Mindfulness Matters



I’ve heard it described in various ways this week, from “seismic waves” to “I don’t want to to talk about politics.” All the same, the election did occur and we must all live with the results. My friend Jaimal Yogis put it eloquently:

What do we do with despair, anger, fear, frustration? How do we let these massive waves exist in their own right without letting them turn to hate? Without losing compassion for all beings? How do we find wise action in a stormy world and rise above mere reactivity and karma? How do we become leaders of change that heal and unite rather than divide? How do we find peace inside so we manifest peace outside?

These are lifelong questions that Dr. Arnold Kozak and I hope to focus in on in our upcoming Spirit Rock retreat, a couple of days after the Presidential inauguration. We don’t have all the answers but in coming together with openness I know we’re all going to stumble on greater insight and love that can fuel the action our world needs right now. Hope you can make it.

I have my own strong opinions about the election and I also know that interest must always trump reactivity (pun intended). I was disappointed that more people didn’t vote (still only a fraction of the eligible electorate actually voted). I am still frustrated that we don’t have a better coordinated system that allows everyone who wants to vote to vote. Given these two issues, it is not clear what the results of this election mean. Is this really what most of the people want? Too many are silent to know. I’ve read that at least $5 billion was spent on the election. I think that money would have been better spent fixing our election technology. Not to mention the length of time this election cycle took and how it dominated the news. No wonder so many were stressed for so long. The presidency hasn’t always been a cult of personality. This is a more recent phenomenon. What just happened is important yet it is not the only thing of importance happening in our lives and the world.

Mindfulness can help us to sit with all these feelings and to see clearly the best path for moving forward with action. Fortunately, I’ve got plenty of books and workshops that can help us to do just this–holding all the feelings with a sense of equanimity, breathing into all the uncertainty, and moving forward with interest and compassion for self and others.

For a list of available workshops, please visit my website

IMG_4500Peak foliage is here in Northern Vermont and the landscape is a ubiquitous reminds of the change that is always present.

This change is most visible now, dramatic, showing itself off.

Yet change is the order of things. Nothing is fixed, even though we may wish it to be so.

Appreciate the colors around you and if you are in a place with little fall foliage, you can look for changes that are happening all the same.

IMG_4321I was recently in Southern California and saw this message plastered on a car. I thought to myself, “this is not the best metaphor.” I didn’t realize at the time that it is a quote from the Bible.

Now that I know its ecclesiastical credibility, I still don’t think it is the best metaphor.

We can think of metaphors broadly as the process of understanding one thing in terms of another. The other thing is more familiar and creates associated commonplaces between the known and the less known, unknown, or something we wish to know more deeply.

In this Biblical metaphor, the associated commonplace is the furtiveness of both thieves and salvation, a kind of criminal soteriology, if you will.

Metaphors both highlight and hide different aspects of experience. A good metaphor will illuminate things that had not been considered before or create new possibilities or a sense of connection.

I once heard a metaphor that compassion was like lotion for the heart. Yuck! While this image (really a simile) conveys the sense that compassion is soothing, the image is disgusting. It just doesn’t work for me because lotion does not belong in or on our internal organs.

Cover_108MetaphorsAs the title suggests, my book 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness is a compendium of classical and contemporary metaphors for understanding mind, self, our quirkiness, acceptance, and practicing mindfulness. It was recently re-released from Wisdom Publications.

These metaphors range from complex images and stories to simple comparisons. One of my favorites is the DVD commentary, a metaphor that was very au currant in 2007 when I wrote this book but getting a bit dated now with the popularity of streaming media.

If you still watch DVDs and watch the “director’s commentary” that mode is very much like how we conduct our mental lives. The “movie” of our life is there in the background and we talk over it, rendering opinion after opinion, meanwhile missing out on the richness of the movie.

The entirety of our lives is a metaphoric process as we are always understanding one thing in terms of another. In fact, this is the way that our brains work. We never experience something completely new and always from what we have already learned, experienced, and remembered.

The key is to keep our categories flexible, not being so beholden to what we already think we know and opening to the possibilities of each moment. Look for a new metaphor today as you move about the world. Write and tell me what you discover!





Brittany Wong, Divorce editor at the Huffington Post recently asked me about mixed introvert and extrovert couples. You can read her interesting article here.

If you are an introvert in relationship with an extrovert or an extrovert in partnership with an introvert, there is no need to despair. There are ways that you can make your differences work for you to enrich your lives.

Of course, mindfulness can be a helpful adjunct.

Here are some more of my thoughts on the topic:

  • Avoid blame: No one is right, no one is wrong.

Introversion and extroversion are basic personality traits. They are integral to the way that we inhabit the world. If your partner is a strong extrovert and you are a strong introvert (or vice versa) it’s easy to get caught up in blaming, ridiculing, and deriding your partner because her or she is not like you. Your partner is not this way to annoy you. Understanding that two people can be very different can empower you to appreciate the other rather than seeing him or her as trying to frustrate you

  • Educate: Don’t Fall into the trap of mind reading.

Even when you recognize that your partner’s differences are legitimate, it is often still necessary to educate him or her on what it means to be an introvert or extrovert for you. Your unique needs. Your way of seeing things. Your way of feeling, especially for introverts when it comes to social activities, stimulation, and quiet time. Your partner can’t know what these needs are unless you tell them. While it may be perfectly apparent, it’s not transparent until you make it so.

  • Negotiate: You can’t get your needs met 100 percent of the time.

Being with an introvert/extrovert opposite can enrich your life. Extroverts draw out introverts and open them to new adventures. Introverts bring a measure of calm, quiet, steadiness to a relationship with an appreciation of interior things like thoughts, feelings, and creativity. Even with this enrichment, there will be times when you can’t meet each other’s expectations. Here, you negotiate. To get the best deal, you’ve got to know what your needs are, which as we saw, also helps with education. For introverts in particular, when you overextend your energy to meet high demand social situations, you’ll need to negotiate recovery time. “I’ll go to that office party with you but then I am not leaving the house for the next two days …”

  • Meditate together

Mindfulness meditation practice can provide a common ground of quiet, introspection, and peace that both introverts and extroverts need in the hectic, loud, fast-pace of life. Doing something together—especially learning something together—is a great way for couples with different personalities to connect. In addition to slowing things down and having some respite in your days, the benefits of the practice can help you to be better listeners and to know yourselves better.