Softening the heart and sitting with anger…

January 18, 2013

One evening after my Wednesday night meditation class, Amy, a member of our D.C. meditation community, asked if we might talk for a few minutes about her mother, a woman she often referred to as “a manipulative, narcissistic human.” Amy’s mother had recently been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, and as the only local offspring, Amy had become her mother’s primary caretaker. So, there she was, spending hours a day with a person she’d been avoiding for decades. “I can’t stand myself for having such a hard heart,” Amy confessed.

Amy and I agreed to meet privately to explore how she might use her practice to find more freedom in relating to her mother. At … Read more »

The demon in the dark

November 6, 2012

I had a nightmare the other night. That’s unusual for me.

True, there was the one last week where I had a bad dream that the wrong guy won the presidential election, and I awoke in a panic that the economy was about to go down the tubes again. But it’s not hard to see why I had that particular nightmare, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in it.

The one I had two nights ago — just a little too late for Hallowe’en — was different. Much darker. And even scarier.

In this dream I’d just woken up. It was still night. I was lying in a small, dark room, alone, in a twin … Read more »

Stepping out of obsessive thinking

October 27, 2012

I’d gone into therapy during my sophomore year in college, and remember the day I brought up my current prime-time fixation: how to stop binge eating. No matter how committed I felt to my newest diet plan, I kept blowing it each day, and mercilessly judged myself for being out of control. When I wasn’t obsessing on how I might concoct a stricter, more dramatic weight-loss program, I was getting caught up in food cravings.

My therapist listened quietly for a while, and then asked a question that has stayed with me ever since: “When you are obsessing about eating, what are you feeling in your body?” As my attention shifted, I immediately noticed the … Read more »

Spiritual help for violence victims

August 16, 2012

Sanjeev K Ahuja,, Hindustan Times: The terror-struck managers, supervisors and engineers at Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant — who witnessed violence at the factory premises on July 18 — have been attending meditation and spiritual classes at the Brahma Kumari Om Shanti Retreat Centre (ORC) since July 30. ORC members have also delivered discourses for the workers, who were arrested on the first day of the attack, in Gurgaon jail.

“The first batch of 35-40 managers attended a two-day workshop on July 30-31. ORC director BK Ashsa Didi also addressed the staff.

Besides meditation, the workshop also stresses upon how workers should overcome fear and improve inter-personal relations,” said BK Sanjay of ORC.

“A total of … Read more »

Don’t be intimidated

July 3, 2012

On a blog at the Huffington Post, I used the example of Stephen Colbert’s satirical “March to Keep Fear Alive” as a timely illustration of a larger point: humans evolved to be fearful – since that helped keep our ancestors alive – so we are very vulnerable to being frightened and even intimidated by threats, both real ones and “paper tigers.” With his march, Colbert was obviously mocking those who play on fear, since we certainly don’t need any new reminders to keep fear alive.

This vulnerability to feeling threatened has effects at many levels, ranging from individuals, couples, and families to schoolyards, organizations, and nations. Whether it’s an individual who worries about the consequences … Read more »

The practice of noticing you’re alright right now

August 31, 2011

To keep our ancestors alive, the brain evolved strong tendencies toward fear, including an ongoing internal trickle of unease. This little whisper of worry keeps you scanning your inner and outer worlds for signs of trouble.

This background of unsettledness and watchfulness is so automatic that you can forget it’s there. So see if you can tune into a tension, guarding or bracing in your body. Or a vigilance about your environment or other people. Or a block against completely relaxing, letting down, letting go. Try to walk through an office or store that you know is safe without a molecule of wariness; it’s really hard. Or try to sit at home for five minutes … Read more »

Petting your inner lizard

August 19, 2011

I’ve always liked lizards.

Growing up in the outskirts of Los Angeles, I played in the foothills near our home. Sometimes I’d catch a lizard and stroke its belly, so it would relax in my hands, seeming to feel at ease.

In my early 20′s, I found a lizard one chilly morning in the mountains. It was torpid and still in the cold and let me pick it up. Concerned that it might be freezing to death, I placed it on the shoulder of my turtleneck, where it clung and occasionally moved about for the rest of the day. There was a kind of wordless communication between us, in which the lizard seemed to feel … Read more »

How to live without causing fear

August 8, 2011

We evolved to be afraid.

The ancient ancestors that were casual and blithely hopeful, underestimating the risks around them – predators, loss of food, aggression from others of their kind – did not pass on their genes. But the ones that were nervous were very successful – and we are their great-grandchildren, sitting atop the food chain.

Consequently, multiple hair-trigger systems in your brain continually scan for threats. At the least whiff of danger – which these days comes mainly in the form of social hazards like indifference, criticism, rejection, or disrespect – alarm bells start ringing. See a frown across a dinner table, hear a cold tone from a supervisor, get interrupted repeatedly, receive … Read more »

Study shows meditation is powerful medicine to conquer fears

March 26, 2011

What do you do if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer but you’re scared of the treatment? Studies show meditation can be powerful medicine when it comes to overcoming fears.

Sore tonsils led 44-year-old Danilo Ramirez’s doctor to suspect he had more than just a sore throat.

“He did surgery and a week later, ‘Mr. Ramirez you got lymphoma,'” said Ramirez.

Stage Two Lymphoma. Those words sent the Burbank father of two into a tailspin. But the specialized radiation treatment he faced scared him even more. Danilo is claustrophobic. Even though his life depended on it, he refused to wear the required mask.

“Mentally it was really hard on me,” said Ramirez. “There were nights I … Read more »

How meditation can help with “choking”

September 30, 2010

A star golfer misses a critical putt; a brilliant student fails to ace a test; a savvy salesperson blows a key presentation. Each of these people has suffered the same bump in mental processing: They have just choked under pressure.

It’s tempting to dismiss such failures as “just nerves.” But to University of Chicago psychologist Sian Beilock, they are preventable results of information logjams in the brain. By studying how the brain works when we are doing our best — and when we choke — Beilock has formulated practical ideas about how to overcome performance lapses at critical moments.

Beilock’s research is the basis of her new book, Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Read more »