are thinking: Wow, I would love to learn more about simple breathing techniques–you are in luck. Sign up for my new workshop: Let’s Get Real about Stress & PainYou will be happy you did 🙂

I leave you with a request. Next week, practice daily and let me know what you noticed. Happy Breathing!

Warm Regards,


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Stress Buster Tip: This Stuff Works–No Label’s for this Woman!

6XGYl8RHRYI0J8ibpRTuGvbSEKBdEf88NhJBe9DhKOELast week I wrote about the iceberg and received many wonderful responses. If you missed it, you will find it on my site–it is worth the read. I told you that I would have a client tell their story about how looking beyond the tip of the iceberg helped her.  I asked Jan to share her experience and she graciously accepted (I can be irresistible at times). She is one of those people who inspires me, and I am sure she will inspire you.

I Am More than My Labels  

Flash back to a Wednesday in May of 2008.  I was at work as a Nurse Practitioner, seeing my morning patients at a pediatric clinic. After noticing an unusual discoloration on my leg. I asked the lab tech to check my blood. The next thing I knew, I was being admitted to Emory Hospital with a diagnosis of acute leukemia. The following day, an IV line was put into my chest and my first chemo treatment began. I was told because my immune system would be taken dangerously low, that I would have to make many changes.

They are too numerous to mention but the major change involved living in isolation from germs. No more job, no church, no shopping. I had to deal with a devastating illness that turned my life upside down. The loss of many aspects of my life in so short a time was very hard to endure. The world as I had known it was gone in an instant.

My faith and family sustained me as I wandered through a fog that was now my life. I could hardly comprehend who I was–where I had ended up or where I was going.

My journey since then has had many bumps in the road. It is now almost 7 years later and I am recovering from side effects from a stem cell transplant. It hasn’t been easy. I have learned a lot about myself along the way.

The teaching about the iceberg was a real breakthrough for me. Looking at who I thought I was (the tip of the iceberg) represented to me over 20 losses that I had listed on paper. I had been going through life thinking my identity was gone. But as Ellen told me, looking inside (or below the water level)–I was SO MUCH MORE! Many attributes and qualities that were with me before the diagnosis are still with me today. In fact they aren’t just “with” me. They are growing and thriving.

If you haven’t tried looking at the massive part of the iceberg in yourself, I suggest you do it. Ellen was right–You Are More Than You Imagine.

Jan Mastin CPNP


Warm Regards,

Ellen Sichel

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No B.S Stress Buster Technique of the Week: Yikes! Who am I now?

This teaching is powerful and I would venture to say, the most important concept I teach.

I had the pleasure of speaking to at a training of Lupus support group leaders, who also had Lupus. After listening to a presentation about working with politicians to increase funding and awareness of Lupus, it reminded me that it is very easy to be pulled into reaction when we are personally affected by something–in this case, Lupus.

I am sure you are sitting at the edge of your seat waiting to hear my pearls of wisdom–I can only hope 🙂  I’m getting there.

First I want to share two personal experiences.

Experience 1:  My own Lupus diagnosis

When I was diagnosed, my focus was on how to help myself and minimize medications. Over time, I became attached to the struggle. It also gave me a few perks–being treated with kid gloves as people were concerned about my well-being. I started to forget who I was, not knowing what to do with myself as I improved.

Experience 2:  My daughter’s long illness (no worries, she is doing well)

When my younger daughter was diagnosed with a serious illness, my role in life changed. I was a mom to 2 awesome children (they will agree wholeheartedly), a wonderful wife (if I do say so myself), an employee, daughter, sibling, and more–now I was a caregiver as well. It seemed all I could talk about and was being asked about was what was happening with my younger daughter and how our family was coping. It began to consume me, even though I was still juggling all of my other responsibilities. It was strange, every time my daughter was doing well, I felt lost. This spiral lasted for years. One moment I was a caregiver and the next, I wasn’t needed as much. After she finally went into remission I felt lost. If I am not a caregiver, then who am I?

Solution:  You are so much more

When you feel lost, try this:

Visualize an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg is covered with your identities—who you think yourself to be: a parent, child, employee, employer, friend, teacher, athlete, and so on.

Consider this: What happens when one of your identities changes? You were healthy and now you are ill, your child goes to college and now you have no one to nurture, you were fired from your job, or you move. Who are you now?

The tip is only one ninth of what you see (I love the Internet; I feel so knowledgeable), and if you only focus on that small fraction, you will miss most of the iceberg. Now, take a look beneath the water’s surface. What will you find there? The iceberg, and it is massive.

Remember, you are so much more than you identities. No matter what is going on in life, take a moment and look beneath the surface. Remember the things that you enjoyed, and pick something simple to incorporate into your day. You will begin to remember who you are. Enjoy the journey!

*Stay tuned–next week you will hear from a client who is living proof that You Are More than you imagine.

Warm Regards,

Ellen Sichel

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My No B.S. Calm Perspective: Simple, Silly Shower Smiles

fe2a81f8-dec5-41e6-b453-8f1f1d8778abI promise, this is not another boring New Year’s resolution newsletter!  I am sick of them too.  If I hear one more huge solution on how to change, I might throw up.  Here is my non-resolutions – resolution newsletter.

I have been working on lightening up. Those who know me might wonder how much lighter I can get.   I know I am playful with others, but often I am too serious with myself.  I tend to try too hard and expect too much from myself.  I am sure some of you are nodding in agreement.  I have improved in this area, but still I get way too hard on myself.

My morning shower is an opportunity to relax and clear my mind, which opens me up to new ideas.  After my shower, as I was standing wrapped in my towel, I looked at the foggy shower door.  I usually squeegee it off, making it nice and clean.

This day was different.  Instead of using the squeegee, before I knew it, my hand went up.  I had drawn a simple smiley face.  Strange you say???  Maybe, but it put a smile on my face.  It was a simple reminder for me not to take life so seriously.  I did not have to continue with the habit of a tidy, clear shower door.  I can feel some of you clean, neat, orderly people gasping right now.  Just take a breath and calm down. It’s just a shower door!

This has become my new ritual.  Some mornings, I add a curl, or a silly smile. This might sound ridiculous, but once again, it shows me that simple is effective.

I guess this is a resolution, but it is a more natural approach to incremental changes. It’s not that there is anything wrong with resolutions, but you and I both know that much on your list has been there for years.  You have made it too difficult.  Okay, you get inspired for a few weeks and then you fall off of the resolution wagon.

Why not try a really simple, realistic approach that will be inviting? My resolve to lighten up has begun with a simple smiley face in the shower. The old me would have thought: Why are you so hard on yourself? Lighten up, damn it!  Hmmm… not very inviting.

I do have a goal of joining an improvisation class, but that will take hours of time as they are cross town.  Not an excuse (or is it?) It is on my list, but if I wait until I sign up for classes to do this, I would be in the same place I was a week ago.

Think about your resolutions.  What simple, simple, action can you take to move in the direction you want to go?  Make it so simple that you think it is no big deal at all.  I would love to hear what you picked.

If you have picked wanting to take charge of your life because you are  overwhelmed by stress and pain, your simple action would be to set up a complimentary call with me to get a quick taste of your own no B.S. solution.  It is that simple!  >>

Remember, keep it simple.  Who knows, for me it might be that my smiley face will wear an earring tomorrow! 🙂  What about you?

Warm Regards,

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Stress Buster Tip: What Does no B.S. & Bunny Slippers Have in Common?

EJYjhYn_D3cNsIS0eCI-auTY0t0jQT2YLXghCFuiVIYIt is soapbox time! This newsletter will contain two parts. Since I am a no B.S. blunt coach and trainer that wears big fluffy pink bunny slippers, I will give you a full perspective on a topic that is of upmost concern.
Okay, here goes:

My no B.S. Soapbox:

I run up against this time and time again: Women who are overwhelmed by chronic stress, pain, or illness–they are crashing and want help, yet refuse to put themselves first and take charge of their life. They take care of everyone else, work, run a household, have a serious illness or life challenge and still will not invest the time and money in helping themselves.
They would do it in a heartbeat for their loved one–they even tell me so. I am both saddened and frustrated after hearing about how out of control their life is and how much they want things to improve, yet choose stay stuck in the same spiral. It is a tricky situation–stress and pain is exacerbated when we do not take care of ourselves. We stay in the spiral because the mind is too chaotic to make a clear decision. We are stuck.

The outcome is a slow destruction and deterioration of everything we care about, including our health. We do not see that self care is the most selfless thing we can do–the more you take care of you–the more you have to give.

This might sound harsh, but it is the truth–like it or not.

My Bunny Slipper Compassion:

I have been there, done that until my body imploded with lupus and my anxiety made me not a fun person to be around. No one forced me to put everyone first–I was raised that way, and so were many of you. I had to burn out before I made a decision to learn how to take care of myself.

When I get off the phone with someone whose life is falling apart and they are too scared to take charge of their life, my heart goes out to them. What I realize is this: Like an alcoholic, everyone needs to hit bottom, where it is more painful to stay stuck then to take the risk of putting their wellbeing first. They must see not only what it is doing to them, but the ones they love the most.

Compassion is the key. My hope for any of you in this situation is to do something before stress takes you down. Put your toe in the waters of treating yourself with compassion and begin to take care of you too. It is easy and does not take much time. After all, you deserve it.

If you saying to yourself, “yes Ellen, but my stress is not that bad and has not had an effect on my health”, join me at the Emory 2nd Reward Your Heart event at St. Joseph’s Doctors Center, and hear the truth while having fun–yes, chocolates, yoga, wine, tea, massage, and more ( I always need some enticement.)

I hope I have not offended any of you, and if I have, maybe I have struck a chord of truth. Take a breath, feel your feet on the floor, and without judgment ask yourself what you really want. Do you want to survive, or thrive?

I say, thrive in a life filled with awe, inner calm, play, compassion, and of course chocolate! Why not? After all, this is the only life you have.

Posted in: A Calm Perspective, Physical Wellness, Splash into Calm, This Stuff Works

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Stress Buster Tip: The Truth be told–NO MORE BS!!!

f0TsGdDv5ue6laU8EaxCAvHv5BK8IzhH9Cy0gHEoKDUI treated myself to a marketing/messaging intensive in Bozeman, Montana with the most amazing wordsmith, Stella Orange. This was part of my 60th birthday treat to myself. I was joined by 13 other females who I had never met. It took all of 10 seconds to feel at home among these powerful entrepreneurs, and the experience was life changing.

I learned a lot about messaging, but what made this experience so rich was the personal truth that unfolded. Each one of us was given a half hour “hot seat” to work on whatever messaging or program we chose.

I was working on my program name as I had been told it was too passive (and I am anything but passive!). When I told them I was Custom Calm helping people live a calmer life, especially those dealing with stress, pain, and illness, the group erupted with a resounding- “Calm??? That is hardly how we would describe you!” I must admit, I felt a bit defensive as they did not understand my definition of calm. My response was: “I am kick-ass, no BS in my work and calm-living is the ability to take charge and not allow chaos and reaction take you over–it gives you more of an edge. Calm living in my book is not being all sweet and Zen–it is rolling with the punches of life and having choice of how you want to react.”

As I finished my passionate narrative, they asked me why I was not being true to my beliefs by being passive and “in the box” with descriptions of my work. I am hardly the mainstream, socially acceptable, even keel image that I put out there.

That got me thinking- there was truth in what they were saying. I was not being authentic in who I am because of the fear of being too bold. What I realize is bold and real is what I am and what people need: fearless, realistic, and honest. I never claim to be above what anyone is experiencing and am in the trenches with everyone, doing the best I can.

Why does this have to do with stress? Not living in truth is living life with shackles on, robbing you of the joy of being relaxed in yourself. It causes stress and pain. Many live this way, and it has taken me years to gradually move into who I am and what I believe is true. My children have taught me this lesson so well and I am in awe of their guts.

Now it is time for me to fully step into living my truth in every area of life, because that is the key ingredient in cultivating calm living.

Here goes: My work at Custom Calm and new tag line is (drum roll please):

No BS solutions for stress, pain, and illness.

My commitment as I enter this next decade of life is to be true to myself and let everyone know what I am really about: No BS! That is what makes my work life changing. So, why not say it up front?

Thank you Stella and the gang in Bozeman. I got more than messaging and marketing from this intensive. I got the best 60th birthday present ever: ME!

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