Wednesday, September 26, 2012


When it comes to managing the five major resources we have available to us in this modern world, we’d probably like to think that we do okay, wouldn’t we?  However, that might not always be the case.  For example, the means we call time is usually something for which we feel a scarcity and would like to use better.  So, if we changed what we do with the important moments we have, what would result?

For example, instead of using the first minute of the day to jump out of bed when the alarm rings and rush about, we could do something different.  We could employ it to attain stability by noticing and focusing on the breath coming in and out of our nostrils.  Second, to combine this concentration with our attention to scan our bodies inside and out from the top of our head to the tip of our toes.  Then, to observe our entire being while smiling and saying “thank you” repeatedly as if we’ve met an old friend (the act of smiling changes the emotions in our inner self—try it).  Last, we get out of bed in a better frame of mind, well focused, feeling refreshed, and more capable of meeting and engaging our day.

Of course, this short, but valuable little process, can be applied in other situations as well.  If it involves education, it can be used by students in the minute before starting exams.  If it concerns parenting, it can be employed before disciplining children.  If it has to do with work, it can be utilized before making important decisions or meeting with difficult clients.  If it pertains to recreational activities, for example, golf, it can be used just before putting, teeing off, or making a short or long drive.

The benefits are gratifying to say the least.  Focusing helps improve clarity and the strength of concentration while invoking a moment to hear and silence harmful internal dialogue; moreover, it provides a base for the next two steps.  Combining such intensity with our attention lets us see and balance the feelings, emotions, and thoughts we might be experiencing so that we might develop some insight and wisdom regarding a situation and respond instead of react.  Smiling on the effects of the previous two steps, along with saying “thanks” repeatedly, creates a feeling of kindness and gratitude in our body that has an immediate and beneficial outcome upon any action in which we are involved.  For example, offering a hand of security to someone who has felt isolated, lessening our fears upon waking or going to sleep, or creating confidence in the minds of others.  Time, in some instances, might even be saved as a result of not having accidents or making horrible mistakes.

Changing what we normally do for something thoughtful and out of the ordinary could just be the modification we’d like to keep.  It’s a short little process, but given the opportunity of practice, it affects some really memorable and valuable results.  Also, the benefits I’ve mentioned here are but a few of the many that actually exist.  So why not take advantage of the important moments you have to live more peacefully and wisely and happier!

Friday, September 21, 2012


Have you ever had the feeling that you’ve just BEEN BLINDSIDED?  Well, that’s what living life on automatic usually does for you, doesn’t it?  You know, “doing everything on the run.”  Don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Millions of others do the same!  But have you really thought about what stops you from finding a better way?

For starters, it could be that ignorance is the case; however, it certainly isn’t blissful when it costs you what matters the most.  Many of us have seen others get promotions, especially people who have continued their education and taken the time to find out what else they need to boost their careers.  Second, ignoring your health instead of staying fit makes for good conversations in the hospital or recuperating at home, doesn’t it?  Not paying attention to your family while keeping your eye on the ball at work six and seven days a week might also be the reason for the empty home you live in now, right?

Of course, it might also be that YOU JUST DON’T HAVE THE TIME.  Yeah, we’ve all heard that one…until work gives you the opportunity to travel or do something else equally exciting, and then you have all the time in the world, don’t you?   That’s just a small indicator of your real power because the truth is you choose how you use your time.  So it’s no secret that you tend to pursue what you prize the most, even when some of those priorities may be destructively set by your subconscious mind, remaining largely unknown to you.

Last, it could be that the solution you’re offered to a better life sounds JUST TOO FAR OUT OF THE NORM for you to consider, right?  I mean, after all, what would other people, especially your family and friends, think of you if you tried it?  Of course, it might even be surprising that some of the most successful people you know or admire do it, something you don’t find out until after they die!  Such a practice might even have been the reason why they were so well liked and successful.

Looking at some of the major causes for why you fail to find a better way to avoid the problems you  experience in daily living is a little hard to accept, isn’t it?  But don’t worry, it’s easy to go on pleading ignorance, saying you don’t have the time, or the resolution is just too far out in fairy land for you to try.  Or, maybe not, especially if you’ve had all you can take.  The key, although challenging, might be interesting and delightfully different than what you expect; even practical and rewarding from the get go!

Successful People

Finding a way out of the mess into which you’ve gotten yourself means taking a look at what the successful people do that you’ve observed.  And I’m not talking about the ones who just do it at work, but those who really have a balanced life between their occupation, family, and personal endeavors.  Characteristically, people seem to be drawn to them, they’re not difficult to be with,  they listen, they seem to inspire the best in others, they have time for family and friends, and their decisions always seem to make good sense.  They’re the kind of people you want to be with during an emergency.  They don’t have to be negative or use force to get what is necessary carried out.  Perhaps, you’d even like to take a closer look at what helps them to be someone you’d like to emulate.

First, they don’t seem to jump into a decision.  Even in emergencies, if you could observe them carefully, you’d see that they still take a moment to go inside themselves.  And that’s the point.  They’re intimately familiar with what’s in there.  Becoming aware of their emotions, thoughts, and feelings before they choose an appropriate action is something they seem to do almost automatically.  For example, I saw this quality in Edwin Wockenfuss, one of the best leaders for whom I’ve had the opportunity to work.   The decisions he had to make went from the very mundane to those of life and death.  People would follow him anywhere.

So what would he or others like him do once they had taken a moment to check themselves?  They would attempt to maintain or reestablish a level of equanimity appropriate to the situation they were facing.  Balance was essential to themselves and others around them.  To the naked eye, they were firmly in control of the element of life they were facing, whether it was routine or otherwise.

Moreover, especially when a problem was difficult or serious, taking time to contemplate the situation and the appropriate action would be commonplace among these people.  They would often withdraw to their offices, take a walk, or sleep on it.  When they came back with a decision, it was clear and very capably carried out by the decision maker and his or her people.

Certainly, the examples I’ve given are of exemplary leaders reflecting on their feelings, emotions, and thoughts, assuring a functional level of equanimity, contemplating to see their way to an appropriate action, and carrying it out with the help of their people.  But this could also be observed in what they did with their families and personal lives.  Applying their actions to yourself in the parts of life most important to you would be quite suitable.  And that’s the sticky point, isn’t it?  While some people seem to be naturals, others have to learn and mold themselves to these behaviors over time.


Thus, it becomes a question of finding the training you need to acquire these talents.  So where do you go, where do you begin to look?  Do you find these abilities taught at our universities?  No, not usually.  The answer is that you customarily have to look for such instruction outside of traditional institutions of learning.   Expecting their professors to teach you how to gain any competency in the skill of mindfulness for daily life may be well beyond what they instruct.

Instead, you should look for this training in non-traditional places.  For example, internet is a good place to start.  This source gives you the locations of numerous groups that generally meet in local cities and towns.  Just go to google and type in “Inquiring Mind,” and you’ll find all kinds of groups and contacts.   (And don’t be afraid of the word meditation, for mindfulness is one of its techniques.)  These people will be quite helpful in getting you in contact with teachers, materials, and other people practicing mindfulness.

Sitting down with the leader of a small group is certainly a preferable way to start.  That’s what I did with David Schulze, an economics professor who taught at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1975.  After Dave guided me through a basic session, I knew that I’d found the beginning of something that would help me through the ups and downs of life, and more than 35 years later, I can certainly say that it has.  Thus, if you find that a small guided session with a qualified teacher offers the slightest notion that mindfulness training would be helpful, then it’s certainly worthwhile to continue with the local group.  Later on, if you’re experiencing more benefits, then participating in a retreat would be a viable option.

And I can’t begin to emphasize strongly enough, how important it is for you to learn to take mindfulness training into daily life, letting it become the tool that is used to check your internal self, attain or maintain equanimity, contemplate an issue momentarily or at length, make a decision, and take appropriate action at work, with the family, or in personal pursuits.


What I’ve described in the above paragraphs is not a walk in the park.  It’s a journey.  As such, it contains all the ups and downs you find in life until your very last breath.  You’ll appreciate the equanimity that carries you through difficulties and the clarity that contemplation offers in seeing your way to effective decisions.  Getting to know the dysfunctional thoughts, feelings and emotions you experience as opportunities for learning and growth, you non-reactively observe them as your ever-growing level of concentration directs your laser-like attention into transforming them from liabilities into assets.  And, finally, you’ll begin to describe ideas for conventional life that you and others like family, friends, and colleagues can clearly see and use for living successfully every day.  There’s nothing like making a difference, is there?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


There are a lot of scary things in life, aren’t there? And they usually start with a sensation of fear.  Although we sense the fright in such a feeling, it can really be terrifying when it turns into thinking about something unknown.  This kind of “thought”, the one we don’t like to hear as older adults, is usually, “I don’t have much time left to…”  Such a notion comes to me, for example, while I’m enjoying the young trees my wife and I have planted in our yard and entryway, and I imagine seeing them almost fully grown, but my presence isn’t there.  I wonder what might happen if I or others attempted to investigate such thoughts instead of reacting to them by retreating from their shadowy presence.
Perhaps, contemplating the statement, “I don’t have much time left to…,” that is, concentrating and holding it under a laser-like gaze of mindfulness might be quite surprising and helpful.  Just being patient, it would lead us into the sensation of fear from which we usually flee.  Once there, this is the part where we would really need the ability of equanimity to stay put, steadfastly observing the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arise and pass away.  If we’re fortunate, our patience might pay off, for as fear dissolves, we could find ourselves opening to and becoming one with a natural spaciousness, experiencing a clarity that is crystal clear.  As we linger, we could abide in awareness, one that may offer insights, such as learning that immense joy is possible within each moment in nature, like being one with those trees and plants that humans love so much.  Insights might come as though they’re specifically designed for us.  We would realize we can make this journey of contemplation as often as we like, that our fear of not having enough time left to enjoy the things we love in nature or with other parts of our lives dissolves, and that what we have is sufficient, even if it’s a small while.  It may even be that some  call the final stage in aging, appreciation, becomes a living reality. 

Investigating fearful thoughts, such as “I don’t have much time left to…”, by contemplating and following them to their core is transformative.  It’s amazingly helpful as it resolves many of the difficulties we perceive and face in daily living.  Finding that we can study such feelings while we’re in nature or wherever we are, not just on a cushion, we experience gratitude for what we have in each moment and let it go.  And in doing so, we may find that letting go of our final moment in this life is one filled with satisfaction and unconditional love.  Why not?