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.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


If communications were easy, we’d all be masters of it.  However, that’s not the case, for we sometimes find ourselves struggling to be understood.  Seeing leaders, colleagues, and friends put on the spot while they’re trying to find firm ground in their words, and failing to convince us is all too common these days, isn’t it?    Since it’s often the small points we make or actions we take that become the sparks for others’ understanding, focusing inward to connect with and communicate our wisdom from experience in a simple, effective way is without peer.

After all, we commonly hear too many unnecessary words coming from the mouths and minds of exceptional people.  We may wonder if they’ve lost themselves.  Sometimes it’s as if they’re infatuated with their voices as we find ourselves in boredom.  Other times when they go on and on trying to make their point, we know they have something important that we need to comprehend and use, but the more verbose they are, the more confused we become.  Finally, we need an interpreter to get what we need from them.

Common sense tells us that whether it’s a conversation or something more formal with people we know well or not, there are ways to make salient statements simply.  Rapport is important so we develop it by listening to find out how they process information.  When it’s time to say something, we connect with our inner being and ask what it is they most need to hear.  Satisfied that we know, we communicate this information in a way they understand in no more than a sentence or two or a simple action.  Now that we’ve opened the door, we continue listening and let their light of newfound exposure lead them.  Answering their inquiries, we keep our responses minimal and let the listeners work their way to complete understanding.

By keeping what we say simple and significant, we do those who listen a great service. When Carla Brennan interviewed ex-renegade biker James Veliskakis, a successful leader of a program called Tools for the Cycle of Life, he said:   “The little things you say or do can become the triggers for others’ awakening. You need to take the time to talk from your depth. What a shame it would be not to take advantage of this life.” 

These words of wisdom reminded me of the best teacher I ever had.  Spike Davis was a natural.  He could say just a few words and capture his students’ understanding without sounding teachy.  It’s so hard to find such people.  What they do with minimal words may sound simple but it’s not.  They must be good at listening and waiting for the inner silence to bring them the wisdom they need to communicate. 

Moreover, those who point the way can come in the form of people new to their careers.  As a former training manager in the U.S. Air Force, I recall the joy I felt in hearing the questions from new technical school graduates.  They helped me to improve the on-the-job training programs for hundreds of computer hardware and software specialists.

Taking the time to go inside and listen to our inner self does permit us to help others in significant ways.  Keeping what we say and do simple, we communicate effectively and efficiently with the wide variety of people with whom we work and associate.  It sharpens our capabilities and satisfaction with our lives, for we truly feel more useful to others.  Such a case for creating more space for ourselves and others with a noticeable degree of equanimity is well worth the investment of the effort it takes.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


It’s not uncommon to experience a negative reaction to what we encounter in the different environments we frequent today.  The list is not small: noise, difficult relationships, litter on the streets, smog, contaminated waterways, crime, traffic jams, greenhouse gas, orbiting space debris, and more.  Even conversations with friends and family are flooded with the ecological issues that set us off.  Yet little is spoken about how to turn these upsetting experiences into assets that bolster personal equanimity, the leadership characteristic that helps us to resolve and make peace with what we face.

Some will ask, “What is equanimity, and why is it so important?”  Others may assume they know what it is, choose to ignore it, and deal with life unconsciously.  The Macmillan English dictionary tells us the word “equanimity” means a calm mental state when you deal with difficult situations.  That reminds me of the saying, “let cooler heads prevail.”  If we check Wikipedia, we find that equanimity was shared by the Buddha as one of the seven enlightenment factors, meaning not being lustful or adverse to life events.  Also, as a former management instructor, I’ve heard experienced students agree that it’s necessary to have leaders who demonstrate and use equanimity in making important decisions and taking action. 

Obviously, this individual quality is one of the most important resources for humans to have and manage.  If we use it intelligently, we maintain our sanity and realize greater peace, for the more equanimity we have, the fewer problems we have because we’re not reacting, we’re responding in a balanced way in making and carrying out wise decisions.  People appreciate and rally around such behavior.  Its inherent wisdom and compassion are contagious.  Life is better for everyone, and we may even live longer.

The problem, however, is maintaining and applying equanimity during the difficult and disturbing situations we encounter.  For example, what do we do when we’re standing in the checkout line at Walmart after a long day, and the children in front of us are screaming and crying; we’re stuck in a traffic jam in places like San Francisco, Mexico City, or London; we find trash in our neighborhood or on our front lawn; we see the news about the destruction of natural resources; we run into trouble with economical failure, giving care to those we love, or consoling our best friend who has just lost his or her job?  These are but a few of the situations that give us pause to look inside ourselves and use equanimity to cope with what is in front of us.  Of course, some will say, “Yeah, right….but how?”

This is a difficult question to answer.  While I profess to be a lifelong student of equanimity, I know that the best experts in this field are not always successful.  Even an old and seemingly unshakable Zen monk kicked the dog that had peed on him when he thought no one was around to see.  As humans, we’re not infallible.  Here are a few tips, however, that I’ve found useful over the years:

a.       First, realize that equanimity, while mental, is a very feeling-based activity.  So, men, get out of your heads and into your feelings.
b.      Understand that the situation confronting you is causing an unpleasant sensation to arise somewhere in your body.  It could be in your abdomen, your stomach, your heart area, your back.  Find it, focus on it, understand that it’s out of balance, and stay with it until it regains a neutral feeling.  (For very difficult situations, we do need to realize that it may take more than just a little while to calm down.  Don’t be afraid to ask for psychological help when it’s something that doesn’t seem to change with practice.)
c.       Make a decision and take action when you feel balanced.  Sometimes focusing on the feeling and allowing it to become tranquil by itself is the only thing you need to do.  On the other hand, if it’s an emergency situation, you may have to do the best you can before you regain complete stability.  In that case, after the situation is over with, return and focus on the feeling of stress in your body until it’s neutral again.
d.      As you successfully “keep your cool” by concentrating on the unpleasant feeling, regaining your equanimity, and taking action with each life event, you’ll find that such practice will make you stronger and more self-confident.
e.       Finally, if you wish to really enhance your capability to use equanimity, enroll in a mindfulness course and look at www.mindful.org for more advice and assistance.

Maintaining equanimity in the face of need is one of our best resources.  Instead of “going bananas” and creating chaos, we can help ourselves and others.  Practicing the small technique I’ve given above, or those we learn in classes and professional settings, can inspire more of us to take a hand in resolving ecological problems at the individual, family, community, state, national, and/or international levels. 

Strong, personal equanimity spirits innovations that help countless beings, especially those living in the natural habitats around us.  Why not consciously reinforce and use this valuable resource as wisely as you can every day, beginning with yourself and then with others?  It’s free.  

Saturday, May 10, 2014


      “I want some space.”  “Give me some space, PLEASE!?”  Such words are common in today’s demanding world, aren’t they?   They represent an unfulfilled desire for which we cry from deep within ourselves, even those who are retired from day-to-day stressful life. They come from a feeling of loss of control over our lives, or for one that we’ve never had.  We wonder how it would be to have the space and clarity that we wish for, a peace of mind, and we want it.
       If we’ve investigated ourselves and done it well, we know the location for the cause of our unrest.  We’ve gone past what we’ve perceived as the primary reason(s) for this feeling, such as pressure at work, everybody wanting something if you’re a mom, haunting thoughts from the past, worries about the future, or problematic relationships with significant others.  We’ve learned that what exacerbates the need for space, with some exceptions, is not the real problem—it’s something much deeper.  However, we most likely don’t know what it is, except that it’s “in here” some place.  Wisdom has shown us that it’s not “out there”, for if it were an exterior issue it wouldn’t be an ongoing problem inside.  We’d make a wise decision, take an appropriate action, and that would be the end of it.
      But for those of us who haven’t experienced this “gift of space”, we imagine its rewards and desire it all the more.  We might even consider that the thoughts and emotions from the past would no longer upset us.  Thoughts and emotions based on issues in the future would no longer have a hold on us either.  We would find that we might spend more time in the spacious and clear present, sometimes being subtly swept into the past or future, but returning to the present having realized where we’d gone.
      Now, the question is:  “What’s a simple, common sense approach for experiencing the space that comes from being in the present?”
      Here are some easy steps to follow:

a.       We need to understand that being in the present requires some skill that is not developed in a moment.  Just as the company that makes the Mercedes Benz has said, “If you want something good, you have to be willing to wait for it.”  In this case, you have to be patient enough to develop what you need and accept the bumps along the way.
b.      Set aside a few minutes in a quiet, uninterrupted space, where you can work productively with yourself.  It’s kind of like a carpenter who has designated a place in the garage to work and contemplate on what’s coming out of his or her efforts. 
c.       Sit on a comfortable chair but not one that will put you to sleep.  Make sure your back is straight and your hands are in your lap.  TVs and cell phones cannot be in the same space nor where you can hear them in the distance.
d.      Focus on your breathing—either that flowing in and out of your nostrils or the rise and fall of your stomach.
e.       Start with the goal of concentrating on the breath for one minute without losing your attention.  When you’ve achieved that, continuously expand the time, ultimately reaching a point that serves you best.
f.       If you find that you can’t concentrate for even a minute, then you probably need to find a good therapist—one who helps you experience and resolve what’s stopping you from focusing and then takes you through relaxation techniques that are tailored for you, ones you can use outside of therapeutical sessions.
g.      Continuing…as you focus on your breath, don’t let any thoughts or emotions distract you.  Although they may frequently sweep you away, always come back to your breath when you realize what has happened.  Equanimity is key.  The actual fact is this:  as you accustom yourself to focusing on the breath, the thoughts and emotions begin to slow down, giving you more and more space as you practice.
h.      Practice must be consistent; that is, daily if you want results in terms of clarity and the mental space in which you can go about your life with a newfound feeling of increasingly more freedom.
i.        When you become skilled in the above technique, you’ll find that you’ll be able to use it at work or other times when you need the clarity and peace of mind that comes with making space for yourself.  This is when you realize you’re the creator of your own reality.
      What I’ve given above is just a common sense approach to creating a level of peace, clarity, and space that serve you.  Granted, these suggestions can be found in numerous articles written by mindfulness teachers, but I think it’s helpful to hear them from common practitioners, like myself and others.  From what I’ve observed, the words and actions of peers on the road to clarity support my practice—similar to that of excellent coworkers. 

      No belief is involved, for this way to a better life is based on pure experience.  Those who doubt, criticize, and never practice, even anything remotely similar, most likely remain stuck where they are.  It’s the daily performance of this work that opens people to the clarity and space one needs to function.  This kind of peace is our true nature, one that equals the very presence in the photo above.