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: 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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What is Your Focus?

Recently a friend relayed this experience:

She was visiting her sibling and enjoys his company very much.  However, there were many other family members to visit and some of them display inappropriate behavior, and have done so for years.  She told me that nothing has changed over the years and by the time she was leaving to go home from an otherwise enjoyable visit, she was sick to her stomach.

When I think about her report of her entire visit, I would say about eighty percent of her visit was great, yet the disturbing experiences are overshadowing the positive experiences.  I venture to say, this is pretty typical of the human condition. 

In my book, I have a few suggestions that can help:

  • I always begin with centering techniques while the situation is going on, but many of us get so caught up in the moment that we forget to take care of ourselves.

 If that has happened, I would suggest the following:

  • It is helpful to review what happened so you can gain some insight. Some questions to ask might be: “What could I have done differently?” “Is there another way to look at the situation?” While reviewing and experience, don’t neglect the fact that there might have been some uplifting moments as well, no matter how insignificant. While the sweet, small events we engaged in are often overshadowed by our upsetting memories, make sure you include them in your review, and then move forward. Even forgiveness is a choice.

It is empowering to realize that you have the ability to shift your perspective.  This review is for you, so go out and enjoy your day—with no indigestion!

Let me know in the comments below how this can apply to your situation.  Are you able to change your focus to the positive experiences or do you get stuck?

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Emotions: Do You Have Them or Do They Have You?

“When you feel yourself in the grip of an emotion such as jealousy or anger or sorrow…take a step back…You can allow the emotion to run through you without causing negative thoughts or actions.”  Gary Zukov

Emotions are part of human nature and they meant to be felt.  The problem arises when we hold onto emotions and become them.

We express how we feel as “I am angry or I am sad”, rather than “I feel angry or I feel sad”.  There is a marked difference between the two.  If you are the emotion, then you have taken on the emotion live in reaction, rather than feeling it and moving on.

When you take a step back and view the situation without layering your emotions and perceptions, then the emotion no longer will have a grip on you.

 You can see with greater clarity and bring yourself back to the here and now.

Let me know in the comments below what your experience has been.  Are you able to take a step back from your emotions, or do you get caught up in them?

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Compassion is the Key

Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival.”  Dalai Lama

 This quote from the Dalai Lama is quite powerful.  One definition of compassion is: Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.

This is a practice of shifting your focus away from our judgments and separateness from others to  seeing the suffering of others, even those who you do not like. 

Relieving suffering is not about fixing anything or forgiving anyone, but showing up to life with openness, kindness, fullness and peace. 

Your presence affects those around you.  When you realize that we are all connected as humans and you can choose to live more peacefully with compassion, rather than allowing your emotions to negatively impact your well being and the wellbeing of others.

Let me know in the comments below if you were able to focus on compassion.  If not, what do you think got in the way?


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