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Simply Notice

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magglassAnxiety can be a crippler, whether it’s slight or intense. If you’ve developed a habit of responding to circumstances by going into anxiety, this exercise can be a very effective intervention to give you freedom.  It’s something to do in the midst of an anxiety attack but I recommend you get familiar with it before you need to put it to the test.  To practice it, take about 5 minutes to either sit or stand still, and shift your attention from “eyeglass mode” (normal day to day attention) to “magnifying glass mode”  (slowing down to focus in order to get a closer look).

The Prep:

In these next 5 minutes, let your attention turn inward to what you feel in your body.  Starting now, notice your breath and let your next inhalation be relaxed and easy and make it be at least slightly slower and slightly deeper.  Let its exhale be relaxed, not forced, and when it has finished, let your attention be like a spotlight scanning for sensations that are present right now anywhere in your body.


The Exercise:

Put your attention on whatever sensation in your body is easiest to notice right now and settle there for a moment.  As you notice the sensation, let go of any thoughts about it, as well as any judgments, associations, memories, or any thoughts about anything at all.  Just simply notice the presence of this one sensation, letting yourself experience it fully as the sensation that it is for a few seconds, again with no judgments or thought.  After a few seconds of simply being with the sensation, move your attention to whatever is the next sensation in your body that is now easiest to notice in this moment.  Do with this sensation what you did with the last one – simply notice it, with no judgment, association, memory, or thought about anything at all.  After staying with the experience of this sensation for a few seconds, simply letting yourself have the experience of the sensation, again move to the next sensation that is present.  Continue doing this, going gently from one sensation to the next, for 5 minutes or until you feel complete.


Putting It Into Practical Use:

You don’t have to wait for an episode of anxiety to practice the exercise.  If you make a practice of doing it routinely, maybe once a day for at least a week as if it’s part of a workout routine, you’ll likely find yourself getting better at noticing the onset of an episode of anxiety, and, in putting this skill to the test, you’ll have better and better results.

The more you practice and apply it, the more likely you’ll also be able to respond in the same effective way to having a busy mind and having other undesired emotions.  Life gets a lot easier to handle when you achieve that level of mindfulness.


Advanced Considerations…

If you simply do the above exercise, it will pull you out of anxiety, put you in a more centered and clear relation to your experience and the world around you, and give you a more useable perspective.  If you feel confident in your ability to produce those results and ground yourself as needed, read on.

When you find something else going on in your mind or emotions that is troublesome, overwhelming, causes you suffering, or keeps you from responding appropriately to the situation at hand, you can do the same exercise of allowing yourself to shift your focus from the broad and non-specific “eyeglass” focus to the less noisy, more specific “magnifying glass” focus.  If you haven’t already read my last post, which also points to how this exercise can help with pain, now would be a good time to do that.

Upon noticing something in your experience you wish wasn’t there, allow yourself to be with that thought, emotion, sensation or pain without judgment, association, or connotation.  Don’t engage at all with it; simply be the observer of it.  To the extent that you are good at being the observer, you are able to shift your experience of it.  By shifting from being the one having the thought, emotion, or pain, to the one observing it, you shift from the level of content to the level of structure.  And suffering occurs on the level of content, not on the level of structure.

Simply apply the above exercise to whatever inside you is troublesome, being sure not to engage with any content in your mind.  That may sound ridiculous if what is troublesome is a thought or voice or fear or something you experience as demanding you pay attention at it.  I’m just saying don’t engage with it.  Shift your attention away from its content, away from what it’s saying to you, or away from your labeling of it, and just be the observer of it simply existing – like watching a cloud roll by in a blue sky, and simply acknowledging “cloud” instead of judging it as a good cloud or making associations as to what it looks like or spinning off into thinking about things it reminds you of.

Keeping your focus onto just your in-the-moment experience of the object of your attention, notice that this troublesome thing has an energetic quality to it.  Notice this energy can be felt somewhere in your body.  It doesn’t matter where, but focus your attention onto wherever you feel it and, again, allow yourself to be with it in total absence of judgment, association, connotation, or any engagement of any kind.

This idea of “no engagement of any kind” is pretty pivotal.  If you can allow your mind to spew forth its thoughts such that you’re just observing the process or the flow – like appreciating the waterfall rather than the water within the waterfall, or like being patient without getting triggered as a child throws a temper tantrum – you’re going to get much more perspective, be much freer in the moment, and more effective in life.

This exercise, or intervention with yourself, is a way to be “bigger than” your experience.  In my way of thinking, experience is composed of two parts – what I call “story” and “state”.  Story is anything cognitive – labels, explanations, associations, connotations, judgments, dramas, stories.  And state is simply energy felt in the body in the moment.  If you’re thinking about the sensation of heartburn you felt a moment ago but are no longer feeling it, you’re in “story” because of three reasons: you’re having a thought, you’re labeling the experience “heartburn”, and the sensation occurred in the past.  But if, in thinking about that “heartburn”, your memory of it stimulates some sensation, then the feeling you’re having in this moment is state – as long as you stay with it as the sensation that it is rather than focusing on some label that could be put on it.

What’s so great about this distinction?  I’ve found that if we can shift our attention from story to state, we reduce suffering greatly – greatly!  Suffering is a measurement of how lost we are in some story about suffering, regardless of the source of the story.  Sometimes the source is a force pushing against a sensitive part of us.  Sometimes the source isn’t even present.

By training yourself to responsively shift your attention from the story to the state, you free yourself from being lost in the experience to being the one witnessing the experience.  From there, not only do you have the self-improvement of release from pain, but you also have the opportunity for the self-discovery of seeing what it is you’re bringing to the situation that makes the story that much more dramatic.  The more you can wake up to that stuff, with curiosity and compassion, the more being alive is a rich, rewarding unfoldment.


Copyright © 2014   Jim Lehrman

Freedom – Hiding In Plain Sight

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leaf-cells-wallpapersI like writing tweets. Posting one a day for the past few years, I’ve posted over 2,000 of them. I like that Twitter forces me to get what I want to convey down to within their limit of 140 characters and still get my inspiration across.  (By the way, that last sentence is 140 characters, including the punctuation.)  I wrote a tweet recently that went like this:  “May any pain be an invitation to slow down, pay attention, and reduce the experience to being the mere constellation of elements that it is.”  Yes, that’s also exactly 140 characters but consummation of character quota is not the point I want to get across in this blog.  The blog post I’m writing here is a response to a great question someone posed to that tweet: “I keep reading this statement over & over..once one acknowledges the constellation of the pain supposed to subside?”  I’d like to respond by sharing a couple personal stories.

In the 1980s I used to attend vipassana retreats at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts.  I had two experiences there that deepened my understanding of experience, itself.  The first occurred when I was sitting in meditation.  As one does in vipassana, I was going about the business of focusing my attention onto the physical sensations I felt with each in-breath and with each out-breath, responding to each distractive thought, sound or sensation by acknowledging it and bringing my attention back to my breath.

About 20 minutes into this particular session, a feeling of hunger came over me.  You know, that moment when your stomach lets you know it’s there.  I noticed it, acknowledged “sensation”, and returned my attention to my breath.  A moment later, the same thing happened again – more hunger, more acknowledgment, and more redirection of attention.  As time went on, though, I was getting so hungry that my stomach’s demand for attention was bigger than my ability to support my intention of focusing on my breath.

I took a few moments out of meditation and, while still sitting there with my eyes closed, I made a decision to try an experiment. I redefined the terms of my intention to be that I would keep my focus on my hunger and treat anything else that grabbed my attention, even the physical sensation of my breath, as distraction.

What ensued is what fascinated me.  I started to notice that this thing I experienced as “hunger” was actually a constellation of separate elements such as heat, swirl, compression, pulsation, and density.  Within every moment of “hunger”, I was able to attend to each of these tracks of my experience and study their own aliveness.  This was an incredible discovery.  What took my insight into ecstasy, though, was then realizing that while I could feel all of these events occurring inside me, I was no longer “hungry”. There was hunger, but I wasn’t hungry.  I was the observer of it and it no longer was the source of any personal drama.  It no longer demanded my attention.  After enjoying a few moments of mild amusement, I again gave my breath the honor of being the home base of my attention and returned to normal vipassana practice.

What I learned from this is that while experience is clearly influenced by circumstance, it is our ability to direct our attention – and where we direct it – that determines what we actually experience.  Sure, we all know that the mind filters out all sorts of details so we can function but, for me, this was an empirical demonstration of putting that to practical use.  What a valuable lesson. And this was not the last time I got this lesson from being in Barre.

At each retreat I did there, I would spend my days in silence, doing 45 minutes of sitting, 45 minutes of meditative walking, switching between those two activities from early morning to the wee hours of the morning.  (Clearly, no more sleep was needed than that!)   In the practice of vipassana walking, which is similar to zen walking, you walk very slowly, moving each body part incredibly slowly such that you can mindfully see and experience what you’re doing, as well as bring your attention back from any distractions.

snowflakeOn one particular retreat I did there in the cold winter months, I made a radical change to my practice.  While doing my walking practice, and facing a glass door to the world that existed beyond my 30 footstep universe, I could see there was about half a foot of fresh snow outside.  I decided to walk right out the door, into the snow.  Ah, the crisp air, the shift in consciousness to a more wakened state. Aside from wearing only light comfortable clothes, I was barefoot.  It turned out the air was not so cold but, of course, the snow on the ground was not at all warm.

Walking as slowly and mindfully as I had done for days inside the building, I was now letting in the sensation provided by the environment outside.  And it was another incredible experience.  Suspending vague labels that one would associate to the sensations of walking barefoot on snow, I allowed the sensations to be present and allowed myself to observe them as pure sensation.  Got that? No labels, just sensation. I watched and as I ever-so-slowly took step after step in the snow, I saw the sensations morph between two opposite states, states my undisciplined mind wanted to refer to as cold and hot, freezing and burning.  The more I simply noticed, succeeding in not indulging my mind’s yearning to label, the more comfortable it was for me to simply be with what was beneath the so-called throb, burn, and freeze. Beyond all these such labels, the experience was simply “sensation”.  Not good, not bad, not hot, not cold; just sensation.

This was very freeing. That objectivity opened the way for me to make a next empirical and ecstatic leap by experiencing the sensation as “energy”.  That is, the sensation had an oscillating energetic quality to it that I could focus my attention onto – pulses, throbs, sine-wave-like rhythms that sped up and slowed down, producing moments of pain and, by slowing my attention down enough to notice, moments of freedom.

What I realized is that when I was experiencing pain, I was putting my attention onto the density formed by the tight clashing of energy waves.  Nature made it easy for my mind to go there.  But I discovered that even with the actual phenomenon occurring in my body that produced a density of energy – pain – I was able to free myself of the experience of pain by shifting my attention away from the density and onto the space between the waves.  As esoteric as that sounds, I was simply slowing my mind down such that I was present to each moment of sensation.  Sensation is energy, and energy is a wave, and it moves not only through your body but through time, and time is subjectively nothing by a string of moments.  By slowing down to notice the difference in my experience with each moment to moment incremental movement of the wave, I was able to shift my attention from the moments of peak density of the waves to the moments when there was the least density. With that, the “story” of my experience changed.

By the time I came back inside, I was enjoying my relationship with that spaciousness, grounded in my awareness of the micro and the macro, and seeing the roles that get played out in the story of our experience that we fail to recognize as simply being “story”.  As real as pain is, it is real to us only on certain levels of experience. Pain is the story we get stuck with when we don’t step out of our day to day level of attention to get a closer moment to moment look.

I was out there only about 10 minutes, which was 10 minutes of experiencing the hierarchy of human interface with experience. What I observed was the continuum that ranges from emotional experience down to story down to connotation down to label down to sensation down to energy down to the nature of the universe.  I came away with the consideration that maybe the more a person is able to slow down their attention to see what’s in each moment, the more conscious the person is, and the more they are able to step back to observe what they are doing at each of these levels of interpreting reality, and therefore consciously choose their experience.

So, getting  back to the question, ‘is the pain supposed to subside after one acknowledges the constellation of elements?’, I’m going to limit my answer to what I learned from my own small but enlightening experience.

fingerpintWhen you really attend with quality attention to the elements of the experience of pain, you enable yourself to see how labeling the experience as “pain” inadvertently sets you up to stay on a level of reality where pain and suffering exists.  Now, if we didn’t make our homes in the level of reality where pain and drama and all of our stories exist, we wouldn’t be able to pay our bills, brush our teeth, and drive to the beach in cars that run and on roads that are maintained.  But if there is something in that level of reality which is intolerably and hopelessly full of suffering for you, then it is constructive, functional, and responsive for you to shift your attention to a level of reality that enables you to experience that same underlying reality without the suffering you experience at your familiar level of reality.  By being able to shift from the emotional level to the level of sensation and from there to seeing the sensation as energy, you might find that you can keep going into even deeper levels where you not only leave pain behind but can find a level that is actually pretty spacious and pleasurable.

I’m sorry if I imply that this is easy – the more pain you live with, the more stress is working against your ability to do this kind of work.  But training the mind to control where it puts its attention can be a developmental process – as a daily yoga, a responsive intervention, and a moment to moment commitment to give yourself more control over your experience of the circumstances of your life.


My next blog post will offer an exercise that will help put this into practice.


Copyright © 2014   Jim Lehrman

Striving for Wholeness

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hands breaking free

I just read Judnick Mayard’s story, “The Things We Suffer” at Gawker and, if you’ve the strength of heart to follow her description of abuse from her mother, there’s some valuable insights to be gained from reading Mayard’s perspective.

I’m the father of two daughters, now in their 20s.  The way I raised my kids was in part driven by the belief that it was my responsibility to keep them safe through their childhood and prepare them to be creative, compassionate, cognitively and emotionally intelligent, functional adults who would be assets in any relationship or community they would become part of. Through those years of raising my kids, I loved that mission and I think I’ve done a pretty good job.  (See for yourself.  Jessica Lehrman and Cassidy Lehrman)

On the professional level, as a therapist, I’ve worked with people (I probably should acknowledge it’s only been women) who wanted to work on breaking free of the baggage they got from their mothers/parents, specifically in order to break a lineage of abuse, control issues, self-centeredness, negativity, self-defeating behavior, or neurosis in its multitude of expressions, prior to these clients, themselves, becoming in some cases wives and in some cases mothers.  What an honorable motivation – to break the lineage of dysfunction before it gets passed on to the next generation.

Whether through therapy, self-reflection, or even boundary setting, what Mayard is striving for is what I gave my kids. Mayard is now an adult and wants to free herself not only of any continuance of treatment she received all her years from her mother, but freedom from what has taken on a life of its own inside herself – those voices, guilts, and doubts that are so insidiously erosive.

As children we cannot control how we’re treated by our parents, and however we’re treated leaves it’s mark in our lives. Sometimes those marks are attractive body definition, sometimes they are scars, sometimes they are wounds that never heal.  Even as adults, so much is out of our control – what we think, what we feel, and what others think, feel, and do. That leaves only one thing that is actually in our control – what we do.  We can go into therapy, or self-reflection, or set boundaries.  Or so much more.  We can take practical steps to eliminate the toxic influences from our lives and to nurture the creativity, love, and freedom that is built into our cognitive-emotional DNA.  We can learn to become aware of the parts of ourselves that are echoes of pain from our past and we can mindfully separate from those parts of ourselves to become bigger, freer. There are ways to do that.

In life, we either strive for wholeness or settle on being fractured.  If you’ve got the awareness that you’re abusive, controlling, self-centered, negative, self-defeating, or neurotic in any way, or that you’re the recipient/holder of those things, have the compassion for yourself that comes from understanding that what’s in you is not you (see my last blog for more on that) and you didn’t put it there.  It got put there through someone else’s pain and unconsciousness when you were young and vulnerable.  But also compassionately hold yourself responsible for monitoring it and managing it; for going about the business of pulling these traits apart and making conscious adult decisions as to what traits to indulge and exercise and which ones to vigilantly starve.

I’m sad when people come to me as clients and it’s “too late”.  People who want to love themselves or to get along with their spouse or children or simply have the happiness that has always been just out of reach, but they just don’t have the means to make the changes.  Yes, I’ve worked with people who have allowed themselves to live too long accepting those voices, guilts, and doubts, and the beliefs that come with them.  These are people who have spent decades inadvertently reinforcing those behaviors and beliefs and, especially at their advanced ages, find it too hard to break those habits.

Fortunately, I’ve had enough success with clients, both young and old, who do have the means.  Mayard is maybe at an early stage of the work that is ahead for her but she will make it.  She’s mindfully noticing the voices, guilts, doubts, and beliefs, and unfusing from being the Mayard who has been entranced by them.  Responsively, she is making conscious choices oriented towards her wholeness in herself and her contribution to the community.  We all have that capacity in us if we catch it early enough.  Resiliency is not as big a challenge as breaking the hold those voices have on us.  The longer we live with accepting those voices, the more entranced we are in believing them and acting accordingly; and the harder it is then to trust, let alone simply hear, that pure you, unsure of itself in so many ways, yearning for validating recognition and reasonable approval.  Life is short, so question your beliefs and advocate for wholeness.  Thank you, Judnick Mayard, for modeling that.


Copyright © 2014  Jim Lehrman

Why To Be Mindful

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Hand with Reflecting Sphere

Know that what you present to the world is a story of who you are; it is not who you are.
Know that to a good extent you believe the story.
Know that believing it is the result of habit.
Know that the habit started out as a strategic response to getting and not getting what you wanted.
Know that you can easily be lost in the story.
Through mindful observation, strive to know your story as being a story.
Know that there is a part of you strategically making up your story; its job is to manufacture and manage your story.
Know that the story it creates is based on putting a spin on facts and even on projections and fantasies.
Know that that spin is based on your values, judgments, desires, fears, associations, perceptions, and misperceptions.
Know that this part of you even spontaneously creates variations to your story.
Know that it spontaneously creates variations to fit its understanding of circumstances and people you meet.
Know that sometimes you are conscious of this and sometimes unconscious.
Know that even though this part of you is creating the story, it is lost in the story.
Through mindful observation, strive to know this part of you.
Know that this part of you has no judgments, no preferences, no fears or desires.Know that a part of you is watching all this happening; it is free of agenda.
Know that this part of you is your access to such things as perspective, freedom, and spaciousness.
Know that this part of you is “bigger” than the story you habitually believe yourself to be.
Know that the understanding that this part of you has is on a much deeper level than simply not being lost.
Through mindful observation, strive to access this part of you.
Through mindful observation, know the story you present, know you are not your story, and access freedom.

Copyright © 2014  Jim Lehrman

Brother Blue and Bucky

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BrotherBlueMaybe he was a phenomena that came and went with a magical time and place – the brick-walled village center of Cambridge, Massachusetts in the 1970s.  Maybe you heard of him, maybe you saw him, maybe you knew him.  He was an innovator of the oratory arts, a pioneer in the technology of storytelling.  He went by the name Brother Blue.  I came across a youtube video of Brother Blue the other day and it warmed my heart.  He was a black man of American descent, a griot of American culture.

I had seen him animate the ethos in Harvard Square on numerous occasions in the mid 1970s, laughingly spraying out bright colors with his words the way people joyfully throw dry colored powder at each other in India in their spring festival.

About a year after my first experience of being mesmerized by him, I got a phone call from his wife.  She was both his “manager” and a longstanding Harvard scholar.  Quiet and sweet, I later learned she looked the part of the latter.  While he filled any space with his presence, she kept him grounded with the strong presence of her quietude. She called to ask if I would be open to letting Brother Blue attend an event for free that I was producing.  It was Buckminster Fuller doing a weekend at the Harvard Science Center (that was the most beautiful venue in Boston at the time).  I heartfully agreed and then got a call from Brother Blue to ask if he could have an aisle seat.  Again, I was more than pleased to accommodate.


A couple hours into the event, an 80 year old Bucky stood front and center, amidst the plants and art that filled the stage, lecturing in his style that wove poetry with mathematics, with stories of the past and visions of the future, when lo and behold, Brother Blue rose up in the audience and, standing right at his seat, broke into a rap on Bucky being a butterfly.  As if choreographed, Bucky took a step forward and gave a poetic return to Brother Blue’s call, like two old bent-over cotton pickers a hundred rows away from each other in a cotton field. Blue continued his soliloquy of Beauty, moving closer as he spoke/sang, and Bucky mirrored Blue’s movements, echoing with humility his appreciation of this tall, thin, black, face-painted, embroidery-laden one-man minstrel, so sincere and radiant.  I watched them, and I watched the audience to see how they were experiencing this unscheduled unfoldment.  They looked as if what Blue carried with him was contagious and they were all delightfully infected, their eyes wide and faces aglow.  Not much oxygen was being consumed in that room as Bucky and Blue moved so gracefully towards each other, joined in eloquent songspeak.

And like the inevitable climax in a book or film, they finally stood face to face, and hugged.  A long and heartful hug that communicated fully what Blue loved to say, “From the middle of the middle of me to the middle of the middle of you!” The audience rose to their feet and applauded.  Some cried.  It was so moving.

Those were the early days of what is now a “mindfulness movement”.  While I was doing research in consciousness at Harvard and into altered states of consciousness at Interface Foundation, teaching Biofeedback at Boston College and going to vipasanna retreats at the Barre Insight Meditation Society, Brother Blue was out on the street, bringing passers-by in the pedestrian world of Cambridge to his level of presence, enlightening them as they walked to their classes or corporate cubicles.  While Bucky was awakening the world to a new consciousness that led to thinking globally and acting locally, Brother Blue was awakening the people in his world to their sense of wonder.  One was encouraging the world to come together to keep the world afloat, the other was “building a better world, one story at a time”.  Both had great presence, and both were great teachers for me.   They embodied, and taught, how to put quality attention where it needs to go in the moment, how to treat what matters as if it matters, and how to do it mindfully. Together, they helped give a humanistic shape to the mindfulness movement.


For more Brother Blue related information and inspiration see these links:


“I bring Homer to the streets. I bring Sophocles. To tell stories, you should know Chaucer. You should know Shakespeare. You should know Keats. You have to be constantly reading. You read, you think, you create. You have to know the new moves: You must be able to rap and be able to sing the blues!”

                                                                                                                  Brother Blue

Copyright © 2014 Jim Lehrman

Remembering Lou

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 Louis Gilbert
1919 – 2013
Lou was a heartful guy who, in my experience, listened well and engaged creatively, enhancing many conversations with stories and questions.  I enjoyed his stories of living in the area around my hometown, when he was stateside as an army medical officer, and through his tour of duty in the Pacific.  His love of people and places was rich, and among his top 5 places were Beatrice, Pahuk, and La Posada.  I only got to visit Beatrice through his descriptions and Pahuk through more description and Google satellite pictures, but I visited Lou and Geri in their old place in Green Valley and their home at La Posada a handful of times.  Like Geri, Lou was a delightful host and he loved introducing me to people and showing me everything he could of the environment – his favorite place of late being the zen garden.  Our relationship was one in which I gave him some things to think about and he typically, in turn, inspired me with information to ponder and perspectives to take in.

I had the good fortune of seeing him express his love for his neighbors and friends and to see, through the 14 years I’ve known him, his love for his family.  He had pride in his family’s rich history and pride in what his grandchildren are doing with their young lives.  He delighted in sharing updates of what Kaitlin and Ryan are doing, as well as Bill and Jean and Rick and Donna.  His love for Geri, with 70 years of marriage, was undeniable.  His style of expression was possibly more conservative than Geri’s but it was stable, grounding, and outspokenly fulfilling for him.
I first met Lou and Geri on June 10th, 1999.  I’ve been through much with them, including the death of their son, Joel, as well as the passing of their dog, Corgi.  As I think of Lou at this moment, my heart is warmed with having had him in my life.  I enjoyed sharing that with him over the years whenever this same feeling would rise in me while talking with him.  I wish I could have spent more time with him and I hope you all who knew him hold in your hearts the sweet glimmer in his eye that I hold in mine.

Copyright © 2014 Jim Lehrman

From Mechanics to Meaning

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Some people mumble or talk too quietly for the listener to hear what they’re trying to get across.  While this is obviously not an effective way to communicate, some people do it routinely and often unconsciously.

It’s good to remember that communication is in what is received, not in what is transmitted.  It’s also good to remember that communication is one of the easiest places to measure power.  Listen with that in mind.  Some people communicate in ways that show them to have too little power while some people show themselves to inappropriately use too much power.  Effective communicators inspire with their balanced and responsive use of power.  That power translates into having a strong influence on the flow of the conversation and being listened to well.

In communicating verbally with someone, strive to be heard effectively.  Now, that is such simple and even superficial advice but let me share a secret.  It’s magic.  Here’s how:

If you can hold and sustain the intention to consciously speak in such a way that your listener can hear and understand every syllable of every word, and you can consciously hold yourself accountable to live up to carrying out that intention every time you speak, you will find that you will soon start to think in more effective ways about what specific words to use to most accurately convey the meaning you want to get across.  That’s power.  Thus, by putting your attention on the mechanics of speaking, you will magically evolve your consciousness to have more alignment between what you want to say and what the other person understands.  This is a path towards graciously strengthening your power.  And as your power grows this way, you will be less inclined to give your power away by being non-assertive, co-dependent, vague about your needs, or being unconscious enough to be played for a sucker by the less scrupulous people in your world.

Improve what you can improve in yourself – that is, what is in your control – and who you are in the world evolves in ways that seem unrelated to what you improved.

Copyright © 2014 Jim Lehrman

Creation and Amusement

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Being Here Now means creating every moment. Being the creator of your moments is the most spiritual level of responsibility. Recognizing yourself as the creator of your moments grounds you in the world & in yourself. You miss the opportunity to create your moments if you simply indulge habitual ways of responding to the circumstances around you. Train yourself to stop overthinking; work to keep your mind empty – life, itself, will provide just enough to put there for you to work constructively and creatively with. If you want to be spiritual, start at square one: be the conscious creator of your experience, moment by moment. To elevate spiritually, practice witnessing yourself in the act of creation, moment by moment; witness without judgment or apprehension, but with the open-minded awe of a curious child. To go beyond the game of spiritual elevation, of hierarchy, be amused by what you see.
Copyright © 2014   Jim Lehrman


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Freedom is the ability to respond to a situation in accord with what the situation calls for as if there is no issue. This doesn’t mean you have to have dropped your issues. It means you have to be able to separate yourself from your issues and from the identities which live within you which are fused with those issues.

Your identities exist on the level of the story, the ever-changing foreground level of reality, which is where issues, triggers, automatic responses, dramas, feelings, impulses, etc exist. The witness exists on a level beyond the story, beyond issues, triggers, automatic responses, dramas, feelings, and even impulses.

Learn to be mindful; to notice your identities and your stories and how your identities get lost in the stories. Locate yourself in the never-changing background – the “witness” – from where you can see things for what they are and can separate yourself from everything that exists in the ever-changing foreground.
Copyright © 2014   Jim Lehrman

Appreciating Ron Kurtz

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On the day after the birthday marking the start of my 60th year, I’m posting a eulogy.  It is for someone who is among the most influential people in my life – Ron Kurtz, who was a master synthesizer and master therapist; the creator of Hakomi Body-Centered Psychotherapy.  He passed away on January 4th.  This is what I wrote and posted at the website for the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy.

Discovering this website today, months after his passing, I am moved to write to Ron as if he’s still present.  Yes, still present – like Milton Erickson, who’s ‘voice goes with you’, Ron is the laughing coyote ever in my consciousness – and sometimes in my conscience…  Ron, you’ve been with me through the decades and my value of that has not diminished.  As a mentor, thank you for the principles, the teaching, and the inspiration.  Thank you for so many opportunities you provided to me and the gifts you have bestowed upon me.  Professionally, you renewed my faith in the therapeutic endeavor and you gave me a path to both follow and build upon.  Thank you for the direction that your own curiosity provided.  (As you were fond of saying, “follow me boys, I’m sure it’s here somewhere”.)  As a friend, thank you for the dance of intimacy that covered such a wide spectrum of context and emotion.  It’s been a pleasure to share life with you.  Thank you for Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts (Interface), Arizona, New York (Omega), and the Northwest – living in community and building everything from ideas to systems to organization to legitimacy to family.  Thank you for your role, 25 years ago, in bringing into my life the person who is my life partner – that was 10 years after our first conflict, which was over a woman!  And thank you for our playful years of being new fathers together.  Thank you for the push-pull, in-&-out challenges that we threw each others’ way (I think I’ve negotiated more – both with you and for you – than I have with anyone) and for the support we laid out for each other, keeping us in the game.  I’m sorry that life is so short.  Thank you for making it sweeter.  I’m missing you.
Copyright © 2014   Jim Lehrman