Perfect Practice

"Perhaps we can even start to use these types of techniques to help people train, to provide this mental mirror so they can see what their brain is doing when they're trying to learn how to do techniques like meditation—which might be simple, but not particularly easy to do. As Vince Lombardi says, 'Practice doesn't make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.' Maybe we can use this neurofeedback as a way to help people practice perfectly."

~ Dr. Judson Brewer

Mindful of Your Motives

"Empathy isn’t just a gooey feeling. It’s an acquired skill, and it takes a light touch. At first I was horrified by my insincerity, filled with self-disgust. I pledged to never be that way again. That didn’t help at all. No motivator is more useless than neurotic guilt.

What helps is mindfulness, but only if it’s intelligent. An astonishing number of meditators believe that watching the breath for hours will magically make them more insightful and loving. They’re dreaming. If you need to change your motives, be mindful of your motives, not your breath...

...Mindfulness steps us away from consoling rationalizations to quietly observe what we’re actually doing, feeling and thinking. It’s not guided by hope, but it’s not hopeless. It’s fearless...

...To have lasting results, mindfulness must turn you back to the realities you turn away from. By accepting your own dilemma you recognize everyone’s. Then real empathy simply happens. Once you get over the initial shock it’s strangely consoling. To face fear is to negate it. You see that your condition doesn’t define you. Empathy frees you to be a force of nature, not limited by your fears but empowered by an open heart."

~ Stephen Schettini, from "When Empathy is Dumb"

See also: 

We Become What We Do

Excerpt from "5 (Doable) Ways to Increase the Love in Your Life," by Brené Brown, as told to Leigh Newman,, March 5, 2012:

Practicing Calm

None of us get calmer by telling ourselves to calm down. We get it by understanding what calm is: being able to see clearly because we are not overreacting to a situation. We're listening and understanding. We are letting ourselves feel the vulnerability of the moment (the call from the doctor, the meeting with the angry boss) and then managing that feeling.

Calm participants in my studies all have a few things in common. They breathe when they're feeling vulnerable. They ask questions before they weigh in, including the three most important questions—ones that changed my own life. The first is, Do I have enough information to freak out? (Ninety percent of the time, the answer is no.) The second is, Where did you hear the upsetting news? (Down the hall? From a trusted source?) The third is, If I do have enough reliable information to freak out, and if I do that, will it be helpful?

When my daughter, Ellen, comes home and says, "Oh my God, Mom, the school moved my locker, and now I can't reach it!" I stop. I remember what I used to say: "Oh that's it! I'm furious! I'm going off to school tomorrow, and you're going to get your locker back!" Now I say, "Tell me more about it." And 15 minutes later, I find out that the guy she likes has a locker down at the other end of the hall; what she really wants is to have a locker nearer to him.

This is real change. Four or five years ago, I was the least calm person you have ever met. And when people describe me today—people like my co-workers, friends and family—they say, "You're the calmest person I know." Well, it's because I practice it, the same way you practice the violin. We become what we do.

Without Plan or Hope

One’s Ship Comes In
by Joe Paddock, from American Life in Poetry: Column 323

I swear
my way now will be
to continue without
plan or hope, to accept
the drift of things, to shift
from endless effort
to joy in, say,
that robin, plunging
into the mossy shallows
of my bird bath and
splashing madly till
the air shines with spray.
Joy it will be, say,
in Nancy, pretty in pink
and rumpled T-shirt,
rubbing sleep from her eyes, or
joy even in
just this breathing, free
of fright and clutch, knowing
how one’s ship comes in
with each such breath.

Impossible Notes

The Fire In The Song
by David Whyte, from Fire in the Earth

Fire in the EarthThe mouth opens
and fills the air
with its vibrant shape

until the air
and the mouth
become one shape.

And the first word,
your own word,
spoken from that fire

surprises, burns,
grieves you now

you made that pact
with a dark presence
in your life.

He said, "If you only
stop singing
I’ll make you safe."

And he repeated the line,
knowing you would hear
"I’ll make you safe"

as the comforting
sound of a door
closed on the fear at last,

but his darkness crept
under your tongue
and became the dim

cave where
you sheltered
and you grew

in that small place
too frightened to remember
the songs of the world,

its impossible notes,
and the sweet joy
that flew out the door

of your wild mouth
as you spoke.


another massacre; and the clean bright morning.
Keeping walking. ‘Contradiction’ is human–I know that.
And ‘knowing’...A stirring from the place the whirlwind–something
like fear–arises, and watching my breath

to still that. Suddenly thinking somewhere in the breath–along
the breath, is an understood place. Somewhere–but somewhere
in passing–where the matter is reconciled.

by Carol Snow, from For

Wide Awake

"For me, the main thing that I found after my three-year quest was meditation. Meditation was a real major revelation for me, not only for my life but for my sleep. It really helped calm me down. So I think if you can do any type of relaxation exercises, if you can practice breathing, I think that if you can do it, it's far more beneficial than going the pharmaceutical route.”

~ Patricia Morrisroe, author of Wide Awake: A Memoir of Insomnia, from Talk of the Nation (May 4, 2010)

[Thanks Suzanne!]

Everyone’s Dream

Being a Person
by William Stafford

Be a person here. Stand by the river, invoke
the owls. Invoke winter, then spring.
Let any season that wants to come here make its own
call. After that sound goes away, wait.

A slow bubble rises through the earth
and begins to include sky, stars, all space,
even the outracing, expanding thought.
Come back and hear the little sound again.

Suddenly this dream you are having matches
everyone's dream, and the result is the world.
If a different call came there wouldn't be any
world, or you, or the river, or the owls calling.

How you stand here is important. How you
listen for the next things to happen. How you breathe.

Never Could I Live Without You

To the Air
by W.S. Merwin, from Present Company

Present Company Just when I needed you
there you were
I cannot say
how long you have been
present all at once
color of the day
as it comes to be seen
color of before
face of forgetting
color of heaven
out of sight within
myself leaving me
all the time only
to return without
question never
could I live without you
never have you
belonged to me
never do I want
you not to be with me
you who have been
the breath of everyone
and each word spoken
without needing to know
the meaning of any of them
or who was speaking
when you are the wind
where do you start from
when you are still
where do you go
you who became
all the names I have known
and the lives in which
they came and went
invisible friend
go on telling me
again again