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: 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: Our Words Impact our Day

I have been planning many book signing events and am faced with an array of tasks that take a good deal of time. Some of them I enjoy and others I find uncomfortable or cumbersome.   Each aspect of the planning of the events is necessary, and I am often faced with the choice of how I want to perceive what I am attending to.

The words or thoughts I use to describe what I am doing have a great impact on my enjoyment of the day.  I address this common issue in my book.  

"There is one thing that seems to prevent your dreams from becoming reality—your mind! Yes, the mind that you count on for advice, intellect, and infinite wisdom often distracts you. You do not even realize what your thoughts say and wonder why, after you have researched, planned, and put in great effort, you still fall back into the old behaviors. You try to take pleasure in your day-to-day living, only to be derailed by your thoughts.

It really does not matter whether you have to run errands, have tickets to a show, or are going on a dream vacation (my personal preference). One common denominator will impact your overall enjoyment—your habitual outlook on life, both in thought and word. Let me give you an example.

I once knew someone who used the word “terrible” to describe everything that she perceived as inconvenient in her life and the lives of others. Terrible can denote something that causes great fear, alarm, or dread; but this certainly does not match the reality of sorting through a pile of newspapers or getting a flat tire!

No matter what is going on in our lives, the language we use has a tremendous power over how much pleasure and satisfaction we bring into our day. Words carry tremendous power."


What kind of words do you use to describe your tasks?  How can you re-frame your language to shift your perceptions?  Let me know in the comments below.

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

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It’s Just a Thought…

There are times that our thoughts take over and our mind gets out of control.  We end up obsessing about people, places and things with no way to stop.  Not only does this take us out of the moment, but it is absolutely exhausts us.

Sometimes we feel guilty about our thoughts.  Remember, a thought is not the same as an action. 

When the mind complicates things, we need a simple antidote to help us. 

Next time your mind gets out of control, try this:

Say to yourself:  It’s just a thought” or “Thinking

This will help bring you back to the moment so you can get centered. You might find you need to remind yourself of this often throughout the day!

Let me know in the comments below how this worked for you.  If it did not help, what do you think got in your way?

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Whatever You Do, Know That You are Doing it

Much of the time we are not present with what we are doing, whether it is a task or a conversation.

In our activities we our body is with us, but that is about it. Our mind is either in the past or future, taking us away from experiencing what is in front of us.  At times it is out of habit and other times it is our choice.  Either way, we are not where our feet are planted. 

Try this:

  • Take a breath
  • Feel your feet on the floor
  • Use your senses:  Focus your eyes on what you are looking at or focus your hearing on your conversation.
  • Truly be with what is happening in the moment and when you drift from the task at hand, take a breath and use your senses to bring you back.

Let me know in the comments below how this worked for you.  Were you able to bring yourself to the moment?  If not, what do you think happened?

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A Thought or Reality?

Definitions of the word think:

  • To have or formulate in the mind.
  •  To reason about or reflect on; ponder.
  • To decide by reasoning, reflection, or pondering.
  •  To judge or regard; look upon.
  •  To believe; suppose.

All of these definitions have one thing in common: They are all filtered through our minds and are layered with our perceptions.

Our thoughts create reactions. Sometimes we feel guilty about our thought, obsess on our thought or believe strongly that our thought is the only way to see things.  No matter which it is, our inner peace is disturbed. 

Our thoughts are not reality.  They come and at some point they pass.

One of my teachers had such a simple solution to help us get beyond taking our thoughts so seriously.

Try this the next time you are obsessing on a thought:   

  • Notice the thought, take a breath and say:  It’s just a thought…

Let me know in the comments below how this worked for you.  Did it help shift you thinking?  If not, what do you think got in your way?

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Trick or Treat? Find out in 5 Steps.

When I hear the phrase trick or treat, it reminds me of how we are often the mind plays tricks on us.

We see through the filters from our personal history, clouding what is really in front of us. Our reactions and decisions are based on this information.

It takes practice to really see what is happening beyond the stories of the mind and when we can do this, we can live with more clarity and ease.

Give this a try:

  1. Look at an unusual object
  2. Say what your immediate perception of the object is (it might remind you of something).
  3. Now, take a look at the object from all angles.
  4. Report what you see without any opinions- just report what is actually in front of you.
  5. Notice what the difference was in your original report and what is actually in front of you.

Let me know in the comments below what you noticed.  Was your original report different?  How do you think you can use this in your daily life?

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It is What it is…


This simple phrase is short, sweet and quite freeing.

Our minds ruminate over things making them complicated, generating a multitude of feelings.

This creates internal chaos, because we see what is happening through our perceptions, layering our judgments, wishes and desires on top of what the reality is.

As we go through our day, situations will arise.  When we are able to see what is truly happening and realize that there is nothing we can do about it, that it just is; we are able to move on.  We can experience the relief of not having to fix it or change it.

When you can do this, you will feel calmer and more centered and free.

Remember- It is what it is… Until it changes!

Let me know in the comments below how you view what happens in your life.  Are you able to let go and move on?  If not, what do you think happens?

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

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Stuck in our Behavior

Definition of Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

If we are hammering something and we continue to smack our hand, we would change how we are hammering, or would we???

In our relationships we do the same thing.  Our approach may not get the results we are wanting, yet we continue to employ them.  It is difficult to change how and what we do, even when it hurts us and others.  This seems to be human nature, and it is not effective.

What happens is our mind gets stuck in our own perceptions of how things should be, leaving no room for other possibilities.  It becomes a good, bad, right or wrong judgment and we perpetuate our behavior.

When we are able to quite our minds we can take a step back and see with more clarity.  Only then do we have a choice to be open and receptive to other options.

Are you stuck in insanity in your life?  Let me know in the comments below.

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Create Your Own Reality

I was having a conversation with an elder and he told me that he was often thinking about past events that impacted his life.  He told me few stories and they were all about wrongs that he felt were done to him. 

This man has had a wonderful long life with so many gifts, yet his focus is on the negative events.

I asked him:  If it was painful when it happened years back, why would you want to continue to re- live the experience over and over again.  It wasn’t fun the first time!

We all have experienced unpleasant situations and often we focus on and remember them more than the pleasant ones.   Our negative experiences stem from either something that was done to us, something that we did, or something that we had no control over.   We perpetuate whatever feelings we had and bring them into the present day. 

Our reality is created by our mind.

 If we would focus on the uplifting and happy events, we would live with more gratitude.This would bubble over into our relationships and experiences, helping us to stay present in the moment, fully participating in our daily life.   We could live with my peace, ease and joy. 

It's our choice.

What do you want your focus to be today?  Let me know in the comments below.

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