Not So Grand Illusions

So many of us are afraid of thinking too highly of ourselves or appearing prideful, but what about always assuming the worst. When we lack self-compassion and continually judge ourselves it becomes easier to do the same to others. It is almost impossible to judge only yourself harshly. Unfortunately judgement and negativity becomes a viscous cycle that can be hard to break. So how do we let go of negative self perceptions without swinging to the other side of the spectrum? Tuning into the truth as it is right now in the present moment………..Ok, easier said than done. Personally I have found that cultivating the skill of acceptance has been extremely helpful. When I first starting learning about 3rd Wave CBT (Mindfulness and Acceptance based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) I was really turned off by the concept of acceptance. It sounded too much like resignation or just plain giving up. Luckily I investigated further and discovered something more subtle and gentle. Acceptance is about being honest with ourselves and acknowledging our truthful feelings, possible biases, and basic desires. Acceptance is the opposite of resistance. When practiced with awareness and an open mind, acceptance can teach us a lot about ourselves and the world around us.

For example, I was recently speaking with some friends about the conclusions we jump to when we don’t get an expected response from a person we know well. It is easy to assume that someone didn’t laugh at our joke because they are mad at us or we just aren’t funny. Usually the reason has less to do with us. A usually jovial friend who doesn’t laugh is probably distracted by a task, received somber news or just is not having a good day. When we engage in acceptance we keep our mind open to current information and not succumb to making assumptions. There are assumptions that seem to be common to many of us. These are often referred to as cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are basic PSYC 101, but I never quit finding value in revisiting them.

The below list of cognitive distortions was retrieved from

  1. All-or-nothing thinking: You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
  1. Overgeneralization: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  1. Mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.
  1. Disqualifying the positive: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. You maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
  1. Jumping to conclusions: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
    • Mind reading: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you and don’t bother to check it out.
    • The Fortune Teller Error: You anticipate that things will turn out badly and feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.
  1. Magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.”
  1. Emotional reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”
  1. Should statements: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
  1. Labeling and mislabeling: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him, “He’s a damn louse.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
  1. Personalization: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which, in fact, you were not primarily responsible.

From: Burns, David D., MD. 1989. The Feeling Good Handbook. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.


A Great Thinker

Every time I read any work by Jane Jacobs I am struck by her ability to describe the systems of our world so clearly.  She has written about architecture, urban theory, sociology, public policy and so much more.  She was an activist in every sense of the word, living her life true to her beliefs and values.  In my mind she was a true yogi.  Jane Jacobs once wrote, “The precept ‘know thyself’ includes knowing the scales with which one weighs actions and attitudes in the great world of work outside oneself.” She asks us to take responsibility for understanding our biases and prejudices and how these influence our actions with the world around us.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities  by Jane Jacobs

The Economy of Cities by Jane Jacobs

Cities and the Wealth of Nations by Jane Jacobs

Dark Age Ahead by Jane Jacobs

The Nature of Economies by Jane Jacobs

Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics by Jane Jacobs



Wisdom Means Being Able To Say…

1. “I need help.”
2. “I am sorry.”
3. “I don’t know.”
4. “I forgot.”
5. “I feel (fill in the emotion).”
6. “I love you.”

Published in: on June 27, 2012 at 1:30 pm  Comments (1)  
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Sometimes what is a small gesture of kindness on our part can make a world of difference to someone else.  It is my belief that within the yama of ahimsa (yogic moral guideline of non-violence) one will find compassion, kindness and generosity.  By practicing ahimsa in all it’s many depths and manifestations the world not only becomes a better place but our lives grow fuller and more joyful.

To find more heart lifting images visit

Rough Edges

I don’t believe that we can hold ourselves or another to a promise of being perfect. Even though we aspire to learn and grow, imperfections will continue to arise. All I can do is sincerely commit to learn from whatever I encounter along the way. Like stones in a stream that are smoothed over the years by the flowing torrent, I will dwell in the stream of life and invite it to smooth my rough edges.

Michael Lee
Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, A Bridge from Body to Soul

Practice Life

“The point of yoga is to develop a level of clarity and self-understanding so that when we’re done doing our yoga practice we make really good decisions, because that will determine whether we’re fulfilled. Not the quality of our poses. But really the yoga is what happens when we’re done practicing yoga.”

~Rod Stryker

Symbolism of the Lotus

Symbolism is used throughout human history. The “symbol is an object, action, or idea that represents something other than itself, often of a more abstract nature.” (  Within the practice of yoga there are many symbols used.  Each posture itself is infused with more meaning than simply it’s bio-mechanics.  For example, in Ananda yoga each posture has an affirmation:

Standing Backward Bend – ” I am free! I am free!”

Balasana – Child Pose – “I draw toward my inner peace”

Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose – “I rise joyfully to meet each new opportunity.”

Even without an assigned affirmation, I am sure that many of you could describe the feelings that many of the poses evoke.  What about more traditional ideas of symbols?  The lotus flower is often front and center at yoga studios, embossed within yoga texts and represented within asana.  I was recently given a lotus flower with an attached explanation of the flower’s meaning.

“The lotus flower is one of the most ancient and deepest symbols of our planet. The lotus flower grows in muddy water and rises above the surface to bloom with remarkable beauty.  At night the flower closes and sinks underwater, at dawn it rises and opens again. Untouched by impurity, lotus symbolizes the purity of heart and mind.

The roots of the lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and the heavily scented flower lies pristinely above the water, asking for sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment.”

I love how this explanation makes note that “at night the flower closes and sinks underwater, at dawn it rises and opens again.” Reminding us that enlightenment is not a solid or permanent state, it is instead one aspect of a cycle.  What symbols play a role in your life or your understanding of yoga?  How do these symbols effect your practice?

Concentration and Consciousness to Unity

“….the sixth level of concentration is limitless consciousness.  At first, we see only consciousness, but then we see that consciousness is also earth, water, air, fire, and space. What is true of space is also true of consciousness…seventh level of concentration is nothingness.  With normal perception, we see flowers, fruit, teapots, and tables, and we think they exist seperately of one another. But when we look more deeply, we see that the fruit is in the flower, and that the flower, the cloud and the earth are in the fruit.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching p#99

Want to study more about Consciousness and Quantum Physics?

Previously I mentioned that I was delving into studying Consciousness, Quantum Physics and String Theory.  Obviously my lifetime will probably not be long enough to get a full grasp on any one of these areas of study, but I have found it empowering to begin to get a tiny hold on some of the more general concepts related to these fields of study.  Most importantly has been the scientific discoveries that back up my intuitive understanding of the world and our role as human beings.

The philosophic underpinnings of Yoga, Buddhism and Native American cultures have one core component that is continually returned to within cutting edge science.  Every entity, whether biological or not, is connected to the rest of the universe.  This connection is not esoteric or imaginary, the connection is real and measurable.  Much of how we think of ourselves may be due to our limited ability to comprehend the truth.  Separation itself may be a grand illusion that serves to provide us with a structure from which to organize ‘our reality’.  The quantum physics of energy is where most yogis will start to get really excited.

For those of you who would like to join me on this path of discovery I have provided a recommended reading list below.  The list is interactive with but most  of the books are available at the Boise Public Library.  Please share with me what you uncover.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe by Lynne McTaggart

The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness by Bruce H. Lipton

The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force by Jeffrey Schwartz

A challenge worth the effort…

“Anyone can see the ugliness in the world. Real skill comes by seeing the beauty.”

The above amaryllis bulb is beautiful as it is, but holds within it the potential to grow into a beauty of breathtaking proportions. Every stage of life holds it’s own beauty and potential. What about the beauty of death that gives way for new life?

Published in: on February 4, 2012 at 1:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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