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.

Posted in: Splash into Calm

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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.  


Posted in: Splash into Calm

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My New Book on its Way!

Yes, if is around the corner—my first book is in its final stages.

The entire process reminds me of childbirth.  I am now in labor and I can assure you that it is quite uncomfortable, even painful at times.  The due date of Custom Calm Chronicles first book, Splash into Calm is at the end of August.  As with any estimate due date, we are hoping for an early delivery, but I must wait until it is ready.  This process cannot be rushed. 

In my joy of the upcoming birth of my book, one of my helpful professionals wisely said “after it is born, you have to raise it!”  The reality of this stopped me in my tracks.  Once the book is published, I must market my new infant.  Now the work really begins. 

I will keep you posted on my progress and share some tips from my book.

Custom Calm Chronicles presents material with simplicity.  With that in mind, I have designed a format for this book that is easy to follow.  It is based on the calendar year and presented in monthly themes, each having four articles.  The topics are as follows:

January:  New Beginnings

February:  Heart

March:  Pain & Illness

April:  Emergence

May:  Travel

June:  Balanced Living

July:  Emotions & Relationships

August:  Attitude & Perspective

September:  Responsibilities

October:  Day to Day Living

November:  Digestion

December:  Stress

Look for excerpts in the next few weeks.

I will notify you when I deliver. Until then…take a breath and enjoy life moment by moment.

Let me know in the comments below how the process of achieving something you deemed important felt for you.


Posted in: A Calm Perspective

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Bonnie’s Sleep Improves with Breathing Practices

Bonnie’s Challenges

Bonnie had cancer and suffers with Fibromyalgia.  She is active, but struggles with chronic pain and sleep disturbance.  When I worked with Bonnie, we focused on a variety of breathing practices to help lesson her symptoms and improve her sleep.


What Worked

Bonnie states:

"As someone who has dealt with cancer, I am always looking for ways to minimize my stress level and to try to stay in a more relaxed state of mind. My times with Ellen have been very beneficial for me.  The power of breath is something I knew little about, and through her instruction, I have learned what a valuable tool it is during times of stress.  I have found myself doing the breathing techniques while waiting in a doctor's office. When I used to wake up during the night and couldn't get back to sleep, it meant being exhausted the next day.  Now, I simply do a couple of breathing exercises and am able to go right back to sleep.  Ellen's expertise and soothing manner enabled her to help me find a sense of inner calm that I had been missing in recent years."

What you can learn from Bonnie's Experience

There are simple techniques that sustain you in times of stress and discomfort.  Much of our problems with sleep stem from the busy mind and when you can effectively quite your thoughts, you will enhance your ability to sleep.  Custom Calm techniques work and are accessible to everyone.

Posted in: This Stuff Works

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Meditation or Medication?

There is an ongoing story which has been captivating the attention of many.  Aimee Copeland has been fighting a flesh eating virus that has taken both hands and one leg.  Her story is inspiring.

What I found remarkable was the title and main concept of the most recent article:  “Victim:  No pain meds.  Ga. Woman battling flesh-eating bacteria opts for meditation.” 

Amy had been studying holistic pain management and did not like the effect the pain meds were having on her.

Many might wonder why meditation helps with pain.  It does not make the pain go away, yet it lessens the pain.  There are many types of meditation techniques and how I think it impacts pain is two-fold.

  1. When we quiet our mind we become less reactive, as our focus in within.   There is much evidence that supports the reduction of pain through learning how to ride the wave of pain, rather than judge and react to the sensations.
  2. With practice, meditation can quiet  your mind to the extent that the focus is no longer on the sensation, but it is deep within.  We are aware we have a body and thoughts, yet we are able to get beyond them to the vastness inside.

There are many articles and schools about meditation.   The medical community supports these practices and now refers to them as Complementary.  It is a viable avenue for dealing with stress, pain and illness and accessible to everyone.  

Let me know in the comments below if you have meditated and what your experience was.

Posted in: This Stuff Works

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5 Tips for Effective Stretching

When I go and exercise, I often see some who rush out right after without stretching and releasing tensions that comes with exercising. This is not healthy for your muscles.  Many do not understand that lengthening back out has tremendous value.

When you work out, play golf or any other activity, your muscles are contracting and tightening, which decreases the blood flow into the muscles.

Doing some simple stretches will lengthen your muscles, allowing more blood and oxygen to move through.  They will be elongated and heather.

I cannot give you stretches in a short post, but when you stretch out be mindful of this:

  1. Treat stretching back out as part of your workout and budget the extra time it will take into your practice.
  2. Direct your breath into the area that is tight.
  3. Have something to support you while stretching so you do not have to effort.
  4. Do not overstretch where you feel pain- you cannot relax into pain and you will intensify the tension.
  5. Stay with the stretch for a few breaths and allow the muscles stretching to release.

Let me know in the comments below how this worked.  Did you find yourself being able to relax into the stretch?  Did you breathe while stretching?

Posted in: Technique of the Week

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This Too Shall Pass…

This phrase is core to Twelve Step Recover programs and is one of my favorites. It reminds me that nothing stays as it is.

When things are not going well,  the mind has us believing that it will never end.  When faced with illness, pain or addiction it is easy to forget that it will change, even in a small way.

This has shown up for me as I have been in pain for a few weeks.  When I remind myself of this truth, I take a breath and bring myself back to the present where each and every moment is slightly different.

When things are going well and we want things to remain as they are it is helpful not to get too attached. Eventually there will be a shift and when it does remember that even the good things will ebb and flow. 

Knowing that nothing is constant is quite freeing.

When we live in the moment we are experiencing it all and there really is no expectation about what is happening is good or bad, right or wrong.  All we can count on is:  This too shall pass… 

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

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Wall Street Journal: Your Problem is Stress

The Wall Street Journal's March, 2009 article in new Health Journal addressed the effects of stress.

L. Edwards, director of the Behavioral Chronic Pain Management program at Duke University Medical Center:  "Now, we recognize that what happens in the brain affects the body and what happens in the body affects the brain. 

The article address:

Pain:  Psychological stress can turn into physical pain and illness in a number of ways. The muscles tense up, the digestive tract slow down, blood vessels constrict and the heart beat faster.

Digestion:  The digestive tract has its own extensive system of nerve cells lining the esophagus, stomach and intestines. 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.

Immune System:  Stress also creates biochemical changes that can affect the immune system, making it underreact to viruses and bacterial infections, or overreact, which can set off allergies, asthma and skin disorders like psoriasis and eczema. And stress can raise the level of inflammation in the body, which has been associated with heart disease.

The article supports: "tools to try to manage the situation" and this is the focus of Custom Calm.  The practices are life changing.

Posted in: This Stuff Works

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Helen is an Attorney Living with Stress

Helen’s Challenges

I am an attorney, teacher and mother and grandmother, and life is stressful.  I was looking for ways to reduce my stress level.  I want both my body and mind to be more flexible, particularly as I age.

What Helen Tried

I had been to yoga classes before and did enjoy them, but nothing seemed to shift in my daily life.  I was looking for more.   

What Worked

What I love most about the Custom Calm yoga practice is kindness and its consistency.  Every posture helps to release my spine from tension without causing pain or discomfort.   Each Custom Calm teacher is trained to support the student’s individual progress and recognize the student’s needs.  The basic postures are simple and effective; the philosophy that frames the sessions is equally so.

Ellen is a devoted practitioner and gifted teacher of the postures and spiritual principles.  She continually deepens her own practice and understanding through intensive training periods and retreats.  With her own students she inspires because what she teaches is so well grounded in her life.

Practicing for the last five years, I have become more flexible and less brittle in the storms of my life, more tranquil with my children, more patient with my associates.  I take better care of myself, give more easily, relax more quickly, and remember more often to keep my head in line with my heart.

What you can learn from Helen’s Experiences

You do not need to wait until life gets out of control to make changes.  There are practices that can be done to help get more enjoyment out of relationships.  The Custom Calm practices helped Helen on much more than the physical level and are easy to integrate into daily living.

*Last name has been left off for anonymity.

Posted in: This Stuff Works

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Embrace Life, Live Mindfully

“Much of human misery is caused by the fact that we live our lives mechanically, never properly attending to what it is to be alive.”   -Georgei Guridieff

This powerful quote sums up what all great traditions refer to when they speak about awakening.

To be awake means to be completely conscious, to be aware of yourself and your surroundings.

 So, what really is mindfulness?   Mindfulness is the non-judgmental awareness of the moment.

The core point here is non-judgment.  Think about it- when we judge, where is that judgment coming from?  It comes from our experiences and those experiences are from the past.  It comes from our mind. 

In the moment, you are present to what is happening and when you are present, you are not thinking about situations or sensations that cause stress or pain.  This is the ultimate practice.  You begin to embrace your experiences and there is a deep freedom and sense of aliveness that comes with that.

Do you live life in the moment?

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

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