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February 2013 - Lifestyle Integrity




Jack Andraka – Discovers a test for pancreatic cancer at 15

At only 15 years old Jack Andraka has discovered a test for pancreatic cancer that is 168 times faster, 26,000 times less expensive, and over 400 times more sensitive than the current standard.


Listen to him describe his process.
All bets are off when kids have access to the internet. Love this guy.

This man is are AMAZING!

Find More Amazing Men by clicking HERE



Habit Reversal Training – How to Change Habits



Last week I began talking about how habits work and how, by increasing our awareness of the simple pattern that all habits seem to follow we can choose to replace bad habits or install good ones. The ideas that I am discussing are from a new book by Charles Duhigg called “The Power of Habits.” I Introduced the cycle of cue – routine – reward that Duhigg describes and gave you a brief overview of how to identify and bring more awareness to the cues that precede the behavior or habit you wish to change.

Once you have identified and tracked the cues that send you into autopilot you can now choose to follow that cue with a healthier, more supportive behavior. Consider the woman I mentioned who bites her nails. When she gets bored and feels a tingling in her fingertips her old behavior was to start rubbing her finger tips feeling for bumps or edges. When she found one she would chew on it and then, on autopilot, proceed to chew every nail on her hand until here nails were completely smooth (or completely removed). Once she had smoothed out the skin and nails on every finger she felt a sense of completeness, her reward (more about this later).

Step two of reprogramming her habit after identifying and tracking her cues was to install a new program. Whenever she became aware of the cue, of boredom leading to a tingling sensation in her fingertips, she was to do something which physically stimulated her fingertips such as rub them on her arm or wrap them on a hard surface. She practiced this routine with her therapist for 30 minutes and was then sent home with another index card. This time she made a check when she felt the cue and a hashmark when she successfully engaged the new physical stimulation. A week later, after biting her nails only 3 times instead of the usual 18 she rewarded herself with a manicure. This felt satisfying and rewarding in much the same way that completing a round of nail biting did.


Did you catch that? The key is not avoidance. When I say “don’t think of a purple elephant” what are you doing? You are thinking of a purple elephant. When I say “don’t bite your nails” what are you thinking about? Biting your nails. This can actually increase the compulsion and anxiety. If I help you to recognize the trigger that leads to biting your nails and then offer you an alternate behavior suddenly you have options. You have a new coping mechanism and instead of simply trying to shortcircuit the cycle you are completing it in an alternate way.

A similar routine replacement is described for other patterns. A man who snacks when he is bored at work recognizes that the rewards of going to the cafeteria include a break from his desk and some social engagement. He chooses the routine of walking over to a co-workers desk and talking to them instead. New habit installed, same rewards felt. One of the reasons that AA meetings work so well is likely that the habit of drinking is replaced with a habit of meetings (90 meetings in 90 days). The cues such as anxiety remain the same, but the coping mechanism or habit is replaced and the reward can be surprisingly similar. The social engagement, sharing of stories and camaraderie of a meeting are often shockingly similar to those at a bar, party or other social drinking event.

A cue must be identified, a new routine chosen and a reward given for following it. Sound too simple? Too good to be true? This simple process is called Habit Reversal Training. Duhigg quotes one of the developers of this process, Nathan Azrin, “It seems ridiculously simple, but once you’re aware of how your habit works, once you recognize the cues and rewards, you’re halfway to changing it. It seems like it should be more complex. The truth is the brain can be reprogrammed. You just have to be deliberate about it.”

Let’s be clear. This tool is massively powerful. A simple awareness of it and dedication to following it has helped many and can be a positive tool for anyone. But it will not always be enough. Each habit is complex and unique. And there is another factor which plays a huge role in both whether or not we can succeed at changing a habit and in whether or not the habits that we do change last. This factor is belief.

Next week we take a look at the role that belief plays in changing habits. Belief is the key to understanding how to succeed in creating the habits we do want, changing the habits we do not want and why some new habits fail completely at critical moments.


This post is from a series called INSIGHTS that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life & Career Coach.

If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose than I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.



B-boy Junior

B-Boy Junior suffered from polio as a child and it severely damaged his legs.

That is in no way evident when you see this man breakdance. He is a powerhouse.
If you haven’t seen him than you haven’t seen upper body strength and poise like this.

This man is AMAZING!

Find More Amazing Men by clicking HERE



What are Habits?

Devin Martin Nail Biting


Do you have a bad habit…or 12? Maybe you have or have had an addiction? Have you ever tried to pick up a new, more healthy habit? Do you know how to change bad habits? Or how to install good habits? That’s right, I said install, like installing a program in a computer. Conventional wisdom tells us that habits are mysterious and control over habits is an elusive and mysterious process. A new book by Charles Duhigg tells us otherwise.

“The Power of Habits”, published by Random House in 2012 takes the complex issue of habit change and boils it down to a simple formula with cute little graphics and one magical element. Much like computer language, Duhigg refers to habits as routines. A routine is a patterned behavior that we perform with such frequency that it has become mostly automatic. We routinely repeat habits with little or no effort or conscious awareness of a decision to do so.

If we have good habits we pat ourselves on the back. When we have bad habits we often chastise ourselves and feel as if we are failing somehow. Either way the behavior seems to happen without much effort. Some will say that they have created a good habit implying that their will-power is strong. Most are aware of some habit that they have tried once or a thousand times to alter with little or no sustained success. Most of time you hear someone speak of the effort that habit requires they are referring to failed attempts to create or curtail a habit. What if there really were a formula for changing habits that any of us could use to choose our behaviors?

Cue – Routine – Reward


This is the forumula that Duhigg offers to explain all of our habits, good and bad, from working out to smoking cigarettes to drinking coffee and alcohol to over eating or biting our nails. The exciting thing is that bringing awareness to this loop with a very simple plan does seem empower people to change their subconscious patterns. As I love to say, consciousness is curative. When we increase awareness enough we tap into enormous power with very little effort.

First we must understand cues. A cue is a trigger. It is the stimulus or experience that starts the cycle of a habit. Most of us focus on the habit itself and put all of our effort into preventing or creating a change in our behavior but completely overlook the very thing that put that pattern in motion. Duhigg describes a woman who can’t stop biting her nails even though it causes her much pain and embarrasment. When asked by a therapist when or why she starts biting she describes a sensation, a tingling in her finger tip. This sensation is the cue. Becoming aware of the cue is step one. Her task then was simply to carry an index card with her and make a check every time that she felt this sensation. Instantly her awareness of the cue increased. Later, when asked when she felt the tingling sensation she was able to recognize that this happened when she was bored. The habit was not fixed, but she was on the way to increasing her conscious awareness of the process simply by developing her awareness of it at an early stage she had never before attempted to objectify.

A cue can be identified and monitored for any habit. For smoking or snacking or drinking we can look for and find a feeling or experience that precedes the actual habit. An uncomfortable emotion such as boredom, anxiety, frustration or restlessness is common. The need to take a break, relax or simply switch gears while working is often cited as the reason to smoke a cigarette or take a snack break. Often times physical cues such as dread in the stomach, shortness of breath, tension in your shoulders or an elevated heart rate exist much like the tingling in her fingertips. For some a particular type or tone of thought might be a cue. Identifying and charting this cue will bring you one step closer to understanding and changing your habit. For some, this alone will radically alter your relationship to your habit or addiction. For most this the necessary groundwork to then take a look at the rest of the cycle.

What I have described are the types of cues that precede a negative habit that you wish to change (notice I am not saying get rid of, but change). This same concept will be important as we talk about installing new positive habits. First we must understand the rest of the cycle. Then we will explore the magical element.

Next week we talk about routine and reward.


This post is from a series called INSIGHTS that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life & Career Coach.

If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose than I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.



What if money was no object?

What would you do with your life if money was no object?

A beautiful video set to a recording of Alan Watts.

Beautiful and Inspiring

This man is AMAZING!

Find More Amazing Men by clicking HERE



Find Your Element

Costa Rica Surfing

Part 1 – What is FLOW? : Part 2- How to Create FLOW : FLOW part 3 of 3

I have explained what FLOW is and how much it is like transcendent spiritual experiences. I talked about two ways to cultivate FLOW. One by changing yourself, the other by changing your environment. Today we will look at a 3rd factor in cultivating flow.

Do you know your purpose? How about your calling? Do you know what you were born to do? Many of us dismissed this idea years ago when we had to pick a major and start thinking seriously about making a living. At some point it may have become too painful to keep thinking about you could or should be doing with your life when there are bills to pay and bosses to appease.

Ken Robinson’s new book is called The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. In this book he says that when you step into the intersection of your natural aptitude and your personal passion you are in your element. Your element is deeply connected to your purpose, your calling, finding your “tribe” and experiences of FLOW.

We have established that FLOW is an experience of single pointed focus. FLOW happens when we merge with whatever task we are doing and have an experience of timelessness, of absolute clarity and precision of action. Our movements and thoughts arise as one, doubt vanishes and we move without hesitation. We know that you can meditate to cultivate the ability to focus on anything and therefore make yourself more likely to experience FLOW in any circumstance. We also know that you can structure your activities to be more like a game to make any activity more likely to lead to FLOW. Games have just the right balance of challenge and reward. They help us to measure our progress and see what the next steps should be. But we also know that at times we can slip into states of FLOW with no effort, no structure and no prior meditation experience. Most have experienced this at least once in their life, usually far more. These moments provide clues to finding your element.

It is easy to focus on things that we love. We get drawn in, lose ourselves and time flies. It is easy to see how doing things that we enjoy facilitates FLOW. But have you noticed the same experience happening with things that you are simply good at? I was good at math as a child. A teacher would give me a challenging problem and I just knew how to approach it. I could systematically use logic to work my way through any problem. I was good at it and I very naturally fell into a state of complete focus on what I was doing largely because the steps were accessible and getting results felt rewarding. It may sound like a stretch to you to hear me say that math was like a game to me, but it was. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it enough. Over the years, a love for numbers never emerged enough for me to want to spend my days calculating although I do still love spreadsheets 🙂

I spent years working in the security industry where, at first, I thought I was highly valued mostly because of my technical skills. I had a knack for understanding massive, multi-million dollar security systems. When things didn’t work I was expert at not only tracking down problems through hardware, software, networking, user error and many other levels of complexity, but also at getting that problem solved quickly. It was years before I realized my true gift and how this work was part of what I love. Solving problems in Fortune 500 companies and government agencies requires dealing with massive technological complexity but also with communicating with utter simplicity to complex people of all types. My real specialty, and why I was successful, had as much to do with relating to people as understanding security systems. A problem that might take someone else 3 months of emails and meetings to solve I could often solve by walking the halls, sitting on an unexpecting firewall programmers desk and getting favors done while getting to know about his life. Complete strangers often shared intimate details of their lives while bypassing protocol to get a job done quickly. My real skills merged my ability to communicate the essence of complex systems very simply while building relationships. It took me years, but eventually this led me to become a Life Coach.

What is more complex than an individuals life? We are each an elaborate system of interwoven elements with non-linear relationships that are never constant. My years of study of philosophy, health, nutrition, spirituality, meditation, relationships, careers and on and on all come to bear when helping others build a lifestyle that can support them through creating or managing major life transitions. What is the most crucial element when helping someone understand and transform their life? It is all about building relationships while making complex topics sound very simple and manageable. I love this work.

As you may have guessed, I quite regularly go into FLOW states while working with clients. Whether on the phone, in person, over skype or writing to them through emails between sessions my love for getting to know others on a very deep level merges with my skill (and love) for taking complexity and communicating it clearly to help create major change. I have found my element and it flows with greater ease and enjoyment than anything else I have ever done.

Much of what I now do is help others through this same process of discovery. What are your skills? What are your passions? What do you love? What are you good at? How can your skills and your interests come together to put you in your element?



Yoga May Increase Gray Matter in the Brain

Costa Rica Yoga

(This weeks Science post is coming to you a little bit late and from beautiful Costa Rica. Thanks Em for being my model for this shot)

Increasingly, scientists are conducting studies looking at how practices such as yoga and meditation effect the brain. For centuries in the east there has been a tradition of rigorous practice and acceptance of yogic techniques as being beneficial for people in innumerable ways.  For better and worse the west is not often convinced by anecdote or public consensus alone. We love to attempt to create a controlled environment and then adjust one variable and see what results. This is the basis for our scientific method. Culturally we may seem slow to adopt certain practices that others have trusted for centuries, but in the process we usually add a deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind the results that others experience.

paper published recently in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine provides details of a study that looked at how the brains of practitioners of Hatha Yoga Meditation compare to those with no experience. They measured this difference by looking at the density of gray matter. Gray matter is a type of brain tissue. For our purposes you can think of regions of gray matter as processing centers. Our brain has many of these centers. The creators of this study hypothesized that practitioners of YMP would have a greater density of gray matter in a number of regions including the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. They also predicted significantly less self-reported cognitive failures in those who practice YMP.

Previous studies have shown significant correlations between a decrease in gray matter density in specific regions and smoking, aging and adolescent childhood abuse. The consensus seems to be that gray matter increase is beneficial and losing gray matter is detrimental. It is then a decent hypothesis that something which helps to build gray is beneficial for our health and well being.

Hatha yoga techniques, including physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and meditation, involve the practice of mindfulness. This study refers to this as Yoga Meditation Practice (YMP). The 7 participants who were adept at YMP all reported having a consistent daily practice of 45 minutes or more for the past 5 years or longer. The control group consisted of 7 people who reported no current or past dedicated meditation or yoga practice.

From the authors, “prior studies have identified differences in gray matter volume (GMV) between long-term mindfulness practitioners and controls, no studies to date have reported on whether yoga meditation is associated with GMV differences. The present study investigated GMV differences between yoga meditation practitioners (YMP) and a matched control group (CG). The YMP group exhibited greater GM volume in frontal, limbic, temporal, occipital, and cerebellar regions.”

All participants were scanned using an MRI. As you are likely familiar, an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image) is a machine with giant magnets that is used to generate an image of internal organs, in this instance, the brain. It can be used to not only get a general image of internal organs, but also to determine the density of a particular area. This study is one of a growing number that look at the effects of mindfulness. Here “the state of mindfulness is characterized by a nonjudgmental and metacognitive monitoring of momentary thoughts, emotions, action urges, perceptions, and bodily sensations.” When meditators speak of equanimity, the state of composure, calm and level-headedness they are speaking of the effect of remaining mindful. We can learn to cultivate equanimity using mindfulness practices. Mindfulness is a focus practice involving “repeated placement of attention onto an object while alternately acknowledging and letting go of distracting thoughts and emotions.” To readers of this blog this should sound familiar. I have talked about how to focus before and the state of mind that this produces is also a good example of FLOW, of “being in the zone.

So what were the results of this study? “YMP exhibited volumetrically larger brain structures and fewer lapses in executive function in daily life. Structural differences were particularly evident in brain regions subserving higher-order control of cognitive and motor responses…. study findings suggest that the practice of hatha yoga is associated with enhanced cognitive function coupled with enlargement of brain structures held to instantiate executive control.” In plain english, yoga tones not only your body, but your brain as well.



Caden and Conner – 2012 Sports Illustrated Kids Winner

The story of these two brothers is beautiful and inspiring.

What Caden does for Conner brought me to tears.

These little men are AMAZING!

Find More Amazing Men by clicking HERE



How to Create FLOW

Cesar Burning Man Fire Play

Part 1 – What is FLOW? : FLOW part 2 of 3 : Part 3- Find Your Element

Last week I introduced Mihaly’s research showing that happiness correlates with states of FLOW and then answered the question “What is FLOW?” I also mentioned that cultivating or creating FLOW can be approached in two ways. Today I will talk about those two ways to create FLOW by further exploring the connection between spiritual practice and becoming an expert. Both are about cultivating optimal experience.

“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to it’s limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Religions throughout the ages have included techniques and practices that help one to become absorbed in something bigger than ourselves. While the paths are many, one thing that all of the contemplative paths have in common is that they develop ones ability to focus single pointedly. I wrote about a couple of ways to do this before. The religious traditions often relied on prayer, meditation, chanting, ecstatic dance, breathing exercises and other techniques. What do these all have in common? Other than developing our ability to Focus, they result in FLOW states. What Mihaly discovered, is that these states can also be cultivated at work, at play and in any other activity. The key is to structure the activity properly.

There are essentially two ways to go about creating FLOW. I could call them spiritual and mechanical. I will talk about Focus and Gamifying. One changes you, the other structures your environment and the way you interact with it. Cultivating focus will transform any and all activities bringing every moment closer to being a flow state. Meditation is the best method I know of for this. I can honestly say that meditation has changed my experience of every aspect of my life for the better. I realize how bold and absolute a statement that is and still I stand behind it. The other way to create flow states is to structure an activity so that it is more engaging. The key is actually to take any project and make it seem more like a game.

Think about what a game includes. Mihaly cites 8 key points to making activities more likely to FLOW. Tell me they don’t remind you of a game:

  • Allows you to work toward a clear goal with a well-defined process
  • Provides ongoing, direct feedback
  • Is highly-challenging, but doable
  • Allows for control over the means to accomplish the goal
  • Is meaningful or intrinsically rewarding, by the very nature of doing it
  • Cultivates deep-concentration
  • Creates a lack of a sense of self-consciousness
  • Leads to an altered sense of time

I start every coaching relationship by setting goals. The ironic part is that, while my clients do tend to achieve these goals, the reason that their life improves while working with me is not just because they reach their goals. Having a clear destination actually helps make the journey more enjoyable. Setting goals helps us to pay attention to what is happening. When we pay close attention to what is happening we are more likely to become immersed in activity. When we are immersed in this we way we are more likely to enjoy immediate experience. Quite often our goals change along the way. I never let uncertainty about outcomes stop me or my clients from setting goals. Having a goal is the very thing that allows you to change plans. It is the sense of purpose, direction and engagement that a goal provides that helps to cultivate states of flow.

They key is to become light and playful with your goals like a child chasing their best friend in a game of tag. Where I often see spiritual seekers getting lost is when their desire to be present and accepting of all that arises leads them to believe that they should completely let go of any attachment to outcomes. Stillness is not enough. Alone it is boring. The key, as FLOW theory states it, is not to go limp, but to become playful. Human beings happen to enjoy being creative. Having a goal that is challenging draws forth our creative potentials and gives us a focus that is outside of ourself. One way to keep challenge from becoming overwhelming is to break a goal down into smaller, more approachable steps.

When you break your work up into small tasks it helps you in a couple of ways. One is that the next step is clear and approachable. The other is that you get rewarded for completing a step. and This provides positive reinforcement, motivation and builds momentum.

What do gamifying tasks and spiritual practice have in common? They both cultivate two things:

Single pointed focus – the ability to become completely absorbed in one and only one activity
The ability to be absolutely present in the moment – Not only are you focused on one task, you are actually completely focused on one activity at a time in that task. You are not concerned with what the next 10 steps will be, but only on the one step you are working on right now.

The spiritual path works on you. By developing the interior skills to have a single point of focus you can be completely present in the moment. The gamification approach is a method for structuring your exterior environment so that your interactions with it foster single pointed focus while being completely present in the moment.

Of course, no matter how much you prepare, Gumption Traps are a major FLOW disruption.

Next Sunday I will talk about how we each have one task which is the most likely to lead us to FLOW states. Are you ready to Find Your Element?

This post is from a series called Insights that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life Coach.

If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose than I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.



Integral Ethics Part III: SEX


Feb 18th I will be hosting the third in a multi-part discussion on Integral Ethics. My invite is below. For more details and to join us look here:

Integral Ethics Part III: Sex

Integral Ethics SeriesIntegral Theory helps us hold multiple perspective; still, decisions must be made and actions taken. In that regard, one question remains largely unanswered, “does an integral worldview impose any moral imperatives?” Postmodernity, taken to the extreme, makes all perspectives equal. Integral includes honoring the relative truth of all perspectives but also reintroduces ranking. An integral perspective does not pretend that all actions are equally loving and good for the kosmos. No matter how many perspectives we honor in theory, we end up embodying the ones that we find ethical and act accordingly. The question is whether or not integral consciousness will tend to foster certain behaviors over others. Does integral have normative potential?

This Months Topic

This month we will look at how holding an integral perspective impacts our relationship to sex. Few things are guaranteed to exist through every stage of development. So far, sex is one of them. Clearly we have sex for a wide number of reasons. Even if technology someday changes the way we reproduce, it’s looking like a safe bet that we will continue to have sex. But many questions of how, why and with whom remain.

DEVELOPMENTALLY we could chart an evolution of sexual drives in many ways, from self serving, egocentric sex all the way up to kosmocentric attempts to serve the One through divine sexual communion. Does being integral and holding an awareness of this spectrum compel one to choose certain forms of sexuality over others? Does it free one up to engage all forms of sexuality without compulsion?

We must also consider different TYPES of sex. The integral sexpert David Deida makes a distinction between sex as Therapy, Sex as Yoga and Sex as Spirituality. Check out a couple of short videos of him discussing this here: David Deida on SEX

And what of sexual relationships with teachers, spiritual or otherwise? Adi-Da, Genpo Roshi, Marc Gafni, Osho, Chogyam Trungpa….the list of teachers who have engaged in sexual relationships with members of their community is a long one. What does the level of development of the teacher have to do with the ethics of such acts? How does the development of the student change this? Are there circumstances that make this more or less ethical?

For those of you who were a part of our sangha in 2009 this topic might well be an open wound. We had three separate discussions with Diane Hamilton, Marc Gafni and David Ingber revolving around the accusations that Marc Gafni had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a student. Similar accusations were made again recently. Clearly this topic remains unresolved.

There is the question of monogamy. Martin Ucik, author of Integral Relationships, has been exploring this question with the community recently. He and I have discussed the possibility of monogamy and non-monogamy unfolding over many levels, but the highest levels are only now being created as we step into the largely uncharted territory of the more transpersonal levels of development. How does polyamory fit into all of this? Or polygamy? This topic is a potential minefield of Pre/Trans Fallacies. How do we balance judgement and acceptance, pride and shame?

And what of same sex love? I, for one, am very excited to read our very own Gilles Herrada’s new book “The Missing Myth” which explores the history of this topic and offers “A New Vision of Same Sex Love”. Our country and the world at large are in the middle of a contentious debate about the ethics of same-sex love. What insights does an integral perspective offer?

We will be rolling around in these and many more topics on Monday February 18th. Please join us, and bring your partner.