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.

Posted in: Splash into Calm

Leave a Comment (0) →

Mood Swing

The past few days I have woken up in a funky mood.  After trying to figure out the cause, I came up empty. Rather than going into “analysis-paralysis” I decided to stay with it and just notice how I felt. 

I went on with my day, beginning with a yoga practice followed by meditation.  When I finished my mood was a bit better but still felt kind of low.

I thought about a recent article I read about at 93 year old giving tips on living a longer, happier life.  She uses curiosity, optimism, humor and a cheerful greeting.  Her attitude inspired me to make a few simple decisions:

  • Let go of analyzing the situation.
  • Open up to enjoying my day-it is all I have.
  • Notice the simple things–I focused on the foliage with curiosity.
  • Smile, even though I did not really feel happy at that moment.
  • Choose to be grateful for my life.

Let me know in the comments below how make a shift in attitude.  What do you do when your mood needs a boost?

Posted in: Technique of the Week

Leave a Comment (0) →

Why Me?

I have heard this question asked when facing painful experiences.  My answer is always, why not? This is the harsh reality and I in no way want to seem heartless.  I think that when we realize that it is not personal, even when it feels that way, we can take a bit of space needed when in the midst of a difficult situation.

After settling into what challenges you have been presented with, then you have a choice on how you want to live life.  In my work I meet many people that are living with cancer and other serious challenges.

I see the difference in those who live an attitude of empowerment and those who live as a victim of their circumstances. 

Viktor Frankl spent 3 years in various concentration camps during World War II.  We can learn from his inspiring words:  Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. 

No matter what we are living through, there is always choice in the attitude we bring to our day.  Embrace each day as best you can and you will be surprised at how life unfolds.

Let me know in the comments below how you view the challenges in your life?

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

Leave a Comment (0) →

Baby Steps to Change

I am continually amazed at how simple practices can make a difference to our state of mind.  The only problem seems to be our willingness to sit down for a few minutes and practice.

It seems that even when we want to change our attitudes and outlook on life, we still resist the techniques that will help us. I have a client like this and I often wonder what he does not do what he pays me to teach him. It is our nature to like what is familiar to us- there is safety, consistency and comfort even if it is something that is hinders our ability to enjoy life and move forward.

When we are stuck, we need to become honest with ourselves.  Even though we know that life is not how we like it, do we really want to commit to doing what is necessary to change?  If the answer is no, then take the pressure off of yourself and when and if you are ready, then you will begin.  

If you have even the slightest willingness the most effective way to set yourself up for success it to keep it simple.  Years ago I watched a comedy called “What About Bob?” It was about a person who was trying to improve his life, but fear kept getting in his way. The theme of the movie was to take baby steps.  For some reason, that stuck with me as a necessary ingredient for new behavior.

What do you think stops us from doing what we need to improve?  Let me know in the comments below.

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

Leave a Comment (0) →

1 Solution to Caregiving Challanges

Lately I have spoken with many who are caring for a sick loved one or aging parent.  There is one thing that they all have in common:  They deeply care and love the one who is struggling.

We want to fix the situation or make them see how they can help themselves, with no avail.  We wonder why they will not do what they need to do- we know if they did, they would feel some relief.  We get frustrated, angry, depleted and sad and try again and again to get them to do what is needed.

The one thing we need to remember is that we are absolutely Powerless over the other person.

It is their life and their path and nothing we do or say will change them.  The only thing we can do is to remember that we are powerless and once we know this, we can let go of what we want them to do, lighten up and meet them where they are at.  Your shift in attitude will empower you and your relationships.

Let me know in the comments below how realizing you are powerlessness can help you.

Posted in: Technique of the Week

Leave a Comment (0) →

Why Would You Want to Kill Time?

I hear the term “killing time” and I always wonder why anyone would want to kill time, when that is life going by. 

It is our perception that what is happening at the moment is not worth our time.

Usually we are waiting for something and have time to spare before the next activity. Learning to get still and be at ease with waiting will bring us back to the moment, giving us the opportunity to fill up and reconnect with ourselves.  Even a few breaths can make a difference.

Time goes by no matter what the event.   All we have is this day and when we are able to embrace whatever we are doing with the same interest as those activities we enjoy, we get so much more out of life.

Next time you want to kill time remember that time is all we have.  Savor each moment and enjoy!

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

Leave a Comment (0) →

Meditation: An Attitude Adjustment

The purpose of meditation is to relax the body and quiet the mind. Think of your mind as a jar full of liquid.  If you keep pouring more in it will overflow, making a big mess. 

First we need to clear our thoughts so we have an empty vessel to reset our attitudes and outlooks.

Meditation is simple, but not easy.  Simple, because all you do is concentrate on a single point to focus.  Not easy, because the minute you try to quiet your mind, you see just how crazy it is!

Every morning, try this for a few minutes:

  1. Get in a comfortable position- it can be a chair, the floor, or the bed (dangerous as you will probably meditate yourself to sleep!)
  2. Focus on your breathing, without changing it in any way- simply notice you are breathing
  3. Find the most noticeable part of your breathing cycle: For example-The expanding and relaxing of your belly, the breath moving in and out through your nose, or your full breathing cycle.
  4. Keep focused on that area.
  5. If your mind gets busy, gently and kindly guide it back to focusing on your breath.
  6. Practice this daily and work your way up to 5 minutes. 
  7. Keep practicing, even if you do not think it is helping.  I promise, it will!

Let me know how this worked for you.  If you did not even try to do it, what do you think is stopping you?

Posted in: Technique of the Week

Leave a Comment (0) →

Calm Your Mind: Attitude #4

Your mind has a life of its own and is the culprit of much frustration and physical tension.

We have previously explored three attitudes, that when cultivated will help calm agitated thoughts. 

They were:

  1. Friendliness toward the happy.
  2. Compassion for the unhappy.
  3. Delight in the virtuous.

The 4th attitude is what I perceive as the most challenging: Disregard toward the wicked.

When we run into people that are rude or mean, we usually get our guard up and judge or get angry.

To retain our undisturbed state:

  • Remember that you have had times when your behavior was inappropriate and harmful. 
  • Do not take the persons behavior personally, even it is directed toward you. Keeping this distance helps you ignore the behavior of others which will make your life much more peaceful.
  • Their behavior might not change, but your response makes all the difference to your well- being.

Give this a try next time you encounter someone who is behaving cruelly or inappropriately.  Let me know in the comments below how your state was and if you were able to make the shift to disregard their behavior.

Posted in: Technique of the Week

Leave a Comment (0) →

Calm Your Mind: Attitude #3

Cultivating a change in our attitudes unlock the mind from the inner obstacles that create agitation.  The keys to the locks are in these four practices.

In previous posts I have focused on the first two:

  1. Friendliness toward the happy
  2. Compassion for the unhappy

The third is:  Delight in the virtuous

What this is talking about is that to help the mind, we need to appreciate others virtuous qualities rather than trying to pull them down.

Others might be extremely giving  or knowledgeable in ways that make you feel “less than” and we envy them and are critical rather than complimentary.

The practice of taking delight in another would be to look at their qualities with the possibility of cultivating them within yourself.

Focus on their kindness, generosity or whatever quality they display and practice emulating it.

Give this a try and let me know in the comments below what happened.  If you could not find delight, what do you think got in the way?

Posted in: Technique of the Week

Leave a Comment (0) →

Calm Your Mind: Attitude #2

Helping the mind remain calm and undisturbed is a lifelong practice. Often our thoughts are agitated from our reactions to other people.

A chapter in the yoga texts focuses on four categories of people and how cultivating certain attitudes will help.

Focus #2:

Cultivate attitude of:  Compassion for the unhappy

This one seems easy when we first look at it.  Of course we are compassionate for others who are not happy.  However, when we are around people that we find annoying and whining, are we able to be merciful toward them?

It is easy to get frustrated and judgmental with those individuals.  

Next time 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.

Your mind will be calmer and your attitude might help them feel better about themselves.

Let me know in the comments below how this worked for you.  If you could not practice compassion, what do you think got in the way?









Posted in: Technique of the Week

Leave a Comment (0) →
Page 1 of 2 12