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The Best Escape from Stress

connectionLast week my parents came into town for dinner and my dad regaled us with some of his best stories (like winning the “state-wide tether ball championship” when he was about Griffin’s age).

It truly made my heart expand at least 3 sizes to see Griffin and my dad connect at such a meaningful level. And it made me appreciate even more the slower pace of summer, which seems to make moments of connection like these more likely.

And boy, are we savoring the last moments of summer – Griffin goes back to school (in the 6th grade no less) next week!

Do you ever feel this way? That life is generally so busy, busy, busy that when you find that little pocket of slowness you just want to stay there forever?

Of course, we can’t ever stay in any one place forever, but this blog post shares how you can stay in a place of peace and calm.

Even better, once you learn that, you can figure out how to string together more and more moments so that you feel more centered and present much more of the time.

There is a popular interpretation of ancient Eastern wisdom on meditation that, in my understanding, gets things turned totally upside down.

This popular view says that meditation helps us cultivate a state of “no thought” and this is desirable because we shouldn’t have strong feelings.

We should be “Zen” or “peaceful” – and those words are used as if they were synonyms for “blasé” or “unaffected.”

But what I like most about meditation is that it helps me realize that my thoughts are there, that they come in an endless murmuring stream, and that this stream flows on outside of my essential self. In other words, meditation gives me an opportunity to notice that I am not my thoughts.

So I think of meditation as a time to develop a relationship with my thoughts, and to learn that they no longer have the power to define me.

Through meditation, I’ve also learned that I get to choose my response to the self-critical thoughts that “think themselves,” and that makes all the difference between having a bad day and having a satisfying day.

escape from stressFinally, meditation for me is also the practice of non-attachment, and non-attachment helps me be clear and present with whatever arises, including my fears and doubts.

I love what Susan Piver said about non-attachment:

“Non-attachment doesn’t mean not feeling things or always being blasé. It means feeling everything while not attributing permanent status to anything.”

Try this exercise sometime: become aware of any thought or feeling you’re having at this moment and I bet you’ll notice pretty quickly that you can’t hold on to it.

Another thought (or 10!) will vie for its place and eventually win.

A feeling of bliss will change to boredom. A feeling of discomfort will change to ease.

A burning anger will change to regret, and eventually, if we are truly grounded and present, to forgiveness.

No one knows exactly how or when the thought of this moment will change. But it will change.

So meditation practice is the practice of meeting each of your feelings without trying to hold onto it (Oh, this feels good, I want to stay with this one) or trying to change it (Ugh, awful, I want to get rid of this one).

Meditation is the practice of simply letting them be.

Until they change or pass. And they all change or pass eventually.

As Rumi wrote:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

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The big secret to deciding how much is enough

Last week I threw a big party to celebrate the launch of Doug’s novel, Tales of a Fifth Grade Knight.

It was so amazing to share this momentous occasion with so many of our family and friends – I think the only night that might rival it for over-the-top joy and merriment was our wedding!

If you haven’t already seen the pictures from the event on Facebook, here are a few of my favorites:

Celebration - Tales of a Fifth Grade Knight - Launch

Oh – and if you’d like to buy the book (and I hope you will!), I’m pleased to announce that right now Capstone Young Readers (Doug’s publisher), is offering 30% off on purchases of Tales to my newsletter subscribers. Just go here and type “GIBSON30” in the promo code box when you check out.

It was a BIG week in our family with Doug’s book launch AND more exciting news: some of you know that in May I submitted a screenplay for a spot at the NYWIFT Writers Lab (funded largely by Meryl Streep). Last week I found out that it’s going into the FINAL round (out of 3,800 submissions)!

There are only 8 spots, so it still seems like a long shot, but I’m thrilled that my screenplay made it this far. The finalists will be announced this week. Stay tuned!

With so much going on, it’s easy to feel like there’s not enough time to do everything I want to do, or to do it well.

I’m sure you’ve had moments (day, weeks, years!) like this too, so the feature article this week is designed to help you shift your perspective so that you can feel satisfied, not overwhelmed, by all that is.

One of the main reasons so many of us find our lives stressful is because there is SO much to do and we never seem to get enough of it done.

So here’s the big secret to finding peace in any circumstance:

You get to decide how much is enough.

If you really let that sink in for a moment you might start to think, like I do, that this is a revolutionary idea.

There are many industries in the world dedicated to convincing us that we are not enough, we don’t have enough or do enough and we are, quite simply, not good enough. We have been trained to be forever dissatisfied.

And that’s how we are all being turned into what Buddhism calls the “Hungry Ghosts” – never satisfied because we no longer have any idea what “enough” would be.

So the idea that you get to decide what is enough? Pretty life-changing stuff.

You really do get to decide how much is enough (how much time you spend at work, how clean your house is, whether you volunteer for that committee, etc.).

So here are the steps you can follow to feel satisfied with what you do and who you are everyday of the year (feel free to modify for yourself):

summer bucket listStep 1:

Describe the conditions you will satisfy in specific and measurable terms.

For example, “I will go for a walk at noon on Monday, Wednesday and Friday” is specific and measurable, “I will get more exercise this week” is not.

Step 2:

Make sure every aspect of your condition lies entirely within your control.

For example, “Today I will call my mom and invite her to lunch” is within my control. “My mom should support my decision to quit my job for me to be happy” is NOT.

Step 3:

Choose a condition which is realistic for you to achieve on an average day (an average day is not one where you are experiencing peak focus, no interruptions and unusual stamina).

For example, “I will meditate (or journal, or practice yoga) for 5 minutes every morning after I wake up.”

Step 4:

When you have fulfilled your condition, declare you are satisfied even if you don’t feel satisfied. Celebrate your accomplishment.

This one is really important. As I said above, there are many (very well-funded) industries dedicated to training your brain to feel constantly unsatisfied.

That’s what keeps us truly dissatisfied and what keeps us consuming more than we need (calories and material goods).

So, for now, don’t expect to feel satisfied when you’ve completed your condition. More likely you’ll think something like:

“Well I didn’t do that much. It wasn’t enough. I should do more.”

That’s the way our brains have been trained to work. But make no mistake, by working with the above conditions we are actually retraining our brains.

We are training our brains to become familiar again with the experience of satisfaction.

“I called my mom and invited her to lunch. I declare myself satisfied. Woo hoo!”

Even if you don’t feel all that happy because she still doesn’t support your decision to quit your job, declare yourself satisfied and find some way to celebrate.

Remind yourself of your conditions, remind yourself that you have done what was realistic and within your control and then, declare yourself satisfied.

If you liked this post, I think you’ll enjoy the free weekly Special Delivery eZine. Just sign up here and it will be delivered to your inbox every Tuesday!

The Best Escape from Stress

August 18, 2015

Last week my parents came into town for dinner and my dad regaled us with some of his best stories (like winning the “state-wide tether ball championship” when he was about Griffin’s age). It truly made my heart expand at least 3 sizes to see Griffin and my dad connect at such a meaningful level.

Read the full article →

The big secret to deciding how much is enough

August 11, 2015

Last week I threw a big party to celebrate the launch of Doug’s novel, Tales of a Fifth Grade Knight. It was so amazing to share this momentous occasion with so many of our family and friends – I think the only night that might rival it for over-the-top joy and merriment was our wedding!

Read the full article →

Proof that you can make money doing what you love (+ Doug’s book release!)

August 4, 2015

The photo to the right shows Doug and Griffin celebrating the release of his first novel, Tales of a Fifth Grade Knight!! If you want to find out more and buy the book (and I hope you will!), you can go here: http://tinyurl.com/5thgradeknight (Amazon) or here: http://bit.ly/1He2DjD (Capstone Press - Doug's publisher). This is such

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how to manifest what you want with ease (powerful brain science + loa)

July 28, 2015

The photo to the right shows a highlight from our time with Juan, our Spanish exchange student (and Griffin’s surrogate big brother). We rented a pontoon boat and spent a full day out on the gorgeous Lake Jocassee – jumping off cliffs, swimming under waterfalls, and playing football on a beach made from limestone (complete

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How I'm making the most of the summer - and you can too!

July 21, 2015

The photo shows Griffin and Juan, a Spanish exchange student we’re hosting, before playing an epic soccer game. We had never hosted a foreign student before, but when Juan’s program reached out to us and told us that Juan’s dream was to live the “American Lifestyle,” Griffin was adamant about helping him achieve his dream.

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if you’re paralyzed with fear, it’s a good sign

July 14, 2015

The photo shows Griffin reunited with his camp buddies! Last year Griffin went to Camp Gwynn Valley (an overnight camp in our gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains) for 5 days and loved it so much that he conspired with these friends to go back this year for 10 days. I’ve never been away from Griffin for

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My new TEDx Talk!

July 7, 2015

The photo shows a highlight from our annual “off-the-grid” camping adventure – releasing Chinese Lanterns in honor of the Fourth of July – Independence Day in the U.S., or “Fireworks Day,” as our young Irish neighbor has it! We checked items off our “Family-Favorites Summer Bucket List" at a prodigious rate last week – camping,

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What it really takes to succeed (and you've got it)

June 30, 2015

That’s a photo of my family celebrating my dad’s 73rd birthday. When I made reservations at his favorite restaurant, I mentioned to the host that we’d be celebrating this momentous occasion. When the host greeted us he whispered to me that he had been expecting an “old man” to show up and my dad, with

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