Blog

On this page you will find articles, free audio and video, and other resources that may give you tips on working toward healing and growth. Whether you struggle with stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, or addictive behaviors, no matter the struggles you come here with, this is a place for you to get some tips to support you.


How to Mindfully Deal with Difficult People (and Save the World)

There’s a short practice I’ve been doing for a while that is so simple, and yet so impactful when interacting with difficult people. It brings a sense of balance, and perspective in the moment, it’s almost shocking to me. I live in Los Angeles, California which is well known as a city with one of the highest degrees of traffic. If we were to be able to peek into the average LA driver’s brain I think you’d see a hyperactive amygdala and most of the blood flow moving out of the prefrontal cortex. In other words, LA drivers can be a large group of difficult people with emotions and stress running high.

One day while I was driving, I was cut off by some sports car, who seemed to be speeding, and weaving in and out of traffic. My teeth locked together, my shoulders tensed, and what went through my mind is only appropriate on HBO.

In that moment I realized how tense I was, and likely how out of control that driver was. It made me think of all the cars on the road and how many people were very likely tense in their cars too.

That simple recognition sparked the beginning of something important.

My shoulders dropped a bit and the question arose, “What is it that I’m actually needing right now?” The word “ease” came to mind.

So I said…


Feeling Overwhelmed? Here’s Some Wisdom from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Winter, especially after the holidays, can leave us feeling a bit down, overwhelmed, and stressed. When we’re in that state of mind, we tend to see things through a negative lens which, if left unchecked, can result in us getting caught in what I call a “depressive loop.”

If we look toward the future with a negative lens it can really sap our motivation to make any progress toward a more fruitful and positive future. After all, if we’re anticipating the worst, what’s the point in even trying? This is major fruit for procrastination too.

Feeling depressed also lights up the avoidance circuits in the brain. Thoughts like “What’s the point?” or “Who cares?” arise and we experience a feeling of disengagement from life.

Mindfulness is about being aware of the lens we’re wearing when looking at life so we can be more intentional. It allows us to take a step back and acknowledge that these negative thoughts of ours are just that – thoughts, NOT facts.

In my book, Uncovering HappinessI explore a handful of natural anti-depressants that live within every one of us. Martin Luther King, Jr. also had some wise words for us about this:

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”

This piece of wisdom has been shared in so many different ways. Perhaps the most famous being “The longest journey begins with a single step,” which was attributed to Lao Tzu.

Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and barraged by negative and unhelpful thoughts, try keeping MLK’s or Lao Tzu’s words in mind.

Let’s face it – there are times where it’s a success to simply take a shower or get out of bed. That is a single step. And it’s important to recognize it when you make one.

For example, I occasionally ride a single speed bike over a hill in my neighborhood. There is a substantial difference in how I feel about the act when I do it while looking up at the hill in front of me, engaging thoughts of disbelief at how much of the hill there is left to go versus when I’m simply focused on moving one pedal at a time (I time the pedals with my breathing). When I focus on the individual pedal movements, it seems like much less effort and I’m at the top of the hill before I know it!

Focusing on that single step makes situations seem less daunting and can motivate you toward action so you get the engines going again, which is sometimes all it takes to free yourself from the depressive loop that we’ve all been stuck in at some point.

Dr. King also said:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

So, take a leap of faith that your thoughts aren’t facts, remember to breathe, and take that first step back into engaging your precious life. This is an act of self-love. Always be on the lookout for what might be good, right now. In the end, you’re likely to be thankful you did.


3 Steps to Making Change Stick

 

Whether we like it or not, this time of year cues our minds to reflect and think about habits we want to change. If you’re reading this, odds are one of those habits is bringing mindfulness into your life more,  and allowing this to be the year where it sticks.  If so, I invite you to join the ACIML 21-Day Meditation Challenge, which starts this Thursday, January 11th. It’s free to participate, you’ll have access to different 10 minute guided meditations, so you can practice each day at a time that’s convenient for you. You will also receive daily challenge reminders and a community to help support you! Sign up to join us: https://app.ruzuku.com/courses/25983/about

Or maybe you’re also looking to change other habits that run alongside your values like being more self-compassion, living alongside your values, playing more or creating more mastery in life. All of these are basic elements that help us uncover happiness.

Whatever the habit is that you want to make, here are a few practical tips to help make your changes stick.

  1. Know the practice – If you’re trying to integrate the ability to become more present in your daily life, choose what you want to practice. You may want to integrate more formal practice that would come in the form of a sitting meditation or mindful yoga. Or maybe you want to integrate more informal moments of just being present to whatever you are doing. Or maybe both. Or perhaps it’s exercise, better sleep, or being a more present friend. Having an awareness of what you want to do is the first step.
  2. Set up reminders – As much as we’d like to think, “I got it all up here, I can remember,” it’s important to understand that your brain works off cues. The way our environments are set up cue our brain to make certain decisions. There’s no fault in setting our environments up to support us in making the changes we want to make.  For example, Mindfully Me, is an app that will remind you to have more mindful moments. The Basics in Mindfulness Meditation 28 Day Program sends you an email daily for 28 days that cues you to integrate particular practices to make mindfulness stick. There are many other programs that do this for exercise, sleep and even to keep you on whatever task you like. Or go old school and just put up sticky notes in your area or as an optimal cue, get a real person to do the practice alongside to motivate one another.
  3. Support network – Many of us have the rule in our heads that “I can do it on my own.” The fact is, you are more likely to actually integrate a new practice if you have others alongside you who are trying to do the same thing. Finding a group of people in your area or on the web that you can connect with is very important to sustaining this practice. You can connect through the challenges, learn from others, and feel part of a community. The community also serves as reminder that this is important in your life and you’re welcome to join us in the Mindful Living Facebook Group. I also recommend checking out Meetup.com to find a local group too.

Try these three things out with whatever you are trying to change. Really build them into your routine and have compassion for yourself as making changes is often a difficult challenge that is entirely attainable.

If you do stray practice “forgive and invite,” forgive yourself for the time gone by, learn from your obstacles and invite yourself in that present moment to begin again.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interactions provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.


Want to Change in the New Year? It Starts with Mindfulness

Glass Ball Reflection
When it comes down to it, making change in life is driven by our intentions. Read over the following progression from A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook a couple of times:

Intention shapes our thoughts and words.
Thoughts and words mold our actions.
Thoughts, words, and actions shape our behaviors.
Behaviors sculpt our bodily expressions.
Bodily expressions fashion our character.
Our character hardens into what we look like.

There’s simply so much truth to this. However, most of the time we live without intentionality, and that’s when we look back many years later and say, “Where did it all go?” It’s time to live as if every second matters!

We can think of mindfulness, the act of paying attention on purpose and without judgment, as a kind of mental training to be more intentional with our lives. Think about how the act of priming works: If the morning starts out with worries about all the work to do that day and the mind keeps practicing worrying, then when you get to work, everything you see will be regarded through an anxious lens. If you get some bad news and feel bummed out and practice rehearsing the difficulties of your situation, those are the glasses of perception that you wear. I’m not judging this process of perception as good or bad; I’m just pointing out the reality of how this works.

If we intentionally set time aside to bring more mindfulness into our lives, we’ll start priming our minds to see from a place of greater balance, flexibility, and compassion. Of course, this is if you’re practicing mindfulness without any hidden agenda of going along with a trend to look good in others’ eyes.

Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” That starts with intention. Consider, in this moment, how you want to be in this world. How might you remind yourself to be more intentional about that? You might practice this: “Breathing in, I open to my intention; breathing out, I let it be.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Adapted from Mindfulness and Psychotherapy


A Mindful Strategy for a Resilient New Year

Floating Lanterns

Making change starts with accepting imperfection and redirecting your attention.

As the New Year approaches I invite you to set aside those rigid New Year’s resolutions and instead see this year as a practice. There is an implied rule within resolutions that we’ll actually stick to them and when we don’t, we set ourselves up for the same old habitual mind traps that have kept us stuck in the past.

I’ve failed once again,” arises, leading to a sense of sluggishness and the next thought, “What’s the point?” This mindset leads to the inevitable abandonment of our resolute intention, with feelings of shame as a result.

But there’s another way!

When we set goals for ourselves and create plans to reach those goals we cultivate hope, which is our greatest antidepressant. Goal setting isn’t nearly as rigid as “making a resolution” – it allows for a few twists and turns along the way. The key is to not lose sight of our goal, accepting that we may end up taking a slightly unplanned route in getting there.

3 Steps to a Resilient New Year

1) Expect to stray: This is just a fact of life that we sometimes refuse to own up to. We’ll almost always wander with the goals we make. Maybe we commit to exercise and then we get sick, or we set a path for meditation and our minds get caught up in daily busyness while days go by without practice. Behavior wandering is going to happen… which brings us to Step #2.

2) Don’t judge: Your behavior wandering is not a good or bad thing – it’s just the natural course of someone trying to make a change. Simply notice that you’ve wandered and where you’ve wandered to so you can commit it into your memory and notice it sooner the next time. If judgments like “I can never do this” or “what was I thinking” do arise, simply note them just like you noted your wandering behavior and move to Step #3.

3) Refocus: Gently bring yourself back to the plan you had created and/or see if it needs revisions.

It’s important to keep an open heart toward yourself as you practice. It’s not going to be perfect so the question to ask yourself is this: “Can I accept the reality of my imperfections?“.

If you’re perfect, you’re not human UNLESS you reframe it by saying you’re perfect with your imperfections!

There’s no need to wish yourself good luck because making change is not about luck – it’s about having a good strategy of being kind and compassionate with yourself as you wander off. This act of self-compassion gives you the space and acceptance to gently guide yourself back to the object of focus.

So, instead of “good luck” I’ll wish you a Good Heart throughout this year!

Adapted from Mindfulness and Psychotherapy