Mindfulness Matters


It’s Stress Reduction Sunday. Read my weekly post in the Connecticut Watchdog, This week’s entry Dealing with Difficult Bosses and Other Problem People. 

Relationships can be our greatest source of both consternation and joy. Humans are social creatures and social support has as big an impact on health as physical factors such as diet and smoking.

For most of us, our work life is embedded in a matrix of social relationships. As Bob Dylan said, “You’ve got to serve somebody; it may be the devil or it may be the lord but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

That somebody can make a huge difference in our experience of work. A pleasant, supportive, and interested boss, even if challenging contributes much to job satisfaction. A boss who is mean, tyrannical, petty, angry, backbiting, and so forth can contribute to dissatisfaction at work, and worse.

Q: “Your book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants, is about mindfulness and you studied with the Dalai Lama. You’re also a practicing psychologist. Can you tell us how your Buddhist background comes into play in your work as a psychologist?”


A: For the past 25 plus years Buddhist practices have influenced my work. Earlier in my career I used them to enhance my therapeutic presence and as a method of self-care. I used them implicitly without ever teaching mediation or concepts, such as the Four Noble Truths, to my patients. 

When I started private practice 13 years ago I started to incorporate mindfulness in an explicit way in my clinical work, teaching patients to meditate and offering mindfulness and Buddhist wisdom in a secularized way as a means to alleviate suffering. The Buddha saw himself as a physician or psychologist (but that concept didn’t’ exist 2500 years ago) rather than a religious leader. He taught people how to mange their behavior and mental landscape so as to reduce suffering and dissatisfaction. 

That’s the business we are in as psychotherapists and the Buddha’s insights provide powerful tools to help people change their relationship to the conditions of their suffering.

The Buddha used metaphors frequently in his teaching. 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness make these tools accessible in a fun and approachable way.

“108 sparkling insights into
mindfulness” — Larry
Rosenberg, author of
Breath by Breath

“Playful, wise, and memorable”
— Tara Brach, author of Radical

“”Fresh and straightforward
voice”– Shambhala Sun

If you haven’t already, get your copy now: 

Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants on Amazon

Wild Chickens
and Petty Tyrants
 now available for Kindle

Wild Chickens
and Petty Tyrants
from Wisdom Publications

Wild Chickens
and Petty Tyrant
s from Your Local Independent Bookseller


Have you seen Microsoft’s clever ad for their new Windows-based phone? It ties in to our lively discussion from last Friday on how technology challenges our ability to be mindful.

After an hilarious parade of phone-based attention lapses culminating in a man dropping his phone in a urinal, an onlooker can only say, “Really?”
The commercial ends with the tag line, “Designed to get you in and out and back to life” And to that I have to say, “Really?”
Supply, in this case, creates its own demands. The more interesting and efficient our technology, the more interested we become in it, the more it become an extension of us.
NPR featured this theme recently with a story, And iPhone Makes Three: Marriage In The Digital Age that quotes a marriage counselor: “Fritsch is hearing more and more clients complain about a spouse whose body may be right there but whose mind is off in cyberspace. Some say the best way to get their spouse’s attention is to send a text — from the next room!”
One comment from last Friday’s entry noted:
I drove up to the house of an acquaintance one day and noticed that a friend of his, who had parked in front of this selfsame house, was leaning against his car while fingering his phone. To my query as to the impatience of his demeanor, he replied that he was text-messaging his friend to let him know of his presence and was anxious for him to come out. Curious, I asked him why he hadn’t simply walked up to the door and rung the bell, maybe fifteen feet away or so. He answered that it was too much of a bother.

In the movie ‘Julie and Julia’ there’s a scene where Julie and several of her friends have just sat down at a table in a restaurant. One by one, each of her friends receives a call by way of cell, all then consciously departing into separate conversations, leaving Julie, who was eager to connect, disconnected and alone at the table.

Read more:

Nobel Laureate Poet, Wislawa Szymborska notes in her poem, “Nonreading”

We live longer

but less precisely

and in shorter sentences

Our sentences have become shorter because our attention span is shorter. Soon, no thought will be permitted that is longer than 140 characters!

Meditation doesn’t just make us feel good; it changes our brains. Studies show that meditation changes both structure and function of our brains (in beneficial ways) beyond the period of meditation.

Recent advances in neuroimaging along with encouragement from His Holiness the Dalai Lama have reinvigorated research into the effects of meditation. Rick Hanson summarized some of this research in his popular book, Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom