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BIMONTHLY HAIKU

  Welcome!

Hmmmm. A newsletter
with minimal work or fuss . . .
Ah! Haiku is fun!

Bimonthly haiku
Tips to help reduce your stress
Explore and enjoy!


March-April 2013

  Haiku hiatus
Taking a break, life flows on
Might resume sometime

 

 

January-February 2013

  Want to change? Observe.
Find patterns. When you’re ready,
Choose one place to start

 

 

November-December 2012

  Holiday season
Moderation – what’s that?
Tune in, stay balanced

 

 

September-October 2012

  Mind or heart too full?
Pause. Breathe. Wait for some stillness.
What arises then?

 

 

July-August 2012

  Mindful listening
Full focus on the speaker
Still, reflective self

 

 

May-June 2012

  How present are you?
If energy is scattered
Invite its return

 

 

March-April 2012

  What color appeals?
Breathe it in, feel the comfort
As you breathe out stress

 

 

January-February 2012

  Instead of judging
Gentle curiosity
May invite more peace

 

 

November-December 2011

  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, visit www.LaughterYogaAmerica.com and www.LaughterYoga.org.
 

 

September-October 2011

  Took a little break
From sending haiku e-mail
Needed more down-time!
 

July-August 2011

  How do you treat friends?
Are you as kind to yourself?
If not, what to change?
 

May-June 2011

  How much do you think?
Start noticing – a first step
To more inner calm
 

March-April 2011

  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.
 

 

January-February 2011

  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?
 

 

November-December 2010

  There’s your ideal "best"
And there’s your "best" at any
specific moment

 

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!
 

 

September-October 2010

  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.
 

 

July-August 2010

  Travel challenges?
The worst problems make the best
stories afterwards!

 

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!
 

 

May-June 2010

  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.
 

 

March-April 2010

  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!
 

 

January-February 2010

  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?
 

 

November-December 2009

  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.
 

 

September-October 2009

  How's your internal
weather? Awareness promotes
equanimity.

 

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 turbulent.

Try it, I bet you'll like it!
 

 

July-August 2009

FREE SPACE! Summertime.
Took a haiku e-mail break.
Goofing off, less stress.
 

 

May-June 2009

 

Violence worldwide,

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. 

 


March-April 2009

  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.

 

 


January-February 2009

  Is your mind a "swamp
[of] mosquitoes of neuro-
tic thoughts?" What to do?

Laugh! And read City
Dharma
by Arthur Jeon.
Quirky, practical.

 

The image 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 Violence."
 

This 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.


November-December 2008

  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.


September-October  2008

 

Savor a raisin

Slowly, with deep attention

Amazing richness

 

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.


July-August 2008

 

How deep is your rest?

When you rest, how much do you

completely relax?

 

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 useful. 

 

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?


May-June 2008

 

What do you enjoy?

How to do it more? Gently

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 check inside.

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.


April 2008

  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 do it. 

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 off key!

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.

 

March 2008

  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 wrong.”

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 crazy-making tape.
 

February 2008

  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.
 

January 2008

  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, anxious-to-solve-problems mind.

(If you could use more guidance, check out some of our previous haiku, below.)
 

December 2007
 
  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.


November 2007
 

  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.
 

October 2007

  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.