How to Have a Calm Mind and Fighting Spirit

No arrogance. No complacency.

No short-cuts, no tricks, no cheats, no hacks.

Preparation. Careful, thorough warmups.

Visualize yourself doing all the right moves on the course. Visualize again.

Expect, accept and adapt – there will be unforeseeable bumps and ice chunks.


Sleep Is The Master Nutrient That Optimize Absorption of Other Nutrients

It’s more important than many people realize. Some professional athletes even like to joke that they are “professional sleepers” – 9 hours at night every night and a 90-minute nap in the afternoon. It’s their job to be in optimal shape and sleep is absolutely key; great sleep can become a competitive advantage.

Sleep is the central governor – the universal organizing requirement of your body and brain.

Sleep is the master nutrient – when we are deficient in sleep, all other nutrients are less effective.

Other zero calorie nutrients:

• Love

• Physical affection (sexual and non sexual)

• Music

• Dance

• Physical exercise

• Friendships

• Empathic attunement with others

When we have all these – or most of them – in sufficient quantities in our lives, it’s remarkable how we tend to eat food that is healthy for us, and not too much, and we eat a lot less unhealthy food, and we consume less alcohol and fewer toxic substances.


Instant Kindness: Empathy Statements That Don’t Make You Feel Silly

As an alternative to the traditional Buddhist “Loving Kindness” (Metta) practice.

“I wish for myself peace, kindness, and good health.”

 “I wish for (a good, reliable friend) peace, kindness, and good health.”

 “I wish for (a neutral person I often see in my daily life but don’t know well) peace, kindness, and good health.”

“I wish for (someone I am currently having a difficult relationship with) peace, kindness and good health.”

 “I wish for all of us peace, kindness, and good health.”

 #EmpathyMeditation #Metta #LovingKindness


The Most Excellent You: How to Get the Advice You Really Need

Feedback is:

    • Evaluative
    • Focused on past performance
    • Often linked with compensation/grading
    • Historical
    • Influenced by in-the-moment impressions and feeling

Feed-forward is:

  • Coaching-oriented
  • Aimed at helping, supporting
  • Future-focused
  • Focuses on improving results/performance
  • Provides guidance, pointers, tips

Most of us want to become more effective, more successful as professionals.

What areas are you open to receiving guidance about, tips and pointers?

Any forward-looking advice that would help make you better, from the superficial to the profound. Examples:

– Your hairstyle

– Your dress choices for work

– How you sign off in e-mails

– How your outgoing voicemail message sounds

– How you greet colleagues, senior people – e.g. handshake, hug, kiss, etc.

– Whether you use people’s first names too much, too little

– How much you disclose about your personal life

– Your spelling, punctuation, and grammar

– Your tone of voice in meetings

– How much / how little you say in meetings

– How direct and concise you typically are

– Your ability to read political situations and get along with most people

– Your strategic thinking and offering of suggestions for approaches/tactics

How do we get better? Who can we turn to for help, guidance, tips, suggestions, to point us in the right directions?

Who could give you this sort of guidance?

“Think about people – teachers, coaches, former colleagues – who you could have a chat for 30-40 minutes.”

They could be anywhere in the world right now. Use Skype. Send them an e-mail, schedule a chat.

The question you might ask these ad hoc coaches and mentors:

“I want to get to the XYZ level in my career. How do you think I can get there? What do I need to work on? What do you think my blind spots might be? When you’ve seen people succeed in this area against the odds, what have they done that others haven’t? When you’ve seen people fail when they were expected to succeed, how do you think they got in their own way, how did they trip themselves up?


Innovative Thinking In Teams Boosted By Mindfulness

There is a fundamental contradiction when organizations ask employees to maintain a fast pace of work and at the same time to be innovative.

In hectic workplaces, people often resort to autopilot or habitual ways of working. When they don’t have the time or space to incubate clever and innovative ideas, they miss out on opportunities to reframe a problem and see new possibilities for potential solutions, write Ellen Keithline Byrne and Tojo Thatchenkery.

How can you make your team more innovative? New research indicates that a short period of mindfulness meditation training can have a positive impact on creative output. To explore this idea further, Byrne and Thatchenkery conducted a study with a midsize U.S.-based real estate firm.

The study split up a team of 10 people into a meditating group and a control group. To start, all 10 people were give a creative task: to brainstorm as many unusual uses for a brick as they could think of. Ten-minute mindfulness exercise were administered and afterward the subjects resumed brainstorming the creative task. 

Seven out of 10 people increased the number of creative ideas they had in only 10 minutes. With this same group of people over the course of five weeks, the researchers administered a series of innovative tasks and found that the meditating group identified double the number of innovative ideas as the control group. The group process was noticeably different, where the mindfulness group was 121% more able to build on the ideas of others.

Mental training can nurture key areas in the creative process. The burgeoning research suggests that people who practice mindfulness have more cognitive flexibility, are able to see beyond what they’ve already done, and are better at solving problems requiring insight. This facilitates what creativity experts refer to as the incubation and insight stages of the creative process.

Mindfulness requires time and attention, where a person does not get stuck thinking about ideas they have had in the past and observes everything as if they are seeing it for the first time, which contributes to turning off the autopilot driving thoughts and actions.

The research indicates that people are open to more-original ideas after just a brief meditation exercise. And when this is applied across a team of people, the effects are multiplied.

To foster a culture of innovation, leaders need to give greater attention to their employees’ mindsets and consider championing mindfulness practices throughout their organizations. By cultivating milieus where employees are encouraged to be creative, they’re able to move past a mere focus on organizational efficiencies and to develop ways of working and thinking that haven’t been seen before.

What else can companies do to develop mindful teams and cultures?

Connect mindfulness to corporate values

Demonstrate a deliberate intention to develop a mindful culture by linking the mindfulness benefits to the organization’s stated values. For example, if “embrace and drive change” is a value, as it is at Zappos, highlight how mindfulness practice facilitates greater awareness of cognitive and emotional reactions to change. Through this awareness, employees can become aware of their fear of the unknown, see more objectively, and react less habitually, all in order to create greater opportunity for change.

Create corporate-based mindfulness programs

Train employees in mindfulness practices and in how to apply the benefits to daily life. For instance, ask employees to consider: (1) which habits support efficiency and which habits get in the way of considering something new, and (2) how the creative process works and what methods can integrate that process into the workplace.

Supplement in-house leadership development programs

Offer a condensed version of the corporate-based mindfulness program during routine leadership training sessions.

Allow for mindful moments. Offer opportunities for employees to slow down, to incubate, and to see with fresh eyes. In meetings, for example, kick off with a brief settling-in period. Offer people the opportunity to become fully present to the agenda at hand. By taking a deep breath, invite employees to leave past concerns and future worries aside until the meeting is over. This contributes to developing an attentive mindset.

Organizations can also provide quiet places in the office where employees can meditate. We call these “wellness rooms.”

Provide the proper resources. 

Offer employees resources for developing their creativity and mindfulness practice: webinars, meditation aids, lunch and learns, speaker series, retreats, etc.


Companies Increasingly See Mindfulness As a Powerful Tool

At Bridgewater Associates ($160 billion in assets under management) founder Ray Dalio encourages the practice among his employees. “It’s the greatest gift I could give anyone,” he says, “it brings about equanimity, creativity, and peace.” Dalio also considers meditation to be the “single most important reason” for his own success in building the biggest hedge fund in the world.

At ($8.4 billion in annual revenue) founder Marc Benioff installed meditation rooms all over the company’s new offices.

Peter Cooper, founder of Cooper Investors, relies on meditation practice for his decision-making. “Being an investor requires the distillation of large volumes of information into a few relevant insights,” he says, “Meditation has helped me discard interesting but unnecessary information and focus on the few things that make a difference to long-run investment performance.”

At insurance provider Aetna, a meditation program for employees has been credited with improving productivity by 62 minutes per employee per week, which Aetna values at $3,000 per employee per year.

For more information, read:


Duh! Mindlessness is the Opposite of Mindfulness

The term Mindfulness hasn’t yet fully entered mainstream vocabulary. Not everyone understands what is meant by it.

But the opposite term – “Mindlessness” – is readily and fully understandable.
texting while driving
A basic definition of Mindlessness: Doing one thing while you’re thinking about something (or many things) else.

Some further synonyms of Mindlessness: Senseless, Foolish, Forgetful, Distracted, Zoned-out, Spaced-out.

We welcome your thoughts on useful definitions of Mindfulness. Here’s a simple one: “fullness of mind.”

The Urban Thesaurus defines it as “a deep state of being in the mind which allows one to be truly united with the soul… Being Mindful is viewed as being one of the most sexy or appealing things to a female.” But that sounds a little like over-selling to us…



High-Performance Stress Reduction: A Newsman on a Quest


10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works — A True Story, by Dan Harris

A great read. If you’re even vaguely interested in this many-splendored thing called Mindfulness but you’re a bit skeptical, maybe even at times cynical about it all, this book is for you.

It’s the story a young, ambitious and successful TV journalist, war correspondent and semi-professional hypochondriac — combined with a bright and breezy guide to meditation. You’ll also learn a lot about religions in America, from Born-Again Christians, Reformed Judaism to contemporary Buddhism, particularly of the “Ju-Bu” (Jewish-Buddhist) variety.

You won’t find too many public figures near the cusp of a rising career (Dan is one of the most prominent anchormen on ABC News) courageously confessing his own idiotic and dangerous slide into drug abuse. It’s a slide that culminated in an on-air panic attack in front of millions of TV viewers.

Initially, Dan wanted to call the book: “The Voice in My Head Is an Asshole.” The real title is almost as good, albeit not as concise.
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Sleep Is The Master Nutrient

Sleep is the master nutrient – when we are deficient in sleep, all other nutrients are less effective.

Other zero calorie nutrients:

  • Love
  • Physical affection (sexual and non sexual)
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Physical exercise
  • Friendships
  • Empathic attunement with others

When we have all these – or most of them – in sufficient quantities in our lives, it’s remarkable how we tend to eat food that is healthy for us, and not to much, and we eat a lot less unhealthy food, and we consume less alcohol and fewer toxic substances.


Procrastinators Have Difficulties Managing Their Emotions, According to New Research

Procrastinators have a problem with managing emotions rather than time, new research 2- shows. Emotional centers of the brain can overwhelm a person’s ability for self-regulation.

We need to take personality into account when motivating ourselves, according to productivity expert Moyra Scott. “We need to recognize when we are procrastinating and have ‘tricks’ we can employ to get us doing something,” she says.

Her top tips are:

1- If you don’t have an external deadline, use a timer to focus for set periods – for example, 25 minutes at a time with 5-minute breaks and a longer break every 90 minutes.

2- Write a list of tasks but break it down into smaller, more specific ones. This makes them easier to action and complete.

3- Try to minimize interruptions like email notifications. Putting your phone on airplane mode or going somewhere to work where you won’t be disturbed will also help.
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Simple Breathing Exercise With No Mumbo-Jumbo Whatsoever

Mark_Williams2This is adapted from Mark Williams and the excellent book Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World, co-authored by Danny Penman.

If you have a mind, it will wander. (I love this – it’s very reassuring!)

The goal is a calm, non-judging awareness, allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go without getting caught up in them. This creates calmness and acceptance.

– Sit comfortably, with your eyes closed and your spine reasonably straight.

– Direct your attention to your breathing.

– When thoughts, emotions, physical feelings or external sounds occur, simply accept them. Give them the space to come and go without judging or getting involved with them.

– When you notice that your attention has drifted off and is becoming caught up in thoughts or feelings, simply note that your attention has drifted, and then gently bring your attention back to your breathing.

It’s OK and natural for thoughts to arise, and for your attention to follow them. No matter how many times this happens, just keep bringing your attention back to your breathing.

As Tara Brach, one of my favorite meditation teachers, puts it: “The mind secretes thoughts like the body secretes enzymes.” And, of course, nobody would seek to inhibit the secretion of enzymes.

Themes: Breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation for people in business


Leading The Quiet But Informed Life: Mindful Self Management

saint_paulWe here at Mindful Your Own Business are religion-neutral. We’re super keen on wisdom though. And certainly there is a lot of wisdom contained in many of the world’s spiritual traditions, not just Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism, the three that tend to be most typically associated with Mindfulness and meditation.

What about the more common phrase that has inspired Mindful Your Own Business, namely the exhortation: “Mind your own business!”?

The command usually is taken to mean: “Respect other people’s privacy” and/or “stop meddling in what does not concern you.” However, some etymologists think the phrase might have its origins in the Christian Bible (i.e. The New Testament).

St. Paul advises in I Thessalonians 4:11 to 13 that followers should lead an undistracted, focused life. The Greek phrase attributed to him is “manage yourself.” The full quotation is:

“We urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands. Behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. But do not be uninformed.”
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Top Tips For Lifting Mood, Fighting S.A.D.

1- Reduce clutter
Even if I want nothing more than to lie in bed, I try to get up and clean, says psychologist Jennifer Lutzon. Tidying up reduces the clutter in our home, gets our muscles moving and allows our energy to flow freely. This counteracts the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) and lifts the mood, especially once we see the fruits of our labor. Having order at home helps promote a relaxing and stress-free environment during the winter season.

2- Let the sunlight in
Sunlight helps our bodies produce serotonin, the hormone that affects our mood, appetite and sleep. Open up windows to let the sunlight inside the house and get enough serotonin to stay upbeat. Taking walks out whenever the sun is shining also helps the body get enough sunlight to produce serotonin.

3- Lose the shades
Human eyes have evolved over 3 million years to live outside during the day. Expose them to natural sunlight and build up comfort being outside with sunglasses. Certainly protect yourself from direct, powerful light by wearing a baseball cap, but more than that is rarely needed, unless you are out for more than 20 or 30 minutes at a time.
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Before There Was Mindfulness There Was Thoreau

henry_david_thoreauThis is not literally true, of course. But for many Americans, including me, this is the author who lit the flame, somewhere around 8th grade.

To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
– Henry David Thoreau

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Be Ready to Junk What Isn’t Working

“…In the end we almost all fail, routinely and repeatedly, quietly or conspicuously; and failure, properly handled, is one of the best teachers life can send us: a teacher and friend.

‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again’ was always terrible advice. The dreary adage may have worked for the patient Scottish spider that Robert the Bruce watched attempting its web before his victory at Bannockburn, but we are not spiders. Repeat the old lie if that comforts you, but listen down the centuries for the banging of a million heads against a million brick walls. Trying repeatedly does not usually lead to success.

Failure is telling us something, and you should notice when it gets insistent. If at first, you don’t succeed, give it another try if you like. Give it two more tries if you must. But if you still don’t succeed, get the message. Try something different; somewhere different; someone different.

…a version of Darwin’s theory of evolution can be applied not only across many generations of the same species but to a single individual within that person’s own lifetime. Failure weeds out what doesn’t work to give space, air, and light to what does. Apply that within your own life and you will see the redeeming power of failure, if only an individual will recognize and respond to it with sufficient ruthlessness. Life is short. Be ready to junk what isn’t working.” – Mathew Parris

Hat tip to my most excellent friend and colleague Adie Shariff


Digital Distraction: The Constant Pinging of Devices is Driving People Crazy

A recent article in The Economist explores the surging interest in Mindfulness among people in business.

The first reason: The constant pinging of electronic devices is driving many people to the end of their tether. Electronic devices not only overload the senses and invade leisure time. They feed on themselves: the more people tweet the more they are rewarded with followers and retweets. Mindfulness provides a good excuse to unplug and chill out—or “disconnect to connect,” as some Mindfulness advocates put it. A second reason is the rat race. The single-minded pursuit of material success has produced an epidemic of corporate scandals and a widespread feeling of angst. Mindfulness emphasizes that there is more to success than material prosperity.
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Just as the Body Secretes Enzymes, the Mind Generates Thoughts


It’s helpful to remember that getting distracted is totally natural. Just as the body secretes enzymes, the mind generates thoughts. No need to make thoughts the enemy; just realize that you have a capacity to awaken from the trance of thinking. When you recognize that you have been lost in thought, take your time as you open out of the thought and relax back into the actual experience of being here.

…Attitude is everything.  While there are many meditative strategies, what makes the difference in terms of mindful awakening is your quality of earnestness, or sincerity.  Rather than adding another “should” to your list, choose to practice because you care about connecting with your innate capacity for clarity and inner peace. Let this sincerity be the atmosphere that nurtures whatever form your practice takes. – Tara Brach
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The Two Most Powerful Habits for Almost All of Us

In this order:

  • healthy eating
  • a substantial daily meditation practice

When those two habits are firmly in place, good quality sleep and healthy exercise happen almost automatically.




It’s Probably Just a Problem, Not a Crisis


Non-crisis management & Mindfulness

Identify which emotions you’re feeling about the problem and how strongly each one is being felt – anger, fear, disappointment, sadness, etc.

Disengage emotionally from the problem. Breathe in. Breathe out. Tell yourself: “My emotions don’t help me here.” Breathe in. Breathe out.

Remember it’s a problem, not a crisis. Breathe in. Breathe out. “Work” the problem in a professional manner.

Unless you’re a member of the emergency services or other “first responders,” most things you have to deal with can wait five or ten minutes, sometimes five or ten hours and even occasionally five or ten days.
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Meetings Should be Mindful But Not Necessarily Fun


Productive meetings

There’s a burgeoning trend in some management advice circles. Employees are disengaged, so the thinking goes, because the work environment isn’t stimulating enough. They don’t participate in meetings because they’re not fun. Tell some jokes, devise some games, bring in snacks, a bit of music and then you’ll get more energy in the room. Make meetings more like a cocktail party and people will want to attend them.

Sorry to be a pooper, but I’m not a fan of putting fun first. Attendance in a party-style meeting doesn’t usually make the meeting productive. It might make time pass more quickly for some and for many others – your best employees – it might just cause irritation and frustration.

“Fun” meetings bring to mind the television series The Office. Both the British and American versions feature an office manager who is entirely unfocused, undisciplined and quite attention-deficit-hyperactively-disordered. He spends most of his days recounting recycled jokes and hackneyed comedy routines and forcing impromptu festivities on his employees, most of whom just want to get on with their jobs, sell some paper supplies and ensure their long-term livelihood by helping the company succeed. So it is with many employees in the real world.
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Mind-Taming Tips from Comedian Ruby Wax

Stress management and happiness tips from Ruby Wax, comedienne and now Mindfulness-based therapist (M.A. Oxford), author of Sane New World: Taming the Mind:

Find your braking system

When you’re in high anxiety mode, feeling stressed out, your mind racing and your heart pounding, focus on something in the present: a sound, taste or smell. By becoming aware of what’s around you, you will calm down and can focus more. You’ll have to experiment to find what works for you: I send my attention to my feet and their contact with the floor. As soon as my focus goes from thoughts to a sensation, the red mist drains from my brain and I can think again. You might need to do this 100 times; it’s how to tame your mind.

Stave off the darkness

Only eat what tastes good and fill your life with things you like. Surround yourself with true friends, but if you find entertaining stressful, don’t invite them for dinner all the time. How can you talk to your friends properly when you’re busy panicking that you’re not a good enough cook? Go to a restaurant instead. And don’t force yourself to go to other people’s houses, it takes energy to adjust yourself to their way of living.
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Employee Mindfulness Leads to Higher Profits at Software Giant SAP

Peter Bostelmann, an industrial engineer at Europe’s software giant SAP, discovered meditation during a personal crisis a decade ago, writes Emma Thomasson at Reuters.

The impact was so profound that he persuaded his employer to start a pilot mindfulness training in 2013.

“It’s the new jogging,” says Bostelmann, who now runs a global mindfulness program at SAP. “Employees are more healthy and more engaged and they can cope better with a changing world.”

Now SAP is rolling out mindfulness training to all 22,000 German staff and offering consulting services to other firms. It teaches them to pay attention to the present moment, and tune in to thoughts, feelings and surroundings.

Of SAP’s 91,000 employees, 6,500 have participated in a two-day program, including several top executives.

After the training, SAP employees often start meetings with a minute of stillness. Groups also get together to practice “mindful” eating and walking in their breaks, slowing down and paying full attention to their chewing or their steps.

The trend for corporate mindfulness started in Silicon Valley at companies such as Google and Intel but SAP says it has gone further than most. It is now advising the likes of Siemens and Deutsche Telekom on mindfulness programs.

Some skeptics question the benefits of firms investing in employee wellbeing, suggesting that many offerings amount to little more than “well-washing” if they only gloss over a stress-inducing corporate culture.

At SAP, mindfulness is part of a broader push to tackle stress and improve employee health that it says is resulting in higher profits.
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Going (Almost) Analogue for a Summer Break: The Doable Digital Detox

a0032-000037A lot of the problem with technology is the shear volumes of it we are consuming per day.

As with many things “the dose make the poison.” For example, some people have severe problems drinking alcohol; they need to quit entirely and stay “sober.” However, others just need to cut back. Maybe they need to cut back a lot, but there’s a big difference between drinking the equivalent of a bottle of wine every or six-pack of beer every single evening and having one or two glasses of wine twice a week.

Similarly, there is a big difference between subsuming oneself in e-mail, texting, social media and other screen-based information 14 hours a day versus just 1 hour a day.

So this summer vacation period I suggest you try this simple experiment. Limit yourself to all non-urgent uses of your computers, phones, etc. to just one 60-minute period per day. For example from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. only. Yes, you can check the weather on the internet. What about texting? Well, how about every opportunity you can possibly use your voice instead of a text, try that instead?
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How To Improve Mindfulness At Work

Mindfulness enables people to step back and consider alternative ideas rather than reacting to events impulsively, Gautam Gupta writes. When we are in reactive mode, decisions are made using the least intelligent areas of our brains.

Mindfulness helps us toggle to more active and intelligent areas of the brain, enabling us to be in greater control of our emotions and thereby a choice of more appropriate response.

Mindfulness expert, Mirabai Bush, well know for introducing it to Google, says: “Bringing mindfulness into the workplace doesn’t prevent issues from coming up. But whenever they do arise, they can be responded to appropriately after due thought and judgment. Over time with mindfulness, we learn to develop the inner resources that will help us navigate through difficult, trying and stressful situations with more ease, comfort, and grace.”

Becoming aware of one’s emotions as they arise gives an individual more choice in terms of dealing with them. Mindfulness helps become aware of one’s emotion by noticing various sensations in the body. Then one can follow these guidelines: stop doing what you are doing and breathe deeply. Notice how you are experiencing the emotion in your body. Reflect on where the emotion is coming from in your mind (personal history, insecurity etc.). Respond in the most compassionate way.
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Mending Your Ways to Contribute a Verse: Whitman and Mindfulness

97r/36/vica/8084/03Walt Whitman’s poem “O Me! O Life!” throws out numerous challenges to its readers, particularly people in business who have endured thousands of hours traveling to and from work in cars, buses, trains and planes. And those who have spent even more hours than that working in offices surrounded by unwise and unskillful people.

The challenge Whitman poses is how well do we really know ourselves? With as much humility as possible are we open to new discoveries about ourselves? After all this time and toil, who have we become? But also — more hopefully — what are we still capable of becoming? How can we fulfil our potential?

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,

Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,

Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,

Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Paraphrasing the meditation teacher Jack Kornfield: The challenge of our lives is continuously turning our internal compass toward true north; turning toward compassion.

Listen to your heart. Listen out for your own particular gifts and capacities, Kornfield advises. Listen to the cycles of your life for what it is time to do now with what you have been given. Bring your heart and your whole being into the present and respond to what is in front of you.
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Cool, Calm and Collected at Work

cool_at_workStress management is a lot about treating email as a hot medium.

Most people aspire to working in a state of being that can be summed up as “cool, calm and collected.”

The meaning here of “calm” is fairly obvious. “Collected” less so. In this context it probably means “focused” – a mind that is centred, and grounded, not distracted nor agitated

What is meant by “cool?” That’s a term that has been in common use since the 1930s, often referring to jazz musicians.

The phrase “cool as a cucumber” goes back to 1880s England.

In the 1960s it even became the last name of the alter ego of Snoopy, the rakishly loveable beagle in the Peanuts cartoon – “Joe Cool.”

In its comical representation, cool looks a bit arrogant and indifferent. And those are potentially the risks of an excessively cool posture. But for people who try to cultivate an authentically cool way of being, it can manifest itself as balanced, relaxed, untroubled, adaptable and resilient. The term in English often used by Buddhists to describe this type of cool is “equanimous” from the noun “equanimity.”
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Your Mother Was Right: Go Outside and Play

go_outside_and_playMost of us – especially if we grew up in the 50s, 60s and 70s – heard this exhortation from our mother on a regular basis: Go outside and play!

Four words packed with almost infinite wisdom.

And yet many of us rarely or never do so, not even on the longest days of the year, which in the Northern Hemisphere are now here for our nourishment!

A true story, although admittedly we’re talking about an extreme case: Somehow last week our teenager managed (and somehow we let him) avoid almost all direct exposure to the sun’s rays for a 24-hour period, except for 20 minutes sitting outside during lunch. He did leave the house to watch a soccer game at a sports bar in the late afternoon, but direct outdoor exposure consisted of 5 seconds from house to car, and another five seconds from car to restaurant and vice versa.

Sitting near a window in your home or office doesn’t count as direct exposure to the sun’s rays, no matter how bright the light coming in. Nor does driving. In both cases, the glass windows filter out the parts of the visible spectrum that have health-promoting effects.
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How Busyness Can Kill Creativity

Creativity is intelligence having fun. – Albert Einstein
Many of us are familiar with the notion that our biggest strengths can simultaneously be overplayed and turn into weaknesses. So it might be with the ability many highly productive people have to schedule themselves, to keep themselves busy. Their own hyper-efficiency may be part of the problem.

New research suggests that children who are kept extremely active by a string of school and non-school activities are less creative, less autonomous and less self-confident than those with fewer activities. Kids who aren’t being rushed into a car to drive from one adult-directed event to another are more able to adapt to various environments, invent games and creative projects.  A link to the study is below.

But what about adults? How much space is there in our days and our weeks for unstructured, creative thought?

I know various people in business who are proud of their meticulously planned Google or Outlook calendars, some of them with days divided up into precise 15 and 20-minute slots. A successful day for them feels like one in which all the items have been “done.” Of course the next day is constantly looming large with yet another series of meetings, phone calls, and e-mails to return.

Much of this busyness is reactive rather than proactive, of course. It’s responding to the agenda items of other people, who in turn are often just responding to what others have asked them to do, in an endless, mindless chain.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that time and task management is the key for many of us to get the things done in a day that need to be done. Without structure, without plan and lists, and left to our own devices – including our electronic devices – we might waste our lives clicking around from one website to another all day long.
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Mainstream Media Becoming Mindful of Mindfulness

Woman meditatingA superb, quite long and discerning article about Mindfulness in the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper.

Here are some edited highlights:

…This meditation isn’t about relaxing, emptying the mind or filling the head with peaceful thoughts… The intention is to be aware of physical sensations of the body and also simply to notice what the mind does.”

…”The mind wanders and it entertains itself with all sorts of things. All we are required to do is notice these thoughts. We are not suppressing them or ’emptying the mind,’ or making the thoughts go away.”

“It’s a preventative treatment – that’s what makes it different,” says Professor Mark Williams. “People usually seek treatment when they’re depressed or anxious, and cognitive therapy is one of the major success stories in treatment. But cognitive therapy is used when people are ill. What we wanted to do was extend this to teach people skills to stay well that they could use before depression threatens.”

Mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn calls Mindfulness “paying attention on purpose, moment-by-moment, without judging”. Practitioners argue that the brain’s habit of reliving past stresses and worrying about potential problems can become an obstacle to mental health.

“A good example of how it can work is when you’re kept awake at night thinking,” says Williams. “You toss and turn and you get angry because you can’t sleep. The anger doesn’t help, but you can’t seem to stop it. Mindfulness isn’t about suppressing those thoughts, but about enabling you to stand back and observe them as if they were clouds going past in the sky. You see them and you cultivate a sense of (acceptance of) them.”
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Is Your Self Perception More Accurate Than the Rest of the World’s?

Marshall GoldsmithThere is almost always a discrepancy between the self we think we are and the self the rest of the world sees in us…often the rest of the world has a more accurate perspective than we do. If we can stop, listen, and think about what others see in us, we have a great opportunity. – Marshall Goldsmith
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