Sunday, August 16, 2015


Shall we pause along the way to spy upon ourselves,
or shall we turn a deaf ear to what we might hear,
so important upon our stay?
      These words remind me that life is a journey which humanity shares.  The importance we give this sojourn, as so many learned people would say, should be of utmost concern to all of us.  Instead of going through our time here on automatic, reacting to whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, individually or as a society, why don’t we use these precious moments to appreciate the gift we’ve been given?  Such an effort to genuinely take control of our lives, to sincerely pay more attention to what life is telling us, makes sense, does it not?
      Of course, to most people, “listening to life”, means hearing the sounds coming from outside of ourselves.  Not that it isn’t true, but it may be well less than half of what there is to hear.  We can observe the veracity of this statement if we employ the ‘watcher’ we all have.  For instance, while someone else is speaking, we usually have a simultaneous stream of thoughts commenting on what we’re hearing.  Check it out the next time you listen to a colleague or person on t.v.  Even while we’re in the middle of our backyards admiring nature, our mind is speaking to us.  If we listen to the wind, we may find this ‘commentator’ reminding us of past ghost stories or tales of loneliness.
      And what about the reactions we experience as we go about our daily schedule at work, our time with family and friends, or watching the negative news and commentaries on t.v.?  Do we really pay attention to the continuous stream of thoughts and emotions that compose the reactions we feel to what we’re hearing?  Probably not.
      To elaborate further, what follows may be sensitive material for the reader, but they are experiences I wish to share, and I apologize if anyone is offended.  For example, I’m a white American living fulltime in Mexico.  When I came here in March 1994, I attended an excellent Spanish language school in the beautiful city of Cuernavaca, located about 45 minutes southwest of Mexico City.  It was wonderful living there with a Mexican family and getting to know the culture through immersion before and after school.  Being surrounded everyday by people, whose skin coloring ran from a very light tan to dark brown and sometimes black, was interesting.  Since this involvement in Mexico was somewhat new to me, I sometimes felt a little intimidated, but because I had experienced living in other cultures with differences in skin pigmentation, I knew that I would soon become accustomed to being different again. 
      However, that wasn’t the only cultural distinction that I, as a foreigner, had to experience and to which I had to assimilate.  Let me tell you about what two of my classmates and I underwent at the colorful open air market in downtown Cuernavaca one day before we returned home from school.  You see, part of the Mexican culture is hearing vendors use skin color to call to potential customers as they pass by their stands.  One of my friends was African American and the other one was Caucasian American, so as we walked along we could hear the people calling to us using the words, “guerito” (whitey) and “negrito” (blacky).  Of course, we all felt a negative reaction inside ourselves, and we talked about it while we were in the market.  Our black friend found it more difficult than we did not to say anything to the vendors because of the racial injustice he’d experienced in our home country.  And here we were in a different culture having to understand that things were the reverse of the states, for no racial slurs or disrespect were intended.
      I’d also had a similar reaction when I was living in Saltillo, Mexico a couple of years before, but fortunately, a Mexican friend educated me on this part of the culture.  And since then, with a friendly tonality I’ve even greeted vendors in return with “Hola, Morenito” (“Hi, Brownie”), and they’ve smiled and laughed in response.  Of course, whereas Mexicans wouldn’t greet each other as such, I have that alternative since I look like a foreigner.
      There are other cultural differences here in Mexico to which one needs to assimilate in order to feel at home, especially if a person is living here year round.  One of them that stands out is the expression “gringo”.  This label is what Mexicans began calling the American soldiers who came here for a short time during a conflict in the 19th century.  It means “green go” and originated because of the soldiers’ green uniforms and the violation of Mexico’s sovereignty.  As a result, it’s common to hear Mexican friends refer to an American friend as “gringito” which is the diminutive of gringo.  Of course, in this form and with a friendly tone of voice, there’s nothing harmful or negative intended.  But it does take some time to accustom oneself to this term.  On the other hand, it’s different when one is out in public and is called “Gringo” with a less than respectful tone of voice.  This has happened to me only twice in the more than 21 years I’ve lived here.  Such an experience hurts, but the only thing to do in public is to appear not to notice, keep on moving, and work on the emotional reaction at home.
      The objective of the two examples I’ve given above is to point out that as humans we hear life experiences on both external and internal levels, and we really cannot afford to turn a deaf ear to either one.  We need to pay attention to both and respond in appropriate ways.  If we remain hearing-impaired, internally is where we suffer the most damage, e.g., repression, depression, and more.  Of course, external harm usually results from people expressing themselves in out-of-control reactionary patterns.
      So what should we do to use what life offers us?  There’s a lot, but basically it boils down to this:  pay attention!  When we’re listening to something, i.e., people upset about racial injustice, and feel ourselves wanting to turn the channel or a deaf ear to it, we should listen as attentively as possible while being aware of what’s happening inside ourselves without letting it distract us from being present—in the now.  When we get to a quiet place at home, at work, or elsewhere, it’s appropriate to open and spy upon what we’ve just experienced with discernment, letting it resurface in our minds without reacting to it, and staying with it until it simmers down—reaches an equilibrium.  Also, we should take the time every day to just be with our minds, observing all thoughts and emotions while staying tranquil.  Finally, if there are actions we need to take, then we’ll know what to do based on what comes to us from the non-thinking, non-conceptual, non-reactive part of the mind.  Subsequently, we use the thinking mind to carry these responses out.  If we do these four things during our stay in this world, we’ll develop the wisdom to benefit not only ourselves but others.

      So yes, we should pay more attention to what life tells us.  Not letting life go by on automatic, we hear what comes to us from without and within, we understand our reactions and probably those of others, and we improve our ability to relate with the world.  And just as Larry Rosenberg in his book, “Three Steps To Awakening” says, we find that all of life is a relationship.  If we wake up to this gift, then life can be doable, peaceful, and happy. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


      Racism has plagued American society for almost four centuries.  Debilitating our country on an individual, national, and international level, it seems to have no end in sight.  Thousands must be asking themselves how to resolve this horrendous issue; that is, to prevent it from arising even in its subtlest form to that of claiming innocent lives, while recognizing it won’t ever be completely vaporized from human consciousness.  As John Metta so rightly affirms in his article, “I, Racist”, in the Huffington Post, people who suffer racial injustice need not be silent but speak out, while those in the seemingly, unaffected majority must open their deaf ears and listen to the words of the besieged.  Whereas taking these two actions should be considered as major steps to a solution, more needs to be done.
      First, it’s essential for all parties in this conflict to reflect on racial conditioning and how they are and have been personally affected by it.  Let’s assume, for example, that all of us are born into this world with a clean slate: that is, there’s not an ounce of racial programming in us; not that some would not debate this perspective, but let’s put that aside for now.  This type of social customizing begins on the first day with our family, and however they’ve been conditioned will be taught directly and indirectly, good and bad, to us, no matter if they have or have not suffered racial prejudice.  This training will continue on with other relatives, nursery and preschool, elementary and secondary school, the university, and finally coworkers, supervisors, managers, directors, the media and society’s groups and leaders. 
      Such programming affects how we think.  When we identify with our thoughts (negative, neutral, positive), we lose control and act them out in the way we speak to others, including physical altercations, sometimes to the extreme, such as the nine killings that recently happened in South Carolina.  Consequently, if we’re not psychologically abnormal, we may be consumed with guilt and regret.  Although harmful thinking with all the racial slurs and similar verbalizations can be in our consciousness, we usually don’t consciously express them because most of us are cognizant of the consequences.  Nonetheless, they’re still well communicated through our body language.  Of course, if we’re really aware of this mental garbage and its outcomes and desire to be in control of ourselves, we’ll want to get rid of it. That’s the first step to a better life for ourselves and our society.
      Changing this internal conditioning means cleaning out all the harmful racial thoughts and emotions and exchanging them for those that are beneficial.  Certainly, it’s much easier said than done.  Before anything can happen, we need to make a conscious decision to do it while recognizing this mental reprogramming takes time as we keep an eye on its rewards:  a more tranquil and happier life, increased respect and compassion for those suffering from racism, and finding better ways to personally deal with this problem.
      Having decided to change ourselves, no matter if we’ve suffered from racism or been on the side responsible for it via ignorance or outright abuse, means we’ve begun to use wisdom, and now it’s time to take the next step which is to strengthen our ability to concentrate our mind while continuing to deal with everyday life.  This begins by giving ourselves some mental space and freedom.
      Such capacity is generated by developing skill in focusing the mind, an ability currently being taught and used in schools, businesses, sports, and even the military.  Normally, we find this craft listed under the title of Mindfulness Training.  Its simplest formal method, however, is to find a quiet place, sit down, and follow our breath in and out without letting ourselves be distracted by thoughts or other phenomena—easy to say but takes real work to perfect.  Done twice a day for about 15 minutes each time, i.e., morning and evening, we’ll find that it relaxes us during and after each practice session.  It also helps us to think more clearly.  After about a week, it’s possible to watch our breath for a minute or two every once in a while at work (informal practice).  We’ll be surprised by how much it improves our positive time on the job; for instance, it calms us down before and after intense situations, clears our heads before presentations, and improves our energy and ability to listen.  This technique also functions very well during after work and free time activities.  When it’s well carried out, it’s quite formidable. The old saying, “cooler heads prevail”, is obvious when we’re mindful.
      Such wisdom is evident in the next part of changing our internal conditioning, for this is the point where we incorporate both parts of John Metta’s solid advice.  However, it’s best done after we’ve found a level of comfortability with the breathing technique in both formal and informal practice.  The results of its ever-expanding mastery are significant; for example, old conditioning (runaway thoughts) simply disappears, our ability to stay calmer during increasingly intense situations improves, and our personal life is more cheerful and peaceful.  Moreover, when it’s necessary to speak out forcefully and clearly to garner attention, we’ll find that it’s possible to do so without losing control to anger.  Martin Luther King, such an outstanding leader, was one of the best examples of that talent in action.
      This method is sometimes called insight training because that’s what results the more we practice.  To begin learning this part of mindfulness development, we should start by following our breath for about 10 minutes.  Subsequently, we change our focus to our mind.  As we notice the thoughts, images, sounds, and feelings arising, we try not to react to them.  We just let them pass on by; however, if we do find ourselves carried away by them, we simply come back to our breath and then refocus on the mind.  We remain patient when we see this happen frequently in the first week as we practice twice a day for about 30 minutes (15 minutes observing the breath, 15 minutes watching the mind).  Over time, we notice that we’re becoming accustomed to the rising and falling of mental phenomena.  And just as we carried the breathing practice into our work and other social settings, we find we can do it with this part of mindfulness training as well.  We simply keep ourselves focused on what we’re performing, listening to, or watching without letting other things distract us; in fact, we may find that trying to multitask is a detriment instead of an asset at work.
      Not long after we begin insight practice, we usually notice several things.  We’re more attentive, which means our ability to listen to others is improving.  Since we’re often facing some fairly strong thoughts and other experiences without finding ourselves carried away by them, we can liken this technique to speaking out when we’d ordinarily be silent, for our mental equanimity (balance) is developing real strength.  Not surprisingly, the practice of facing our thoughts and emotions is like exercising a muscle; the stronger it becomes, the more the harmful thinking and forceful sensations dissipate and disappear. Finally, we experience an enhanced clarity of mind with the space in which we can respond to situations instead of fall into old reactionary patterns that hurt ourselves and/or others.
      Of course, as we progress with the practice of watching the mind, we may begin to observe that not as much phenomena that has to do with racial injustice is arising as we would like.  It could be that we might feel we’re slowing down in the process of resolving upsetting issues.  At this point, we have two options:  (a) continue to practice--trusting that in due time such thoughts, images, or feelings will arise, and they will; or (b) we can recall events or feelings associated with racism and let them cause phenomena to surface.  Such internal investigation for material with which to work functions on both the conscious and subconscious levels.  Generally, whatever comes up is something that we can face with equanimity; however, when anything does feel or look beyond our current ability, we need to use our common sense to back off and wait until we’re strong enough to face it or find a professional to help us.
      Certainly, the above changes to our mental conditioning do not happen overnight, but they do occur if we’re patient, dedicated, and determined.  We also find as we change our internal life that our external life changes too.  For example, we find that when we open to people of other ethnic or racial groups, we’re better able to listen to them, calmly and effectively respond to their perspectives, or just continue being their listening posts even when they’re angry.  Furthermore, we’re more willing to speak out, clearly and effectively, for ourselves and/or others to address perceived racial injustices.  Our increased degree of compassion to resolve suffering due to racism permits us to change our behaviors and help the besieged.  We might learn we can help others change their conditioning and behavior for the better too.  Last, participating in meetings or other endeavors to eliminate racial bigotry and hatred in America can be a significant part of our lives.  Of course, taking a Dale Carnegie course for speaking and joining the Toastmaster’s Club are two excellent ways to supplement mindfulness practice.

      While speaking out and extracting the plugs from our deaf ears are major steps forward to resolving racism in the U.S., we must understand we need to do more.  Seeing our internal racial conditioning, largely placed there by society, we can take action to transform it into something better and have a positive effect on our society’s external life, even that of changing the government system for responding to racism on a local, state, and national level. Of course, we need to continually increase our ability to focus our mind, pay attention to its patterns and contents, and develop the insight to use it wisely while seeking professional assistance when required.  Certainly, there are other ways to improve; however, those who choose to do nothing may very well stay stuck in the same old rut wondering why things are not changing for the better—or not wanting to.  But with consideration and determination, mindful modifications are possible as well as healthy for living better and more peacefully in our multiethnic, multiracial America.

Friday, January 2, 2015


The choices we make in life will probably determine the circumstances we face as we draw its final curtain.  While some may arrive as reactionaries, others perhaps come in rather peacefully.  For example, an acquaintance of mine, who was a nurse in a natal intensive care unit, once told me that after years of observing newborns, she was convinced each child had come into the world with its own particular temperament.  Obviously, throughout our sojourn here, we can choose the kind of highway on which we wish to travel.  It can be peaceful or full of twists and turns with ups and downs as well as ins and outs.  We can either help or hinder ourselves and others.  However, if we somehow learn to find the inherent wisdom we intrinsically harbor deep inside, we’ll locate and walk the pathway of peace, insight, freedom and personal growth.  As Mahatma Gandhi told us:  “The outward freedom that we shall attain will only be in exact proportion to the inward freedom to which we may have grown at a given moment.”  Therefore, as we look at the elderly man above, who is so obviously filled with love and compassion for nature, there should be no question as to the state of mind we’d prefer now and in our final moments.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


A lot of us wake up every day wishing for a more peaceful existence.  We’d like nothing better than to open our eyes joyfully looking forward to what the day has in store for us.  Life would be better, for a clear and happy mind would be a welcome difference.  Having such a reality come true would be a change most of us would like to keep.

But the average person doesn’t know how to make this transition.  Instead of using life to create peace for ourselves and others, we let it control us.  For example, we may slowly wake up and get out of bed, not anticipating a good day, go to the kitchen for a less than healthy breakfast, turn on the news for a dose of the negative, drive to work in heavily, contaminated traffic, experience conflicts with unhappy colleagues, superiors, or family members, and go to sleep in a debt-ridden home.  While this may be an overstatement, it gets at the fact that we all face situations that upset us, no matter if it’s the litter we see on the side of the road, a small argument with the spouse, or a disagreement with our teenage children.

These situations and others like them gnaw at us, and we permit them to get us down.  Perhaps, we get angry, feel lost, shout at the world, or even try to drown our troubles.  For example, when I look at my own life, I see where I’ve gone through such periods of difficulty.  It wasn’t out of the ordinary for me to do or say ridiculous things and hurt the people around me.  I went through several divorces and periods of unsatisfactory employment because I really didn’t have a handle on how to be my own alchemist—that is, convert the negative into something workable.  I just didn’t understand what one of the wisest men in the world had meant when he said that everything upsetting us is only a projection of what we haven't resolved within ourselves. 

This teaching of Buddha Shakyamuni was exactly what I wasn’t dealing with.  Fortunately, it wasn’t a sermon like many others that came without a method to dissolve the projections.  I’d had plenty of those in my life, and I didn’t want any more.

As most of us have learned, changing anything we perceive as negative into something positive is a real challenge.  We hear this from all the self-help talks on television and say, “Yeah, right.”  Then we just wait for someone to fix us.

Conversely, becoming our own alchemist means that we look at everything coming to us in life as an opportunity for greater peace and happiness.  We start with the little things around us and gradually work up to the big stuff. 

For example, here in Mexico the law really isn’t strongly enforced, so people get away with a lot of things.  When I walk from our home to our nearby village, I frequently see litter on the side of the street.  Sometimes I even see it being thrown away by a mother walking with her child.  Instead of doing nothing, I observe the reaction inside of myself, which is usually an angry feeling, until it becomes peaceful and balanced.  This technique works because the energy of focusing on the object of attention, anger in this case, functions like a laser beam.  Afterwards, I can take some action that isn’t based on emotion—I might even pick up the garbage.

Of course, while just mechanically concentrating on the upsetting feeling usually remedies the situation, it’s important to understand that it also involves presence.  According to Eckhart Tolle, author of “The Power of Now”, our troubles come from being in the past or the future.  In the case of the litter, just seeing it throws many of us into the past.  If we think about the mountains of garbage that could emerge in the future if something isn’t done now, then we’re in the future.  We’re suffering in both cases.  However, as we focus on transforming the upsetting sensation we feel into a peaceful balance, we’re in the present and we’re not suffering.  In fact, if we keep our focus on the present most of the time, we’ll suffer less and our days will improve.

The case I’ve given here is but one illustration of what we can do for ourselves.  It also works for small disagreements at home or at work.  Also, instead of showing our anger at other drivers, we can say thank you for the opportunity to grow and smile as they drive away.  Even the hurtful remarks by bullies at school or work can be transformed into the positive.
The clarity that comes from this method of dealing with daily issues shows us what action we need to take, if any, after regaining our peace.  Certainly, we can’t continue to let the bully badger us every time we encounter him or her.  Also, we can simply let the arrogant drivers go on their way—we don’t have to continue to think about them.  And we can quietly say “thank you” for the small disagreements with others that gradually help us to become more peacefully competent.  Such clarity often inspires a healthy attitude for whatever confronts us in our lives—even to have the will to deal with the larger issues, i.e., divorce, addiction, bankruptcy, death, and more. 

A more peaceful life would be a change the majority of us would choose to try and maintain.  Learning how to create harmony in daily living, even looking forward to doing it, and enjoying our own alchemy could encourage us to maintain presence instead of letting life control us.  The newfound clarity, although not gained overnight, adds a certain confidence we haven’t had before.  We learn that we don’t have to spend hours on a cushion in the Himalayas to attain tranquility, although an hour or so a day would be quite beneficial.  Why not change the previously debilitating issues of everyday living into strengths and experience a more peaceful life?  You wouldn’t be alone.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


      Personal failure is difficult, so we usually don’t want to get involved with an activity where that is likely to occur.   We especially want to avoid the feeling that we associate with an inadequate process or result; for example, speaking in front of a group of fellow professionals, parenting teenagers, or confronting a colleague or friend about something really upsetting.  Nevertheless, working with the feeling of inadequacy and not necessarily the story behind it is a solid and proven way to resolve its power over us.  To carry this out, we need to understand: (1) how to describe the feeling; (2) how we react to this sensation; (3) the harmful results of our reactions to it; (4) the method to effectively resolve the feeling; and (5) the benefits of its resolution.
Describing The Feeling of Inadequacy
      Since we live in the world of conception, we label the feeling fear; in particular, fear of failure, not being good enough, inadequacy, or whatever else we can think of to name it.  Also, instead of centering on the sensation, people generally jump straight to labels of fear:  “I was so damned scared”.  “I was petrified.”  They really don’t take the time to examine the feeling and say, for instance:  “I had such a strong sensation of something icy cold running through my veins that I couldn’t move.  It stopped me in my tracks.”
      So the truth is this:  what we call fear is a feeling of sensation or sensations in our body.  According to S.N. Goenka, whose work is well documented in a book called “The Art Of Living”, sensations arise anytime there is contact with an object through any one of the six doorways of consciousness:  sight, hearing, taste, smell, feeling, and mind.  They come to us in the form of heat, cold, heaviness, lightness, itching, throbbing, contraction, expansion, pressure, pain, tingling, pulsation, vibration, and more.  These sensations are what we can use to develop experiential wisdom.  They are essential for exploring truth to the depths, and in this case we’re speaking of the feeling of inadequacy.
      To understand this kind of wisdom, we have to examine the sensation we personally experience with not being good enough, carefully and meticulously, before we can describe them.  We do so by finding a quiet place, relaxing, remembering a small event in which we failed, focusing on the sensation that arises, staying with it, and observing it through all of its transitions and multiplicities.  Those of us who have done this valuable work know there will be all kinds of sensations, and no matter what, maintaining our equanimity (emotional balance) is strategic; otherwise, it’s all too easy to be carried away by thoughts or emotions and wind up in a land of fantasy.  Equanimity is the factor that keeps us balanced and aware.  When we stop our observation of the sensations of inadequacy, we can describe them in detail as well as the places where they took us, e.g., originating events, story lines, unrealistic expectations.  We begin to understand what is happening to us here and now.

How We React To The Feeling Of Inadequacy
      Generally, as we observe the sensations we associate with being incapable, we notice that we may react fearfully at first; that is, with aversion, the desire to flee, not to want to look directly at what’s happening.  Also, emotions such as anger, disappointment, or sadness arise so quickly that they cloud over the initial emotion of fear.  Consequently, we may just conclude that we’re angry instead of scared.
      We also see how numerous thoughts spring up out of the emotions and the way they can be transformed into false beliefs.  These convictions can spawn and perpetuate the idea that we’re socially inept, personally unappealing, inferior to others, and never good enough for anybody.

The Results Of Our Reactions To The Feeling Of Inadequacy
      If we do not begin to work on eradicating this sense of failure, our lives can be terribly unsatisfying on several levels.
      For example, our relationship with self can be very disappointing.  To avoid being viewed as inadequate, we may socially isolate ourselves.  Being in such an untenable position is often filled with self-loathing, run away thinking, feeling sorry for oneself, or a constant search for “fix me” solutions.  At worst, addiction and depression can arise and suicide may result.  Secondly, when we’re with others but inside ourselves, we may react with sensitivity to negative evaluation, constantly compare our efforts to those of others, find it difficult to accept praise, work like a perfectionist, and be highly self-critical.  Feeling powerless is also prominent.
      Our personal relationships can also suffer.  We may not be willing to involve ourselves with others unless we’re certain of being liked.  If we’re with a group of people, we might be inclined to conform or succumb to peer pressure instead of stating our opinion.  Relationships with our significant others often end in arguments, separation, and divorce.  Parenting is particularly difficult, especially when children become teenagers.
      At work our relationship with coworkers, professional colleagues, subordinates, superiors, and clients can also be affected by our feeling of inadequacy.  Since we not only communicate verbally but also nonverbally, people soon become aware of our suffering.  This creates difficulty because it erodes confidence.  Consequently, we may experience the loss of clients, less than satisfying annual job evaluations, and perhaps even the cost of losing a promotion or job.
      Of course, because students are constantly being evaluated not only by the school systems but also their peers, the feeling of inadequacy is always a factor.  Nowadays, it’s been especially apparent because of face-to-face and online bullying.  The results are so harmful that various students have committed suicide, suffered physical harm at the hands of bullies, or have carried the effects of this abuse into their adult lives where the name changes to workplace harassment.
       Finally, relationships on the world stage can be affected by the perception of inadequacy; for example, what President Obama is experiencing at the hands of the opposite political party at this time.  It is also perceived by many that the Russian president is taking advantage of U.S. unwillingness to “draw the line in the sand.”  Because of the feeling of inadequacy, people all over the world are having a less than satisfactory life, i.e., crises, wars, social ostracism and much more.

Resolving The Feeling Of Inadequacy
      While the typical treatment for the fear of inadequacy is social skills training, cognitive therapy, exposure treatment to gradually increase social contacts, group therapy for practicing social skills, and sometimes drug therapy, the mindfulness work many of us have done is quite different.  It centers on concentration, awareness, equanimity, compassion and the development of experiential wisdom.  It’s not radical in that it’s a gradual process combining concentrated effort in a quiet environment and, subsequently, bringing that ability with us to normal every day activities.  It helps us to express and embrace who we already are rather than construct some identity for ourselves that may not be authentic.

General (working from the easy to the difficult)
      The idea of this practice is to get a view of as many incidents in our lives as possible where we’ve had the experience of feeling inadequate for whatever we were confronting or trying to do.  It might even be appropriate to make a list of them.  Then we begin with what we would call small events, the ones that do not hold emotional charges so powerful, i.e., emotional child abuse, that we would lose our focus.    
      Here is the procedure:

a.       Dedicate an area where you won’t be interrupted.  If at all possible, it should be a place that won’t be used for anything else.  Of course, your home is preferable, but other place can be used.
b.      Put a straight back chair in that space at practice time.
c.       Make sure the area is comfortable, and wear loose clothing.
d.      Sit down and place your hands on your lap with your feet flat on the floor.
e.       Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.  Follow your breath as you inhale and exhale.  If thoughts come up, just let them go as you continue to focus on your breath—this is the first step in developing equanimity (balance), awareness and concentration.
f.       Continue to focus on your breathing until you feel relaxation beginning to set in.  (No sleeping, stay aware.)
g.      As you continue to breath, place your focus on the center of your right or left hand.
h.      As you maintain your focus there, notice that you begin to feel a sensation in the center of your hand.
i.        When you feel the sensation, which is usually a neutral feeling because there is no liking or disliking, just keep your focus on that experience for about a minute.
j.        Then return your focus to your breathing for about 15 seconds.
k.      Next, return your focus to the center of the hand you were using.  You should feel the sensation again and know that you’re not producing the feeling, for you simply notice a sensation where you place your attention.
l.        Now return your focus to your breathing for about 15 seconds.
m.    As you continue to breath, recall an event in your life where you felt inadequate for what you were trying to accomplish.
n.      Keep your focus on your breath as the memory of this event may arise in your mind in the form of an emotion, a thought, an image, a sound, whatever it is.
o.      Locate the sensation in your body that accompanies this memory.  It may be a feeling of heaviness, lightness, tingling, vibration, hardness, coldness, whatever it may be.
p.      As the sensation arises, let it become your focus.  Observe the feeling(s) with a mind of curiosity; for example, “Let’s see how long you last!”  Do not purposefully label (name) what you’re experiencing.  And do not react with aversion, just maintain your equanimity (balance).
q.      If the event should become major, do not brace yourself and try to hang in there—simply go to another event that is not as emotionally charged.  This work is like building a muscle.
r.        Stay with the sensation until it dissolves into neutrality.  If you should lose focus during this practice, simply recall the event and return your concentration to the sensation.
s.       Recall the event again, and observe the sensation until it dissolves.  When there is only neutrality in the sensation as you recall the event, then you are ready to move on.
t.        Now you can either recall another event, stop your practice session, or do affirmations as given in the example below before stopping this work for the day or evening.
u.      It is important to do short sessions; for example, work with an event or two, go back to focusing on the breath to relax for a few minutes, then return to the events.
v.      Make this a daily practice if at all possible.

Specific Work
      There are times when we’ll come to a practice session, and an event will already be in mind.  This happens because our purpose is already in our consciousness. So here’s what you do:  simply sit down, focus on your breathing until you relax, and go directly into the event following the procedure given above.     

Difficult Events
      If you practice diligently and regularly, there will come a time when you will have very few small events left that you can find with which to work.  Now it’s time to begin working on the major events in your life, the ones where you literally failed because you didn’t live up to your expectations or those of someone significant in your life; for example, job loss, divorce, or much more.  Even these events, however, should be taken in the order of their level of difficulty, the least difficult being the first one and so on.
      Practice using the procedure given above, and remember that it’s a gradual process.  You may have issues that will take several sessions to bring to the level of neutral sensations, so be patient. 
      When you come up against sensations that are very difficult, remember to remove the labels (names you’ve given the emotions) so that you’re dealing with raw energy.  As an experienced practitioner, taking the conceptuality away from the emotion makes it easier to stay focused and experience progress.  Just as it says in the procedure above, work in short sessions, taking a break when the going gets too difficult.  You can’t melt an iceberg all at once.
      It’s also important to recognize and accept what you cannot change.  Just the acceptation of this fact will take the charge out of the sensation, and it’s usually accompanied by an automatic change in your expectations.  If you’re trying to live up to the expectations of someone else, realizing they’re not realistic and letting them go brings great resolution.
      Additionally, it’s essential to recognize when you need help and go for it.  Sometimes just having a significant other, fellow practitioner, or close friend you can hang on to while you do this work is all you need to get the sensation down to a tolerable level.  From that point on, you can work alone.
      Also, a professional who agrees with your process can help you: uncover and clarify what you’re experiencing and learning; develop realistic expectations; discover activities, relationships, and experiences that build a sense of competence; and respond with kindness and understanding toward yourself.   For example, Psychologist Christopher Germer, PhD says, “the foundation of emotional healing begins by being aware in the present moment when we’re struggling with feelings of inadequacy, despair, confusion, and other forms of stress – and responding with kindness and understanding toward ourselves.”

Generalized effects
      As you progress in your practice, you’ll find what we call generalized effects.  This means that even though you didn’t work on a particular event having to do with an issue that normally elicits a feeling of inadequacy, in daily life you notice the situation is no longer a problem because you feel quite capable.  Noticing such changes in your life is a cause to celebrate your work—you’re truly progressing.

At the end of session
      At the end of a practice session, it’s a good idea to treat yourself with affirmations of kindness and gratitude; for example: 
      I offer my gratitude for what I’m learning.
      I offer my gratitude for each step I take.
      I offer my gratitude for the positive changes in life.
      May my heart be filled with kindness and compassion.
      May I be safe from inner and outer harm.
      May I be well in mind and body.
      May I be at ease and happy.
      Softly and slowly repeating the above sentences to yourself about five times at the end of a session is helpful.  When I first started doing them, I didn’t notice anything for a couple of weeks, but after that I did.  I left the sessions feeling better, happier, and more peaceful.  They’re very worthwhile for regular practitioners.

The Benefits Of Resolving The Feeling Of Inadequacy
      There are quite a number of benefits that come from resolving the feeling of inadequacy in our lives.  It doesn’t matter if we have only a few issues or a whole lot to deal with, for as long as we live and practice, they’ll keep on coming.  Perhaps that’s why we’re on this planet. 
      Here are few of the positive outcomes with which we can measure our progress:

a.       We give up trying to be perfect.  Realizing we’re human, we let go and relax while still being all we can be at whatever activity we’re doing.
b.      We stop beating ourselves up.  We experience the fact that negative criticism is bad for our health.  Constructive evaluations are far better.
c.       Our parenting skills improve.  Cooperation is far better on both sides.
d.      We’re better at handling bullying because we’re no longer such a target, and we don’t find ourselves reacting so fearfully.  Also, we simply choose not to use web sites or an address where cyber bullying is frequent.
e.       Our ability to be with peers, even those who don’t like us, is balanced.  However, we usually choose to be with others who give positive reinforcement and constructive rather than negative criticism.
f.       We find that we are becoming increasingly confident in our ability to handle life.  Our expectations of ourselves are reasonable.  We’re now much more open to life and whatever it brings to us.
g.      Life is much happier and more peaceful.  We look forward to our days, recognizing the challenges we used to face as opportunities for learning.
h.      We experience the inspiration to try new things and accept the results as they are.
i.        We find we have an increased willingness to develop new relationships without first making certain that we’ll be liked.
j.        Our ability to work well with others at all levels and take on new jobs is vastly improved.  These things no longer arouse difficult sensations.  We feel remarkably whole at work, and we know when to walk away from tasks that are not within our set of skills and interests.
k.      Our physical and mental health is remarkably improved.  We can get out of bed.
l.        Loving kindness, compassion, and unconditional love have become more of a reality, for we find we are not only reaching out more to ourselves but also to others of all ages, especially the young, the infirm, and the old.

      Discussing the feeling of inadequacy, especially the five aspects that surround it, is not only necessary but very helpful to those of us who work with this scary issue.  Being able to describe our sensations of inadequacy, understand the reactions to these feelings and their harmful effects, follow the procedures for their resolution, and experience the benefits of the solution leads us to a much happier life.  We truly learn to let go, be present, and go for help when it’s necessary.  May more of the citizens of this world, especially our leaders, involve themselves with this practice in mindfulness.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


We like to know that we’re happy, don’t we?  But when we look at ourselves, happiness is sometimes cloudy at best, especially when we get home from a hard day’s work, or sit down someplace after work with friends, and someone asks, “How was your day?”  We often don’t know what to say, or we just mumble, “Oh, it was okay.”  Then the conversation goes on to other topics.  It seems that we need some kind of happiness stick for measuring the day we’ve just experienced.  Fortunately, for many of us Dr. B. Alan Wallace of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, whose background includes a bachelor’s in physics, has given us four very helpful perspectives we can use to evaluate and clarify our day, perhaps even our life.

First, was your day full of goodness?  In other words, did you do no physical harm to your body or that of others, except in the cases of accident, self-defense or to defend others?  Did you not speak negatively to yourself or your family, friends, coworkers, or bosses?  Did you maintain equanimity with your thoughts and emotions?  Finally, did you sustain an awareness of your thoughts and actions during the day, and did you act appropriately, especially in the interest of compassion for yourself and others?

Next, do you feel happy rather than miserable?  Rather than give this question a passing look, really go inside yourself and spend some time there.  Find out if you’re thriving or not.  Ask yourself, “According to the way I feel right now, am I able to meet adversity and life with equanimity?”  Be honest with yourself, and don’t run away from the answer if it’s something you don’t want to see, hear, or feel.  Maintain equanimity until you feel a neutral energy.  If it’s going to take more time, then make an appointment to spend some alone time, treating this less than flourishing feeling with awareness and  balanced attention until it dissolves.

Third, did you practice the truth?  Review your day from start to finish with absolute integrity and scrutiny.  Overt lies to yourself and others are easy to see; however, it’s the subtle ones that take time to uncover.  Exaggerations to ourselves and others are still lies even though we may call them fibs or white lies.  The problem with not being honest with ourselves or others, no matter how seemingly inconsequential it may be, is that we still feel the pain when we discover the lies or they come back to us from others.  For example, during a meditation retreat, I maintained noble silence the entire time and did not commit any failures of truth.  On the last day of the retreat when we could talk, I discovered myself in the middle of an exaggeration, and I immediately felt its pain.  It was like a house of cards tumbling down.  Obviously, I had damaged my own integrity even though others were not aware of it.

Last, ask yourself what you brought to the world that was meaningful.  How were you helpful to yourself in the best interests of your coworkers, family members, friends, neighbors, and superiors?  How were you directly helpful to others; for example, your children or your parents?  Isn’t it obvious that if we can look at a day in our lives and see the qualities of goodness, happiness, truth, and living altruistically sticking out, then we’ve had a good day?  It most definitely is for me.

Certainly, getting a high mark on Alan Wallace’s four perspectives for happiness at the end of each day is inspiring.  Perhaps, it may even be better to find a few screw ups or flaws, for they give us an opportunity to understand the nature of reality through the purification of ourselves.  Furthermore, using this measuring stick to review other periods in our lives is also profound.  There’s a lot we can learn by uncovering our human errors, for it’s like the aging of wine with the right environment and the balance of time.