The Truth About Loneliness

Interdependence and Loneliness
As a Buddhist I have often been told we are all one inter-being.

We might imagine this as being different cells in the body of Dharma. Or perhaps even a subtle part woven into the machine of Karma.

Sometimes this idea seems perfectly inline with my human experience. Sometimes it seems in conflict with it.

The young attractive woman who is lonely The Truth About Loneliness Mindful Fitness Mind Fit Move

The Monastery
I lived at Great Vow Zen Monastery for 2 years.  I had many experiences of being part of a seamless system. It was an organic heart that shared it’s beat with so many people.

I also had experiences of deep and unyielding loneliness. It’s funny for some people to imagine feeling alone at the monastery. There is hardly any time where someone is not close at hand.

I slept in a room where other practitioners were a mere cubicle wall away. I could feel and most definitely hear their presence. Yet I often felt very, very alone.

The Experience of Loneliness
The experience of loneliness always comes as a sickness. A distinct longing to be seen and heard. A desire to be known in a deep and fundamental way. A hope and desire for intimacy.

Sometimes this longing manifests as a desire for a romantic partner. Sometimes as a distinct and dull depression.

It comes as a sense that something just isn’t quite right. I often wondered, ‘how does loneliness happen if we are all one being?’

Leaving the Monastery
Since leaving the monastery I have struggled with loneliness from time to time. Entering lay life is a challenge after the strict discipline and strong container of the monastery.

I have done many things to help contain my mind. Still, loneliness comes up.

Deep Connection
When I feel lonely I wonder if my heart is expressing its deep connection to the other human beings around me.

I feel a deep compassion and love. Yet my day-to-day experience doesn’t match the felt truth of inter-being.I live in a world with suffering beings one of which is me.

We are often caught up in our own agendas, our own ego games, and our own complex defenses to realize how deeply connected we all are.

This dissonance can amplify our suffering and lead to a feeling of disconnect and misalignment we call loneliness.

Nothing Is Amiss
Even though it is hard to bear.  I think part of me knows that this deep feeling of longing, the well in the pit of my stomach, is not a sign of something wrong with me.

Rather it is an indication of inter-being in my life. Even my casting about for new friends and new romance, demonstrates a true desire to be connected

No Cure
I will not any particular cure or remedy for  loneliness but rather a question.

How can I use the longing of loneliness to serve the dharma and strengthen my own heart?
How can we use the depth of this feeling to deepen our own connection to others and out understanding of suffering?

Accept It
Feeling lonely is hard no matter how you look at it. It is my own hope and deep wish that by acknowledging it as part of my reality and practice that it may offer relief to others who experience it’s effects.

Deep in my heart I truly believe that we love each other more than we are willing to admit. And sometimes it is only through this subtle pain called loneliness that we can realize the truth and power of this deep and abiding inter-heart.

This post was originally published in Ink On The Cat
ans subsequently published on The Under35 Project


How To Make Every Day Perfect

How To Make Every Day Perfect
Today Is A Good Day
I lived for several years at Great Vow Zen Monastery in northern Oregon and I saw many people under go a process of deep and fundamental transformation.
The simplicity of life at the monastery, the daily zazen (seated meditation), and the acceptance by the community was an incubator for deep transformation. At Great Vow people face themselves, grow in wisdom, and cultivate compassion.
I watched myself face fear, loneliness, insecurity, anger, and my own impermanence. I watched myself change in subtle and then profound ways. It happened all in this container of practice, of compassion, and of wisdom.
The Schedule
The schedule at Great Vow is unyielding in its regularity. Most days are exactly the same and yet none of them are. The schedule creates a backdrop that makes observing internal dynamics easier.
The schedule at the monastery mirrors an enlightened state of mind. The idea is to emulate the actions of an enlightened being. I’ve come to believe this works no matter what you want to be. If you start living it, you can actualize it.
Today Leads To Tomorrow
For a few months after I left the monastery I struggled to maintain the peace of mind I felt there. The world is full of distractions and it’s hard to maintain clarity. The only place it seemed easier was when I was exercising.
So I took up endurance sports and starting training for century rides and triathlons. When I was out on a long run or ride I felt free. I started to see that exercise, when practiced mindfully, helped me maintain the same sense of calm I felt at Great Vow.
The Dream
That’s when I came up with the idea to start the Mindful Fitness Movement. I realized that even though I had left the monastery, I still wanted to help people transform their lives. I wanted to build a community and livelihood that would help me bring the monastery experience into the world.
But I had no idea how to turn this idea, this dream, into a reality. I’d never done anything like it in my life.
So I asked myself “If I were the pioneer and leader of the Mindful Fitness Movement what would my life look like? Who would I be? What would I do?”
What would tomorrow look like if my dreams came true today? The answer that came to me was so simple: I would live my perfect day. Not just tomorrow, but every day of my life.
My Perfect Day
Living the perfect day isn’t about avoiding problems. It’s setting an intention to live in accord with my vows, my dreams, and the life that resonates with my heart.
So I took out my electronic device and asked myself the following questions:
·       What would I want my perfect day to have in it?
o   Time with my partner
o   Exercise
o   Meditation
o   Study
·       What qualities would my perfect day have?
o   Productivity
o   Order
o   Creativity
o   Moments of Stillness
o   Fun
·       What would I have to do everyday in order to sustain this life?
o   Plan
o   Set goals
o   Work diligently
o   Focus on what’s important
Where To Begin?
Once I had my list I asked, “How would my perfect day start?
My best days had always started with attention, purpose, clarity and good coffee. So my perfect day would start with meditation, writing down my goals, and a cup of French press coffee.
What’s next?
After vows, I wrote down exercise. I like to exercise every morning and I know if I wait I’m better at coming up with excuses.
As my day took shape I felt my heart begin to race and a sense of ease came over me. As each line appeared on the screen my far away dream seemed more and more real. I couldn’t get there tomorrow, but I could move a little closer everyday.
Your Turn
Now that you’ve heard about my journey it’s your turn. You don’t have to change everything at once, but it’s so easy to take one step towards your perfect day today.
Use the questions I have above to start writing down your perfect day. Include things you have to do, but also things you love and want to do.
Start slow.
If you need to take things slow add one new element each week. In a couple of months you will be much closer to living your perfect day. It’s not about speed or perfection; it’s about consistency.
Start now
No matter what method you use, the essential thing is to begin today! The demon of time can eat our lives before we even know what happened. Your transformation has already started. It’s up to you to put in the small, subtle effort, that makes change possible.
You can start by commenting below and answering this one question:
What is one thing you would want in your perfect day?
Need help?
If you need a template I have included my perfect day below. I don’t live my perfect day everyday, but I’m working towards it all the time. I’m also happy to offer you help or answer your questions via email or Skype.
I write everyday on Mindful Fitness Movement about how to support the vital work of transformation. I hope you will click on my Bio so we can start a conversation about how to support each other in walking this path. I also have a special offer for tinybuddha readers to help you get started today!
My perfect day
                I wake up and make a cup of coffee and talk to my partner
                I sit zazen for 25 mins
                I write down my goals and vows
                I go for a short run do a short yoga routine or go swimming
                I write a blog post
                I come home shower and eat a light healthy breakfast
                While I eat I read 2-3 blogs that inspire and educate me
                I review my tasks from a list of the most important things
                I complete one major task in the morning or make very good progress 
                I have lunch with a colleague or friend
                After lunch I do one hour of study
                From 3-7 I meet with clients and groups, teach classes, etc
                I come home and shower
                I prepare and eat a healthy dinner while my partner and I share our day
                I spend 30 mins deciding what to do the next day 
                I read a good book or watch an hour of good TV
                I brush my teeth and floss
                I meditate for 10 mins before sleeping
                I go to bed at a reasonable hour


Why is it a good rule to not have rules?

A Blog Without Rules

Rules Don’t Rule the Heart

Sure sure I’ve heard it before RULES! RULES! RULES! THEY TOTALLY RULE! Except  sometimes they sort of don’t. Rules are not a panacea ( panacea – n. A solution or remedy for all difficulties or diseases).

They can be helpful in some situations, but very often they can actually impede the very thing that can create change in your life, AWARENESS!!! (oooo ahhh).

I love rules and who doesn’t, they make life so simple. I just listen to this set of parameters my mind determines and everything will be fine. I mean that’s what makes human beings so great, it’s our ability to blindly follow a set of instructions without question.

Ok ok so you have you have probably picked up on my sarcasm at this point, but maybe not. I don’t really think that following rules are what makes us unique animals.

Bee’s and Ants are great because they follow set rules well and in some ways humans ability to follow rules has helped us, but what really make us unique is our ability to adapt and reflect.

Humans are unique in our ability to problem solve, but even more so we are unique in our ability to be aware of our awareness. We can reflect on whether or not we are being present in a situation and what our motivations are.

The key to adapting successfully is awareness, but all to often we rely on rules instead of awareness to guide us.  So let take the same situation and see what happens when we use rules instead of awareness to guide us.

Sally has lost alot of weight in the past, but has put some of it back on. She works out regularly, but feels like she has lost her way out of fitness. She notices she has some cheese in her fridge. She knows that if she has cheese, she will eat it, so she throws it out. She decides no more cheese, but then another voice arises in her, perhaps one of not wasting food or maybe a voice that is comforted by cheese when she feels anxiety.

She reconsiders takes the cheese out of the garbage, but then the rule voice reemerges, “NO CHEESE!” it says. So back in the trash with cheese. She feels better, but is not quite sure what happened. She wishes she could be stronger, that she was just a normal person.

In this example, we can see all the forces at play for Sally, but she doesn’t necessarily notice them. She is aware of only one kind of hunger: “Mind Hunger.”

Mind hunger is hunger based on rules and regulations set up by our mind. All the facts and figures that you have in your head about how you eat, all the ideas you have about nutrition, and all the articles you have ever read about food are what make up mind hunger.

The problem with mind hunger and the rules that it makes up, is that they can either be followed or broken. It’s a very black and white world, but this world only works we are feeling good and strong.

In the example above, there are all these other hungers and voices that Sally may not see. There is heart hunger, her need to be comforted. There is mouth hunger, her love of the taste of  things like cheese. There is also likely some inner critic, Sally’s internal voice that tells her she will fail. There is an inner coach that is telling her how to get in shape. All of these factors are hidden behind a wall of rules and morality.

Now let’s imagine what might happen if Sally was aware of all of her hungers and the voices that created this internal struggle over weight and cheese.

The situation is the same Sally has lost a lot of weight, but put some back on. She works out, but feels like she has let herself down in the fitness department. She notices a block of cheese in her fridge, she knows if she has cheese she will likely eat it, but she wants to get into shape. The urge to throw it out arises.

This time Sally notices the urge to throw it out and gets curious. Why does she want the throw out a perfectly good block of cheese? She notices that some voices are arising in her.

One voice (the inner critic) is telling her she doesn’t have the will power to have cheese and not eat it. Another voice (the inner coach) tells her she better get with the program, which means throwing out the cheese, getting on a stricter work out schedule, etc. etc.

She notices these voices and first acknowledges that some of the things they are saying really hurt. She is feeling sad and scared that she won’t get her weight down to what she wants. Next she wonders if the voices are telling her the truth.

Does she have no will power? No that’s not true, she works out, she writes a blog, she has run long races before; so she must have will power.

She may be more likely to eat cheese if she has it in her house, but overall she doesn’t have a problem with will power. She can observe that she has a need for competency when it come to healthy eating habits, but she doesn’t judge herself for not always making the best choices.

Sally wonders, Is the inner coach voice helpful? Well it does seem to be motivating her to make healthier choices, but it’s technique is ignoring all of the complex needs that are coming up for her. It only see’s a world where there are rules and she better follow them or else. She sees this voice can be helpful, but if she listens to it, without considering her needs, she will likely burn out and not be able to sustain a life-long transformation.

Next she notices that when she is feeling stressed out or anxious about herself and her body she starts to feel empty inside. When she eats the cheese she is comforted by the flavor and how good it tastes. It feeds her heart hunger.

She realizes that though she may throw the cheese out, she won’t feel any better if she doesn’t also find a way to feed that empty part of herself that is comforted by eating yummy cheese.

She also notices she eats cheese as a reward. She needs to do something to celebrate her successes. Again she notes that she can throw the cheese out, but that she needs to find some other way to reward herself for a job good done. She brainstorms other healthier ways to reward herself.

Finally she notices that she loves the crap out of cheese. She can throw the cheese out, but she can’t throw her love of cheese out. Cheese satisfies her mouth hunger so much.

She realizes that she doesn’t want to stop eating cheese, but maybe she can just eat it less often. When she does buy it, maybe she just buys a bit less.

After all this reflection, Sally feels better, she may not understand everything that’s going on with her, but she has a much better idea. Sally acknowledges that these parts of her need to be honored, but that she does want to make healthier choices.

She decides to throw the cheese out to support her desire to be fit, but does so with the awareness that it’s just cheese she is throwing out, not all the things the get fed by eating cheese.

We can see in the second example how much more Sally was able to observe, by looking into all the motivations that lead to her inner conflict over the cheese. In the first example she wants cheese, but she is weak, so she must throw it out.

In the second example she sees she is strong, but that she needs to find some more awareness to meet the needs she has arising. She wants to be in shape, but she wants to honor all the parts of her that need to be fed.

The key to transformation is awareness.  Until we see a bit of the internal show of our mind we are doomed to repeat our karmic patterns again and again. The world of fitness talks A LOT about will power, will power, will power, but that only takes you so far. The truth is will power is just one part of your mind and you have to honor all the parts of your being if you want to become a new person.

It’s like the difference between repainting a house versus rebuilding it’s foundations. Will power can change how you look on the outside, but awareness changes how you think and feel on the inside in a deep and fundamental way.

Take some time this week to notice a unhealthy pattern you want to change. Reflect on the voices, feelings, needs, and motivations that arise in you. Write down what you notice and try to find a way to honor all the parts of yourself while making healthy choices.

You don’t have to notice as much as Sally in our example. Even just a little small bit of awareness can make a big difference in your ability to transform your life.

Thanks for Reading and Be Well


The ‘Right Way’ Part 3 – The Way of Love

In my last two posts I talked about doing things the ‘Right Way’. In the first post I talked about the things that underlie the desire for doing things the ‘Right Way’. In the second post I talked about wholeness of imperfection and how ‘Right Way’ contains, both perceived success and perceived failure.

In this post I’m going to look at whether ‘Right Way’ (as it is conceived by the critical mind) can exist and examine how intention can transform the skillfulness of our actions.

Usually, the critical mind thinks of doing something ‘Right Way’ as our ability to replicate others skills or actions with a high level of precision. The question is ‘Can we ever really replicate another actions? We know that no two people ever do anything quite the same way, for quite the same reasons. Everyone does things in their own unique way. Perhaps some actions are functionally repeatable, but the thoughts, motivations, emotions, and karmic causes of those actions are as different as fingerprints.

The idea of a ‘Right Way’ as a replication of others skills, creates an illusion of unity. If we act in this prescribed way, we are one with others who do the same. We have the same energy, power, and connection that they had. That is the power of ritual in our lives, but it’s a mistake to think that it is the accuracy of the execution that creates that unity.

To move as someone else moves is impossible. We do not have their same hands, eyes, and ears. What we can have is a unity of intention, a unity of the heart. Many cultures spend hours practicing rituals so that they are very precise, but if it comes from a love of precision itself the point is lost. It must come from a love of ritual, love of the expression, love of the tradition, or a love of the intention and energy behind the ritual.

When I cook something my mother cooks, my goal is not to produce the same dish exactly, but only to produce it with the same love a care with which she cooked. I can even hear her saying to me, “It’s not brain surgery.” The message my mother gave me when we have cooked together is that it’s about the intention, the process of cooking.

If your intention is good and you cook with love, then the results are likely to reflect that. It’s important to remember that the results aren’t just the end product. Whenever we try to do something, how we do it, how we feel about doing it, and the attitude we hold while doing it, are all part of the results.

With fitness this is especially true. To achieve a balanced life we must produce more than a leaner, stronger, and more confident body. We must also produce peace, wisdom, and compassion.

If working to do things the ‘Right Way’ helps us do this, then it is liberating, but if it only serves to make us feel inferior then is it really serving anyone? For me the ‘Right Way’ is the way that opens the heart. The ‘Right Way’ is the way that leads to love.

When I follow the way that leads to love, as opposed to the way that leads to perfection, I can see the results of my labor. I see those results not just in the end product of my efforts, but in every aspect of my effort. Even my perceived failures take on an energy of love and acceptance.

One way to practice with this is to reflect on an area of your life where the ‘Right Way’ has lead you to focus too much on the end product. What if instead of focusing on some external standard you focused on how the activity made you feel?

What if you paid close attention to each detail of each activity and tried to find the beauty in how you do it? You could try bringing in a feeling of love and compassion. Make dinner with loving hands, read a book with loving eyes. Does this change the end product? Does it change how you feel while doing it?

Setting goals can be effective and striving for excellence can be motivating, but they can also become a trap. Goals and standards can be especially sticky if they become fuel for the critical and judgmental aspects of our nature. It’s important to find a way to discern the difference.

The way of love starts within ourselves and grows out from there.  If you make your ‘Right Way’ the way of love then everything you do will be the work of growing compassion in the world. When we let go of outcomes and focus our energy on intentions the change can revolutionize not only the outcome, but more importantly the way we feel about ourselves.


The ‘Right Way’ Part 1 – Where does it come from?

I was recently talking with a friend about the idea of doing things the ‘Right Way’. It’s something we often obsess about in our culture.

Perhaps it come from the Judeo Christian background of the western world, or perhaps it’s just a side effect of striving for excellence and happiness; in either case it can very easily become a trap that limits our imagination, our ability to grow, and our happiness.

The ‘Right Way’ can become a beacon for us to shoot for, but also very often it is the standard by which we constantly judge our inadequacy. I’m going to take a few posts to really look at how this fixed idea of ‘Right Ways’ and ‘Wrong Ways’ effects our lives.

These won’t be posts that relate in a direct way to fitness, but I think very much apply to the mind that arrives at the gym or in the park every time we work out.

First off, Where does this idea of the ‘Right Way’ come from?

I once got into a discussion about the ‘Right Way’ to determine the difference between stuffing and dressing. Even though it’s very silly in retrospect, I gave what can only be described as a passionate account of the difference between stuffing and dressing.

I spoke with the conviction of an attorney working for Stovetop Inc. In the midst of my defense, of the purity of breaded poultry fodder, I realized that my entire knowledge of this difference, was based solely on a single article I had read the previous day on the Internet.

My conviction was unwarranted and the conversation, though clearly silly to begin with, had lept the bounds of absurdity, because of my forceful perspective.

So why did I argue for the ‘Right Way’ to define something of so little importance? When I reflect on this, I realize that holding this ‘Right Way’ in my mind gave me a sense of power, of confidence, of safety.

I felt validated and justified in my actions. Knowing the ‘Right Way’ gave me a clear identity. I was the person who knew the identity of stuffing. I was the sole arbiter of stuffed bread products (cue the heroic music).

There is something so satisfying about knowing the ‘Right Way’ to do something. It says so many things about me. I am competent, capable, and knowledgeable. Who am I? I am the one that knows.

It is easy to see why we can easily become obsessed with the ‘Right Way’ to do something. There is so much comfort for our anxiety, our fears, our doubts, and our fears.  Put simply, the idea of a ‘Right Way’ comes a very human need to know and understand themselves and the world around them. This ‘Right Way’ situates them at the center of a known universe they have drawn the borders around.

The only problem is, this ‘Right Way’ doesn’t reveal the truth about myself or the subtlety of the actions I undertake. Instead it trades the complexity that makes life beautiful, for the certainty that makes us feel safe.

I became so fixated on the ‘Right Way’ to describe stuffing, I lost all perspective on the absurdity of the conversation. I wasn’t connected to the person I was interacting with or my own intentions. Worst of all I became unable to take in new information and new perspectives.

Striving for excellence is great and visualizing can be very valuable, but when we get fixated on the ‘Right Way’ to do something, we lose what we sought. What makes us truly unique among the animal kingdom, is our ability to take in new information and greet new situations with curiosity and imagination.

If the ‘Right Way’ comes from a fixation on a particular idea or way of being, how right is it? If on the other hand, what if the ‘Right Way’ comes not from an idea of the end, but from the connection to the process? It’s all a matter of putting the emphasis on the ‘Way’ and not the ‘Right’.

This is the key salvaging excellence from the concept of the ‘Right Way’.  Our focus must be on the path, that leads us in the direction we want to go. Often our destinations rarely look how we expect them to and of course we as travelers have changed. The path on the other hand is intimate to our every step.

Excellence in self, in body, in mind is possible, but this excellence doesn’t come from seeking some outside standard, but from believing in the flawed footsteps it takes to get there. It’s faith in the path and the way, even if the scenery doesn’t match the post cards.

Take some time to reflect on what fixed ideas of doing things the ‘Right Way’ is holding you back.

What qualities are embodied in achieving that standard? Write them down. Then instead of comparing yourself to this Holy Grail standard, walk the path of the pilgrim. Do your best to embody the qualities that that standard holds.  Take up this practice of embodying qualities instead of embodying standards for a week and see what effect it has.

Your expression of compassion, of wisdom, of joy, may not be the same as those you admire, but its the way behind them, that is the same. Your act of kindness will not be there’s, but the quality of kindness is something almost anyone can recognize.

In this way you become one with all the great people who have gone before; not because you will do the same things, but because you will be walking on the same road.

Thanks for reading and be well,


How to Exercise In the Rain – the Whiny Voice

Here in Portland the winter months are coming. The hints are there, the occasional overcast skies, the cooling morning. That means that the rain will soon be here and thus a built in excuse not to get outside and exercise. No matter what part of the country you live in, the weather can be a reason to get out of your workout routine. Partially this is natural. Traditionally changes in activity would be dictated by the conditions, though most weather demanded more effort from our ancestors than we have today. Winter meant getting fire wood to chop, summer may have meant walking and carrying water, spring time planting or hunting, and fall meant harvesting.

In our modern times it is so easy to be comfortable, so little is required of us, physically, to survive. Which is why it is all the more important to stay active in the winter months or whenever the weather is less than ideal. And let’s be honest the weather is often not ideal, unless of course you live somewhere the weather is often ideal (I’m looking at you San Diego), in which case you can skip this post. I’ve decided to write a few posts about how to maintain an exercise routine even when the weather is bad. If you have other ideas please feel free to share them.

The hardest this about exercising in inclement weather, is the hardest thing about ever doing exercise, GETTING STARTED. There are many techniques to work with less than ideal circumstances, here is one of my favorites.

Paying attention to who is talking.
* Scroll down for a note on voice and voice dialog if your not familiar with this concept.

You are supposed to go for a bike ride, but it’s cold and rainy outside. You sit inside staring at the rain and think, ‘ah man it’s going to be so cold a rainy out there, I don’t want to ride my bike, I’ll get all gross and have to wear stupid bulky rain gear.’ Etc.

The first step to working with this part of your mind is to ask, “How old is this whiny voice?” For me the voice is usually about fourteen. I can even imagine that 14 year old saying the above, crossing their arms, and huffing. We often equate ourselves with the little voices or energies in us that resist doing what we know is, ‘the best thing for us.’ This can lead to guilt and to thinking that we are weak, but we aren’t weak, we just have a 14 year old voice living inside of us. There is nothing wrong with that at all, but we have to work with that energy when it arises. When I notice this part of me arise, I   talk to that 14 year old. I might even imagine myself as 14 and  say out loud, “I know that you don’t want to go outside in the rain, but you know that if you do you’ll have a good time. I promise that when we get home, we’ll take a warm shower, and we’ll feel really proud of ourselves.” Does this always work? No. Sometimes the teenager wins and I stay inside and watch TV, but more often then not, when I am aware of that whiny voice and acknowledge it, I can find a wiser part of myself and get out the door.

How old is your whiny voice? Can you visualize yourself at a certain age when it’s up? In what other areas of your life do you hear it?

Next time you find your whiny mind arising, try to talk to it in a gentle way to help get yourself out the door. Remember what worked to motivate you at that age, it might work for this part of yourself now. Yelling at it, criticizing it may work in the short term, but since it’s a part of you, you are better off learning to love and respect it. Try different techniques to work with it and see what gets the most traction.

For extra credit try and notice other voices that arise when you exercise.  Maybe sometimes you have a little internal coach or cheerleader. Maybe you have an internal champion, or perhaps an internal underdog. I’m sure most of us have a critical voice or energy that arises. Paying attention to the parts of ourselves that arise, in exercise and life, can help us know what our mind is up to. We can learn to access the voices and energies that help us and to help the voices that hold us back. No voice or energy is wholly bad, but some are trying to help us in pretty messed up ways. By hearing and working with these parts of ourselves, we gain more knowledge of our mind and more peace in our lives.

Thanks for reading.
Be Well.

*A quick note this post talks about different voices or energies that we encounter as part of our being. It is based on the philosophy of voice dialogue which acknowledges that we are all made up of a mixture of different energies and motivations. These voices or energies are what makes us able to play different roles in our lives and move from being at work to being at home. These energies or voices can be discovered and brought forth as a way to understand different aspects of our being. For a list of different selves check out this site-


Listening to Language/Limits – 7 Habits

Whenever we do or don’t do something, it is rare that we are compelled or prevented from doing it. In reality we are making a choice of one action, over another.

We do this primarily because: 1. We don’t want to suffer the likely consequences of the choice, or 2. We don’t want to put in the effort to manifest that action in the world. In my last post we discussed language that fell into the first category. In this post I’ll look at the second case.

We often portray ourselves as having some limiting quality, that prevents us from achieving what we want. You might hear someone say, ‘I’m too old to get in shape, ‘ or ‘I’ve tried to lose weight I just can’t do it,’ or maybe ‘I’m too stupid to get a good job.’

In most cases these limiting qualities are our negative self image and talk solidified into some fixed view about what we are capable of. We do this ,as an excuse, to not make the effort it takes to get to where we want to go. It hurts less, in a way, to say ‘I can’t quite smoking,’ instead of ‘I tried to quite smoking, but when it got hard I chose to give it up, because I was unwilling to deal with the discomfort.’ To take responsibility means that we are admitting we made a choice. If we make ourselves the victims, maybe we don’t have to feel bad about our perceived failures.

Changing your life isn’t easy and if you’re serious about it, you are likely to fail in some way before you succeed.

We’ve been told that failing is bad, but failure is the ground that leads to success. I don’t like to fail, but every time I have a perceived failure at a job or a relationship I have moved closer to what I want.

I have gained knowledge about what job I don’t want and how to work more skillfully with a partner. It’s not the mistakes, rather it’s not learning from mistakes that we have to fear. We must be willing to fall short of our aspirations.

We must take responsibility of our choices. If we have any hope of changing, it will be us that manifests that change. No one can manifest change for you, you are the only one who can truly change. That is the burden and the gift of a human life.

In the examples above we can change our language to reflect our ability to choose. We can say, “I’m old so working out is harder than it used to be. I choose not to work out because I don’t like the discomfort it causes. ” or we can say, ‘I’ve tried to lose weight before, but chose to stop, so I’m choosing not to try again right now, because I ‘m afraid I might fail.’

When we read these statements now, we see that the speakers are making a clear choice, which means they could make a different choice. It also reveals the motivation behind their choice. In the first case it’s the discomfort of exercise, in the second it’s the fear of failure.

When we see these choices, we can weigh our options better. For example, for the first speaker maybe not being active is actually causing more discomfort than exercise would cause. Then again maybe not, but until we knowledge the possibilities a serious examination can’t happen.

In the second case, perhaps the fear of diabetes or other health risks is greater than the fear of failure, but if I’m not empowered to make that choice, it’s hard to see that I could actually prevent that from happening. Few things are as inevitable as we perceive.

By reframing the way we think and talk about ourselves and the things in our lives, we gain access to more power and more choice. We can acknowledge when we are limiting ourselves and see other possibilities.

Perhaps the greatest effect that can come from this change is a perception of control. I heard recently that higher level managers suffer from less stress, not because they have less to do, but because they had a greater sense of control.

Notice when you use language that portrays you as weak or that limits your capability. Take some time and reflect on the beliefs that limit what you think you can do. Ask yourself Is this true? Then ask, Is it really true? Finally ask, What if it weren’t true, what would that mean?*

Often the solidity of our beliefs are based solely on the strength we give them. We can use this truth to both bolster the beliefs that empower us, and to deconstruct the ones that hold us back. Fixed ideas lead many of us to suffering.

The world is a variable and changing place and our minds must reflect that or we are doomed to fight against the current of being. By seeing our choice and having a flexible mind, we become more free and more nimble in our response to life’s big and little challenges.

Thanks for reading,
Be Well

*disclaimer – This technique is one I heard somewhere, and is in a book, but I don’t remember what book or who wrote it. But I felt I should acknowledge it didn’t originate with me.

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Listening to Language / Consequences – 7 Habits

Again just a reminder I am reading the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey right now. I am using my blog as a way to take in the material with a mind towards teaching it to others.

There is a part of 7 Habits where Covey talks about listening to our language. Specifically paying close attention to when we use reactive phrases, as opposed to proactive ones. Very often when I talk about fitness or training I hear reactive phrases from people.

When I tell people about training for and racing triathlons, I usually get one or two reactions. Most people say some version of, ‘That’s great, but I could never do something like that,’ or ‘I wish I could do that, but (enter excuse here: I’m too busy, I’ve got a knee injury…).’

Few people acknowledge that they are making a choice not to do triathlons. Now I’m not advocating everyone should do a triathlon (seriously you should though), I’m merely saying in most cases not doing a tri is a choice, rather than the result of some outside force.’

Whenever we do or don’t do something, it is rare that we are compelled or prevented from doing it. In reality we are making a choice of one action, over another.

We do this primarily because: 1. We don’t want to suffer the likely consequences of the choice, or 2. We don’t want to put in the effort to manifest that action in the world. In this post I’ll talk about the first case and I’ll discuss the second case in a later post.

A clear example of the first case can be found in this statement: “I can’t work out in the morning, I have to be at work at 9:00am.” What choices does this statement hide?

For one the choice not to wake earlier before work or the choice to get more sleep. Another would be the choice to be on time to work instead of working out. Another would be the choice to go to work at all, instead of spending time on fitness.

Many of us would think the last choice is a reasonable and prudent one. The choice to keep my job, or to be on time, instead of working out seem like wise ones, but we still choose.

In truth I could choose to lose my job and work out instead. But if I don’t want the consequences of losing a job, then I’d be wise to choose work over working out.  In many instances changing our language wouldn’t mean changing our choice, but it does reveal that we are making a choice.

To use proactive language in the example above, you could say “I choose not to work out in the morning, because I want to get 8 hours of sleep and get to work on time.”

When we read this phrase we can see all the possibilities I’ve overlooked. Maybe I could go to bed earlier, so I can wake up earlier. Maybe I could choose to get less sleep and use the extra time to exercise.

By using reactive language we disempower ourselves. Instead of taking responsibility for our choices we paint ourselves as victims who can’t choose anything else. When we use proactive language we paint ourselves as capable people who are choosing what we want in our lives.

Listen this week to yourself and others, and notice when reactive language is being used. When you catch yourself or others take some time to think about the hidden choices.

How could you restate the some thing and acknowledge the choice involved? When you see those choices can you see other choices you could make?

The Buddha talked about karma starting with thought. Before any volitional unskillful act occurs an unskillful thought must occur first. By listening to our language we can reveal the illusions and delusions in our thoughts.

By taking responsibility for our language we can learn to take responsibility for our lives. Covey talks about this as the ability to choose our response. Change comes from choosing a new response to our lives and language lies at the door to this change.

Thanks for reading,
Be Well



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The Eulogy Project: 7 Habits

If you’ve been reading my blog you know I’ve been writing posts related to what I’ve been reading in the book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey.

One of the exercises that Covey encourages the reader to do, is to write in detail about your own funeral and eulogy.

It is in the part of the book that discusses habit two, “Start with the end in mind.” Writing about your own funeral may seem morbid to some people, but it can be a very powerful experience.

Covey encourages the reader to ‘access the right side of the brain, by using imagery and details.’ He talks about how this enables you to access a more holistic part of yourself.

In our world the left, or more logical side of the brain, is often favored. I know that I rely heavily on my logical mind, so I welcomed this exercise as way to peer deeper into my more intuitive ‘right brain.’

I wrote out a description of my funeral in great detail. I tried to include scents, sounds, and what people were doing as they talked.

As I wrote I found myself getting caught up in the story and it often felt like the words were writing themselves. I described the different people who were there, from friends and sangha members, to my family and professional colleagues.

Then I listened as one person from each group talked about my life. I tried my best to listen as I spoke through them in my narrative.

One of the first things that surprised me was that I wrote about a business partner and a professional mentor being at my funeral. These are two people I don’t have in my life right now, but as I wrote I realized that I want to have people like this in my life.

One aspect of visualization is that often hidden desires have a chance to surface. Our logical mind might think, ‘it’s silly to imagine you have a business partner, you don’t even have a business yet,’ but our imagination can reveal what we desire.

Moving forward with that clarity, we can be more aware of opportunities to fulfill that desire. I know that I will now be looking at other people I meet as potential mentors and business partners.

By being open to that desire I am much more likely to see that opportunity for a great partnership.

Next I wrote from the perspective of a member of my spiritual community (sangha in Buddhist terms). They talked about how I blended spiritual teaching into my everyday life. I was already aware that I valued this blend, but visualizing someone from my community saying it helped me see how important it really is.

Often we hold things we value at a distance from our selves. We do this out of fear that maybe we can’t make it happen. Perhaps you really want to run a half marathon, but because you think you can’t do it, you try not to think about it.

When we visualize, the logical part of our brain can’t come in and say ‘you can’t,’ instead we are free to dream what we want. In truth your dreams are not as far out of your reach as you think. Visualizing helps us see what is possible and what our hearts long for.

Another person who spoke at my funeral was a close friend. They spoke about loyalty and how I was there when they needed me, but they also spoke about how I pushed them.

Often I have felt that my tendency to push and challenge people might annoy my friends. When I visualized my friend saying they appreciated being pushed, I realized that my perception of that as a weakness wasn’t accurate. When we visualize, our judging mind is less active.

The logical side of the brain that keeps score isn’t tracking and so the underlying value of something has a chance to surface. I realized that I enjoy people that support me, but also push me to become better.

It makes perfect sense that my close friends would value the same things. The intuitive side of ourselves can often see more contours of truth. Outside of keeping score and judging many of the traits we label ‘weaknesses’ are the contours that make us unique and special to others.

Finally I heard from a member of my family. For this I visualized a son. The things he said are kernels of wisdom I hope to pass on and many of them were given to me by my father.

My visualized son talked about integrity and love. He talked about how I saw and heard the people in my life; how I inspired and challenged them.

The last thing he said touched me the most. He said that everything I did in my life was an expression of the deep love I had for other people.

This reveals a belief that I have long held, but rarely admit.  I realized that I want very much to embody that love in my life. In big gestures, but also in all the little things that I do. I want to live a life guided and embedded with love.

Visualization can often bring to light a fundamental vow that we don’t want to admit. We might think that vow is idealistic or childish. We might be ashamed, because we aren’t living up to that aspiration.

This kind of visualization can cut through that guilt or doubt and reveal the truth of our hearts. I write daily vows, but none of them contained the vow to embed love into everything I do.

My logical mind, who makes the lists, can’t really understand that vow. It’s a BIG VOW.

Visualization gives us a chance to see our big vow, our big heart, and our big dream.

By starting with the end in mind, we can see if the path we are on is pointing us to that BIG VOW or not.

I don’t think that I will always be able to live up to these highest of principles, but I know I will live a better life if I try. If I point my life in the direction of my BIG VOW, in big and little ways, I’ll be moving in the right direction.

It’s important to remember that our BIG VOW is not fulfilled by achieving at what we aim. Just walking the path to our BIG VOW, IS the the fulfilling of the vow. The two are not separate.

Take some time to write your own funeral and eulogy, or if that is too involved maybe just your obituary. Start with list of things you’d want said about you. One list for family, work etc. You may be surprised by what is on the list and what isn’t.

I noticed that there were several things that weren’t in my eulogy that I worry about. No one talked about me dating allot of attractive women, or finishing high in my triathlon age group, or having stylish clothes. Part of keeping the end in mind is learning what to leave out.

Thanks for reading and Be well.


A gift to your future self – 7 habits

    So I’ve recently been reading the 7 Habits by the wonderful Dr. Covey. One of the things he suggests in the book is that you read the book with an eye towards teaching the concepts to others.

So I thought one way to make that really hit home for me is to write a few blog posts about my reflections on the concepts he presents in relation to finding balance in both body and mind. 

    One of the concepts he introduces early on is the idea of finding a balance between P, which stands for production and PC, which stand for production capability. It’s kind of like making coffee:  Coffee is the product, while the Coffee Maker is the production capacity. The goal is to find a balance between these two, so that we produce the best product, while keeping our capacity at a sustainable level. 

    Often when we exercise we have a hard time striking the balance between the two, because they are both very intimate to us.

When we seek balance through fitness, our bodies are both the P and the PC in this equation. We use our body, to improve our body. Of course there is something very poetic about that as well.

In one way, it’s very easy to maintain this balance, because the more effort we put into our body, the P, the more we build our fitness, the PC, which lets us put more effort into P. 

The problem comes when we separate ourselves from our bodies. When we make our bodies the problem. 

No matter what your fitness level, your body is a product of 2 things:
1.Your karmic patterns.
2. Your mind. 

    Let’s take a quick look at the first.

Your body is a very clear example of karma. Karma can be very complicated, but fundamentally it’s just cause and effect. You body is the result of a combination of causes.

Things like heart disease are caused by family history (genetic cause), how active you were growing up (past cause), and what your diet is life (nutrition cause). This isn’t supposed to make you critical of your actions.

Instead thinking this way encourages us to notice,  ‘oh my body is a combination of factors some of which I can control, some of which I can’t. This also means that your future body will be a result of current causes and conditions.

I’m never going to be 6ft tall no matter how fit I get, but depending on what I do today I can change how fit I am in the future. What I do today is a gift to my future self. What gift do I want to give? 

    The second factor is your mind. Not only is our body image largely determined by our mind, but also our actual body represents the way in which our mind turns.

Karma starts with a single thought, which then turns into repeated thoughts or actions or both. Those thoughts and actions turn into patterns, but it is all dependent on that original thought.

When we bring more awareness to our minds we make it possible to see our thoughts and step in between them and the things that come afterwards. 

    Awareness it the key to transforming our way of thinking. By acknowledging that our current body is the result of past factors and past states of mind, it becomes clear how important it is to have a compassionate attitude and approach to our fitness journey.

If we make our body the enemy to achieve fitness, we are focusing on the P but not the PC. We are focusing on the effects, but not the causes of our future self.

Fitness must start with a gratitude for the body we have now. Your body is the vehicle that will take you where you want to go. If you treat it with honor and respect you will be giving your future self a body that has been honored and respected.

If you treat it with disdain and criticism, you give your future self a body that has been criticized. Which body do you want to give yourself? 

    Take sometime at the end of the day or before you workout to reflect on all the good things your body has done for you. Reflect on how it’s carried you along, digested your food, helped you do work, and all the other things you can do because you have a body.

Then take some time to think about and write down the gifts you want to give your future self. More ease, more confidence, a half marathon finish, appreciation, whatever it is remember that your future self is relying on this very body, this very mind, to help it manifest.

Your body and your mind are your companions, your teammates on the path to a balanced life.