Through the Looking Glass of Perspective

I started this a few days ago on Star Wars day so a quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi seemed appropriate. “…you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” Perspective, or point of view, is the way we are able to frame our world, our place in it and how we make associations and even friends. It’s what keeps us sane. If left unchecked, it’s also one of the greatest limiters to new ideas and growth.


Perspective is shaped by experience, those around us and what we find comfortable. Perspective is a necessarily

fine 3d image of dark grunge prison

fine 3d image of dark grunge prison

narrowed view of the world. It protects us from things that we aren’t quite ready to see or accept, sort of like a psyche armor. Like armor it’s not meant to be worn at all times. Doing so cuts us off from others and what once served as protection becomes a prison.


Think about a plant left to grow in a pot. Eventually the plant outgrows the pot and needs to be transplanted to continue to grow. If not, then the plant becomes root bound and eventually dies. Similarly if we stay locked into our singular perspective, we will become mentally bound and like the plant, our growth will be blunted. While we likely won’t die physically, mental stagnation can be a type of death unto itself.


To move out of the armor of a singular perspective, I’ve found empathy, open mindedness and a willingness to step outside of my comfort zone to be a highly effective combination.



Understanding Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

Understanding Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

The ability to feel compassion for others is what allows us to see things from another’s point of view, allowing us to understand them. Empathy isn’t just about when people are sad or depressed. Empathy can be used with happy emotions as well. Have you ever been happy and celebrated someone’s accomplishment even though you had no idea what they were talking about, or if it was something you’d never do? Empathy in action. The challenge is bringing that empathy to bear when you are faced with a point of view or opinion that challenges a core belief.



Open Mindedness

Human head withred ladder to opened sky window

Human head withred ladder to opened sky window

This might also be called acceptance or a suspension of pre judgement. Remaining open to the possibility that something you believe or “know” could be skewed, biased or flat out wrong is challenging for pretty much everyone. After all at one point, everyone “knew” the sun revolved around the earth and “knew” that the earth was flat.







Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Blackboard concept for leaving your comfort zone behind and moving in to the real life

Blackboard concept for leaving your comfort zone behind and moving in to the real life

Perspective is partially steeped in protection. A willingness and no small amount of courage is needed to step outside of that comfort zone. Being able to reevaluate your beliefs, judgements and ideals is one of the most difficult things to do. It’s also one of the most important when building trust, relationships and personal growth.


Applying these intertwined tools takes practice and patience but is well worth the effort. But if it’s so much work to take this step and so much easier to stay safe in the armor of perspective, why change? Why put in all that effort?


Because it’s one of the most powerful tools for growth we have at our disposal. Sadly it’s one that I see being utilized less and less. The adage of old that says you shouldn’t judge a man unless you walk a mile in his shoes comes to mind. It’s all about shifting perspective. Seeing things from someone else’s point of view. The reason to do that, is to better understand them and why they hold certain opinions and beliefs. This doesn’t mean you will change your beliefs or opinions, but you’ll gain a better understanding of why they believe the way they do. Understanding that is a cornerstone for being able to find common ground and acceptance.


Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes

group of man and women during hiking excursion in woods, walking in a queue along a path. Low section view

group of man and women during hiking excursion in woods, walking in a queue along a path. Low section view

If your entire life was spent in tight, pinching shoes, a pair of comfortable, fitting sneakers would be a delight. But if your life was spent barefoot those same shoes might feel constricting. The shoes didn’t change, only the perspective of the person wearing them. Neither person is “right” or “wrong.” They have an opinion based upon their prior experience and preferences. And when put in the same situation, they came to different conclusions. Understanding h

ow someone else sees something, even if you don’t agree with them, is a powerful tool for making a connection and perhaps even learning something new. Who knows, maybe once you’ve tried running around barefoot, you’ll find you like it.



Like the plant moving from the comfort and safety of a pot to the open ground, there are potential pitfalls, challenges

Broken tomato plant roots in soil isolated on white

Broken tomato plant roots in soil isolated on white

and opportunities for growth. I suppose you could say it all depends on your perspective.


I Eat Healthy and I Don’t Apologize….

What does eating healthy have to do with meditation? Many strange things have happened to me since I started meditating on regular basis. I crave exercise. I am less angry and judgmental. I actively look for ways to help others. I like eating healthy food.


That’s right. I eat (moderately) healthy foods and take the time and extra effort to plan and prepare meals and snacks that are relatively healthy and tasty besides. And I don’t apologize for it. chickenpotclipart


What I am finding interesting, is that people; both friends and random people I meet, make semi-apologetic excuses for not eating better themselves. I don’t know if anyone else is experiencing this phenomenon, but I find it a little unsettling.


I like to socialize over lunches and dinners as a way to strengthen or help to forge the bonds of friendship and camaraderie. However, my diet has been changing over the years to a healthier diet, giving up cheese, soda, eating more vegetables and so on.


I never paid much attention to what others were eating (unless it looked better than what I ordered) and was never concerned about what my companions thought of my meal. Having said that, I have been on the receiving end of near militant ‘ians who had no lack of opinion and were more than happy to “share.”scaredchickenclipart


And perhaps that mentality is what my friends now anticipate from me; although I hope not. I make my choices and choose what I will and won’t eat. I choose to go into restaurants and order off menu if there aren’t choices that I find palatable. What I don’t do is expect others to make the same choices.



And yet my friends, family and even complete strangers give me the impression that they feel bad or ashamed about what they are eating, and end up basically apologizing to me for their diet; or making excuses to me about why they are not eating better. It’s creepy to be honest.


I don’t know the real reason they act the way they do around me. I am very careful not to push my own choices, and I generally don’t even mention them unless contextually appropriate. I’m not the food police and I certainly don’t critique everyone else’s meals.


I’ve just begun looking for the cause of this odd behavior. Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of inspiring others to benobully1 their best and to cheer them as they strive for new goals. But I have no desire to be the self-righteous bully that looks down his nose at the choices and lifestyles of others.


For one thing, it isn’t my place. For another, it sounds like a lot of work. I don’t want to have to keep track of everyone all the time. And finally I’m still learning and growing. I have and will likely continue to make missteps and mistakes; have to back track and even apologize at times.



If there is one thing anyone takes from this, I hope it is to be yourself. If you aren’t happy with where you are in your life, make a change. If you don’t feel you can make that change alone, ask for help. No one can offer a helping hand unless they know you need it.


Drop the excuses and take action. If you don’t want to make a change in your life then don’t. Be confident in yourself and your choices. Everyone else can either support and accept you, or not.


“You have to meet people where they are, and sometimes you have to leave them there.”

– Iyanla Vanzant

10 Minutes To Get The Body and Mind Moving

Job, family, kid’s activities, dinner, home projects, pets and a million other things compete for our time every day. With all that noise and competition it’s tough to carve out time to take care of ourselves. Sleep deprivation is one option, and I’ve certainly used it in the past. But there are still days where even that isn’t an option.


Instead of stressing over missing a day (and for me, the grumpiness that fills my day), I have a quick (and in my opinion fun) way to get a little stretch and strengthen put back into the day. And it’s only 9 moves and 10 minutes. Full disclosure, this is not a super cardio, super stretch, ab ripping or other intensive set. It’s meant as a way to get the body (and energy) moving on days where there just isn’t time for anything else.


Empty Coat Sleeves (2 minutes):

Feet shoulder width apart, let the arms hang down at your sides like empty coat sleeves (hence the name). Start by slowly twisting side to side letting the arms flop against the body. Slowly increase the tempo and as you turn, let the opposite side heel come up. Play with the tempo and the slowly add breath to the movement. Inhale as you come to center, exhale as you twist. Start to slow the swings and let the arms come to rest.


Hip Circles (5 each leg each direction):

Root one leg into the ground, shift your weight to that leg, engage the abs in and up then inhale to float the opposite leg up, bent at the knee. Keeping the planted leg engaged, draw the largest circle you can with the bent knee. Reverse the circles. Slowly lower the leg, shift your weight to the second leg, and repeat on the second side.


Leg Balances – each leg about 15-20 seconds (2-3 sets):

Start as above, feet hip distance. Plant one leg, thigh muscles gripping the bone, engage the abs in and up and inhale to slowly float the other leg up, bent at the knee and hold while continuing to breath. Float the leg down, shift the weight to the other leg, and repeat on the second side.


Wall Push, each leg forward (3 sets, 10-15 seconds each):

Stand with palms pressed against the wall. Step one leg back a comfortable distance. Front knee is stacked over the front ankle, the rear leg is long and strongly planted into the ground. Engage the abs in and up, inhale and slowly exhale as you press into the wall (10-15 second) and release. Repeat two more times. Switch feet.


Low/High lunges – just a good stretch:

Starting with feet planted, hip width apart, step far back with one leg. Keep the front knee stacked directly over the front ankle. Place your hands either on the floor or a block for balance. Keep the hips square and lengthen though the spine. Keep your rear leg straight and slowly pivot up at the hip, lengthening the tailbone down. This is a great stretch for the hip flexors and thighs. Stay here for a minute or so and enjoy the stretch. Switch sides before moving on.


Standing Wide Angle Forward Fold – a good stretch and release the head to relax:

Start with the feet a comfortably wide distance apart, legs straight but the knees aren’t locked. Engage the abs in and up, lengthen through the spine and fold slowly from the hips. Only after folding as far as you can, release the hands to the ground (or blocks) and let your body fold down and release your head and let it just hang loose. Relax here for several breaths and enjoy the mini-inversion. To come out, place hands on ground or blocks and use your arms to push up to a flat back, bend the knees slightly and hinge up to standing. Walk the feet together.


Seated Forward Fold (legs together) for good stretch; keep back long:

Come to a comfortable seated position with the legs straight out in front. Lengthen through the spine and the heels. Engage the abs in and up and begin to hinge forward at the hips. Hold here for a few breaths. You can then release and fold forward, supported by your hands. Hold here and breathe. Engage the abs, press the palms into the ground to straighten your spine. Hinge up from the hips to finish the release.


Seated Twist (each side):

Leave one leg extended and lengthen up through the spine. Bend the other leg at the knee and place the foot to the outside of the extended leg. Keep the spine lengthened and slowly twist towards the lengthened leg. Breathe a few times and slowly release. Switch legs and repeat on the second side.


Savasana, focus on belly breathing:

Lie down on the floor on your back. Feet slightly more than hip width apart and let the feet fall open. Hands about 45 degrees from the body, palms up. Release and relax every part of your body. This may take a minute or two, but don’t rush. When you’re ready, focus on the lower belly. As you inhale, let just the lower belly blow up like a balloon filing with air. As you exhale, let the belly sink down towards your spine; repeat. Take as long as you want here, but to keep it short, about 10 breaths or so will do. To come out, turn slowly to the left, pause, then push up to a seated position. Pause again before standing up and moving on with your day.


And now you’re done. Short, sweet and just enough to get your body, energy and mind moving and staying sharp for as long as you need. As I said earlier, this isn’t a cardio blast by any means, but it will get you moving.


Once you are comfortable with the series, I encourage you to play with different types of breathing to either bring up or level out your energy and mind.

Escaping Mental Quicksand

Shane Falco: You’re playing and you think everything is going fine. Then one thing goes wrong. And then another. And another. You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink. Until you can’t move… you can’t breathe… because you’re in over your head. Like quicksand.


This is mental quicksand. It sneaks up on us. One little negative thought because one little thing goes wrong or just doesn’t meet our expectations. And that one little negative thought draws our attention. Then all we can do, all we can notice are the negative things. And down into the quicksand we go.Drowning hand








How can the quicksand be escaped, or better still, avoided? These are questions everyone asks at some point, from top athletes and performers to anyone who is just having one of those days. I’ll be honest, I haven’t figured out how to completely avoid the quicksand. I still step right in the middle of it some days. What I have done is work to recognize when I put my foot in, when that sinking feeling starts, and find constructive ways to dig myself out before I start feeling overwhelmed and stuck.Office chaos


First, some of the signs that tell me I’m heading in that direction:

  • My jaw clenches.
  • My shoulders start drifting up towards my ears.
  • My thinking is starts getting muddled and fuzzy.
  • I hear myself saying things I really didn’t want or mean to say.
  • The normally kind universe is kicking me in the gut, repeatedly.


Now that you have some ideas on how to spot the slide down the quicksand trap, the question becomes how to dig out. Depending on how deep you get before starting, it could be simple and relatively easy. But there are times when you are in pretty much over your head before you realize what’s going on, and that takes more effort.


Where ever you might find yourself, when you do realize where you’re headed, here are some of my go to tips for digging myself out.

  • Stop and breathe.

    Image courtesy of  { lillith }.

    Image courtesy of { lillith }.

  • If possible, get up and move, be active, go for a workout.
  • If you can’t get a workout in, take a smaller break in Savasana.
  • If you can’t do that either, take a break to go get a cup of tea (or beverage of choice).
  • Let go of everything that has happened up to that point in your day. It doesn’t matter and holding onto it is like grabbing an anchor, you’ll just sink faster.





That is a quick list for when I haven’t started sinking too deep yet. And it’s by no means an exhaustive list, just a few idea that work for me. If I do find myself already pretty deep in the mental quicksand, these are my favorite ways to dig out, or at least stop the sinking.

  • Stop and breathe (this works for pretty much any situation).

    Image courtesy of

    Image courtesy of

  • Step away, completely away. It’s often difficult to do because of the perceived pressure that can be felt.
  • Put yourself in a mental bubble to shut out all the unnecessary noise around you.
  • Focus on one and only one thing to accomplish. Once that is complete, move on to another one. Keep knocking out the tasks, one at a time, until you feel back on track.
  • Be nice to yourself. Negative thoughts attract more negativity. Positive thoughts attract more positive energy. Give yourself a little encouragement and see how much it can help.


The key for me has become less about digging out, but more about figuring out I’m on my way into the quicksand. It is so much easier to make little adjustments to avoid getting sucked in than it is to work to climb back out.


This is one of those things that just takes practice. Learning to really tune in to what you are feeling as you feel it is something that as adults we have almost forgotten. Once you do, the warning signs go from being buried in the noise to blaring and nearly impossible to miss. Along the way, just remember to be kind to yourself. Sometimes you’ll be the only one who is.




Non-Judgmental Compassion or Avoidance?

I’ve written a few times about the importance of being kind to ourselves, the use of a non-judgmental compassion. After all, each day is different and some days are just, well, good days to crawl back into bed and hide under the covers.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of


I’ve been asked how I know when I cross the line from being compassionate with myself and listening to what I need over to being just plain lazy. Unfortunately there isn’t an easy answer to this question. I did an article on how to do nothing and the benefits that can be garnered from doing nothing. But it’s a fine line between doing nothing take care of oneself and doing nothing to avoid doing anything.








I have discovered a few telltale signs that help me distinguish between the two and listed them here:

  • Feeling regret about choosing not to work out or whatever it was that you didn’t do. Not the little “yeah I probably should have” type, but the “I really need to do that tomorrow” type of regret.
  • The activity in question is one that you are choosing to be “compassionate” with yourself on more than others. Say almost every time it comes up, “compassion” is the first thought you have.
  • You choose self-care over anything that happens during a televised game or show. Most of us have a DVR, Netflix or some other on demand service. If all else fails, they still have reruns and highlight reels.
  • The to-do list becomes a matter of life or death as you get closer to having to start what you are being self-compassionate over. When doing your nails suddenly comes to the top of our list, you might be avoiding something.
  • You fidget at the very thought of starting the activity you are being self-compassionate about. The anticipation of it sets your skin on fire and your stomach starts churning. A good sign you are avoiding. But sometimes what we avoid the most we also need the most.
  • You take any reason to help or support others (or just any excuse really) to avoid what you were going to do. See fidgeting above.


After running through that list, do any of those sound familiar? If not, great you probably have a nice balance in your life. But if you did, then read on, I have some tips on facing those things that you may be avoiding and maybe even make them less arduous.


Image courtesy of  { lillith }.

Image courtesy of { lillith }.

First, find a little time to set aside for yourself. Digging around inside can stir the emotional pot. Having some time to sit and deal with what comes up makes this process smoother and more effective. Once you have the time and a nice quiet spot, settle in and move through these steps.

  • Take a few minutes to just breathe and tune your mind into your body. Some breathing exercises such as Ujjayi, Dirgha or similar are useful here.
  • Take stock of your emotional state. Ideally a calm mind will allow you to dig out the root cause of the resistance in your life.
  • Think about starting the task you’ve been avoiding. Notice, without judging, what emotions, what thoughts and what physical sensations come up for you.
  • Next picture what you might feel once you’ve completed the task. Ask yourself if that feeling is enough to get you started. If it is, then breathe a little longer and get started.
  • If not, ask yourself if this is something that absolutely must be done. If it is, then accept that you must do it and look for ways to make it more pleasant, if not enjoyable. If not, consider dropping it from your to do list.


One of the biggest reasons we are resist something because it’s challenging us in some way that is outside our comfort zone. This is a good thing. Growth is challenging. It can also be daunting. The steps above can help you figure out why you’re feeling resistance and give you a little support in moving through it. If this doesn’t work the first time, I encourage you to keep at it. It can take time to deal with resistance and setting an expectation that it may take a few rounds takes pressure off yourself.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of


At the end of the day, when you have a chance to sit and quiet your mind, you will know what you did to be kind to yourself and what you did to avoid something. Everyone has challenges and the key here is that even when you find yourself avoiding something, don’t judge or criticize yourself. Just acknowledge it’s happening and take the conscious steps in the direction you truly want head.

Why Letting Go Is Good for Growth

Spring cleaning. Growing up it was a ritual. Clean up, clear out, and move on. Growing up an Army Brat, we lived a pretty nomadic life. While I’m happy about the experiences, the countries and the people I was fortunate enough to meet and see, it also forced us to live very light on possessions.messy yoga


Moving every few years meant that everything we owned was packed up and shipped to the next post, and no one wanted to fill boxes upon boxes with junk. This was especially true when we were headed overseas. The houses were smaller; less room = less stuff.


Little did I know the very important life lesson I was learning; how to let go of things that were no longer helping me. I don’t mean that in the narcissistic way, but in the way that when looking at my stuff, I learned to quickly (before Mom did it for me….) determine what clothes I no longer wore, the toys I no longer played with, etc. And those things were let go. We would donate what was still in good condition, and what wasn’t, was re-purposed (dress shirts as paint shirts) or disposed of.


From that lesson (repeated many times throughout my childhood), I came to understand the necessity in cutting back or cutting away things and even people that no longer served a positive purpose for me. This might sound harsh, but it helps to understand that sometimes people come into your life simply to nudge you in a direction, and once they do that, they need to move on. Sometimes they need to be invited to move on.

Image courtesy of Page by Susan Silver.

Image courtesy of Page by Susan Silver.


Sometimes it’s a matter of sentimentality. Much like a favorite stuffed toy that we drag around until it disintegrates, some friendships we just hang on to. Maybe it’s habit, maybe it’s sentimental. Either way, some friendships are toxic and need to be evaluated, and if necessary, pruned, so that you can continue to grow.


Once you’ve identified what is no longer helping you, the next step (and sometimes more difficult step) is to actually get rid of it. When I was first given this advice, I was also given the analogy of throwing away the things I no longer needed. At least that’s what I was supposed to visualize. I sometimes found that visualization didn’t really work for me.



What I eventually came to visualize was simple; let it go. To throw something away, the very first thing I need to do is grasp it. When I grasp it (physically, emotionally, etc.) I hold it tighter. Instead I picture that whatever it is I need to move past is in my hand. Then instead of gripping it to throw it away, I simply turn my hand over, and let it fall away.


Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

This subtle shift in how I prepare myself for “spring cleaning” has allowed me to make these changes in a way that is less jarring I suppose. Instead of the act of (at least in my visualizations) throwing something as hard as I could (emotionally and mentally linking that to a negative of get it away from me) I can picture a simple parting of the ways; acknowledging that for a time at least, this did help me and I’m grateful for that. The time has just come to part ways.


Whether it is a person, a thing, or some combination, it takes considerable introspection and sometimes brutal honesty to dig deep enough to see what is no longer working in our lives. It can be painful, but in the end, removing the toxic components from our lives makes room for new, healthier, happier things to move in. The next time you find it’s time to clean out, I invite you to not throw out what you need to get rid of, but instead, let it go.

Nature Hates a Vacuum

Nature hates a vacuum. This was the very first lesson I remember learning in my physical sciences class as a kid, and that lesson has stuck with me ever since. In fact, I see this lesson being demonstrated over and over again all around me.


Whether it is water filling a hole in the ground, blowing up a balloon and letting it go to fly around or the weather, nature always seeks a balance. Water rushes around and levels itself off. High and low pressure systems move across the globe either pushing out existing weather, or pulling it in. Nature just “knows” that seeking equilibrium keeps the world moving smoothly.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of


Nature likes balance and we are a product of nature. When we chase after some new fad or some extreme fast/instant change, we can throw ourselves out of balance. And when we are out of balance with ourselves, we are out of balance with nature and everyone around us.


Today’s example for this post centers on chasing fads. Whether it’s the next super food, the next ab ripping 5 second work out or how to get the perfect mate, there’s so much being thrown at us in a truncated form that it is easy to be taken out of context. And that is where we run the risk of getting thrown out of balance; when things are taken out of context or with incomplete information. Ironically, this is the norm in today’s information overloaded world.






Nature seeks balance; even in nature too much of a good thing is bad. Trees convert carbon dioxide to oxygen.  That’s good. More trees produce more oxygen. That also sounds good. But too many trees eventually lead to forestation that is too dense to support healthy trees. This results in weak trees that spend more energy fighting for survival, nutrients and resources than they do converting CO2 to O2.

Image courtesy of Mikenorton; Rainforest canopy at the Forestry

Image courtesy of Mikenorton; Rainforest canopy at the Forestry


The same is true with humans. We’re like the forest. For us to prosper and grow, we need to maintain a healthy balance within so that we don’t end up clogging our energy and limiting our own growth. An excessive desire to acquire or achieve something (money, sex, my personal favorite, “enlightenment”) will eventually lead to a path of cutting out opportunities for true growth in favor of the focused, exclusive pursuit material or ego based desires. This can include cutting out our support networks of friends and family.






This isn’t to say that desires or goals are bad, they certainly aren’t. It’s focusing on them in such a narrowed fashion to the exclusion of everything else that becomes potentially unbalancing. I’m not talking about the type of drive where someone pushes through the naysayers to accomplish something fantastic or a life’s dream. What I am talking about is the chasing of the latest sparkly thing. Kale is a super food. Now every meal I eat has kale in it. Now the super food is coconut oil so every meal must have coconut oil in it and all the kale gets pitched out.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of









For me, the key to balance (and therefore a bit of harmony) is moderation, acceptance and the occasional splurge. I think of it like this;


Image courtesy of NASA

Image courtesy of NASA

I am standing in the middle of a massive tornado with everything flying around me at break neck speed. If I move toward any of those things flying around me (people, food, pleasure, desires, etc.) I risk getting pulled into the twister where I get tossed and whirled around until it spits me out. Staying centered doesn’t mean staying in one spot. The winds are dynamic and ever changing, as are the forces and desires in our lives. To stay centered sometimes means having to move off center in one direction to avoid getting pulled too far in another. You know, to balance things out.






Realizing that, and accepting it without judgment, is one of the most difficult lessons I’m learning. This is also where, from my observations/experience, people tend to go awry. Sometimes the seeking of balance and only balance keeps someone rooted where they are, and when the “winds of change” sweep in, they get swept away.


The opposite also happens quite often. In trying to always remain centered, there is so much “motion” and adjustment that there is never any time allowed for settling. I tried this approach, and it really didn’t work for me. In fact, that was a period of time where I was most out of balance with myself, those around me and the world at large. I was so busy trying to be all “Zen” and balanced, I missed the whole point of harmony and balance.


How you find balance is a whole world of self-discovery, self-observation (compassionately), and a lot of trial and error. For me, the journey hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been very worthwhile. I believe that when in balance with yourself, you can be in balance with others and the universe.

Image courtesy of David Flowers

Image courtesy of David Flowers