Category Archives: Mindfulness

The Pursuit of Happiness…Sadness, Fear, Guilt & Anger

tinybuddhaThe pursuit of happiness can leave us feeling miserable. This sounds a little odd given I’m posting on Independence Day, but hear me out.

Our right to happiness is so engrained in our psyches, it’s the basis of our Declaration of Independence: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. It’s the theme of our life’s purpose. It’s the right we own as Americans. Happiness, happiness, happiness. It’s the 21st century zeitgeist. Type the word into and you’ll get 20 pages of recently published books about “obtaining” this emotion. These books tell us we can earn happiness through business success, wealth, meditation, life coaching, positive thinking, changing our lives, having more money, having less money, on and on.

Take a moment and ask yourself, what happiness means to you. Formulate it in one sentence (go ahead, I’ll wait). Can you do it?

Happiness is not a bad thing. It’s the working hard to obtain happiness that creates confusion. Like gerbils running on a wheel to “catch” happiness, we’re condemning any other feelings. We see those emotions as getting in the way of our one-size-fits-all happiness that will solve all problems. We cannot heal when happiness is a goal. We cannot see what’s in front of us when we refuse to look away from our quest for bliss.

Every single day, people walk into my office suffering from anxiety. At the core of this state of being is avoidance of feeling more difficult emotions. They’ll do whatever it takes to keep from the discomfort of sadness or anger; staying too busy, dissociating, drinking heavily, complaining about others, binge eating. They say, “I just want to be happy.”

But, we can’t just be happy. We’re complex beings. Our emotions are our soul’s response to life’s situations. Sadness tells us we’ve lost something. Anger charges us to set boundaries. Fear sends signals we’re vulnerable. If we ignore these, we create despair that sits in our psyches and – one way or another – will demand attention.

How do we pull from other internal resources if we refuse to notice what’s occurring within ourselves? Our wakefulness, our willingness to be present to what’s happening in the moment helps us be whole. Psychologist and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction pioneer, Jon Kabat-Zinn, refers to this as living our full dimensionality. In his book, FULL CATASTROPHE LIVING, Kabat-Zinn states:

Since no map completely describes a territory, ultimately it has to be experienced for us to know it, navigate within it and, benefit from its unique gifts. It has to be inhabited or, at the very least, visited from time to time, so we can experience directly, firsthand, for ourselves.

If we let go of and become present to what’s within us, we release the exhaustion of pursuit. One of the main principles of Mindfulness is acceptance. If we’re sad, we’re sad. If we’re tired, we’re tired. It’s then we develop self-compassion because we know how to meet our needs.

Allowing this full dimensionality is how we create our new reality. it is not a feel good pursuit as much as it is noticing and making space for the “negative” feelings without them dominating our every thought. It’s awareness without pursuit.

Artwork courtesy:


Mind: That Great and Terrible Wonder

images9QTLBV1MthinkThe brain is a filter that helps us make sense of our world. This organ, compared to all others, is the most mysterious, immeasurable organ in our bodies. We can love without a spleen. We can express feelings if we have an artificial heart. We can understand our meaning in the world with one kidney. We can’t do any of these things without our brain. Without a brain, we can’t have interpersonal relationships. We’re incapable of self-reflection. We can’t identifying what we feel. The function of the brain goes far beyond the reasoning process. The brain truly is the link to our Soul.

In the past decade or so,  research of the brain has yielded some fascinating insight. Scientists now understand from what regions of the brain energy flows, what hormones and chemicals are released to affect mood and what type of circumstances affect brain function. As a therapist who works with traumatized clients, this information has been invaluable in helping facilitate healing on emotional as well as energetic levels.

Through studies, the question of “how?” can now be answered. However, the question “why?” may never be determined.  Scientists cannot pinpoint the exact source that stimulates neurons and creates brain functioning. This is where the mystery of universal energy has to be accepted and embraced – perhaps even revered by those who seek to measure it.

This universal energy source is Soul energy. It affects every aspect of our multifaceted Self.  It charges our muscles with movements. Soul energy manifests feelings. Its power motivates us toward personal growth and healing. If listened to, Soul energy will guide us. Its force is wisdom and truth and stillness. Its intent is reconciliation with original Divine energy. The combination of Soul energy and brain are what I refer to as the Dimension of Mind.

It’s from the Dimension of Mind we first become aware of our feelings. These feelings bring us into the realm of relationships. The delicate symbiotic dance we perform through our interactions with others is one of the gauges by which we can understand ourselves. As Daniel Siegel states in The Developing Mind, the ability of one mind to perceive and then experience elements of another person’s mind is a profoundly important dimension of human experience. This dance can keep us alive, help us fall in love, or make the right career choices.

Mind reflects our awareness and our state of being. It provides us with the ability to notice what arises in us. It can get in our way and keep us from everyday functioning or it can release its limitations so we can connect to the universe. Mind is not only about an emotional connection with others, it’s the choice we make to live fully awake. Mindfulness practices are intended to still the constant chatter that thinking creates because our brains can get ahead of the rest of us when we’re not careful.  Mind Nature in Tibetan Buddhist practice is considered the universal existence. Mind creates happiness or suffering depending upon the person’s awareness and how they choose to use their thinking. The ordinary Mind (sem) is the one that creates duplicity, jealousy, pettiness, anger, aggression and many other states of discord. The aware mind (Rigpa) is the awake mind. Rigpa is present to the moment which brings us full connection to the Soul.

Our Soul seeks wholeness and has a need to connect to its Higher Source. It needs Mind’s assistance to accomplish this. Through an inner dialogue with symbols, we also connect to our world beyond the five senses.  Dreaming, visualization through meditation,  daydreaming, the use of art, form and movement are some of the ways we stay connected to the world beyond facts and figures.

Our preverbal existence (10,000 years or more ago) used the images  brought forth through Mind to connect with each other. Our more recent verbal society developed reasoning  skills which prioritized exterior facts as our primary communication. Our brains can handle both, but we’ve been taught in our modern world to value the tangible over the experiential. As a result, Mind wants to find answers to everything. It wants to measure, adjust, explain its way out of the subjective. It’s learned to stir dissent in our Self, to tell us everything about ourself is wrong and incomplete. This process has created inner conflict and is leading us down a road toward depression and anxiety that still again, our brain wants to reason us out of.

We’ve forgotten that brain doesn’t run the show and that it’s just one of many factors that complete the Dimension of Mind. Yes, brain is the steering wheel but not the whole vehicle. We can’t drive the car without it, but it can’t hold us hostage, either. Our brain and our Soul need to remember to work in conjunction. Both need to negotiate and sometimes our brain needs to slide out of the driver’s seat and let Soul steer for a while.