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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Sleep Problems in Adults? Try these 2 Techniques


Recently the CDC sponsored Natural Sleep Awareness Week.  They reported that many of us are sleep deprived and it affects public safety, health and wellbeing. This comes as no surprise as most of us reading this probably have sleep problems.

In my book, I open a chapter about sleep as follows:  Remember the sweet bedtime saying: “Good night, sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite?” Back then, we tightened up because we were on constant alert for the dreaded bed bugs, and this was our good night sendoff!  Today, we still fight off bedbugs, but they have morphed into the constant chatter in our mind, hindering our ability to get a good night’s sleep or to wake up refreshed.

We try many techniques but inevitably our thoughts get in the way.  How can we shut down our thoughts?  The truth is that you cannot force your mind to stop, but you can tame and relax your mind, allowing for a deeper state of relaxation and much needed rest.

Here are a few simple techniques:

This Simple Bed Twist calms your nervous system, massages your internal organs which increases their blood and oxygen supply, and lengthens and twists the spine.

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Try this:

  • Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest.
  • Hold your knees and roll over to the right side, keeping your knees bent at a right angle, and allow them rest on the bed.
  • See if you can have your legs are no lower than the right angle to your torso.
  • Slide your left hand to your waist and allow your elbow to rest back, creating a gentle twist to your spine. If your knees come apart, or if you feel too much pull, place a pillow or your hand between your knees.
  • Rest your head wherever it is most comfortable.
  • Stay here for 2-4 minutes noticing your breath; then change sides.

*If this hurts in any way, come out of the pose. If you have any disc problems or any form of osteoporosis, you must be extra careful as any deep twisting may be counterproductive.

Breath: A few of the many benefits is that breath oxygenates your body and calms your nervous system.

Try this simple Ocean Sounding Breath (it is one of my personal favorites):

  • Place a pillow under your head to slightly tuck your chin.
  • To find the ocean sound, pretend you are fogging a mirror through your mouth and then do it again with your mouth closed. It is the sound that you make when you are trying to whisper to get someone’s attention with no one else hearing you.
  • Gently narrow the back of your throat passages and breathe in and out through your nose. The sound is similar to the sound of a conch shell at your ear, or when you submerge your ears below water. It also reminds me of the sound of Darth Vader’s voice from Star Wars.
  • Once you have the soft ocean sound, make it smooth and steady. You are breathing normally, but with a gentle narrowing at the back of your throat. The key is to listen to the sound of your breath and make it so quiet that only you can hear it, both on the inhale and exhale. Every time you have a thought (and you will), guide your awareness back to the sound of your breath. If you cannot find this sound, do not force it, rather simply listen to your easy breathing.

These two techniques are very effective to help you access a deep state of relaxation.  Even if you still cannot sleep, you will reap the benefits of a calmer body and mind.  Until next time:  Sleep well!

Let me know in the comments below if you tried these techniques.  How did the work?  Were you able to calm your mind a bit more?



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Splash Into Calm: 3 Steps to Ease into Change




It is mid-January and we have set some goals for the upcoming year. Our calendars are already filled with all sorts of plans and many of them create new beginnings; however, there is one significant element that we seem to overlook: feelings. The familiar feelings of stress and anxiety crop up when we least expect them, even during happy times. In fact, they can accompany all of our other emotions and distract us from fully experiencing what is in front of us.

The following quote by Leo Buscaglia sheds light on this concept: Change is life. Without change there would be no growth, no understanding, no relating, and no surprises. We are by nature changing beings. Still we seem to fear and resist it more than any other aspect of life.”

We undergo many changes: graduations, weddings, anniversaries, new jobs, divorces, deaths, illnesses, and more. Each phase of life-change brings growth, discomfort, and opportunity. Yet, we resist these changes because we are creatures of habit. We are comfortable with how things are. We want our children to stay adorable, looking up to us like we are perfect in every way. (Oops, my mistake—this is not a fantasy book!)

So it is with every aspect of living, not only the big events. There will always be an ending and a new beginning, and every change impacts everyone involved. Since nothing stays stagnant and we should not get too attached to anything. But we do; we continue to resist the changes and when we finally let go we leave claw marks behind. No matter how tightly we hold on, change is guaranteed.

Many situations in life do not go as planned, and the struggle is painful. When the familiar ends and the new has not yet emerged, we are in the hallway in between, and it is not comfortable. At times it feels as if we will remain there forever.

Our minds’ reaction to this discomfort wreaks havoc on our physical and emotional state. We see no end in sight because we have convinced ourselves that it will never change. But in the course of life, change happens, both positive and negative.

When things are going well, we want life to remain as it is. When things aren’t going well, we want them to shift. Just like in Dr. Seuss’ classic book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, the path is filled with constant changes and it is helpful to remember that even the good things will ebb and flow.

Each moment brings change; as the moment passes a new moment emerges. Each and every breath is a new breath. Everything has a beginning, a crest, and an end—emotions, thoughts, sensations, events, breaths, and life itself. All of these things are constantly changing in a wavelike movement. We tend to focus on the most intense part and often get stuck there. When you look at an ocean wave, it begins with a calm assent and slowly climbs until it crests, then loses momentum and disappears.

We have the ability to observe this wavelike movement when our attention is in the present moment. This will reduce our judgment about whether what is happening is good or bad, right or wrong—it is simply a moment-to-moment experience. Observing the waves of change inherent in life is an exquisite process and to resist it might keep you from seeing new opportunities.

Let’s begin to cultivate the awareness of the changes within the wave with something simple, such as transportation.

  • Focus on the movement of your car, bicycle, bus, subway, skates, boat, or any other vehicle you are in. Each movement begins, accelerates, slows, and stops. Notice the wavelike motion contained in the entire process.
  • As you practice, notice if your mind is drifting away from what is happening. If so, become aware of your thoughts and bring your attention back to the moment-to-moment movement.
  • This is an invitation to begin to cultivate the concept of a wave. Have fun with this exploration and keep an open mind.

The constant nature of change can offer us comfort because it represents something certain in life. When you really digest this fact, you will have an easier time rolling with the ups and downs inherent in your day. Whether it is traffic, a hot flash, a celebration, an illness, or loss, you can count on this simple phrase: This too shall pass . . . I guarantee you, it will.

Let me know in the comments below how you deal with change.  Can you begin to notice the wave in change?


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Splash Into Calm: Ride the Wave!


This is my final blog post of 2012, and I would be remiss if I did not share this valuable concept that will significantly improve your life.  When you know how to  ride the waves of stress and pain, you will shift from knee-jerk reactions to calm responses.

Everything contains a wave—there is a beginning, a crest, and an ending. Our entire life is a wave: you are born, you peak, and eventually die. It is the same with breath, sound, sensation, thought, hot flashes (yes, there is an end), emotions, and fatigue.

Riding the wave is a foundational concept in many arenas, because it is based in awareness, not reaction.

When you learn to track the wave, your attention remains in the moment-by-moment experience, rather than on your reactions. Riding the wave of stress is essential to transforming it. When we have a stressor in life, there is the actual problem we are dealing with, but then we layer our thoughts, feelings, and emotions upon it, setting off a spiral of anxiety.

How do you take the emotional charge out of your experiences? The answer is simple, but not easy—you stay aware of every part of the occurrence. In other words, you track what is happening and when you do this, it diffuses your focus and takes the personalization out of it, as if you were reporting the news or weather.

Let’s use a meteorologist’s report as an example: There will be rain and thunder tomorrow . . . oh my God, I was supposed to have my house painted . . . oh boy, now I have to reschedule and that is a real painI am so mad, my day is ruined! This is how it would be if the reporter layered his emotions upon his report. (Hmmm, it could make the weather report quite entertaining). In actuality, the weather report is based on specific information (at times, misinformation), not feelings. I do not promise that it will not rain, but I can assure you that it is your reaction that propels the storms of your life, not actual events.

To begin to learn how to ride the wave of your reactions and thoughts try this:

  • Focus your attention on the problematic situation and watch it without taking it personally, the way you would watch a weather report.
  • As you watch, notice what is happening. Become aware of your thoughts—this includes your emotions and feelings as they arise from thoughts.
  • Follow the wave of thought, without any opinions and judgments. Notice its beginning, middle, and end.
  • Continue to do this with each thought.

 To begin to cultivate riding the wave of sensation, try this:

  • To begin with, avoid classifying your feeling as “pain.” Instead, say “sensation.”
  • Find a place in your body where you notice sensation.
  • Without using words to judge it or categorize it, simply track it and notice what you are feeling. For example, it might be a burning sensation that shifts into stinging or throbbing. It might move down your leg and pulse or feel hot or cold.
  • Describe it factually, as if you were reporting the weather.
  • Notice the sensation from the onset, to the crest, and through to its decline. You might have many sensations but each of them has movement when you really pay attention, even chronic sensations.
  • You can softly direct your breath into the area you notice.

The efficacy of this technique is based on evidence and as I said earlier, it is life-changing. You are in charge of shifting your reactions and it is not through force, but through your own awareness. Practicing this will save you from the negative consequences of stress and pain. I admit it takes time to integrate this practice, but it is worth the commitment. Imagine a life where stress and reactivity take a back seat to your full participation in a happier, healthier life. Ride the wave and guarantee yourself no wipeouts

Let me know in the comments below how you think this concept can help you.  Give it a try in the next week and let me know what happened.

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Splash Into Calm: The Truth About Stress


Stress is a fact of life, both in happy and challenging times.  The recent shootings in Newtown, Connecicuct has brought about much fear, anxiety, loss, anger and grief thoughout the country.  This is an extreme situation where stress is prevalent, yet many of us live with fear and anxiety on a daily basis.  How can we help ourselves so our emotions do not impact our physical and emotional wellbeing?  Throughout my book, I offer many simple practices and I will highlight two simple techniques to help guide you back to the moment so stress does not take you over.

 Martin Rossman, a clinical instructor at the University of California, San Francisco, Medical School talks about stress as he explains:

 “People under harmful stress lose the ability to re-engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which drives the body’s day-to-day natural functions, including digestion and sleep. While individuals vary in how long they can tolerate chronic stress, research shows it sharply increases the risk of insomnia, chronic disease, and early death.”

 Kelly Kinsella has a one-woman show called When Thoughts Attack, and she’s getting rave reviews because so many people relate to her message. I know most of us have plenty of material to write a sequel (probably an entire series), which makes me wonder why it is so difficult to calm our crazy mind.

 We try to be proactive through yoga, massage, meditation, and exercise so we are familiar with feelings of relaxation and stability, but before we know it we are blindsided by anxiety. Taking time for classes is helpful, but sooner or later we must go about our day. There are times we need a life preserver before we drown in the reactions of our mind. We need a few quickies that we can count on to get immediate results.

Many universities have added yoga as a course for freshman. They are using yoga as a way to help students with stress and time management. The practice helps them prepare to handle the lifelong challenges of stressful situations. I venture to say that many of us would not need the information here if we had taken this course when we were eighteen. Unfortunately, yoga is associated with difficult poses, but what it really teaches is flexibility in managing daily life.

Here are a few ways to achieve instant relaxation; these exercises have saved me on a daily basis:

Find Your Mountain

A mountain is sizable, stable, and majestic. It maintains consistency, even with the change of seasons and weather. The landscape on the mountain might alter, but the mountain remains solid. (You can equate this to a bad hair day!) Even if the mountain is judged in some way, it does not crumble or whine. You must remember that you have the qualities of a mountain, even when you are in the grip of tension or storms in your life.

 At work, there are times that we need to get centered quickly but it must be unapparent to others. (So, getting on the floor in your business suit is off the list.) If you are on your way into an important meeting, finding your solid, secure, calm self is just beyond the surface of your thoughts.

 Try this:

  • Stand with your feet solidly in the floor.
  • Feel the contact of your feet to the surface beneath you.
  • Bring to mind the image of the mountain and the attributes it embodies.
  • Take a close look at its solid structure: the sides, the top, the landscape.
  • Take a few breaths while feeling the weight of your feet tethered into the earth.
  • Now, imagine you are that mountain; regal, centered, and empowered, and take that into your day.

If you are not one for visualizations, then simply feel the attributes that the mountain embodies and draw those feelings within.


I focus on breath often and there are many different practices to choose from. The following counting breath will quickly foster a calm mind:

  • Begin to notice your breath moving in and out through your nose.
  • Start to count the number of seconds it takes you to inhale, without forcing the breath in any way.
  • Count the number of seconds it takes you to exhale, without forcing the breath in any way.
  • See if you can even out the breath on the inhalation and exhalation.
  • Count the breaths between 4 to 8 rounds.

Remarkably simple and incredibly effective, this technique can be done anywhere, anytime.

 Think of these simple techniques as a quick zap to your “attacking thoughts.” They are free and do not require any change of clothes and do not hurt (sorry for those of you who live by the no pain, no gain philosophy). They can be done anywhere and take less than three minutes. Now that’s a deal!

 Give these simple, quick techniques a try or any technique from a previous blog post and let me know in the comments below what happened.  Were you able to quiet your thoughts?

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Splash Into Calm: Enjoy the Holiday Season

The holiday’s are upon us and whether you celebrate the holidays or not, your comfortable, well-paced routine is thrown by the wayside. Stress is a fact of life and during this time of year it is magnified by the increase in commitments both at home and work. We find that even the fun and exciting times in life are stressful. The question is: How do we experience it all and diminish the symptoms of anxiety and fatigue that surface? Let’s look at a two common issues and how you can intervene and throw yourself a life preserver.


Unless you sit in your house and order every gift and grocery item on the Internet (a good thought, but not practical), you will have to venture out and spend time shopping. Let’s begin with the mall or any department store. (In case of emergency overwhelm, check for the nearest exit when you arrive!) You walk in and are inundated with decorations and crowds, which can feel quite intense. With it all, there is an opportunity to participate in the holiday spirit and your success will be determined by where your attention lies. You have a few options: You can either try to muscle you way through and get your shopping over with (this imparts a Grinch-like attitude), or you can slow down and enjoy the process. The reality is, resistance is futile—you will wait in line or bump into others whether you want to or not, so why not go with the flow? Let me be clear, slowing down does not mean passing up partaking in holiday events. What it means is that while you are participating, you are present.

Last month one of the topics discussed was mindful eating. Now let’s focus on mindful shopping. Rather than rushing through your shopping, take a moment to stand still and look at the decorations, people, colors, and designs. You can take a minute to consider the process of making the products, the abundance of the earth, the talent of creative minds, and the intelligence of business people and logisticians to get the products to us. There is so much happening around us that can be uplifting if we allow ourselves to become immersed in the experience.


When you finish your shopping, you go to meet a friend for lunch. In the frenzy of the crowded parking lot, you have forgotten where you left your vehicle. Even the wreath and reindeer antlers you attached to your car are of no help! You try your key fob but you are too far away to hear the gentle beep you are listening for. Your enjoyable outing ends with frustration and frenzy as you look for a security guard to help you out. Sound familiar? I was watching a show on memory and the host said that anyone’s memory can improve. As they showed one technique, I realized that a lot of what they were talking about was paying close attention. Only in the moment can you stay aware of what is happening around you. (Okay, writing it down helps too.) When you park the car, you are already thinking about what you need to do next and you are on your way, before even looking at markers that will tell you where your car is.

The following practice helps me when I am out and about:

• Get out of the car.

• Stand still and take a breath.

• Look around and find something that will remind you where you are parked (another car would not be a good idea) and bring your focus to that reminder for a few seconds.

• Walk toward you destination and notice where you are and what you are passing as you do this.

• If you are taking an elevator from a parking deck, notice which side the elevators are on, which direction you turned and where you are entering.     You can use this technique throughout your day.

The key is to stay present with what you are doing at that moment. It takes time to make this shift, so start with easy things, like your coffee mug or cell phone. (These are my top two.)

This season will go so much smoother when you take pleasure in shopping, you easily locate your car, and indulge in some down time. My wish for you is to embody the themes of Christmas and Hanukah (as well as the chocolate). Give birth to a relaxed way of being and enjoy the miracle inherent in sharing your inner light with everyone around you. It is the gift that keeps giving. Happy Holidays!

Let me know in the comments below if you had the opportunity to try these simple changes. Were you able to try some mindful shopping? If so, did it make a difference?

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Splash Into Calm: Digesting Experiences

The holiday season is officially here. The past two blogs have focused on the food we eat.   You would be shortchanged if I didn’t dive deeper into what I feel is paramount to living a happy, fulfilling life. It is our capacity to digest, assimilate, comprehend, and shape our experiences

Our lives, are affected by our perceptions, judgments, and behavior toward those who disturb us. The real problem arises when our attitude limits our ability to live a peaceful and centered life. It is part of the human condition, so if you are human you probably partake in some of these attitudes. Please do not berate yourself (or go into denial). Take this as an invitation to become conscious of thoughts you might not even know you have.

Every tradition offers help with this challenge. The yoga texts have some relevant philosophy and I broach this subject now because this time of year we need a little extra help. I usually introduce this concept to my students right before Thanksgiving and it is greatly appreciated.

The teaching tells us that the agitation in our mind stems from our thoughts and opinions of others. Most people we meet fall into four categories and when we cultivate certain positive attitudes toward them, our state of mind will remain calm and undisturbed.

Let’s take a close look at the four attitudes:

Attitude #1: Cultivate friendliness toward the happy

Some people we know are happy about their successes and are filled with excitement and joy. However, before we know it, even as we are congratulating them, jealousy creeps in. This disturbs our state of mind, especially if we want for ourselves what they have attained.

Shifting your attitude to open up to their joy and celebrate their happiness can fill you up, leaving you feeling calm and centered. Next time you feel uneasy around someone’s happiness, take a breath and notice what is bothering you. Then bring yourself back to the moment and make the choice to shift your thoughts to an attitude of friendliness and happiness toward their success.

Attitude #2: Cultivate compassion for the unhappy

This one seems easy when we first look at it. Of course we are compassionate toward others who are not happy. However, we have all encountered people who are whiny and annoying and at times we would like to shake them and tell them to chill out! It is easy to get frustrated and judgmental toward those individuals.

 When you find yourself feeling impatient with someone who is unhappy, even if their behavior is inappropriate, take a breath and look beyond the behavior and practice compassion even if you do not feel compassionate. Recognize that those who are unhappy and negative are not at peace; realize how difficult and painful it must be to live that way.

Your shift in attitude from annoyance to compassion will calm your mind. Open up to looking beyond others’ discontent and your judgment will slip away. Remember, you can act with compassion while taking care of your needs around a negative, unhappy person. You will know you behaved with kindness and it will ripple throughout your day.

Attitude #3: Cultivate delight in the virtuous

I am sure you have come across a person who is quite intelligent or talented, or a wonderful athlete well-respected by others, or someone who might be generous and kind. No matter what positive qualities a person might possess, there are times when envy will set in as their mere presence makes us feel “less than.” We try to find something about them to pull them down a notch. We might not even realize we do this, but subtle negative thoughts often surface.

This thinking only disturbs your state of mind. To help foster a peaceful mind, cultivate appreciation, and take pleasure in others’ virtuous qualities.  Try to find delight in people you might envy by noticing their good qualities and consider cultivating those aspects within yourself.

Attitude #4: Cultivate disregard toward the wicked

We have all come in contact with those who are rude, disrespectful, or downright mean. Why wouldn’t we become defensive and judgmental? After all, we would never behave that way!

These people disturb our state of mind and emotions. It is helpful to keep a few important concepts in mind:

  • Remember that you have had times when your behavior was inappropriate and harmful toward others.
  • Do not take the person’s behavior personally, even it is directed toward you. They did not wake up that morning and specifically pick you out to be rude to, even if it feels that way. Keeping this distance helps you ignore the behavior of others, which will make your life much more serene.
  • Keep your focus on your feelings and responses, not theirs. That is the one thing you can control.

Keep in mind that this practice if for you. You are cultivating a more peaceful, joyous way of living with the capacity to digest your life experiences with a new perspective.

This holiday season, see if you can put the person you are struggling with in one of these four categories. Were you able to cultivate any of the attitudes? Did your state of mind change? Let me know in the comments below.

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Splash Into Calm: Thankgiving

Let’s look at the holiday where food is in the forefront—Thanksgiving. When we think about the Thanksgiving holiday there are a few aspects to be investigated: physical digestion, gratitude, and Native American culture. This excerpt from  Splash Into Calm sheds some light on the subject.


We already looked at mindful eating last week, so let’s broaden our scope and include another cause of digestion issues. The Wall Street Journal’s March, 2009 article in New Health Journal addressed the effects of stress on our digestion.

L. Edwards, director of the Behavioral Chronic Pain Management program at Duke University Medical Center, said: “Now, we recognize that what happens in the brain affects the body and what happens in the body affects the brain.” The article goes on to say:

The digestive tract has its own extensive system of nerve cells lining the esophagus, stomach and intestines—known as the gut brain—that are extremely sensitive to thoughts and emotions. That's what creates the feeling of butterflies in the stomach. When anxiety persists, it can set off heartburn, indigestion and irritable-bowel syndrome, in which the normal movement of the colon gets out of rhythm, traps painful gas and alternates between diarrhea and constipation.

This is not a pretty picture, but it is the truth. I realize that most of us acknowledge that stress has an effect, but it is greater than we imagine.  Stress produces tension in our internal organs, decreasing their oxygen supply. This directly influences our ability to take in nutrients from food. The more oxygen that is absorbed in our internal organs, the healthier they are. We definitely want to keep our internal organs happy!

All of the techniques and perspectives explored throughout Splash Into Calm help temper stress.  Slow, deep breathing creates movement in your diaphragm that massages your stomach and other organs, increasing oxygen flow and nutrient absorption as well as expediting the elimination of waste.

In addition, yoga practices are beneficial.  Specific yoga poses help with digestion, because they give internal organs a massage, which brings in more blood and oxygen.

 There is a simple yoga pose that helps relieve bloating and gas. It is fondly known as the Wind Relieving Pose. I would recommend waiting at least a half hour after a big meal before practicing this or any form of exercise. It can be done in bed or on the floor.

I will give simple instructions but if you are confused or uncomfortable, wait until you work with a skilled instructor.

  • Lie on your back with your legs together and your lower legs over a blanket or chair; or simply keep your knees bent with your feet side by side.
  • Bring both knees to your chest and bring hands over to the left knee, and replace your right leg back over the blanket or back to the floor. Keep it close to the midline of your body.
  • Leave your right leg where it is and support your left knee with your hands either near your kneecap, or behind the knee crease.
  • Do not pull it in, but relax as you hold it. Keep it pointed toward your left ear. Stay here for a minute or two. Repeat on the other side.


Thanksgiving is essentially about giving thanks (hence the name) but it seems to become a food-a-thon and stress inducer, and the icing on the cake (no pun intended) is the inevitable indigestion. Some families have a tradition of asking each person around the table to share what they are grateful for, which is a nice beginning, but does not go far enough.  Saying what you are thankful for and behaving with gratitude are two different things. This phrase applies: “Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.”  You have the freedom to choose how you view everything in everyone in your life. Gratitude will foster a happier, healthier state of mind. 

Native American Culture

In today’s world there is great concern for our environment and the neglect and disregard it receives. We can learn a lot from the deep respect for Mother Earth and for all of creation embodied in Native American culture.  The Native American term Wankan tanka means “the sacred” or "the divine" and when we ponder the message of Thanksgiving, it is one of gratitude for all that is, all that has been, and all that will be. This is a way of life, the heart and soul, and the spiritual essence of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.  Let me know in the comments below how the practices and perspectives affected your holiday experience.  What is your focus during the holiday?

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Splash Into Calm: Food Glorious Food!

Welcome to Custom Calm blog. Most of the content comes directly from my book, Splash Into Calm.  This theme for November is Digestion and food is at the top of the list.

November marks the onset of holiday celebrations. We spend time with friends, family, or co-workers with a drink in one hand and food in the other, as we simultaneously chat and nibble, unaware of what we are eating and drinking.

Thanksgiving and other holidays revolve around food. We spend hours shopping, cooking, planning, and decorating for the long-awaited feast. We sit down to a plethora of sides, entrees, and desserts, surrounded by friends and family. (Some of whom give you indigestion without taking a single bite!)

Now it is time to eat. We scarf down the food and before we know it we feel boated, uncomfortable, and ready for a nap. What happened? Did we really taste the food or only the first bite? We over-ate without even realizing that we were full.

Many articles about overeating give some insightful solutions. The New York Times ran an article entitled “Mindful Eating as Food for Thought.” It addresses how we can enhance the experience of eating by being aware of the food as well as how the body feels. 

Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the pioneers of mindfulness states “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

The term “mindful eating” seems kind of uninviting, so I will make it a bit more enticing. When you are present with what you are eating you will take delight in your food, eat less, and feel more satisfied. So you are not dieting (do I have your interest now?), but rather enhancing your relationship to food.

Here is an example to illustrate my point:

When I was training with Jon Kabat-Zinn, we participated in 36 hours of silence. This included no music, no eye contact, no shopping, no phones, no writing, no hobbies, or reading (I admit I cheated and read the road signs and t-shirts.) When it came time to eat, I slowly selected my food and arranged it on my plate in a way that appealed to me. I carefully chose a picturesque view and sat down. Every morsel I ate tasted delicious. I could sense the texture, color, aroma, sound, and flavors, immersing myself in the entire process of eating. What I found most interesting was that I became aware that I was getting full and ate less than I normally would.

Eating gives us the opportunity to embrace and savor life. When you are aware of what you are eating, the flavors as well as the entire experience will intensify. Think of it as a form of meditation. (Yes, a new enticement to meditate). If you are dining with another person, and when you are not speaking, take a bite and enjoy it; then resume your conversation.

 Take a few minutes and try this:

·      Pick one type of food that you normally eat. It can be raisins, popcorn, chocolate, or some other snack.

·      Take one piece and first feel the texture in your hand.

·      Look at it on all sides.

·      Smell it and take in the aroma.

·      Now, take it to your lips and take a small bite, without chewing.

·      Sense the flavor, texture, and the effect it is having on you as you roll it around in your mouth.

·      Slowly chew it as you continue to experience the entire sensation associated with what you are eating. Include both your body and mind.

·      Continue to finish the piece of food in this way and notice how you feel.

 Next, try mindful eating at one meal.

·      Close the newspaper and turn off the television, cell phone, and music.

·      Set a place for yourself at the table.

·      When you sit down, first look at your food and engage your senses like you did when you practiced with the snack.

·      Now eat, and know you are eating as you take one bite at a time, while observing the response of your body and mind.

These principles are not easy to incorporate. I don’t expect that many people will always be die-hard mindful eaters, but I invite you to incorporate these principles into your snacking and meals. As you slow down and become a bit more mindful of preparing and eating your food, you will feel satiated in a whole new way. Now that’s some food for thought!

Let me know in the comments below if you were able to try mindful eating.  If you did, how was the experience like? Did you find this easy or challenging?

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Splash Into Calm: Exciting New Blog Format

Welcome to my new Splash Into Calm blog. Stay up to date by "liking" Custom Calm's new Facebook page.

My previous blogs were focused around practical, simple practices, perspective and studies targeting the common issue of stress and pain.  They were a great beginning, and now with the publication of my book Splash Into Calm, I have the opportunity to dive deeper and to offer my readers helpful, concise, uplifting, pertinent posts taken directly from the book.   The book is written in an easy to follow format, based on the calendar year and presented in monthly themes, each having four articles.  The new blog will follow the same inviting format.

To make this blog meaningful and practical, I take a “less is more” approach.  In this complex world, there is a need for simplicity.  That is exactly what Splash Into Calm blog is about—simple, realistic practices and ideas that profoundly enhance your daily living.  My content from my book is communicated in a personal manner, with a bit of humor, sharing my own experiences, as well as those of my clients­­.

The overall theme of my book and posts is the absolute accessibility of calm living. Calm living offers you the ability to embrace each moment of your day. It opens you up to increased joy, spontaneity, and pleasure, because you are aware and alert.  It is a fulfilling and wonderful way to live.

Below are the monthly topics we will explore together:

January:          New Beginnings

February:        Love & Kindness        

March:              Pain & Illness

April:                 Emergence

May:                  Travel

June:                Balanced Living

July:                  Emotions & Relationships

August:            Perspective

September:    Responsibility

October:          Day-to-Day Living

November:     Digestion

December:     Stress

I look forward to offering you tips, food for thought and a community where you feel comfortable sharing your experience and asking questions.  


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