Mindfulness Matters

Photo Credit: Erik Odin Cathcart

Photo Credit: Erik Odin Cathcart

I was recently interviewed by Brianna Steinhilber of EverUp for a piece on dealing with rejection. You can read her very thoughtful story here

Here are some additional thoughts I had in addition to those quoted in her article:

Why does it seem that some people are less affected than others by being rejected?

Becoming upset in reaction to rejection requires subscribing to what I call “contingent self-worth.” Contingent Self-Worth is a set of rules about the conditions that we can be okay with. For example, “I can be okay if everyone likes me; I am a good person if I don’t fail” Every rule makes us vulnerable to rejections, disappointments, and losses. We live in a culture where our wellbeing is almost always linked to how much material stuff we have, how much other people like us, and other measures of status. So, when I say subscribing it’s not necessarily a conscious process; the linkages are deeply embedded in our psyches (like asking a fish, what is water?). 

Is it a matter of handling the experience differently or are some people innately less sensitive to rejection?

There is clearly something we can do to break the self-worth contingencies and it is also the case that some people will have to work harder at this than others. The degree of effort points to innate contribution. Some of us are more thick-skinned. Of course, the way we are is always a function of the interaction of genes and environment. 

Does the response to rejection translate across different areas of your life? For example, if you are highly sensitive to rejection at work, would you have the same response if shot down when you ask someone out on a date? 

It’s quite possible to have differential sensitivities but it’s probably more likely that a sensitive person would have similar sensitivities. Of course, and again, it depends on each person’s unique life experience. Someone may be robust in the work arena in a way that they are not with relationships because of certain experiences from earlier in life. It always depends on what the person perceives is on the line. Different domains of life may be seen as more or less threatening to their sense of value, wellbeing, or worth. 

What are some ways that you recommend people who are greatly affected by rejection can work on bouncing back more quickly when it occurs?

Mindfulness is the principle means that I use to break contingencies in my psychotherapy patients and workshop participants (like the workshop that I’ll be teaching soon at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health). The more aware we are of how we react to situations will give us options on how to respond differently. It’s helpful to ask yourself, “what’s really on the line here?” You can then see if your sense of okay-ness is really undermined by the rejection. Often, we worry how we’ll be perceived by others and that is just another contingency. Rejections aren’t the end of the world but sometimes we can react as if they are. Being turned away from one opportunity makes you available for another. Ultimately, I encourage people not to take things so seriously. If that reaction arises, mindfulness practice can help people to back away from it and keep things in perspective. 


Photo credit: John A Hemmingsen

I had an interesting dream image last night. I was observing a fantastic display of the aurora borealis–Northern lights (or it might have been the aurora australis if I had been in the southern hemisphere). I wanted to capture some video of this event so I went to get my phone. When I returned outside various fireworks displays had started and I could no longer see the lights.

There are some rich metaphors from this dream sequence. Think of the difference between a natural phenomenon such as aurora and a human-made one such as fireworks. Fireworks represent control over nature and natural occurrences are not subject to our control, unless we apply technology to them such as photographing them.

This got me thinking about communication. Imagine a time (not that long ago) when there were no telephones and if you wanted to communicate with someone far away, you had to write a letter. It took time and deliberation to write and weeks in between exchanges. Now we can text or message instantaneously and often not with much in the way of poetic deliberation. Communication has become accessible.

In a similar manner, fireworks as a metaphor for our control over nature represents the possibility of having ready access to things that were once precious.

One aspect of contemporary living with the incredible advances of technology is the appropriation of the rare into the common. I wonder if this diminishes or ennobles us? I suppose it could be both.

Going back to my dream and my attempt to capture the lights with a video on my phone. Here, technology and nature clash and my tendency was to take the impermanent image from my memory and give it a material existence. This is the same type of control over that humans have been engaged with since the invention of the wheel, fire, and hunting tools.

A mindful approach to life would encourage being more deliberate with regard to how we consume experiences, trying not to take them for granted. This doesn’t mean not using tools such as fire, wheels, and photographs, but to engage them with more awareness.  Mindfulness would also invite us not to attempt to own every experience by recording it (think of the countless hours of video footage that we can now generate, essentially documenting our lives through this medium). I am not against photography and I engage with it frequently but it’s one thing to do it reflexively and another to do it intentionally.

We cannot trump impermanence by capturing our moments. It’s all still water through our hands, even if there is photographic evidence. Even if we exert perfect control over the environment, we cannot change the nature of things to arise and fade away. Ultimately, the sun will explode and that will probably be it for us (or if we find a way to move to another solar system, the universe itself will eventually end).




IMG_2426 (1)We are well into 2016 and I’ve been taking something of a hiatus from social media and this blog. I’ve been reflecting a lot on my life and resolutions, intentions, and projects for 2016 and beyond.

I’m not a big fan of resolutions. Like wedding vows, New Year’s resolutions just make people into liars. The intentions are in the right place but follow-through is usually flawed.

I think it’s better to focus upon intentions than promises. How do I want to be? What do I want to accomplish? Is my to-do list consistent with my values, interests, and priorities? These are good questions to ask in and around the New Year and one’s that I have been asking myself.

2016 will be a year of transition and change and the status quo. I think this will be the case at both a personal and societal level (see above people cueing up hours before Trump’s rally appearance in Burlington, Vermont).

I can explain that paradox by saying that there will be new things in 2016 and some of the same things.

In this vein, writing will continue. I am working on two major academic projects. The first will be an academic manuscript on mindfulness. The scholarly volume will be a compilation, distillation, and synthesis of everything that I have learned about mindfulness and the Buddha’s teachings over the past 30-some years. I am also pleased to be working on what just might be the first of its kind–a textbook on mindfulness. This book will be used by undergraduate and graduate courses with an exclusive or partial mindfulness focus. Stay tuned.

Upcoming Workshops

Barre Center for Buddhist Studies: Solitary But Not Lonely: Going Within in an Extroverted Culture. This workshop is full but you can sign up on the waiting list here >>

At Kripalu: Mindfulness A to Z: Insights and Practices for Awakening Now: The workshop based on the book! 5 nights at lovely Kripalu in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Mass. 22.5 continuing education credits available. Seats available: Register now >>

I am very excited to be teaching a new joint workshop with my dharma brother, Jaimal Yogis, this summer at Kripalu. Jaimal is the author of the bestselling books, Saltwater Buddha and the Fear Project. Saltwater Buddha, the documentary film, will be released soon!


Awaken to your luminous life in this moment. Mindfulness and meditation practice can provide refuge, sanctuary, and deep inner peace. Reclaim unity and oneness in a program that offers

  • Basic mindfulness skills using formal and informal meditation practices
  • Nondual states of awareness that can be accessed through contemplation and writing
  • Ways to develop and apply a love of solitude to the hectic demands of life
  • A working knowledge of the Buddha’s psychology of awakening.

This life-changing weekend engages you through mindful self-exploration, humor, poetry, heartfelt discussion, and a creative method for leaving your painful and limiting stories behind. It also includes time at Kripalu’s lakefront to explore the transformative power of water.

Registration is now open for June 12-14 2016

Listen to my recent Vibin Higher podcast interview


Arnie_Kozak_1Greetings everyone! It’s been a busy 2015 and I’d like to share with you some of the highlights and give you links to the some of the contents I produced over this year. There is lot’s more to come in 2016 and I appreciate everyone’s support. I was busy writing for blogs, was interviewed for some articles in the media, and my books The Awakened Introvert and Mindfulness A to Z got some good press with reviews, excerpts, and radio interviews.

I’ve posted less to Mindfulness Matters this year and I hope to see you more here next year in 2016. Let me know what’s on your mind and what you’d like me to write about. I am currently working on two academic book projects. One will be a mindfulness textbook for college and graduate school courses in mindfulness and the other will be an academic monograph focusing on mindfulness in the context of the Buddha’s psychological teachings. These should be coming out in 2017, so stay tuned!


Guest Blog Posts


Quiet Revolution

I am honored to be part of a talented stable of writers at the new website for an introverted culture: Quiet Revolution. Founded by Susan Cain, bestselling author the life-changing book, Quiet, Quiet Revolution is a great resource for living life in a more deliberate, quiet, and meaningful way.

Mindfulness of Breathing: A Primer

Solitude is Going Extinct: The Stress of Modern Parenting


Bodhi Day: Celebrating the Seven Factors of Awakening

10 Essential Lessons of Buddhism

Mindfulness A to Z

New Harbinger

Happiness from an Introverted Perspective: Let’s Be Quiet and Mindful

Social Work Helper

Mindfulness Practice and Self-Care for Introverted Social Workers

7 Things Every Clinician Should Know About Introverts

Copper Beech Institute

Mindlessness, Mindfulness, and Living with Uncertainty



A Introvert’s Guide to Surviving the Holiday on Everup

Are Extroverts Happier on Live Happy

Relationships 2.0 radio interview

Mark Johnson Show on Buddhism

Mark Johnson Show on Introverts

Cyrus Webb on Mindfulness A to Z

Chit Chat Radio on Mindfulness A to Z (second half of show)


Accolades, Reviews, and Excerpts



5 Tips for Introverts for Replenishing Your Energy

Mindfulness A to Z on Publishers Weekly

Mindfulness A to Z on Spirituality Today

Awakened Introvert on Breath Waves


Mindfulness A to Z on Lion’s Roar

Awakened Introvert on Oprah


10 Books to Read before the End of 2015

Books to Give for the Holidays

Conversations 25 Most Inspirational Books of 2015

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