Mindfully Connecting With Loved Ones When Standing on Opposite Sides

The morning after the election, I woke up to see a celebratory email from my father in my inbox with the subject: “HOT DIGGITY DAMN!!!!” (Yes, it was all in caps). There wasn’t anything in the body of the email, but it was clear why he was so happy. And, despite knowing I wouldn’t share his sentiment, he chose to send it to me anyway…

Indignant disbelief looped through my mind as I slammed my laptop shut and started pacing back and forth—my heart racing. Body clenching.

A CELEBRATORY email – is he SERIOUS?!…
How COULD he?!…

I can’t believe how insensitive he is!!!…

(deep breath)

Prior to this moment, I’d always been able to dismiss—and sometimes even laugh off—my father’s politically-charged emails… But, for a variety of reasons, this particular one felt, literally, like a punch to my gut….

Collapsing back into my chair, doing my best to let go of my anger…. Sadness began bubbling up.

And then came the tears.

The next few hours were spent balancing between wallowing in and pushing away the pain—eventually culminating in my writing a short email back to my dad—respectfully explaining why I felt so hurt and upset by his exuberant declaration. I also let him know that I needed some serious space for a while…

For the next several weeks, a day didn’t go by in which I didn’t labor over how I was going to find a way to talk with him—and what the hell I was going to say when I did… I knew I needed to find a way to communicate with him from a place of love. But, I hadn’t been able to reach any definitive conclusions about HOW to do that, exactly—nor had I figured out the specifics of what to say…

Fast forward to:

November 30th—what would have been my mom’s 74th birthday (she passed away in 2001). I’d been contemplating how I could honor her in some way. And, despite not yet knowing what to say to my dad—reaching out to him felt like a meaningful way to do so…

So, I decided to put my fear aside and call him.

We hadn’t connected since his post-election email, and I felt nervous extending myself. Not knowing what to expect, I procrastinated for several hours—nervously pacing back and forth in my living room before finally finding the resolve to take action.

Plopping down on my couch, I proceeded to scrawl “SPEAK FROM THE HEART” in giant block letters on an 8×10 piece of printer paper and place it in front of me. Then I took a deep breath. And hit speed dial….


“Hi, Dad. It’s me….”

“Oh, hi – Hello. I’m so glad you called… How are you?…”

“…I’m sad, dad…. Sad about the results of the election. And sad that I don’t know how to talk with you about it…”

After my initial email response to my father after the election, I had sent him another brief email on Thanksgiving day to let him know that I loved him and that I’d been able to forgive him for sending me his post-election “celebratory” email—but that I wasn’t yet clear how to talk with him about how I was feeling and still needed more time and space to contemplate this.

And then, at some point right before mom’s birthday, I recognized that my trying to “figure out” how to have the conversation with my dad—without actually having it—was just a delay tactic… Which lead me to the conclusion that it was time I find a way to call him…. The fact that all this occurred a few days before my mom’s birthday felt significant—giving me a motivating, “ticking clock” deadline to make the call happen.

But it didn’t take away the fear of going through with it….

Sitting there. Phone up to my ear. Dad on the line. Staring down at my “SPEAK FROM THE HEART” reminder…. I took a deep breath, continued to let go of my need to know what to say—and just kept talking.

My voice trembled. I felt hella vulnerable. And I cried.

A lot.

But, instead of him arguing with me or trying to invalidate my feelings (which I had been afraid might happen)….

He actually listened.

And when it was time for him to speak—he spoke from HIS heart.

And I listened.

We ended up talking for an hour and a half—with a depth of connection we hadn’t touched since right after mom passed. It’s interesting to look back on that time and see how she had had an invisible hand in bringing him and I closer together back then. And then again, on her birthday this year…. It’s strange yet beautiful to see how there are some things in death that we can accomplish that maybe we just can’t while we’re alive…

Moving forward, dad and I still have more difficult conversations ahead of us—the work has only just begun…. I will need to continually muster up the courage to allow myself to feel vulnerable—while still finding a way to take action. But, by taking the time I need to center myself, by setting firm boundaries and mindfully communicating from my heart—while also firmly standing for what I value—I have faith that our relationship will continue to heal and evolve.

For those of you reading this right now who might be going through something similar with family and/or friends post-election… May you find the courage to speak mindfully from your heart—while also standing firmly for what you value. You are not alone.

(Happy Birthday, Mom)


Just “Let It Go”

(via GIPHY)

Before I had any idea how to go about doing it… THERE WAS NOTHING MORE ANNOYING TO ME THAN SOMEONE TELLING ME I NEEDED TO JUST “LET IT GO.” Especially when I was in the midst of having a mental fit about something.

Maybe you can identify?…

Like when you get into a kerfuffle with your loved one about something that’s (usually not that) important but you KNOW YOU’RE SO TOTALLY RIGHT ABOUT. So, you keep trying to explain it in a way she’ll hear you. But, instead, she simply—and sooooo annoyingly lovingly—tells you to please “just let it go.”

Or, hypothetically speaking, when you finally arrive at that hip, new dessert shoppe you just spent 3 hours stuck in L.A. traffic driving to, and the ice cream “concierge”  tells you he just ran out of the artisanal organic salted caramel magic-shell-dipped quadruple chocolate fudgsicle – which is the SOLE reason why you traveled to the shoppe in the first place. So, upon receiving this news, you insist that he “surely must have at least one more left...” And you keep repeating this over and over and over again with the sincere belief that he will make this desirous dessert miraculously materialize for you. But, instead, he just stands there, disdainfully sneering at you with his hipster handle bar mustache and a sullen look of pity on his face before blurting out, “Look, lady. I suggest you let it go… All we have left is the paraben-free carob beet-green gelato made with sustainably sourced alligator milk from North Carolina. Want some of that?…” 

Ok, so – sure, one way or another, we’re forced to let go of innumerable things during the course of our lives—physical possessions, emotions, ideas, people, being right… Life provides myriad opportunities at every turn to practice letting go. But sometimes (read: most times), WE JUST DON’T WANNA LET IT GO. No matter how much we listen to that song from “Frozen.”

For the longest time, I refused to let most things go because I thought doing so somehow meant I was “weak.” But, somewhere down the line, I started examining the things I was attempting to hold on to (and why…), and I often found it took far more strength to let these things go than it did to try to keep holding on to them. And that’s when I realized…

Letting go doesn’t make me weaker. It makes me stronger.

As with many things in life, letting go is a continuous practice. And, although it certainly isn’t always “easy,” when we cultivate the capacity to consciously let things go (particularly the things that aren’t serving us), we strengthen our capacity to allow more ease, flow, and equanimity into our lives.

And this, my friends, just might come in handy when we find ourselves arguing over something that doesn’t really matter—or finding out there isn’t any more of that fancy dessert we thought we so desperately needed.

(hypothetically speaking, of course)…  😉

Chasing Shiny Things

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“When I sit down to work on a project, an idea comes to me that maybe isn’t completely relevant to the task at hand—maybe it’s theoretical or conceptual. And, it’s like this shiny thing off to the side. I feel like it’s important for me to examine it. And, so I do. But then I see another shiny thing, and I examine that. And, then all this time goes by, and the task I need to get done never gets done.”

Does this sound familiar?…

A client of mine was finding it challenging to stay focussed on a less-than desirable task she needed to do for work. She shared the above with me, and I’m sharing it here (with her permission, of course!…) because I think—especially for those of us who identify as “creative” folks—we’ve ALL experienced this at some point (if not, regularly). Heck, this giant, glowing orb of diversion caught my attention while sitting here trying to write this post:

If a blog post is on the internet, but nobody reads it,
does it exist?… 

[puts “serious mindfulness blogger” mask back on] 

Ok, so what does this have to do with mindfulness?… Well, the mindfulness meditation technique can help when we’re working on a more focussed, analytical and/or linear task and notice that we’re starting to get sucked into the tangential trance of chasing shiny things that pop up along the way.

When meditating, we focus our attention on a specific anchor point (like the sensation of the breath or ambient sounds, etc). And, when we notice our attention has drifted away from this anchor, we gently redirect it back to the anchor point.

When applying this technique to our work, the anchor becomes the task at hand (like, say… writing a blog post). And, anytime we notice we’ve drifted away from the focus of the task, we gently redirect it back.

And, sure, sometimes following shiny things is helpful—like when we’re engaged in a creative project, or we’re brainstorming. Meandering when we’re being creative is an essential part of the process. And many tasks require some mixture of pointed focus and more expansive exploration.

As with everything, it’s about finding the balance. It can be helpful to have a specific place where an idea (or “shiny thing”) can live when it arises during a more focussed task. You can then quickly jot the idea down and toss it into a folder for revisiting and exploring later.

And, if you’re lucky…. Perhaps you can find a way to constructively weave a shiny thing into the task of writing about how not to get diverted by shiny things. 😉


Mindfulness is meant to be shared. Please join me and a growing number of like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. Share this post with your friends. Participate in The Mindfulness Diaries’ growing Facebook and Google+ communities. And share YOUR personal journey with mindfulness in the comments below.


Discovering My “Free Mind” (An Interview with C G Mayya)


If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how my life has transformed through the practice of mindfulness. It’s been a solid 6 years since I began my dedicated practice, and I’ve come a long way… But, I recently started feeling like I’ve been bumping head-first into a giant brick wall. Like the path I’ve been traveling along just doesn’t go any further…. Intuitively, I can tell there’s something on the other side of that wall for me to explore. But, how do I get there? And, where do I go once I’m on the other side?…

To explore these questions, I decided to seek some guidance from author and meditation & mindfulness coach C G Mayya….

An executive and entrepreneur who left his career behind in search of personal transformation, C G has dedicated 15 years of his life to training and serving in monasteries in the U.S., Thailand, Myanmar, and India. His guidance emphasizes the importance of finding our own unique ways of discovering what exists beyond our respective “brick walls.” And, after a little over a month of working with him, I’m starting to get a glimpse of what’s waiting on the other side of mine…

You were an executive and an entrepreneur who left your career to train and serve in monasteries around the world. What prompted this change in your path?

Seeing the potential of inner freedom! I was exposed to different cultures and traditions growing up, and I was also fortunate to be introduced to meditation early on in my life. Yet, in each of the environments where I lived—particularly in the East—questioning tradition, philosophies and religion was not well tolerated. The longing to inquire and understand was interpreted as being rebellious. And, because of this, I learned to conform and restrain myself to not allow my inner doubts and inquiries to take shape outwardly.

After completing my education, I followed the ways of the world and committed myself to finding success in the corporate world. For a period of 7+ years, I worked in Singapore, Australia, and the United States and was involved in a couple of start-ups. Despite pursuing a path that held lucrative financial rewards, there was always a sense of inadequacy in the back of my mind. And during this period of trying to cope with the external stress of a busy life, I went back to seeking meditation for mental balance.

In my entrepreneurial role, I tasted both success and failure, which helped me see the transitory nature of material wealth better. And, in my early 20s, I lost my mother rather suddenly, which added to my growing insecurity on the nature of life itself. The game changer was a momentary seeing through into the overwhelming sense of inadequacy and dichotomy that was making me miserable.

What eventually prompted me to change my path were several instances of seeing this potential of inner freedom as something that’s available in any moment of our lives. I write in the closing lines of my book, Discover Your Free Mind, “Just like a bird that can spread open its wings and fly at any moment, so too can we rest back in the awareness of Free Mind at any instant.”

At that time in my life, the intensity of seeing this freedom was so strong that I lost all interest in pursuing any kind of worldly life. I realized later, it was not necessary to live in monasteries to see the nature of this transformative inner freedom. The necessary change is, instead, one of reversing our perspective and of training ourselves in appreciating the nature of this inner freedom.

What is “Free Mind?” 

A reviewer of my book summarized it well: “Free Mind is a mind free from our social and cultural conditioning, a non-grasping mind that rests in an attitude of ‘let it be.'”

At a social and cultural level, we’re all subject to influences within the environment we live in. The problem occurs when these opinions of others and their beliefs becomes our truth. Of course, many philosophers and spiritual teachers have spoken about this danger, from Socrates to Buddha. In recent times, Richard Dawkins and Susan Blackmoore have written about this “meme” effect and how replication of ideas spread like viruses.

At an internal level, our mind and consciousness harbor impulses and patterns that we don’t seem to have conscious control over. We chase after experiences and states of mind that lead to “bliss” and “avoidance of pain.” Once we experience a certain exciting state of mind, whether through a glass of vodka or while kneeling in prayer, we then condition our mind to cling to it—chase after it—again and again.

These notions are what prompted the philosopher J. Krishnamurti to question, “Is it ever possible to have a totally free mind, free brain, not shaped by influences, by experience and the vast accumulation of knowledge?”

Living up to such questions is, itself, a process of discovering Free Mind. Along with certain secular practices, the quality of having an inquiring mind helps to shift our perspective and releases us from our mental conditioning. Such a shift away from our egoic impulses is liberating, and each of us has experienced it to some degree. Using such momentary seeing as our path to freedom is an independent journey into Free Mind.

How does mindfulness play a part in freeing the mind?

My answer to this varies, depending upon the type of audience I’m addressing. In my role as a mindfulness coach, I acknowledge that mindfulness in its current secular model in the west is perhaps the best form of training in freeing the mind. In the deluded state of mind that most of us are in before we turn to some form of mindfulness practice, the help of teachings and teachers/coaches can be invaluable.

But then as you get deeper into it, you soon realize that it’s hard to get a consensual agreement on what mindfulness is and how it helps to free us… No matter what we relate to in forming a conceptual understanding, at a personal level, mindfulness has to be discovered on a moment-to-moment basis for oneself. The benefit of this is a greater ability to be anchored non-judgmentally into the present moment experience rather than into the narrative of the mind—which for many of us is self-critical. Mindfulness can thus be a therapeutic practice, and thanks to researchers, it’s getting widely embraced within scientific circles as well.

But you asked, ‘how does it play a part in freeing the mind?’ My frank answer is that, although mindfulness has outward benefits and can be a great training ground for many to begin with, it does not lead to the unconditional freedom of mind. I would even go further to say that for many practitioners of mindfulness, and certain forms of meditation, it has become another mechanism for “wanting” to be in control of their lives and their minds. This is the duality trap of mindfulness practices, which reinforces our sense of self and egoism. Ultimately, we must go beyond these concepts and practices of mindfulness to discover the true nature of inner freedom.

I can see how mindfulness has become a mechanism for me to attempt to control my mind, and I do believe this has served me—up until now… But, perhaps the “brick wall” I’m finding myself up against is part of the duality trap you mentioned. There’s a part of me that’s looking to release my egoism and sense of self through meditation and mindfulness practices, yet that egoism and sense of self continues to be reinforced through those very practices. Hence, my feeling stuck… 

Most people are not able to see this right away. They get frustrated when the practices that once worked for them don’t work anymore, and so they try to “muscle” their way through it.

Part of the challenge exists because most mindfulness practices are about training to anchor ourselves in the present moment or working with body sensations until getting better and better at it. The analogy I use in my book is: “Like a skilled martial artist or the power-hungry Greek god, we then believe ourselves to be superior to others while continuing to be caught in the grip of new mental patterns.”

What are these mental patterns? They’re the same patterns that organized religion has relied on throughout human history to give people a sense of faith (and identity). And, prior to the mindfulness revolution, these patterns were also what many psychologists were nurturing through self-acceptance therapies. Although there is a place for faith and self-acceptance, it is this aspect of “getting better” at it which is at the core of the duality trap.

While such a sense of superiority and progress is satisfying to the ego, it leaves an underlying sense of feeling stuck, similar to what you describe. This is because you may be intuitively aware that the natural and freeing quality of your awareness has been compromised.

How can I start to work through this conundrum?

First, acknowledge and probe into the nature of conundrums with a sense of integrity. You only make it worse if you ignore this or try to control your mind to suppress conundrums.

Now, regarding your current conundrum – let’s suppose you grew up in a small town, and the time has come for you to leave for college or a job, and you experience pain, conflict and uncertainty. But you’re also looking forward to the greater opportunity and the adventure that lies ahead of you.

Similarly, if you can cultivate an attitude of adventure in facing your challenge – rather than one of dread and fear – then this could be a great opportunity.

Your book delves into various forms of inquiry practice. Would building an inquiry practice be beneficial for me at this stage – and would it be beneficial for readers of this blog who resonate with my present situation?

In general, tapping into the inquiring nature of our mind is the safe ground on which anyone can build their practice and discover their path to freedom. But here, again, you need some kind of framework to start with — otherwise you can remain deluded within the limiting structures of your own thought patterns. So, in that sense, what is beneficial for you at this particular stage in your practice may be different from what is beneficial for another individual. That’s important to keep in mind.

That said, if your readers are interested in exploring inquiry, my book provides model questions to show its practical application for addressing everyday complexities. Within the range of challenges — anxiety, stress, depression, conflicts, and addictions — one can find common patterns of “dis-eased” conditions that most of us are subject to and begin to work with them.

Who is Discover Your Free Mind written for, and what can readers expect to receive from it?

I feel like the book appeals mostly to the intelligent general audience with some background in meditation, mindfulness, or spiritual practices. I don’t expect people who hold strong religious beliefs or those who believe ONLY in the potential of science to be receptive to its message and arguments. To really gain benefits from this book, I encourage readers to come back after the first reading and try out the inquiries and exercises.

However, I do caution potential readers that despite its promising title, Discover Your Free Mind is about the process, rather than the promise of freedom. Some may find this process too daunting. But in reality, stepping into inner freedom is the simplest practice once you discover its potential. If it’s difficult, it is only because our minds are trained to appreciate complex and complicated approaches…

Although certainly daunting, I’m committed to the process of finding out what’s on the other side of the wall I’m facing right now. Whether or not I’ll be able to move through it to ultimately discover inner freedom is yet to be revealed… My guess is that myriad more “brick walls” will appear once I’ve moved through this one. But, I’m ok with that. Because, no matter how stuck or lost I might feel along this serpentine path of self transformation I’ve chosen for myself, I know there are seasoned spiritual sherpas like C G out there who can help me find my own way…

For more information about C G’s Mayya, visit his website, www.cgmayya.comDiscover Your Free Mind is currently available as a Kindle ebook on Amazon, with different formats of the book becoming available within the coming weeks. Check C G’s Facebook page:www.facebook.com/cgmayya for regular updates.


Mindfulness is meant to be shared. Please join me and a growing number of like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. Share this post with your friends. Participate in The Mindfulness Diaries’ growing Facebook and Google+ communities. And share YOUR personal journey with mindfulness in the comments below.


I Want! | I Don’t Want!


They say finding a new home is one of life’s top stressors.

They’re right.

My partner, Kate, and I were recently told we need to move (our landlady’s selling the house we’ve been renting). And, the moment I heard the news, my mind started grappling with trying to find some semblance of solid ground. My immediate reaction was, “but I don’t want to move!…” And then all the reasons why came rushing into the courtroom of my mind—building the case for why we should stay…






OK… So that voice dominated my headspace for more than a few days… I saw it ever-presently lurking in the dark recesses of my mind, poised to hijack my rational thoughts at any chance it got. And, watching all of this happening was the most frustrating part… Intellectually, I knew I was causing all the angst by not accepting the situation. I also knew the only way to put a halt to this maniacal mindset meant rigorously redirecting my focus. So, I gently—but firmly—called myself out…

You’ve been doing this mindfulness thing long enough to know that nothing is permanent… Nothing. Everything changes. Your denial and attempt to push away that fact is what’s causing you so much turmoil…. But, no matter how much you wish it were different, not accepting the situation isn’t going to change the reality of it… The house needs to be sold. It’s not convenient. It’s not what you want. But it’s what’s happening. At least you’re not being pressured to move right away—the landlady said you could take your time… Sure, you’re going to miss the house. And, you don’t want things to change. But change happens. Let go of your attachment. It’s time to shift your attitude, accept your circumstances, and move on… 

A serious dose of tough self-love goes a long way with me… And, as soon as I was able to shift into acceptance, my aversion started to melt away. Of course, that’s when the sadness set in…

I spent the next few days mourning the loss of the house—and my attachment to it… As my focus shifted away from reveling in righteous aversion, it created the space for me to savor the things I’d miss about not living there anymore, instead: waking up to the sound of singing birds every morning; watching the giant banana tree’s limbering, green fronds waving to me outside the dining room window; trudging through the blanket of Jacaranda tree flowers in the front yard—like purple-candy-colored snow.

And, yes…

Even the neighbor’s damn dogs.

Knowing I only had so much time left to enjoy the house, I found myself feeling much more grateful for it. And then, something else deep within me shifted—I actually started feeling excited about living somewhere else…

Maybe we could find a house with a space big enough to host classes and workshops… I’d love to not have to deal with lugging groceries up a flight of stairs every week after I go grocery shopping… It’d be so nice to be able to walk to more coffee shops during the day—to feel a little less isolated… Maybe we could even find a place that’s cheaper and start saving some money…

This new way of looking at the situation alleviated the sense of loss—replacing it with hope and possibility. But, after week after week of visiting potential new homes…We just weren’t finding a good fit. And, we were starting to run ragged—feeling exhausted, discouraged, and stressed. The situation didn’t feel sustainable. Another shift needed to take place…

OK, Let’s take a breath here. Slow this process down… We have plenty of time—our landlady said we didn’t have to rush to find a new place. Why are we pushing so hard to find one?… Let’s stop all this running around and give ourselves the time and space to find the home that feels right. 

It was around this point when, in an attempt to help us find a new home, our landlady mentioned how another house she owned (and had been renting out through AirBnB) might be an option for us… It was “tiny,” but it had the same number of bedrooms and wasn’t far from where we currently resided.

Kate and I discussed the option… The thought of downsizing appealed to us—dedicating ourselves to more conscious minimalism as a family. And saving some money on monthly rent would be nice… The tiny house even had a small, finished garage that could be used as an office/class space…

We pretty much got attached to the idea right away—and we resolved to move ahead. But then our landlady changed her mind and decided she didn’t want to rent the tiny house longterm, after all.

So, here I found myself, once again…

Back in the throes of attachment—and in a refusal to accept the reality of my situation.


It was easier for me to move through the refusal-to-accept phase this time around—probably because I’d literally JUST maneuvered through it… I was able to let go of my attachment to the tiny house fairly quickly. But, I chose to hold onto the clarity of now knowing exactly what we wanted.

Moving ahead, we slowed down the pace of our search, only visited homes that fit our vision of what we wanted—and within less than a week—we found another (slightly larger) tiny house—with an even bigger separate workspace, in an even more convenient location. For less money than our previous monthly rent.

We put in our application immediately.

And then…

My old frenemy, Attachment, appeared once again.

This time, coming on even stronger than before…


This indulgent daydreaming phase now dominating, my initial fantasies had the flavor of excitement. But, as the days went by—and no word back from the potential new landlady about whether or not she was going to accept our application–excitement quickly slid into worry and anxiousness…


Over the next week, I continued to catch myself going down these dead-end roads—trying to soothe myself with lots of deep breaths, loving kindness, and Jack Kornfield’s “Don’t Know Mind” practice. I cried. I exercised. I redirected. Constantly. I noticed how much I craved junk food and bottomless glasses of wine…

Every hour of every day for the world’s longest week, I battled with accepting the unknown. Sitting with uncertainty. My soul quaked. My insides trembled. I knew everything was going to be OK if we didn’t get the house. But I couldn’t completely let go and trust it’d all work out for the best. It was  nothing but…


Then, finally, a week and one day after we submitted our application, Kate’s cell rang.

“It’s the woman about the house!…”

She sat down, took a deep breath and answered…

“Hello—yes, this is Kate….”

I sat next to her, holding my breath—my eyes reading every nano-centimeter of her face. The moment felt interminable.

Then her eyes widened—the slight curl of her lips…

“Wonderful! We’d would love to take it, yes! Thank you so much…”

A deep breath.



In an instant, my mind relaxed like a cramped muscle finally letting go. All the anxiety of uncertainty vanished—all the angst. Gone.

Excitement and joy pervade.

But, only for another day or two… And then it’s back to noticing how Aversion and Attachment start playing tug-of-war with my attention, once again.

It all feels much more manageable now, though—far less whiplashy.

Because noticing when I’m caught in the throes of Aversion and Attachment is half the solution to finding the balance between them…

Creating Mindful Community

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I have something to confess… I’ve been feeling lonely lately. Ever since I got back from the month I spent immersed within the mindful community at The Center for Mindful Learning in Vermont, I’ve noticed the sincere lack of community in my life…

As I contemplate it now, I recognize this as nothing new. I’ve never really felt a true sense of community—at least not a lasting one. Looking back on it, I can pinpoint several reasons why this area of my life has been lacking…

I grew up an only child with emotionally distant parents, in a relatively remote area of New Hampshire.  A shy, highly sensitive introvert with ADHD, social anxiety, and a host of other isolating symptoms—”community” was never a word that resonated with me. I mention this, not to play victim to my neurological differences from the norm—but to bring to light that my using it as an excuse to not partake in community needs to change.

I can no longer muscle through my days, pretending I’m some sort of robot who can function autonomously without a broader network of connection and support. A huge part of me has been withering, malnourished, without light. My growth has been stunted. And I’m no longer ok with just surviving. I want to flourish.

In order to do this, it’s clear I need more connection. Rich, substantive, nutritious connection. Connection that doesn’t rely solely upon extrinsic actions like what we can do with and/or for each other, but instead, relies mainly upon what we can trust each other to BE—respectful, honest, reliable, trustworthy, responsible, generous, kind…

“Sangha” is a word in Pali and Sanskrit meaning “association”, “assembly,” “company” or “community.” In Buddhist philosophy, it’s considered one of the three “jewels” or pillars that Buddhists take refuge in, and look toward for guidance. I see the importance of this communal component to my mindfulness practice. But, is there a space for sangha—for community—outside the Buddhist context, within the secular mindfulness movement?

There seems to be a rising number of secular mindfulness practitioners—but a clear lack of facilitated physical spaces for us to commune with one another outside of classes, sits, and workshops. Online mindfulness spaces abound, and I’ve found a sense of community within these spaces to a degree. But there’s a palpable depth of connection that’s lost in virtual environments. Plus, I don’t know about you…. But I spend more than enough time on my computer. Also, as a self-employed creative, I spend a great deal of time on my own at home. When I connect with people, I want face-to-face, we’re-physically-sharing-the-same-space, interaction. And, like I mentioned earlier, I don’t always want that interaction to be contingent upon DOing something together… I’m interested in participating in local, intentional, mindfulness communities where we can convene, not only for formal mindfulness practice—but to practice mindfully BEing with each other.

In searching for mindful community, I recently came across Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet, and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh’s, writings about sanghas in his “New Sangha Handbook: Nourishing Our Practice, Deepening Our Roots, Growing Our Freedom.”  I’d like to share an excerpt with you as an example of why I feel mindful community is so important (I took the liberty of secularizing some of the language he uses):

“Alone we are vulnerable, but with brothers and sisters to work with, we can support each other. We cannot go to the ocean as a drop of water—we would evaporate before reaching our destination.

But if we become a river, if we go together, as a community, we are sure to arrive at the ocean…

You need community; you need a brother or sister, or friend to remind you what you already know.

Mindfulness is within you, but it needs to be watered in order to manifest and become a reality.

A mindful community is a community of resistance, resisting the speed, violence, and unskillful ways of living that are prevalent in our society.

In society, much of our suffering comes from feeling disconnected from one another. Being with mindful community can heal these feelings of isolation and separation. We practice together, share a room together, eat side by side and socialize together. Just by participating with other practitioners in life’s daily activities, we can experience a tangible feeling of love and acceptance.

A community is a garden, full of many varieties of trees and flowers. When we can look at ourselves and at others as beautiful, unique flowers and trees we can truly grow to understand and love one another.

One flower may bloom early in the spring and another flower may bloom in late summer. One tree may bear many fruits and another tree may offer cool shade. No one plant is greater, or lesser, or the same as any other plant in the garden. Each member of the community has unique gifts to offer.

We each have areas that need attention. When we can appreciate each member’s contribution and see our weaknesses as potential for growth, we can learn to live together harmoniously. Our practice is to see that we are a flower or a tree, and we are the whole garden as well, all interconnected.

Supported by mindful community, my practice flows easier,

Allowing me to swiftly realize

My great determination to love and understand all beings.”

I want to find/build/receive mindful community, and I’m ready to add this much-needed dimension to my life. So, this is a shout out to all you dedicated mindfulness practitioners out there—I think it’s time for us to find one another and make time for BEing together.

Don’t you agree?…

Do you want to participate in a mindful community? Do you have suggestions about how to build one?… If so, I’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts/ideas/suggestions in the comments section below.


Mindfulness is meant to be shared. Please join me and a growing number of like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. Share this post with your friends. And share YOUR personal journey with mindfulness in the comments below.



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Happy New Year, friends!

‘Tis the season for personal resolutions. For setting intentions for the purpose of bettering our lives in some way…. But, as time drifts further away from that fresh, new year energy—we might start feeling a nagging tug toward our “old,” pre-resolution ways.

I know I’m starting to feel that tug. Are you?…

This year, my partner, Kate, and I resolved to eat healthier. Specifically, we decided to give up sugar, cow dairy, and all grains, except quinoa for (at least) the next 40 days (if you’re curious about what it’s been like—you can check out Kate’s amazing blog detailing her experiences, here).

The reason Kate and I resolved to eat healthier is because we want to feel healthier. Sugar, in particular, isn’t good for our physical—or mental health. It gives us both mood swings and varying levels of anxiety. And, we’re nicer people to ourselves, to each other—and to the rest of the world—when we don’t eat it.

Now, I haven’t eaten sugar, cow dairy, or grains in over ten days. And, it’s been challenging…. But, having eliminated these foods from my diet, I feel much more clear-headed. And my anxiety levels have been, literally, non-existent. However…. I’m starting to get bored with the limited flavor profiles and textures of the foods I’m eating. I’m yearning for more variety. And I’ve been craving bread.

Like, big time.

I went to a baby shower this past weekend and, literally, salivated at the sea of homemade pupusas waving around in front of me. I had to physically block my mouth with my hand to keep myself from eating one of these things. Just look at this picture, people…

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I wanted to shove ten of these puppies into my mouth and then make a beeline for the layer cake.

But I didn’t.

Because I kept hearing this phrase in my mind that they say at my son’s school, “Be the strong domino…”

Like, “Remember the force, Luke….”

But different.

Being the strong domino is about standing in your power. It’s about going against the stream. And, I managed to stand tall within the current of pupusa eaters at that shower. Kate and I both managed to stand tall. We didn’t succumb to our old eating ways. We ate the raw nuts and salads that we brought from home. We were strong dominos. Jedi dominos. Powerful, against-the-stream-swimming dominos!

And, of course, people at the shower asked us why we weren’t eating what everyone else was eating… So, we shared our resolutions to eat healthier. Most of them said how they admired our resolve and revealed how they wanted to eat healthier, too—but that they just couldn’t manage to do it… How every time they went out with their friends to parties and restaurants and bars, the temptations were just too much for them.

All this got me thinking… Kate and I made the commitment to eat healthier for ourselves. But, would we like to see our friends eat healthier, too?… Absolutely. And, would the world be a kinder, gentler place if everyone universally stopped eating just one harmful food, like, say sugar?… Probably—although, not for the first few days because DANG those withdrawal symptoms can be heinous, people…

Beyond the benefits of sticking to our personal resolutions to eat healthier for ourselves—and based on the feedback from those around us at the shower—I started wondering if we also had a social responsibility to follow-through with our personal resolutions. Coincidentally (or not…), just a few days prior to the shower, I’d heard some information that lead me to believe the answer to that question might be a resounding, YES….

I mentioned in last month’s post that I recently got back from a month-long coworking program at a modern monastery in Northern Vermont (The Center for Mindful Learning or “CML”).

One of the monastics at CML named Daniel Thorson hosts a podcast entitled, Emerge, in which he talks with thought leaders about ways to build a more beautiful future. Daniel’s latest episode, “Planetary Transformation through Culture Design,” features a conversation with guest, Joe Brewer, who has a unique background in physics, math, philosophy, atmospheric science, complexity research, and cognitive linguistics. Basically, he’s super smart.

In the podcast, Joe says:

“These two men, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler did a longitudinal study in the United States in which they asked a group of people about their behaviors over a period of 40 years. But they also asked them questions about their peers. They basically built a very unusual data set. And what they found was that people were more likely to stop smoking if the people around them stopped smoking. They were more likely to have healthy diets if people around them had healthy diets.

And, as they looked across this data set, as well as others they conducted—they found that 80% of our behavior is basically imitation of our peers, of the people who are around us. So, if you want to change your behavior. You don’t go through this deep, internal, self-help process. You change who you’re around…

If you’re around a bunch of people who are negative and complain. You’re going to be prone to being negative and to complain. If you’re around a bunch of people who are couch potatoes, eat fast food and are obese. Then you’re likely to sit around, eat fast food, and be obese. Recognizing the fundamental unit is not the individual, but the social group—the best way to act out your intentions, is to change who you associate with […].

You don’t have to go to the extreme of joining a commune—although plenty of people are doing that. It can be much more informal than that. It could be… there’s this person who I hang around who’s kind of a jerk. Maybe they’re sexist. And I don’t like being around sexist people. I’m just going to stop hanging around them. In these little ways, we’re being culture designers. “

A lot was said there, yes? But what caught my attention were two things:

1) “80% of our behavior is basically imitation of the people’s behaviors who we’re around.”


2) “If you want to change your behavior. You don’t go through this deep, internal, self-help process. You change who you’re around.”

Now, the first statement isn’t a new idea. But now there’s scientific evidence that proves it.

The second statement, however, caught my attention for another reason… Because, you might not know this about me—but I’m the type of person who goes through deep, internal self-help processes… In fact—I’ve pretty much devoted my life to these types of processes. And, I’ve not only seen significant results in my own life from committing to these processes—but I’ve also seen significant results in the lives of those around me because I’ve committed to these processes. I’ve witnessed the very effect of what Joe mentioned—that 80%—but from the standpoint that I’ve seen the changes I’ve made in my own life ripple outward to effect my immediate family and close friends. 

Case in point—a few years ago, I was the only person who meditated in my family regularly. Today, both Kate AND our 8 year old son meditate regularly, too.

I’m a strong domino. 😉

To me, all this points to Gandhi’s quote,“Be the change you want to see in the world. Because the change we’re being in OUR worlds effects 80% of the people we’re around—and that 80% continues to ripple out and out….

In the episode of Emerge that I mentioned, Joe talked about the insights of science relating to contemplative practices—and how they’re in a powerful marriage that’s greater than either of the parts are on their own.  So, I don’t think he meant to suggest deep, internal processes aren’t beneficial.

As I see it, there are actually two stages for creating success when we’re looking to foster sustainable change in both ourselves, and in society…. One nodding to the science of networks, as Joe mentioned. And the other nodding to the wisdom of contemplative practices.

1) Stop hanging out with the people who are displaying the behaviors we don’t want, and seek out friendships with those who are displaying the behaviors we do want to adopt. This helps us gain the strength needed to change our behaviors and create new ones.


2) Once we have the strength to stand tall in our new behaviors, we must personally resolve to stay committed to our intention to continue these new behaviors. One way to help ourselves do this is by undertaking a dedicated deep, internal, practice—such as meditation and mindfulness. These practices help us to “be the strong domino” when we’re in challenging environments (like pupusa-laden baby showers, bars, etc.).

So, I say, YES, we have a social responsibility to follow through with our personal resolutions! Because science is now proving that our personal resolutions aren’t just about us, personally, anymore.

Be a strong domino.

And be the change YOU want to see in your world.


Mindfulness is meant to be shared. Please join me and a growing number of like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. Share this post with your friends. Participate in The Mindfulness Diaries’ growing Facebook and Google+ communities. And share YOUR personal journey with mindfulness in the comments below.


Back from the Monastery!…


(the view from the dorm room I shared at CML – simply gorgeous…)

Greetings, Friends! I’ve just emerged from an amazing, month-long co-working program at a “modern monastery” in Vermont (The Center for Mindful Learning), where I both meditated and worked alongside some truly incredible humans… My time at CML was a one-of-a-kind experience, for which I’m incredibly grateful—and I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with you!

During my month at CML, I woke up at 4:10am almost every day, ate only two meals per day (the last of which ended around 2pm), logged approximately 150 hours of meditation, and upped my meditation practice to a whole new level.

Over the coming months, you’ll be hearing a range of stories about the things I’ve learned from my time at CML—everything from my own, inner struggles, growth and insights in my personal practice—to the heart-warming and heroic tales of the young monastics living at the monastery. You’ll also hear about the pioneering work that CML founder and guiding teacher, Soryu Forrall is doing to merge mindfulness with responsibility in our society. You’re in for a treat, indeed! 🙂

Invigorated and inspired by my time at CML, I’m also excited to kick-up my efforts to help facilitate more mindfulness in our communities. Sound appealing?… If so, keep an eye out for announcements about how to get involved with mindful community-building activities and opportunities (both virtually—and locally in the Los Angeles area).

Onward and upward (and inward)!
+ jennifer


Mindfulness is meant to be shared. Please join me and a growing number of like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. Share this post with your friends. Participate in The Mindfulness Diaries’ growing Facebook and Google+ communities. And share YOUR personal journey with mindfulness in the comments below.




Nourishing & Flourishing


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After my big “come to mindfulness moment” back in 2010, I recognized that I needed to take some serious action to extricate myself from the toxic behaviors/habits, people, and activities that were taking up way too much of my precious energy and time (most of which had been a large part of my life for decades). And, although this realization felt painfully scary at the time, I knew that, if I ever wanted to feel any true sense of contentment and wellbeing—it needed to be done.

Letting go of the toxic elements of my life was far from easy—in fact, there were moments where the process felt more painful than keeping them around… But, just like removing a splinter often hurts more than living with it—I knew the temporary pain I was feeling would eventually lead to healing. And, letting go of the pieces of my life that weren’t serving me would, eventually, make space for the things that would help me flourish.

As my mindfulness practice continues to expand, I find myself becoming more and more aware of what feels healthy and unhealthy. I’m far more drawn toward things/people/behaviors that nourish me. And, I’m far less inclined to let the toxic things/people/behaviors stick around for very long. Sure, “splinters” still happen… But I’m much quicker to pluck them now. I’m also much more resilient in recovering from them. 🙂

Like tending a garden, the process of tending to ourselves is ongoing. There will always be weeds that pop up and need to be pulled in order to allow enough space for the plants in our garden to grow. And, although the process might not always be fun, it’s essential if we ever want to flourish.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some flourishing in my life.

Join me?…


Mindfulness is meant to be shared. Please join me and a growing number of like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. Share this post with your friends. Participate in The Mindfulness Diaries’ growing Facebook and Google+ communities. And share YOUR personal journey with mindfulness in the comments below.




Managing Mental Habits


Eckhart Tolle asks, “Can you look without the voice in your head commenting, drawing conclusions, comparing, or trying to figure something out?”

I don’t know about you, but most of the time I can’t.

That little voice in my head comments, draws conclusion, compares, and tries to figure out pretty much everything. ALL. THE. TIME.

It’s relentless.

It’s exhausting.

And (more often than not) it’s completely unnecessary

But I’ve come to see how commenting, drawing conclusions, comparing, and trying to figure things out are all just mental habits—processes that my mind puts into action (largely without my consciously thinking about them). And I’ve come to learn that I have the power to disengage from these mental habits, as long as I’m aware they’re happening. <—- that last part is key!

You might be asking, “how exactly do we do this?”… Good question!  Follow me here for a second, and I’ll explain…

With mindfulness meditation, we notice when a thought has arisen. Once we’ve noticed the thought, we can then, consciously, disengage from the thought and redirect our attention back to our meditation anchor point.

You with me so far?… 🙂

Well, interrupting a mental habit (like needlessly commenting, drawing conclusions, comparing, and trying to figure things out) is exactly the same process!

Noticing when we’re caught in the midst of a mental habit that’s not serving us gives us the ability to consciously let go of and “reset” the flow of our thoughts, creating a sense of mental spaciousness that then allows us to skillfully—not habitually—choose how we’d like to proceed.

Sure, it ain’t always easy. But, it’s possible!

For me, when I’m going about my daily life and find myself caught in a mental habit that’s causing me suffering to some extent—I pause, do my best to let go of whatever mental process is happening, and then gently guide my attention toward something more neutral that will help me recalibrate. Like the sensation of the breath in my body. Or maybe the subtle tingling in my feet.

It might take a few moments to successfully “reset” in these instances. But, as I practice becoming more aware of my mental habits, I can see how it’s becoming easier to break free from them whenever they do appear.

And, as I shared earlier—they appear often!

Why?… Because I live in a society that conditions me to think I “need” to comment, draw conclusions, compare and try to figure things out. ALL. THE. TIME. The media is over-saturated with folks who are constantly role-modeling these types of behaviors. And it makes sense that I might easily fall into this “main stream” of thought, getting swept away by the strength of its’ current, and believing this is the way I “need” to be behaving, as well.

But, my mindfulness practice has proven this isn’t actually the case. I have a choice!

It’s been said that the path of mindfulness flows “against the stream.” It takes a great deal of fortitude, persistence, and conviction to keep moving in a direction counter to most.  But, if enough folks start swimming in the opposite direction from the mainstream, and start becoming mindful of their mental habits, maybe the tides might turn someday…

What do you think?


Mindfulness is meant to be shared. Please join me and a growing number of like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. Share this post with your friends. Participate in The Mindfulness Diaries’ growing Facebook and Google+ communities. And share YOUR personal journey with mindfulness in the comments below.