Tag Archives: Meditation

Self-Help Interview: “Do Not Make Happiness a Goal”

Contributor: Subhan Schenker, who runs the Osho World of Meditation in Seattle.

Mollie: When someone is fully enlightened, do they feel psychological pain?

Subhan: I have heard that enlightened people feel physical pain but not psychological pain. They may have some awareness that there is a mind that has pain, but it’s very far removed; the mind has dropped into the basement.

Mollie: What do you do when the mind makes a judgment and tries to nudge you—sometimes not so gently—to do something, change something, or at the very least, abhor something about yourself or your life, which then separates you from that feeling of connectedness?

In other words: How do we react to the monsters in our heads?

Subhan: You don’t. It’s not about getting rid of anything. It’s about watching, noticing what’s there. Becoming aware of how the mind functions is tremendously helpful. You’ll be able to experience how parts of the mind push and pull you; that there are so many judgments–about you, about everyone else, about everything! This watchfulness becomes more and more available. And the distance between “you” and the thoughts starts to grow.

Mollie: Where do the monsters go?

Subhan: Once this dis-identification starts happening, the thoughts aren’t perceived of as monsters. They are simply the way the mind functions, and they don’t have to be taken too seriously! They lose their power over you.

I can’t explain it. I can’t intellectualize it. You have to try it for yourself. When you have a thought you don’t like, notice it, remind yourself that it’s not you. I tell people to step back just one-twelfth of an inch from the mind. That doesn’t seem too hard, does it?

Mollie: I do that. It doesn’t always work.

Subhan: No, it doesn’t always work. The mind is tremendously powerful. It can process an unbelievable amount of data in a mere second. It is a miracle that we have the ability to step back from it at all. The only reason we are able to is that what is behind it is indestructible. And usually, we only obtain just a flash of true silence. Maybe for ten seconds you are in silence, and those ten seconds can be life-changing.

Mollie: Why is this the way it is? Why is it so hard to detach from mind, from pain? It doesn’t seem fair.

Subhan: Maybe awareness isn’t that cheap. Maybe awareness has to be earned.

The truth is, though, it’s hard because it’s hard. Because this is the nature of the mind. Asking “why?” is a game of the mind, the one it plays a million times a day. Why can’t I have this? Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I be there, feel that way?

D. H. Lawrence was a very intelligent man. One day he was walking with his nephew in the woods when his nephew asked: “Why are the leaves green?” Lawrence didn’t answer right away; instead, he thought about it for a time, wanting to give an answer that was the truth. Finally, he said, “I know the answer, but you are not going to like it. The leaves are green because they’re green.”

Your mind is not happy with this answer. But your inner being is.

The leaves are green because they’re green. Asking “why” leads to a never ending work game!

“They’re green because of chlorophyll.” But why does chlorophyll create GREEN? “Because of the chemical reaction in chlorophyll.” “But why does this chemical reaction create GREEN and not RED?”

(Once a children learn the “why” game, they can keep adults over a barrel forever!) Ultimately the only real answer we can give is that leaves are green…because they’re green…!

Mollie: So what about when you really do want to change something about yourself or your life? Maybe your life is going pretty well, and you already have a lot of what you want, but you would just like to tweak something just a bit. What next?

Subhan: Well, the first thing I’d say is to watch that desire. Notice your perceived need to change things. Ask yourself what this tweaking is all about. That desire is the mind, and by accepting its ideas, you’re identifying yourself with it. But the truth is, you are not your mind. You are much bigger, much grander than it, and within the real you there is no idea of “lacking.”

What is the point in identifying with a lacking? Don’t. Don’t allow there to be a split between the reality of the person you are and the ideal of the person you want to be. Because whenever you have something called the ideal, you will be in conflict with the real. And if you’re in conflict with the real, you will never arrive. There will never be a time when the mind doesn’t want something different, or something more. Never. So, it’s better to sacrifice the ideal for the real!

Mollie: Then how do we ever change anything, do anything, get anything done? If we’re all perfectly content with things just as they are, won’t we end up sitting around and meditating all day like you?

Subhan: I don’t meditate all day. I am in constant contact with people. I do counseling sessions. I write. I teach classes at the college. I lead four meditation sessions a week at our center. I do numerous weekend workshops.

You see, the mind tells us that if we stop listening to it, and stop being in conflict, we won’t get anything done. But all you have to do is look at the great spiritual masters to see that isn’t true. Buddha, Lao Tzu, Christ, Rumi … They all accomplished a lot and many things change around them.

Mollie: How?

Subhan: When I am in acceptance of who I am, Existence does the changing!

Mollie: How? Let me slow down and look at this process you’re talking about because there’s obviously something I’m not getting here. So, there you are in a state of meditation, disidentified with the mind, blissed out. Then the mind comes up with another judgment—say, “My child is misbehaving, and I want him to stop.” This is the moment we’re really talking about—the moment that repeats itself all throughout the day. This is when you decide to either reidentify with the mind and become the one who is judging, or to not accept the judgment, and just notice it instead. But when you decide to just notice the judgment, isn’t that also a decision the mind is making?

Subhan: No. I don’t decide. We are part of an Intelligence so vast our minds are useless compared to it. When we are in a state of meditation, it is not our minds that do the deciding, but this Intelligence within us.

Mollie: But if you don’t use your mind, how do you speak? How do you carry out the instruction of this Intelligence—say, to hug the child, or to correct them, or to comfort them?

Subhan: For verbal and physical responses like these, you do use the mind and body. They are tools that allow us to be part of the physical world—to speak, to move our bodies. The key is to respond rather than to react. When you react to your child rather than responding, you’re not using your mind; it’s using you.

Mollie: Ah, I see. So you can still speak, talk, respond to the situation without using your mind to do so? Maybe we are defining mind differently. So there is the mind that’s the ego, the monster, the monkey, the neuroses, and there is the mind that’s a simple, useful tool, a tool we use to translate what is going on in our larger Intelligence? And so is the body, when we hug the child rather than yelling at him?

Subhan: Yes, that’s right. The mind is a fabulous tool … but a crappy boss!

Mollie: So how does a spiritual seeker, someone who is committed to becoming disidentified with the mind, make this switch? In that moment when the child is so-called misbehaving, how does she learn how not to react as the mind would like and to instead suspend thinking, then receive and act upon Intelligence, all without using her mind? This sounds like quite the skill. How does she learn how to accept a situation she finds unpleasant, without “making it into a problem,” as Eckhart Tolle says?

Subhan: Meditation. Meditation that really works, really functions, allows you to, for a moment, to be completely separated from the mind. This doesn’t happen overnight! So it’s best to start with simpler things and situations. Practice watching the thoughts whenever you remember to do so, in simple settings that aren’t triggering emotions and control issues, etc. You slowly build up the knack of watching – in your meditation, in simple situations, and then, ultimately in more “difficult” situations.

Mollie: Then what?

Subhan: Then, acceptance comes. And wisdom comes, the wisdom that is right for that moment.

Mollie: Then what? I will ask it again: How do we end up getting what we want out of life, if we’re always just listening to Intelligence and doing whatever it tells us to do?

Subhan: We try to force Existence to give us what we want, but this is ridiculous, totally futile. It’s like we’re playing the greatest cosmic joke on ourselves: We are buddhas, capable of extraordinary things, even peace and enlightenment, and instead we’re acting unconsciously. We pretend to have all kinds of self-imposed limitations, including a mind that has no clue what to do most of the time, that’s creating many more problems than it’s solving.
It is our nature to be a buddha. Anything else is going against the flow. To paraphrase Osho: “The miracle is not when we obtain enlightenment. The miracle is when we conceal it.”

Mollie: So if we want to be truly happy and free of mind, we have to let Intelligence give us what it deems best for us, no matter what that may be?

Subhan: That sounds like the mind talking, not wanting to give up its control to a higher intelligence that resides within us. One we step back from the mind, it loses its control and the intelligence is THERE, waiting to be of immense service!

I tell people to ask for 100 percent of what they want, then let the Universe decide, because it will!

Mollie: So would you say that the main purpose of meditation is to teach us acceptance of whatever the Universe deems best for us?

Subhan: The purpose of meditation is to disidentify with the mind. Acceptance comes naturally after that.

Mollie: Then what? What happens after acceptance?

Subhan: Acceptance and gratitude, and peacefulness and fulfillment become real once there is the disidentification from the mind. I had an early experience of this before I became a meditator. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had dropped into meditation. When I was a young man I was driving my mother’s car when it slipped on some ice. In the ten seconds between starting to slide and hitting the car in front of me, I had my first experience of the meditative state. The mind understood that there was nothing it could do, no role for it to play in that moment, and it said, “I’m out of here. You’re on your own.” Those ten seconds felt like an hour. They were bliss. And the silence was so serene, so “palpable!”

Then I hit the car, and the mind said, “Oh, I can deal with this.” And it started in again: “What is your mother going to say, how much is this going to cost,” etc. It was much later that I realized that when the mind disappeared, something extraordinary emerged. And later still, it became clear that this space had something to do with an essential nature that is always there, although covered by the minds overthinking.

Mollie: I see. And yes, that bliss is what I want. But should I make it a life goal of mine to obtain it? Should happiness be something I strive for? Because it seems the more you try to get happy, the more neurotic you become.

Subhan: You’re right! Anything you desire is a product of the mind. And it will create misery around it. Do not make happiness a goal. In fact, do not make anything a goal. All goals keep you stuck in the mind. Life will give you what you truly need.

Mollie: So—and I realize that I’m really trying to pin you down here—would you say that if I practice meditation regularly, and practice living in a state of meditation and acceptance, I will certainly become happy?

Subhan: I will say that if you stay with it, there is every possibility that you will have more moments of feeling loving, feeling grateful, feeling at peace. And that’s assuming that you are doing a meditation that works for you. Because as I said, a lot of people are doing meditation techniques that don’t really work for them.

Also, be really careful because the mind that asks that question is more interested in the goal than the process. As long as you have a goal to your meditation it will keep you locked in your mind, evaluating whether or not your meditation session was “successful.” Every time the meditation happens the mind will judge it based on whether or not it has achieved that goal. The mind is very crafty. Instead, be there sincerely, without the notion of getting somewhere.

The mind doesn’t want you to be happy. How many times have you experienced a moment of joy and the mind has tried to throw you out of it, using every complaint, seeing every shortcoming, predicting every future bad result it could?

The mind doesn’t want you to be happy, because if you are it is no longer needed.

Mollie: And how long will it take for me to get there? How much meditation would you recommend that I do?

Subhan: There is no way for anyone to know that. There is no formula to it. It is a quantum leap. But after a while, you will notice that you don’t take life so seriously, that you have moments of greater clarity, and that you even feel more gratitude, just for being alive. These are clues that the meditation process is working.

Mollie: Is just meditating and noticing the workings of the mind enough? Is there anything else I need to do?

Subhan: Watching the mind is essential. But you can also find people on this path of discovery who can share their experiences and understandings with you. They offer workshops and sessions that can be of great assistance to you in coming back to your inner, essential nature!

Mollie: No mantras? I love my mantras.

Subhan: If you enjoy mantras, then use them! Some mantras can help you go deeper inside. Just remember, the point of meditation is to disassociate yourself from the mind.

Just watch the mind. A thought comes, and you watch it. Nothing more. This is the only real meditation. Saying mantras may be a good and helpful practice, but it may not lead you to the state of meditation, which is awareness, relaxation and no judgment.

Now, let me ask you a question. Have you had enough of what you don’t want yet?

Mollie: I would have to give that some thought.

Subhan: If you have to think about it, you haven’t. When someone is being physically tortured, and they’re asked if they’ve had enough yet, there is not a single instant of reflection. The answer is yes.

Mollie: That is true. I am getting there.

Subhan: I would hope you get there as fast as you can.

Self-Help Interview with Matt Kahn: “Everything Is Here to Help You”

Recently Matt Kahn agreed to an interview. I know: how lucky am I? I got to ask him anything I wanted–anything at all. So of course I thought of the hardest questions possible. Enjoy.

Mollie: What spiritual practices do you keep up with regularly? How strict are you?

Matt: I am not strict at all. I meditate, breathe, send blessings to humanity, and love my heart on a daily basis, but only when I get the intuitive nudge to do it. I maintain a daily practice not only to continue my life-long exploration, but to practice for those who need it most, but aren’t in a position to open their hearts just yet.

Mollie: Do you practice self-inquiry, such as Byron Katie’s The Work? If so, is this an important practice for you? Do you recommend it?

Matt: I ask very intriguing questions, but only because my exploration is how I download new teachings to offer. Self-inquiry can be very beneficial, but it has a short shelf-life. The best approach to any process, including self-inquiry is to prepare to be without it. If not, you are subconsciously asking life to continually give you things to work out through your inquiry. If you can engage inquiry from the stand point of always moving beyond it, it can offer benefit. Especially knowing, it is not the inquiry that heals you, but the amount of attention you are offering neglected and repressed parts of yourself that represent the true keys to inner freedom. Undivided attention is the grace of love in action. It is life’s eternal liberator. Self-inquiry merely gives you a framework to face yourself directly.

Mollie: I’ve heard you mention the law of attraction and note that at some point we focus less on “moving around the furniture of our lives”–improving our outward circumstances–and more on increasing our inner joy instead. Is this true for you? At some point did you stop striving to improve the outward circumstances of your life, and focus only on internals instead, or do you still do some of both?

Matt: In each and every moment, life shows us exactly what each moment asks of us. If spending too much time waiting for things to be different, we overlook the fact that anything attracted into reality could only be a catalyst of our highest evolution. This is why I wrote, “Everything is Here to Help You”. While we should always envision greater circumstances for ourselves and others, it is our willingness to ask, “how is this circumstance giving me the chance to face my most vulnerable parts and shine even brighter?” that determines the trajectory of our soul’s evolution. Simply put, life only appears to not give you what you want while preparing you to have things beyond your wildest imagination. With faith in life’s cosmic plan and a willingness to love ourselves throughout it all, experiences deeper than loss and gain are given permission to be.

Mollie: I’m a hard worker, a doer by nature. I love lists, plans and goals. You seem more laid-back. How do you feel about striving toward goals? Is this something you recommend we do, given that our goals are healthy and peace-promoting? Or would you rather we wing it and let the universe take us somewhere we might never have planned to go?

Matt: It’s a balance of both. I have goals but I go about them from a peaceful space of being. Out of the being, the doing can be done with gentleness, precision, and ease. When we are solely focused on the outcome, we are not fulfilling each task in alignment with our soul, but attempting to outrun the hands of time to capture what we fear we were never meant to have. If it’s meant to be, it will come, which requires destiny along with our participation in taking inspired deliberate action.

Mollie: Do you listen for divine guidance for your actions–say, when to go wash the car or feed the dog? What is the terminology you use for this?

Matt: My intuition is always active and flowing. For me, there is a perfect time for everything and when I get that message, I follow through without hesitation. Like stomach grumbles that remind you when to eat, my intuition guides my every move without me having to micromanage anything. It’s just the joy of following the flow of each instinct. It’s a visceral flow of inspiration, not a mental calculation of any kind.

Self-Help Interview with Matt Kahn: “I Don’t Try to Love What I Don’t Love; Instead, I Witness My Feelings and Beliefs”

Recently Matt Kahn agreed to an interview. I know: how lucky am I? I got to ask him anything I wanted–anything at all. So of course I thought of the hardest questions possible. Enjoy.

Mollie: Matt Kahn! This is so exciting for me. I have been wanting to interview you ever since reading Whatever Arises, Love That: A Love Revolution That Begins with You, a book that relates a few of your many strange encounters with the Divine as well as encouragement and instruction for loving and appreciating everything that comes up in our lives. The follow-up, Everything Is Here to Help You: A Loving Guide to Your Soul’s Evolutionis even more detailed and practical. So, first, thank you.

A year and a half ago, during one of the most difficult experiences of my life, I attended one of your live events. My friend drove me there and parked on the street, and after getting out of the car I immediately threw up. Once inside the venue, I went to the bathroom and cleaned myself up, then sat on the floor near the door while my friend held our place in line. I wanted so badly to learn how to love this–my nausea–but there was nothing inside of me that felt any amount of love. I just had no strength left. I wanted to talk to you after the meeting to ask you what to do, but I didn’t. Instead, I overheard a woman behind me telling her friend that she asked you what to do about her depression. You told her to “Be the best depressed person you can possibly be.” I didn’t understand this then, but I never forgot it, and I think I’m starting to understand it now. Can you tell me what you meant by this statement?

Matt: Using that example, I was pointing someone towards embracing the circumstances of depression, instead of being in opposition to it. In order for us to make peace with depression and use it as an evolutionary catalyst, it cannot be wrong to be depressed. It certainly isn’t comfortable or convenient, but the moment it isn’t wrong to be exactly as we are, we create space for a deeper reality to shine through. In the same way, your nausea isn’t preferred, but it’s here to be welcomed, honored, and respected for the role it plays in your journey. We don’t have to love the experience of nausea, in order to recognize how the one who feels so helpless, tired, and disempowered is the one who needs our loving support the most. From this space, we are no longer lost in our opinions about things, so we may be the best supporters of however our experiences unfold. This is the heart of true acceptance.

Mollie: What do you tell people who simply cannot love what they’re experiencing right now?

Matt: I say that we only think we cannot love because we don’t feel love as an emotion. Instead of thinking of love as a feeling to conjure or capture, it begins as a willingness to support ourselves or others no matter the details in view. Love is a response of empathy; when we see how deeply other people or even ourselves tend to hurt along our healing journeys, the awakening of love is a response of greater support to those in need. The more often we support ourselves and others in moments that matter most, the more supported we feel by the Universe, which at that point, manifests the feelings of well-being that everyone yearns to feel. Love is a willingness to be the most helpful person to the parts of you that hurt the most. This is the first bold step in cultivating heart-centered consciousness.

Mollie: So really walk me through this. You’re sitting there really not loving what is arising. Maybe you have chronic pain or a broken heart. Then you consciously shift your thoughts to “I love this, I accept this, This is what is meant to be, This is good.” But you can’t hold that thought for long, so soon your mind wanders back to thoughts of hating your circumstance. What then? I find there are only so many times I can think the thought, “This is good” before I just get bored and a little annoyed at myself for repeating this stupid mantra, and more than a little annoyed that I am annoyed. What then? Do I try to just switch to a different subject in my mind?

Matt: The trick is not trying to love the circumstance or feeling, but embracing the one who feels exactly as they do. We love the one who judges and hates, even though we may not love the act of judging or hating. Even the one who hates to judge is only here to be loved. The confusion is when someone is trying to love their experiences, instead of embracing the one having experiences. This is the crucial distinction that transforms self-love from daunting and dogmatic into an authentic and uplifting heartfelt communion.

Mollie: Can you tell me about a time in your life when you weren’t able to love what was in front of you–at least not at first–but then successfully shifted that feeling? How did you do it?

Matt: I’ve never tried to love what was in front of me because that would be denying the realism and honesty of my subjective human experience. Instead, I witnessed my feelings, beliefs, desires, and conclusions as parts that were waiting in line to seen through the eyes of acceptance and honored for being a unique aspect of my soul. I always knew the invitation was to love what arises within myself, while honoring any external play of circumstance as the perfect sequence of events to remind me where to send love in myself next.

Mollie: Lately, when I am not loving what I’m experiencing, I’m often able to shift my attitude quite a bit by reminding myself that this feeling or circumstance is my greatest teacher, the absolute best way for me to learn what I need to learn on this earth. For example, when I notice sadness, I remind myself to feel the sadness, to welcome it, because it is with me for some reason that I might not understand quite yet. Is loving what arises more about loving what comes of the pain, rather than about loving the experience of the pain? Or is it preferable to try to shift the painful feeling as well?

Matt: Loving what arises is about steadfast companionship. To welcome the pain, curiosities, worries and concerns, along with each and every insight that is birthed in the aftermath of loss or change allows us to be the parent we may never have had, the partner we are waiting to encounter, or the reliable friend who is always here to remind us how deeply we matter. When we take the time to befriend our feelings, the Universe steps forward to serve the evolution of our highest potential.

Mollie: Is your life hard? Is life supposed to be hard? At least sometimes?

Matt: My life isn’t hard. It’s exciting, sometimes exhausting, but its simply a matter of the balance I keep throughout my life. Life is hard when we forget its a process. A process is a chain of events that only unfold in time. So if we are not at peace with time, we rarely have time for the processes that matter most, which is the evolution of our soul. As we begin living on life’s terms and conditions by allowing the process of spiritual growth to be embraced throughout our day, we find deeper perspectives opening up, where a life that once seemed so difficult is now exciting at every turn. The difference between the two is how open we allow our hearts to be.

Mollie: You have mentioned something called “karmic clearing,” noting that we all need to feel negative feelings at times in order to clear them from the world. Why is this? What is the theological explanation? I would love to believe this is true–that my suffering has practical value for the world–but I’m skeptical.

Matt: Any notion of individual healing could only be our individual experience of clearing outdated patterns of ancestry as our personal contribution towards healing the collective. Our experiences may seem individual in nature, but it is always our unique experience of healing the whole that reveals astonishingly global implications through our willingness to heal. Additionally, perhaps the skeptical one is only using skepticism to request more loving attention, appearing to need answers and information, when it’s just an innocent way to request the gift of your attention.

Mollie: Thank you, Matt. Sincerely.

An Ode to Change

Today, I decided to jot down a few of the main changes I’d like to see in myself, in my life, and in my family.

I don’t recommend doing the same.

Here’s my list:

  1. More jogs
  2. More long walks with the kids
  3. More quiet time
  4. More time reading with kids
  5. More home cooking
  6. More homeschooling
  7. More progress on house projects
  8. More longhand writing
  9. More family dinners with friends
  10. More volleyball
  11. More time with my husband
  12. More family chore times
  13. More meditation and other spiritual practices
  14. More sports with kids
  15. More naps

Meditation 101: Practices, Postures, and Pretty Much Everything In Between

Guest Contributor: Jamal Bara at FitnessGoat.com.

“I am incapable of meditating,” admitted a friend of mine just the other day. “It ends up being just me silently agonizing over my to-do list.”

I totally get it; meditation is difficult. It’s definitely not a practice you’ll excel at right away. Just like you can’t pick up a golf club for the first time and expect to make it to the Masters Tournament next year and get that green jacket.

Okay, maybe that’s exaggerating, but you get the picture. The art of meditation can take years to learn, and you may never achieve perfect bliss, but it’s all about the practice.

And just like golf may not be your sport, certain styles of meditation may not be your cup of tea either. It takes some experimenting to find what works for you.

What is Meditation?

Meditation is a deliberate practice and one that requires your most quiet, mindful state. The word is tossed around a lot, but you may not exactly know meditation’s actual meaning or function. If asked, I would initial picture Yoda summoning the Force. Perhaps this is a form of meditation, but we’ll leave that for the galaxy.

Though mediation varies and splinters off into different styles of practices, it begins with one specific application—calming your mind. It also (hopefully) ends with a similar goal—restoring balance. The in-between is where you can customize your practice.

As with most new endeavors, it’s helpful to be educated on the subject before you jump in. That’s why we’re here! In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn about the types of meditation, the benefits of meditation, meditation postures, and even some apps that will help you get in the zone. Then we’ll answer some common questions about meditation and silence any skeptics out there.

So what are some meditation techniques and tips to help you begin this transcendental journey? Stay tuned!

Types of Meditation

Vipassana meditation (observation of reality)

Vipassana is one of the most ancient forms of meditation. It originated in the Theravada vehicle of Buddhism (the school of thought used by southeastern Asian countries) and is said to use certain concepts from the Buddha himself—the refinement of mindfulness and searching within.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of meditation—concentration and insight. Concentration style meditation have you clear your mind or focus on only one thing. Vipassana is virtually the opposite, inviting you to unearth things about yourself.

Unlike these practices which discourage the movement of the mind, Vipassana meditation allows its students to explore and gaze at their thoughts from afar. You would then train your mind to reflect on your life experiences and view them objectively. Peeling them away layer by layer, you would ultimately be able to walk logically through your thought processes.

How to begin:

The simplest way to begin Vipassana meditation is to observe your breathing. Imagine your thoughts coming and going with the breath. Do not allow the thoughts to linger or be developed further beyond that one breath. This practice helps to relieve anxiety because anxiety is sometimes a result of thoughts being fleshed out to an irrational point.

Downsides:

This practice takes a lot of control. The mind’s natural tendency is to wander and see thoughts to fruition, but Vipassana asks you to allow thoughts to come and go like waves. Detached observation is often difficult for beginners.

Float tank (sensory deprivation)

Floating is a form of sensory deprivation. Its popularity is definitely arising because it can accommodate many abilities. Floating is done in a small tank filled with roughly 10-12 inches of water. The water contains around 800 pounds of Epsom salt, making it more buoyant than the Dead Sea.

In a float center, eliminating stimulus is the primary endeavor. The water is the same temperature as your body, so you don’t experience being too hot or cold. The room is completely dark, and the sound is nonexistent. Floats are usually done in 60-90 minute increments.

Remember the friend I told you about who said she was incapable of meditating? For her birthday, I surprised her with a 90-minute float. Honestly, I thought she would balk. Thankfully, I was wrong! She described the experience like floating in space, not being able to differentiate between water and air.

The benefits are medicinal in many ways. The calm sensory environment aids concentration, but the zero-gravity effect can help with back pain and stimulate sleep that’s equal to 4 hours of REM cycle sleep.

How to begin:

Obviously, you’ll need to find a facility that specializes in floating. The first visit is the most difficult because your body will take to allow the salts and sensory deprivation to relax your mind. Once you fall into a dreamlike state, though, then you’ll be able to implement your own specific practice.

Downsides:

Floating is expensive. Cost is usually not an object of meditation, so this alone could prevent you from experiencing floatation. Even if you could afford a float or two, meditation is recommended to be practiced often, so consistency would be difficult. Another downside (for Stranger Things fans only): unless you are Eleven, you’re not promised a visit to the Upsidedown dimension.

Guided meditation (instruction & response)

Guided meditation is probably the best practice if you’re a beginner. Most times you’ll have a narrator lead you through a practice. Whether the practice is about breathing or self-esteem, the scripts are designed to give your mind specific tasks that will reign in excessive thought.

When our brains create thought, we are also creating neural pathways. The more reinforcement we give to those pathways, the more likely we are to live into those thoughts. Our brains are programmed to absorb information and react to certain environments based on previous experience. How amazing that we hold the key to reformatting our minds to think more positively.

How to begin:

Getting started with guided meditation is simple. First, it’s important to choose an objective for your meditations. Since there is a vocally programmed aspect, you’ll want to feel that your script is beneficial. Are you wanting to quell anxiety or increase positivity?

Stay tuned for the segment later in the blog where we cover meditation apps that might assist you with guided meditations!

Downsides:

Guided meditation requires some outside resources like a program or application on your phone. Other options may include group meditation, but you might feel that this will prevent you from complete relaxation.

Check out this guided meditation to help with over-thinking.

Chakra meditation (personal inventory)

Chakra is an Indian form of thought which breaks down the body into a column of energy centers, each signifying a different color and trait. The 7 chakras correspond to our physical, emotional, and spiritual processes and, according to ancient Hindu healers, can become blocked.

Meditation and yoga are two of the most common ways to realign and unblock your chakras. Before I introduce you to a Chakra balancing meditation, let’s learn about each energy segment, starting from the bottom.

Red — The Root

The lowest chakra is at the base of the spine or the pelvic floor and is associated with concepts which ground you—basic instincts like shelter, self-preservation, and safety. Blockages in this chakra result in colon issues, lower back pain, and fear/anxiety

Orange — The Sacral

The next chakra is located between your navel and pelvic bone and is associated with your sexual nature—passion, joy, and complete wellness. Blockages in the sacral chakra include aversion to change, sexual dysfunction, or addiction.

Yellow —The Solar Plexus

The yellow chakra is located in your belly just below the ribcage and connects you to self-control and power. Blockages in the solar plexus result in moods of self-deprecation, poor time management, and digestive issues.

Green — The Heart

As it indicates, this chakra is located in your chest and is centered in love. The chakra, at its best, promotes goodwill and absolution. Blockages in the heart promote anger management issues, inability to cope with grief, and grudges.

Blue — The Throat

This blue chakra symbolizes communication and your ability to express yourself clearly without inhibition or fear of your own honesty. Blockages could result in trouble speaking your truth, shoulder/neck tension, and attention issues.

Indigo — The Third Eye

Located between your eyes, this chakra represents your brain and your vision. The purple energy dictates your ability to perceive and fine tunes your intuition. Blockages create poor judgment, erratic decision-making, and headaches.

Violet — The Crown

The crown chakra, like its location, is the highest energy and is related to spiritual connection. In its purest form, the violet chakra is fully conscious and aware of the universe. Disconnected, the crown chakra could make you feel isolated. Meditation is said to be most helpful for this energy source. During these times of mindfulness, your 7 chakras are at total, clear alignment.

How to begin:

The best way to begin Chakra-style mediation is to be familiar with the 7 chakras. Study the energies. What color holds your insufficiencies? What colors are your strengths? Once you underwent the colors and their connection to your mind and body, listen to a guided Chakra meditation for help navigating the blockages (see below).

Downsides:

As information-rich and enlightening as Chakras are, they are also abstract. Studying Chakras may be something you want to tackle down the road in your meditation journey. No sense in overloading your mind when you’re trying to silence it!

Forest bathing (gentle wandering)

What do you think of when you hear forest bathing? When I first heard it, I thought, You mean just being in the woods? Well, I go trail running, so this is nothing new to me. Who’s profiting from this glorified hiking class?

Then I took some time to research. Developed in the 1980’s, this Japanese form of healing helps converge nature and mindfulness in its students. It incorporates a slow walk through quiet woods, breathing exercises, and observation. You’re invited to use all your senses to connect with nature—seeing the green, hearing the birds, feeling the textures around you. (Another common misconception debunked: it’s not a bath, so you don’t need swim trunks).

Think about the objective of a hike or a trail run. The goals are finishing or having a defined destination. These add an element of rushed urgency to something that we assume is peaceful—not to mention, high elevation hikes or runs take a lot of conditioning. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel very peaceful when I’m out of breath.

How to begin:

Forest bathing can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. There are some programs and retreats you can attend which educate and guide you through the process. Another option is just to walk trails on your own and connect with your senses.

Downsides:

Some city dwellers may not have easy access to a forest. That’s okay. Find any green space or park. It may not offer the quietness you need, but the main thing is surrounding yourself with green.

Benefits of Meditation

Lowers anxiety

Mindfulness is scientifically proven to lower anxiety. By teaching the mind to detach from worry, you automatically lower stress and reduce the physical toll that anxiety takes (i.e. insomnia, muscle aches, easy startle reflex).

Meditation teaches chronic worriers to quiet an active mind. Training yourself to halt the broken record of your mind’s worst case scenarios is not easy. It’s definitely not relaxing at first. But keep trying. The results outweigh the effort.

Increases awareness

One of the main components of meditation is the self-awareness. Practices may be different, but a common thread is the attention it brings. Whether you’re tracking your breathing, guiding your thoughts, or listening to birds in the forest, you’re making an effort at awareness.

Meditation, in all its forms, calls for slow movement—unhurried, gentle thoughts as well as heedful physical movements. This world revolves around quickness and convenience these days, so it’s no wonder that the simple act of slowing down can improve your grasp on the nuances of life.

Mindfulness creates control

Our minds are hardwired to absorb tons of sensory information and interpret it. Not many moments go by when your mind isn’t working, worrying, planning, or wandering—except for when you’re meditating, that is. You already know that control is difficult. Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried dieting. I see you.

The willpower involving food choices is tough, but at least these actions and reactions are slower (i.e. grocery shopping, ordering at a restaurant) Thoughts appear and vanish instantly, so controlling this traffic successfully creates a master of control.

Being present in our bodies helps us appreciate its function

Meditation asks you to dive deep. Listening to your breathing and the rhythm of your heart can only be a rote part of the process for so long. But when you really begin to investigate your vessel through mediation, you may find yourself grateful and amazed.

Gratitude can be a wonderful focal point during concentration meditations. The Chakra mediation we covered earlier is the perfect application for this type of appreciation. The presence of mind you’ll have while exploring your Chakras will help you learn a lot about your physical and spiritual qualities.

Meditation Postures

Sitting

Quarter Lotus (Burmese)

The quarter lotus is a fancier name for sitting with your legs crossed (or as my preschool teacher would say—criss cross applesauce). For added comfort, I would recommend sitting on a folded towel to elevate your hips. This will relieve pressure on your knees and ankles.

Full Lotus

Full lotus position is probably the 2nd most common association with meditation behind chanting ooommmmmm. It’s the pose we all envision. Instead of crossing feet under the knee, you pull your feet up to rest on your thigh.

Since the full lotus is intermediate to advanced, I only recommend you try this one if you already have pretty loose hips or your only plan on short meditations. If you have knee injuries, definitely avoid this pose.

Seated in Chair

This may not be the most picturesque pose, but it works for some people. If you think sitting down with your legs crossed will cause pain or discomfort, definitely choose the chair method. The point of mediation is to not fixate on distractions, so if your legs fall asleep due to poor circulation, that won’t exactly propel you toward deep relaxation.

For chair pose, sit up and don’t let your back rest against the chair. Your chest should be lifted and your feet planted firmly on the floor.

Lying down

There’s some controversy around horizontal mediation positions because it could tempt you to fall asleep. Although sleep is positive (definitely means you’re chill), it’s not exactly the goal of meditation. If you have the self-control to remain conscious, try these yoga-inspired poses.

Corpse Pose (Savasana)

This is my favorite yoga pose. Of course, you’re probably saying, because it’s lying on your back doing nothing. Well, you’re partly right, but in my defense, it’s not as easy as it looks. Sure, you can be stretched out on your back, but what is your mind doing? You’re either asleep or worrying if the chicken will be thawed by dinner time.

Corpse pose could be the most difficult to master. It’s not about the position as much as your consciousness while in savasana. You’re lying horizontal, palms facing up. You’re breathing with intention, eyes closed.

Supta Baddha Konasana (Bolstered Hip Opener)

This one’s a mouthful, but here’s what’s up. Also a horizontal position, this pose is often done in restorative yoga practices. You’ll be on your back with your legs in a butterfly position (soles of your feet together, heels pulled toward your groin) with a bolster pillow under your shoulders. I’ve taken part in a restorative yoga session before, and I really liked this pose.

This position opens your hips and aligns your spine. Pop quiz: which Chakra would you be using in this meditative position? (Hint: orange)

Mindful Movement

Is movement a position? Not necessarily, but because meditation has evolved, so must posture. Think about forest bathing. Though it’s perfectly okay to sit and bask in nature, the specific forest bathing technique requires slow wandering. I think this is just another way you can be present in your body and be aware of subtleties of movement.

Meditation Apps

Using apps on your phone may seem like it’s defeating the purpose of detaching and focusing, but I’m liking this option. I need the incentive to stay on task and build a habit. Whether that’s a monthly payment or simply seeing the app button on my home screen, I think we could all use a boost.

For sake of brevity (there are hundreds of apps out there), I’m gonna categorize them based on some specific factors. Here you go:

10% happier (for the skeptics)

This app was created to combat the skeptics who think meditation is sitting cross-legged on a mountain ledge at dawn chanting in Sanskrit. Phew! Good thing I’m here to change your mind! You could be missing out on some real ambient chill.

10% Happier addresses the science behind the ooommmm. There’s a lot of commentary, explanation, and basic practices to get you started.

Price: Free with limited features, $11.99 per month

Buddhify (for the indecisive)

To me, this program is the most aesthetically pleasing and is seemingly user friendly. The app opens with a color wheel inviting you to select your mood. Instead of stressing yourself out scrolling through options, just let your mood select the style. There are also a ton of guided meditations if you need some help navigating your thoughts.

Price: $2.99–$4.99

Smiling mind (for the budget conscious)

This app is free! Are you sold yet? If not, check out these specs: the app chooses meditations based on your personality/career and tracks your progress. It was developed by psychologists and other healthcare professionals, so it’s free and trustworthy. Can’t beat that.

Price: Freeeeeeee

Headspace (for the best of everything)

This is the most compressive app of all. Forbes named this app one of its top choices, and for good reason. Tons of categorized meditations are available for your ever-shifting days and moods. There’s even an SOS feature for, particularly rough days. You can even have accountability check-ins with other app users!

Price: Free with limited features; $12.99 per month

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are meditation and prayer the same thing?

A: This is a tricky question. A lot of people get confused or hesitant about starting any meditation practices because it seems associated with religion. Although its roots are in Asian culture and religion, no one is forcing you to submit or pray to a higher Being if you don’t choose to.

What meditation can offer is a vehicle or shell for your prayer. The seated posture, the inward-looking, and the quiet focus all lend themselves to great prayer environments no matter your faith. Faith-based guided meditations are a great way to incorporate both relaxation and religious practices into one sitting.

The largest difference I notice between prayer and meditation is where control is delegated. In non-prayer meditation, you are usually coached into being your mind’s own master—you and you alone are governing your sensory perceptions. Oftentimes in prayer, there is a submissive nature which relinquishes power to a higher Being.

Q: When is the best time of day to meditate?

A: Depending on the goal of your meditation, any time of day could work. If you need to channel energy and positivity, morning is a great choice. If you’re attempting to diffuse anxiety or a tough situation during the day, maybe a few minutes on your lunch hour. If relaxation is what you’re after, try meditating before bedtime as a sort of sleep prep.

Q: How long should I meditate?

A: Don’t set yourself up for failure. Don’t jump in and attempt to quiet your mind for a whole hour. That’ll probably be the last time you meditate. Try 10 minutes at first to see how your body and mind react. Once you’ve mastered this timeframe, you can move up slowly.

I consider an average meditation to be around 30 minutes. With life as busy as it is, it’s hard to fit any more time in—especially since you’ll need to incorporate exercise and vigorous activity in at some point as well. Damn you, self-care!

Longer meditations of an hour or more are usually for the pros or for mediation-specific retreats.

Q: Should I close my eyes?

A: This is an excellent question and one that boils down to preference and how you react to stimuli. Though closing your eyes is most common and seems to promote focus, it can easily allow the mind to wander or drift off (to a rabbit hole of thought or to sleep!)

If you chose to practice with your eyes closed, you must find something to focus on—a consistent sound, your breathing, or the wind against your cheek.

With open eyes, it seems obvious that you might get distracted. Squirrel! But it might be simpler than you imagine. The key is to fixate on a focal point. Don’t place yourself in a visually busy spot. Find a consistent landscape, like a forest edge or a sunset. If you’re inside, focus on the collection of four-leaf clovers in a jar. Bottom line: understand how your mind works and what would allow you to focus.

I hope this guide has given you some insight into this therapeutic practice. For the skeptics, I hope you’re convinced that meditation is more than Yoda and lots of ooommmm. For seasoned meditators, I hope this has given you more tools and more angles to mix up your practice.

For the slackers like me, I hope this has reignited your energy toward bettering your mind. I don’t know about you, but after this post, I’m going to tend to my blue Chakra and stare at some trees.

Happy meditating!

For more articles like this, see FitnessGoat.com.

Jamal Bara

Sources

1- What exactly is Vipassana Meditation?

2- Your 7 Chakras, Explained

3- Shinrin Yoku Forest Bathing

4- What is Self Awareness?

5- Gratitude Meditation

6- Deepen Your Meditation: Eyes Closed vs Eyes Open

For more helpful information on meditation, as well as gift ideas for your fellow yogis, visit relaxlikeaboss.com/best-meditation-gifts.

Self-Help Memoir Miniature: “My Daily Recipe for Staying Mostly Depression-Free”

There is no cure for depression. At least not one that works for everyone. Medication works a bit, and exercise helps a ton. But none of these things–even lots of meditation–won’t get you all the way.

However, in my experience, there are cures (note the plural): complex, sometimes time-consuming combinations of factors that can work together and give you relief.

Here’s my depression success story and the particular combination of coping mechanisms that work best for me.

Once upon a time, I was four years old. And even then, I was the serious girl. Nothing wrong with that–my mom called me “sensitive” and my dad said I had a “cute, worried expression.” But right before their eyes, and without any of us knowing it, I started, slowly, to withdraw. In the second grade my best friend moved away, and I had very few others as backups. I became shyer and shyer till, caught in the coming-of-age pre-junior high school years (fifth and sixth grades), I was really suffering. I hated how I looked. I had no close friends. At recess I hid in the bathroom or under the schoolyard stairs. I didn’t want anyone to see me sitting alone, but I didn’t want to talk to anyone and face rejection.

In Junior High School, I realized I had a problem. It wasn’t their fault that I was shy; it was mine. I went to a new school, made the same mistakes, and the outcome was the same, too. In the eighth grade, I hid in the bathroom every day, and though I made a few friends, they weren’t close. One day I read an article in my aspirational reading of choice–Seventeen magazine–about a girl who realized she had depression. She said that she figured it out after while riding a city bus, she burst into tears for no reason.

That’s ridiculous, I thought. I do that all the time. It sounds pretty normal to me.

But the thought sunk in, and soon after that, I realized I was depressed, too.

My first attempt at overcoming depression was a spiritual one. As a fundamentalist Christian, I knew the answer to all pain, all difficulties was faith. I also knew that I wouldn’t feel better until I got on the right path, and stayed there. If I only prayed enough, read the Bible enough–really committed to God–I would feel the love and job of knowing him. And the depression would be gone.

The plan didn’t succeed.

High school passed in perfectionistic frustration. Then college, then a few lovely years after graduation. My determined mindset helped me get rid of my shyness completely, and pursue a few other goals successfully. I got a job I love–waitressing–as well as a college degree and a house. And I started liking myself a lot more–even how I looked. I gained confidence, but my ultimate goal still eluded me–that of fully overcoming depression.

I still haven’t fully overcome it.

And yet, I have overcome a lot of it. Most of it, in fact. And I did it in two major ways. First, I dealt with the basics: I got a job, independence, a few friendships, a place to live. After that, I started refining my methods.

Here is my daily recipe for my mostly happy, sometimes joyful, and always deeply grateful state of mind.

  • I exercise most days for at least forty minutes. Sometimes, I exaggerate. Like the other week when I told my friend exercise is a cure for depression. It’s not. And yet, it sort of is. Because without my long walks, I’m not sure I’d be able to stay mentally healthy. For me, this is the absolute number one technique I recommend to overcome depression–even more so than spiritual practice. My personal habit is to take long walks with my kids. I often carry the baby and push the two-year-old on the stroller while my five-year old follows on his bicycle.
  • I get outside for at least an hour most days. Rain or shine, outside time is a must. I feel better almost as soon as I step out onto the porch. I take the kids to the park or we walk to the store or to a play area. In fact, I almost never drive a car, even though I have one.
  • I meditate briefly each day and pursue other spiritual practices. My meditation practice consists of repeating a loving mantra several times for several minutes, or just allowing myself to sit still and notice the thoughts that come, then refocus on my “inner body”–the sensations I feel in my hands and feet and breath. I also try to consult my inner guidance on a daily, sometimes hour by hour basis as I consider what to do next, or what decision to make. This helps me greatly. Finally, when a thought comes that is particularly stressful, I journal it, Byron Katie-style. For more information on all of my spiritual practices, see my Spiritual Practice Success Stories and Depression Success Stories on mollieplayer.com.)
  • I limit my junk food intake. Healthy food tastes good, too. It really does. I don’t limit fat and I focus on protein and vegetables. (I allow myself a few treats, too.)
  • I have hobbies I truly love: reading, writing, and gardening. The value of having at least one endless project cannot be overstated. I love feeling productive, and all three of these hobbies feels valuable and fun. I get the pleasure of the activity itself, plus the knowledge that I’m doing something worthwhile. If you don’t have a job, at least get a difficult, long-term, highly involved hobby.
  • I keep my house clean. For me, cleaning is relaxing. It gives me a sense of control and order. I love home organization, too.
  • I only wear clothes that feel good on my body and that I feel I look good in. This is huge, and took me a long time to learn. I hardly ever wear those “cute” clothes that other people say look good on me. I wear a uniform every day: black pants, a crisp T-shirt and maybe a sweater.
  • I keep my weight down. For me, feeling bloated causes anxiety. Though I don’t necessarily think extra weight looks bad on other people, I choose to do what it takes to keep my weight down (i.e. diet). For me, the tradeoff is worth it.
  • I take medication. Does it work? Yeah, a little. This is especially important and helpful in the winter.
  • I work hard. I stay busy. Staying busy is huge. Huge! The days fly by, and in the evening you can look forward to a TV show or a good book knowing that you did your work for the day already.
  • I do work I love, namely, writing and being a mom. For people with depression, work enjoyment is even more important than for others. I don’t make a ton of money, but I wouldn’t trade my work lifestyle for anything.
  • I spend time with good friends several time per week. Ah, friendship. This is a hard one for me. I’m a busy mom, after all. But I fold my friendship time into my mom time with lots of play dates, and once a month we have family friends over for dinner. Such an uplifting experience.
  • I don’t overschedule my days. I try to take things at my own pace, and the pace of good parenting. If you are prone to anger or anxiety, overscheduling is a huge problem. Though I love to keep busy, I choose projects that I can do at my own pace and on my own schedule. I only schedule one outing per day with the kids, and I make it a life rule to rarely leave the house in the evening. (Family time!)
  • I try not to yell at anyone. Conflict is such an emotional drain. Most of my relationship difficulties are handled in a calm, low-key manner. I just hate being in a fight.
  • I prioritize sleep. I don’t have a TV or computer addiction. In fact, addictions of all kinds scare me. I watch TV a few times a week, and go to bed at the same time my kids do. For alone time, I get a babysitter three times per week.
  • I try to do all the little “shoulds” we all have for ourselves, while also trying not to do too much. It is a balance. Such a tricky, precarious balance. But I’ve found that for me, there’s no way around it.

So, the list is long, I know. Maybe even a bit intimidating. Depression is such a huge, demanding thing.

There are no easy answers. But there are answers. And hey–that’s better than nothing.

Besides, all this self-improvement stuff? It doesn’t just keep my depression at bay. It makes me a better person, too. Most of it is stuff even someone who doesn’t have depression would benefit from. The main difference is that I feel I have no choice. Drop the ball on any two of these, and rough days are ahead. It’s not a self-pity thing; it’s just true.

I do remain hopeful that one day, my depression will be healed entirely. It happened to my dad and many others. Either way, I (mostly) accept myself right where I’m at. This is my life, and it’s a good one.

I’m blessed.

Self-Help Memoir Miniature: "Eckhart Tolle’s No-Mind Meditation Is Great. But So Is Thinking Sometimes"

new thought dandelionThe first time I read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, I thought it was total crap. Okay, maybe “total crap” is an exaggeration. But definitely impossible, impractical and, worst of all, unpleasant. Not thinking about the future? Just paying attention to the Now? Sounds like the fast track to loserhood.

As a person struggling with depression and using any non-substance-based strategy I could think of to manage it, the advice sounded particularly terrible. I could do without past obsession pretty well–never’ve been much of a grudge-holder. But I needed–depended on–obsessing about my future. The future is when I would have everything I wanted: kids, a house, a great career. My plans for things to come and my determination to work hard towards them were pretty much what I lived for.

Stop thinking about the future? Stop thinking at all? Won’t that take away my hope, my reason for living?

The second time I read The Power of Now, I understood the concept a bit better. Oh, I don’t have to stop thinking entirely. I can think without being neurotic, and with long breaks. That actually sounds pretty cool.

Maybe I’ll try that someday. First, I have stuff to get done.

The third time I read The Power of Now, I finally had a breakthrough. The book taught me how to meditate, and how to absolutely love meditating. And now, it’s one of my very favorite books.

That’s another story, though. For today, we focus on this whole fascinating not-thinking thing, particularly whether or not it can help with depression.

Some people call it no-mind meditation, and I don’t think I’m the only one who’s ever cursed Eckhart Tolle or another teacher for telling her to try it. Being completely “present,” without plans or goals, as Tolle calls it, doesn’t come naturally to us human-types. In fact, it goes against pretty much our entire biology.

We think. We assess. We assume. We make decisions. Sometimes all in less than a single second. It’s one of our strengths and one of our weaknesses. But apparently, we can learn to overcome it.

But do we want to? And if so, how much thinking is the right amount, especially when you’re trying to overcome depression?

There’s no one right answer, but here’s my experience.

Achieving or attempting to achieve the so-called “no-mind” state helps us greatly. It makes us happier. It definitely eliminates depression. The problem: oh my goodness, it takes a lot of time. Unless you’re committed to Buddhist-like meditation sessions on a daily basis, your results may be very slow to come.

I love meditation. I definitely like to take breaks from thought, and when I have obsessive or anxious mind patterns, I realize it’s time to chill a bit. I clear my head by repeating a calming mantra, doing The Work or doing a “brain dump” on paper, and these techniques usually work pretty well.

But soon after that, I’m back to thinking.

And I’m okay with that.

Don’t get me wrong: on a bad day, I could use a lot more of this no-mind stuff. But on a good day, a lot of my thinking isn’t so terrible. It’s not the anxiety-producing stuff we all know is unhealthy. It’s just thinking–just plain old planning, reading, writing and working. Sometimes I even manage pleasant, pointless pondering. Today, for instance, I found myself lost in contemplation about the economics of private dentistry practice. Important? Not really. Interesting? Just a bit. Stressful? Well, not to me. On a good day, a lot of my thinking is like that. It’s not particularly harmful, or particularly anything.

It’s just thinking.

Of course, I also do the did-I-say-something-wrong what-does-she-think-of-me-now type stuff. But when I catch it, I’m often able to refocus pretty well.

One fine day, I’d love to experience the state of no-thought Tolle talks about. But I don’t plan to meditate for thirty years to get there.

Final thought: I’ve read all of Tolle’s books, and I couldn’t recommend them more highly. But I’ve also listened to the audio recordings of many of his conferences, and I can’t say the same. At the beginning of each, he makes a statement to the effect of, “I didn’t plan what I’m going to say today at all.” Yeah, Tolle, I get it; you’re inspired, “in the flow.” The words don’t matter as much as the spiritual energy you impart. But that doesn’t mean they’re useless, and it doesn’t mean thinking and planning is useless. Your conference speeches could do with a tad more forethought. (But you’re wonderful anyway, and thank you, thank you, thank you.)

Self-Help Memoir Miniature: “My Monthly Checklist Is My Secret Weapon”

I love advice. Love getting it. Love giving it. But there’s a problem with advice: We often don’t take it. And usually, it isn’t because we don’t want to, or don’t intend to. Usually, it’s because we forget.

Think about it: How many times have you read a parenting book or a marriage book, then followed its suggestions to the letter—for about a week? After that, our resolve blurs. We focus on other things, and our best intentions move into our peripheral vision, or even into the background.

Which is where my resolution solution comes in.

Often, when there’s something about my life I’d like to change, I first write down all of my related goals. The process of writing and thinking them through clarifies my intentions and makes my lessons more concrete and practical. It also stores them in my subconscious.

Nothing revolutionary so far. Here comes the real trick: I set the list of resolutions aside. A list that long does me no good; there’s no way I’m going to reread them every day. I put them in a place easily remembered and located later, when I’m struggling to carry them out—in my case, in a special file on my computer. Then I distill down the resolutions into a few concrete actions—just one or two. And I add them to my Monthly Checklist. I give myself an X every time I complete one of the actions, and by month’s end, I can see and appreciate my progress.

My Monthly Checklist isn’t your ordinary checklist. It’s an ongoing to-do list, one that incorporates all–and I do mean all–of my personal and professional goals, including writing, parenting, educational, marriage, exercise, spiritual, friendship goals and more. (Yeah—my checklist is really, really long.)

So maybe it’s corny. But it works; I swear it does. The checklist keeps me accountable, and reminds me of what I am working towards.

My goals don’t live in the back of my mind somewhere anymore. They live with me, and I interact with them several times each week.

Here is a partial example of my list. This one is from December of last year:

December 2017:

  • One day of meditation: 30x –
  • One glass of water drank: 30x –
  • One exercise session: 20x –
  • One reading time with kids: 10x –
  • One family chore time: 4x –
  • One TV show or total break time: 4x –
  • One random act of kindness: 4x –
  • One podcast or audiobook for kids: 2x –
  • One hour of educational music for kids: 2x –
  • One dinner with friends: 1x –
  • One family meeting: 1x –

My Monthly Checklist is my secret weapon. Seriously.

My Garbage Man Is Definitely a Hero

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

The other week at my (awesome) Unitarian church, a woman I met during greeting time said this: “You have three kids? So you pretty much deserve the hero award just for waking up.”

It was sweet. Really sweet. I appreciated the compliment. But I didn’t know how to respond.

I tried this: “No, not at all. It’s not that bad, really.”

She said, “I have two kids, and parenting is the hardest thing I do,” and then my humility in disregarding her praise turned into hubris, right before my eyes. (This happens to me a lot.)

“That isn’t my experience,” I said cautiously. “So far, I like this job the best.” I wanted to say more, but the minister resumed the service.

I would love to talk to her again. And maybe I will. But for now, let me get something off my chest.

Parenting is hard. Super, super hard. Mostly because I don’t have a lot of free time. But here are some other things I don’t have: A set schedule; a time clock; work clothes; spreadsheets; deathly boredom; rush-hour traffic; a commute; meetings; pointless busywork; the feeling that I’m not making a difference; replacibility; burnt coffee; meetings; sitting in the same room every day, all day; office politics; dealing with people every day that disrespect me; customers; deadlines; sales pressure; fake smiles; the need to pretend to be busy; carpel tunnel; lack of creativity; lack of autonomy; lack of passion; hours and hours of socialization while on the clock; Sunday evening dread. And finally:
A boss.

So let’s take a moment to appreciate the bus drivers, office workers, clerks, managers and salespeople of the world. Especially that garbage man that always waves to my kids.

I think you guys are all heroes.

Self-Help Memoir Miniature: “Glennon Doyle’s ‘Love Warrior’ Helped Me Learn to Feel”

Just before he turned five, my son wrote a story. And it was the saddest thing ever. As he finished it and I was scribbling it down, all I could think was, “Oh, my goodness. What is this kid picking up from me?” Here is that story:

“The first thing that happens is there’s alive vacuums and they bang and crush until they’re dead in heaven and then they knew to be not alive vacuums that are really alive vacuums. The end. (They just pretend that they’re not alive by closing their eyes and popping their arms in them.)”

“Oh, and put the title on it,” he reminded me.

“Okay. What’s the title?”

“Alive Vacuums Hurt.”

Wow, I thought. Alive vacuums hurt. Am I alive? Or am I pretending not to hurt, too?

During childhood, I was definitely alive. I cried all the time. These days, though, not so much. It’s a rare thing for me to cry even a little. I wish I wasn’t like this, but I am.

Which is probably why I loved the book Love Warrior: A Memoir by Glennon Doyle so much: it gave me an outlet for emotion. It’s about blogger Doyle’s marital difficulties as well as how she overcame addiction. But Doyle doesn’t just tell her story. She emotes it. She gives us the raw, even gory, details, scene by painful scene, till your own personal sadness surfaces to keep hers company.

I felt a lot of things while reading Doyle’s book. But mostly I felt inspired to feel more.

I don’t want to be an alive vacuum pretending to be a dead vacuum. I don’t want to be afraid of my feelings.

Here are a few passages from the book that were especially helpful to me:

  • “My mom’s voice quivers as she and my dad ask the usual questions: Why do you keep doing this to us? Why do you keep lying? Do you even love us? I sit on the couch and I try to receive their questions, but I’m a catcher without a mitt. My face is neutral, but the part of my heart that’s not spoiled is aching. I do love them. I love them and I love my sister and I love my friends. I think I love my people more than normal people love their people. My love is so overwhelming and terrifying and uncomfortable and complicated that I need to hide from it. Life and love simply ask too much of me. Everything hurts. I don’t know how people can just let it all hurt so much. I am just not up for all this hurting.”
  • “I sit and stare at my hands and I remember a story I saw on the news about a woman who had a stroke and lost all her language overnight. When she woke up, her mind functioned perfectly, but she couldn’t speak. So she just lay there and tried to use her eyes to communicate her terror about being trapped inside herself. Her family couldn’t translate what her eyes were saying. They thought she was brain-dead. It’s like that for me, too. I’m in here. I am good on the inside. I have things to say. I need help getting out. I do love you. My secret is that I’m good in here. I am not heart-dead. This is a secret that no one knows but me.”
  • “We begin to understand that to coparent is to one day look up and notice that you are on a roller coaster with another human being. You are in the same car, strapped down side by side and you can never, ever get off. There will never be another moment in your lives when your hearts don’t rise and fall together, when your minds don’t race and panic together, when your stomachs don’t churn in tandem, when you stop seeing huge hills emerge in the distance and simultaneously grab the side of the car and hold on tight. No one except for the one strapped down beside you will ever understand the particular thrills and terrors of your ride.”
  • “As we walk out into the sun, Craig says, ‘Is it going to be okay? He’s going to be okay, right?’ I look at him and understand that when your coaster partner gets scared you must quickly hide your own fear. You can’t panic at the same time. You must take turns. I grab Craig’s arm, hold tight, and say, ‘Yes. Absolutely. It’s all going to be okay. He is going to be amazing. This is just part of our ride.’”
  • “I tell them that I’m finally proud of who I am. I understand now that I’m not a mess but a deeply feeling person in a messy world. I explain that now, when someone asks me why I cry so often, I say, ‘For the same reason I laugh so often—because I’m paying attention.’ I tell them that we can choose to be perfect and admired or to be real and loved. We must decide. If we choose to be perfect and admired, we must send our representatives out to live our lives. If we choose to be real and loved, we must send out our true, tender selves.”
  • “I’d been angry and ashamed because my marriage was so far from perfect. But perfect just means: works exactly the way it is designed to work. If marriage is an institution designed to nurture the growth of two people—then, in our own broken way, our marriage is perfect.”

So, I Admit It: My Kids Are Not Geniuses.

Would a future particle physicist do any of these things?

  • Step directly in every single dirt pile I ever sweep up.
  • Bonk his head on the bathtub faucet twice in the same bath.
  • About three mornings per week, and several evenings, too, suddenly forget how to put on his shoes.
  • Sit on the couch with a bare bottom after pooping and before my checking his wiping job.
  • Scream in the baby’s ear while she’s napping.
  • Jump on my back and yell “piggy back ride!” without warning me beforehand.
  • Headbutt my closed fist.
  • Entirely forget how to say, “Can I have a turn, please?” instead of screaming for a toy. Every single time.
  • Bump my arm when I’m almost done with my drawing.
  • Fight over a pair of scissors.

And yet, I still hold out hope that my kids may become geniuses. That’s just what moms do, I guess.

The Mathematics of Coats

Best Nonfiction Book - Instead of Education

This is my first winter with three children, and here is what I’ve learned about the mathematics of coats.

To find the total square footage of your home that you will need to devote solely to winter wear, use the following equation.

  • For each child in the family, add two lightweight jackets or sweatshirts, one point five heavy coats, one snowsuit, one rain suit, plus gloves, boots and hats.
  • For each adult in the family, add five to ten lightweight jackets or sweatshirts, one fancy coat, one rain jacket, one heavy coat, plus gloves, boots and hats.
  • For each adult bicyclist, motorcyclist, skier, scuba diver or other athletic type, add one pair of specialty pants and one point five specialty coat per sport. Because the volume of each of these items is almost double the average volume of other items, multiply this number by two.

Thus, if your family has five members (as mine does), you will need approximately eight thousand items of winter wear in your collective wardrobe.

After determining the total number of items, measure the square footage needed per item. This will vary depending on how much space between items you require to access them. Now multiply this number by your number of items.

If you did the math right, you will likely come up with a figure that will make it necessary to buy a second home. Or at least a Pod.

Seriously, though. Our coats take up two entire closets right now. And my kids are still tiny.

Summer, please come back soon.

(I’m off to buy a Pod.)

***

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Ten Things I Love About Men

Best Nonfiction Book - Rich Dad Poor Dad

1. Men don’t freak out over criticism. The other week, my babysitter quit. She said our parenting style was too “laid back.” (She was being nice, of course. She could’ve said my kids are brats.) After I read the email, I consulted with two friends at length, seeking ways to validate my choices and to work through my embarrassment. My husband, on the other hand? He read the email, made a single statement (which I won’t repeat here), then placed it all in a file and red-stamped it. Case closed.

2. Men are willing to take a backseat. My husband’s greatest joy in life is his mostly happy, mostly loving family. The role he chooses to play in keeping it that way is to support my parenting decisions as well as my self-care. He helps in any way he can, and doesn’t micromanage. Most of all, he realizes that the one who makes the plans is the one who gets to decide how to carry them out. (For more on gender differences in family decision making, see Tara Parker Pope’s discussion of household management in For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed.)

3. Men deeply appreciate real women’s bodies. Men love fat women, thin women, tall women, short women, beautiful women, plain women, dressed-up women, casual women, Barbie women, Martha Stewart women, soft women, angular women, curvy women and everything in between. Their tastes are much more wide-ranging and forgiving than the women they love often realize. (For evidence, see A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the Internet Tells Us About Sexual Relationships by Ogi Ogas.)

4. Men are Zen. I once saw a video recording of a spiritual conference in which the audience was mostly made up of women. During the question and answer session, one of them asked the speaker if women are more spiritually evolved than men are; after all, they’re the ones who come to these events the most. The teacher responded that there may have been good reason that more men weren’t there. “Maybe they don’t need to read as many books and go to as many conferences, since they’re already practicing these principles without realizing it.”

I, for one, think she was right. If Zen is define as living in the moment, appreciating the little things and not obsessing over the bad, men as a whole are way more Zen than women are.

5. Men are great conversationalists. I love girl talk. Mom talk, especially. But I also can’t live without a weekly debate regarding philosophy, news and/or politics. And for that, my dad, husband and other male friends are my go-tos. With them, it’s not personal. I can be as opinionated as I want to be. Friendly debates really feel … friendly. (I have had a few girlfriends who don’t mind the inevitable disagreements that come up, but not many.)

6. Men are honest. I like the emotional support I get from my girlfriends, but every once in a while, if I’m full of shit, it’s better just to be told straight up. One of the greatest compliments I’ve even received–maybe the very greatest–came from my husband, who said, “You have the best personality of anyone I know.” If this had come from a girlfriend, I would’ve deeply appreciated their kindness. But since it came from a person who as far as I know has never, ever lied to me–even a so-called ‘white lie’–I will treasure it forever. (I’d give you a few great examples of his brutal honesty, but that probably isn’t necessary. Just trust me.)

7. Men communicate clearly. Here’s a typical scenario: my husband and I in our living room, cleaning up after our dinner guests. “Did you catch that comment?” I say. “The one about the laundry?”

Blank stare.

“Maris was hinting that Niles didn’t appreciate her. You didn’t see it? Oh, I love you, Hon. You’re so great.”

When I tell my husband, “I’m stressed out. I need a break,” he gets it. When I say, “Will you do the laundry?”, he says yes or no. However, when I say, “I hate everything right now,” he has no idea what that means, or what to do. This is a major advantage in our relationship. David teaches me how to be direct. (I’m not all the way there yet, though. Only been with him for eight years. These things take time.)

8. Men appreciate the beauty of silence. When I was in high school, my dad opened a window into male psychology for me–a small one, but it let in a surprising amount of light. He said, “The person you can sit with, and say nothing, but still understand each other–that’s the person you want to marry.”

But I love talking, I thought. I want to marry a great conversationalist. Later, though, I understood what he meant. Men love talking sometimes, too. But what they truly need is respectful, peaceful, loving, companionable … quiet.

Like I said: a window.

9. Men are sexy. Enough said.

10. Men are smart. Obviously, women are every bit as talented and intelligent as men are. But it’s been a while since I’ve heard someone say, “Men have done so much good in the world, haven’t they?” A similar comment about women comes my way every three hours or so. So let’s all take a moment to acknowledge the many achievements of male-kind, even if you don’t appreciate every single one of them. (Personally, I’m not a huge fan of cars. But the birth control pill and sidewalks? Two thumbs up.)

BONUS #1: Men are funny first, serious as needed. My husband plays with my children differently. And his discipline style is often more lighthearted than mine. A common caution of his is, “It seems like you need tickles. Do you need tickles?” It’s beautiful. Humor is one of the most helpful conflict management strategies I know.

BONUS #2: Finally, when people use the term “white men” or just “men” in a negative context, men don’t usually complain. Often, they even welcome it. Some even consider themselves feminists. They like us women that much.

Much, much love to the men in my life who have debated with me for hours, told me the unvarnished truth, and shown me how neurotic I (occasionally) am.

P.S. Happy birthday to my amazing older son, who turns five very soon. Could not be prouder.

P.P.S. Kudos to Philadelphia for celebrating International Men’s Day today.

http://www.internationalmensday.com/

What Would a Buddhist Monk Do?

buddhist monk

This guy definitely knows what to do.

So, it occurred to me today that I have no idea what Jesus would do. Ever. This may be due to a lack of information or just my inability to synthesize the available information. However, after reading just a couple of books on monks of various times, places and faith persuasions (The Wisdom of the Desert by Thomas Merton and Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda both leap to mind), I have a decent feel for what they would do in most sticky situations. (Hint: It usually involves a wan smile and a non-committal retort such as “Is that so?”)

And so, I’m going to have my own bumper sticker made. It’s going to say “What Would a Buddhist Monk Do?”

WWBMD, y’all.

Self-Help Memoir Miniature: “Cognitive Therapy Is As Good as They Say It Is”

I was pregnant. I was exhausted. I was potty training two kids. So it would’ve been easy to chalk it up to stress. But when earlier this year I discovered how negative my thinking had become, I didn’t dismiss it. I became genuinely concerned.

I made the discovery when one difficult evening, for the first time in ages, I picked up a pen and journaled my true feelings. Not my affirmations. Not my goals. Not my prayers. Just my ugliest, most despicable feelings.

In the end, I had four handwritten pages covered solidly back and front with nothing but the crazy in my brain. When I showed my husband, he said, “Wow. That’s a lot of bad thoughts.”

“Yes, it is,” I replied.

A few hours later, I was sitting in my office, scanning my memory for a solution. At one point I idly glanced over a bookshelf I don’t usually pay attention to, and there it was: The Feeling Good Handbook.

Reluctantly, I took it from the shelf.

A book my doctor had recommended a year or so prior, the Handbook didn’t hold much interest for me at the time. I remembered flipping through its many detailed descriptions of medications and skimming some of its seemingly pat advice. This time when I opened it, though, I found something else.

I found a different book entirely.

The Feeling Good Handbook is written by psychiatrist David Burns, and it’s about a well-known, widely used form of psychotherapy called (unfortunately, I think) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT for short). The book is far too long—full of flowery ideas and applications. What is comes down to, however, is this: negative thoughts are not the truth. They’re a perspective, and often pretty screwy one—one with only a bit of basis in reality, if any at all. The best way to work through them—to eradicate them, and in doing so, eradicate depression—is to write them down, then write down their opposite: the more objective (and yes, more optimistic) view of the matter.

I know, I know. Big damn deal, right? Isn’t this just positive thinking with a fancy name? But sometimes, that’s what it takes. Sometimes the fancy name or the scientific research backing a technique gives you the faith you need to give it a go. And then there was the timing thing; at this reading, I was more willing than before to try something new.

Later that day, I wrote out my negative thoughts again, but this time I countered them with more positive interpretations of the situations. To my great surprise, after doing so, I felt better. Much better. Even … well, good. I felt the way I normally feel after a brisk four-mile jog or walk—and the feeling stayed with me for much longer.

A week later, after journaling two or three more times, my acute depression still hadn’t returned. And that’s when I really knew I was on to something.

We spiritual people can all say all day long that we’re want to learn to accept everything, even pain. The truth is, though, that often, we don’t have to. We can work through it instead. Change what you can change, and accept the rest. And, of course, learn the difference.

Here are some of the results I recorded in my journal during my first week of CBT:

  • One of my least favorite things in the world is the sound of a child whining. But at one point as I was waiting out yet another of these patience-trying incidents, I started saying to myself, “This is the good stuff.” I did a mini version of CBT, and it worked; I felt calmer. Later, I had a conversation with that same child after he complained (ironically) about his brother’s loud voice. “In life, there are things that we like, things that we don’t like and have to wait through, and things we don’t like but get to figure out a solution for, and all three are good in different ways. Life is a fun challenge. The hard stuff is the good stuff.”
  • When a friend called to describe at length a difficult problem that I felt she’d brought upon herself, I got angry. Not on the phone (I was merely impatient), but after hanging up. A rush of anxiety came over me as I thought about her unfortunate situation, but instead of ignoring it, I thought it through. I identified the stressful thought that the whole thing was her fault, which helped me see how ridiculous it was, and later I noticed thoughts of love for her coming to me spontaneously.
  • Finally, I did CBT on a long-held misbelief of mine, namely that I’m not productive enough. Then that night when my husband took the kids out for four hours, I binged on stand-up comedy specials. The next day when I woke up I thought, I want to write today. And that’s what I did off and on all day, in spite of the usual challenges. The rest had helped.

“I envision stacks and stacks of papers listing all my negative thoughts,” I wrote the following week. “These stacks will be the dumpster—no, the landfill—for all of the crap inside my head. It’ll be great.”

CBT isn’t easy. It’s tedious and time-consuming. But it’s a fun challenge, too. One of the best compliments you can give any self-improvement technique is that it’s as good as they say it is. I believe that compliment applies here.

Self-Help Memoir Miniature: “Sometimes, I Just Let Myself Hate Everything”

Every once in a while, I want to set fire to my brain. I want to light a match, and get a bucket of kerosene, and just go to town on it. The desire usually comes when my brain is on fire already, and it’s getting out of control. I figure that if I hasten the job, the whole thing will be over more quickly, and afterwards I can cool it off and start rebuilding.

Yeah, that’s the answer. More fire.

Allow me to explain.

A few months back, I was going through a rough time. So, I decided to try something a little different. I was sick of practicing acceptance, saying “love, love, love” and meditating all the time. I needed, instead, to vent.

The situation: bad behavior boot camp.

Have you ever tried this? Well, don’t. Or do. I don’t know yet. Results unclear. Regardless, it’s when you take your two whiny children and make them stay at home all day and fight with each other. Then you take every single one of those fights as a “learning opportunity,” complete with one-on-one conflict resolution coaching, the patience of a goddess and, of course, appropriate consequences.

You can guess how well this went. The good news? It inspired a new spiritual practice. I call it my “I hate this” meditation and that pretty much sums it up.

So maybe I’m the only person in the world to find this as helpful as I do. But on the off-chance that my experience can be replicated, here is a brief description of what I’ve been up to.

One of my favorite spiritual books is Loving What Arises, about, well, loving everything as a spiritual practice. Matt Kahn is the author. He’s a channel, though he doesn’t use that term, preferring the word “empath.” Basically, he holds lectures on the topics of love and spirituality, mostly love, and how to bring everything in our experience back to that.

So one day in the midst of this bad-behavior stuff, while attempting to do what Kahn suggests, I realized something: I didn’t want to love this. It felt fake. So, I tried something else instead. And it worked. So I tried it every day that week.

It still worked.

Here is the technique: You get alone, in a quiet spot, and start by saying the phrase “I hate.” Then you just let it rip.

I hate my outfit. I hate my hair. I hate the gym. I hate that person. I hate the morning.

You go on and on like this, getting it out, letting it go. Then you take a deep breath, and meditate a while.

This sucks so much, I think. But damn, am I growing. You know, as a person.

And then I call it a day.

Then what?

Then, about half the time, I get this feeling of gratitude. Something like, Wow. I’m okay. I’m doing it. I’m getting through it. How much awesomer am I going to be at life (in this case, parenting) after I get through this?

I feel truly grateful for my crap.

And then there’s something else that happens, also about half the time: A bit of positive thinking accidentally creeps in. It’s weird, really: there I am, trying my damndest to be negative, and my ego part—the part of all of us that makes reverse psychology so effective—starts arguing with my silly list. “I hate the gym,” I’ll say in all sincerity. And everything I appreciate about the gym—the childcare, the alone time, the dress code—will come to mind. Then I list the next thing—say, giving up dessert—and Reverse Me will do it again. “You don’t care about that. You love the food you eat. And you look really good, too.”

Then I argue that point a bit.

Ah, that ego. Always arguing. Mostly, it’s best to just ignore it. But every once in a while, we can outwit it instead.

Reverse psychology. It works.

So, in sum: I’m saying “I hate” over and over—and calling it a wellness practice. Take that, lame, phony life rules.

Admittedly, my results with this technique are pretty mixed so far. Sometimes it helps a lot, but about half of the time it offers little to no real relief. It’s one of those things: you have to sort of search your soul a bit, ask yourself if you just need a few moments to vent. If the answer is yes, the practice could help. It gets everything out there—a brain dump. Then you can pick through the garbage for what you want to keep. The rest goes and doesn’t seem to come back. At least not right away.

Admitting, truly admitting, what I hate—no rose colors involved—is something I’ve deprived myself of in the past. Allowing myself to admit I hate what is, that I don’t effing want to be spiritual right now—it feels like eating ice cream for the first time after years without sugar.

I love that honesty can work for depression, at least sometimes. I don’t want to have to be positive all the time. What a drag.

Best Reincarnation Books

Ah, reincarnation. It’s the concept most associated with New Age spirituality, and one that when I was religious, I most loved to hate.

Now, I just love to love it.

This affection doesn’t make me an expert on the subject, of course; I’m a cafeteria-style, spiritual-but-not-religious type, not a Buddhist. I just know that reincarnation means I have other chances at this Earthly life thing. That’s enough information for now.

Sign me up. Details can wait.

The books on this list are those I’ve personally come across on this subject. I look forward to learning and reading more.

My favorites so far: Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives by Brian Weiss and The Search For Grace: A Documented Case of Murder and Reincarnation by Bruce Goldberg.

Best Reincarnation Books is part of a larger project, a curriculum I’m writing called Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday. Like this list, it’s an ongoing, possibly unending, project. Check back here or subscribe on the right for updates.

P.S. Here are a few related links for you, too:

Best Reincarnation Books:

Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives, Brian Weiss
Spiritual Progress Through Regression, Brian Weiss
Regression to Times and Places, Brian Weiss
The Search For Grace: A Documented Case of Murder and Reincarnation, Bruce Goldberg

Other Recommended Reincarnation Books:

Messages from the Masters: Tapping into the Power of Love, Brian Weiss
Through Time into Healing: Discovering the Power of Regression Therapy to Erase Trauma and Transform Mind, Body and Relationships, Brian Weiss
Only Love Is Real: A Story of Soulmates Reunited, Brian Weiss
Messages From the Masters: Tapping into the Power of Love, Brian Weiss
Mirrors of Time: Using Regression for Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Healing, Brian Weiss
Same Soul, Many Bodies: Discover the Healing Power of Future Lives through Progression Therapy, Brian Weiss
Miracles Happen: The Transformational Healing Power of Past Life Memories, Brian Weiss
Only Love is Real: A Story of Soul Mates Reunited, Brian Weiss
Love Never Dies: How to Reconnect and Make Peace with the Deceased, Jamie Turndorf
Your Life After Their Death: A Medium’s Guide to Healing After a Loss, Karen Noé
The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived, Lee Carroll
Indigo Adults: Understanding Who You Are and What You Can Become, Kabir Jaffe and Ritama Davidson
The Disappearance of the Universe: Straight Talk about Illusions, Past Lives, Religion, Sex, Politics, and the Miracles of Forgiveness, Gary R. Renard

On being a mom

Best Nonfiction Book: Child

Something different for you today: a poem I wrote during my first year of being a mom.

We Expect

We expect our children to share everything they own. But do we share everything we own?

We expect our children to enjoy sleeping alone. But do we enjoy sleeping alone?

We expect our children to realize they’ll be okay immediately after falling down. But do we realize we’ll be okay immediately after we fall down?

We expect our children to let other people decide what they will wear, what they will eat and where they will go. We expect them to always eat their vegetables and to go to school for eight hours a day. We expect them to sit still, play quietly, contain their excitement and never, ever show they’re mad. But are these things always such a good idea?

We parents don’t always go to bed on time. We don’t always manage our money wisely. We often argue, or even refuse to work out our disagreements at all.

We don’t always keep our rooms clean, stick with our first decision or get ready on time. We don’t always do the math right.

We don’t always follow the rules.

We expect our children to behave like adults while so often, we behave like them. Maybe, then, we should expect a little less of our children—and a great deal more of ourselves.

Self-Help Memoir Miniature: “I Tried Matt Kahn’s ‘Loving What Arises’ Technique for Depression”

Last fall, I was going through a rough time. Like, really rough. I wasn’t taking walks. I wasn’t eating healthy. I wasn’t hanging out with friends–even writing. The problem? I was pregnant.

And every day, all day long, I was nauseated.

It’s the worst thing, that nausea. I’ve had it four times for over three months straight, and it never gets any more enjoyable. It’s unfortunate, too, for my kids and husband, who want another little one someday. (I think they forgot how bad the bathroom smelled, and how infrequently I cleaned it.)

All right, enough pity. (Thanks, though. It was nice.) The point is, when you’re sick everything sucks. So you can imagine how badly I’d have to want to do something while in this condition in order to actually get dressed, get in the car, go somewhere and do it.

Yeah. Pretty bad indeed.

Well, I did that. I did that for Matt Kahn. And it involved a 40-minute car ride. There was an IV in my arm, and I puked on the street by my friend’s car, and I hated every second, but I went.

To say I’m a fan of Kahn is an understatement. I once offered to ghost write a book of his. (His office person rejected the idea. No hard feelings! Emoticons!) He’s a Seattle local, which gets him a few points, but mostly he just has a great take on spirituality. It’s jovial. It’s fun. It’s super insightful. And it’s just non-friggin-uptight. He’s not a comedy genius or anything–he’s just relatable. Honestly, a pretty normal dude–yet awesome.

And then there’s his message. His message is the thing. It’s unique. It’s a blend. There’s nothing copycat about it. He talks about karma, about the law of attraction, but in a totally different way. A real treatment of his message is far beyond the scope of this piece, but do check out at least one of his super popular YouTube videos. It’s required.

With that, we come to Kahn’s spiritual practice, and my assessment of how well it works for depression–and for just getting more inner peace and stuff in general.

So let’s get to it.

Matt Kahn is a spiritual teacher with second-sight abilities. In his book, Whatever Arises, Love That, which he seems to claim was channeled (though possibly not word-for-word?), he shares how one day a spirit entity or entities revealed to him his greatest teaching (so far) in the form of the four words that are the title of his book:

“Whatever arises, love that.”

Taking the directive literally, he began repeating, “I love you” to whatever got his attention—a flock of birds, a construction worker using a jackhammer. What followed was an awakening, as he calls it, that caused sounds of gunshots in his head and a sense of his Self “oozing out of my ears like warm liquid light.” Sounds like something I want to experience. Maybe.

And that’s it. That’s the practice. So simple. So of course, I had to try it. Here’s what I found.

Does this spiritual practice work against depression?

Yes, but only to a point unless used with great commitment. Just saying a few “I love yous” every day won’t get you out of a bad slump. Though it wouldn’t hurt, either.

Have you tried it? For how long?

I tried the technique for about one month during that pregnancy I was describing. Not the first trimester, of course–spiritual practice? what’s that?–but later when things weren’t so … entirely crappy. I was convinced I’d stick with it for at least a year straight as one of my main practices. However, it was not to be. Soon afterwards, I discovered Byron Katie’s The Work, and loving what arises has been relegated to the Definitely Will Do That Again, Hopefully Soon list in my OneNotes.

What were your results?

My results were great. Thing is, as hirpy-chirpy ridiculous as the technique sounds, in practice it’s very profound. When things are swimming along, feeling good to you, it’s just an extra “thank you” to the Universe, but when things get un-fun, the technique really gets interesting. It’s not about pretending to have feelings of appreciation and love for what you actually hate. For me, anyway, it’s about reminding myself that this–even this–is fine. Not great. Not cool. Not awesome. Not de-lish.

But fine. Really, really fine.

My kids both pooped on the floor? On the same day? It’s fine. It’s really fine. I love you.

I’m feeling depressed but too lazy to go take a walk? It’s fine. It’s really fine. I love you.

My body is forty pounds heavier, and my ears hurt from the sound of whining? It’s fine. It’s really fine. I love you.

Because, here’s the deal, you: You’re what I get when I ask to become a better person. You, Poop. You, Depression. You, Fat. You’re my gifts, my teachers, my best friends.

Even you, Whining. All of you.

So, I love you. For teaching me how to train my kids to clean up after themselves. For bringing me back to spiritual practice after a few days’ absence. For reminding me how lucky I am to have a healthy body. For teaching me patience. For making me stronger.

I love you.

Here are a couple of amazing quotes from the book.

Note that it was really, really hard to choose; there were tons of great ones.

  • “No matter what seems to trigger you, each reaction represents the releasing of cellular debris collected from lifetimes of experiences.”
  • “Throughout this process, it is important to remember that a sensation only feels like a barrier for as long as you refuse to feel it. As it is invited to be felt, a willingness to experience each moment as an opportunity to heal clears out layers of cellular memory to make room for the emergence of heart-centered consciousness.”
  • “Instead of using this practice as a cosmic fire extinguisher to merely resolve the flames of personal despair, I invite you to treasure your heart on a regular basis, until the world you are viewing reflects back the light that your love reveals.”
  • “While moments of transcendence are incredible to behold, the true benchmark of spiritual maturity is how often your words and actions are aligned with love.”

Would I Rather?

Today I’m asking myself the following questions:

1. Would I rather have clean carpets but constant carpet maintenance and a strict no-shoes, no dirty feet policy … or would I rather have stains on my carpet and a lot less hassle? (Or is there another solution, like dark brown carpet?)

2. Would I rather have a clean house with constant maintenance … or would I rather have a messy house but be able to let my kids do arts and crafts inside; let kids get head-to-toe dirty outside then track it in; not have to nag about chores all day; get less annoyed by kids being kids; let kids learn how to prepare their own food; let kids learn how to feed themselves; and not to mention spend a lot less time cleaning. (Or is there another solution, like teaching kids to do chores and exchanging chores for privileges?)

3. Would I rather have a nicely manicured lawn that I have to maintain weekly … or would I rather garden and rake when it brings me pleasure and exercise, and have lots of pine cones, leaves and dead grass in my yard, all of which are pretty in their own way? (Or is there another solution, like moss and clover instead of grass?)

4. Would I rather keep all bugs out of my house at all times but have to constantly nag the kids to shut the door … or would I rather leave the door open all day in the summer without a screen so that the kids are encouraged to go outside more often throughout the day? (Or is there another solution, like a screen with a magnetic closure that automatically closes behind you?)

5. Would I rather save time on cooking by going to a restaurant, then spend time driving, parking, ordering, waiting, paying, and driving … or would I rather spend the effort to throw together something at home, then linger after dinner at the table with the family?

6. Would I rather spend $30 extra for a restaurant meal … or spend $20 for an extra hour of housekeeping or nanny time?

7. Would I rather spend $1,000 on French doors for my patio … or use that money to buy 50 hours of household or nanny help?

8. Would I rather spend $3-5,000 on a family vacation to Mexico for a week … or $1,000 on a nice staycation for a week that includes long evenings with kids at the babysitter’s?

9. Would I rather buy and store a gas-powered lawnmower … or would I rather use a small push mower that I rarely need to sharpen and never have to buy gas for, and is much quieter and more pleasant to use and gives me some exercise?

10. Would I rather have a large variety of appliances that make various tasks easier and faster … or would I rather have a smaller kitchen with less cluttered cabinets and save time and hassle finding what I need?

11. Would I rather have a large, expensive house with high heating, cleaning and repair costs … or a house in a prime location with just enough room for the family to live closely and with less stuff?

12. Would I rather have three kids and spend more quality time with each … or would I rather have four kids and bring another life into our family and the world?

13. Would I rather make sure my kids go to several sports, clubs, or classes each week … or would I rather let my kids figure out how to overcome boredom on their own at home?

14. Would I rather clean up the food my kids spill under the table and move on to the next thing more quickly … or would I rather teach them how to clean up after themselves by taking away their food and waiting for them to clean it up before their next meal?

15. Would I rather drive my kids to the library … or would I rather walk them there?

16. Would I rather let my kids have three hours of screen time per day … or would I rather sit with them in the living room while they play and I read a book, not allowing them to interrupt me unnecessarily?

17. Would I rather buy a new fire truck for my child … or give him a box of recycled materials and help him make one?

18. Would I rather pick up all of the toys one by one when I need to clean the floor … or sweep them all into the corner with a push broom?

19. Would I rather spend an hour a week driving to and from a playdate that I don’t particularly enjoy … or would I rather find an activity for my kids that is within walking distance?

20. Would I rather pack the kids up in the car and take them to the park every day … or would I rather sit in the backyard for an hour to encourage them to join me?

21. Would I rather commit to doing a favor that doesn’t feel good to me … or would I rather take the opportunity to practice saying no?

22. Would I rather buy the new furniture that we supposedly need … or would I rather let the kids continue to destroy the old stuff and wait to get new stuff when they’re older?

23. Would I rather leave my cell phone in the bedroom till evening and miss a few messages … or would I rather be tempted to check my messages or to-do list several times per hour during family no-screen time?

24. Would I rather prepare all my kids’ food every day and prevent messes and wasted food … or would I rather teach them how to open the fridge, get a cup, pour the milk and put it away, then help them clean up the mess later?

25. Would I rather continue to change poopy diapers every day … or deal with potty misses a few times a week?

26. Would I rather help my kids resolve their every argument … or would I rather help them only when they ask me to and they are choosing to use their words?

27. Would I rather keep the family on a strict bedtime schedule and hectic morning routine in order to get them to school … or would I rather homeschool them and keep the schedule we choose?

28. Would I rather make my young kids do homework every night at the expense of family and free time … or would I rather let their grades slip a bit and let them play more?

29. Would I rather keep everything in my garage that I may need someday … or would I rather risk having to rebuy an item–either a new one or a just as good or better used one off Craigslist–in a few years?

30. Would I rather stand underneath my children on the monkey bars every time … or would I rather relax on the bench and let them fall once in a while?

These are just some of the ways I have rethought my cultural upbringing in the years since having children. Just an off-the-top list; I’m probably missing some big ones. The important thing isn’t how I answer these questions, of course. The  important thing is that I ask them.