Category Archives: Mindfulness

Teens Discover Context and Compassion

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I’m sitting at a café having miso-mushroom soup, processing my meeting with an inner city high school principal about expanding the Mindfulness and Cultural Development program next year. The pilot was so successful; she would like to see it reach the entire freshman class. “I want them to have a full 4 years of support from the pressures they are under!”

“I think they are heroes for just being able to pay attention to their teachers in this academically challenging program. Some of them are dealing with such intense problems at home and in their neighborhoods.” The sole school counselor, serving 550 students with everything from college applications to behavioral interventions, nods her assent.

An image flashes across my mind from earlier this month. A lanky sweet looking girl in a yellow and orange bikini roughly kneed and handcuffed by a burly Texan policeman. The infraction? Going to a pool party.

To be a teenager in an inner-city these days is to be faced with issues far more complicated than first loves or summer jobs at the ice cream shop.

There isn’t an easy answer to the complex social, cultural, economic, environmental, and physical problems that face this next generation. But, there is a potent and profound way to empower our young adults, a way to help them cultivate inner strength for outer stability.

That’s where this innovative program Mindfulness & Cultural Development comes in. With all the benefits of classical mindfulness training, students gain objectivity on the thought process and de-stress through focus and non-judgment. Then they cultivate one more skill, which may make all the difference. They look at their experience in a vast context of cultural and evolutionary development. It’s fun. It’s powerful. And it creates space for heart and compassion in spades.

How does “context” create compassion? Continue reading

The Spirituality of Fitness

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by Janice Lennard

I am convinced that there is a direct parallelism between spirituality and fitness. Indeed, the foundation and centeredness achieved through regularly practiced physical activity is attributed to the interlacing of spirituality throughout the entire experience of exercise.

The commonalities of spirituality and fitness include, but are not limited to:

Discipline, Commitment, Focus, Mindset, Lifestyle and The ability to say “no.”

The aforementioned list most certainly has room for improvement and modification, but don’t we also have room for improvement and modification? After all, our bodies are constantly changing, and we modify our actions and behaviors to accommodate the continuous  changes we experience throughout our lives. It is through disciplined exercise and a spiritual mindset that change is embraced rather than feared. Continue reading

Evaluating Intention From the Inside, Out

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Normally when we discuss intention, it’s about our internal directive and how we want to achieve something. Whether that is being more loving, maintaining balance in our lives, or practicing patience; it’s very easy to understand our own objectives. But what about when it comes to others?

For instance, what about the driver who cuts you off in traffic? Do you believe they’re being aggressive? Or the person who repeatedly kicks the back of your seat in a movie theater or airplane? Are they being deliberately annoying?

How we interpret another’s intention actually reveals more about ourselves than them. The stories we fabricate of what we’re observing, can be subtle but rampant. Yet this is the cognitive energy we lug around when we unconsciously follow these unexplored guesses that usually result in lashing, negative and superficial judgments. Continue reading

Discovering Your Best Look First Thing in the Morning

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The alarm goes off, waking you to another long day.  Before your feet even hit the floor, you begin your body-checking rituals.

Ritual #1 – Lay perfectly flat on your bed.  Can you feel your hipbones? 

Ritual #2 -  Stand sideways in front of the mirror.  Does your stomach look “flat-enough”?

Ritual #3 – Step on the scale.  Have you lost any weight since yesterday?

The answers to these questions determine not only how you will think and feel for the rest of your day, but also how you dress and present yourself to the world.  Continue reading

Learn How to Be Present in the Moment with this Simple Skill

By Douglas E. Noll, JD, MA

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Many spiritual teachers and traditions teach about the power of being present in the moment. By cultivating an egoless state, they claim that you can find great joy and happiness in life. The problem is, many teachers don’t explain how to experience egolessness outside of years of contemplative practice. Meditation is an important process of self-actualization, but doesn’t always translate into the everyday world.

While developing a deep, empathic listening skill as part of my work as a peacemaker, I suddenly experienced non-ego for about 15 seconds. It was remarkable because I felt exactly as the teachers said I would. Nothing could touch me, and I was experiencing a deep connection while completely conscious. Even more startling, I was in the process of de-escalating a very angry person.

Standing in the midst of intense conflict, I found Oneness. Since then, I have perfected teaching the skill so that anyone can learn how to do it. Here are the steps you need to take to experience this for yourself. Continue reading

Choose Love Over Fear: 5 Myths About FEAR

By Michael Bianco-Splann

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Fear has prevented me from living true to myself and from taking prudent risks. But fear is a broad catchall for other negative emotions.  Fear is based on future outcomes that, in most cases, do not occur. We tend to separate emotions of anger, hate, jealousy, betrayal, resentment, sadness, hurt, and discontent from fear. Yet, all are tentacles of the same root cause: fear.

This pattern has pulled me away from honest self-expression, meaningful exchanges of love and compassion while also limiting my leadership ability and catalyzing a life governed more by the incessant false ego than the universal gift of love in all its magnificent possibilities. The outcome is living well below my full capacity as a friend, partner, professional, father, husband, lover, and contributing member of my community.

I recall my shyness as a young boy, feeling insecure that I would be left behind. It was not until well into my adulthood that I understood that this fear was attached to my being given up for adoption. The fear manifested in my creating a life of falsehood.  Creating a safe haven where the real Michael was hidden became a primary objective, for to open that door would show me as unlovable and someone to be cast aside.  After failed marriages, less than desirable professional outcomes and lethal addiction, I realized the fallacy of my life’s journey. The change came as a result of slowly tearing away the fearful foundation upon which I had constructed my reality. Continue reading

The Special Olympics: Joy in Celebrating Inclusion, Dignity and Respect for All

SO1At breakfast this morning, my family was reflecting on our summer.  “The highlight of summer so far,” my elder daughter, Tara (13 years old), said, “was attending the World Games for the Special Olympics.”

My family is incredibly blessed, and our summer has included concerts, Broadway shows, world travel, lots of good food, relaxation, Disneyland and many other highlights. As my younger daughter, Leela (11 years old), nodded enthusiastically, I was moved by what an extraordinary statement they were making.

We attended the Opening Ceremony of the World Games for Special Olympics last weekend. The Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities that provides year-round training and competition for 4.4 Million athletes in 170 countries.

A few weeks ago while in Washington D.C. with my father, I attended a private dinner with Tim Shriver, the chairman of the Special Olympics. Tim was passionate and articulate about the event, as well as dispelling some of the assumptions even we had about people with intellectual disabilities. Tim is truly a humble champion for people with intellectual disabilities, and the Shriver family must be applauded for taking an event that his mother, Eunice Shriver, started over 40 years ago and making it into a global social movement that it is today. As written about in this NY Times piece, Special Olympics and The Burden of Happiness, there is a long way still to go. The World Games truly felt like a Utopian world, and the stark reality for many of these people is very different and one is reminded of the need to champion human rights for all. Continue reading

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