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Surfing familiar waves

The most valuable part of the ongoing mindfulness sessions I host, besides the opportunity to meditate with others, is when participants share their field notes on applying the practice in their daily lives.

For example, Adrienne recently told us about how she’s been anticipating specific waves of unpleasant emotion and responding to them differently.

It started with her noticing a pattern of mid-afternoon meltdowns that seemed to come out of nowhere.

When she played back these episodes mentally, she discovered they were actually the convergence of several smaller overwhelms: panic related to not having enough time to get everything done, a gnawing headache, and the humiliation of forgetting what prompted her to walk from one room to another.    

If all this weren’t enough, she also heaped on some critical internal commentary to catalog her shortcomings.

She knew how to use one of her go-to mindfulness strategies to put herself in time out and reboot, but she wondered if catching the appearance of these dynamics sooner could help her find an escape valve before reaching full Chernobyl.

When she got curious about each distinct wave, she noticed that although they combined to create a 3:00 tsunami, each one started out about thirty minutes to an hour earlier in a much less intense form.

The panic begins in mild agitation along with a dip in her energy.

Her headache quietly grows out of squinting and tightening her jaw in response to the bright afternoon sun.

And before she’s embarrassed about forgetting what she was in the middle of doing, her ability to focus has gradually blurred into a natural, cyclical fuzziness.

The good news is that her consistent mindfulness practice enables her to change how she relates to real-time sensations – including the uncomfortable ones. 

It’s like Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

Becoming more familiar with each of these waves has increased the odds that Adrienne will be able to surf them as they build instead of punishing herself for wiping out.

She admitted that when she started practicing mindfulness, she hoped it might lead to a life without irritations, but she now gets that it’s really about making subtle, repeated shifts in how we respond to them.

Her thoughts don’t suddenly become kind as she tries to ride out her afternoon panic, aches, and confusion.

The emotional distress remains unpleasant.

But catching individual waves of discomfort sooner and at least attempting to let them build, peak, and subside with less resistance helps her take this high-level challenge a little less personally.

And her report got the rest of us curious about scanning the horizon for our own familiar waves and preparing to hop on for a ride now and then instead of holding out for the ocean to settle.

Contemplative photography excursion

Techniques, Tips, and Treks in Northern New Mexico with Daron Larson and Jim O’Donnell 

What: Contemplative photography camping trip at the scenic confluence where the Red River flows into the Rio Grande -- with day hikes to practice mindfulness and photography. 
When: Starts Wednesday, May 9, 2018, at 4:00 pm and ends at noon on Sunday, May, 13.
Where: In far northern New Mexico, the rugged plains and grasslands of the Taos Plateau are dramatically interrupted where the Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River cuts a canyon of sheer basalt cliffs nearly 1,000 feet deep. 

The breathtaking gorge and surrounding landscape were protected in 2013 as the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. 
This extraordinary landscape will provide the location for an exciting retreat-workshop opportunity, to practice photography and mindfulness meditation during four days of camping. 


We are still finalizing the plans for this event. If you share your contact information here, we will send you complete information and registration details as soon as they are ready. 

My Instagram shots illustrate my approach to contemplative photography.

Upcoming classes

Recent blog posts

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    While I’m waiting impatiently for the rest of the world to calibrate to my ideal technology habits, I’ve started to watch myself watch other people peer into their devices as they walk down the street, sit in coffee shops, and stand at urinals.

    This impulse has grown into a challenging, but fascinating attention exercise that has lead to some liberating insights that have shifted my reactions to other people’s observable tech habits.  
  • Making Sense as a Second Language

    Making sense is our second language. Sensing comes first.

Recent attention grabbers

If you get the chance to see A Thousand Thoughts, Sam Green's live documentary about the Kronos Quartet. please jump on it without hesitation. 

Podcasts  Music Articles & Books
You will not regret taking seventeen minutes to watch this attentional-fitness-friendly TED Talk by Susan David on The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage

Keep in touch between newsletters: Take care, 


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