Breakthrough Newsletter

31 Aug 2017 What does it Mean to be Un-American
here is a union organizing song from the 1930's called
Which Side Are You On? [1] It says that when it comes to values and rights there are no neutral positions. The question needs to be answered by each of us in our time on our own issues - What are your values? Which side are you on?
 
At the same time, beware of "sides" and partisanship - they can lead to discord and dysfunction.
 
Un-Americanism
I recently heard a progressive commentator say that a new government initiative was Un-American. He was speaking about the ban of transgender people from the military. It could just as well have been a conservative saying the Affordable Care Act was Un-American creeping socialism or an Alt-Right KKK leader saying that racial equality is Un-American. We have a president who thinks regulations that stop coal mine owners from dumping their waste into rivers and streams is Un-American. Growing up I learned of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and its post-WW II hunt for Reds, and I was taught that the committee itself was thoroughly Un-American.
 
31 Jul 2017 How Do We Get the Results We Want? - The Power of Process Thinking
How often do you explore the question, " How did this happen?" or " How did we get here - into this situation? " These are questions that, when used wisely, enable you to learn from experience. Then there is the question " How can we make something happen? " The something can be anything.
 
To answer these questions, use process thinking:
Everything is caused by something. 
Every event, feeling, thought, word or action, miracles included, is the result of a process.  
 
A process is a set of steps. Processes are performed to accomplish something - produce a widget, process a claim, paint a picture, etc. On a personal level, processes occur internally (digestion, circulation, emotional responses) and in all our relationships. A process leads to an outcome. Every outcome is the result of a process. An outcome may be an event, good or bad mood, peace, prosperity, chronic pollution, corruption or war.
 
30 Jun 2017 Managing Uncertainty in a Volatile, Complex and Ambiguous World
Many people I have met prefer stability, certainty, simplicity and clarity to uncertainty and continuous change. They are discovering that the things we can be certain of are:
  • Continuous change and impermanence - nothing lasts forever, everything is subject to change. 
  • Uncertainty - with few exceptions, you can not know how things will turn out.
  • Disappointments - some things will not satisfy our expectations and desires.
  • Instability - What seems to be solid and permanent is really a momentary point in the ongoing process of change. Everything is fluid.
 
VUCA 
We live in a dynamic process characterized by VUCA - Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. 
 
Volatility is the speed and direction of change.
Uncertainty is about the degree to which outcomes can be predicted and issues and events understood. 
Complexity is the result of the number and nature of interacting forces and their effects on one another. 
Ambiguity represents the fuzziness of understanding.
 
31 May 2017 Share Your "Best Practices" without Evangelizing
When someone complimented me by saying they thought I was a good evangelist for mindfulness, I was disturbed. Soon after, someone asked me how best to share advice to a friend about applying mindfulness to skillfully manage emotions in the face of a parent's illness and impending passing.
 
When you come upon something "good", something that works really well, it is natural to want to share it. How do you share without evangelizing?
 
Evangelize
To evangelize is "to preach the gospel; to convert to Christianity" according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The Free Dictionary adds "to promulgate or promote (a doctrine or idea, for example) enthusiastically." Microsoft employs evangelists to promote its products and services. Firms cultivate customers who believe in their products so strongly that they try to get others to buy them. Adherents to religions, spiritual practices, methodologies and ideas attempt to convince others (and maybe themselves).
 
28 Apr 2017 Does Being Mindful Imply Behaving Ethically?
Christopher Titmus, a respected meditation teacher is quoted as saying: "I believe that ... defining mindfulness as being in the present moment in a non-judgmental way, inhibits any deep questioning by the staff of companies whose policies exploit people and the environment. This popular definition of mindfulness would make the Buddha turn over in his grave." Titmus goes on to say that "Mindfulness includes our capacity to make judgements in the present and act wisely and directly on those judgments." He points to the conflict that arises in individuals who are caught in organizations that teach mindfulness meditation and violate ethical boundaries. [1]
 
I can't imagine the Buddha turning over in his grave over anything, but that aside, let's look at the relationship among mindfulness, wisdom and ethical behavior.
 
 
31 Mar 2017 Balancing Creativity and Routine Repetition
There is unnecessary conflict between creativity and routine repetitive performance.
 
Optimal performance is the sustainable achievement of multiple, often conflicting, objectives in the most effective way. The performance can be anything - producing a work of art, dance, the completion of a project in a business setting or generally living life in the world. Regardless of the kind of performance, doing it optimally requires an adaptive approach that balances both creativity and routine repetitive performance. 
 
Creativity
Creativity enables the integration of elements like knowledge, experience, resilience, emotional, social and spiritual intelligence, project, conflict and change management, process and systems thinking, equanimity and more, into a cohesive process that is adapted to the situation at hand. Creativity is thinking out of the box. It is breaking with the past. It is what creates the vision and beliefs that drive performance. 
 
Moments of creativity are characterized by being awake with a sense of clarity, calm presence, exhilaration, mindful awareness, focus and resiliency.
 
28 Feb 2017 The Power of Equanimity to Enable Positive Action
Equanimity is a key to being able to navigate the sea of change in these days of political divisions, resistance, aggression, turmoil and uncertainty, and to play your role in the unfolding drama. It is a critical element in healthy relationships.
 
The Fighting Cock
Lao Tzu tells of an Emperor who turns a prized rooster over to his bird trainer to make it a master fighter. Every day the emperor asked the trainer, "Is the bird ready?" The trainer responded first that the bird is too vain and confident, then, he's too easily aroused; he gets angry, threatening and excited. Finally the bird is ready.  He  stands serene; calmly present. His power is transmitted subtly by his presence. He is not aggressive, ruffled or angry.  "No other fighter will stand against him. They will turn and flee." 1
 
 
31 Jan 2017 Spiritual Intelligence and the Quality of Leadership
With the inauguration of a new U.S. president and the many articles and books on organizational leadership, it is critical that we have a clear sense of the difference between good and bad leaders.
 
A leader is someone who motivates others to achieve objectives. The qualities that enable a person to lead include cognitive analytical intelligence (IQ), the ability to communicate effectively, charisma, sufficient self-awareness and self-control to avoid unintended emotional reactions, confidence, the ability to work with others in collaborative efforts and empathy - the ability to understand what others believe, their mental models, and the ability to sense how others feel.
 
31 Dec 2016 Expectation and Disappointment
A recent loved one's disappointment and my own reaction to the presidential phenomena unfolding before our eyes has stimulated this exploration of disappointment and its relationship to aspirations and expectations, hopes and fears.
 
Hopefully, readers will NOT be disappointed with this attempt at bringing light into the darkness that befalls us when we are disappointed. The challenge is to learn from disappointment, to become increasingly aware, resilient and able to transform our negative experiences into the energy that fuels loving kindness, compassion, and sympathetic joy for those we love and those we don't.
 
30 Nov 2016 Just One Thing to Do: Non-meditation in Daily Life
Multitasking seems to be a norm. More and more we are texting, talking on the phone, listening to music, watching TV, while carrying on a conversation, preparing a meal, eating dinner, attending a meeting, writing an email, or driving.
 
Is your goal to optimize your performance and live a happy, meaningfully productive life? If it is, then fully engage in your activity and perform it as perfectly as possible without distraction, anxiety, and strain. This doesn't necessarily mean that you shouldn't multitask. It means that if you do, do it consciously and understand the benefits and liabilities.
 
 
31 Oct 2016 Working with Obstacles to Manage Your Mind
If you want to manage your mind you need to be able to handle the things that get in the way of clarity and peace.
 
The Goal
In meditation, the goal is to promote stress relief, wisdom, compassion, optimal performance, healthy relationships, peace of mind, happiness and health. It is achieved by taking the effort to cultivate mindfulness and concentration so you can experience and recognize the natural, relaxed unconstrained clarity of your mind.
30 Sep 2016 Can You Handle the Truth?
A friend's daughter told her that she heard that if the government let Syrian refugees into the country, middle class people would be forced to take them into their homes. Hundreds of thousands believe unsubstantiated statements that when fact checked are found to be false. The assertion that Barack Obama is a Muslim or is not a natural born U. S. citizen was found to have no basis in fact, yet there are still many who fully believe that the assertions are true and the facts are part of a conspiracy. How many people care at all about the truth?
 
Adolph Hitler is quoted as saying "If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough it will be believed." This has been a technique used by demagogues for centuries. Well-meaning proselytizers and evangelists pass off belief, myth, misinterpretation, hypothesis and fantasy as truth. The less well-meaning make things up to manipulate those who are not motivated to check the facts or who view the facts themselves as lies.

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31 Aug 2016 Manage Your Mind: What to do with Obsessive Thinking
A thought comes up reminding you of an important, often troubling issue. It triggers a train of thoughts that gets stronger and stronger as it takes you through scenarios of what you could of or should have said or done or how things can turn out in the future. Your stories repeat themselves over and over again. Emotions are triggered. You are more and more troubled as you try to, but cannot stop the train.
 
Obsessive thinking is annoying and, when the thoughts are about negative events, stressful. It is restlessness and worry, hindrances to concentration and peace of mind. Obsessive thinking gets in the way of clear thinking. it is a distraction and a waste of energy.

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17 Aug 2016 Politics, Compassion and Rationality
When does compassion, respect for human rights and good sense justify the need for government intervention in the economy and on social issues?
 
I have tended to stay away from politics. However, the current climate compels me to speak out.
 
The Divide
The divide between conservative and progressive views has become more pronounced. Demagogues are on the rise, armed with scapegoating, lies and promises of a return to greatness, security and economic gain for their voting blocs.  
 
Conservative politicians are at odds with the federal government over laws to protect gay rights, voting rights, abortion rights, the right to use marijuana and taxing and spending in general. Large numbers of people deny human involvement in global warming, are creationists and are opposed to gay rights based on religious beliefs.

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30 Jun 2016 Liberate Your Mind
Liberate your mind to avoid the confusion that comes with trying to make sense of this complex world in which we live.
  
When I reflect on it, it becomes clear that life is a mosaic of themes - personal, work, family, social, spiritual, economic, and political. Though, unlike a mosaic, the lines between the themes are not firm, the themes blend together as in a symphony or abstract painting.
 
Themes overlap and influence one another, for example for some people, the spiritual theme occurs in and around the others; economics and politics are tightly coupled; politics and religious beliefs may impact social and family relationships. 
 
As in a symphony, the result may be beautiful or not. The themes may be in conflict with one another. The lines between them may be either too weak or too strong. They may be (or seem to be) perfectly aligned with one another.
 
 
31 May 2016 Mindfulness and How You Can Improve Yours
Mindfulness has hit the mainstream. You might want it because it promises enhanced performance, stress relief, better health, healthier relationships and more.
 
If you want to become more mindful, start by understanding what that means, why you want it, and what you need to do to get it. Also, be aware of what you might be faced with.
 
Learner Beware
Mindfulness meditation is taught by people with varying degrees of personal experience, knowledge of the practice, motivation, and teaching skills.
 
Different understands abound. For example, someone at a yoga and meditation center in Chicago explained "Being mindful is simply focusing your mind only on the one thing that you are doing. In meditation that might be just concentrating on your breathing. Or in the case of a walking meditation, just feeling each step and not letting your mind start to worry about your emails,.... "
 
This describes concentration and leaves out the fundamental difference between concentration and mindfulness. 

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30 Apr 2016 Reflection on Passover: Free Your Mind
Why is this night different from all other nights?
 
Passover has long been a favorite holiday, even as I transitioned from Jew to agnostic to yogi, Buddhist and beyond.
 
It is a celebration of spring and rebirth, cleansing, freedom, truth and non-attachment. It is an excuse to drink a lot of wine, a reminder that ritual intoxication is a vehicle for transcending the intellect to experience gratitude for the miracle of our awareness and commitment to freedom. It is also a reminder that the wine is not necessary.

At the surface is the story: the migration of the Hebrews to Egypt, their success, their enslavement, the struggle for release, release, wandering in the desert, getting the Torah, heading for the holy land.
 
31 Mar 2016 Optimal Performance: Knowing Who You Are
Have you ever experienced being in flow, fully immersed in a complex activity like writing or reading, dancing, singing, listening, walking, solving a problem, communicating, playing in a sport, doing yoga, running or just sitting. You are an actor, playing your role. There is no director; no script. It's performance time. Everything is just happening. There is a sense of clarity and expansiveness. YOU have vanished. Performance in these moments is as close to perfect as it gets.
 
How often do you experience such moments? How often could you be experiencing them?
 
Flow can be cultivated. Imagine being completely immersed without distraction in whatever you do for increasingly longer periods of time. You would experience optimal performance, free of unnecessary stress.
 
29 Feb 2016 What It Means to Be Progressive
Let's put political labels aside and explore what it means to be progressive.
 
To be progressive simply means to be in favor of progress, to recognize that change is inevitable and that we have some power to influence that change so that it is for the better.
 
The term Progressive has become a label for liberal democrats. It is an apt reminder of the difference between right-wing conservatives, left-wing ideologues and those who are left, including open-minded conservatives who believe in progress.

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29 Jan 2016 Get REAL - Teach the Children
The other day I had the opportunity to teach a lesson on meditation and Yoga to my granddaughter's second grade class.
 
What a wonderful opportunity to introduce young children to teachings that promote self-control, loving kindness, and healthy living. Schools all over the country are beginning to recognize the need to add meditation to their curriculum.
 
30 Dec 2015 Shedding Light to Combat Ignorance
The winter solstice brings with it a diminishing of darkness and the return of light. This is a season for reflecting on miracles, love and renewal, yet we are facing a wave of fear based bigotry that will not go away if we close our eyes and imagine that everyone's hearts and minds will be filled with good will for all.
 
Confrontation is necessary when hate mongers spread their message and embellish it with misinformation. When we sit quietly in the presence of a person who is talking about the need to keep Muslim Syrian refugees out of the country to protect us from terrorism we fuel their ignorance and make it possible for them to convince others. The same is true for ideologues, politicians and racists who spout off based on one dimensional arguments that leave out inconvenient realities and bend the truth.
 
Confrontation, in this context, means speaking up and inserting facts and alternative views. It means shedding light to expose and combat ignorance.
 
30 Nov 2015 Worry: Will it Help?
"Do your best. Then, don't worry, be happy" Meher Baba
 
In a recent NY Times article, worry was reported to be beneficial. Those who worried about an outcome tended to have a less stressful reaction when the worrisome outcome occurred and a greater positive response when things worked out well. Those who did not worry, tended to be devastated when their optimism was proven to be unfounded and just mildly satisfied when things worked out as expected.
 
On the other side of the issue is the attitude expressed by the Rudolf Abel character in "Bridge of Spies" who when asked "Aren't you worried?" in reference to being convicted and sentenced to death for being a Soviet spy, responds coolly "Would it help?". 
 
30 Oct 2015 Peaceful Mind

Who doesn't want a peaceful mind? Most religions and wisdom philosophies seek peace. Christ is the Prince of peace. Peace is shalom and salaam, preferred greetings in Judaism and Islam. Shanti, peace, is a Hindu prayer. Buddhists equate peaceful mind with Nirvana.

Peaceful mind is mental and emotional calm, happiness and clarity, unconditioned by the events around us and our own feelings and thoughts. Peaceful mind is expansive, limitless, crystal clear, kind and compassionate. Perhaps you have experienced it for yourself. That sense of everything being alright just as it is.

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30 Sep 2015 In The World But Not Of It
What does it mean to be in the world but not of it? How does it make sense in practical, everyday life?  How does it make for a happy, less stressed and more productive life?
 
Wisdom traditions invite us to explore the idea that we are more than we seem to be. The personality we identify as "me" is a dynamic process rather than a fixed object; a verb as opposed to a noun. 
 
Those who are of the world dedicate their lives to the pursuit of material things and to reinforcing the idea that the ego is the center of everything.  To them there is nothing else. 
 
31 Aug 2015 Transforming Anger with Intention and Equanimity
Anger is a natural emotion and one which has a strong negative impact on one's own health and on anyone who is the target of angry thoughts, speech or behavior.
 
The responses to last month's article on forgiveness ranged from mild outrage at the thought that unforgivable acts were forgivable to appreciation for clarifying what forgiveness is. One person dropped off the mailing list, perhaps in protest.
 
Forgiveness means that hatred and anger are not carried around and expressed towards the perpetrator of even the most terrible acts. It does not mean that the acts are condoned or in any way accepted. Nor does it mean ignoring or suppressing anger and fear that naturally arise when confronted with negative acts, including one's own.
 
30 Jul 2015 Forgiveness Is the Best Revenge

I find it inspirational to hear people in the midst of grief and loss forgive the murderer of their loved ones or their own torturers.

 

Yet, just today, a holocaust survivor was criticized for extending a hug of forgiveness to a 93-year-old ex-Nazi functionary at Auschwitz convicted of complicity in thousands of murders. She said, "Forgiveness is the best revenge. They no longer have any power over me."
 

Some people I have spoken with, believe that the recent expressions of forgiveness by the families of those murdered in Charleston are false. Some of those critics believe that to really come to forgiveness the anger must be expressed.

 

Others believe that there are "some acts that are so terrible that we should recognize them as such. We should recognize them as beyond forgiving."1 Ms. Gay ends her OP Ed piece with "They [white people] want to believe it is possible to heal from such profound and malingering trauma because to face the openness of the wounds racism has created in our society is too much. I, for one, am done forgiving."

 

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30 Jun 2015 Happily Waiting: What to Do with Your Impatience

 

How often are you frustrated, anxious and impatient while waiting for the bus or stuck in traffic, or waiting for the doctor who is already a half hour late.

 

Next time try this mantra "Happily waiting."

 

Mantras are powerful sounds, words or phrases that carry meaning. Their purpose is to change your mind. The Happily Waiting mantra cuts through impatience and puts you in touch with a natural sense of ease and well-being. It is a reminder that you can be happy anytime, anywhere, no matter what you are doing, simply by remembering that you have a choice.

 

You can choose to change your normal reactions. You can choose to accept what is happening and wait happily.

 

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29 May 2015 Applying Wisdom to Manage Stress

Whether you shoot for stress relief, optimal performance or Nirvana, is up to you. Some are satisfied with simple stress relief: meditation as medication. Others want more: meditation for liberation.

 

But, meditation by itself is not enough. The way you view the world and your place in it influences your happiness and stress levels.

 

Meditation is one third of a program for stress management and the pursuit of happiness. Wisdom and skillful living are the other two thirds of the program. 

 

Meditation is training the mind to increase mindfulness and strengthen concentration. Wisdom is about our intentions and how we understand the world; our mental models and beliefs. Skillful living is about how we translate wisdom, mindfulness and concentration into positive, ethical action and optimal performance.

 

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30 Apr 2015 Relationship Yoga

Relationship is an opportunity to become increasingly open, consciously aware and loving. For some, it is a path to enlightenment. At the same time relationship can be a trap that reinforces the ego and its neuroses and causes suffering.

 

The difference is the degree of mindfulness and wisdom that the participants bring to the game. Without the conscious awareness that mindfulness and wisdom bring, relationship is people relating to one another through their projections and needs. When this happens, there is disappointment. When the other turns out to be whom they are instead of whom you want them to be. Disappointment leads to arguments and, depending on the health and needs of the partners, to accommodations that grow out of a need for security and unhealthy attachment, or to separation.

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31 Mar 2015 Stress Relief and Happiness -

Meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation, has hit the mainstream. Individuals, hospitals, corporations, sports teams and even the military are exploring, practicing and promoting meditation.

 

As with Yoga, meditation can be taught by both deeply committed and experienced teachers and by those who have taken a short course and are teaching from a book rather than their personal experience.

 

Knowing what you are doing, why you are doing it and what constraints there might be is important if you are going to achieve the goals that motivate you to meditate.

 

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27 Feb 2015 Perseverance: Keep on Keeping on

To accomplish anything of real importance, whether it is completing a project or sustaining a committed relationship, requires perseverance.

Perseverance means applying continued effort to achieve something, despite difficulties or delays; it is the expression of determination. 

 

"No one succeeds without effort... Those who succeed owe their success to perseverance." ~ Ramana Maharshi


"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." ~ Albert Einstein

 

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2 Jan 2015 New Year Wishes for Wisdom and Compassion

May the New Year bring wisdom, peace, good health and prosperity to all.

 

May we transform hatred, fear and anger so problems like racism, the use of government sponsored torture, the rise of self-centered nationalism, vast disparity in wealth, religion based hatred and strife and epidemic disease, fuel an ever-increasing expression of loving kindness, compassion and joy in the good things that come to others.  

 

May there be a general recognition that the purveyors of selfishness, fear and hatred should not lead.

 

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28 Nov 2014 Wisdom and Right View
Wisdom is the key to happiness. The way you see the world and know how it works is critical to your ability to live skillfully and perform optimally in whatever you do.

 

What is wisdom?

Wisdom is applying accurate knowledge, understanding, experience, insight and good judgment to living. Wisdom is the ability to take appropriate actions at a given time.

 

The first Psalm says

"Blessed are the man and woman who have grown beyond their greed 

And who have put an end to their hatred and no longer nourish illusions.

But they delight in the way things are and keep their hearts open, day and night.

They are like trees planted near flowing rivers which bear fruit when they are ready.

Their leaves will not wither. Everything they do will succeed."

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31 Oct 2014 Stop Blaming

"Every Hour an Acre of Louisiana sinks into the sea. Who is to blame?" That is the headline of a NY Times Magazine article. A young black man is shot and killed. Who is to blame, the young black man for being menacing or the shooter? People from poor families stay on welfare for generations, are they to blame or is it something else? A partner cheats, who is to blame, the one who cheated or the other partner who is verbally abusive and emotionally unavailable?

 

Blaming seems a knee jerk reaction when anything goes wrong. Sometimes it seems as if we spend more time blaming than on looking forward together to remediate or resolve the problem we are trying to blame on someone. By blaming we can relieve our frustration. We can avoid the complex realities of life and get back to the illusion of certainty and simplicity.

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29 Sep 2014 Fall Wake Up Call
A few weeks ago I fell while walking down the street. Some clear plastic sheeting strips were on the ground, my feet got caught up in them, and down I went. I put my hands out to break the fall but still my face hit the ground. I felt my front teeth touch the cement, my nose, my forehead.  
  
I came away dazed, a cut over my eye that required stitches, scrapes, and a bruised chest, arm and shoulder along with a greater appreciation for the power of direct experience and mindful acceptance of the fact that my body is vulnerable. My body and I have this really nice relationship. After the initial shock, there was deeply felt relief that this body, with which I have a very special relationship, was only slightly injured.   
29 Aug 2014 I am the sky - Happiness and Less Stress

Happiness, performance improvement, stress reduction, and the ability to manage pain are bringing people to meditation practice. Teachers and trainers are bringing the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation to individuals, corporations, hospitals, schools and even the U.S. Army. While mindfulness meditation is highly effective on its own, its effectiveness is greatly enhanced when it is combined with a mental attitude of objective observation along with wisdom and compassion.

 

Mental attitude is a very powerful factor. Basic beliefs, mental models and thoughts shape our words and actions.

 

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30 Jul 2014 Making Choices is a Tricky Business

The most serious, life changing, choices are never black and white no-brainers. They require decisions like about what job to take or leave, who and when to marry or divorce, whether to have a baby, and whether to give up material pursuits for spiritual pursuits.

Some argue that any decision or choice you make is life changing. Jean-Paul Sartre says "We are our Choices." What we choose to do sets off a chain reaction that affects our future and the future of others. It is the law of karma - what we do colors our mind and causes effects into the future. Consider the decision to give a dollar to a homeless person. How does it change you? How does it change the homeless person?

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26 Jun 2014 Breakthroughs - AHA Moments that Change Your View

We need frequent and profound breakthroughs to achieve optimal performance - the ability to sustainably achieve often conflicting goals in a complex and ever changing environment in the most effective way.  

What is a breakthrough? What is it breaking through? What is it breaking through from and what is it breaking through to?

 

According to the Free Dictionary a breakthrough is a "Productive insight; clear (often sudden) understanding of a complex situation." A breakthrough is an AHA moment, an epiphany, that changes your view.

 

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28 May 2014 Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a step towards a happier and more responsive life, one built on a foundation of loving acceptance.

 

Holding grudges on a personal level leads to family feuds, anger, and isolation. It breaks up families and ends friendships. Fathers and brothers kill daughters and sisters in the name of family honor instead of forgiving them for whatever they might have done or not done. Brothers and sisters stop talking over some perceived injustice or inequity. Parents disown children and children separate themselves from parents. Old Friends disengage over a slight or hurtful encounter. Long married couples endure lifelong enmity because one or the other can't forgive an indiscretion. At work, the inability to forgive past offenses makes working together difficult if not impossible.

 

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30 Apr 2014 Beyond Optimism and Pessimism to Objectivity, Acceptance and Faith in the Future

We may rightly try to confront injustices, but some things can only be seen, noted, and accepted for what they are. Stephen Altschuler, "Sitting Practice Redux"

  

Optimism and Pessimism

It is easy to be overcome by pessimism and the depression and anger it brings, when faced with the condition of the environment, terrorism, perpetual war, economic uncertainty and politicians and corporate leaders who have short range views and lack the courage to address long term issues.

 

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31 Mar 2014 How Much Government is Best?

Does the majority have the right to dictate behavior to the minority? Does the minority have responsibilities to the majority? How much government is really necessary?

 
In a coop apartment building a substantial number of people have initiated a smoking ban. The ban, if passed, would prohibit smoking anywhere in the building, including in individual apartments.
 
Being a recovering smoker and borderline anarchist who dislikes the smell of second hand tobacco smoke, I come to the question with conflict. Does compassion for the nicotine addicted include allowing them to bring discomfort to others?
 
28 Feb 2014 We Have a Problem

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but, in case you are not aware of it, we have a problem.  

 

We face a complex of issues that include a growing gap between rich and poor, global warming, the rise of violent terrorist groups that owe no allegiance to nation states and an ever quickening advance in applied information technology and robotics.

 

At the same time we suffer from a shortage of leaders, an overabundance of politicians and ideologues and majorities that lack both a long term view and the patience, and maybe the capacity, to acknowledge and address the issues at hand. A very small minority hold the reins of power and the world's wealth. The vast and growing majority are poor and getting poorer. Anger is boiling over into acts of terrorism, rebellion and violent clashes between religious and ethnic groups.

 

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28 Jan 2014 Insight Meditation
If you think of the mind as a kind of muscle, then meditation is an exercise program to cultivate that muscle. It works to make the mind stronger and more flexible.
 

Strength is measured in the ability to remember, the capacity to focus and maintain concentrated attention on a chosen object, the ability to take action to consciously achieve objectives.

 

A more flexible mind is one that is not bound by convention or habit. It learns. It is a mind that adapts to the needs of any situation while adhering to the highest values. It has the ability to objectively observe without reacting and without prejudice.

 

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31 Dec 2013 "Imagine No Religion"

Recently a 94 year old woman was reported by the police to have been paralyzed from the waist down and stabbed several times by members of a mob of Buddhists on a rampage to kill Muslims. The abbot of a Buddhist monastery reported the killing as a ruse by Muslims to make Buddhists look bad. The chief of police, a Buddhist, acknowledged that it was Buddhists, but denied using the word cruel to characterize the crime because he didn't want to take sides. Buddhist religious leaders are preaching hatred and motivating their followers to drive Muslims from their country, out of fear that the Muslims will take over.

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29 Nov 2013 Being Present

The world is spinning and everything in it is in constant motion. Physical conditions, relationships, personal preferences, moods, values, beliefs, are all in motion. Nothing is fixed. Of course some things take longer to change than others. They give the impression of being permanent, but when we watch them closely over time we can see the changes and often predict their outcome. Mountains will be washed away; oceans displaced by mountains.

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31 Oct 2013 Concentrated Attention and Multi-tasking

Concentrated attention is a critical resource. 

 

Multi-tasking is performing multiple things at the same time. We really can't do more than one thing at a time, but, we can interweave activities so that it seems as if we are multi-tasking.

 

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30 Sep 2013 Priorities Drive Decisions

What are your priorities? 

 

Priorities set direction and drive decisions. They help to use scarce resources to do the most important things in the most effective way.  

 

What's more important, the hunger for ice cream or the commitment to a diet?  What is a higher priority, inner peace, security, social acceptance, wealth or power?  Long vs. short-term gains, saving money or having the best time money can buy. There are priorities associated with the thousands of decisions we make in our lives whether we are business minded or simply focusing on the day-to-day process of our personal lives. 

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30 Aug 2013 End the Blame Game

It is a fact of life; things go wrong. That is, they don't go the way we'd like them to go or the way we expected them to go. When they do go wrong, either we can focus on blame or we can accept things as they are, look at what caused the problem, and decide what to do about it.

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31 Jul 2013 Facing Crises Mindfully Transforming Reactivity to Responsiveness

It is far more effective to respond than to react. To respond implies thinking about actions and their outcomes. To react implies action without thought.

 

People face psychological crises, some large and some small, at various points in their lives. The crises may include things like feeling dissatisfied with personal accomplishments, no matter how many there are and the way others perceive them, or feeling dissatisfied with a current work or life situation, seeking to "remake themselves" while feeling that it is too late or too costly to do so. Other common crises are over relationship issues, for example, whether a partner was the right choice or not even after decades together.

 

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28 Jun 2013 Breaking Habits

Have you ever done the same unskillful thing repeatedly and complained about the undesirable results? Have you blamed fate, your parents or others for what happen and why it happened?

 

Maybe it has been something like over eating only to find yourself uncomfortable and, over time, get increasingly fat. Maybe it has been buying something that seemed to be just what you needed to make you happy only to find yourself disappointed and broke. Or, maybe it has been falling into an argument with a spouse or partner over some minor issue and watching it spiral into a major battle. If you are in business, maybe you have chronically underestimated what it takes to get some project done.

 

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31 May 2013 Loving Kindness, Non-harming and Equanimity

Loving kindness is not usually associated with business and optimal performance. But in every realm of our lives we are there as people. As people we are in relationship with ourselves and the others around us. The more we can express the innate qualities of loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, the healthier and happier we become. The healthier and happier we are the more we are likely to optimally perform whatever it is we do.

 

Recent research indicates that kindness is inborn as well as learned. It is heartening to know that most people are motivated by being kind to others. It makes sense for a social animal, such as we are, to be wired that way. It's our nature. 

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30 Apr 2013 Step Back to Refresh, Relax & Refuel

Bringing mindful awareness to everything you do is a prescription for highly effective living and optimal performance.

 

Vacations, retreats, and Sabbaths have a common purpose, to step back from day to day activity and rest. That period can be dedicated to oneself, the universe, or to God. Regardless, it is a period of rest; a time for closing off from the often frantic pace of day to day life to reflect with a more objective perspective from a calm, clear frame of mind.

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29 Mar 2013 Healthy Conflict and Semantics

"Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict -- alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence."Dorothy Thompson

  

Recently I was giving a talk on conscious conflict management. One of the attendees, a management consultant, said that he had eradicated conflict from one of his client organizations. His point was that conflict was intrinsically bad and that therefore there could be no need for conscious conflict management.

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28 Feb 2013 Breaking Free from the Boredom of Repetition:

"And the seasons they go 'round and 'round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game" Joni Mitchell, The Circle Game

Whether you are a business executive, technician, or artist, whether you stay at home or go off to work, your life is filled with repetitious cycles. The day begins, you arise, do your routines, morning, afternoon, and evening, go to bed and before you know it you arise and do it all over again. There are weekly cycles, monthly cycles, annual cycles, and more.

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31 Jan 2013 Resolutions, Self-Improvement and Self Compassion

One year follows the next. New Year celebrations are opportunities to look back to reflect on the past and to look forward to plan for the future, whether to continue on as we have been or whether to institute changes. Looking forward we make resolutions. These are improvement goals. Self-improvement is at the heart of resolutions.

Resolutions and Continuous Improvement

There are different kinds of changes, ones we have no control over, ones we can influence but not avoid and ones we can choose to make. 

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28 Dec 2012 Wisdom: Foundation for Optimal Performance

Optimal performance is gracefully, happily and effectively achieving multiple, often conflicting, goals and objectives, continuously, as everything changes.

 

Wisdom is an ingredient; some say the essential ingredient, in optimal performance.

 

Wisdom is many things to many people but in the end all agree that it is the absence of ignorance. Wisdom dispels ignorance, cutting the roots of the problems ignorance causes.

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29 Nov 2012 When Robots Replace Human Labor

Imagine a time when there are so few jobs that unemployment of 50% or more becomes the norm.

 

Imagine further a society in which people are provided a livable, comfortable income just for being. Alternatively, imagine a society in which people are left on their own to make ends meet with no source of income.

 

Are we in for a Utopian world where each is afforded enough to more than sustain himself or herself or a dystopia in which a huge underclass is left to subsist, starve or rebel?

 

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25 Oct 2012 Happiness

Who doesn't want to be happy?

 

"The pursuit of happiness is enshrined as a fundamental right in the United States and occupies most of us. But what do we really know about happiness? Can we study it? Are we born with it? Can we make ourselves happier? Who's happy and who's not, and why? What makes us happy?" [1]

 

What does happiness really mean?

 

What is Happiness?
You know what happiness is for yourself. You can tell the difference between happy and unhappy people by observing their behavior and the way they emote an aura of pleasant peacefulness and joy. You get a sense of it through personal experience. You know when you are happy and when you are not and to what degree.

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28 Sep 2012 Managing Anger

Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.   

~ Aristotle 

Who has not experienced anger? 

Anger arises when someone or something has not fulfilled expectations, an injustice has been done, someone has attacked oneself or one's idea or property, or when things are not happening fast enough or slow enough.  

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28 Aug 2012 Cultivate Optimal Performance: Focus on Your Body

Optimal performance is living with ease while maximizing your effectiveness to accomplish your goals and objectives.

 

In the realms of white collar work, many of the creative arts and, increasingly, leisure activities the focus is mental. The intellect, concentration, memory, analysis are exercised, often to the exclusion of body awareness.

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31 Jul 2012 Extending Your Boundaries:

"A human being is a part of the whole, called by us, universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness, that separation. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.

 

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion, to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

 

Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security." - Einstein 

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28 Jun 2012 Writing Your Play and Directing Your Life

Imagine being in a play where your character is dissatisfied with his/her life, experiences fear, anger, jealousy, anxiety, impatience, sadness and more. She reacts and behaves unskillfully. As long as the actor realizes that it is an act, no problem; there is entertainment.

 

But if the actor takes on the persona of the character and suffers and behaves as if the play was real, that is a problem.

 

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31 May 2012 Overcoming Anxiety - Mindful Acceptance

Whether at work or home, fear and anxiety can get in the way of optimal performance. When our reaction is driven by any emotion we run the risk of doing more harm than good. 

 

In working relationships some fear to speak up when they see something wrong, others fear failure. There is fear of reprisal, embarrassment, career death, being fired, being different, etc. On a more personal level, there is fear of poverty, becoming homeless, being injured or stricken by illness, loneliness, death, success, elevators, and many others. 

 

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30 Apr 2012 Freedom from Slavery

"Emancipate yourself from mental slavery;  

None but ourselves can free our minds"

  

Mental slavery is being bound to conditioned responses, habits or old mental models. It gets in the way of optimal performance because it stifles the creative thinking needed to adapt to the needs of the moment.

 

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29 Mar 2012 Breaking Through Boredom

Probably, everyone has been bored at one time or another. Though, these days with handheld devices bringing a continuous flow of distracting attractions, to say nothing of the unlimited capability of the mind to create distractions, maybe boredom will become a thing of the past. We will become adept at switching from a conversation or meeting discussion to email or chat so every moment is filled with "interesting" if not meaningful things to do.

 

Sometimes when I talk to people about meditation their first reaction is, "Oh I couldn't sit still for more than a few minutes, it's so boring." As we get more and more moment to moment stimulation from media and our electronic toys, we are likely to find moments without distractions, hard to take. This gets in the way of optimal performance.

 

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29 Feb 2012 Discovery - Change Your Mind and Change Your Life

"The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind."

~ William James

 

Two thousand years earlier, the Buddha said that

The thought manifests as the word;

The word manifests as the deed; 

The deed develops into habit; 

And habit hardens into character; 

So watch the thought and its ways with care, 

And let it spring from love 

Born out of concern for all beings ...

 

Buddha, Dhammapad

 

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31 Jan 2012 Possibilities

Possibility is the condition of being possible. When something is possible it is within the limits of ability, capacity or realization; it can be conceived, take place or be done. When we say "possibilities" we can mean that something has potential value, as in "That Company has great possibilities".

 

With possibilities there are no assurances. Probabilities determine how likely and under what conditions possibilities can be realized. But probabilities are based on opinion, they are guesses and often the guesses are skewed by attitudes and beliefs. Probabilities can also be changed by changing the conditions that promote the possibilities.    

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27 Dec 2011 Be Happy

"When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy'. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life." 

John Lennon

 

Can you be happy even when things aren't going the way you'd like them to be going?

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28 Nov 2011 Relax

Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are. 

 

~Chinese Proverb

 

Relaxing is a secret to success. Whether seeking personal enlightenment or seeking to get better at performing more worldly work, the ability to calmly and coolly address the task at hand without any excess tension is key. When you observe excellent performers whether in business, the arts or sports do they seem tense? No they don't. They are alert and relaxed. They are ready to respond to whatever arises.

 

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28 Oct 2011 Visioning - Balancing Strong Intention and Precise Action

Formal process and precision action are very important but clear, heartfelt intention is critical. Here is a story from the Hassidic Tradition.

 

"When the Baal Shem Tov saw misfortune threatening the people, it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire,say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished and the misfortune averted.

  

    Later, when his disciple, the celebrated Magid of Mezerich, had occasion, for the same reason, to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say: "Creator of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer." And again the miracle would be accomplished.

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29 Sep 2011 Ideologues, Idealists and Pragmatists

Ideologues seem to come out in force when times become chaotic. People seek simplistic solutions and those are the kind ideologues specialize in.

The recent conflict over the budget, spending and taxing pits ideologues against pragmatists more than it pits liberals vs. conservatives. But, the clash between ideologues vs. pragmatists is not limited to the realm of government. It influences relationships of every kind in businesses, projects and families.

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28 Sep 2011 Facets of Diversity`

Following a talk on diversity by Larry Yang of the East Bay Insight Meditation Center and team building activities in organizations I can see the power and importance of diversity. 


Diversity offers a great opportunity for breakthrough into optimal performance on a personal, family, team and organizational level.  

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29 Jul 2011 Managing Your Mind

"By your own efforts

Waken yourself, watch yourself.

And live joyfully.

You are the master."

Gautama Buddha 

 

Watch the transitions from thoughts and sensations to behavior. Observe sensing, associating, wanting, fantasizing, doing.  

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