Astonishing Life Advice

chagallWithout great solitude, no serious work is possible. – Pablo Picasso

Solitude is difficult. You withdraw from the world to get a clearer glimpse of who you are, what you are doing, and where life is taking you. Silence is a great friend of the soul; it unveils the riches of solitude. It is very difficult to reach that quality of inner silence. In today’s world, in modern life there is an immense rush to expression. Sometimes the quality of what is expressed is superficial and immensely repetitive.

Recommended Reading: Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Life will pay you exactly what you ask of it. – Tony Robbins

To have an extraordinary life, you have to have an extraordinary psychology. You have to remain in an extraordinary state, conditioning your mind, your body and your focus on giving and asking for more from life. Set new higher standards for yourself, turn your shoulds into musts.

Recommended Reading
Unlimited Power : The New Science Of Personal Achievement

Forgive them even if they’re not sorry.  – Dale Partridge

So you’ve been betrayed, hurt and you are angry. The best part of forgiveness is that you’re in control. They don’t have to be sorry for you to give up the anger. Letting go, forgiving anyway, will set you free.

Recommended Reading:  People Over Profit: Break the System, Live with Purpose, Be More Successful

Living in the future creates the illusion that we are managing our life. –  Tara Brach

So we “keep busy”. Staying occupied is a socially sanctioned way of remaining distant from our pain. So we scramble to fill ourselves – our time, our body, our mind. We might buy something new or lose ourselves in mindless small talk. Anything to help us bury the feelings of vulnerability and deficiency lurking in our psyche.

Recommended Reading Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Let us rise, therefore, to confront the operations of Fortune, and whatever happens, let us have the assurance that it is not so great as rumor advertises it to be. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Nothing in life has meaning, except the meaning you give it.

Recommended Reading Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics)

Image: Grand Bouquet de Renoncules, 1968 by Marc Chagall

A Sky Like Mind, Active Abs and The Art of Slow and Mindful Eating

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Have you thought about what pace feels right for you? At times I do have a need for speed and love the energy and creativity that feels supercharged in big cities like Manhattan. Right now, I feel the need to breath deeply, chill out and slow down to refocus. Not unplug, just down shift to first or maybe second gear.

Something clicked the minute I stepped off the plane at Providenciales. An assuring voice inside my head delivered a comforting message “a more intentional pace.” This slower island pace. Not the harried, brisk and hurried hustle of New York, but the more deliberate and intentional easiness, much like the gentle movement of the waves and soothing breezes of this island.  I am not describing a snail-like, creeping, lazy/boozy pace, but that of speaking, thinking, walking and working which is more conscious, considered and purposed. More thoughtful living. This is the pace for now.

And so it goes with meals, especially meals together. My memories of my youth bring me back to four hour dinners around the long outdoor communal table, under the grapevines, with my loud and excited extended Italian family. The never-ending conversations, the slow and relaxed experience of enjoying a meal together.

The Art of Slow and Mindful Eating begins with an intention to create an experience. Setting the mood, dimming the lights, selecting soft and slower music and smaller plates,  create an atmosphere for mindful eating.  Imagine setting a stage to enjoy and savor your meal. This mindful eating ritual can be extended to any meal – from breakfast to dinner. For more tips on mindful eating, check out Dara Rose, PhD, neuroscientist, foodist, author and the creator of Summer Tomato.

I start my meals by saying grace. Sometimes privately, sometimes with my family. Saying grace can transform a mere meal into an act of celebration, focus, and gratitude.

Listening to meditation talks from Tara Brach, I actually envisioned what she describes as “A Sky Like Mind“, a more expansive mind that allows me to open to the very healing, healthy and beautiful moment that is right now, this healing presence.  Tara’s podcasts and book, Radical Acceptance has really helped release the fear, worry and pain that stems from the mental swirl of anxious activity, the grasping and wanting that only proves to enslave my mind.

It is by meeting each moment throughout the day with radical acceptance for what ever is going on and holding those feelings that arise with a compassionate and open heart, a forgiving heart, this is feels like true freedom.

Reading
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Active Abs

With everything moving at a slower pace this week, I had the opportunity to try Pilates class for the first time. One of the slowest classes I have attended in a long time, a slight pick up from yoga, nothing about the Pilates Method is haphazard. The reason you need to concentrate so thoroughly is so you can be in control of every aspect of every moment.  The one reminder that I have walked away with today is Active Abs and focusing on my posture, especially when sitting at my desk for hours at end.  Two exercises to help you feel your abdominal muscles correctly.

A Beginner’s Mind, The Power of the Mindful Pause and Cultivating Self-Compassion

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As with everything I do, I try to keep a beginners mind.  Shoshin (初心) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind”. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

Although I’ve been challenging myself daily to improve my mental and physical health and wellness, each morning requires a daily reset – a reboot to remind myself of my hopes, dreams and aspirations.   If I don’t awake each day with this reminder to tread this path leading to a more deliberate and intentional life, than I backslide. It’s similar to training at the gym, I find that my mind must also be trained, daily.

The Power of the Purposeful Pause

Communication experts will tell you to be aware of the power of silence between conversations. When the other person finishes speaking, take a breath, relax and smile before saying anything. They know that “the pause” is a key part of improving communication and relationships.

I’ve been reading Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance and I am going to share  her mindful technique of practicing the purposeful pause.  Now, while pausing when having a conversation with others is always an intelligent idea, pausing to listen to the conversations happening inside your own head is another. To bow to this experience happening within and around you, whatever it is, right now.

For example, if I’m worried about an argument I had with someone and thoughts of revenge fog my brain, I pause, accept that this is how I am feeling right now, I do not fight it and just accept it and let it go. It’s powerful. Actually recognizing the pain helps make way for a better decision, a better outcome.

Cultivating Self-Compassion

We can practice radical acceptance (note: Tara is not talking about building a victim narrative here), by pausing and then meeting whatever is happening inside of us with an unconditional friendliness and compassion. The way you might treat your best friend or brother or sister.

I practice remembering that I cannot be a fair weather friend to myself. I will not push away anger, jealousy, or pain. Instead I will treat myself with compassion and understanding and recognize the anguish of this moment. This will allow me to create a safe haven for my vulnerability and to be present to the healing that can happen in my mind.

Recommended Reading from Tara Brach
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Smarter, Stronger, Wiser Workouts

girl,headphone,headphones,music,illustration-27065f4052621ed175246266a0ba660e_hI use to spend over three hours on a Sunday afternoon creating a fresh Spotify music playlist for the weeks to come until one day during an experiment I listened to bunch of Tony Robbins videos (the man is pumped) and a very long interview on The Tim Ferriss Show podcast and said to myself – – myself, you should be learning and training, put those two together and take your workout routine to the next level. It worked. I’m hooked. If you haven’t tried it, you should consider your own experiment.

Listening well

So, I began subscribing to all sorts of podcasts on iTunes. I also had to drown out the yakkers at the gym, so I upgraded my headphones, which don’t get wrapped around the elliptical arm when I’m going hard, because they’re bluetooth and they wrap around my neck.

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Smartest investment for 2015 right here-
LG Electronics Tone Pro Bluetooth Stereo Headset – Black HBS-750

img-thing Awesome Podcasts I am listening to right now –

The Tim Ferriss Show. He deconstructs world-class performers from all walks of life, giving you tips, books, wisdom and daily habits to help you excel in whatever you are trying to achieve.

Srinivas Rao’s The Unmistakable Creative dives deep into the stories of authentic and creative achievers.

Tara Brach has a weekly talk on Buddhist teachings. Admittedly, I usually go for long meditative walks when I listen to Tara and then repeat her podcast with my husband on Sunday’s for our one hour meditation ritual together.

Another favorite is The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes. He’s a former pro athlete, humble as hell and great at digging into what makes pros great at what they do.

Note: I usually get so inspired from listening to these amazing people while I am biking, hiking, lifting, etc, that I stop to take notes in Evernote on my phone and sometimes go back and listen to the whole interview all over again at home.

I just listened to Phil Libin @PLibin on the Tim Ferriss show and discovered that as much as I love @evernote I need to discover all of  its potential @evernotehelps

And finally, yet another workout and travel upgrade, the travel hoodie by Baubax.

jacket

Built in neck pillow, gloves and hand warming pockets? Hello people, why didn’t we design this? It’s been the most funded fashion item on Kickstarter ever.

If you listen to podcasts and have favorites you want to tell me about, please do in the comments below. I am always open to learning and growing. Thanks for reading and sharing what you have found to work for you.

Mental Training and Mindfulness

stone_buddha_faceOne of my favorite Sunday rituals involves listening to meditation insights from TaraBrach with my husband. For us, it’s like going to church or temple, but a whole lot more fun.  We sip our coffee and get to sit on the beach or lie in our bed and just listen and absorb the wisdom. I think of it as a mental workout for my mind because  physical workouts and fitness training will only get me so far. It is the combination of mental training and exercise that will help me succeed at being a better version of my former self.

About Tara

Tara has been  practicing and teaching Buddhist meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening, with a focus on vipassana (mindfulness) meditation for over 35 years. She is a senior teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington and author of several books including one that I am currently reading.

Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Tara explains that meditation stimulates our capacity for empathy while improving our ability to collaborate with others while benefiting from mutual creativity. It also has made me a more patient person. Just ask my happy family.

I began meditating for about 10 minutes daily about three months ago and started with the Headspace App. Andy, the surfer turned meditation coach, guides you through calm breathes to soothe the mind. The clarity of mind and inner calm that I received from these brief breaks before I started the day have been astonishing. So much so, that I searched for more and stumbled upon Tara.

While I have been committed to a simple ten minute practice of Vipassana meditation, I do want to try some of the other meditations that Tara mentions in her recent interview on The Tim Ferriss Show.

Specifically the “smile meditation” – to soften my entire face and body and relax throughout the day; “inviting Mara to tea” to help face my enemies and challenges head on and the “body scan to melt away stress” to ward off feeling depleted and exhausted.

Click to listen to this podcast interview with Tara on the The Tim Ferriss Show.

Have you incorporated mindful meditation into your daily routine? If so, what have you found helpful? I’d love to know more.

Had to share this one from Instagram – so #true about me.

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timeless presence

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As difficult and dark as life might get, I stay awake and aware of the impermanence of all things and remain in this moment, seeking refuge in compassionate and forgiving timeless presence.

Listen Tara Brach Tara Brach Audio Dharma Teaching Talks