Category Archives: Mindfulness

Change the Peg

By Larry Ward, Senior Dharma Teacher at The Lotus Institute and Friend of Simple Intentions

052517_ChangethePeg_LarryWhen we train our intention to focus on our states of mind, we cultivate our residual awareness. Neuroscience would say this practice is about taking charge of directing our own neuroplasticity. We are intentionally deciding (literally) how our brains are shaped, and how our nervous systems function – as much as we as individuals can influence that.

To achieve this, we must be constantly attempting to master 3 things in our mind:

– Awareness of what’s happening in our minds
– Learning how to shape our minds
– Willingness to liberate ourselves from our mind’s tendencies to cling and grasp

There are many variations of the meaning of “mind” – but the most important meaning of mind is state of mind. Where is your mind right now? What state is your mind in?

To answer that we first must know what a state of mind is. A state of mind includes several things. It includes images of ourselves and images of our world; it includes emotional tones, like a mood; and it includes questions that inevitably come up in different states of mind, these questions change depending on what the state is. Two states of mind to be aware of are the high mind and the narrow mind.

When the highest mind is there (this can also be called an empowered state of mind or being), we feel happy, we feel open, we feel generous. But when the narrow (or disempowered) mind is in control, we feel the opposite.

One way to change your state of mind is called “changing the peg”. If the radio show playing in you’re mind right now is causing you pain and suffering, change the channel. It takes skill to change the peg because so many of our disempowered mental states are often seductive and encompassing. Create a list of things you know can help you change the channel or change the state of your mind. All of us need a list, a specific one – just like the subconscious checklist you use to get dressed every morning. Get dressed for your life. Get dressed to be awake. Make sure you have the tools you need so you don’t confuse the clouds with the blue sky, the birds with the trees. So you don’t confuse being the Inn Keeper with the guest. Change the peg.

States of mind aren’t permanent but consist of a flowing energy coming through. But it’s so easy to think it’s permanent. It’s so easy to latch on to a state of being, to have that define us, to see everything through that lens. Everything we see becomes amplified, larger than life – and drives us in a certain direction of thought, speech, and behavior.

A large part of being able to change our state of mind is being able to receive what life gives us –  without pretending that’s not what we got. My peace is not because I don’t have suffering. Peace comes from attending to our suffering without pretending it’s not there, attending to the suffering of society without pretending it’s not there.

Think about what it means to be at home with your family, friends, and neighbors. If you cannot change your state of mind, you have to figure out how to embrace it. This means figuring out how to be bigger than our experiences. The calmer we are (like when we are at home with loved ones), the easier it is to hold our experience. This is cultivation. This is being a good internal gardener. By preparing yourself to receive different states of mind, even when they are low or disempowered.

And if you can’t shift out or “change the channel” – ask for help. Just that act may help you change the peg.

 

This content is an excerpt from Larry’s recorded Dharma Talk Cultivating Liberation and Awareness of the Mind, it has been condensed and edited for written format. Watch Larry’s entire Dharma Talk here.

 

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States of Being

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared on Thrive Global]

032217_States of BeingNever underestimate the impact you have on other people. It is almost impossible to fully understand how your behavior (actions and words) has impacted others in the span of your life. Think for a moment about someone who has impacted you greatly in your lifetime. Do they even know it? Do you think their impact was intentional? Aware or not, your behavior has an impact on every single person you meet each day (including yourself). It is therefore interesting to think about why many of us keep choosing the same behaviors, words and actions day after day — effectively creating a future that is the same as our past.

Why do we keep doing what we are doing when we know what we are doing is not working? Some of the answers can be found in the field of neuroscience, which studies interactions of the brain with its environment. Right now we are sharing a reality that is made up of whatever you are touching, smelling, and hearing — that includes the voice in your head (the one wondering when I’m going to get to my point). The great news is we all have a voice in our head — (if you have more than one — this likely isn’t the right content for you!). You can think of the voice in your head as the voice of awareness. And, as neuroscience tells us, our actions are linked with our senses: smell, taste, feel/touch, seeing, and hearing. This includes the internal conversations we have in our head.

In other words, our actions (behavior and words) are linked with our senses and our internal dialogue. And the only way you can really shift your reality — is to shift the voice in your head. To do that you first have to hear the voice — THEN ask yourself if what you are saying is true. Think about all the weird stuff that pops in your head throughout an average day — some of it is not true or based on old stories or old values that you may no longer have. It is possible that we continue to repeat the past because we listen to the same internal conversations over and over again.

Harnessing the power of the impact of your behavior is as simple as changing the dialogue in your head. If you alter the dialogue in your head, your behavior will begin to change as well. You can change what you are experiencing by changing the conversations you have with yourself. How you see the world, and the conversations you have in your head about it, make up how you relate to the world and the energy which you bring to your reality. This can be referred to as your state of being.

There are two primary states of being: disempowered and empowered. You have likely heard of these concepts before — optimist/pessimist, at-risk/at-stake, abundance/scarcity, victim/non-victim. The idea is the same behind disempowered and empowered states of being.

A disempowered state of being is one in which you feel overstressed and as if there is never enough time. Your life might feel like a house of cards — if one card falls, the house will crumble. You might feel anxious, as though you have to defend yourself and the status of your work at all times. You tend to feel as if it’s all yours to lose and both resources and support are scarce. In other words, you operate from a place of fear. You will most likely approach interactions with others from this perception, this energy or way of being.

An empowered state of being is a feeling of having purpose. You most likely have a feeling of clear direction and connection to your internal world and the world around you. You likely feel energized and absorbed in what you are doing and feel the value of achieving what you are committed to. If you are functioning in this state, you feel empowered, as though you have something (or everything) to gain: It is a place of abundance and love. You will most likely approach interactions with others from this perception, this energy or way of being.

One state of being is not more right than the other — we all will move through many stages of life and states of being where we feel empowered and disempowered. The learning here is to recognize the state of being you are experiencing and know that shifting that state begins with shifting the internal dialogue in your head. It is true that some people are “wired” to be more empowered or disempowered. It’s also true that regardless of how you are wired, shifting states is as simple as shifting your thoughts.

You’ve likely heard the phrase: ‘you bring about what you think about’ — this is what we are talking about here. If you think you will have a bad time, you will; and if you think you will have a good time, you will. Your thoughts are directly correlated to your behavior and the impact of your energy and actions.

Even more powerful is that when you shift how you experience and think about your personal or professional worlds, the behavior of others around you will also experience a shift. Your behavior has an impact whether you are aware of it or not. It’s the same principle as “a smile is contagious.” Think about it — most times you can tell if a person is happy or sad, excited or angry even if you don’t know them or what is happening with their internal dialogue. Their state of being, just like yours, is having an impact.

When it comes to reflecting on your state of being there are a few important questions to consider:

Do you operate more from an empowered or disempowered state of being? There is no right or wrong answer, just focus on building awareness. Begin to tune into your thoughts and see if they are mostly empowered or disempowered — no need to try and alter any thoughts at this point — just notice your default state of being.

What state of being is more common among your family? If you work — what state of being is more common among your teammates or in your company? This may shift from team to team and family member to family member — again the action here is just to notice.

What are you willing to do to shift your state of being when you feel disempowered? Are you ready to have awareness around noticing when you feel disempowered? Are you ready to listen to your internal dialogue? Ready to question it? To shift it?

How do you know when you are in an empowered state of being? What does it feel like in your body? Next time you’re feeling empowered — notice it — record how (and where) you feel it so you can recall that feeling to help you shift from disempowered to empowered in the future.

As you reflect on your answers, begin to become aware of where your behaviors are supporting you and where they are sabotaging you. Notice the choices you make, notice when you feel in balance, notice when you feel out of balance. Then make the necessary shift.

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Live Your Values Through Your Work

By Mellicia Marx, Founder of Poplin Style Direction and Friend of Simple Intentions

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Author Mellicia Marx pictured top left at the 2017 YouthCare Luncheon

Early in my career, I was drawn to public service and the nonprofit world. Why? It seemed obvious. Careers in these sectors were the best and perhaps, realistically, the only way to give back and make a difference in any significant or productive way. After all, making the world a better place is central to the job description. Later, I thought, corporate America could also offer the same opportunity, but only if you were able to land one of a company’s few corporate social responsibility roles.

Eventually, of course, I discovered that none of this was true. It turns out you can live your values no matter your industry; that you can have a meaningful impact on the people around you by nurturing your own strengths and sharing them with others. It can even benefit you in your career. And you don’t need to uproot your life to do this — really.

Now I’ve left non-profits and public service. I run my own small business as a personal stylist — I help women communicate who they truly are, using personal style as a lens. And it is by far the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. By providing clear guidelines to help a woman know what flatters her frame, and guidance about how to convey what makes her uniquely her, I plant a seed that helps her flourish in all aspects of her life. Especially gratifying is to work with a client a year or two after we first met, and to see how her life has been influenced by our work together. Peoples’ lives are being improved, or even transformed, by this work. And I can see it at close range, in a way I never could earlier in my career.

And yet, there’s more. In addition to my work with clients, I devote a great deal of my energy into my volunteer work with YouthCare, a Seattle-based nonprofit devoted to empower homeless youth ages 11–24 in my community. It’s a rewarding and rejuvenating part of my everyday life — and it presents yet another opportunity to channel my personal values into something meaningful and productive.

We all have the ability to seamlessly integrate our values into our work and life, with less effort than perhaps is common belief. And as I have learned first-hand, this not only makes a positive impact on your community but can propel your career or enhance your business in unexpected ways.

Leverage Your Expertise

What do you have to offer to your community? For starters, you are almost certainly an expert in something — most likely the thing that helps you put food on the table. What value do you create with your work? How could the community benefit from it? In my case, as a personal stylist I can help people with a problem we all experience, regardless of lifestyle, income, or even housing status — what am I going to wear today?

By partnering with YouthCare, I’ve made my expertise available to a segment of the population who, it turns out, can really benefit from it. Working together, we’ve created a styling session program for youth in YouthCare’s Barista Training Program. We teach them what clothing is appropriate for job interviews and the workplace, then help them “shop” from a boutique of quality clothes donated by the community — and my client base. It’s a successful, thriving community program that is really just an extension of the work I do every day with my clients.

Think about your own work. Do you have skills you take for granted, but that just might be incredibly advantageous to someone in need?

Identify Your Resources

Let’s face it: we live in a hectic world where time is at a premium. Maybe, given the pressures of your career and the time it takes up, volunteering is a separate, subordinate dream that you might eventually realize — in retirement. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, you can actively benefit your career by way of volunteering.

In my case, I’ve found that by threading together my volunteering and my business, I have tangibly enhanced my clients’ customer experience. I offer each client the opportunity to donate her extraneous clothes after we have gone through the step of editing her closet. I take those pieces to YouthCare for our styling session program, and the organization sends tax information back to the client. It doesn’t stop there. I also invite clients to attend graduation ceremonies for the youth finishing up the Barista Training Program. There’s no obligation, just the chance to see the impact of their donated clothes on the lives of young people in our community. And I host tables at YouthCare’s annual luncheon (pictured above) and invite clients to attend — I regularly have over twenty attendees. Every once in a while, I share stories about youth on my blog and Instagram and tag clients who donate with a public thank you.

This approach is in line with my values, and is good for business in so many ways. Not long ago, I started working with a new client transitioning to female after she read my blog posts about working with transgender youth. I also have clients who reach out after our initial styling sessions because they have more clothes to donate; this allows me to stay connected with clients in the long term without needing to “sell” them something. And client surveys show that learning about my work in the community contributes to their choosing to work with my company.

Living my values not only enhanced my sense of fulfillment but helped build my business and brand – this can be true for anyone, regardless of job title.

Select Your Cause

Youth homelessness is particularly upsetting to me. These are just kids. They’re kids who didn’t have someone to help them buy their first car, or encourage them to take the SATs, or even help them choose their first bra or tie their first tie. They live a challenging and often dangerous life. But I’ve found that one afternoon of warmth and attention from our team can really shift the path for some of these kids. They know that someone, who is not paid to care, really does care. They know that there is no question too embarrassing to ask, and they know that when they leave they will not “look homeless” — something so many of them fear on a daily basis.

For you it might be the environment, or animal welfare, or social justice that fuels your passion. Think about causes that mean something to you. They might even be naturally aligned with the expertise you have to offer. Then do some research, find the organizations that are doing the best work in that field, and ask how you can help.

Yes, some jobs offer more flexibility than others to choose how one spends their time and resources. But it doesn’t take much. Every time you write a letter, make a call, or spend an hour with someone in need, you are positively contributing to your community — and maybe even your career.

 

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What Mindfulness Does For Sales

By Jordan Weinand, Founder of Glowsoul and Friend of Simple Intentions

011817_whatmindfulnessAll folks who sell for a living want to make the next big deal. The overwhelming pride you feel when you’ve helped push the quota past expectations is worth every ounce of work you put in. It feels really good when your boss is pumped enough to reach into the pocket and splurge on your success during happy hour too.

If there was a step-by-step guide on how to achieve consistent sales results, we’d all be eager to pay up.

Hard work and grit. Yeah, it makes sense that we need both of those, however, it’s not easy to teach those characteristics. On all accounts, it requires you to find it from within. If you’re not breaking yourself like Rocky Balboa, the next best way to find yourself is through Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the mental state we reach when we focus our awareness on the present moment. During this state, we are acknowledging and accepting of our feelings, thoughts, and sensations. Mindfulness has tons of benefits, below are three that will help you sell the next biggest deal on your team.

Memory Improvement

Have you ever forgotten the fine details about your prospect’s needs and lost a sale because you couldn’t remember how exactly to tie in your service? I have, my pen only writes so fast! If I could ask for one superpower it would be a better memory.

There are ample ways of increasing the stickiness in your storage capacity. A few I’ve tried are: story-based association, poem memorization and reading books. Another, that has helped a ton is mindfulness and meditation.

The “Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Group,” found there are structural differences between brains of experienced meditation practitioners and those who aren’t.

In this Harvard Gazette article, detailed by Sue McGreevey, MGH Communications, the group found increased grey matter (found in regions of the brain associated with hearing, emotions, and memory) in test subjects who practiced meditation for 27 minutes a day, over an 8-week span. This is helpful to know as I’ve personally noticed better detail recollection with meditating and mindfulness.

Gain Empathy

It’s been documented that since the 1970’s we’re becoming less empathetic and compassionate. Sarah Konrath from the University of Michigan says she’s seen a steady drop since 1990 in these areas. Mindfulness and meditation can certainly boost this lack of empathy. While long-term benefits of mindfulness include increased memory, stronger overall health and cognitive skill speed, increased compassion is the main focus.

When being mindful you’re often sitting in a quiet space for any length of time and guiding awareness to the present moment. The aim is to focus on the now and be thankful for all you have in the instant. The immediate effects often are an appreciation for oneself, others and the materials you already have. When I focus on mindful selling, I become appreciative of my managers, prospects and the opportunity to help. Showing empathy in sales has a sweet referral ROI along with a fast track to trust.

Lose Stress

Between a 50-call day, preparing demos for prospects and managing current partners, the mounting stress can be real, especially if you don’t have an outlet. In the same Harvard study, the subjects reported a lower stress level and did have lower grey matter density in the amygdala, a little nugget of grey matter involved with emotions and plays an important role in anxiety and stress.

Amishi Jha, of the University of Miami, thinks that while stress can be reduced in eight weeks of a mindfulness training program, the structural changes in the amygdala could push better studies in curing stress related disorders like PTSD. With less stress, you’ll be eager to keep your nose to the grindstone and build that awesome sales pipe, even if you have PTSD from being bombarded with NO’s.

Much of sales is mental. We are humans with a very curious, powerful structure upstairs that constantly is powered up. The mind needs massaging and relaxation. Feeling refreshed during long sales cycles grows your grit, improves your memory, shrinks your stress and forces you to be empathetic. Test it for a month and try to find favorable techniques. You’ll notice a quick turnaround on your overall perception of smiling and dialing. If nothing else, you will at least have 20 minutes of peace and quiet.

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Sit Still

By Nicole Christie, Principal + Creative Director of NICO, Inc. and Friend of Simple Intentions

010417_sitstillA friend once asked me what would happen if I stopped changing things. I was at the tail end of several major life transitions—divorce, cross-country move, job change (all at once)—and, as she said, kept “flipping stones” when I felt discomfort. Whether that was buying a new item of clothing, finding someone new to date, seeking a new project or client, I was always in motion. And it was resulting in a lot of mistakes due to snap decision-making.

That’s what happens when we don’t give ourselves time to be still. To be thoughtful. To get real about our values, our intentions, our “why.” We’re driving in fog, but instead of slowing down—or even better, pulling over to let it clear—we turn on our brights, step on the gas, and drive off a cliff.

Because just like when we’re behind the wheel, if we can’t see clearly, can’t think clearly, it’s best to stop. This is a REALLY hard lesson if you’re a control freak like me and want to MAKE SHIT HAPPEN. But when we force it, we get in our own way. We take wrong turns and get lost. And while sometimes detours are pleasantly surprising, that’s not often the case when they’re taken in haste.

So let’s not be in a hurry to go nowhere fast. Let’s acknowledge that lack of clarity is a sign to stop. To gather our thoughts and let things play out. To sit still until we can see the path ahead of us, then take it one slow, intentional step at a time.

 

 

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Choosing Equanimity

By Chelsea Elkins, Program & Marketing Manager

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I’m not normally an angry person. Really.

But I’m also no stranger to the emotion. In a world rife with inequity, bias, and realities that can make the most patient of us want to scream, anger is not uncommon. When I’m in the throes of it, I can focus on nothing else (including effective solutions to the issue) and find that my productivity and longevity suffer.

I’ve been pondering the benefits of anger lately. How it can be a wakeup call. How it can create needed boundaries. Anger can be the spark – to start a revolution, to fight injustice, to say “enough”. But it cannot be the whole flame or we will burn out. While anger can trigger productivity, anger itself is inherently not a productive emotion. And for sustainable change to occur, I’d argue that anger must evolve – into whatever is needed: passionate organizing, relentless activism, a resolute boundary – because anger alone is not enough.

So how then do we turn our anger into something useful? I believe the answer is equanimity.

I recently spent a precious Saturday attending a dharma talk titled “Fierce Equanimity” through The Lotus Institute with Dr. Larry Ward and Dr. Peggy Rowe. The talk discussed how to relentlessly, fiercely display equanimity (or a calmness and evenness of mind and emotion) regardless of life’s circumstances.

This concept states that one can address and overcome challenge and injustice with equanimity in lieu of anger. Instead of rage, determination and perseverance may better serve us. Rather than shouting, a calm but resounding “no” can be just as effective. In exchange for riots, nonviolent protests can mobilize a community. Our middle fingers can be playful instead of aggressive (kidding). This way of being suggests we can combat hate with a fierce and stubborn gratitude.

Still with me?

I heard a powerful idea at The Lotus Institute regarding the non-personalization of experience. In other words, anger is not ours to possess. It’s not a toy, cell phone, or piece of clothing that we can claim as belonging to us. It is an unfettered, volatile (and hopefully transient) response that everyone from all walks of life has experienced. This means that since we can’t actually own anger, it doesn’t own us either.

One of the many benefits of equanimity is that it encompasses inclusivity. It transcends “otherness”. It’s an encouragement to try to understand the “humanness” that is always present behind an act of hateful rhetoric. Inclusivity is one of the most effective ways to deflate an anger bubble – because it does away with the us vs. them notion. Equanimity means objectively asking yourself, “What in my life needs to be nourished? And what needs to be de-nourished?” It’s critically looking at societal systems and asking “What here needs to be legitimized? What needs to be de-legitimized?” And based on your answers, acting accordingly.

I want to go on the record and say that letting go of anger and embracing equanimity does not mean succumbing to passivity. Quite the opposite – equanimity often means being part of a slow-moving force, but one that is startling in its power and lasting in its effect. In Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. says, “I can’t turn back. I have reached the point of no return.” Dr. King is in my mind a model for equanimity. Though he had a lifelong dedication to nonviolence (an important component of equanimity), not one could call him a passive force. Rather, he heeded the call to remain collected and compassionate in the long fight for social change – to powerful results. If anger is the blinding flare, then equanimity is the slow burn that drives us day in and day out.

Passivity in the face of injustice is the opposite end of the spectrum. It is often the companion to apathy and ignorance, and enables the normalization of inequity. Passivity often stems from exclusivity, us vs. them. The funny thing is exclusivity (and therefore passivity) is illogical when accompanied with the awareness that most people desire the same things. We are all on a quest to find happiness, to find fulfillment, to find peace. But, as Dr. Ward asked that Saturday, find peace to do what? Find happiness to do what in the world?

I believe deep down we all know the answers (which are different for each of us). With equanimity, perhaps we can start to ask the right questions.

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Assume Positive Intent

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post]

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It’s easy to get hooked in our modern world. Meaning many times each day we feel resistance when conversations, outcomes, projects and meetings don’t go the way we hoped they would go or as we had planned. Perhaps someone who works for you delivered an underwhelming performance, or you disagree on strategy with your manager, or a friend/family member holds views that are very different from yours – regardless of the scenario, the feeling we experience is similar.

Some common emotional responses when things don’t go our way are we feel wronged, invalidated, frustrated or at times angry, and likely our responses (conversations and actions) reflect that. This only compounds the feelings we are experiencing and creates a mirror reaction in the person or people with which we are engaged.

At times, we may feel as if the person or people who triggered us did it intentionally or on purpose -which rarely ends up being the case. Most people wake up each day with a desire to do good and be good in this world.

We live in a world composed of 7 billion unique people each with his/her own idea of what “do good” and “be good” means – none of which are more right or more wrong than the other – just different. It is true that at times we harm each other with words and actions, disappoint each other, miss expectations or plainly act as a jerk. And it’s also true that most times these choices are not premeditated – the intent of the action is not to harm, disrupt or divide.

There is a different choice each one of us has when we feel hooked or triggered and that choice is to assume positive intent. This doesn’t mean ignore your feelings of displeasure. Rather, address them from a different place – one that starts with assuming the others involved started with a positive intent that just didn’t land.

Next time you feel hooked or triggered experiment with making a choice to acknowledge that it was positive intent that created the situation and can get you out of it as well. The choice is yours.

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