Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Making Mindfulness Last

One of main reasons anyone comes to a practice of mindfulness, is a sincere desire to experience more peace and happiness in their life. Often they see their mindfulness practice as a temporary refuge from their daily stresses and dramas. And it does work.

Any decent mindfulness practice should deliver a fairly immediate reprieve from the assaults of the mind and world. Unfortunately, for most practitioners, these positive effects are short lived. They no sooner finish their practice than the busy mind revs up again, bringing with it all the pressures of modern life.

While many attempts at mindfulness may lead to fleeting results, that does not mean a more permanent solution isn’t possible. Like a swan attempting to take wing from the surface of a lake, a certain amount of momentum is necessary to achieve flight. The same is true with any mindfulness practice. If we stick with it, and receive the right instruction, breakthroughs are inevitable.  

Ultimately, any mindfulness practice is not about permanently trying to quiet, fight, or control the mind. Not even the saints, sages or the Buddha himself could achieve this. Rather it is about re-discovering that part of us that lies beneath all of this activity. That part of us that is always present, observing the whole process, yet not affected by any magnitude of passing thoughts, emotions or life circumstances.

In matters of mindfulness, understanding is far more valuable than practice. Fully recognizing the reality that what is most true about you, is that which does not change, has life altering implications. You are the intangible, unchanging, imperturbable, simple knowing essence of awareness, that observes everything without resistance or desire. Taking your stand here frees you from needing to respond to the constant stream of thoughts, emotions, perceptions, sensations, concepts, history or ideas about the future.  And while the mind might continue to react and ramble on for quite a while, without interest or identity, it cannot distract you for long.

Even for the most dedicated seekers, this understanding may take some time to ring true. It is a perspective that only has power to the extent it is tested and found to be true, and there are many commonly held assumptions to examine and debunk.  And even after your most scientific vestiges of your mind have exhausted its arguments, it can take additional time for the understanding to fully colonize your being and overcome decades of conditioned feelings.

However, if you are one of the very small minority of souls called to explore this road less travelled, you will find the journey well worth the effort.
You can visit Steve's site for business, executive and life coaching, or find him at Google +
Image courtesy of Patou at





Thursday, January 24, 2013

Close your eyes, fall in love, stay there. - Rumi

Few poets say as much, in as few words, as Rumi. In this one line he captures a lifetime of profound spiritual teaching.  

Close your eyes, and keep turning your attention away from the many objects of the world, mind and body, back on itself with patient affection.  

Keep it there, and resist (by ignoring not fighting) the mind`s persistent, conditioned tendencies to distract you through thoughts of boredom, a need to do, a sense of lack, or a deep drive to change or improve on the present moment.  If you don’t feed any distractions, with attention or belief, you will experience a subtle upwelling of contentment.  

This contentment when experienced via thought appears as understanding. When it is known through the senses, it takes the shape of beauty. And when experienced through feelings, it is felt as love. Really, it’s all just different facets of the one live, knowing, love.   

If you hold on to that felt experience of love/contentment when you re-engage the world, by letting your attention again flow outward, you will not completely lose yourself to the powerful objects of thought and sight.   

This allows you see life through the lens of love, and look at life through Rumi’s eyes.  

Close your eyes, fall in love, stay there.

You can visit Steve's site for business, executive and life coaching, or find him at Google +

Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Do Not Meditate, Be!

The 20th century Indian sage Sri Ramana Maharshi was a great spiritual teacher and a man of few words. He taught vichara or Self-inquiry as the most direct path to realizing the truth of one’s nature.  The Marharshi instructed:

Do not meditate – be!
Do not think that you are – be!
Don’t think about being – you are!

Let’s explore this teaching by first looking at who the intended audience was. Ramana was sought out by sincere seekers. Those that through frustration, exhaustion, intuition or Grace had come to the conclusion that lasting peace and happiness was not to be found in any combination of status, riches, relationships or objects of the world.  These seekers had turned their attention around and begun the inner journey. And many had explored a wide variety of teachers, philosophies, religions and practices.

So when Ramana said, “Do not meditate – Be!”, he was not judging meditation as being useless. Meditation and many other practices such as asanas, chanting, praying, acts of service, contemplation and gratitude journaling can and do help millions to temporarily calm their minds and experience more peace, love and presence.  Rather Ramana was cautioning his more advanced students not to allow a practice to become a religion. Not to let the thoughts that keep alive the most subtle mental sense of self to take charge of any process of becoming better or enlightened. In other words do not get addicted to any ego-led practice, where one could become more masterful, holy, spiritual or otherwise worthy. Such activity would simply strengthen that which you seek to be free from.

This directive is echoed in the second line, “Do not think that you are – be!  The thoughts that comprise our mind can never figure out, experience, or “know” the Self.  The Self is the only one that ever “knows” anything. The mind can only work with objects, and as the Self has no dimensions or physical properties, its discovery lies beyond the capability of mind. In fact, it is often said that the only way the mind can know the Self, is the same way a moth can know the flame - by dying into it.

The last line in our quote admonishes students to forget about leaving the mind in charge of “being” for the same reasons mentioned above.  It is only when you take your attention off the thoughts, perceptions and sensations that comprise our mental experience of the world, and what we believe ourselves to be, that we can we put it on the very experience of being.

What we seek is not far away. You cannot take one step in any direction and be closer to it than you are at this moment.  As the Marharsi says, just be.
You can coach with Steve at or find him at Google +

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

It Is The Same Self In All

American mythologist and teacher Joseph Campbell, who studied the spiritual teachings of the world for over 40 years, once observed that the best direction he had found comes out of India.

One of the classic Indian works is the centuries old Avadhut Gita, written by the sage Dattatreya.

An Avadhut is a mystic who has moved past the dictates and conditioning of the human mind and discovered the truth who’s fragrance is wisdom, peace and bliss. Gita simply means “song of. ” In this classic poem/teaching there is one stanza that I believe summarizes a great spiritual truth. It goes:
A yogi has no particular path;
He simply renounces imagining things,
His mind then ceases of its own accord,
And the perfect state just naturally occurs.
When Dattartreya refers to a yogi, he is not talking about someone in expensive spandex who can wrap their leg around their head. Rather he is talking about one who is called by Grace to find the truth of existence.

In speaking of renouncing imagining things he talks of the voluntary removal of attention, belief and identity from all changing things such as; thoughts, emotions, sensations, the circumstances of everyday life, etc.

Whenever attention is turned inward, away from external objects and towards its source, the volume and machinations of the mind subside into the background.

With nothing needing to be resisted, acquired or changed in any way, peace and contentment flourish. Without separation, between in and out, here and there, you and me, all differences dissolve into love.

The yogi directly realizes, at our essence, we are fundamental, unchanging, blissful, impersonal, all pervading awareness. It is the same Self in all.
(Steve is a Master Certified Life and Business Coach. Connect with Steve at Life and Business Coach )

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Value Of Contemplation

For those seriously seeking to cultivate more mindfulness, peace, or presence in their life, I have always found great wisdom from contemplatives of all traditions. Recently, while leafing through an old edition by Trappist Monk Thomas Merton, I stumbled onto this quote.

“Man was made for the highest activity, which is, in fact, his rest. That activity, which is contemplation, is immanent and it transcends the level of sense and of discourse. Man’s guilty sense of his incapacity for this one deep activity, which is the reason for his existence, is precisely what drives him to seek oblivion in exterior motion and desire. Incapable of the divine activity which alone can satisfy his soul, fallen man flings himself upon exterior things, not so much for their own sake as for the sake of the agitation which keeps his spirit pleasantly numb. He has but to remain busy with trifles; his preoccupation will serve as a dope. It will not deaden all the pain of thinking; but it will at least do something to blur his sense of who he is and of his utter insufficiency. 
Pascal sums up his observations with the remark: “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries and yet it is, itself, the greatest of our miseries.”
Merton points us to the paradox that while we strive so hard to secure peace, happiness, and success out therein some activity or accomplishment, it can only truly be found in the reflective inactivity we try to avoid at all cost.
Any contemplation slows down the mind and nourishes the soul. It is all good.
However, contemplation of Self is the highest of practices.  When you seek to know that which knows, you might avail yourself to the greatest of discoveries.
Visit Steve at Life And Business Coach

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I am grateful to have spent every summer of my life at the side of an ocean. I love the space, the smells, the sounds, the ever changing vista. And I notice how much the surface of the ocean is like the surface of my mind.
Most summer mornings the surface of the ocean is calm. As the sun heats the land, wind begins to stir the top of the ocean.  As the wind builds, so do the waves. By the middle of most afternoons, the riot of wind and waves reach their crescendo, and then begin to fade. By sunset, the surface of the ocean is calm again. Only the fading undulations of the day’s waves remain.  
The surface of my mind is much like the surface of the ocean. Each day I wake to the simple calm awareness that I am alive. Then, quickly, the day’s thoughts, commitments, wants, resistances and all other forms of agitations stir the mind. Certain thoughts generate an emotional reaction. The emotions reinforce the importance of the thought, which give rise to additional thoughts which stir additional emotions.  This all seems to happen without any conscious encouragement, and so half way through some days the surface of my mind can resemble the most windblown seascape.
The question that saves me from drowning in the daily torrent is simple. “Am I defined by what is going on automatically at the surface of my mind?” This question reminds me that if I am observing the constant stream of passing thoughts and emotions, then they cannot be me. Something deeper, an aware essence, is observing all events. That part of me is unchanging, always simply present and aware that what is happening in the heavily conditions circuits of my mind cannot define me any more than the ocean can be defined by the fleeting currents on the surface.
In its depths, the ocean is unchangingly calm.  I very happy to be reminded that I am too.
Contact Steve through his Life and Business Coach website.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Learning To Trust Life

Albert Einstein once said, “The most important decision you'll ever make is choosing whether you live in a friendly or hostile universe.”
Every life has its share of pain and tragedy, and so it is very easy to become afraid, close the heart, and live constantly on guard.  The mind takes over and life becomes an anxious game of strategy as we try to control what is essentially uncontrollable.  No matter how hard we work, no matter how much power and control we accumulate, no one can insulate themselves or their loved ones from life’s continuously changing circumstances.
What Einstein knew, and what all the spiritual masters teach, is the wisdom in embracing life, all of it.
In saying yes to whatever happens in life, even the stuff we see as negative, we stop resisting and fantasizing about how we would like things to be.  We stop shunting our precious energy into futile imaginings of how life should be, which gives us much more energy to work with and create from whatever is.
 In learning to embrace whatever shows up in life, we can begin to drop our defenses, open our heart, and come back more fully to the present moment, which is only place where all our choice, creativity, love, happiness and peace reside.
After all, life has given us so much, is it really fair to distrust it so much?
Visit Steve at Life and Business Coach