Hmmmm. A newsletter
with minimal work or fuss . . .
Ah! Haiku is fun!
Tips to help reduce your stress
Explore and enjoy!
Taking a break, life flows on
Might resume sometime
Want to change? Observe.
Find patterns. When you’re ready,
Choose one place to start
Moderation – what’s that?
Tune in, stay balanced
Mind or heart too full?
Pause. Breathe. Wait for some stillness.
What arises then?
Full focus on the speaker
Still, reflective self
How present are you?
If energy is scattered
Invite its return
What color appeals?
Breathe it in, feel the comfort
As you breathe out stress
Instead of judging
May invite more peace
Laughter yoga -- fun!
Breath, sound and movement engage
our "laughter muscles"
Who doesn’t love to laugh? Laughter feels great and does wonderful things for our body and spirit.
Laughter yoga began in the mid-1990s with Dr. Madan Kataria, a medical doctor in India who was so
impressed with the health benefits of laughter that he decided to form a regular laughter group.
It went well for a few weeks, until they ran out of jokes to tell. At that point, Dr. Kataria and
his wife, who is a yoga teacher, began developing interactive breath and sound exercises that mimic
the way we laugh.
Laughter yoga exercises are fun, easy and accessible. You can do them at any level of fitness and
even if you don't feel happy. You will get many of the physical and emotional benefits of laughter regardless of
whether you end up genuinely laughing -- but don’t be surprised if you do!
There are now thousands of laughter clubs worldwide, including about 200 in the United States. For more
information about Laughter Yoga led by Faith, visit
http://www.InsightfulTransitions.com/laughter. For information
about Laughter Clubs in the U.S. and worldwide,
Took a little break
From sending haiku e-mail
Needed more down-time!
How do you treat friends?
Are you as kind to yourself?
If not, what to change?
How much do you think?
Start noticing – a first step
To more inner calm
Ten thousand joys, ten
thousand sorrows. What is your
touchstone through it all?
For many people around the world, recent times seem to have brought more sorrows than joys –- especially
the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, burgeoning political crises with violence and
uncertain outcomes across the Middle East and parts of Africa, new military actions by the U.S. government.
We all need to find our own ways to maintain some sense of being centered,
whether the swirling challenges are global or very personal, or some combination
of both. It helps to have some inner touchstone to help us stay centered, and
remind us that the pendulum swings from one side to the next; life offers many
joys as well as many sorrows.
What touchstone(s) do you have to help you find your own stable ground through
life’s changes? How can you remember to stay in touch with it when life is unsettling?
If you are not sure how to do this, you might find it helpful to skim through other haiku
in this ongoing series, to see if any of the suggestions resonate for you.
New year -- a big deal?
In some ways, yes ... but each day
Offers a fresh start
For many of us, the start of a new year marks a time for new beginnings -– plans to do things
differently and/or do new things.
Ambitious expectations may generate unwanted pressure. It can help to remember that each day is
another chance to start anew. Making big changes often depends on incremental steps, including
what we learn when things don’t go as expected. How can you relax, and enjoy the ride?
There’s your ideal "best"
And there’s your "best" at any
In our perfectionist society, being at one’s "best" is often an elusive target.
Many of us tend to be extra-hard on ourselves as a new year approaches.
We push ourselves to finish up both work and personal commitments. We take stock of the year
that is finishing, way too often focusing on what we didn't do right or didn't got done or how
we fell short in some other way. Family interactions for the seasonal holidays can be another
fertile playing field for our tensions and self-criticisms.
In reality, "best" is not a fixed point but a relative one. You can only do the best available
to you in your current state at a specific time. Your "best" when refreshed after a great vacation
will be very different from your "best" while sick or reeling from a tough day.
If you did your best at any given moment, then at that moment you did your best!
So many terrors
In our imaginations
Most never happen
Who can’t relate to this one? Mark Twain supposedly said something like, "I have lived through many disasters,
and a few actually happened."
Remembering to stay present with what is actually happening, rather than leaping ahead to potential catastrophe,
is easier said than done. But it is doable! (Read some of my other haikus for how-to tips.) This is a good theme
for building your "stress reduction muscles." If you learn to stay calm and focused for the small stuff, you'll
be much better able to do it when bigger challenges arise.
The worst problems make the best
I worked for many years as an international consultant, and this haiku is based on one of the things
I like to tell myself when travel problems arise, as they so often do.
Travel challenges provide a great example of how you can alter your attitude, even when you can't
alter the situation. If your train has been canceled, your luggage lost, or a volcanic eruption has
disrupted travel for days or weeks, would you rather be miserable or laugh as you sort out your options?
The inspiration for this haiku came from my friend Paige. Paige was planning a big overseas trip for
her family, their first one. I sent her a couple of my travel mantras for keeping my spirits up when
I run into problems big and small. Paige said that I should write a haiku about it, so I did!
Small simple pleasures
At least one every day
Give yourself this gift
We all seem to have daily to-do lists, whether written down or floating around in our minds.
How often does “do something I enjoy” appear on yours?
What would it take for you to routinely include on your list something small that would give you pleasure?
You don’t need to specifically identify in advance your daily pleasure, though that could be fun.
It might be enough just to remember every day to allow yourself at least a few moments of doing something rejuvenating...
which might be a short (or long) break when you do nothing at all.
If you like this idea of a small daily pleasure, then how about doing it?
What would help you remember to make it an integral part of your daily routine?
Your way of remembering might be a written note, an image, a mantra, a reminder chime
on an electronic gadget or something totally different -– if you believe it will work for you, then give it a try!
And if you feel so moved, I’d love to hear from you about the results.
Smiling with your eyes
Softens your face and your mood
Simple, lovely calm
Have you ever wondered about the serene smile in images of the Buddha?
One of my favorite meditation teachers sits for hours at retreats with a peaceful smile on her face.
After wondering for a long time, I asked her how she was able to maintain her steady, natural smile.
She explained that the secret is to smile with your eyes and then let the rest of your face naturally follow.
Such a beautiful teaching, and it really works!
Enjoy the journey
Find ways to have fun, en route
to evolving goals
Our goals (and means) inevitably shift over time, along with our shifting lives.
For many of us, a new year means setting new goals, new resolutions. This goal-setting
and end-of-old-year/beginning-of-new-year review can become a rather earnest affair..
If having more fun isn’t already on your list, how about adding it? Also, how could you
make the process of clarifying and following your goals more fun? What about thinking/feeling
in terms of your dreams, what you really really want, as a starting point?
Finding your balance . . .
Easier if you accept
its shifting nature
So often many of us feel
out of balance, especially as we move into winter and the
holidays approach. The problem is compounded when we start
criticizing ourselves for not being more balanced.
Is it possible that at least sometimes, we are not as out of
balance as we think? What if you took a longer, larger
perspective when evaluating the sense of balance in your life?
That larger perspective may help you see that some of the
"imbalances" reflect cycling changes in our lives The bigger
picture may also enable you to identify more clearly where you
really do want to make your life feel more harmonious.
The concept of a fixed or ideal point of balance in life is a
frustrating illusion, since life is constant change. Accepting
that balance is always fluid and shifting may help us feel less
out of balance and less judgmental of ourselves.
How's your internal
weather? Awareness promotes
We often have reason to monitor the weather outside, but how
often do you monitor the state of your internal weather system?
It only takes a few moments to check inside -- and the mere act
of checking tends to bring some calm when the system is
Try it, I bet you'll like it!
FREE SPACE! Summertime.|
Took a haiku e-mail break.
Goofing off, less stress.
Near/far. Breathe in strong feelings.
Exhale, send out peace
We tend to focus mostly on
the stress generated in our personal and professional
lives. However, modern culture is also infused with unrelenting
stress generated by constant news about shocking violence all
around the world.
A common U.S. belief that most
violence and terror occurs elsewhere or is at least externally
generated, was vividly undermined by two murders recently
committed by home-grown fanatical extremists. These were the
murders of Dr. George Tiller, who performed late-term abortions,
and Officer Steven Tyrone
Johns, a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Museum.
This haiku offers one
possible way to transform our feelings of helplessness and
despair into something more constructive. Working with our
breath to acknowledge our distress and then exhale feelings of
peace to the world may not be easy, nor is it a direct fix for
senseless violence, but it can help.
First, it can help us to calm ourselves and soothe our own
distress, shock and fear. Second, it can help us hold a clear
intent to be a peaceful presence in a world of violence that often
feels out of control. Third, whatever calm and peace we can
generate within ourselves will subtly or dramatically affect our
immediate circles, with potential ripple effects, seen and
unseen, in ways that we cannot imagine and may never know.
Relax into great
uncertainty — What the heck?
We can't control all.
In fact, there is very little that we can ultimately control,
besides our own reactions to whatever life presents us. All the
crazy economic uncertainties these days offer special
opportunities (many more than we might want) for learning to
reduce our reactivity and thus reduce our stress. What would it
be like to relax into uncertainty? A challenging but useful
skill to learn.
Is your mind a "swamp
[of] mosquitoes of neuro-
tic thoughts?" What to do?
Laugh! And read City
Dharma by Arthur Jeon.
quoted above is one of many that made me laugh out loud while
reading this book. The full title is: City
Dharma: Keeping Your Cool in the Chaos. We all
need help with "keeping our cool" these days in our too-often
stressful world. Arthur Jeon dives into all sorts of
nitty-gritty issues, including "Road Rage," "Spare Some
Change?," "Transcending Media Negativity" and "Awareness and
book contains lots of great nuggets. If one chapter or section
doesn’t appeal to you, skip around until you find another that
does. Jeon sets his stories and practical advice in a Buddhist
context, but you'll relate to many of his points even if you
don’t share his Buddhist orientation.
Addicted to stress?
Busy-ness, the constant whirl
Observe your patterns
The idea that many of us are addicted
to stress came to me after hearing a similar response so often
when I tell someone that my work centers around stress
reduction: “Really? Well, I am way too stressed to make
time for stress reduction!”
Are you too stressed to make time for stress reduction? If so,
what’s going on? What needs to change so that you can take
better care of yourself? Noticing the patterns of how you set
your priorities and how you fill your time (or allow it to be
filled) could be a useful first step in changing that situation.
Savor a raisin
This is a great experiment and so simple to
do. Start by closely observing your raisin… look at it
carefully, smell it, feel its texture…then very very slowly eat
it, noticing every sensation during the process and after.
You will notice things about raisins that never
struck you before. Plus, you’ll probably find that it was both a
very pleasurable and engaging experience, and that it took your
mind off everything else.
What if we had enough time and space to engage
with each of our daily activities in this mindful way? Since we
don’t, consider picking one small thing that you could do with
this degree of attention every day.
The activity can be anything – taking a sip of
water, putting a child into a car seat, brushing your teeth,
smiling at someone, unlocking your front door when you come
home. This small daily injection of “mindfulness” will help you
to stay calm and sane.
How deep is
When you rest,
how much do you
For many of us, the answer
to the second question is, “Not enough!” So often, our minds
hold tightly and keep trying to work even when there is no
need. We obsess over problems long past the point where it’s
And it all comes out in
our bodies. Our shoulders tense or our fists clench while
struggling with a mental or physical challenge, and they
“forget” to release fully when it’s over. Even when we practice
conscious relaxation routines, there are some muscles that
strongly resist letting go. (That can include the diaphragm and
other muscles that affect our breathing.)
So, how deeply do you
rest? How much can noticing areas of resistance in your body –
just simply noticing them – help you to let go, at least a
little bit more?
What do you enjoy?
How to do it more?
ask your inner self
When we think about
reducing stress, we tend to focus on the things we don’t like
that we want to get rid of.
Another approach is to
focus on what we want to increase. Enjoyment is a great
place to start.
This haiku invites you to
reflect on what would help you to enjoy life more, and then how
to create space for it. There are many ways to find answers to
these questions. If you are stuck, the haiku suggests that you
If you are not sure how to ask your inner self, try sitting
quietly for a bit, settling in with your breath and body
sensations. Then pose the question to yourself. Continue to
sit and breathe quietly. Wait to see what floats up to your
consciousness, either while you are sitting or perhaps in the
next few days.
||Think of a grievance
Exaggerate it so much
That you’ll have to laugh
Our March haiku was about
changing the tapes in your head. This haiku suggests one way to
I learned the value of
exaggerating a grievance while in summer camp.
The tryouts for the camp
play required us to improvise a scene. My challenge was to
persuade someone else to change a flat tire for me. I whined,
cajoled and generally hammed it up so much that everyone,
including me, ended up laughing. It was such a hit that they
cast me in a role that required singing, even though I sang way
That was just "pretend,"
but it helped me to see how exaggeration can help ease a tough
situation. Try it the next time you have a “crabby” tape playing
in your head. On your own or with someone you’re comfortable
with, go ahead and have a verbal, over-the-top, crab-fest! Then
laugh, breathe, and go along your merry way.
||Tapes play in your head
Make you feel stressed and crazy
Start changing the tapes
This is the first haiku on my site that focuses specifically on
our minds. Our dear minds, so busy all the time, and sometimes
so focused in ways that are NOT helpful.
What are some of the unhelpful tapes that play in your head? If
you’re not sure, start paying attention to your critical,
negative thoughts. Typical tapes might include, “How could
I/he/she/they be so stupid?,” or “Something is bound to go
Pick one tape and play with changing it. How? Experiment! One
popular technique is called “reframing.” Turn around the message
somehow, alter its perspective. If you are stuck, imagine that
you are assisting a friend with changing that tape, rather than
yourself – or request help from someone close to you.
Next month’s haiku will suggest one possible way to change a
Listen to your heart
Beating Heart and Feeling Heart
Pause – Breathe – Wait – Listen
I wrote this haiku after speaking about tips for stress
reduction at a health fair sponsored by Sister to Sister, a
foundation dedicated to preventing heart disease in women. February is "American Heart Health" month in the U.S., and
Sister to Sister has sponsored February "heart health" fairs in
many cities for the last 8 years.
Cold rain poured down all day, yet there was a great turnout for
the health fair where I spoke. It was both inspiring and
sobering. There is so much we know and yet so much mystery about
the working of our hearts. I found myself reflecting on the
importance of caring for both our actual, physical hearts and
our metaphorical hearts, where our feelings reside.
In our busy, crazy lives, it's so easy to forget to listen to
our hearts. Yet paying a little attention to both our beating
and feeling hearts can hugely improve the quality – and
longevity – of our lives.
||New resolutions --
Replace many "I shoulds" with
One heartfelt "I will"
New Years brings out the "overachiever" in
many of us, as we contemplate all the ways we’d like to improve.
We know that it doesn’t work to set overly ambitious goals . . .
but how to resist? Choose something that resonates in your core!
Not sure how to do this?
Set aside some quiet time. Settle down, ask yourself what change you really need and want to accomplish
this year, then wait for an answer that feels like it comes from your body, not just your active,
(If you could use more guidance, check out some of our previous haiku, below.)
||Way too much to do?
Take a thirty-second break
Three deep, calming breaths
Over the years, I've come
to really enjoy playing with my breath. It’s a great way to
refocus your attention and calm yourself down.
The holiday season often
generates lots of hectic activity. But no matter how pressured
you feel, you’ve got to keep breathing. So why not treat
yourself to three conscious breaths? Even a single deep breath
can help you feel clearer and more energized.
||Thumb to forefinger
A famous hand position
It deepens your breath
When we're stressed, our breath tends to
become shallow. This starts a vicious cycle as the reduced
oxygen to our system puts strain on our brain and body
functions, which in turns makes us feel more stressed.
I discovered recently that when I touch
together the thumb and index finger of each hand to form two
small circles (a classic hand position for meditation), it
immediately deepens my breath. Voila! I now use this to help
cope with dental appointments and other situations where my body
tenses up. It requires no conscious thought or effort, other
than remembering to touch your fingertips together.
Try it and see what happens. Even if
you can't perceive a change in your breathing, you may feel calmer and more centered.
||Pretend you're a tree
Exhale stress and inhale calm
Through roots of your feet
This is one of my favorite images. I often
use it myself and share it regularly with my friends and
clients. If the image of a tree doesn't appeal to you, pick any
plant -- sunflowers are another favorite. Sometimes I don't even
need to use the whole image. Just pressing my feet firmly into
the ground can be enough to help settle down.