Relax, You’ve Arrived – Just One Thing

Are we there yet? The Practice Relax, you've arrived. Why?We spend so much of our time trying to get somewhere.Part of this comes from our biological nature. To survive, animals - including us - have to be goal-directed, leaning into the future.It's certainly healthy to pursue wholesome aims, like paying the rent on time, raising children well, healing old pain, or improving education.But it's also important to see how this focus on the future - on endless striving, on getting the … [Read more...]

Notice You’re Alright Right Now – Just One Thing

Are you basically OK? The Practice Notice you're alright right now. Why?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 … [Read more...]

Speak from the Heart – Just One Thing

What's Your Heart Say? The Practice Speak from the heart. Why?One Christmas I hiked down into the Grand Canyon, whose bottom lay a vertical mile below the rim. Its walls were layered like a cake, and a foot-high stripe of red or gray rock indicated a million-plus years of erosion by the Colorado river. Think of water - so soft and gentle - gradually carving through the hardest stone to reveal great beauty. Sometimes what seems weakest is actually most powerful.In the same way, speaking … [Read more...]

Put No One Out of Your Heart

What is an open heart? The Practice Put no one out of your heart. Why? We all know people who are, ah, . . . challenging. It could be a critical parent, a bossy supervisor, a relative who has you walking on eggshells, a nice but flaky friend, a co-worker who just doesn't like you, a partner who won't keep his or her agreements, or a politician you dislike. Right now I'm thinking of a neighbor who refused to pay his share of a fence between us.As Jean-Paul Sartre put it: "Hell is other … [Read more...]

Tune Into Others

What Are They Feeling? The Practice Tune into others. Why?Imagine a world in which people interacted with each other like ants or fish. Imagine a day at work like this, or in your family, aware of the surface behavior of the people around you but oblivious to their inner life while they remain unmoved by your own.That's a world without empathy. To me, it sounds like a horror film.Without empathy, there can be no real love, compassion, kindness, or friendship. Empathic breakdowns shake … [Read more...]

Drop The Case

Who are you prosecuting? The Practice Drop the case. Why? Lately I've been thinking about a kind of "case" that's been running in my mind about someone in my extended family. The case is a combination of feeling hurt and mistreated, critique of the other person, irritation with others who haven't supported me, views about what should happen that hasn't, and implicit taking-things-personally. In other words, the usual mess.It's not that I have not been mistreated - actually, I have been - nor … [Read more...]

Don’t Take it Personally

Is it about you? The Practice Don't take it personally. Why?Here’s an updated parable from the ancient Taoist teacher, Chuang-Tzu: Imagine that you are floating in a canoe on a slow-moving river, having a Sunday picnic with a friend. Suddenly there is a loud thump on the side of the canoe, and it rolls over. You come up sputtering, and what do you see? Somebody has snuck up on your canoe, flipped it over for a joke, and is laughing at you. How do you feel?OK. Now imagine the exact same s … [Read more...]