Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #43: Raising Your Spirited Child

Dear kids,

Someday, this stuff will come in handy. Trust me.

Favorite Quotes:

  • “But seriously, I never realized how easy it is to label her, and I’m beginning to see the impact it has on her. She’s the youngest, the surprise baby in our family. She is so different from the other two that we have always referred to her as ‘Wild Woman.’ Yesterday, my mother reprimanded her for jumping on the couch. Hazel excused herself by saying, ‘Grandma, it’s okay. I’m supposed to be the wild one.’”
  • Like a swirling hurricane, negativity is devastating to relationships. It is so powerful that psychologist John Gottman found when listening to couples’ conversations that if there was a ratio of 2.9 negative statements for every positive statement, he could predict that they were on the road to divorce. On the other hand, couples with healthy relationships had a ratio of only one negative comment for every five positive statements.
  • Starting today, you can choose to stop using words that project a negative image of your child. It really is not that far a leap from picky to selective or even from obnoxious to dramatic.
  • In fact, developmental psychologist J. J. Goodnow found in her research that parents whose children were very socially competent did not see their children’s occasional social “tussles” as signs of aggressiveness. Instead, the missteps were attributed to something more temporary, for example, a high-energy child having played for too long. As a result, rather than getting angry with their children, they simply made a mental note to help them avoid getting into trouble in the future by pointing out when to call it quits. That optimistic perspective kept parent and child working together.
  • You can teach yourself to use your new labels when you talk about your kids and when you discipline them. To the five-year-old who is refusing to wear the new outfit Grandma sent, you can say, “You do have a strong sense of style.” And to the eight-year-old who refuses to go to bed until she has finished the last chapter in her book, “You are persistent and committed to your goals.” I realize you might be thinking, Isn’t this child just “getting her way”? Let me emphasize that this is the beginning of the conversation—not the ending. Ultimately, you will teach your child the skills to be flexible and to be a creative problem solver. But for those lessons to be heard and processed, your child has to be calm. That won’t be the case if you are upset, thinking she is being
  • “It was amazing!” she exclaimed. “When I used positive words to describe Silas, so did my relatives and his teacher. If someone complained, ‘Silas is awfully loud,’ I would respond, ‘He is dramatic, isn’t he? Let’s get him outside where we can appreciate that more.’ They’d be taken aback, but after a few minutes they would agree he really can be spectacular. After I’d done it a few times, I overheard my mother say, ‘Silas, your dramatic side is coming out again. Let’s turn on some music and dance together.’
  • Even at school when his teacher told me he was stubborn, I nodded in agreement but said, ‘We find him to be very tenacious at home too.’ ‘I never thought of it in that light,’ the teacher responded. ‘I guess it isn’t all that bad, is it?’ It really changed the way she saw him. It’s contagious!”
  • Researchers tell us that when we get caught in an adversarial relationship with our children, we end up with more, not fewer, behavior issues in the long run. More troubling, we fall out of love with our sons and daughters. We do not want
  • Have you ever wondered whether parents who seem to stay calmer have a secret? They do. It’s how they view their child. “I recognized this is who he is,” Amanda told me one day. “He’s very sensitive. I realize that a lot of the time he’s scared about something. He’s different from other kids. When I think about it that way, I have much more compassion for him.”
  • One day while observing in a classroom, I heard the teacher, Julie Nelson, say to a child, “Oh my gosh, you had so much stress when you came to school today. I could see it in your shoulders.” The girl nodded solemnly and whispered, “Oh, Ms. Nelson, I thought it was going to last forever.” Julie, a skilled educator, knows that by describing what she sees, she is teaching the children to notice and name their own cues. Ultimately
  • Three-year-old Al is a blond, tousled-haired mini-tornado. “I’ve got gusto,” he informed me. “My dad says it’s okay to do things with gusto—as long as you don’t hurt anybody!” “I’m full of it,” a five-year-old shared, “just like my Grandpa Rick.”
  • John Gottman from the Gottman Institute, the research demonstrates that children who receive these types of messages are “emotion coached” and are more effective at soothing themselves and focusing attention. As a result, they do better in school and with peers, experience fewer behavior problems, and demonstrate more positive emotions.
  • WATER: “When Silas starts to lose it, it’s into the bathtub,” Laura explained. “There are days the kid looks like a little raisin because he’s been in there three times, but it snaps him right out of it. I’ve got two other kids. They don’t need baths the way Silas does, but if necessary I just put them in the tub with him. He needs it and they enjoy it.”
  • IMAGINATION: Most spirited children have a vivid imagination. You can use it to help them moderate their intensity and have fun.
  • SENSORY ACTIVITIES: Spirited kids are very sensuous. They enjoy activities that allow them to touch, smell, taste, hear, or see things. Using their senses can calm them.
  • Older children can benefit from listening to their favorite music, chewing gum, sucking from a straw, rubbing the silk edge of their favorite blanket or stuffed animal (there is no need to “give them up”—they can just be kept private), or using a favorite lotion or oil, especially lavender. Gardening or baking are also favorite sensory activities for all ages.
  • PHYSICAL EXERCISE AND REPETITIVE MOTION: “I was trying to get four-year-old Derrick to put on his shoes so we could go pick up his sister,” Nadeen told me. “He was dragging his feet and mumbling as I was trying to rush him along. I told him we really needed to go so we wouldn’t be late, and he said, ‘But, MOM, what are we going to do about the bees in my body?’ “Shocked, I responded, ‘Are you feeling bees in your body?’ “‘Yes!’ he exclaimed. “‘Well, let’s get rid of them! Should we bounce?’ And we proceeded to bounce on the mini-trampoline. Five minutes later he got into the car without a fuss.”
  • DEEP BREATHING: Even toddlers can learn to use deep breathing to calm their system. Simply say to them, “Breath in.”
  • Unfortunately, we’ve turned time-out into a punishment for kids. Instead of being an opportunity to teach our children to take a break in order to regain control, it has become a dreaded order. “Go to your room and don’t come out until I tell you to!”
  • The teachable moment will come—after he’s calm. If he attempts to leave before he is calm, return him to the basket, once again assisting him in finding something to do until his body is peaceful. Children have to be taught what a relaxed body looks like. Point out that when they are calm their eyes will look at you. Their arms and legs will be still. They can listen and answer. Their voice is quiet. Time-out is not over until you can both see these things and that sense of peacefulness fills their bodies.
  • I headed toward the boys. Four-year-old Wyatt clutched the iPad to his chest, twisting away from six-year-old Kyle’s clawing grasp. Seeing me approach, Kyle shrank back. “I will help you.” I said, moving closer. Kyle glanced at me, a look of confusion in his eyes, as though deciding whether to run or yell in defense. But I bent low and calmly continued, “I saw your hand hit him. What were you trying to tell him?” In that moment he turned toward me, open to working with me. Why didn’t I reprimand them for fighting? Was I just letting them get away with poor behavior? Before the lessons can be taught, we have to draw our spirited children to us. If we move in like a bulldozer, their response will intensify to match ours. That’s when the yelling morphs into kicks. Nimble bodies dart from our grasp, and the words I hate you stab us in the heart. Spirited children have to know that the adult approaching them is someone coming to help. Not an enemy or adversary who is going to yell, threaten, or grab them, but someone who will help them calm down and figure out what to do. Someone who is saying words like: I will help you.”
  • “Leo likes to rinse the dishes, which is great. But if someone has left a dirty dish in the sink, he freaks out. I want him to be flexible. So I’ve been trying to tell him it’s not a big deal or suggest he use the sprayer and the other sink. But he just gets more upset. This morning it happened again, but this time I caught myself and said, ‘Yuck, there’s a dirty dish in there. I will help you. What do you need?’ He calmed right down. Then he said to me, ‘Dad, why don’t I just use the sprayer.’” Shaking his head, Rob added, “I guess a little empathy goes a long way.”
  • In my experience, most of the tantrums experienced by spirited children are actually spillover meltdowns. They are not premeditated. They are not intended to manipulate.
  • STOP TO LISTEN: Your first reaction when a pillow has been thrown at your head might be to grab your child and scream, “What were you thinking?” A few threats or consequences could be tossed into the mix as well to ensure that your child clearly understands how upset you are with her. I’m going to advise you to resist.
  • Don’t get me wrong. Violent and destructive behaviors are unacceptable. You are going to deal with the behavior—but this is not the teachable moment—that will come later.
  • First you have to help her recover from the physiological blast of hormones coursing through her body. Until her body is calmed, she cannot look at you, hear you, or think.
  • Ask your child questions like: “What is the reason you do not want to take a shower?” Or, “What about these socks do you not like?”
  • Whatever the trigger, identifying it allows you to stop it if you can. Naming it helps your child understand what is happening to him.
  • WORKING TOGETHER: REDO—GOING BACK FOR THE TEACHABLE MOMENT When your child has experienced a meltdown, it is critical to go back after she is calm to teach her more appropriate words to use and actions to take in the future.
  • CLARIFY THE EXPECTATION. Expectations focus on your family’s values. You can
  • REDO WITH TODDLERS: A redo with toddlers needs to be adjusted for their developmental stage. Everything in a toddler’s brain is screaming, “Do it! Try it! Find out what will happen!” They also have short memories. Every time, you have to stop them, show them what to do instead. When a toddler throws a truck at you, hold the truck and say, “You hand me the truck.” Invite her to practice placing it in your hand. (Odds are someone has been teaching her to throw a ball. She hasn’t figured out
  • MAKING AMENDS: If there has been a “victim” during the spillover meltdown, the redo will also need to include making amends.
  • WHEN YOUR CHILD IS HITTING, KICKING, AND THROWING THINGS: If you change your approach to stop and listen first, you will drastically reduce the odds that your child will get to the point of hitting, kicking, or destroying things. But if despite your efforts to understand what is happening, he still gets to that point, you’ll have to stop him. Again, in a firm but calm voice say to him, “If you cannot stop yourself, I will help you.” Or, “I cannot allow you to hurt yourself or others.” Take a younger child onto your lap. Sitting on the floor, legs outstretched in front of you, place him facing the same direction as you are. Wrap your legs around his so he cannot kick you. Fold your arms around him so he cannot hit you. Hold firmly so that he cannot head butt or bite you, but do not squeeze. Breathe deeply. Tell yourself the following: “He’s flooded.” “His brain has been hijacked.” “He’s not doing this ‘to me.’” These thoughts will help you remain calmer. Remember, on an airplane you are directed to put on your oxygen mask first. Calm yourself so you can calm him. It is likely that your child will scream “Let me go!” Assure him that as soon as his voice is soft and his legs and arms are still, you will.
  • WHEN YOUR CHILD YELLS, OR SWEARS AT YOU, OR CALLS YOU NAMES: It’s not unusual in the midst of a meltdown for your child to hurl nasty words. This is actually progress—he’s using words, not hitting. But of course they are not acceptable. Don’t take the bait. You will deal with this later; right now you are attempting to help him pull out of the dive. In a firm but gentle voice say to him, “I know you are really mad at me right now. Try that again. Say it in a way that makes me want to listen.” Then wait.
  • BE PRESENT AND OFFER TOUCH: Not every child’s brain goes into “fight” mode when experiencing a spillover meltdown; some shut down like a deer in headlights and simply need time and space to recover. Your presence is essential. I was observing at a child-care center one morning when a mom dropped off her preschooler. The little girl started to scream and kick the minute Mom started out the door. I recognized a slow-to-adapt child who was having trouble with a transition, but the teachers and her mom weren’t familiar with temperament and didn’t understand what was happening. They sent her to the corner to cry it out on her own while they went on with their business. I moved close to her. She didn’t know me, and I sensed that she did not want me to touch her. Keeping my body relaxed, I told her I would not come near her unless she wanted me to. I sat on the floor close by, present and available. Gradually she moved nearer until her head rested on my lap. Only then did she stop crying.
  • GIVE YOUR CHILD SPACE: Sometimes, rather than soothing, touch may add to the intensity of spirited children. This is especially true for those who are more introverted. These children need their space. They’ll let you know by withdrawing, or pushing your hand away. Or they’ll say things like: “Don’t look at me!” “Go away.” Or, “Get out of my room!” If this is true for your children, and they are preschoolers or older and not hurting themselves or anything else, respect their boundaries and move away slightly. Let them know you’ll be checking back. You are available. You care. Recognize
  • You can tell him, “I will not touch you, but I will stay near you until your body is calm.”
  • ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD TO MOVE: When your child slips into a spillover meltdown, blood rushes to his muscles, and adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones, are released into his system, telling him to



Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #42: Discover Your Inner Economist" by Tyler Cowen

Best Nonfiction Book - Discover Your Inner EconomistDear kids,

Discover Your Inner Economist is one of those books that’s full of surprising psychological truths and unexpected research results. A good number of them are super practical, too. And, what’s even cooler than that: this book isn’t a copycat–it’s an original idea for a book, at least as far as I can tell.

Primarily, Discovering Your Inner Economist is about the role of money as a powerful behavioral incentive.

Key takeaways: Sometimes, incentivizing with money backfires. Cultural identification and pride in oneself is more important than money. So is enjoying life. When you try to monetize activities that speak to these values, you can muddy the waters. Example: household chores. Children are often more motivated to do their chores by a sense of family belonging, responsibility and maturity. Paying for chores often causes even more feet-dragging.

Like I said: practical.



Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #41: “The Mind’s Own Physician” by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Dear kids,

After the first chapter of The Mind’s Own Physician, I thought, Okay, another book on the positive effects of meditation on the brain. But then I got to the quarter-done mark, and started getting some new information, and I thought, Gee, this book is what it promises to be after all.

It’s actually pretty scientific.

But it’s not dense; the gems, I think, are spread out between paragraphs of introductory material. Each chapter is a separate speech given at a conference that included the Dalai Lama, and perfunctory remarks are included verbatim. And because these are scholarly lectures, not self-help book chapters, they’re not particularly easy reading.

The value of the book comes in the surprising study results the lecturers recount, so if the science of meditation interests you, this is your book.

Links to More Info:

The Mind’s Own Physician on Amazon

The Mind’s Own Physician on Goodreads

Jon Kabat-Zinn on Wikipedia

Jon Kabat-Zinn at the Center for Mindfulness

Jon Kabat-Zinn on Facebook



Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #40: "Instead of Education" by John Holt

Best Nonfiction Book - Instead of Education

Dear kids,

John Holt is a from-the-heart writer with a beautiful writing voice. His love of and respect for children is sweet to read, and his perspective on education is revolutionary. I also love the striking examples he uses.

Instead of Education makes the argument that the educational system we’re used to is almost totally flawed. Learning should be a self-guided process that is only assisted by caring facilitators.

Main Points:

Here are the main points Holt tries to convey:

  • We learn by doing. Period.
  • Carrots and sticks—rewards and punishments—don’t work.
  • Learning is not separate from life.
  • There are little-s schools and big-s Schools. Big-s Schools are pedantic, threatening, forceful and don’t offer choice. In little-s schools, all students are free at all times to do or not do, participate or not participate, leave or go. There are no attendance records, no tests, no grades. Teachers are not lecturers, but guides.

A few examples of occurrences at little-s schools that Holt visited:

  • Summerhill was a makeshift school furnished with little more than beer crates. Most of what happened there during the day was simply conversation and reading. In the morning there was dancing and drums and other physical activity directed by the kids. The school keep attendance records but there was no punishment when someone didn’t come. Watching was considered an important activity, and teachers admitted what they didn’t know.
  • Once at Summerhill, Holt saw a new boy hit a girl. Though the girl was slightly hurt, she didn’t cry to the teacher. The other kids sympathized with her but did not reprimand the boy; instead, they felt sorry for him and acted as if they assumed that he would soon learn to behave better.
  • In another example, another new boy “. . . did one thing over and over again. He heated his nail red hot and stuck it into a piece of wood, which charred and smoked . . . I have never sensed more violence and anger in a child . . .” The teachers said nothing, allowing him to work through what he needed to work through. “Two years later, when I next visited the school, he was a peaceful, kind, happy child . . .”


Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #39: “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times” by Pema Chodron

Dear kids,

Sometimes, you just need to chill. That’s what Chodron writes in one of her most beloved works, When Things Fall Apart (and in many of her other books, too). Sometimes, there are no easy answers. Sometimes even spiritual practice fails. But that’s okay. Because it’s not really failing.

Over time, the Buddhists say, some kind of noticing magic happens, and you start noticing that you’re actually getting better. More loving. More accepting. More patient. More kind—to yourself, and to other people. Until you aren’t. And then you notice again.

They might be right. I think they are.

Favorite Quotes:

  • My teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, described this as “leaning into the sharp points.”
  • “Chaos should be regarded as extremely good news.”
  • That’s what we’re going to discover again and again and again. Nothing is what we thought. I can say that with great confidence. Emptiness is not what we thought. Neither is mindfulness or fear. Compassion—not what we thought. Love. Buddha nature. Courage. These are code words for things we don’t know in our minds, but any of us could experience them. These are words that point to what life really is when we let things fall apart and let ourselves be nailed to the present moment. 2 When Things Fall Apart When things fall apart and we’re on the verge of we know not what, the test of each of us is to stay on that brink and not concretize.
  • What happened to me when I got to the abbey was that everything fell apart. All the ways I shield myself, all the ways I delude myself, all the ways I maintain my well-polished self-image—all of it fell apart. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t manipulate the situation. My style was driving everyone else crazy, and I couldn’t find anywhere to hide.
  • Everything that I had not been able to see about myself before was suddenly dramatized. As if that weren’t enough, others were free with their feedback about me and what I was doing. It was so painful that I wondered if I would ever be happy again. I felt that bombs were being dropped on me almost continuously, with self-deceptions exploding all around. In a place where there was so much practice and study going on, I could not get lost in trying to justify myself and blame others. That kind of exit was not available.
  • Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
  • The spiritual journey is not about heaven and finally getting to a place that’s really swell. In fact, that way of looking at things is what keeps us miserable.
  • Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It’s a very tender, nonaggressive, open-ended state of affairs.
  • To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path.
  • Every day we could reflect on this and ask ourselves, “Am I going to add to the aggression in the world?” Every day, at the moment when things get edgy, we can just ask ourselves, “Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war?”
  • GENERALLY SPEAKING, we regard discomfort in any form as bad news. But for practitioners or spiritual warriors—people who have a certain hunger to know what is true—feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back.
  • Those events and people in our lives who trigger our unresolved issues could be regarded as good news. We don’t have to go hunting for anything. We don’t need to try to create situations in which we reach our limit. They occur all by themselves, with clockwork regularity.
  • The first time I met Trungpa Rinpoche was with a class of fourth graders who asked him a lot of questions about growing up in Tibet and about escaping from the Chinese Communists into India. One boy asked him if he was ever afraid. Rinpoche answered that his teacher had encouraged him to go to places like graveyards that scared him and to experiment with approaching things he didn’t like. Then he told a story about traveling with his attendants to a monastery he’d never seen before. As they neared the gates, he saw a large guard dog with huge teeth and red eyes. It was growling ferociously and struggling to get free from the chain that held it. The dog seemed desperate to attack them. As Rinpoche got closer, he could see its bluish tongue and spittle spraying from its mouth. They walked past the dog, keeping their distance, and entered the gate. Suddenly the chain broke and the dog rushed at them. The attendants screamed and froze in terror. Rinpoche turned and ran as fast as he could—straight at the dog. The dog was so surprised that he put his tail between his legs and ran away. We can meet our match with a poodle or with a raging guard dog, but the interesting question is—what happens next? The spiritual journey
  • How do we work with our minds when we meet our match? Rather than indulge or reject our experience, we can somehow let the energy of the emotion, the quality of what we’re feeling, pierce us to the heart. This is easier said than done, but it’s a noble way to live. It’s definitely the path of compassion—the path of cultivating human bravery and kindheartedness.
  • We might think, as we become more open, that it’s going to take bigger catastrophes for us to reach our limit. The interesting thing is that, as we open more and more, it’s the big ones that immediately wake us up and the little things that catch us off guard. However, no matter what the size, color, or shape
  • Saying “thinking” is a very interesting point in the meditation. It’s the point at which we can consciously train in gentleness and in developing a nonjudgmental attitude. The word for loving-kindness in Sanskrit is maitri. Maitri is also translated as unconditional friendliness. So each time you say to yourself “thinking,” you are cultivating that unconditional friendliness toward whatever arises in your mind.
  • What does this story mean? My understanding of it is that what we habitually regard as obstacles are not really our enemies, but rather our friends. What we call obstacles are really the way the world and our entire experience teach us where we’re stuck.
  • When we talk about a good life from the usual samsaric point of view, what we mean is that we’ve finally gotten it together. We finally feel that we’re a good person. We have good qualities, we’re peaceful, and we don’t get thrown off balance when arrows are shot at us. We’re the person who knows how to turn an arrow into a flower. We feel so good about ourselves. We’ve finally tied up all the loose ends. We’re happy. We think that that’s life. We think that if we just meditated enough or jogged enough or ate perfect food, everything would be perfect. But from the point of view of someone who is awake, that’s death. Seeking security or perfection, rejoicing in feeling confirmed and whole, self-contained and comfortable, is some kind of death. It doesn’t have any fresh air. There’s no room for something to come in and interrupt all that. We are killing the moment by controlling our experience. Doing this is setting ourselves up for failure, because sooner or later, we’re going to have an experience we can’t control: our house is going to burn down, someone we love is going to die, we’re going to find out we have cancer, a brick is going to fall out of the sky and hit us on the head, somebody’s going to spill tomato juice all over our white suit, or we’re going to arrive at our favorite restaurant and discover that no one ordered produce and seven hundred people are coming for lunch. The essence of life is that it’s
  • So, along with clear seeing, there’s another important element, and that’s kindness. It seems that, without clarity and honesty, we don’t progress. We just stay stuck in the same vicious cycle. But honesty without kindness makes us feel grim and mean, and pretty soon we start looking like we’ve been sucking on lemons. We become so caught up in introspection that we lose any contentment or gratitude we might have had. The sense of being irritated by ourselves and our lives and other people’s idiosyncrasies becomes overwhelming. That’s why there’s so much emphasis on kindness.
  • Roshi Bernard Glassman is a Zen teacher who runs a project for the homeless in Yonkers, New York. Last time I heard him speak, he said something that struck me: he said he doesn’t really do this work to help others; he does it because he feels that moving into the areas of society that he had rejected is the same as working with the parts of himself that he had rejected.
  • Although this is ordinary Buddhist thinking, it’s difficult to live it. It’s even difficult to hear that what we reject out there is what we reject in ourselves, and what we reject in ourselves is what we are going to reject out there. But that, in a nutshell, is how it works. If we find ourselves unworkable and give up on ourselves, then we’ll find others unworkable and give up on them. What we hate in ourselves, we’ll hate in others.

Links to More Info:

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times on Amazon

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times on Goodreads

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times on Google Books

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times on iTunes

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times on Barnes and Noble

Pema Chodron’s Official Website

Pema Chodron on Wikipedia

Pema Chodron on Facebook



Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #38: "You Are the Placebo" by Joe Dispenza

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Dear kids,

In case you need more convincing that the mind and body are connected, skim You Are the Placebo by Joe Dispenza.

Favorite Quotes:

  • Thus, the stimulus, or cue, from the outer environment, called the aspirin, creates a specific experience. When that experience produces a physiological response or reward, it changes your internal environment. The moment you notice a change in your inner environment, you pay attention to what it was in your outer environment that caused the change. That event—where something outside of you changes something inside of you—is called an associative memory.
  • If we emotionally accept and then embrace that new outcome we’ve selected, and the intensity of our emotion is great enough, our brains and our bodies won’t know the difference between imagining that we’ve changed our state of being to being pain-free and
  • Your brain, which is at least 75 percent water and is the consistency of a soft-boiled egg, is made up of some 100 billion nerve cells, called neurons, that are seamlessly arranged and suspended in this aqueous environment. Each nerve cell resembles a leafless but elastic oak tree, with wiggly branches and root systems that connect and disconnect to other nerve cells. The number of connections a particular nerve cell might make can range from 1,000 to more than 100,000, depending on where in the brain the nerve cell resides. For example, your neocortex—your thinking brain—has about 10,000 to 40,000 connections per neuron. We used to think of the brain as a computer, and while there are certainly some similarities, we now know there’s much more to the story. Each neuron is its own unique biocomputer, with more than 60 megabytes of RAM. It’s capable of processing enormous amounts of data—up to hundreds of thousands of functions per second. As we learn new things and have new experiences in our lives, our neurons make new connections, exchanging electrochemical information with each other. Those connections are called synaptic connections, because the place where the cells exchange information—the gap between the branch of one neuron and the root of another—is called a synapse.
  • As the brain makes these changes, our thoughts produce a blend of various chemicals called neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, and acetylcholine are a few examples you may recognize). When we think thoughts, neurotransmitters at one branch of one neuron tree cross the synaptic gap to reach the root of another neuron tree. Once they cross that gap, the neuron fires with an electrical bolt of information. When we continue thinking the same thoughts, the neuron keeps firing in the same ways, strengthening the relationship between the two cells so that they can more readily convey a signal the next time those neurons fire. As a result, the brain shows physical evidence that something was not only learned, but also remembered. This process of selective strengthening is called synaptic potentiation. When jungles of neurons fire in unison to support a new thought, an additional chemical (a protein) is created within the nerve cell and makes its way to the cell’s center, or nucleus, where it lands in the DNA. The protein then switches on several genes. Since the job of the genes is to make proteins that maintain both the structure and function of the body, the nerve cell then quickly makes a new protein to create new branches between nerve cells. So when we repeat a thought or an experience enough times, our brain cells make . . . stronger connections . . .



Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #37: "Friendship with God: An Uncommon Dialogue" by Neale Donald Walsch


Dear kids,

In Part Four of the Conversations with God series, Walsch continues his channeled conversation with the God-Source.

Together they discuss the steps to having a friendship with God, namely: knowing, trusting, loving, embracing, using, helping, and thanking God.

During the dialogue Walsch weaves in stories from his life, focusing on his career and the friends who impacted his life significantly, including a few famous folks.

The Overall Message:

Many of the most practical themes found in the first three books of the series are revisited, including:

1) Our lives are our own creation;

2) If you want to know what you should do in a given situation, ask yourself what the “greatest version of the grandest vision of who you really are” would do, or “What would love do?”

3) Everyone and everything is part of God;

4) There are no bad decisions or unfortunate circumstances—everything that is, is perfect;

5) There is no sin, and religion is harmful; and

6) Be who you really are, and the rest will follow.

Selected Quotes and Ideas:

  • “A friend is somebody who can’t be imposed upon. Everybody else is an acquaintance.”
  • “The soul is the part of God that is closest to you.”
  • The purpose of the ego is to help us maintain the illusion of separateness, duality.
  • The master is someone who has no expectations, needs or preferences—who knows that everything is perfect just as it is.
  • “Do not become addicted to a particular result. Do not even prefer one.”
  • “. . . Not needing a particular result frees the subconscious mind from all thoughts about why you can’t have a particular result, which in turns opens the path to the particular result which was consciously intended.”
  • “When you face a challenge, you automatically assume that things will go well.” So they do, without a lot of effort.
  • “What you resist, persists.”
  • “I have sent you nothing but angels.”
  • “I have given you nothing but miracles.”
  • On meditation: “Do not get caught up in labels, or ways of doing things.” This is religion, dogma. Just sit quietly with yourself or quiet yourself while walking or working.
  • Anything can be meditation. “Service can be a deep form of meditation.”
  • “Honestly is the highest form of love.”
  • Thinking is the slowest way to manifest or create. Feeling is faster, and being is fastest.
  • “It is when you just ‘be’ with a problem, rather than keep thinking about it, that the greatest insight comes.”
  • Your feelings tell you how you are being right then. “And you can change how you are feeling by simply changing how you are being.” Just choose to!
  • Feeling is a response, but being is a “state in which you place yourself.”
  • “Do not try to ‘do’ happy. Simply choose to ‘be’ happy . . . What you are being gives birth to what you are doing.”
  • “You can choose a state of beingness before something happens . . .”
  • “Thinking is another form of being in a dream state. Because what you are thinking about is the illusion . . . So if you’ve created a reality that you don’t like, don’t give it a second thought!”
  • When you meditate (stop thinking), you pop out of the illusion. This allows you to be or create from being more powerfully.
  • Sadness and joy are not two different things. “They are words we have used to describe different levels of the same energy.” So, sadness and joy are part of each other.
  • You can’t feel joy until you help others feel it.
  • Discusses the “five attitudes of God:” joyful, loving, accepting, blessing, and grateful.
  • The New Gospel in a single phrase: “We are all one.”

Links to More Info:

Friendship with God on Amazon

Friendship with God on Goodreads

Neale Donald Walsch on Wikipedia

Official Website of Neale Donald Walsch



Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #36: "Neale Donald Walsch on Relationships" by Neale Donald Walsch


Dear kids,

Okay, so it’s not Conversations With God. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading. Besides, it’s short and chatty. I like that.

My Notes:

Neale Donald Walsch on Relationships is the transcript of a seminar speech given by the author. It retains the conversational style of the speech.

In the past, Walsch says, he had no idea what relationships were all about. He thought that the purpose of having a partnership was to get something, rather than to give something. He tried to arrange his relationships as a kind of barter: “If you give me this, I’ll give you that.”

The result: he often felt he had to change himself for his partners (for example, soften his loud, embarrassing laugh).

Much later Walsch learned that the real reason for relationships is to help us know who we are, since we can only see in ourselves what we see in others. “Therefore, I cannot find the divinity within me until I seek, discover, and recognize . . . the divinity in you.”

They are also our opportunity to give to others, to love them and see the good in them.

In a pure, awakened relationship, both partners allow each other to do and be whatever they desire—no matter what it is—without anger or punishment. Instead, if the partner wants to do something they’re not okay with, they respond by taking the actions they feel are right for them in light of the other’s actions.

A great example of this: If Walsch’s wife decided to smoke in the house, he’d lovingly, gracefully tell her he will no longer choose to live in the same house. There is no power struggle here, no arguing or blaming; just a clear-headed choice of response.

Our modern institution of marriage does the exact opposite of this. “It “possesses rather than releases,” and “limits, rather than expands.” It’s our way of trying to trap each other into staying the same, even though people are meant to change constantly.

A good partner is:

  • Someone you can be your authentic self with, and
  • Someone who accepts you truly. Some of our so-called faults are actually our best qualities—with the volume turned up a bit too high. We can adjust the volume as needed, without changing who we are.

Other thoughts of note:

  • “Love never says no. You know how I know that? Because God never says no.”
  • Someone asks Walsch how to get out of a power struggle in their relationship. “Well, stop it,” Walsch says. “How do I do that without adapting to conditions that really don’t work for me?” they ask. “Simply stop making an issue over the fact that you refuse to adapt. Just don’t adapt.” Don’t try to make the other person wrong. Just make your own choice in response to theirs.
  • Someone asks why our hearts have to be broken for us to feel more love, and Walsch says that’s just a “cultural myth,” that even when we break up with someone, we can do so in peace, knowing both people have leashed what they wished to learn.
  • Walsch also advises people to be flexible about the “package” a partner shows up in. Your mind may have one plan and your soul, another.

Links to More Info:

Neale Donald Walsch on Wikipedia

Official website of Neale Donald Walsch

Neale Donald Walsch on Relationships on Amazon



Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #35: Various Books by Seth Godin

Dear kids,

Seth Godin is a legend. Read and enjoy anything and everything he’s written. Ostensibly about business and marketing, his books have a way of inspiring you in any career path you choose. I have a feeling that even though he’s trendy, he won’t get quickly outdated. Hard to pull off, that.

Quotes from Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck?: And Other Provocations:

  • On making a large financial decision, as in deciding between the free state school and the expensive school: You can have the stereo if you give up going to Starbucks every workday for the next year and a half. Worth it? If you go to the free school, you can drive there in a brand-new Mini convertible, and every summer you can spend $25,000 on a top-of-the-line internship/experience, and you can create a jazz series and pay your favorite musicians to come to campus to play for you and your fifty coolest friends, and you can have Herbie Hancock give you piano lessons and you can still have enough money left over to live without debt for a year after you graduate while you look for the perfect gig. Suddenly, you’re not comparing “this is my dream” with a number that means very little. You’re comparing one version of your dream with another version.
  • If you didn’t want anything in return, nothing at all, what’s the most generous thing you could do for your best customer, your best friend, your most important prospect? Give it a try.
  • There is no thrift store for content.
  • How to Make a Million Dollars: One popular method is to make a dollar in profit from each of a million people. Or a penny from a hundred million. This is the China strategy. It almost never works. It almost never works because the challenge of reaching that many people is just too great . . . The price isn’t the challenge; it’s the difficulty of spreading your idea. Far easier to make a thousand dollars from each of a thousand people, or even $10,000 from a hundred organizations
  • It’s a simple test of whether you’ve created a remarkable experience: “Would I buy the T-shirt?” A T-shirt for your blog or your accounting firm or your bug-fighting software. If you’re not T-shirt worthy, what would it take?
  • Like a Dream Come True That’s the way Derek Sivers (founder of CD Baby) described his mission statement in building the company. “What could I build that would be like a dream come true for independent musicians?” What an extraordinarily universal way to construct a product, a service, or a business. Notice that dreams are rarely “within reason” or “under the circumstances.” No, dreams are dreams. If your business is a dream come true for customers, you win. Game over.
  • I often use the Encyclopedia of Clichés to find clichés that then inspire opposites. It’s a secret weapon and it’s all yours now. Have fun.
  • I had a college professor who did engineering consulting. A brand-new office tower in Boston had a serious problem—there was a brown stain coming through the drywall (all of the drywall), no matter how much stain killer they used. In a forty-story building, if you have to rip out all the drywall, this is a multimillion-dollar disaster. They had exhausted all possibilities and were a day away from tearing out everything and taking a loss. They hired Henry in a last-ditch effort to solve the problem. He looked at the walls and said, “I think I can work out a solution, but it will cost you $45,000 if I succeed.” They instantly signed on because if he succeeded, the project would be saved. Henry asked for a pencil and paper and wrote the name of a common hardware-store chemical and handed it to them. “Here, this will work.” And then he billed them $45,000. That’s quite an hourly wage. It’s also quite a bargain.
  • If we accomplished one thing with the twelve books at the Domino Project, this is what I was hoping to achieve: we made the world safe for manifestos. Every one of our books has changed (at least a few of) the people who experienced them.



Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #34: "Seth Speaks" by Jane Roberts and Seth

new thought channeler

Dear kids,

Seth Speaks was written by an “energy personality essence” named Seth, who speaks through channel Jane Roberts. The book discusses the reality and nature of the soul and of consciousness itself. I love reading one of these types of books a year. It’s fun to wonder who these spirits are and why they choose to share what they share. It’s also interesting to see the overlap between different entities, as well as the differences.

Outline and highlights:

On the nature of the soul:

The human senses lie about reality. We are not stuck in time or in any one place. We are all multidimensional personalities.

We all have an “inner ego” that “correlates information that is perceived not through the physical senses, but through other inner channels.” The outer ego is who you perceive yourself to be now. The deepest portion that forms both “is the core of your identity. The multidimensional personality of which you are a part.”

“You may think of your soul or entity . . . as some conscious and living, divinely inspired computer who programs its own existences and lifetimes. But this computer is so highly endorsed with creativity that each of the various personalities it programs spring into consciousness . . . and in turn create realities that may have been undreamed of by the computer itself . . . within the personality, however, in most secret recesses, is the condemned knowledge that resides in the computer as a whole.”

“Every emotion and thought has its own electromagnetic reality, completely unique. It is highly equipped to combine with certain others, according to the various ranges of intensity that you may include.” Physical objects are created through thought as well.

“Now wherever you think emotionally of another person, you send out a counterpart of yourself, beneath the intensity of matter, but a definite form. This form . . . completely escapes your egotistical attention. When I think emotionally of someone else, I do the same thing, except that a portion of my consciousness is within the image, and can communicate.”

We are all actors in multitudinous plays of our own making. Some actors are aware of helping create the play, while some aren’t. Instinctively, though, every actor knows he’s more than a part of this one play . . . When he rests (sleep, meditation) “. . . he is informed through the inner senses of his other roles.”

Consciousness itself is always in a state of becoming. “It is learning the art of actualization.” Does so by creating endless challenges for itself (all with “great spontaneity and unbounded joy”).

“To the extent . . . that you allow the intuitions and knowledge of the multidimensional self to flow through the consciousness self, to that extent not only do you perform your role in the play more effectively, but also you add new energy, insights and creativity to the entire dimension.” In other words: You change the world!

“How many of you would want to limit your reality . . . to the experience you knew now? You do this when you imagine that your present self is your entire personality, or insist that your identity be maintained unchanged through an endless eternity . . . In some ways the soul is an incipient God . . .”

On the nature of reality:

Seth visits many other levels of existence at will, taking on any form that is helpful to the context. We do the same, but we don’t realize we’re doing it.

Everyone has many lifetimes.

Everything is changing constantly. Some of us may spend a century as a tree in order to rest, but the drive to create will always return.

“It is not that physical reality is false. It is that the physical picture is simply one of infinite number of ways of perceiving the various guises through which consciousness expresses itself.”

“Say that your father throughout his lifetime has infinite favorite chairs. If your perceptive mechanisms were primarily set up as a result of infinitive association rather than time sequence, then you would perceive all of these chairs at one time; as seeing one, you would be aware of the others.”

Physical space does not exist.

“. . . Objects are also symbols that stand for a reality . . . like the letters [in a word] . . . The true information isn’t the object any more than the thought is in the letters or in words.” The physical body is formed effortlessly in every moment.

Time does not exist.

“. . . Time as you know it does not exist basically . . . all creations are simultaneous . . . some life forms are being developed in what you think of are present time. They will not appear physically until you reach your future time . . . They exist now, however, as certainly as do, say the dinosaurs. You only choose to focus your attention upon a highly specific field of space-time coordinates . . . closing yourself off from all others.”

“What you perceive of time is a portion of other events intruding into your own system, often interpreted as movement in space, or as something that separates events—if not in space, then in a way impossible to define without using the concept of time. What separates events is not time, but your perception. You perceive events ‘one at a time.’ Time as it appears to you is, instead, a psychic organization of experience. The seeming beginning and end of an event . . . are simply other dimensions of experience . . .”

On the nature of consciousness:

A definition: “Consciousness is a way of perceiving the various dimensions of reality.”

“There is consciousness even within a nail, but few of my readers will take me seriously enough to . . . say good morning . . . to the nearest nail they can find, stuck in a piece of wood.”

“Nothing exists . . . that is not filled with consciousness of its own kind.”

“Consciousness is an attribute of the soul, a tool that can be turned in many directions. You are not your consciousness. It is something that belongs to you and to the soul.”

All objective reality is created by consciousness. Form never creates it; it creates form.

Seth speaks of the various levels of consciousness, starting with what he calls level A-1. He gives instructions for accessing deeper and deeper levels of consciousness.

A-1 is the closest level to our physical selves. “When you listen to music that you like, when you are indulging in an enjoyable quiet pursuit, you can sense the different feeling. It may be accompanied by your own characteristic physical clues. You have only to recognize it, learn to hold it, and then proceed to experiment in its use. As a rule, it is still physically oriented, in that the abilities are usually directed toward the inner perception . . .” (as opposed to other levels where you become more aware of other selves, other aspects of the universe and other universes).

At this level of consciousness you can become aware of the entire workings of your body and mind. It also helps with the creativity and meditation states.

A-1 also brings you into alternate probable realities.

In A-2 you can explore your past reincarnations.

Exercises for expanding consciousness:

Pretend you’re on a stage, alone, that has gone dark. “Be quiet. Imagine as vividly as you can the existence of inner senses . . . Very gently listen, not to physical sounds but to sounds that come through the inner senses. A number of images may begin to appear. Accept them as sights quite as valid as those you see physically.” At first you’ll only perceive snatches. Here, no interpretation necessary or useful. Some will be distorted. But eventually you’ll be better at it, have higher perception.

One simple exercise to expand awareness: “Close your eyes . . . and try to sense with yourself the source of power from which your own breathing and life forces come . . . When you feel within yourself this source, then try to sense this power flow outward through your entire physical being, through the fingertips and toes, through the pores of your body, all directions, with yourself as center. Imagine the rays undiminished, reaching them through the foliage and clouds above, through the center of the earth below, extending even to the farthest reaches of the universe. Now I do not mean this to be merely a symbolic exercise, for though it may begin with imagination, it is based upon fact . . .”

“. . . Your universe is idea construction . . . your thoughts and feelings form physical reality.”

“The body is actually blinking off and on . . . even physically you are ‘not here’ as often as you are.”

On sleep:

“Persons vary in the amount of sleep they need and no pill will ever allow them to dispense with sleep entirely, for too much work is done in that state. However, this could be done far more effectively with two, rather than one, sleep periods of lesser duration. The two periods of three hours a piece would be quite sufficient for most people, if the proper suggestions were given before sleep—suggestions that would insure the body’s complete recuperation. In many cases ten hours sleep, for example, is disadvantageous, resulting in a sluggishness of mind and body. In this case the spirit has simply been away from the body for too long a time, resulting in a loss of muscular flexibility.”

Shorter sleep periods increase your consciousness of the various levels of the self. Make you more focused.

“Ideally, sleeping five hours at a time, you gain the maximum benefit, and anything else over this time is not nearly as helpful. Those who require more sleep would then take, say, a two-hour nap. For others a four-hour block sleep session and two naps would be highly beneficial with suggestion properly given, the body can recuperate in half the time now given to sleep.”

This helps with depression and increases creativity. The largest sleep unit should be at night. The predawn period is the best for creativity, and the afternoon is best for rest.

Many light snacks are better than big meals, too.

On dreams:

“Dreams are no more hallucinatory than your physical self is. Your waking physical self is the dreamer, as far as your dreaming self is concerned: You are the dreamer it sends on its way.”

Dreams are weird to us, though, because over making selves interpret our dream express through physical symbols that we understand.

“In dreams you solve the problem. In the daytime you are (only) consciously aware of the methods of problem solving that you learned in sleep. In dreams you set your goals, as after death you set the goals for another incarnation.”

Other quite valid realities exist at same time as ours, all about us. You can teach yourself how to sense them.

“When your eyes are green, do not take it for granted that only the immediately perceivable objects exist. Look where space seems empty and listen in the middle of silence.”

“If I told you that God is an idea, you would not understand what I meant, for you do not understand the dimensions ­­in which an idea has reality, or the energy that it can originate and propel… you will misinterpret this to mean that God is less than real—nebulous, without reality, without purpose, and without motive action. Now your own physical image = the materialization of your idea of yourself within the properties of matter.”

“. . . You are multidimensional . . . you dwell within the medium of infinite probabilities . . . God, therefore, is first of all a creator, not of one physical universe but of an infinite variety of probable existences, far more vast than those aspects of the physical universe . . .”

More on those probable universes throughout the rest of book. Most important idea: every single thought that is ever thought exists somewhere, including all the ideas we think in this reality.

“This private multidimensional self or the soul has then an eternal validity. It is upheld, supported, maintained by the energy, the inconceivable vitality, of All That Is.” It cannot be destroyed or diminished. It must create.

You affect your infinite other probable selves, as they affect you. You create a new probable self with every thought you think about a possibility of who you could be, what you could do. “It is very poor policy to dwell negatively on unpleasant aspects of the past that you know because some portions of the probable self may still be involved in that past. The concentration can allow greater bleed through and adverse identification, because that part will be one legend that you have in common with any probable selves who sprang from that particular source. To dwell upon the possibility of illness or disaster is equally poor policy, for you set up negative webs of probabilities that need not occur. You can theoretically alter your own parts as you have known it, for time is no more divorced from you than probabilities are.” (more about this)

More law of attraction ideas:

  • Seth talks about special coordinate and subordinate points that offer greater creative potential. They are “felt as intensified energy. Can be sensed. More intense thought creates more quickly.”
  • “I hope acquaint you with those deeply creative aspects of your own being, so that you can use these to extend and expand your entire experience.”
  • Even after death, you create your own reality. You can hallucinate hell, heaven, or anything else you believe in while on earth.

An excerpt:

The following is a word-for-word excerpt from one of Jane Roberts’ early channeling sessions. As here, it came to her in list format:

  • Energy is the basis of the universe.
  • Ideas are mental transformations of energy by an entity into physical reality.
  • Idea constructions are transformations of ideas into physical reality.
  • Space is where our own idea constructions do not exist in the physical universe.
  • The physical body is the material construction of the entity’s idea of itself under the properties of matter.
  • The individual is the part of the entity or whole self of which we are conscious in daily life. It is that part of the whole self which we are able to express or make “real” through our idea constructions on a physical level.
  • The subconscious is the threshold of an idea’s emergence into the individual conscious mind. It connects the entity and the individual.
  • Personality is the individual’s overall responses to ideas received and constructed. It represents the emotional coloration of the individual’s ideas and constructions at any given “time”.
  • Emotions are the driving force that propel ideas into constructions.
  • Instinct is the minimum ability for idea constructions necessary for physical survival.
  • Learning is the potential for constructing new idea complexes from existing ideas.
  • Idea complexes are groups of ideas formed together like building blocks to form more complicated constructions in physical reality.
  • Communication is the interchange of ideas by entities on the energy nonphysical level.
  • Action is idea in motion. The senses are channels of projection by which ideas are projected outward to create the world of appearances.
  • Environment is the overall idea constructions with which an individual surrounds himself.
  • Physical time is the apparent lapse between the emergence of an idea in the physical universe (as a construction) and its replacement by another.
  • The past is the memory of ideas that were but are no longer physical constructions.
  • The present is the apparent point of any idea’s emergence into physical reality.
  • Psychological time is the apparent lapse between the conception of ideas.
  • Aging is the upon an idea construction of the properties of matter of which the construction is composed.
  • Growth is the formation of an idea construction toward its fullest possible materialization following the properties of matter.
  • Sleep is the entity’s relative rest from idea construction except the minimum necessary for physical survival.
  • The physical universe is the sum of individual idea constructions.
  • Memory is the ghost image of “past” idea constructions.
  • Sleep is the entity’s rest from physical idea construction.
  • All physical matter is idea construction. We only see our own constructions.

Links to more info:

Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul on Amazon

Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul on Goodreads

Jane Roberts on Wikipedia

Official Website of Jane Roberts and Seth

Guide to the Yale University Library Archival Collection of Jane Roberts’ Papers, Manuscripts and Archives, including both published and unpublished materials

Seth Network International

Seth Center Index to the Early Sessions

Seth Learning Center: An overview of titles and related audio clips as well as the New Awareness Network

Nirvikalpa Archive: Over 1500 quotations and excerpts from the Seth Material

“The Problem of Seth’s Origin: A Case Study of the Trance-Possession Mediumship of Jane Roberts” by Paul Cunningham

Seth Talk by Lynda Madden Dahl

List of the Seth Sessions by Mary Dillman

Index of the Eleven Seth Books by Sue R. Williams



Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #33: "Full Catastrophe Living" by Jon Kabat-Zinn


Dear kids,

Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Thich Nhat Hanh is the real deal–lengthy, in-depth, full of examples. It shows you how mindfulness and mindfulness meditation can help you accept even the most difficult life circumstances, and even help alleviate some of the pain. I recommend this highly as an introduction to meditation.

Significant Quotes:

  • MBSR is based on rigorous and systematic training in mindfulness, a form of meditation originally developed in the Buddhist traditions of Asia. Simply put, mindfulness is moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness. It is cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moment’s thought to. It is a systematic approach to developing new kinds of agency, control, and wisdom in our lives, based on our inner capacity for paying attention and on the awareness, insight, and compassion that naturally arise from paying attention in specific ways.
  • In groping to describe that aspect of the human condition that the patients in the stress clinic and, in fact, most of us at one time or another need to come to terms with and in some way transcend, I keep coming back to one line from the movie of Nikos Kazantzakis’s novel Zorba the Greek. Zorba’s young companion (Alan Bates) turns to him at a certain point and inquires, “Zorba, have you ever been married?” to which Zorba (played by the great Anthony Quinn) replies, growling (paraphrasing somewhat), “Am I not a man? Of course I’ve been married. Wife, house, kids … the full catastrophe!”
  • A young physician’s story comes to mind as another example of embracing the full catastrophe. She was sent to the program for high blood pressure and extreme anxiety. She was going through a difficult period in her life, which she described as full of anger, depression, and self-destructive tendencies . . . As part of her job, this young doctor had to fly in the medical center helicopter on a regular basis to the scene of accidents and bring back severely injured patients. She hated the helicopter. It terrified her, and she always got nauseous flying in it. But by the end of eight weeks in the Stress Reduction Clinic, she was able to fly in the helicopter without getting nauseous.
  • Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. —NADINE STAIR, EIGHTY-FIVE YEARS OLD, LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY
  • [Mindfulness] is the process of observing body and mind intentionally, of letting your experiences unfold from moment to moment and accepting them as they are. It does not involve rejecting your thoughts, trying to clamp down on them or suppress them, or trying to regulate anything at all other than the focus and direction of your attention.
  • If you come as a “true believer,” certain that this is the right path for you, that mindfulness is “the answer,” the chances are you will soon become disappointed too.
  • Seven attitudinal factors constitute the major pillars of mindfulness practice as we teach it in MBSR. They are non-judging, patience, a beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go.
  • In the MBSR classroom, the basic ground rule is that everybody practices. Nobody goes along for the ride.
  • We encourage our patients to develop the same attitude. As already mentioned, we tell them from the very start, “You don’t have to like it; you just have to do it. When the eight weeks are over, then you can tell us whether it was of any use or not. For now, just keep practicing.”

Links for More Info:

Full Catastrophe Living on Amazon

Full Catastrophe Living on Goodreads

Full Catastrophe Living on Google Books

Full Catastrophe Living on iTunes

Full Catastrophe Living on Barnes and Noble

Jon Kabat-Zinn on Wikipedia

Jon Kabat-Zinn at the Center for Mindfulness

Jon Kabat-Zinn on Facebook



Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #32: "A Field Guide to Happiness" by Linda Leaming

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Dear kids,

Happiness is a fascinating topic. So ephemeral. So controversial. I like Linda Leaming’s take on it, found in A Field Guide to Happiness, quite a bit. It’s a memoir recalling her time living in Bhutan, a place renown for the genuine happiness of its inhabitants.

Favorite Quotes:

  • I’ve now lived in Bhutan for much of my adult life. My happiness comes because living in this ancient culture forces me to think differently—about time, work, money, nature, family, other people, life, death, tea, kindness, generosity, washing machines, waking up, and myself. Ironically, there’s a lot of discomfort. But I’m happy, deeply and thoroughly.
  • We are energetic, interesting, intelligent people, and if I might continue to generalize, we are also the most impatient and easily addled people on the planet. We can’t handle too much randomness. We pack our days with appointments and events, and even our “days off” are full of activities. In Bhutan, if I have three things to do in a week, it’s considered busy. In the U.S., I have at least three things to do between breakfast and lunch.
  • Speed begets speed. All of this efficiency only makes us want things faster. If we could time travel we’d get everything done yesterday so we could have today to get more done. Right? We’re not used to taking the long view, centering ourselves . . .
  • Once I was walking out of a store and a woman walked past me wearing a silver ankle bracelet. For a split second, my inner narrator recoiled, remembering my early conditioning and my mother who told me women who wore ankle bracelets were “common.” They were advertising their lascivious natures and loose morals. I laughed because I don’t believe this anymore, especially since I moved to a region of the world where ankle bracelets and toe rings are the mark of a well-put-together gal. But it made me wonder if other beliefs that no longer worked were hanging around in my brain . . .
  • That time in Kathmandu, with no physical baggage and with precious little hope of ever seeing it again, did something profound to me. It was better than years of psychotherapy or counseling or drugs. I went through a fire and came out on the other side. I had put myself in a position where I’d have to work even harder to create a new life, even to survive. But I was still alive. I was still in the world. And what of my emotional baggage? I vowed to put it on a metaphorical plane to nowhere and lose it, too—the sense of failure, the sense that my life was passing me by, the anger, resentments, bad haircuts, frustrations, slights, missed invitations in the mail. Going to a new place where you know very little and you have to reinvent yourself, why not leave a lot of preconceived ideas and notions behind, especially if they’re not really working for you? That way there’s room to take on more useful beliefs and ideas.
  • So he quickly took the demon back to his guru. “Teacher, teacher,” he cried out, “please take this demon back. I can’t think of enough to keep him busy. I barely finish telling him to do one thing and he’s already finished it. And I try to think of something else, and he finishes that. I’m running out of things for the demon to do and if he isn’t occupied he says he is going to eat me.” So the teacher laughed. But it wasn’t a mean laugh. It was laughter of great compassion. Cosmic laughter. And he said to the demon, “You see that tree over there?” “Yes.” “Go and climb up that tree. Then climb down. Then climb up. Climb down. Keep doing that until I tell you to stop.” And so the demon did. And here is the lesson the great guru gave the man: The tree is your breath, in, out, in, out. The demon is your mind. Occupy your mind and focus on your breathing, in, out, in, and eventually your mind will go somewhere else. And your true essence will take its place.
  • Another lovely “giving” habit is when you go to someone’s house in Bhutan and you’re automatically offered some tea. I think it’s so funny when we’re in the U.S. and Namgay asks the man who comes to read our meter, or the plumber, or the fumigator if they want some tea. I always watch their reactions. They look at him like he’s offered to pour sand down their boots, or sometimes they look momentarily shocked, like he’s suggested they do something perverted to our cat.
  • There’s an ingenious Buddhist practice, a meditation technique, to help disengage from anger. It’s a way to alter one’s mind-set, manifest calm, and get free from anger so that kindness has room to come in. Here’s what to do: When you feel angry, don’t try to calm yourself at first. Go the other way. Go crazy with your anger—at least in your mind. Remember, you’re not acting on any of this. You’re just meditating . . . It takes practice, but eventually you can learn to control anger. Then you can move on to doing other enlightened things.
  • I know it’s a tired cliché, but there’s nothing more universal than a smile—try it when you’re getting hassled by an Indian airport security worker. It’s the last thing he or she expects and it will confuse them. He’s spotted you as a Westerner and probably an American, and he desperately wants to go to the U.S. and make a lot of money, which he assumes you have. Anyway, he’s not going anytime soon—probably not in this lifetime—and you are. So he’s pissed. And bored. And filled with ennui. And he has a little power over you and your carry-on. And you are so easily perturbed, you Americans. You’re hotheads. You’re like cats getting poked with sticks, easily agitated, and it takes you a long time to calm down. Besides, you are arrogant. You must be put in your place. When the Indian official asks you to step aside into the little holding area and open your suitcase, instead of seizing up and contorting your face and heaving sighs and doing all that whacked-out body language, smile like a bemused Buddha. Maybe you are arrogant and agitated and worried about missing your flight. Don’t act like it. Keep smiling. But not maniacally. Just bemusedly or contentedly. Do everything he says with that inscrutable Buddha smile, and he will let you go, after he’s poked around a little in your stuff—I guarantee it.


Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #31: "Sex, Drugs and Meditation" by Mary-Lou Stephens

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Ah, how I love a good memoir. Particularly one on the topic of spirituality. There’s just something about knowing that every harrowing, nauseating, triumphant moment described in the book actually happened that is so satisfying as a reader.

Sex, Drugs and Meditation: How One Woman Changed Her Life, Saved Her Job and Found a Husband by Mary-Lou Stephens is about a woman going through an emotional crisis who makes a bold plan to address it–then actually carries it out. An inspiring read.


Once upon a time, Mary-Lou Stephens wasn’t the spiritually aware woman she is today. She was a hard-partying codependent rock star. Here’s the story of her first (difficult!) ten-day meditation retreat, all the stuff that got her there . . . and how it changed her life completely.

A few of my favorite parts of the book are:

  • When Mary-Lou discusses the role of meditation: “My roaming mind becomes more productive and comes up with a piece of true brilliance. Vipassana is a technique for the overcoming of craving. It teaches us to observe craving without reacting.”
  • When Mary-Lou describes a true law of attraction success story about finding her calling–her long and distinguished career in radio. A quote: “Within a week of discovering my true vocation I was being offered a gig on air. Another sign. A miracle! I said yes.”
  • When Mary-Lou describes an awesome meditation experience, the kind all of us meditators are looking for: “I keep breathing and observing sensations. As the heat and pain build within my body the strangest thing happens. Energy courses along the routes I’ve been mapping with my mind, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. I feel as though I’m sitting under a gushing tap. It’s extraordinary and overpowering. The force almost knocks me sideways. I’ve never felt the power of the energy in my body like this before. It pours through my skin, wave after wave starting in my scalp, running through my arms, body and legs, down through my toes. A constant stream of sensations that I have access to for the very first time. Perhaps this is it, the mystery of Vipassana.”

Links to More Info:


Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #30: "The Wishing Year" by Noelle Oxenhandler

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Dear kids,

A lot of people talk about how to get the law of attraction to “work” for them. This woman actually did it. In a single year, she acquired a house, a partner, and a closer relationship with her divinity.

Hashtag #winning.

Favorite Quotes:

Here are some highlights from The Wishing Year: A House, a Man, My Soul A Memoir of Fulfilled Desire.

  • “. . . So long as what we want does not cause harm to others—the universe wants us to be happy. And if only we will take the time (1) to discover what it is we really want, (2) to focus and articulate this desire, and (3) to remove the obstacles that arise in the form of certain negative thoughts and habitual behaviors—the universe will cooperate with us to bring about our goals.
  • Why is it that some people don’t seem to wait for that sense of divine clearance, for some kind of license or permit that falls from the sky, announcing to them, “You’ve suffered enough. Now you can have what you wish”? They simply move to Hawaii or take up skydiving or buy themselves a horse. They don’t seem to operate with the same sense of precarious balance, with the idea that light must follow dark, pleasure is the fruit of pain, and too much fun will tip the scales, attracting calamity.
  • But Thoreau, too, put great stock in the power of thought. “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind,” he wrote. “To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
  • When we consciously articulate a wish, then we also give ourselves a kind of permission to receive the thing we desire. We thus remove some of the false obstacles that may stand between us and the thing we desire, the inner voices that tell us, “I couldn’t possibly deserve such a thing” or “If I let myself want this, something dreadful will happen.”

Get The Wishing Year on Amazon.


Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #29: “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale

Dear kids,

Mature spiritual seeker? Highly evolved being? Old soul, deep thinker, wise guru? I don’t care who you are, and how oft-berated the spiritual practice of positive thinking is–you probably need to practice it, probably daily.

Now, there are people out there that don’t–people that are beyond positive thinking as a conscious pratice. People who are so in touch with the Divine that it’s simply not necessary to remind themselves that things are going to work out eventually. But most of us aren’t quite there yet. No me, anyway. We get wrapped up really, really tightly in stuff that doesn’t truly matter, and drive ourselves crazy.

So, no, you don’t need to read this spiritual/self-help classic, The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. But it really couldn’t hut. It’s corny, it’s lovely, it’s easy reading, it’s great.

Links to More Info:

The Power of Positive Thinking on Amazon

The Power of Positive Thinking on Goodreads

The Power of Positive Thinking on Google Books

The Power of Positive Thinking on iTunes

The Power of Positive Thinking on Barnes and Noble

Norman Vincent Peale on Wikipedia

Norman Vincent Peale at Find a Grave

Norman Vincent Peale on

Norman Vincent Peale Award on



Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #28: "What I Know for Sure" by Oprah Winfrey

new thought books - angel 1

Dear kids,

Oprah isn’t a person; she’s an essence. An entity. I can’t imagine the world without her in it. Can you? And I think maybe the transition from human being to just Being occurred for her when she started speaking more about spirituality.

In the ’80s, she was rich, successful, fun and fabulous. In the early ’90s, she was good-hearted. But sometime after that, she became the everyman angel, the Clarence of It’s A Wonderful Life (but more on top of things).

She became transcendent.

What I Know For Sure is a good book, not a great one. But if you’re a fan, I urge you to get a copy. It’s a series of short essays on the title topic, an “everyman angel” sharing her beautiful heart.

One caveat: Oprah is primarily a speaker, not a writer. But these essays, in their conversational style, effectively conjure the spirit of the loquacious energy that is Oprah Winfrey. The content, as the title suggests, is a collection of simple lessons that Oprah oh-so-humbly feels she’s truly learned—lessons that help her stay grounded, spirit-connected, and happy.

Links to more info:

What I Know for Sure on Amazon

What I Know for Sure on Goodreads

Oprah’s official website

Oprah Winfrey on Wikipedia



Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #27: “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami and Philip Gabriel

Image from the law of attraction book list featuring all major law of attraction authors at

Dear kids,

A book with great quotes but no plot to speak of. A book that meanders, that would never be, could never be, someone’s first. That’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami and Philip Gabriel. If you like an author and you want to sit down with them over coffee and chat about the things they care about but can’t, read their memoir.

A Few Good Quotes:

  • Somerset Maugham once wrote that in each shave lies a philosophy. I couldn’t agree more. No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.
  • Nobody ever recommended or even desired that I be a novelist—in fact, some tried to stop me. I had the idea to be one, and that’s what I did. Likewise, a person doesn’t become a runner because someone recommends it. People basically become runners because they’re meant to.
  • While I was enduring all this, around the forty-seventh mile I felt like I’d passed through something. That’s what it felt like. Passed through is the only way I can express it. Like my body had passed clean through a stone wall. At what exact point I felt like I’d made it through, I can’t recall, but suddenly I noticed I was already on the other side. I was convinced I’d made it through. I don’t know about the logic or the process or the method involved—I was simply convinced of the reality that I’d passed through. After that, I didn’t have to think anymore. Or, more precisely, there wasn’t the need to try to consciously think about not thinking. All I had to do was go with the flow . . . In this state, after I’d passed through this unseen barrier, I started passing a lot of other runners . . . Since I was on autopilot, if someone had told me to keep on running I might well have run beyond sixty-two miles. It’s weird, but at the end I hardly knew who I was or what I was doing. This should have been a very alarming feeling, but it didn’t feel that way. By then running had entered the realm of the metaphysical. First there came the action of running, and accompanying it there was this entity known as me. I run; therefore I am . . . I’m me, and at the same time not me. That’s what it felt like. A very still, quiet feeling. The mind wasn’t so important. Of course, as a novelist I know that my mind is critical to doing my job. Take away the mind, and I’ll never write an original story again. Still, at this point it didn’t feel like my mind was important. The mind just wasn’t that big a deal.
  • Usually when I approach the end of a marathon, all I want to do is get it over with, and finish the race as soon as possible. That’s all I can think of. But as I drew near the end of this ultramarathon, I wasn’t really thinking about this. The end of the race is just a temporary marker without much significance. It’s the same with our lives. Just because there’s an end doesn’t mean existence has meaning.
  • Even so, when I reached the finish line in Tokoro-cho, I felt very happy. I’m always happy when I reach the finish line of a long-distance race, but this time it really struck me hard. I pumped my right fist into the air. The time was 4:42 p.m.
  • My lifestyle gradually changed, and I no longer considered running the point of life. In other words, a mental gap began to develop between me and running. Just like when you lose the initial crazy feeling you have when you fall in love.
  • Now I feel like I’m finally getting away from the runner’s-blues fog that’s surrounded me for so long. Not that I’ve completely rid myself of it, but I can sense something beginning to stir. In the morning as I lace up my running shoes, I can catch a faint sign of something in the air . . .
  • I expect that this winter I’ll run another marathon somewhere in the world. And I’m sure come next summer I’ll be out in another triathlon somewhere, giving it my best shot. Thus the seasons come and go, and the years pass by. I’ll age one more year, and probably finish another novel. One by one, I’ll face the tasks before me and complete them as best I can. Focusing on each stride forward, but at the same time taking a long-range view, scanning the scenery as far ahead as I can. I am, after all, a long-distance runner. My time, the rank I attain, my outward appearance—all of these are secondary.
  • For me, the main goal of exercising is to maintain, and improve, my physical condition in order to keep on writing novels, so if races and training cut into the time I need to write, this would be putting the cart before the horse. Which is why I’ve tried to maintain a decent balance.



Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #26: "How Starbucks Saved My Life" by Michael Gates Gill

Dear kids,

I loved this sweet little book, How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else, for so many reasons (it’s a great one for a retail businessperson to read especially). But I guess the thing that really inspired me, the thing that made me decide to write about this book after reading it, was this: it gave me a totally new vision of what I can achieve in my career.

In the book, the author relates the true story of going from an overpaid ad man to a lowly Starbucks employee (less income but more benefits, actually)—and loving every minute of it. After getting fired from his big-time job due to his advanced age, Starbucks took him in—and he was completely taken aback by their business philosophy and their commitment to making what they did meaningful—even though technically it’s just coffee. He was taken aback by it all and also, he was just taken.

He loved it.

In the book he waxes eloquent on these topics, but what I took from what he wrote basically comes down to this: it is a truly awesome thing to not only love what you do but to believe in it, too.



Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #25: “Unschooling Rules” by Clark Aldrich

Best Nonfiction Book - Unschooling Rules

Dear kids,

Unschooling Rules by Clark Aldrich sn’t just about unschooling. It’s about all kinds of teaching situations—about the art of learning through exploration. What could be more inspiring than that?

Unschooling is the term commonly used to describe a way of homeschooling that is highly play-based and child-led—what some would call “organic” learning. Unschooled kids don’t do worksheets, and may or may not attend formal classes. They just do things and learn along the way.

The rules:

  • Do what you love.
  • Use microcosms as much as possible.
  • Use internships.
  • Embrace all technologies.
  • Excel is awesome for math.
  • Formally learn only what will be reinforced in the next 14 days.
  • Explore first. Play second. Teach third.
  • Only work on one or two subjects per day.
  • Keep a focused journal.
  • Underschedule.
  • Play outside.



Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #24: Growing Up Amish

Dear kids,

No, it’s not a must-read. But Growing Up Amish: A Memoir and other religious memoirs like it offer fascinating and educational insight into other people’s lives and minds. Ira Wagler doesn’t needlessly berate his former belief system or the people who maintain it. He gives a well-written, objective account, as do many others. I, for one, can’t get enough of this type of book.

Significant Quotes:

  • We were also repelled by what we saw and heard around us every day. Most of the adults—those securely anchored in the faith—didn’t seem any too happy in their daily lives. In fact, they were mostly downright grumpy. There was little in our own world that attracted us, made us stop and think, That’s what I want. To live like that. We were stuck in a stifling, hostile culture consisting of myriad complex rules and restrictions. More things were forbidden than were allowed. And that’s not to mention the drama, the dictatorial decrees, the strife among so-called brothers, and the seemingly endless emotional turmoil that resulted. We had seen and lived it all.
  • In fact, the Amish church does everything in its power to maintain its grip on the youth, including applying some of the most guilt-based pressure tactics in existence anywhere in the world. After all, there’s no sense encouraging young people to taste the outside world . . .
  • With some prodding, there might be a reluctant admission that yes, others not of our particular faith might make it to heaven, but only because they were not born Amish and didn’t know any better. Those who were born in the faith had better stay, or they would surely face a terrible Judgment Day. That’s what we heard. What we were told by our parents and what we heard in the sermons at church. But they never explained why.
  • That kind of pressure is a brutal thing, really, a severe mental strain. And it’s the reason that in most communities, when Amish kids run wild, they usually run hard and mean. Because once that line is crossed, there are no others. Nothing they can do, short of returning, can make any
  • From a distance, or from outside, my decision [to return to the faith] makes no sense. But it made all the sense in the world to me in that moment, to keep slogging on, to walk the road that equated eternal life with earthly misery.