Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Don’t Own Your Mind

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

NMYROur brains are little factories. Their chief product is, of course, thoughts. They also manufacture images, memories, and emotions. Best of all, they fabricate stories. Our brains can do this unbidden, without any direction from us. Given the slightest encouragement, they’ll really run with it and those stories can become obsessions, ruminations, and, possibly even, walking nightmares.

A lot of people come to meditation hoping to turn off this ceaseless flow of the brain and become frustrated when it doesn’t happen. In fact, arranging themselves in quiet meditation just makes the flow of the brain all the more obvious.


The goal of mindfulness practice is not to turn of this often surging flow but to learn how to work more skillfully with it.

Picture a big shower, like the one’s you might find in a fancy hotel or spa with one of those rain shower heads. You can stand directly underneath the water flow and when you do, you are inundated, saturated, and in the flow of the water. That’s nice when you are taking a shower at a spa but not so nice when you are forging through your day trying to make headway on your to-do list.

There is also enough room that you can move back from it and stand away. Perhaps you can even sit down and watch the water flowing. Mindfulness suggests a similar relationship to the shower head. Observe the action without getting soaked by it.


I used a similar metaphor in my book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness when I talked about the view of Niagara Falls that is possible from down below. There is a place that you can stand and watch the unrelenting flow of the water without getting swept away by its power.

When people come to mindfulness and meditation there is often an expectation that they should be able to turn off the shower. After all, we have been indoctrinated in self-determination and would like to feel that we are the masters of our minds. A bit of meditation practice can be humbling. It is unnerving to see how powerful that flow of thoughts is and how easily we get drawn in.


The desire to turn off the flow and the determination to do it, only results in frustration. “Meditation is not for me” is a familiar refrain. However, if we let the water flow because that is what the brain must do (neuroscientists call it the default mode network) and use our minds to step back from it, we can step astride the frustration. Thoughts, memories, and emotions are not the problem, taking ownership of them is. The brain can produce thoughts with or without the mind’s involvement. Mindfulness invites us to have the option of non-involvement.

If your goal is to stay dry, then mindfulness is the way to go. Of course, it’s rarely an all or none proposition. We are moving back and forth all the time. We notice we are getting soaked, wake up to that fact, and exercise the choice of moving back. We repeat this process over and over again. Almost always, the shower keeps flowing.




Relationships 2.0 Interview August 11

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

2logosTune in Tuesday August 11 at 6 PM (3 PM PST) for my radio conversation with Dr. Michelle Skeen, host of Relationships 2.0. We’ll be discussing relationship challenges for introverts and guidance from my book, The Awakened Introvert.


If you miss the live broadcast, you can catch the Podcast, information below from Michelle:

On my radio show, Relationships 2.0, I interview guests who present their unique perspectives and expertise on topics that cover all aspects of relationships. The authors and experts I chat with offer advice and tips for understanding ourselves and others better.

The show airs live on Tuesdays from 3-4:00 pm on KCAA AM-1050 (an NBC affiliate) in the Inland Empire area in Southern California. It is re-broadcast on Thursdays on the following stations:

AM 1520 /107.1 FM – Las Vegas, NV – 11:00 AM (EST) / 8:00 AM (PST)
AM 810 / 87.9 FM – Macon, GA – 11:00 AM (EST)
AM 1640 / 102.1 FM – Lancaster, PA – 11:00 AM (EST)
100.7 FM – Boulder, CO – 11:00 AM (EST) / 9:00 AM (MST)
AM 1630 / 102.1 FM – Tampa, FL – 11:00 AM (EST)
104.1 FM – Milwaukee, WI – 11:00 AM (EST) / 10:00 AM (CST)


If you missed the radio station broadcasts, you can download my podcasts fromiheart radio or iTunes, or listen to the podcasts of my show that are posted on this page and the podcast archive page. Additionally, you can watch Relationships 2.0 by going to the video archive page.


Coming Soon: Mindfulness A to Z

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Mindfulness-A-to-Z-cover182015 has been a busy year for me publishing books. In May, The Awakened Introvert came out (New Harbinger). In July, The Everything Essential Buddhism Book came out (Adams Media). Soon, Mindfulness A to Z: 108 Insights for Awakening Now (Wisdom Publications). The official release date is September 22 but I received a rush copy the other day!


Mindfulness A to Z is something of a memoir because it contains a variety of personal stories about times that I was mindful and times that I was not. The book is organized as the title suggests as a dictionary of mindfulness terms with listings literally from a to z. You’ll find entries on acceptance, Buddha, compassion, equanimity, and so forth.

The book has been beautifully produced by Wisdom. It’s not the kind of book that you’ll read cover to cover. You can march through the entries in order or you can skip around. You’ll want to read one or two per day and sit with the wisdom and guidance that it sets forth.

It is my hope that this book through its candid revelations about my own attempts to live a mindful life can help you to live more mindfully too. Each brief chapter contains some important teaching relevant to mindfulness and grounded in the teachings of the Buddha.


I had the great fortune to receive an endorsement from Tara Brach, one of our most beloved mindfulness teachers and author of the classic Radical Acceptance and more recently True Refuge. She said of A to Z:

You don’t “read” Mindfulness A-Z.  Rather you go on a series of intimate journeys with author Arnie Kozak, and explore the facets of heart and awareness that can free your spirit. Through personal revelation, Buddhist teachings, western science and his own deep wisdom, Arnie offers us a banquet to savor! –Tara Brach, Ph.D., Author of Radical Acceptance (2003) and True Refuge (2013.)


Here is an excerpt from the preface:

Mindfulness is about paying attention to our life as it unfolds, moment-by-moment.
“To be mindful” is to bring a particular kind of attention
to our experience—one that is keen and focused on what is actually
happening, as opposed to what we wish would happen. Mindfulness
privileges perception over imagination. At its deepest levels, developing
mindfulness helps us to clearly see that we construct much of
our experience of the world and ourselves. And by construct I mean
the quality of our minds determines the quality of our experiences.
We are “put together” by our beliefs, stories, and attitudes. By practicing
mindfulness we can learn to relate to the world, others, and
ourselves in a more open and accepting way, without so many preconditions
for happiness. A serious commitment to mindfulness, practiced
over time, can help to move us toward a more awakened way of


You can pre-order your copy now from Amazon or your local independent bookseller:

Shop Indie Bookstores



Life Interrupted

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

axiom_46I’ve been thinking a lot about interruptions lately. When I meditate in the mornings, I prefer to do it at a time when I won’t be interrupted by others. Yet, even in the most protected environment, interruptions are inevitable. My mind will interrupt me far more than any ambient noise or demands from my environment.

This thought is freeing. I don’t have to worry so much about external conditions. I can meditate anywhere no matter how noisy as long as I am willing to include what is happening.


The reflexive tendency, however, is to exclude what is happening–to draw lines around what we think should be happening or should not be happening. Inclusion/exclusion requires effort and can give rise to overt or subtle stress.

When interruptions occur we can think they are interfering with our meditation but this is not really the case. It’s only an attitude, a misconception that we can change.

The goal of mindfulness practice is to monitor interruptions and to be able to work with them. The goal is not to eradicate interruptions; this is not practical. The goal is to notice and to redirect attention. In a sense, we are stitching over the small rifts in attention that occur with interruptions, whether these are internal or external.


If you really pay attention to the functioning of your mind, you might notice that no matter how chaotic your external environment is, your internal space may have even more interruptions. This is not a problem and not something wrong with your mind.

Introverts are especially prone to feeling disrupted by interruptions. It’s hard to get back into that deep track of thought or focus. The kind of “interruption mending” we do during meditation can be good practice for the other interruptions in our life–like those at work, home, and wherever life finds you.

Since interruptions are inevitable, we can make them part of our practice. Each time the mind goes somewhere else other than the present moment, instead of seeing this as a nuisance, look upon it as an opportunity to become more adept at handling interruptions.

Life will never be uninterrupted and in letting that particular hopefulness go, we can find ease in this moment.

Previous Posts

S is for Sangha
Mindfulness A to Z official release is here! Here is an excerpt from "S is for Sangha" The sangha is the community of people who follow the teachings of the Buddha, or more generically, anyone who engages in mindfulness meditation. When ...

posted 10:31:30am Sep. 22, 2015 | read full post »

E is for Effort
Mindfulness A to Z official release is tomorrow! Here is an excerpt from "E is for Effort" We may need to encourage ourselves gently in the direction of practice. Challenges arise. Daily life is complicated and busy; it may seem like we ...

posted 3:25:12pm Sep. 21, 2015 | read full post »

S is for Self
Mindfulness A to Z official release is tomorrow! Here is an excerpt from "S is for Self" Who are you? Emily Dickinson would reply: I’m nobody! Who are you? Are you nobody, too? Most of us would naturally reply, “I am me.” More ...

posted 10:28:58am Sep. 21, 2015 | read full post »

N is for Nature
Mindfulness A to Z official release is 2 days away! Here is an excerpt from "N is for Nature" Practicing outside helps to break down the artificial separation we sometimes impose between “practice” and the rest of the world. Rather than ...

posted 10:23:22am Sep. 20, 2015 | read full post »

L is for Loving-kindness
Mindfulness A to Z official release is 3 days away! Here is an excerpt from "L is for Loving-kindness" Buddhism retains a very strong tradition of deliberately opening our hearts to others. This practice is called “loving-kindness” or ...

posted 10:23:00am Sep. 19, 2015 | read full post »


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