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 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.