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Consciousness Archives - Page 2 of 4 - Lifestyle Integrity




Center of Gravity

Circle of Friends

Are you above or below the center of gravity in your social circles?

Are you aware of times when others hold you up? How about times when they pull you down? How often do you get to have the experience of truly resonating in every way imaginable with a room full of people?

Let me preface this post by pointing out the obvious. We are all much more alike than different. We all share the same basic needs and many of the same wants. We would be served well by recognizing the many profound ways to find resonance with anyone and everyone. What follows is not intended to inspire judgement of those near you. The ideas below are intended to help ease a specific pain that I see often in my self, my friends and especially in my clients, all of whom are either creating or managing major life transitions.

When coaching people through major life transitions this is a topic that is bound to come up eventually. Whether we are looking to make big changes in our life or recognizing that they have already been happening, it is quite common to suddenly see our friendships in a new light. Relationships that once felt supporting might now feel limiting. It is normal to suddenly feel alienated, unsupported or just plain old alone. When seen in the proper light this can actually be a joyous realization. Without a big enough perspective it simply hurts.

We tend to make friends based on both circumstance and what I’ll call your attitude or worldview. Circumstances will determine who we end up in a room with. Attitude will determine who in that room we form a lasting connection with. Consider school.

When you were in school you were likely with a lot of people your age. Some of these people you called your “friends”. Others you knew, but did not feel as close to. The circumstances put you in a classroom with many of them. Your attitude, your interests, your worldview and a million little details of your personality all combined to create a resonance with some people and less resonance with others. Those we resonate the deepest with become friends.

When we are young these decisions often occur subconsciously. Occasionally kids might set out to make more “popular” or “athletic” friends, but for the most part we settle into relationships without much planning. Then we grow. Some friends grow with us. Other friends grow in different directions and at different speeds. Some friendships naturally fall away. Other friendships seem to stick through all kinds of changes. The big test for most of us is after we graduate from high school or college. When we graduate circumstances change drastically. We find ourselves in a new school, a new job, a new location and engaging new activities. We meet new people and forge new friendships based again on circumstance and attitude.

Early in life circumstances change often enough that changing attitudes go unnoticed. We naturally find ourselves with new people engaging similar pursuits and make new connections. The big upheaval that I see in myself, in my clients and in my friends comes later in life when we settle into a routine and then choose to seek growth and transformation. We begin to transform our attitude or worldview, but still spend time in the same old circumstances with our existing friends. This is when the many joys of bettering oneself will likely include some pain. It hurts to grow without our friends. They may even start judging you for it.

Years ago I came upon the term “center of gravity” in relation to a circle of friends or any other social circle. The concept is blindingly obvious when we look at children, but few realize just how important it is for adults as well. We tend to encourage children of a similar age to play together because, developmentally, they have a lot in common. With small children this is clear physically. Crawlers have a hard time keeping up with the walkers and runners. Those who can catch and throw have to throttle their abilities to hang out with an infant. This is not a judgement of better or worse. Worthiness has nothing to do with it. It is an observation of simple facts. As the years pass this becomes less and less about physical abilities and more about intellectual, emotional and potentially artistic, spiritual and many other skills or “lines of development”. Virtuoso musicians like to jam with others who have serious chops. The same is true when scientists want to talk shop. When we grow in one line we resonate with others who are a similar level of development. Again, this is easy to see in physical pursuits such as money or sports and to some extent intellectually. Where this is often overlooked is when it comes to the basic levels of consciousness, emotions and spirituality.

We all have a circle of friends that we have collected along the way. Each friend comes from a shared circumstance and a shared attitude. This circle of friends could be said to have a “center of gravity”. This is a metaphoric way of saying that each group of people has a level of consciousness or a shared worldview. This includes moral and ethical principles. We use the term gravity to describe how when one member of the group deviates from the norm the group will tend to pull them back towards the center. If Bobby is drinking or doing drugs far more than others in his circle he will feel pulled to clean up. He will feel that his actions are not normal. This is incredibly helpful when someone is struggling, when we are sad, get caught in a destructive relationship, are abusing a substance or having financial difficulties. When one person is sinking below the groups center the group will offer an energetic pull to bring them back to baseline. Sometimes this is spoken explicitly, but much of the pull happens unconsciously. We all tend to conform to unspoken, but shared values. This equalizing potential is one of the great gifts of friendships. We all have different strengths at different times and as long as we largely agree on what is important these differences get smoothed out.

But what happens when you do the really deep work of shifting your consciousness? I am going to ignore the voices that think that people don’t change. Perhaps another time I will explore the fear behind this belief. For now let’s assume that people really do develop over time. We know it happens from childhood until adulthood. It does appear to be true that most adults slow down developmentally when their physical growth stops and they start a career and a family. But what happens if your consciousness keeps developing well into your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s 50’s and beyond? Chances are not everyone in your group is developing in the same ways at the same time. Here is where the center of gravity of your social circle can have a painful and limiting effect.

If you can see how a group of friends can help pull you up when you are down then it should be clear how they can do the opposite. Your wonderful, well intentioned, perfectly amazing friends can actually pull you down when you are attempting to fly. Social circles have normative potential. Groups of people keep one another in line. We hold an unspoken shared vision of who we are and what we are likely to achieve. If our group does not approve of using drugs then we will make it hard for others within the group to use drugs. At times this is helpful. At others it is not. Wrapped up in every normative potential is a value judgement about what “we” are. If one of us deviates from this, forget the direction, the tendency is to “correct” them by reminding them what “we are”. The same holds true if you hang out with addicts and then try to quit. You will likely be pulled back into using with them based on everything from where they spend their time to what they do while there to how they define fun.

It is often true that attempting to grow is actually threatening to others. If you are doing this, why aren’t they? Unconsciously, we often sabotage our friends by holding an idea of who they are in our minds. What we know of one another is based solely on the past. We use experience to build an internal model of the people around us that is largely consistent with their actions. But what happens if they change? Does our model change? Probably not. We tend to attempt to fit them into the model that we have built for them. Often times we laugh when they claim they are not the way we have known them to be.

At this point, in order to grow, we must not only overcome our own limiting beliefs, but those of our friends as well. On top of this, there is the simple fact that as we change our interests and values change. We may no longer be going to the bar as much or complain about work the same way. My clients change their diets, they get up earlier in the morning, they change their careers, they travel more, they read different books, they meditate and change their media consumption habits. When we start creating major transitions in our lives we often find that we are not resonating with our friends in the same way. This can hurt far more than we had imagined. We still love these people. We still want the best for them. At the same time we recognize that their lifestyle and attitude are no longer aligned with ours. Some people avoid their friends. Some try desperately to change them. Others fall back into old patterns. Each of these choices comes with some degree of pain.

Here is my number one piece of advice:

Seek new friends. Engage new activities, clubs, events and gatherings that challenge you, stretch you, and push you towards the actions and ideas that you are working to develop. But, do not cut anyone out unless they are truly hurting you! You may crowd some old friends out of your schedule with adventures that they can not relate to, but keep the door open. Who knows what the future will bring. Often times friendships are a game of leapfrog in one line of development or a process of differentiation where our weaknesses are balanced by others strengths and vice versa. Sometimes you need to be the one to change and offer others a vision they couldn’t otherwise see. What is crucial is reaching out to create new connections with those you admire, those you aspire to resonate with, and those you can connect with in the areas you are growing. And recognize that you are doing the very hard and absolutely crucial work of raising the center of gravity of society at large.

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 then I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.





Gratitude Wall

Do you always want more? Do you always feel like you are one accomplishment away from happiness? What if I told you that this striving, this desire for change, for growth and transformation can become an expression of your satisfaction with the way things are right now?

You would likely ask me what I am talking about.

On one hand the desire for growth is an incredibly powerful force for positivity. On the other it is a potentially destructive force that posits happiness as that ever elusive next step. What is the difference?


Gratitude is the feeling of appreciation, of thanks; the essence of grace. Cultivating gratitude changes the entire experience of striving. People with gratitude may work far harder than those without it, but the effort is more joyful and less tied to a specific outcome. When we accept and appreciate what we already have the effort to grow and to change becomes more of a celebration and less of a competition or struggle. When we root our life in gratitude we judge both ourselves and others with less negativity. We are more likely to see potential and less likely to focus on lack.

Many of my clients end up with a gratitude practice at one point or another. There are many reasons to practice gratitude and many more benefits of doing so. For many life is an experience of constant low level anxiety that occasionally erupts into a full blown panic attack. For many such as myself there is a tendency to slip into depression. Cultivating gratitude will help with both of these. The key is to realize that gratitude, like all emotions, is not something that only happens to us, it is something that we can choose to feel more often.

For most of us there are two times when we really feel gratitude naturally. One is when we get something. The other is when we almost lose something, but then manage to hold onto it. Have you ever met someone who had a near death experience? If not, I am sure that you have heard a story or two. When someone comes face to face with a potential loss of life or limb, but then, at the very last moment, recovers or is saved, there is a very real, very beautiful and potent gratitude that permeates even the most mundane of experiences. Flowers smell fresher. The sun shines brighter. Getting to see a friend or even talk to a stranger is a gift. In the moments right after a brush with mortality simply taking a deep breath can fill one with wonder, awe and appreciation for the gift that is life.

What has changed for these people? In all honesty, the only difference between them and you, right now, is that something truly terrible almost happened to them. Think about that. By this logic, the only thing standing between you and feeling joy just for being alive is something terrible happening to you. Is that why we spend so much time thinking about what might go wrong? Are we wishing for disaster so that we can learn to appreciate life? Or does a brush with disaster help us to realize that this moment, right now, is an incredibly precious event that will never occur again? My money is on the latter.

We can start appreciating life right now. If this is not your default mode, and for most of us it is not, then it will take a bit of practice. You will have to deliberately choose to seek feelings of gratitude. And note what I just said. I did not say “thoughts” of gratitude, I said feelings. This is the key. It starts with a thought and then becomes a feeling. Here is a VERY quick exercise that I have been offering to a number of clients recently. It takes 5-10 minutes a day and it can change everything. There are two steps:

1 – LAST THING AT NIGHT: Write down 3 things that you are grateful for and FEEL the gratitude in your body. Let the thoughts and sensations that you fall asleep to be full of appreciation for what you already have.

  1. One thing about yourself
  2. One thing about someone else
  3. One random thing

2 – FIRST THING IN THE MORNING: Read the three things that you wrote last night and FEEL grateful for them. Let them run through your mind and your heart. Root your morning in them. Let them become a mantra. When another thought arises push it aside with gratefulness. Let the mood of your morning become gratitude.

For every client this practice is a little different. I suggest that some focus on specific areas of life. Some keep these notes in a gratitude journal, others put up a giant poster board and create a gratitude wall full of gratitude that they see last thing before they go to bed and first thing upon waking up. The picture above is a sheet of plastic that I hung on the wall in my apartment so that my Hana and I can write on the wall with a dry erase marker. I sit by this beautiful energy every time I write a blog post or notes to a client. It roots me in positive feelings for the many ways that I am already truly blessed. I feel so good about my current situation it is only natural to want to encourage my life to grow, to evolve and change and continue in new directions.

Do you see how this shifts the energy around wanting change? Do you see how seeking growth and transformation can stop being about what you lack and become a celebration of what you do have? Hating what you already have is the energy of death. If you hate a child for being small you are not encouraging growth, you are punishing youth. We are all young. We are all naïve. Recognizing a place where we can get better should be exciting. It should generate an appreciation for what is and the fact that it can be improved.

I used to be terribly depressed. I spent years thinking about all that I hated about life. I was great at finding things to dislike. I could barely sleep. I was practicing disgust. It was deep in the fabric of my being. Every where I looked I saw it reflected back at me. Now I practice gratitude and guess what I notice when I look at the world?

The world is full of opportunities. Our perspective is primary. If you look down you see the ground. When you look up you see the sky. If your default frame is ruminating on what you don’t want, on what you lack, on why you are lonely or sad or tired then you will find 1,000 reasons for this. But if you break the pattern, if you choose to consciously look for things to be grateful for then you will find that this type of thinking creates a self-fulfilling virtuous cycle, a feedback loop, that teaches you to reach out for more simply because what you have is so wonderful. Who wouldn’t want more when they feel wonderful? Before long you may just find that you are overflowing and the only thing left is to want more for others as well.

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 then I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.




Ken Wilber Stops His Brain Waves

I’m a HUGE fan of this man for a whole lot of reasons.

I have and will continue to share many aspects of his work. All of that aside, what he as accomplished as a meditator is incredible. The title doesn’t lie. He does it at will.

This man is AMAZING!

Find More Amazing Men by clicking HERE



Handling Failure – Additive vs. Subtractive Thinking



Do you tend to engage in “Additive Thinking” or “Subtractive Thinking”?

This has to do with how you handle failure. This determines whether your failures become learning experiences that make you better or suffering experiences that make you meek.

In psychology there is something called “counterfactual thinking”. Counter = contrary (to the facts). “For example, a person may reflect upon how a car accident could have turned out by imagining how some of the antecedents could have been different… if only I hadn’t been speeding… or if I had been going slower…. People can imagine alternatives that are better or worse than reality” (wikipedia) The key for us lies in the last phrase.

Counterfactual thinking is what we engage when we play the “what if” game. What if I had decided to study a different major? What if I had tried harder to love her? What if I hadn’t been drunk? We’ve all played the what if game. I actually do my best to avoid it now. I’m a fan of the Be Here Now school of thought. I don’t spend a whole lot of time dwelling on mistakes. This has its perks, but if we forgo reflection entirely we end up skipping not only the harmful aspects of “what if’s” but the beneficial ones as well. This is where Additive and Subtractive Thinking come into play.

“An additive statement involves engaging in an event that did not originally occur (e.g., I should have taken medicine) wheres a subtractive statement involves removing an event that took place (e.g., I should have never started drinking) (Epstude & Roese, 2008)”

Simply put, Subtractive statements are destructive. When we engage in subtractive thinking we do little more than chastise ourselves for our failings. We look at our mistakes and wallow in disappointment. We see a problem and dwell on it. Recognizing your mistakes will increase your awareness. This is good, but it is not enough. In order to learn from our mistakes we must not just see them, we must see beyond them.

Additive statements are creative. They are akin to problem solving past mistakes. When we engage in additive thinking about the past we are seeing our failures and creatively re-imagining how we might better handle this situation if it were to arise again. This starts with a self-critical appraisal, but the thought does not stop there. We use our critical faculties to mark the point we would like to change. Then we engage our creative faculties to imagine changing something.

Nearly all of my clients end up working with visualizations at one point or another. When we can see, hear, feel, touch and smell something in our awareness we come infinitely closer to experiencing it. When an athlete can see her actions before competition she is far more likely to perform well. Visualization is a powerful form of practice. When a man can truly envision his ideal mate he is far more likely to recognize her if she walks by in a crowded room. His energy is far more likely to draw her to him. Visualizations are incredibly powerful.

Most often I work with clients to visualize potentials to overcome limiting beliefs. What I have recently begun doing is also helping them to re-author the past failures that are lurking in their awareness and contributing to their limiting beliefs. “OK that didn’t work when you tried it before and you can’t stop thinking about it. It’s great you know that, but you can do more than just ruminate, you can recreate. Visualize how it could have gone better.” Not only does this type of exercise lead you towards better future performance, it also helps you to release the emotions that are mired in past experiences. By transcending the negative energy surrounding failure with positive creative/additive energy it becomes far easier to release regret and stop dragging memories of the past back up into your present awareness. Additive thinking trades negativity about the past for positivity about the future.

Can you see these patterns at work in your awareness? Can you choose to alter the way they unfold? Can you recognize when you are stuck in subtractive thinking and can you then see how to transcend this with additive thinking?

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.



The Power of Belief in Changing Habits



Have you ever read the AA bible, the 12 steps manual? For those at all familiar with AA’s approach to overcoming alcohol addiction (a STRONG habit) there is one crucial element that appears repeatedly. It turns many off, but those who are the most successful with AA often site it as the thing that empowers them to succeed in overcoming their drinking problems. These people make “a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him.”

AA was started by a one time agnostic who, while in the hospital being treated for alcoholism was given large doses of the psychedelic belladonna. He had visions and wrote ‘the book’ very quickly afterwards. This book mentions God in 7 out of the 12 steps. A belief in a higher power is not recommended for AA, it is required. For many, a lack of this type of faith is enough to turn them off form AA altogether. For years people have debated whether or not a belief in god is crucial to recovery. I suggest that it is not god, but the belief itself that is transformative. Faith is the key. A higher power is the thing that inspires such unwavering faith, but it is the belief itself that inspires and transforms.

Two weeks ago I introduced you to the habit cycle as described in “The Power of Habits” by Charles Duhigg. Last week I introduced the technique known as Habit Reversal Training that can be used to help change any habit. I also mentioned that there is one crucial element that can make any habit change either bulletproof or susceptible to failure at a crucial moment. This element is belief. More specifically, it appears to be belief in something bigger than oneself.

A study conducted by the NIH, UC Berkeley and Brown University looked for correlations between religious belief and how long people stayed sober. What they found was what that while yes, habit replacement works, it also fails at critical, stressful moments. A woman may get sober for two years, but when circumstances arise, when strong enough cues are present, she may well go back to drinking UNLESS there is a strong enough belief in place that empowers her to maintain her course. In AA this belief is that a higher power has entered ones life. People who succeed genuinely believe that things are going to get better. Faith is not a simple, black and white happening, but it may not be all that mysterious either.

In AA God is the name given to this faith. When it comes to habit change in general it might be more helpful to think of this faith as not in god, but in the process itself. AA inspires this in a few ways as well. First, AA provides you with proof. When you sit in an AA meeting you are surrounded by those for whom this process has worked. It is hard for even the biggest skeptic to maintain disbelief the entire time. Reality is telling you that this has worked before. You would be a fool not to believe. The second thing AA provides is the experience of something greater than yourself. You are part of a group and you are offered opportunities to serve that group. Whether setting up chairs, offering encouragement or becoming a sponsor for someone earlier along the path there is the continuous experience of being part of something that is bigger than the individual. The process itself is something bigger than any one individual that you must surrender to for it to work. It may feel like a stretch to call this god, but the AA book does ask you to define God however you choose. For many the need to have a specific definition is trumped by the direct experience of being a part of process that they can not fully understand. The key for many, if not to fully believe, is to at least suspend disbelief for long enough to let grace in.

One other key to belief that AA provides is community. Whether or not you have a supportive group of people around you can make all the difference in whether or not you believe that change is possible. remember, community can be as small as one other person.

What habit do you have that can not be addressed by applying this process of Habit Reversal Training coupled with a healthy dose of faith? Almost no matter what you are struggling with, you know that others have succeeded before you. You likely know that you yourself have succeeded at times. The key is to remove judgement, apply a healthy dose of logic via a proven process, all while letting go and having a bit of faith, in yourself, in the future and in the fact that you are a part of something far bigger than yourself that will carry you when you allow it.

You may have noticed that changing some habits seems impossible while other, really simple habits are easy to change. What is really amazing is that if you find just the right simple, easily changed habit it can create a cascade effect that leads to effortless change in the rest of your life. Duggins refers to these as keystone habits. I wrote about something quite similar a while back. I call them TrimTabs.

What habit would you most like to change?


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.



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.



What is FLOW?


FLOW part 1 of 3 : : Part 2- How to Create FLOW : Part 3- Find Your Element

“Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Imagine yourself having the experience described above. Are you happy? Has this happened in your life? It has probably not happened enough. What if you could learn to cultivate this experience so it begins to happen more and more often? What if happiness is a skill you have not been taught? Would you want to learn now? According to Mihaly, “it is a circuitous path that begins with achieving control over the content of our consciousness.”

Can you control the content of your consciousness? Most of us can’t. Lucky for us people have been studying this concept for millennia; and they have been taking notes. What? You are not inclined to read sacred texts on philosophy and spirituality? Fine fine fine. Today, we have the option of studying more modern, scientific approaches as well. One such source is the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Mihaly has spent the past 50 years studying happiness and building a, now widely acclaimed, theory about how it correlates with states of FLOW. His 1990 book Flow – The Psychology of Optimal Experience details the years of research that went into his theory. It turns out that FLOW is not at all unlike the states mystics have been reporting for thousands of years. What is different is the approach. But first, what is FLOW?

“Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” – wikipedia

You have experienced Flow. Some call it being ‘in the zone’ or ‘in a groove”. Whatever we call it, something magical happens when we become fully immersed in an activity. What you may not have realized is that this experience is one that you can cultivate.

“Happiness is not something that happens. It is not the result of good fortune or random chance. It is not something that money can buy or power command. It does not depend on outside events, but, rather, on how we interpret them. Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person. ” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. (FLOW p.2 1990)

What Mihaly realized is that these states are accessible to anyone deeply immersed in a task. Perhaps the easiest place to see this is when we look at those who have mastered their craft. Musicians, athletes, scientists, chefs, entrepreneurs, the undertaking does not matter. When we immerse ourselves in an activity entirely something profound happens. In one sense, when we go deeply enough into a task we actually cease to exist in our own awareness. We disappear and only the activity remains. For those of you who are familiar with mysticism this might sound familiar. When experts experience FLOW it is not at all unlike mystical union where the goal is to overcoming the duality of self and object.

Speaking of a composer lost in the experience of creating new music Mihaly recounts, “that this is so intense an experience that it feels almost as if he didn’t exist. And that sounds like a kind of a romantic exaggeration. But actually, our nervous system is incapable of processing more than about 110 bits of information per second. And in order to hear me and understand what I’m saying, you need to process about 60 bits per second. That’s why you can’t hear more than two people. You can’t understand more than two people talking to you. Well, when you are really involved in this completely engaging process of creating something new, as this man is, he doesn’t have enough attention left over to monitor how his body feels, or his problems at home. He can’t feel even that he’s hungry or tired. His body disappears, his identity disappears from his consciousness, because he doesn’t have enough attention, like none of us do, to really do well something that requires a lot of concentration, and at the same time to feel that he exists. So existence is temporarily suspended. And he says that his hand seems to be moving by itself.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Ted Talk 2008)

The key to achieving FLOW lies in immersing yourself entirely in a task. You become absorbed in something other than, perhaps bigger than yourself. Starting to sound a bit more like spiritual practice? The American meditation teacher Shinzen Young describes Mihaly’s flow as “the pleasure derived from being in a state of samadhi as you do ordinary things.” In a sense, FLOW happens when you take an every day task and transform it into something overwhelming and uplifting. While it is true that FLOW can happen during any task, there are specific tasks and specific ways to approach activities that make it far more likely to happen. There are two approaches to cultivating FLOW, one is more spiritual, the other is more of a game.

Now that you have an idea what FLOW is you may be wondering How to create FLOW (read on)


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.



Mushrooms Becoming Legal

mac mushroom

On Monday Integral New York (disclosure: I am an organizer) hosted Alexander Belser for a presentation and discussion titled “Taking Mushrooms Before Dying: Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy”. Belser and his research team at New York University are part of a small group of scientists who, in recent years, have gotten government approval to conduct studies on the potential health effects of psilocybin, the active compound in “magic mushrooms”. Currently, psychedelic mushrooms are a schedule 1 drug. This makes them the most illegal of all drugs. Schedule 1 is defined as a category of drugs not considered legitimate for medical use with a high potential for abuse (addiction).

Belser was quick to point out that there is no scientific evidence for either of these claims about psilocybin. In years past, when research was allowed, and now in recent years, as it has begun again, scientists are actually gathering data to the contrary. Far from being damaging, psychedelic use is again and again shown to have a wide range of positive effects on those who partake. Belser’s study looks at anxiety levels in those with cancer or a history of cancer. Most of these people live in constant fear of a disease that could claim their lives in a very short period of time. Anything that could help alleviate their suffering is worth exploring. Lucky for us, psilocybin appears to be a potent treatment.

The NYU study is ongoing. Their 2010 paper was the first time a paper like this has come out in a prestigious psychiatric journal in 40 years. Behavioral Biologist Roland Griffiths from John Hopkins University was quoted saying  that this “demonstrates that such research can be conducted safely and that doses have palliative effects.” It is worth noting that this population is not generally regarded as responding well to psychological therapies. In stark contrast to the minimal results from months of therapy, participants in psychedelic research regularly report not only large state shifts during the experience, but overall quality of life improvements that carry on for months or more. Besler reported that it is not uncommon for participants to cite this one psychedelic experience as one of the most important events in their lives.

Other evidence for the positive effects of psychedelics is piling up across the country. MDMA is an effective treatment for severe P.T.S.D. LSD has been shown to greatly reduce symptoms in people with cluster headaches. Psychedelics have been recently examined as treatment for alcoholism and other addictions. There is a growing history outside the US of using the african root iboga to treat both heroin and alcohol addiction. Researchers in London are using M.R.I. to scan peoples brains to see what regions are effected. It is documented that in people who suffer from severe depression regions such as the anterior cingulate cortex are overactive and psilocybin may work to shut it down. My own speculation is that rather than a specific effect within the brain researchers would be better served studying its potential adaptogenic (non-specific) potential within the entire human body/mind system.

Officially, the NYU study is a Phase II randomized double blind placebo-controlled crossover study investigating the effect of psilocybin on end-of-life anxiety in patients with advanced cancer. They give people mushrooms and see what impact this has on their life. At the meetup we got to watch a 10 minute clip of one of the participants describing her experiences with the study. She is an intelligent, well spoken retired medical health professional. Her experiences were profound and transformative. To say that taking psychedelics reduced the anxiety surrounding her cancer would be an understatement of the largest degree. Her entire life was impacted by this one dose of psilocybin and she had not one negative side effect to mention. You should see the way her eyes shine when she describes months later spontaneously dancing in the kitchen with her husband in the morning. Her experience re-ignited something in her that is ineffable, but easy to feel when you see her speak.

Those of us with personal experience using psychedelics likely find this science reassuring but largely unnecessary. Other than the occasional anecdote about “the guy who thinks he’s a glass of orange juice and is afraid you are going to tip him over because of a bad trip” we have witnessed ourselves and others accessing expanded states of consciousness leading to feelings of love, connection, empathy, joy and probably had a few good laughs along the way. Psychedelic experiences, such as my own that I wrote about on ayahuasca in Brazil can certainly be terrifying, sad and difficult to endure. But in my experience when the set and setting are correct, when the approach to these powerful substances is sacred and not casual, the benefits far outway the costs and the most harrowing experiences lead to the greatest and most long lasting positive insights and transformations.

Before we left I asked Belser if he personally was hopeful for a rescheduling of psilocybin to make it less illegal or even legal. He said that he is hopeful and offered marijuana as a model for how mushroom legality could evolve over the coming years. Legally there are no significant efforts underway to change the legality of mushrooms, but scientific evidence is hard to argue against in a court of law and currently all of the available evidence disagrees with the letter of the law. This I find hopeful indeed.



David Deida-Sex as Therapy, Yoga and Spirituality

Do you know the difference between Sex as Therapy, Sex as Yoga and Sex as Spirituality?

Do you want to?

Love David Deida’s descriptions in these videos.

This man is AMAZING!

Find More Amazing Men by clicking HERE

1st – What is Sex as Therapy?

2nd – A BEAUTIFUL metaphor explaining all 3



Will Power is a Muscle

marshmallow experiment

Perhaps you have heard about the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment? Young children were offered a marshmallow. If they could resist eating the marshmallow for 15 minutes they were promised (and given) a second marshmallow. The researchers were testing the children’s ability to delay gratification. They then looked to see how this correlated with future success. Follow-up studies found that the children who were able to delay gratification longer were described “10 years later by their parents as adolescents who were significantly more competent.” After 12 years the ability to delay gratification also correlated with higher SAT scores. “ A 2011 study of the same participants indicates that the characteristic remains with the person for life.” Differences in the groups showed up in brain scans. (wikipedia)

Skeptics have since pointed out a number of flaws in this experiment including the then ignored importance of the child’s most recent experience with these or any adults. If said experience inspired trust the child was more likely to wait. If they were led to believe that adults may not show up with the second marshmallow the child would not wait. The study was measuring not only the ability to delay gratification, but the child’s momentary state of mind as determined by numerous factors. There is a complex mix of nature and nurture at work.

I have heard this study cited when people are trying to argue for inherent traits or personality types and against the possibility that we can transform who we are when we are young. “See, those who couldn’t delay gratification with a marshmallow can’t stay home and study for their SAT’s!” The study does imply that most people do not undergo massive shifts. Most children remain in the same environment with the same parents and similar activities. What happens when they are adults and can choose to seek change? While few adults do consciously seek growth and transformation it is my experience that those who do seek growth can grow beyond the patterns and inertia that they were handed as a child. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I had not overcome many of my own patterns and I would not continue working as a life coach if I were not seeing these types of shifts in others on a regular basis.

A 2000 study published by the American Psychological Association looks at over 100 previous papers and studies and suggests that self control is a muscle. Like all muscles, it appears to fatigue during a period of extended use. The authors, Mark Muraven and Roy F. Baumeister state that “exerting self-control may consume self-control strength, reducing the amount of strength available for subsequent self-control efforts. Coping with stress, regulating negative affect, and resisting temptations require self-control…..when a situation demands two consecutive acts of self-control, performance on the second act is frequently impaired.”

This makes the situation a bit more complex, but also gives us a more nuanced understanding. Children in the experiment may indeed have more or less baseline self control, they may also have just experienced a more or less nurturing or stressful situation. Being stressed appears to be taxing on the same system that regulates self control. Children’s who’s home is less relaxing or more taxing may have shown up in a depleted state. Many of them likely live in that state regularly. And what happens over time? If the muscle analogy has some truth to it then our self control muscles should not only tire with use, they should be susceptible to be strain from over use and growth from proper use balanced with rest and recuperation. The rest piece is crucial to me. Those who live in a stressful environment may never get the opportunity to recuperate.

A 2006 study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology set out to see how participants responded to exercising their “self-regulation muscles”. They set out to see if using our self control in one activity (here actually joining a gym and going regularly) would correlate with an increased ability to control other activities that require will power. Their conclusions? “participants also reported significant decreases in perceived stress, emotional distress, smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption, and an increase in healthy eating, emotional control, maintenance of household chores, attendance to commitments, monitoring of spending and an improvement in study habits.” They went on to say that their 2 month program “produced significant improvements in a wide range of regulatory behaviors. Their conclusion is that exerting self control in one area develops an increased reservoir of self-regulation which all activities can tap into.

Thinking about self control in this manner should help us to be more compassionate both with ourselves and with others. When you give in and eat a piece of cake you know you shouldn’t or skip a workout you feel you need how much do you consider the many strains on your will power that you have already endured that day? The same is true when we judge others. How often do you know the full story of others lives? Can you possibly know every stress and anxiety someone else is already dealing with when you see them act in a way that you deem as less than ideal? Anyone who has ever lifted weights knows that it would be ridiculous to judge yourself as weak on the last rep of the last set of an exercise. Push your muscles hard enough, they fail and you can barely lift your arm. We don’t judge ourselves weak because we recognize all of the work that has come before this last lift. How about when it comes to your will power? Can you recognize that at times your reserves are full and at others they are depleted? Can you grant others this same consideration? I ask two things of you:

  1. Please, be gentle with yourself when you need rest.
  2. Recognize that massive change is possible when you are ready.