The Tragedy of Speed

6087023127_3e0d61c40a_b.jpgThe other day, I tried to be in two places at once. And I found myself nowhere. Literally sprinting with a thermos of hot water to a tea meditation I was supposed to be hosting and which had “started” five minutes earlier. “I must hurry so I can slow down,” I thought to myself.

The great tragedy of speed, writes David Whyte, “is that very soon we cannot recognize anything or anyone who is not traveling at the same velocity as we are. We start to lose sight of any colleagues who are moving at a slower pace, and we start to lose sight of the bigger, slower cycles that underlie our work.”

And this has been happening for centuries. James Joyce wrote of middle class Ireland in the early 1900s, offering the famous line, “Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.” The practice of meditation brings us back to a single place. The here and the now. We might not stay there very long but it is a practice. We catch ourselves and return. Beginning again.

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 7.15.54 PMWhen you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius

Join Center for Self-Care this summer to explore together. We make time to come to stillness and silence in order to tap our intuition and wisdom, then share it with each other. Visit to learn more and register.

Whyte speaks of the inevitable times in our lives when we are “waking everyday into the great to-do list of life. And the first thing that crossed your mind are all of the things that you have to accomplish throughout the day. But the accomplishments are all logistical, there all strategic and there is very little in the way of imagination. And you don’t who is going to be there when you clear away that list and so you simply create another list for the following day.” I recently found a fabulous morning meditation from David Gandelman on Insight Timer that short-circuits that impulse to do and first asks: what does the world want from me today and what do I want from it? ”

Our culture pulls us into this orbit of speed. That said, we can pause most any time. Or slow down. Do less better. In an interview with Krista Tippet, poet and author Naomi Shihab Nye describes the concept of Yutori. Its something worth checking out. An example of Yutori is “leaving early enough to get somewhere so that you know you’re going to arrive early, so when you get there, you have time to look around.”

clock.jpgBut we have no time for this! Or do we? There’s an old tale of the student who asked a teacher how longer she should meditate each day. “20 minutes,” declared the wise teacher. The woman replied, “but I don’t have time for that.” The teacher sat quickly then responded, “then sit for 40 minutes each day.” It is exactly in the moments when it feels like we don’t have time that it is imperative to slow down. It could mean stopping to say hello to a stranger, taking the dog for a casual walk without our phone, or writing a note to a friend you haven’t seen for awhile. It is up to you. The world can speed along without you for awhile.



Building a Practice

Building a Practice

As I sat in the chair opposite the therapist, I realized that I would be doing this for the rest of my life. In the midst of suffering after my father’s passing, I found that not much worked to ease my pain. Exasperated with my narrative, she gently guided me to the chair and told me to close my eyes. It took 38 years but now I was meditating for the first time. The practice was as simple as the one below but I experienced a complex peace that was unfamiliar. So I set out to build a practice. Sometimes it goes great, at other times, I have to “start over”, returning to the basics of a simple discipline. So I return today.

weight.jpegI am pleased to introduce Center For Self-Care’s 28-day Meditation Challenge. Beginning May 1, Your Mindful Coach and C4SC will offer several supports to build your own meditation practice. Through guided meditations from our podcast as well as Sharon Salzburg’s 28-day challenge, electronic discussions and virtual and in-person events, you’ll have the opportunity to explore and be curious while committing no more than 10 minutes a day to meditation.

To participate, simply visit this link daily and select the date. You will be taken to a site that offers a daily meditation. Click “Read More” and then press play to meditate. Then share with us – email to receive a daily reflection and learn together.

4be87162-6ce5-42c5-bdd1-cffa321868a6Every Sunday (9pm) and Tuesday (8:30pm) evening, we offer a live virtual guided meditation that can be accessed online through your computer or cellphone or by calling in on your phone. We also have workshops on May 6 and May 24 as well as our men-specific regular offerings. Learn more or register at our website.

Our first meditation focuses on the breath. The breath serves as an anchor to our attention. We become distracted and gently return our attention back to this anchor. Our only task is to pay attention, noticing the rhythm, the movement and the quality of each breath.



“The more you can be completely now, the more you realize that you’re always standing in the middle of a sacred circle. Whether you’re brushing your teeth or wiping your bottom. Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it now.” – Pema Chodron, Comfortable With Uncertainty

pexels-photo-459846.jpegMindfulness is a practice of wisdom and compassion. As Jonathan Foust writes, mindfulness asks two questions: what is happening? and can I be with it? In order to get to the second question, you must acknowledge the first. This doesn’t mean you have to like it. Instead, a curious awareness of what is happening right now pulls us out of our rumination about the past and our anticipation of the future. It reminds us of our radical resilience in the face of the circumstances and conditions that characterize our unique experience.

The video below, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life, was presented by David Foster Wallace at Kenyon College’s commencement in 2005. For me, it suggests that our presence, our dwelling in the now, gives us a choice in how to respond. We can choose to stay in auto-pilot, a default mode of avoiding boredom and seeking novelty, or, we can observe with an open, optimistic mind and heart. Most of life is the ordinary. But it becomes extraordinary when we actually live it. Really, really live it.

Pema Chodron shares a story of an arrogant, proud lady who was seeking enlightenment. Asking around, she was told to visit a wise old woman who lived in a cave atop a high mountain. “I want to attain enlightenment” she declared, “show me how.” Chodron continues, “Whereupon, the wise old woman turned into a demon, brandishing a great big stick, and started chasing her, saying, ‘Now! Now! Now!‘” And that’s our reminder.

What “gets you to now?” In our Sunday Meditation Group, participants shared the following: people’s reactions, snuggling, nature, birds, sounds, morning, light, meditation, reminders (mindfulness bell apps), luminous beings, and weather.

When we make time for ourselves and set an intention to do one thing at a time, we arrive at now. In this moment, we have everything we need.

28167291_1931831960465744_282017310712890880_nPlease join Center For Self Care and Your Mindful Coach for these great events “happening now!”
Wed., Mar. 14 – Mindful Dads Meeting
Sun., Mar 18 – The Mindful Parent
Sun., April 8 – Connection and Reflection Retreat (promo code TEACH for 25% discount)

This Lousy World. And Being With It.

This Lousy World. And Being With It.

To give a cow a large spacious meadow is the best way to control him.” – Suzuki Roshi

I sat in practice. The feeling arose. Somewhere between uncertainty and overwhelm. This feeling didn’t bring a lot of content with it. Somewhat ominous but not quite imminent. Like something lurking in the distance while I rested comfortably behind the reinforced walls of a fortress in my mind.

Sometimes it feels like I’m just a bag of bones meant to carry around this overactive thinking machine of mine. My friend Jim describes it as a “mind tornado”. Rumination, reflection, anticipation and regret. What to do?


I sat with it. It became a form in my mind, a jagged red shape, not quite circular, rhythmically heaving. It held heat and energy. But it wasn’t me. I imagined myself pulling up a chair next to this feeling. Not quite attending to it, but observing it. “What is this?” I asked. No answer was forthcoming. But I didn’t sense it needed an answer. It just needed to be seen.

From the silence emerged a response, “You don’t know. And that’s OK.” The shape retreated, the mind became still. I found myself at peace, if only for a moment. Psychologist, author and Holocaust-survivor Victor Frankl wrote about the importance of creating space for this peace. This space opens us to choice and possibility. Like the cow in Suzuki Roshi’s quote, making room for our experience allows us to flow more freely through life.

There’s an awful lot going on. Some local, some universal, most repeating and some truly unique. No wonder Jon Kabat-Zinn’s pioneering thome on mindfulness is entitled, Full Catastrophe Living. Our human instinct for survival drives us to make sense of it all and eliminate threats (perhaps foreclosing risk-taking and exploration). But we can find a stillness, if only for a moment. Sitting with our experience. Taking a breath. Being present.

The practice below begins with instructions for quieting and softening the body. An invitation to explore the present experience is offered and a question is asked. Try it out for yourself!

Make some time for yourself to learn and practice in the coming months. Join us for our co-ed full-day retreat, Connection and Reflection on Sunday, April 8. Enter the promotional code “EARLY” for a 10% discount. 

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How Do I Want To Feel In 2018?

How Do I Want To Feel In 2018?

Last year a foolish monk, this year, no change.” – Ryokan

I think that is the point. How do we practice within circumstances and conditions that may not change as quickly as we like or change without us having a sense of control? Do I really need to change to feel happy, at peace and live a life of meaning? Maybe there is something to aspiring to be that foolish monk. As we enter this season of resolutions and new beginnings, I thought I’d walk you through my plan for feeling the way I want to more often in 2018.

Entering 2017, my teacher, Jonathan Foust asked, “How do you want to feel at the end of the year?“ My response was to feel relaxed, to feel confident, and to feel connected. Another question Jonathan likes to ask is, “What is between you and feel free?” or in my case, “What is between you and feeling relaxed, confident and connected?” My responses should sound familiar to you because they are human: uncertainty, doubt, fear, anger, frustration and overwhelm. Each of these reflect my mind declaring that something is wrong and I need to do something about it, the stress response. But do I? When I’m actively taking care of myself, I cultivate a clarity that recognizes when I’m caught and reminds me that it isn’t the end of the world. So this year is going to be all about self-care.

treble-clef-sand-art.jpgRelaxation, confidence and connection are states, not traits. Just like with happiness, sadness, fear, and joy, they are impermanent. Here one moment, gone the next. So the task becomes, how can I develop practices and habits that incline me towards these states so that they arise more frequently and for longer periods of time? I’ll start with some principles in identifying these practices: Heart, Simplicity, and Accountability

Heart – Does what I’m doing have heart?

One of my favorite practices when I am very busy is to take my to-do list, which is crammed with 30, 40 or 50 absolute “must dos,” and consider one question: Does it have heart? The answer for most of my everyday tasks is a resounding no. So I’m planning to put them on the back burner. Certain things just might not get done. There are, however, several things that I do regularly – meditating, exercising and creating – that represent self-care and definitely have a lot of heart.

Simplicity – How can I simplify what I’m doing?

Simplify-Your-Investment-Menu.jpgI have a tendency to equate busyness with accomplishment. So I create unnecessarily complex plans and goals for myself (which also drive my wife a bit crazy when it involves family vacations). Looking back to my year in review for 2016, I listed 12 intentions and 8 goals. It almost feels like it was written by my inner critic because I wasn’t setting myself up for success. So instead, I’ll have a simple scoreboard. I’ll know if I’m on track each day by monitoring just three simple datapoints.

Accountability – Who will keep me on track when motivation fails me?

I do not like to admit failure. Its one of the shortcomings of a perfectionist. I’ve taught habit building to both adults and adolescents and the biggest point of resistance comes when I introduce the concept of accountability partners. This is someone who you check in with and can support you when motivation is lagging. But it can also be a powerful tool, to keep you doing what you said you’d do and also adjust as you progress. So keep an eye on me Jim, Ryan, John, and Thom!

20/20/20 in 2018

new-year-new-me1So here’s what I’m planning for 2018. I’m calling it 20/20/20 and I think it follows the principles I listed above of heart, simplicity and accountability. Further, it brings me closer to the states of feeling relaxed, confident and connected. It is all about self-care. Each day, I will take three 20 minute periods of “single-tasking” one of five activities. My choices are meditating, exercising, stretching, reading and journaling. During this time, I’ll only be “doing what I’m doing.” No headphones, no internet, no distractions. I’m going to carve out space so I’m not moving right from one of these tasks to jumping in the car or rushing through my day. And to keep me accountable, I’m telling you! I’ve published a tool I’m using to track my progress so you can publicly shame me if I get off track! I even let you comment on it! Heck, I’d love you to check it out but I’d be even more thrilled if you’d join me with some intentions of your own. Let me know and I’ll add you.

With this plan in place, there is one final piece, self-compassion. I’m not always gonna get the job done. But with self-compassion, I can recognize that if it was easy, I’d already be doing it. I’m doing my best in this moment and my next step is to get right back on the horse, to create an identity of not missing back-to-back days.

In The Creative Task Of Performing One’s Life, Michael Stone suggests that mindful living helps you “hear what your life has to say to you.” Our heart, mind and body are filled with wisdom and have a lot to say. I’m hoping these practices help me hear more clearly.

If you are still kicking around where you are headed, you might enjoy my recent Center For Self-Care post, 10 Questions To Ask Yourself In 2018.

One of my favorite experts in the area of goals, systems and habits is James Clear. I’ve linked two articles below that changed my perspective on goals, intentions and resolutions that I think you’ll like:

Forget About Setting Goals. Focus On This Instead.

Identity-Based Habits: How to Actually Stick To Your Goals This Year


I use Pomodoro Timer Lite for the Android to keep track of time when I’m working on 20/20/20. It is great for creating short times of focused concentration. Finally, I’m reminded that routines work great but sometimes they get thrown for a loop. I wrote about this in Maintaining a practice through vacation, illness and busyness.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that almost everything you read here was introduced to me by my meditation teacher, Jonathan Foust.

Cultivating the Heart: Equanimity

Cultivating the Heart: Equanimity

We concluded our Cultivating The Heart series with the topic of equanimity. Our work over these classes examined the Four Immeasurable Qualities of the Heart or the Brahmavihāras. The first three, compassion, lovingkindness, and joy,  are states that we can cultivate and incline our minds towards. But this isn’t to the exclusion of unpleasant qualities – the true practice of meditation is feeling what we are feeling while we are feeling it. When we are sad or grieving or frustrated or furious, it is helpful to be able to identify this so our words and actions reflect who we are and not the state that we are in.

MeditatingSuitcaseEquanimity is often thought of as a synonym for balance, or even peace. As it turns out, there are actually two Pali words that are usually translated as equanimity. The first, Upekkha reflects a “seeing with patience,” an awareness that includes some wisdom. Sounds a bit like mindfulness, no? The other word, Tatramajjhattata, literally means “to stand in the middle of all this.” The practice of equanimity is just as much about being with whatever is happening as about balancing it all out.

And thank goodness! The day of this evening workshop, I taught seven straight classes to 7th through 11th graders, coached two sports and stayed up too late the night before. But through it all, I could find brief periods to notice and allow my experience.

Equanimity reflects a fairness and even-mindedness of the mind/heart that can be cultivated with mindfulness and meditation. Releasing the effort to make things a certain way, we instead “become aware of the waves and rest seated in the midst of them.” Below are two practices you can try to arrive at this awareness:

I shared some books that I’ve found helpful in this exploration. The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully by Frank Ostaseski and The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship by David Whyte. Among Ostaseski’s invitations are to “Find a place of rest in the midst of things” and “Welcome everything, push away nothing.” Whyte addresses the question of finding balance by reminding us that it isn’t just about “work/life” balance but is instead a delicate dance of our vocations, our relationships and our selves. When we try to compartmentalize things that aren’t going right, they infect the other arenas in life. Our task instead is to integrate these three marriages because they just can’t be separated.

20120826-081640When you look at a tree during a storm, you see that its branches and leaves are swaying back and forth violently in the strong wind. You have the impression that the tree will not be able to withstand the storm. Like the tree, you feel vulnerable. You can break at any time. But if you direct your attention down to the trunk of the tree, you see things differently. You see that the tree is solid and deeply rooted in the ground. If you focus your attention on the trunk of the tree, you realize that because the tree is firmly rooted in the soil, it cannot be blown away.” -Thich Nhat Hanh, Fear

Equanimity is not about ignoring what’s happening or being indifferent to it. Jack Kornfield describes how we can appear serene by standing stoically and may even find a bit of peace or relief as we withdraw or seclude. Indifference, he adds, is based on fear, “True equanimity is not a withdrawal; it is a balanced engagement with all aspects of life. It is opening to the whole of life with composure and ease of mind, accepting the beautiful and terrifying nature of all things.”

One traditional meditation comes directly from Jack Kornfield’s book The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness and Peace. Find Jack’s version here or listen below to cultivate the qualities of equanimity.

In this practice, we offer phrases that include

  • May I be balanced and at peace.
  • May I have true equanimity.
  • May I learn to see the arising an passing of all things with equanimity and balance.
  • May I bring compassion and equanimity to the events of the world.
  • May I find balance and equanimity and peace amidst it all.

As we continue through the meditation, we bring loved ones, strangers, even difficult people to our imagination, offering these wishes to them as well. We do this with a deep self-compassion as we remember, Your happiness and suffering depend on your actions and not on my wishes for you.


The practice of meditation can lead us to an experience of equanimity. But it requires work. I think to the three refugees in Buddhist tradition: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. By practicing regularly with love (Buddha), learning and inquiring (Dharma) and gathering in community (Sangha), we can deepen and reinforce a practice that can be a lifelong companion.


Visit to learn more and register for upcoming offerings including Mindful Dads Meeting, Stress Management for Men and our co-ed, full-day retreat on Sunday, April 8!

Cultivating the Heart: Joy

Cultivating the Heart: Joy

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

In the Buddhist tradition, there are four immeasurable qualities, four qualities of the awakened heart. They include compassion, lovingkindness, joy and equanimity. I think of myself as a compassion and kindness person, but joy, I’m not so sure it is for me. I feel happy and content, but joy feels a bit too active (and uncontrollable) for me. But joy can serve as both the input and the output of our practice as Thich Nhat Hanh describes above. I don’t have to feel it in any particular moment, but I’m always able to explore it.

As I prepared this week’s session, I gave myself time to intentionally practice joy. Joy is close cousins with gratitude so it seemed appropriate for the season. Beginning with gratitude can be an on-ramp to joy as we recognize the good things in our lives and the circumstances and people that brought them about. But it is important to specify what we mean by joy. The Pali/Sanskrit word Muditā means a certain kind of joy, an Appreciative or Empathetic Joy. One of my favorite meditations on joy comes from Brian Dean Williams and can be heard below.

Williams offers four phrases to silently repeat as we visualize someone we know who is doing really well right now:

May your happiness increase.
May your success continue to grow.
May you continue to create the conditions for peace and freedom in your life.
I see your success and I wish for it to grow. 

While meditating on joy can help settle the mind and make one feel more connected and happy, the most exciting quality to me is these empathetic qualities. Usually we think of empathy in terms of identifying and connecting with difficult emotions in others. But can it work the other way around? By finding joy in others, we can awaken the joy that lives in each of us. And there are many gates to joy including integrity, generosity, gratitude, trust, mindfulness and connection.

I’ve been practicing with an image of my son recently, who is doing really well. As I work through the practice, repeating phrases like “May you continue to create the conditions for peace and freedom in your life,” I open up a bit. I say to myself, “Wait, things are going pretty well for you as well.” Its okay to be joyful now.

How beautiful to think, “I know how you feel” when we see another person full of joy and delight! This activation carries the secret – that we hold the tools for joy inside of us. With presence, mindfulness, and of course practice, we can find joy and experience its benefits. This joy can be abundant and boundless, able to be experienced by others without limiting its effect.

smile.jpgTwo additional practices we worked with in our session were “Smile and Return” and Coherent Breathing. Mindfulness practice can be boiled down to three things: catching yourself, being gentle and beginning again. We do this over and over, no matter how many times we become lost in thought or distracted by a feeling. In our workshops, we have practiced returning our attention and even naming our distraction. In this practice, we use a physical smile to gently guide ourselves by to our breath, the focus of our observation. Try it out here:

Another nourishing practice is called coherent breathing. Turns out, they’ve even patented it (how can one patent breathing?) In this practice, you balance the rhythm of breathing, allow the breath to easily flow from inhale to exhale. At its simplest, you can simply count to 5 or 6 during each in breath and begin again, counting to 5 or 6 on the out breath. This practice can take us out of our reactive, fight or flight mode, by regulating the body and calming our emotions. Try it with this great guided practice from Jonathan Foust.

Blog-Post.jpgWhat brings joy to your heart? Let us know what you think and visit us to learn more. I have written and spoken extensively about joy in these and other articles: Where Does Joy Come From and How Can I Get It?More Time for Joy, and The Power of A Smile

From the Dhammapada

Live in joy,
In love,
Even among those who hate.

Live in joy,
In health,
Even among the afflicted.

Live in joy,
In peace,
Even among the troubled.

Look within.
Be still.
Free from fear and attachment,
Know the sweet joy of living in the way.