Don't Be Pressured

Bring mindful awareness to how your brain reacts to feeling threatened

What makes you feel threatened?

The Practice:
Don't be pressured.

Why?

Humans evolved to be fearful, as anxiety helped keep our ancestors alive. Consequently, we are vulnerable to being alarmed, manipulated, and even intimidated by threats, both real ones and “paper tigers.”

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 of speaking up at work or in a close relationship, a family cowed by a scary parent, a business fixated on threats instead of opportunities, or a country that's routinely told it's under "Threat Level Orange"—it's the same human brain that reacts in all cases.

Therefore, understanding how your brain became so vigilant and wary, and so easily hijacked by alarm, is the first step toward gaining more control over that ancient circuitry. Then, by bringing mindful awareness to how your brain reacts to feeling threatened, you can stimulate and therefore build up the neural substrates of a mind that has more calm, wisdom, and sense of inner strength—a mind that sees real threats more clearly, acts more effectively in dealing with them, and is less rattled or distracted by exaggerated, manageable, or false alarms.

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Forgiveness

Are you holding onto feeling wronged? Try the practice of forgiveness.

First, forgiveness has two distinct meanings:

  • To give up resentment or anger
  • To pardon an offense; to stop seeking punishment or recompense


Here, I am going to focus on the first meaning, which is broad enough to include situations where you have not let someone off the hook morally or legally, but you still want to come to peace about whatever happened. Finding forgiveness can walk hand in hand with pursuing justice.

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Is Your Self-Help Helping?

Market studies show that the personal development/self-improvement industry is growing at a rapid pace. More and more people are spending more and more money to help them lose weight, improve relationships, manage stress, attain success, increase productivity, achieve balance, and find fulfillment.

Yet despite the increase of people investing in self-help tools, techniques, technologies, teachers, and coaches, daily I hear from people who are stuck. They feel helpless, resigned, and frustrated after months or years of: 

  • being on diet and exercise routines yet not seeing a shift in their weight or inches
  • trying to adhere to a budget yet never getting out of debt
  • practicing yoga and meditation daily yet still being consumed/paralyzed by stress and anxiety
  • looking for “the one” yet finding no one special
  • wanting to start, ramp up, or change careers yet continuing to sit at the same desk or lie on the same couch

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How Do You Forgive Yourself and Those In Your Life

We have all done things that we regretted, that we felt bad about and judged ourselves for.

Whether it was:

The choices you made in a past relationship.

The way you handled a break up.

The life you thought you should have had.

What are you still judging yourself for?

Judging what you did in the past keeps you stuck in the past. You can’t change the past no matter how much you judge.

Holding yourself hostage to your past only serves to limit your ability to create your future.

Embrace that you are human. You will make “mistakes”. Your soul incarnated onto this planet to learn, grow and evolve. The way you grow is through experiences and lessons.

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Healing Depression with Meditation – Part 1

Most people get depressed at times, and many suffer greatly from bouts of major depression. At the heart of the suffering is the experience of severed belonging—of being imprisoned in the pain of separation, unworthiness, unlovability and hopelessness. These two talks explore several meditation practices that reconnect us with our natural aliveness, open heartedness and awareness. They empower us to develop our inner resources, energize us to awaken, free us from rumination and remind us that we are not our depressive thoughts and feelings. The growing realization of the loving awareness that is our home heals the very roots of depression.

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Expanded Awareness: Turning the Tables on Your Brain

Sometimes the enormous success of science leads to some wrong assumptions. In the case of brain science, the advent of sophisticated brain scans opened a window to the brain as never before. It used to be said that figuring out the human brain was like putting a stethoscope to the roof of the Astrodome to figure out the rules of baseball. That's no longer true.

In neuroscience, as brain function becomes more and more illuminated, the assumption grows stronger that our brains control our behavior. This idea isn't true except in a limited sense that needs to be carefully defined. There are things that your brain controls, such as the fight-or-flight response. But for the vast majority of brain functions, you have a choice how to respond. "My brain made me do it" doesn't hold water even when it comes to things we want to blame it for. Take mental disorders, for example. If you are depressed, there may be a family history involved, which suggests a genetic component, and the drugs to treat depression act on the brain, without a doubt. But consider the following:
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Give None Cause to Fear You

When others feel safe around you, you have less cause to fear them.

What puts people at ease?

The Practice:Give none cause to fear you.

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Let Toxic Relationships Go For Good

Have you ever severed a relationship, but even though the person was no longer in your life, you still continued the relationship in your head? Consider that the very act of keeping it alive even if only in your mind means you are still in it. Perhaps that happens when you feel a relationship is unrequited, and you’re not letting go, or you’re nursing a resentment because you won’t, or lack the self-awareness to see your part in the dynamic.

This is not about self-blame at all. It’s about self-accountability and freedom.

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How can we Heal our Heart when it Closes?

When I talk about opening the heart, what exactly do we do?

Well, one thing you do, is you acknowledge that you feel ‘closed.’ That’s the first thing. You don’t make believe you’re open hearted, which most people do much of the time. They’re making believe they are open-hearted, while they’re aloof a little more than they’re feeling themselves to be. They always end up feeling a little hypocritical.

First thing is to acknowledge what you’re feeling: “My heart is closed.”


I’ll tell you there are numerous practices for this, and you have to find one that’s comfortable for you. For example, I work a lot with my breath, and I breathe in and out of my heart, and when I’m breathing out in my heart, I allowed whatever love I can muster for anything to be offered to people, to beings around me, and when I’m breathing in, I’m taking the existence of the universe into myself, and I keep feeling this breath going back and forth, and the breathing out is, “May all beings be free of suffering, may all beings be peaceful, may all beings be happy,” and I say:

“Hard-hearted though I am, and closed hearted though I am, I am going to use my energies to the extent that my mind and my heart can do it for the benefit of others. I’m gonna wish them well.”

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At Death’s Door

There are many fears we humans suffer.


On different lists they put in first place a number of associated fears. One says our greatest fear is Failure. Another, underscoring that we are animals of a pack, says the top fear is Loneliness. Psychology Today says it’s public speaking. They blend into each other: we fear an alteration in our group status.


The interesting one shows up as Number Two on almost all the lists: fear of death.

“In the midst of life,” wrote the cynic Ambrose Bierce, “we are in death.” Jesus tells us no man knows the hour and day of his death.


Where does death rate on your scale of fears?


Death Is Loss


“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” ---Norman Cousins

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Letting Go

About 14 years ago I was sharing an inflatable kayak with my husband. The sun was out. The river was winding thru the tall, red rock walls outside of Moab, Utah.  Really everything was perfect. The only thing outside of that moment was my attention. I was missing my children. They were visiting my ex-husband and his family.
 
My mind was going to the places of what if….   things out of my control. 
 
I noticed the water was moving faster. In the distance there were some boulders surrounded by rapids. I brought this to my husband’s attention. He was not too concerned with the churning water. I was getting more and more worried. We only needed to go farther to the right, or farther to left to avoid the biggest boulder. 
 
As my attention focused more intently on potential disaster, it became less likely we would avoid it. My husband remained calm. The nose of the kayak was grabbed by the whirlpool. I fell out of the kayak into the swirling water. My husband remained in the kayak and passed me by. I grabbed hold of the boulder and attempted to stand in the place I had wanted to avoid.    
         
I was so mad! From the shore a man yelled instructions at me.  I held tightly to the rock. He called, “let go, it will be alright”. I kept my tight grip. The rapids continued to hit me. The water splashed in my face, I could not see clearly. I refused to let go. My grip kept me in the exact place I was afraid of.

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Free Yourself to Forgive

It is impossible to change the relationship we have with the world around us without changing the relationship we have within ourselves. This is the secret teaching of the ages.

Our task, if we want to be free human beings -- if we want a life in which we no longer carry around with us "what he did," "what she didn't do," "what never worked out" -- begins with discovering that there can be no real freedom for us until we understand the nature of the tyranny of the past that still lives within us. And one of the main areas of this unchallenged dictatorship that still holds us captive is our inability to forgive.

Do you know people -- maybe who aren't even alive anymore -- that you haven't been able to forgive? Are there certain events in your life you just can't release? You should know by now that what you can't release isn't the person or the condition that you see as being the source of your pain. What seems to be "stuck" isn't an old situation you can't release; it's a thought.

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Reduce Painful Experiences

Are you feeling unneeded pain?

The Practice:
Reduce painful experiences.

Why?

Painful experiences range from subtle discomfort to extreme anguish - and there is a place for them. Sorrow can open the heart, anger can highlight injustices, fear can alert you to real threats, and remorse can help you take the high road next time.

But is there really any shortage of suffering in this world? Look at the faces of others - including mine - or your own in the mirror, and see the marks of weariness, irritation, stress, disappointment, longing, and worry. There's plenty of challenge in life already - including unavoidable illness, loss of loved ones, old age, and death - without needing a bias in your brain to give you an extra dose of pain each day.

Yet as on a prior JOT explored, your brain evolved exactly such a “negativity bias” in order to help your ancestors pass on their genes – a bias that produces lots of collateral damage today.

Painful experiences are more than passing discomforts. They produce lasting harms to your physical and mental health. When you’re feeling frazzled, pressured, down, hard on yourself, or simply frustrated, that:

  • Weakens your immune system
  • Impairs nutrient absorption in your gastrointestinal system
  • Increases vulnerabilities in your cardiovascular system
  • Decreases your reproductive hormones; exacerbates PMS
  • Disturbs your nervous system

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An Attempt to Solve a Problem

I first learned about Dr. Gabor Maté through his groundbreaking book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, which explores his work with addicted individuals living on Vancouver’s skid row, as well as being an exceptionally comprehensive delineation of just what the hell addiction is, its causes, its effects, and so, so, so much more. Aside from that, Dr. Maté is a renowned speaker and bestselling author, highly sought after for his expertise on a range of topics, including addiction, stress, and childhood development.

 

I’d heard that Gabor believes addiction is not the problem but rather a person’s attempt to solve a problem in his or her life. I reached out to him because I wondered, among other things, how he would define addiction and what his perspective was on people using addiction to solve their life problems.

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Short Talk & Meditation: Forgiving and Freeing Our Hearts

Forgiveness for others becomes possible when we’ve held our own being with great compassion. This short talk and guided meditation brings forth our most awake and tender presence as we ask for forgiveness, offer care to the woundedness within us, and then extend forgiveness to another who has hurt us. (from the Spring 2018 IMCW 7-day Silent Retreat)

Join Tara in a 10-day online course on forgiveness available through Insight Timer: Free Yourself From Blame & Resentment.

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The Natural Flow of Compassion

Compassion is natural — moments of compassion come in the flow of life.

Do You Care?

The Practice:
Have compassion.

Why?

Compassion is essentially the wish that beings not suffer — from subtle physical and emotional discomfort to agony and anguish — combined with feelings of sympathetic concern.

 

You could have compassion for an individual (a friend in the hospital, a co-worker passed over for a promotion), groups of people (victims of crime, those displaced by a hurricane, refugee children), animals (your pet, livestock heading for the slaughterhouse), and yourself.

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What looked like a suicide attempt was the start of my recovery

I can’t breathe. F#$k. F#$k. F#$k. I can’t breathe! My eyes pop open as a full-body panic attack sets in. Through my haze, I see my hands strapped to the bed. Oh, f#$k. Not again. I’m gasping for air.

 

There are tubes coming out of my mouth. This is new. I raise my head and realize I’m in a hospital. But where? How did I get here? What the f#$k happened? That’s when I see my parents sitting in chairs at the end of my bed, near a window. The heartbreak and despair in their eyes are unmistakable. A nurse stands nearby. She’s telling me to calm down and let the tubes do the breathing for me, but I’m too panicked. I begin thrashing in the bed, trying to break the woven nylon straps that are keeping me from ripping the tubes out of my mouth. Later I’ll find out this is the reason I was restrained in the first place.

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Sometimes All I Am Is a Dark Emptiness

Because I have lived so much of my life caught in a cycle of addiction, recovery, relapse, repeat, a quote from Zen master Ikkyū Sojun—Sometimes all I am is a dark emptiness—sums up and shades much of my experience. I’m no stranger to relapsing and the pain, shame, guilt, confusion, and heartbreak that come along with it. Nor am I a stranger to detoxes, rehabs, emergency rooms, jail cells, and psych hospitals. What is strange for me is that after my last relapse, I began to care about relapsing. In the past, when I found myself in a place where I was willing to pick up a bottle of vodka or succumb to depression, I didn’t give a damn about the consequences. Fights, handcuffs, lies, withdrawals, self-cutting, hospitals, vomiting, and pissing blood—none of it mattered. I meant nothing to me.

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Dealing With Disappointment When You Feel You Give So Much

When you feel as though you have given so much to those around you, and you feel that it hasn’t been reciprocated in return, it can feel unfair.

Perhaps you feel disappointed, hurt or betrayed.

You can let it close your heart, shut you down and make you bitter.

But remember this:

You cannot cheat the universe.

Everything you give and every action of loving you have taken is seen by the universe. It is seen even if no one sees it.

When you give, it may not come back to you from the people that you gave to but rest assured it will come back to you, even if from a most unexpected source.

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How to Clear Negative Energy & Negative Thoughts

Everything found in the universe is made up of energy. This goes for both physical and nonphysical objects.

Basic physics and chemistry tells us that a physical object, such as a building, a tree, or this book, is made up of billions of individual atoms—little energy bundles that interact and bond with other atoms into many forms including water, metals, plants, soil, plastics, wood pulp, and other raw materials used to manufacture physical objects.


How We Interact With Positive and Negative Energy

It’s well known, for instance, that our brain waves are a form of intense energy that can be easily detected with standard medical equipment—and that can interact with our physical world as any other form of energy would. Perhaps you’re wondering, what do I mean by “interact with our physical world”?

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30 Simple Ways to Create Balance and Connection

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