“Anything that you resent and strongly react to in another is also in you.”

~ Eckhart Tolle

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

~Pema Chodron

“I am not crazy, my reality is just different than yours.”

~Lewis Carroll


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.

Published in: on April 26, 2012 at 12:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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How many therapies do you see?

  1. Yoga – ‘legs up the wall’
  2. Full spectrum light therapy
  3. Pet therapy
  4. Meditation
  5. Positive Ion air purification
  6. Pranayama – deep breathing, breath awareness

The perfect way to start the day!

Mind-Body Connection?

Researchers and yoga practitioners alike speak about the mind-body connection.  I often bring it up and spent time contemplating it’s meaning and existence.  What if it doesn’t literally exist, because there is not a separation that requires connection?  The separation itself is an illusion.  It is this illusion that we tackle through the practice of yoga.  “Candace Pert,  former chief brain biochemist for the National Institute of Mental Health, said, ‘In the end I find I can’t separate brain from body. Consciousness isn’t just in the head.  Nor is it a question of mind over body. If one takes into account the DNA directing the dance of peptides, [the] body is the outward manifestation of the mind.'”

When you contemplate the question of a mind-body connection what do you think?  How do you believe those thoughts might effect the body?  What are the origins of the messages we receive from our bodies once we become conscious of them? Isn’t the subconscious still a form of conscientiousness and therefore are thoughts able to evolve around mechanical actions of the body?  What does this all mean in regards to how we practice yoga asana, meditation, pranayama?  How does the mind-body effect our choices and actions?

Mechanism Behind Mind-Body Connection Discovered

Mind/Body Connection: How Your Emotions Affect Your Health

A Shift of Mind: Rethinking the way we live by Mel Schwartz, L.C.S.W.

“Don’t stop at the tears, go through to the truth.”

Natalie Goldberg published Writing Down the Bones in 1986.  I just happened to pick it off the library shelf.  I am unsure what even brought me to that section of the library, other than I needed to pass it to get to the restroom.  Then what made me walk over and pick it off the shelf?  I have no idea of the answer, but I am so glad I did. The book is about “freeing the writer within”, but as I read it I can’t help relating the messages to yoga.  I would recommend the book if you have ever had the inkling to write anything at all.  I have written pages over the last couple of days, and although not all of it is filled with gems of wisdom, I feel nurtured by the act of expression.

I want to share a short excerpt from chapter 2 that particularly touched me.  I have experienced and seen the same thing happen with yoga.  Natalie Goldberg writes, “…You must be a great warrior when you contact first thoughts and write from them [might also be thought of like our authentic voice].  Especially at the beginning you may feel great emotions and energy that will sweep you away, but you don’t stop writing. You penetrate into the heart of them.  Often in a beginning class students break down crying when they read pieces they have written.  That is okay. Often as they write they cry, too. However, I encourage them to continue reading or writing right through the tears so they may come out the other side and not be thrown off by the emotion.  Don’t stop at the tears, go through to the truth.”

Study as if you were to live forever…

… Live as if you were going to die tomorrow. Mahatma Ghandi

A link to a complete list of Mahatma Gandhi books.

Published in: on October 24, 2011 at 7:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Neurophysiological Effects of Meditation

Part 3 of 3 Post Series: Neurophysiological Effects of Meditation

Calm Stu

Studies uncovering neurophysiological evidence of the effects of meditation make use of neuroimaging technologies.  Neuroimaging technologies include positron emission tomography (PET), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG).  PET scans during a study of Yoga Nidra Meditation showed an increase in activity in the left frontal and limbic brain regions (Lou, 1999).  The left frontal cortex is associated with increased positive emotions, while the limbic brain regions are believed to be correlated with emotional regulation.  Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies showed changes in many brain regions including the amygdala, hypothalamus, and hippocampus, all of which are parts of the limbic system of the brain.  The amygdala is often referred to as the ‘fear center’, the hippocampus is the ‘memory center’ and the hypothalamus is considered the master regulator of emotions.  EEG studies backed up what was found in both PET and fMRI studies.  EEG studies found increased theta and alpha frequencies in the left frontal brain region.  This has been a common finding and has been suggested to reflect an enhanced ability to sustain attention and focus (Cahn and Polich, 2006).  According to other researchers this increased activity of low frequency theta and alpha waves is also positively correlated with increased feelings of happiness and joy (Rubia, 2009).   According to Psychology Today, “Neuroscientists have found that meditators shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex. Brain waves in the stress-prone right frontal cortex move to the calmer left frontal cortex. This mental shift decreases the negative effects of stress, mild depression and anxiety. There is also less activity in the amygdala, where the brain processes fear.” (Barber, 2001)


  1. Barbor, C. (May 01, 2001). The Science of Meditation.  Psychology Today (online periodical). Retrieved from
  2. Cahn, B.R., Polich, J. (2006). Meditation states and traits: EEG, ERP, and neuroimaging studies. Psychological Bulletin, 132 (2), 180–211.
  3. Lou, H.C., Kjaer, T.W., Friberg, L., Wildschiodtz, G., Holm, S., Nowak, M. (1999). A PET study of meditation and the resting state of normal consciousness. Human Brain Mapping, 7 (2), 98–105.
  4. Rubia, K. (2009). The neurobiology of meditation and its clinical effectiveness in psychiatric disorders. Biological Psychology, 82(1), 1-11.
Published in: on May 13, 2011 at 2:52 pm  Comments (2)  
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Physiological Effects of Meditation

Part 2 of 3 Post Series: Physiological Effects of Meditation

Although meditation is usually thought of in relationship to the mind it affects the physiology of the body in many ways. Meditation enhances the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for releasing chemicals that reduce stress (Takahashi, 2005).  This enhanced activity can be seen in the reduction in cortisol levels and release of beta endorphins. It is believed that stress reduction is what leads to the lowered blood pressure found in experienced meditators (Newberg, 2003).  Meditation has also been found to be associated with increases in immune functioning and a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease (Hoppes, 2003).   “Two controlled studies investigated the effects of six months of Zen meditation practice, and two months of Zen meditation plus progressive muscle relaxation, respectively, versus blood pressure checks in patients suffering from hypertension… The results of the metaanalysis (reviewing the studies) indicated a significant increase in diastolic blood pressure and a non-significant decrease in systolic blood pressure in meditators. (Chiesa-zm, 2010, p. 590)  Another study found that experienced Zen meditators  had significantly higher levels of serum nitrate and nitrite concentration and a significant reduced level of serum malondialdehyde than a control group. Serum nitric oxide is the predominant anti-atherosclerotic principle in the vascular wall. The researchers “reported that, in accord with previous studies that found that oxidative stress could contribute to the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis and chronic heart disease, their results suggested that Zen meditation, by reducing stress, could prevent stress-related disease such as heart attacks…” (Chiesa-zm, 2010, p. 587)


  1. Chiesa A., Serretti, A. (2010). A systematic review of neurobiological and clinical features of mindfulness meditations. Psychological Medicine, 40, 1239-1252.
  2. Hoppes, K. (2006).The Application of mindfulness-based cognitive interventions in the treatment of co-occurring addictive and mood disorders. CNS Spectrums. 11, 829-841, & 846-851.
  3. Newberg, A.B., Iversen, J. (2003) The neural basis of the complex mental task of meditation: Neurotransmitter and neurochemical considerations. Medical Hypotheses, 61, 282–291.
  4. Takahashi, T., Murata, T., Hamada, T. (2005) Changes in EEG and autonomic nervous activity during meditation and their association with personality traits. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 55, 199–207.
Published in: on May 12, 2011 at 2:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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Subjective Effects of Meditation

My recent dive into the research of the effects of meditation uncovered a ton of information.  I will be posting my findings in a series of three posts.   To help with clarification I will divide my research findings into three categories (one category per post); subjective effects of meditation, physiological effects of meditation, and neurophysiological effects of meditation.

Part 1 of 3 Post Series: Subjective Effects of Meditation

Early studies of meditation focused on subjective evidence, but as technology has improved objective evidence has been uncovered that corroborates the subjective findings.  Subjective evidence was common among different studies and was often either determined through self-reports or peripheral findings during neuroimaging studies.  Meditation affected the body through deeper physical relaxation and significant stress relief.  Cognitive and psychological effects included; increased concentration, improved self-control and overall enhanced psycho-emotional balance.  Emotional effects included; increased positive mood, emotional stability and resilience to stress and negative life events. (Grimm, 2007; Saeed, 2010; Toneatto, 2007)  In general meditators where found to have “developed more mature defense and coping strategies characterized by greater maturity and tolerance of common stressors” (Chiesa-vm, 2010).

  1. Chisea, A. (2010). Vipassana meditation: systematic review of current evidence. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(1), 7-46.
  2. Grimm, K.G., Diebold, M.M. (2007). Complementary and alternative medicine and integrative medicine in practice. In Rakel R.E. (Ed.), Textbook of Family Medicine (7th ed.) (16).
  3. Saeed, S.A., Antonacci D.J., Bloch, R.M. (2010). Exercise, yoga, and meditation for depressive and anxiety disorders. American Family Physician, 81, 981 -986.
  4. Toneatto, T., Nguyen, L. (2007). Does mindfulness meditation improve anxiety and mood symptoms? A review of the controlled research. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 52, 260-266.
Published in: on May 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lexical Criterion?

I am currently studying for my last final (at least in 2011).  I have a huge stack of flashcards that I have made to try and learn just the terminology.  Well, out of 58 terms, there are 12 that I thought might make my yogi friends smile.  So here it goes, a dozen fun words.

comic compliments of

  1. Organismic Valuing Process – The internal signal that tells whether self-actualization is occurring.
  2. Transcendent Self-actualizers – People whose actualization goes beyond the self to become more universal.
  3. Constructive Alternativism – The idea that any event can be construed in many ways.
  4. Defensive Reappraisal – The process of re-defining a threat out of existence.
  5. Actual Self – One’s self as one presently views it (I am not sure this one is very accurate?)
  6. Lexical Criterion – An index of the importance of a personality trait from the number of words that refers to it.
  7. Actualization – The tendency to grow in ways that maintain or enhance the self.
  8. Self-handicapping – Creating situations that make it hard to succeed, thus enabling avoidance of self-blame for failure.
  9. Existential Psychology – The view that people are responsible for investing their lives with meaning.
  10. Existential Guilt – A sense of guilt over failing to fulfill all of one’s potential. (Could we have existential guilt without existential psychology?)
  11. Dasein – “Being in the World”, the totality of one’s autonomous personal existence.
  12. Need – An unsatisfactory internal condition that motivates behavior.

Can anyone guess what class this final is in?  Call me a geek if you like, but I love rolling these words around in my head.

Published in: on May 6, 2011 at 5:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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