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: 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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Splash Into Calm: New Beginnings & Change

New Beginnings is the title for the month of January, but as I begin this next phase of my work I thought it would be a great focus for this week.

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 blog!

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.

Throughout the process of writing, editing, selling and promoting my book “Splash Into Calm”, I have encountered discomfort as I have stepped into areas of the process that are new to me.  This constant change has given me the opportunity to put one foot in front of the other and continue keep an open mind to experience the full scope of the process, both joyful and frustrating.

When we are receptive to change rather than resist the constant nature of change we find that we learn, grow, and find joy in the process. 

How do you respond to change?   Do you resist?  Are you open to change?  Let me know in the comments below.

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New Blog: “Splash Into Calm”

I have renamed this blog Splash Into Calm, to reflect the title of my upcoming book.

I put a lot of thought into the title and decided on the term “splash” rather than “dive” because in our busy lives, we need simple solutions that are easy, playful, and quick to apply. 

Stress is a fact of life and many of the practices available are effective, but they require a big time or financial commitment.  We are not able or willing to add yet another item on our to-do list.  Even something that is good for us can create stress.

I am a very practical person and I find that my clients will try something if I tell them to give it a three  or four minutes a day.  That is realistic for them and they usually follow through and begin to see the calming benefits of a short and simple technique.

Each week I will highlight a different aspect of “splashing around in calm” and how that impacts daily living.  Stay tuned.

Let me know in the comments below if there is a topic you would like to hear about and I will bring some perspective and direction that is practical and approachable.

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Change: Easier Than You Think

I come across many individuals who are trying to lower their stress levels.   We all know that there are many consequences of stress on the body and mind, and we want a life where stress does not take us over.

I was having lunch with a friend that has been in physical and emotional pain stemming from her responsibility of caregiving her elder parents.  Her therapist gave her a relaxation CD to follow, which takes about forty five minutes.  I asked her if it was helping, and she sheepishly said no-she could not seem to find the time.  Unfortunately, this response is not uncommon.

I find to make any shift we need the techniques presented in a simple manner that we can employ on our own.  To be successful, it is better to practice each day for five minutes than to try to practice for an hour once a week.  It does not matter how much pain and anguish a person is in—it is human nature to put things off because of the time and money commitment.

My new book, Splash Into Calm fosters success because every centering technique and perspective I teach is short, sweet, and simple. 

We tend to think techniques must be complex for them to be effective.  The truth is, just as a child needs things kept approachable and enjoyable, so do we.

Let me know in the comments below if you have tried techniques for stress and if you regularly practice.  If not, what do you think gets in your way?

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Everything Has a Learning Curve

In the process of writing this book, I feel humbled by the process and complexity of what is involved.  It reminds me that everything we try has a learning curve.  As a baby we learned to walk, then we tackled the bicycle, and as a teen we learned how to drive. They all took time and practice.

 As adults, we tend to resist this natural process and are surprised and even frustrated at the length of time it takes to try something new.  This book has had so many steps that at times I felt overwhelmed.  My feelings stemmed more from how much I did not know, than from the actual process.  I think that this is at the heart of resistance and it perpetuates stress. It is natural to want to feel secure in our knowledge and intelligence, but this need can get in the way of success.  Buddhist philosophy suggests a beginners mind, and that has been helpful to me.  Think about how a child explores something new.  It is with curiosity and excitement.  What a great way to live.

As this book comes to completion (I hope!), I have learned a great deal about all aspects of the process.  I will certainly write another book, if only to amortize the time and money that this book required! 

As with any project, I needed to remember what my wise husband says each time he tackles a new task; project how much time and money you think it will cost and Double It. How true!

What process have you gone through that had a learning curve?  Let me know in the comments below.

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

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Work + Workout

The Atlanta Business Chronicle July 20-26, 2012 cover page sites the importance of movement on employee health.  I agree.

The process of writing my book has brought stress into my body.  Even with taking breaks to stretch out, I notice that I am a bit achy and a little more fatigued.  I know this is from the consequence of sitting for long periods of time.  When I take time to stretch out my body with some simple Custom Calm movements, I reduce the stress caused by sitting.

The report emphasizes the use of “standing desks”, which is a great idea but might not be practical for many.   There are other options to help with long bouts of sitting and Custom Calm yoga stretches offer some quick results.

Work is not the only culprit.  Long road trips are difficult for many, leaving them with low back pain and overall stiffness.  Mush of the problem is that sitting tightens up the area of the hip crease, making it difficult to straighten up.

Try this simple technique to help stretch out your hip crease. This is also effective for those who have limited mobility and use a walker.

  • Stand up and hold onto something on either side with your hands under your shoulders.
  • Stand with your feet hip width apart or narrower, with your feet facing forward.
  • Step your left foot forward and your right foot back the same amount. If this hurts your low back, take a smaller step.
  • Draw your navel in toward your spine, as if you were trying to zip tight jeans. (Not that any of us has ever had to suck in our belly to do this!)
  • While holding onto either side, slowly bend at the hip and knee to bring your left knee over your left ankle (no further), keeping your right heel pressed into the floor.
  • Stand erect. It is important to keep your shoulders over your ribs and your ribs over your hips, not forward of your hips.  Keep your hips square.
  • You will feel a stretch in your back hip crease and maybe into your calf. Remember to pay attention to your body and do not overdo it.
  • Take a few breaths and come back to center, notice the difference and do the other side.

This technique and many more practice tips are throughout my upcoming book, Splash into Calm. It is the first in the Custom Calm Chronicle series.  More details will be coming soon!

Let me know in the comments below your experience with this technique.

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