Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Exercise of Writing & Self Discovery

I am in Newport Beach with my family.  It is early morning before the house is up.  I rise and make myself some tea.  I never really know these days if my morning tea actually does anything or its just a wonderful placebo I believe in.  Either way it's still a ceremony that I enjoy at this point and am happy with that.

I head out to the deck to write but my head is still enshrouded with fog.  The same fog that blankets the beach and the water beyond.  Outside the air is crisp and fresh.  The is faint jazz playing from somewhere own the way.  I really can't tell where, but it's faint, it's soft, it reminds me of something from the twenties.  It fits somehow with the intermittent voids of the early morning joggers and cyclists that pass by.

The beach stretches out before me.  A kind of golden tan, stippled with the shadows of  footprints from the day and night before.  A lone lifeguard tower stands at the water's edge.  Another one, made smaller by the distance stands a third of the way to the north.  Two others stand, respectively smaller, beyond it; dividing the beach into heat quarters of tan sand. 

Past these is the water.  All shades of blue in the morning light.  Aqua blue.  Silver blue.  Blue reflecting the clouds into an almost grayish white blue.   The almost black ripples are all that show any movement.  That and the sounds from the breaking waves in their steady beat.  Occasionally one will rise up and send a crest of spray over the horizon of the dunes.  It is followed by a deep sound that is more a vibration in the air than an audible tone. 

I look beyond the dune and the edge of the beach where the water meets the sand to the real horizon.  The navigation horizon.  The horizon Johnny Depp referred to when he said "Now bring me that horizon."  I know Catalina's out there.  I saw it yesterday before the fog rolled in.  It's hidden behind an almost imperceptible layer of clouds that wash from the dark,cold blue of the Pacific to the bright blue of the sky.  What must early man have thought when they saw it off in the existence?  How many generations must that have called to them before they had the technology of a log raft to heed it's call?  How many people were pulled out to sea before anyone even knew what currents were trying to reach it?  Then how many finally reached that forsaken place only to find that they were unable to return?

Did we originally think it was the seat of gods?  Did we paint pictures of imagined sea creatures that broke apart their log vessels?  Was it the start of a native American version of Jason and the Argonauts?  Only this one not written for the ages?  But does the energy of those lost generations still hover in this area?  Picked up by those who move to the beach, to find some sense of solace in the same view?  Somehow augmenting this part of the world with another layer we just know is there without being able to put a finger on why this one particular view or space is so wonderful?

I turn inward and start to ask myself the same questions.  I know that the image before me is only part of the reality we all live in.  I follow the same internally, as I did externally.  I start by stating the obvious and give it time to unravel before me; leading me to deeper and deeper thoughts and discoveries about myself. 

The process is the same.  Start with broad and innocuous questions.  Give your brain the permission to wander.  Allow it to find its way into itself.  Give it time to explore.  But all the while write down where it takes you.  It is the process of recording your journey that creates your path for wellness.

simple truth

Monday, April 25, 2011

Embrace Your Emotions On YOUR Terms

Who doesn't love a good cry every now and then?  Who doesn't enjoy losing themselves in a movie that pulls at the heartstrings and lets you escape from your world for a while?  I know many people tell us that emotions will only lead to pain.  But so what; sometimes life’s pains can be a wonderful part of the whole human experience.  I’m not talking about anything lascivious.  I’m talking about embracing your emotional experience in order to learn and grow from the world around you.  It's possible to do this as long as you have a level of separation that enables you to observe, experience and learn from your emotional experiences, be they painful, or beautiful. 

When you watch a love story or a drama, or even a horror film, you watch it from the emotional safety of your seat.  At times even a movie can touch too raw a nerve, making it too painful to sit through the entire film.  At other times, a movie may stay with you long after you have left the theater, tempting you to replay it over and over again, so that you can explore whatever emotional heartstrings it pulled on.   It may even be strong enough that you want to talk to a friend about it, to relate and get their insight into what actually happened.

It may sound odd to think about watching your own life like a movie.  But in a way that is exactly what embracing your own emotions means doing.  It means creating a bit of separation by living mindfully, so that you can step back and observe your emotions at a healthy distance.  Or even bring in someone to talk to about them, if they become too overwhelming.

In reality, you already live much of your own life like it is a movie.  Every day you decide how deeply you want to participate in the world around you, or to remove yourself from it.  Perhaps you allow your mind to drift while in a meeting that has nothing to do with you – isolating yourself from the goings on around you.  Or maybe you find yourself drawn to a conversation that two people are having, inviting yourself to be an active member in their world.  So why not do the same thing for yourself?  Why not decide what part of life you want to be a part of?  

Innately your reaction to an emotion is to give it a priority in your life.  When you feel one bubbling up, you most likely give it the room it demands without even thinking about it.  Rarely do you say "wait a minute, is now the time for this?"  Instead, like most of us, you let your natural programming take over, and let whatever it is you’re feeling run its course.  It’s not a bad thing.  But it may not allow you  the time and freedom YOU need to understand what you are feeling; leaving you a puddle as you wade through the emotional tsunami that is ravaging your body.

By staying mindful of the world around you and of your own emotions, you can create a healthy bit of separation between you and your inner feelings.  If you have the presence to feel when an emotion is starting to build and bubble up, you can be empowered to hit your own pause button.  You can choose whether to follow your emotion or to put it on hold.  You can also choose how to respond, if you want to respond at all.  By acknowledging it, embracing it, and being mindful of it, you can release it in measured doses, enabling you to manage whatever it is you are feeling, and empowering you to explore whatever it is you are dealing with - alone or with someone else.    

The next time you feel an emotion coming on, take a few deep breaths.  Ground yourself with a few minutes of meditation if you can.  Then acknowledge whatever it is you are feeling.  Become aware of whatever triggered your emotion before you respond.  Think about what in your past has caused you to react in the way you are reacting.  Take a moment before you react so that YOU are directing your own life, rather than empowering your past to direct your actions.  Remember this is YOUR life, not the life of an old boyfriend or girlfriend, not the life of your parents or that nasty girl who berated you in school.  So let them go with the old memories and emotions they bring with them.  Return them to their file folders.  And live your life YOUR way.

Emotions need recognition and acceptance, not just attention.  So welcome your emotions and embrace them, but do not let yourself get caught up in them.  They are all a part of the human experience.  Maintaining a sense of clarity and balance before responding is the difference between living the life you want to live, and chasing after emotions that are running wild.

Simple Truth

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Trust, Love and Experience over 40,000 Year Old Programming

We all want to experience more out of life.  We all want to live a vibrant existence and enjoy all that the world has to offer.  Sadly, and far too often, we panic before we ever get there.  We stop ourselves from reaching out for what we want and fall back in line the moment our old programming kicks in.  

You may call it habit, fear, or the need to conform, but those are simply words that we use to describe how our old programming looks to us.  And more often than not, that alone is the difference between living YOUR life and living a life dictated by those around you.

At one point in our evolution these cautious traits helped us survive.  In today’s world, they can prevent you from living your life fully, leaving you to deal with the frustration, bitterness and pain you experience when you live a life that is not truly YOURS.

Yes, your old programming is still a very useful tool.  But in order to live your life, you have to control how it drives your actions.  Thankfully, like any programming it’s not that difficult to over-ride.  You just need the right tools to work with.  

Think about some times when you jumped to a safe decision without knowing why.  Think about the  frustration it led to.  Perhaps you turned your nose up at a dish you’d never eaten before.  Maybe you pulled away when you were introduced to someone new and now wish you had actually said hello.  You might have even decided to stay home one night, instead of going to a party because you didn't  know anyone.  You may have rationalized your decisions by saying that you were just erring on the side of caution.  Or that in today’s world you can never be too careful.  Both of which are valid excuses, but also the hallmarks of a bit of that out of date programming kicking in. 

Yes, that programming kept us alive forty thousand years ago when it was first hard-wired into our ancestors.  It got us to the top of the food chain.  It helped us create the 21st Century world we live in.  But it now it also holds you back from living the life you were destined to live.  It automates your responses rather than allowing you to make the choices that could move your life forward.

So how do you live the life you want to live, if you're stuck with this programming?  How do you live YOUR life without making bad choices?  How do you find the balance between throwing caution to the wind and living a life of dull frustration?  The key lies in your ability to remain mindful of where you are and who you are.  If you can stay present through your five senses, you will be forever grounded.  And when you are grounded, you will have the foundation you need to tap into the energy that we all swim in.  And when you have your finger on that pulse, you can truly make the kind of choices that will help you enjoy all that the world has to offer, while remaining true to your own Simple Truth.

So the next time you get the chance, welcome someone new with open arms and give them the benefit of the doubt.  Give them love and trust at first, but no matter how great they look or how good a game they talk, keep one of your feet firmly grounded so that you can hear that inner voice of warning.  When it says, “hmmmmmm, not quite right,” or “something’s off here.”  What it’s really saying is “there’s something about this that reminds me of a bad situation we went through before, so get out now.”  Or, “I know you can’t see it, but there’s a bad energy with this person, stay with the crowd.”

Be aware and mindful of where you are in the here and now.  But also pay attention to what that inner voice says at times like this.  That way you can always make sure that the choice to step closer or walk away is always yours.  It’s the best way to make good choices.  And good choices are the best way to end up with a great life.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Separate Past, Present + Future To Live Mindfully Now

Your feelings do not just live in the here and now.  They are a timeless reflection of your life as a whole.  They are shaped by everything that has happened to you in the past; your loves, your pains, your joys your sorrows.  They also reflect your concerns for the future.  Most important, they don’t always reflect what really happened in your past or what will likely happen in your future.  They reflect your perception of what was or what will be; as if you are looking at life through tinted glasses. 

The anger, frustration, doubt and suspicions you may feel now are as much a part of your past and your worries for the future, as they are of the present.  Your feelings for someone, love or loathing, have as much to do with your past relationships and experiences as they have to do with the reality of your current one.

So if you ever want to break the cycle of your life and be true to your own Simple Truth, focus on separating yourself from you memories as well as your worries for what has not yet occurred.  Be mindful of the present and the reality of the here and now.  Look, touch, listen, see and hear what is going on around you.  Feel what is happening right now and embrace it.  Don’t let your old habits and old programming rule your life.  Instead experience all that life has to offer.  

Remember, feelings are not hard scientific facts.  They are emotions.  They should be acknowledged, but also managed.  They need to be seen as separate from the situation you are in so that you can live in the present moment, and not an amalgamation of your concerns about the past, present and future.  As long as you stay mindful of yourself you can learn the source of your emotions and you can manage the “why” behind the “what” that you are feeling. 

That means you can make good choices based on what you need, rather than on what others have or will need from you in the past, present or future.  And that will keep you on YOUR path no matter what the world throws at you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Simple Truth - Everyday Mindfulness & Meditation

Meditation and mindfulness should not be kept as sacred acts only to be enjoyed in a regimented time slot of devotion.  Instead it should be a dynamic part of your life that you can enjoy and benefit from throughout your day.  Think of these practices as ways to reduce your stress, expand your awareness, and bring harmony at any point in your day.  They can also help you slow down your world, giving you the time you need to make the kind of choices that will guide your life in the right direction. 

You have 1,440 minutes in every day.  Set a few of them aside in the morning to start your day right, in the middle of the day to reset your energy, and in the evening to relax and to slow down the world.  Take the time to guide your life, than empower the world around you to guide it for you.

I have put together a list of some ways in which you can practice meditation and mindfulness throughout your day.  Give just one or two a try today.  See how it affects your life.  See what kind of ripples of peace and joy you can send out and what they return to you.


Waking Breath:  Before you get out of bed in the morning, stop and take a few minutes to notice your breathing. Put one hand on your stomach and another on your chest.  Take a few deep belly breaths so that only the hand on your stomach moves, and smile as you exhale.  Don’t just jump into your day, enjoy the moment between sleep and wakefulness.  Give yourself the two minutes you deserve to balance your morning, steady your thoughts and guide your day in the right direction. 

Morning Calm:  Speak to the people you share your home with, to let them know you need a quiet start to the day.  It doesn’t need to be an atmosphere of stolid silence, just peaceful calm.  Take the opportunity to think of one thought that you can carry with you throughout your day.  It can be anything you want; peace, smile, light, waves, bright eyes, love. These are all thoughts you can call upon if your day starts to spiral out of control.  They will help you ground yourself and return to the calm of your morning.

Mindful Commute: When you leave your home for work, maintain a slow and steady breath.  Take the time to notice the world around you.  Appreciate the sunlight, the clouds, and the rain.  Notice the road, the cars, and the pavement of your world, as well as the trees.  As your minds starts to fill with the tasks of your day, focus on the mode of your commute, the people walking next to you, the cars driving, the train or subway you ride on.  Don’t start an inner dialogue by commenting on them.  Just be present and aware of the community of people that you are a part of and enjoy that connection.


Mindful Lunch:  Take the time to have lunch by yourself at least once a week.  Eat silently and breathe slowly with each bite.  Take a moment to consider all of the people who are involved in farming, growing, delivering and preparing the food on your plate.  Think about where it comes from and how it is grown.  Sun gives the plants nutrition, water gives it sustenance, farmers tend the crops, families tend to those farmers, truckers bring the product to the market.  On it goes in an endless cycle of community and life.  Take a moment to feel connected to these people and the world around you.  Recognize that you are part of a larger world beyond the doors of your business.

5 Minute Meditations:  You have 1,440 minutes every day.  Take just five of those minutes for yourself.  Sit by yourself, place your feet flat on the floor and your hands on your thighs.  Take a deep belly breath and feel it expand against your clothing.  Slowly count to eight on each breath in and each breath out.  Feel the calm start at the top of your head and move down to your shoulders.  Feel it drift down to your belly with each breath.  At each point of stress, take a moment to allow your inhale wrap around it, relax it, and follow that stress out with every exhale.  Use your five minutes to breathe in positive, relaxing energy, and breath out negative stress.  Energize yourself for the afternoon with balance.

End of Day

Anticipate The Struggles of Tomorrow:  We learn from our mistakes, we grow from adversity, we develop by seeing new paths.  As you leave your work, take a quick inventory of the tasks you have ahead of you.  Look at the obstacles before you as lessons.  In doing so, think about what you learn from them and how you can apply that lesson to your own growth.  Appreciate the experience you will gain from the process of your work and not just the impediments you have to overcome.

Appreciate the Wind Down:  As you prepare to go to bed, be in the moment and focus your thoughts on the tasks at hand.  If you are brushing your teeth, feel the toothbrush against your gums, appreciate the movement of your wrists and hands, enjoy the image of your lips moving around the brush.  If you are putting a child to bed, enjoy the feeling of tucking them in.  Enjoy the form of their ears and nose as you balance your breath.  As you feel yourself drift to sleep, relish the slow deeps breaths you are now taking and let go of your day.

S-L-E-E-P Breathing:  If you mind is filled with thoughts of the day and you are having trouble sleeping, take a slow, deep breath in and say to yourself, “S”.  As you exhale slowly, say the letter “L”.  Do this for each letter as you spell the word sleep.  When you get to the end of the word, start your spelling breath again.  You may be surprised when you wake up in the morning at how deeply you slept.

Friday, April 8, 2011

I came across a quote this morning.  A few words of wisdom, but also of caution.  It is by Brian Piergrossi and simply states, "the greatest teachers & mentors never encourage you to be like them. They create a space that allows you to discover yourself." 

So true. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Love Actually

One of my favorite lines from a movie can be found in the first few minutes of Love Actually.
Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport.  General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.

Jeffrey Cannon
Simple Truth

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Are People Good or Evil?

When I was young I asked my older brother if people were inherently good or evil.  He thought about it for a while before answering.  Finally he said, “the reason every car window is not smashed after being parked on the street all night, and the reason every antenna is not bent or torn out is that the vast majority of people don’t want to hurt someone else’s property.  The only reason cities are not in a case of constant riot is that people actually want to live in peace if they are given the chance.” 

Peace and compassion are the most natural state for people.  We desire company and friendship.  We desire love.  Yes, there will always be a small minority who use violence as a release or to get what they want.  But for the most part, most people play fairly.  Most people are honest. Most people are loving. 

So expect the best.  But be prepared for the worst.  Give people a chance to be good.  Approach them with compassion but watch for their response.  You will most likely be surprised at how willing people are to help.  Just be prepared if the alternative happens.

Leave yourself a path to walk away from that small percent that is not.

Jeffrey Cannon
Simple Truth

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tape Measure of Your Life

Let’s start by taking five minutes to do a very simple exercise.  Open up a tape measure and extend it to eighty-five inches.  Don’t just visualize it, take the time to find a tape measure and extend it.  Those eighty-five inches are the average lifespan of a person, more or less.  Now, measure out your age in inches.  Do you see what is left?  That is how much time you most likely have.  Sure, you may live past that. You may also get hit by a bus before it.  Just realize that if you are forty-five years old you most likely have thirty-five years left to live your life. 

At the same time, it is just as important to realize that everything you have done, every precious memory, every little adventure, everything that you know or have even forgotten up to this point has been rolled into whatever inches you measured out.  If you are only half-way to eighty-five then you could do everything that you have ever experienced all over again.  If you are in your twenties, you can live all of your current life over again four times. 

This should be you wakeup call.  No matter how many inches you have left, your life is far from over.  Even if you only have a few years remaining, or even a few days, why would you want to spend them by doing anything less than by being true to YOURSELF?  

Look down at your tape measure again.  No matter how many are stretched out before you, each mark should be a call for celebration because you can have that much more to experience.

Each mark should also be a reminder to be careful of how you spend your time.   Cherish it.  Protect it.  Most important enjoy it.  It is the one commodity you cannot save, you cannot lock away, and you can never get back.  Every second is an investment in your future.  So spend it wisely.  Because even if you don't spend it, once it is gone it is gone forever. 

So invest a few seconds to be aware of how you spend your time.  Invest the time to be mindful of the things you do so that you do good things.  Invest the time to give to others and to help others.  Make sure you invest your time wisely because that is what it is, an investment.  Make sure that when you give it to someone else, you give it out carefully, as you would with money.  When you do spend it, make sure that you spread it evenly and lovingly.  That is the best way to garner a positive return on your investment in your time. 

Above all, and most important, make sure you keep some for yourself.  That can often be the best way to invest your most precious commodity – by saving some for yourself.

Jeffrey Cannon
Simple Truth