Archives: It’s Contemplated

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 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.


Feeling My Worth


It’s probably no surprise that I’m a (recovering) control freak. My go-to impulse is to try and shape the outcome of pretty much, um… everything by inserting and/or imposing my will over the situation. It’s an assertive way of being that has served me well to an extent (especially in the “business” world)—but living this way is, well, pretty dang exhausting.

And I’m over it.

The good news is that something finally seems to be shifting for me around this. And I’m fairly certain it’s largely due to the three month long (kick-ass!) group coaching program I’ve been taking with Chela Davison.

My intention for joining the group was to work on shifting my core belief structure around my self worth. It’s tough to stand in my power when my power chord is rarely plugged in… So, the first practice Chela suggested I do was to visualize myself sometime in the future, allowing myself to open up to receiving and listening to whatever message the older, wiser, “future me” has to say.

And, I totally tried this. I swear. I gave it my all. But, no matter how hard I tried…

I just couldn’t do it.

To begin with, I couldn’t even picture my future self—which was a brow-furrowing surprise to me because I’m constantly using my mind’s eye to visualize all the time. But, not only was I unable to conjure up a picture of my future self—I kept catching my mind trying to make things up for my future self to say because my mind didn’t want to stay open to “blindly” receiving something it didn’t perceive as having created, itself (too scary!). It kinda felt like I was catching myself trying to subconsciously cheat on my homework.

Epic fail.

So, I reported my “results” back to Chela. And she suggested I try a different practice this time.

“The contraction you’re experiencing is mental, and your tendency is to exist solely up in your head… So, try accessing the feeling of receptivity through your body, instead. Make a safe place in your home that has a boundary around it where you feel protected. Then go through each body part, contracting and then relaxing it— paying close attention to the sensation of release. Then throughout your day, also practice receiving through the senses—taking in sounds, scents, tastes and sights—and feeling them coming in to you.”

OK—this is something I can do, I thought to myself…But what exactly does this have to do with helping me shift my core belief structure around my self worth? As if reading my mind (which I’m pretty sure she was!), Chela immediately piped back up.

“-And the reason I’m suggesting this exercise is because you’ll never be able to truly know your value if you’re not in the practice of being receptive and feeling your body. If you’re not open and present to what it feels like to feel and root your value in your body—then your mental idea of what your value is will only ever be a fleeting objectification. We objectify ourselves so much in this culture.”

It took a few days for that gem to sink in. But, holy heck, did it land with me. And deep.

All the body-focussed mindfulness work I’ve been intuitively drawn to doing lately has been leading me toward a more integrated way of being. On a conscious level, I had no idea my difficulties with being receptive and connecting with my body and senses had anything to do with my bouts of low self esteem. But now I can totally see it. And not only can I see it.

I can feel it.

Transformation Lines


As an artist (and perennial student of life), I’m constantly looking for ways to grow—and I love taking classes and workshops when my time and budget allow. This past spring, I had the pleasure of taking Jack Grapes’ Method Writing class here in Los Angeles. It was the first writing class I’d ever taken that focussed solely on process—not product. And, wow, was it helpful…. I learned so much about how to put pen to paper, “go with the flow,” and just “trust the process.”

Of course, there’s a great metaphor for life in there, too…

One of the exercises Jack had us do involved something he calls “massaging the transformation line.” A “transformation line” is essentially a personal statement that has the word “I” in it, and involves a self-discovery. The object of “massaging” the transformation line is to delve deeper, with each succeeding transformation line deepening the original one—almost as if the writer were a detective working backwards to arrive at the truth.

Here’s a poem I wrote that came out of the transformation line exercise. I don’t know how close I came to arriving at “the Truth”—but it’s certainly an honest attempt to get there…. 😉


I seek.
I want.
I grasp.
I cling.

Searching for solutions.
For revolutions.

A resolution
to my evolution.

But it never ends.

I can’t remain still.

There is no conclusion.
Stillness is an illusion.

I am an illusion.

I have no idea what I am.

But society tells me.
My parents have told me.
Self help books.
The media.
The Church.

They all tell me.

And part of me believes them.

The wounded,
part of me
believes them.

Craves them.
Needs them.

…Or, do I?

Let’s Get It Back, Together


I mentioned that I’ve been working with a bodyworker to help me heal some chronic neck and back pain. About a month ago, we were discussing some ways I might consider exercising, since jogging (my past go-to) is out of the running for a while… He asked if I’d ever considered ecstatic dancing. My eyes rolled, and I immediately burst out laughing. “Hah! God, No…”

Of course, I immediately saw the judgment—I’m not the “type” to ecstatic dance. I don’t wear long flowing outfits, and I don’t identify as a “hippie.”

My bodyworker just looked at me with a silently knowing smirk—a look I often see on Kate’s face every time I find myself connecting with anything remotely “Woo-woo” and yet continue to insist it’s complete bunk.

“Ok, ok… I’ll think about it…”

Cut to: my latest silent meditation retreat. We were in the midst of one of our small group check-in’s, and one of the group members mentioned that he regularly attends ecstatic dance events in Los Angeles. Hmmmm… I noted this at the time—and then made a point to follow up and ask him about it at the end of the retreat after the silence had broken.

“Oh yeah, ecstatic dance – it’s amazing! Such a great way to connect with yourself. And the nicest group of people you’ll ever meet.” 

When I got back to LA, I investigated one of the websites he recommended…. Consciously choosing to look passed the rapturous marketing aesthetic…(this was, after-all “ecstatic” dance, I reminded myself), I noted the groups’s monthly gathering coming up that Sunday. So I marked my calendar and decided to give it a try.

When Sunday arrived, I hopped into my car to head to the location. Excited to be connecting with music again—something I hadn’t consciously done in forever—I felt the urge to unearth an old album of my favorite CDs from the 90’s. Leafing through the book, Live’s “Mental Jewelry” caught my eye. So, I popped it in my car’s cd player—and off I went.

Two songs into the album, as I’m about to get on the freeway ramp, I’m singing along to a song I can’t remember the title of—and BAM. A waterfall of tears hits me out of the blue.

“Operation Spirit” 
(The Tyranny of Tradition)

Heard a lot of talk about the ocean

Heard a lot of talk about the sea

Heard a lot of talk about a lot of things

Never meant that much to me.

Heard a lot of talk about my spirit

Heard a lot of talk about my soul

But I decided that anxiety and pain

Were better friends

So I let it go.

Did you let it go?

Let’s get it back

Let’s get it back, together.

That part about turning away from my spirit and my soul and turning toward anxiety and pain—yah…that. It struck a chord. And hard. Because there was a time in my life when I used to believe in—and feel connected to—something greater than myself: Spirit, The Universe, God, whatever you want to call it…. But then things changed. I let media influence my opinion of what it meant to be someone who “believed” in something greater than myself—it isn’t “cool” to have faith; “Intelligent” people don’t have faith—they’re supposed to “believe” in “facts” and “science” and things that can be “proven,” etc… So, I decided being spiritual and having faith in anything that wasn’t rational didn’t fit me anymore. And, I let it go. Enter: anxiety and pain.

Contemplating all this, it occurred to me… The depression I’ve been teetering in and out of lately—sure, there’s been specific issues I’ve been facing and working through—but at its core, it feels like it might just be a crisis of faith.

I’ve been noticing how the idea of faith has been popping into my thoughts a great deal lately. Wondering what exactly it means to “have” it… Why I always feel so uncomfortable with the idea of it… And then it showed up in a big way during my latest retreat. I experienced some serious doubt during the first few days of the retreat—not seeing the “results” I was expecting right away…But as soon as I recognized the doubt, allowed myself to let go of my expectations, and let myself just BE in the moment—well, that’s when the magic started happening (of course).

And that’s when I realized I truly believe in the retreat process. I’ve been through enough retreats now to see similar outcomes during (and after) every retreat—despite those outcomes not always showing up when and how I expect. It’s the same with my mindfulness practice. I can see how I’ve grown to believe in it because I know it works. Even when I can’t see that it’s working. Even when I don’t feel like it is… That’s “faith,” right?

Maybe I’m closer to getting it back than I realize….

A quick footnote to this week’s post that some of you might find interesting—I Googled the band, “Live” when I got home from the ecstatic dance experience (which was beautiful by the way)—and I found out that the lyrics to their “Mental Jewelry” album were largely influenced by philosopher, J. Krishnamurti (not related to hare krishna in any way). I thought this was interesting because I have the Krishnamurti book, “Total Freedom,” on my shelf at home—a fairly recent addition to my mindfulness library that I’ve been savoring. It’s so funny how things come full circle…

The Mosaic of Life


We recently had our third practicum for the UCLA Certificate in Mindfulness Facilitation program I’ve been taking—and diversity was on the list of topics we covered. We were asked to write a paper about the topic in preparation for the practicum, and I noticed an immediate sense of dread when I sat down to write it—followed by some major resistance.

It’s a sticky subject.

When I think about diversity, I flash to my “sheltered” childhood—which was utterly devoid of it. I grew up in a predominantly-Caucasian, upper middle class, quaint, rural town in New Hampshire. Monochromatic white saltbox Colonials lined the center of town, offset by swaths of apple orchards and strawberry fields.

Every harvest season, a line of rickety, lime-green painted school buses would roll into town. And I remember staring at those buses, feeling this weird fascination with their “otherness” back then. I later found out they were packed with Jamaican migrant workers hired to work the orchards and fields.

Reflecting back on this now, I feel a sharp knot in my left side, just below my ribs. My breathing is shallow. My brow furrowed. I feel ashamed. Sad.

And now, opening deeper to these feelings, I’m hearing my father’s voice echoing in my mind. I don’t remember him ever commenting on the migrant workers—he always just drove passed them in silence (without even a nod of recognition). But, occasionally, we’d get out of our small town bubble and take a family drive into Boston—the “big” city. The environmental palette shifted with each passing mile, gradually diversifying the further we drove from town—from the color of the landscape to the color of the people.

And the color of Dad’s behavior always shifted along with it.

“Lock your door,” he’d demand in a firm (yet slightly panicked tone) the minute it was clear we’d entered the city. His grip on the steering wheel would tighten. His face, redden. Every other minute, he’d grumble “Massachusetts driver!” when he got cut off or couldn’t pull into a lane he needed to be in.

And every time he saw an African American male driving a nice car, he’d point and announce, “drug dealer.”

Ignoring my father’s slurs, I never thought about how they might have affected me. But now that I’m deliberately looking… I see the residue is there. His words ingrained in my cells—impossible to expunge.

I want to pretend like I haven’t been affected by my father’s view of the world. But I have. Even though I reject it, I still feel it in the most subtle ways. To this day, I still hear him saying “drug dealer” in my mind when I’m driving. The thought appears. His voice ringing in my ears. I recognize it as not my own.

But it still breaks my heart.

Contemplating all this now, there’s a quote from Making the Invisible Visible: Healing Racism in Our Buddhist Communities that comes to mind:

“I want to walk my Dharma talk and sit the way I live: trusting in the interdependence of ALL things (including all cultures and beings) and knowing that the wholeness we seek comes from including all the pieces of the beautiful mosaic of life.”

The deeper I dive into my mindfulness practice, the more I see (and feel) the wholeness of our collective existence—and how accepting “otherness” and diversity is key to seeing the complete picture of ourselves. Perhaps some people don’t want to see themselves completely.

But I do.

Moving Forward From Retreat


I recently returned from a 7-day silent meditation retreat at Vallecitos Mountain Ranch in the (stunning) mountains of northern New Mexico. And I wish I could report that it’s been all bliss and rainbows ever since returning back to life in Los Angeles.

But that would be a lie.

The truth is, as I’m writing this, I’m teetering on the edge of falling back into the depression I was mired in before I left. I can sense it right there in front of me. A poem by Portia Nelson comes to mind:

Autobiography in Five Chapters

1. I walk down the street

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in. I am lost… I am hopeless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.


2. I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I’m in the same place, but it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.


3. I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in…it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.


4. I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.


5. I walk down another street.


Perhaps you recognize these patterns in your own life?… I’m smack-dab in the middle of stanza #3, and I feel like it’s finally time to make the quantum leap to #4.

But I’m encountering some serious resistance.

This past retreat unearthed some deep insights for me—things I’ve “known” on a certain level, but haven’t wanted to face… I’ve survived just fine by sweeping these things under the rug all these years—by looking the other direction…But it’s time to “level up.”

The funny/annoying/amazing thing about my mindfulness practice is that the things I’ve swept under the rug all my life have, in due time, started making themselves known. And, another funny/annoying/amazing thing is, once I’ve unearthed an issue and start seeing it in plain sight—it’s nearly impossible for me to try and “un-see” or ignore it again.

Before I left for this latest retreat, I mentioned a lot of Shit got kicked up from the body work I’ve been doing to heal my chronic physical pain issue. I wasn’t clear exactly what was causing the emotional pain. The malaise felt general—like a heap of Crap all tangled in a giant steaming pile in the middle of my metaphorical living room floor. But, while sitting in silence during the retreat, the individual issues began to sort themselves out—making themselves more and more clear.

And now I sit here just staring at it all. Separate piles of previously ignored issues splayed out in front of me. And I feel paralyzed. Despite seeing the individual issues for what they are—every fiber of my being wants to sweep them all back under the rug and pretend like I don’t see a thing.

The brink of depression I’m feeling now feels like the sadness of not being able to ignore the mess any longer. There’s a huge part of me that’s wanting to throw a tantrum at the thought of how much effort it’s going to take to change my behavior and face (let alone heal) these wounded parts of myself. There’s also a big part of me that’s feeling relieved that they’re all finally out in the open. Such is the life of a spiritual warrior.

So right now I’m just doing my best to BE with myself. To get used to seeing these issues and not trying to sweep them under the carpet anymore.

This, of course, is where the “real” work begins… 


Under Deconstruction


I’ve been feeling blue for the past few weeks. Going through yet another big shift in my life—working with a body worker to heal severe chronic neck and upper back pain that was caused by a sexual trauma 15 years ago. 

And while the physical pain has significantly subsided since I started this work—my emotional pain has skyrocketed.

The correlation is no coincidence, I’m sure.

Up until this evening, every time I’ve sat down to blog about this journey, I’ve felt blocked—an endless parade of stops and starts. Beginnings with no clear endings. Start overs.



And then earlier tonight, I finally found enough clarity to finish the entire post. I felt sufficiently “good” about what I’d written, and I was ready to hit “publish.” But when I clicked “save draft,” WordPress decided to do just the opposite. The post evaporated into cyber space.

And I was left with nothing.

Of course, part of me wants to stay up all night to try and painstakingly reproduce every word. But the other part of me is telling me it’s all quite poetic, given the current state of things. This part is also telling me the compassionate thing to do for myself is to allow myself to feel the frustration/anger/sadness and then to let it go. And go to bed.

So, that’s what I’m going to do.

As is the nature of everything, I know that whatever emotional pain I’m experiencing (on all levels) will change. I don’t have “this too shall pass” tattooed on my wrist for nothing. 😉  I’m also blessed to have the world’s most compassionate and nurturing partner by my side to comfort me during this ride (seriously, she’s THE. BEST).

And I’m sure when I get back from my upcoming 7-day silent meditation retreat later this month, I’ll have loads to share. In the meantime—if the theme of pain resonates in any way, you might be interested in checking out what I wrote about my last silent meditation retreat

Onward and upward (and inward)….

BE Well,


A Bug’s Life


As a secular mindfulness student at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC), I often attend their Tuesday evening “community practice” facilitated by MARC’s Director of Mindfulness Education, Diana Winston. The gatherings consist of 30 minutes of group meditation, and then Diana gives a short talk and facilitates a discussion about the week’s topic. It’s a relaxing and accepting atmosphere, and I always leave feeling rejuvenated and connected with both myself—and the like-minded souls in our community.

Last week, Diana began a series on “The Five Mindfulness Ethical Trainings” or “The METs” as she calls them—and she prefaced the talk by saying the trainings are based on the five Buddhist Precepts that have been adapted in a secular context. She also made it clear that her intention for sharing these trainings was not to say that we need to follow them—but to suggest we contemplate them and see where our individual edges lie for each.

The Five Mindfulness Ethical Trainings (METs) are:

1. Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I undertake the commitment to protect life.

2. Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I undertake the commitment to only take what is offered to me. 

3. Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I undertake the commitment to protect relationships and be wise with my sexuality.

4. Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I undertake the commitment to speak wisely.

5. Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I undertake the commitment to protect the clarity of my mind by being wise in what I consume and how I use intoxicants. 

Diana’s first talk focussed on MET #1: Protecting Life. And I found the topic serendipitous because just the night before, I’d gone to great lengths to safely capture and release a behemoth house fly that’d been buzzing around my face while I was cooking dinner that evening. But prior to sitting there listening to Diana’s talk, I hadn’t given the fact that I didn’t just automatically swat the fly much thought. Despite feeling severely annoyed by its’ presence, it just never occurred to me to try and kill it. Instead, I remember my mind reeling for ways to quickly catch and escort it safely outside before the cat got to it first—which, btw, I miraculously managed to do via a nearby mason jar.

Further contemplating the topic, I’ve also noticed that I take definite care not to step on bugs when I spot them these days (both inside and outside the house). I even let spiders “just be.” But this hasn’t always been the case. Before my mindfulness practice, I had little to no respect for insects. I never thought twice about swatting, stepping on or smooshing them when I saw one. It’s just what I did.

But as my practice has deepened over the years, my reactivity to bugs has lessened. I don’t automatically squeel or jump when I see one anymore, nor do I automatically reach out to slap ’em with the nearest shoe. Within the spaciousness of nonreactivity, I’ve been able to observe bugs as they are—tiny little creatures who are just trying to get by doing what they do. But despite the compassion I’ve come to show bugs, I still eat meat. And, under certain circumstances, I also believe in abortion and euthanasia—so there’s that, too…

So, where does this leave my relationship with MET #1? I guess, for me, “preserving life” isn’t such a black and white issue… And, as I’m finding with most things these days—finding a middle way seems to be the answer (it’s not always easy, though).

This week, join me in contemplating MET #1. What are your thoughts on undertaking the commitment to preserving life?

Finding Faith In-Between

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 1.03.32 PM

I recently finished reading a memoir that struck a pretty big chord. It’s about an early 40-something year old woman who’s filled with questions about life and is searching for a sense of faith amidst them all. Perhaps you can relate to this, too?

The memoir I’m referring to is titled, Devotion, and it’s written by Dani Shapiro. Here’s a particularly resonant paragraph:

“My various rituals—the yoga, meditation, thinking, reading, Torah study—these were disciplines. They had become, to some degree, habit. But it was in the space around these rituals that Faith resided. It was in the emptiness, the pause between actions, the stillness when one thing was finished but the next had not yet begun. Paradoxically, this is where effort came in, because it was so hard to be empty. To pause. To be still—not leaning forward, not falling back. Steady in the present—not even waiting. Just being. Could I just drive the car? Just cook dinner? Just walk the dogs in the front meadow and take in the rustling trees, the chirping critters in the distance? Why was it so difficult? So scary? Why does something that should be effortless require so much effort?”

That last line really sums it up for me… And it might seem like an oxymoron, but doing nothing is one of the hardest things for me to “do.” The pauses between actions often seem interminable. Relaxing in the lulls—a gargantuan feat. My mind always wants me to be doing doing doing. And it’s exhausting.

Contemplating this, I can see how it’s hard for me to trust that things are going to work out the way I intend them to work out without constantly doing something to try and ensure that they do. But I’ve come to realize that there’s no real way I can ensure every outcome of my efforts—no matter how much I do to try (which is related to the post I wrote last month about “stirring the pot“). And I’m guessing this is where “faith” comes in…

Because learning how to relax in the lulls involves having faith that things will unfold the way I intend—and (more importantly) it also means having faith in myself that I’ll be able to handle it if (or when) they don’t.

The Courage to be Gentle


I was flipping through some old “draft” blog entries I’d written a few months ago that I half-wrote and never published—just keeping them for a day like today when I didn’t feel like starting a new blog post from scratch… And I came across an entry I’d saved back in March entitled “The Courage to be Gentle” that contained the poem below. I have absolutely no idea who wrote the poem (I’m fairly certain it wasn’t me)—but I think it’s beautiful, so I’m sharing it here with you today.


It takes a lot of courage to be gentle in the face of things I find challenging…



I want to harden

When I’ve made a mistake…

All I want to do is ROAR…

It takes a lot of courage to be gentle.

To admit my shortcomings.

Now I soften.

I can certainly identify with wanting to harden when life feels difficult, or when I’ve made a mistake or feel embarrassed in some way…. My body automatically tenses in these situations—and so do my emotions.

Hardening feels like my body’s way of creating a protective shell—or armor, if you will. And, I can see how, in some circumstances, it can be beneficial (setting boundaries to protect myself from toxic people, for instance). But, for the most part, I’ve come to understand that hardening in order to protect my ego from getting hurt just cuts me off from receiving the love and acceptance I usually need (from both myself and others) in order to truly learn and/or heal from the situation.

Softening, instead of hardening, might feel counterintuitive (and uncomfortable) when our egos get bruised. But doing so is an act of courage that just might benefit both ourselves—and those around us—in the long run.