Caring for Caregivers


“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama


There is a tremendous demand for caregiving in the US. It is estimated that over 65 million (29% of the adult population) provides care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged, averaging 20 hours per week spent caring for their loved ones. In addition, caregiver demand is increasing due to the increase in our older adult population. But, this caregiving comes at a cost to the caregiver. It exacts an economic toll in lost work hours, income, and even the opportunity to take a promotion or relocate for a better position. But, more significantly, it exacts a tremendous toll on caregivers’ health and well-being. Caregiving has been associated with increased levels of depression and anxiety as well as higher use of psychoactive medications, poorer self-reported physical health, compromised immune function, and increased mortality.


Palliative care of a dying loved one is particularly difficult as the emotional toll supplements the time and energy demands of the caregiving. The adverse effects of providing the care increase over the course of the disease, particularly as death approaches and tend to continue with bereavement. Hence there is a need to care for the caregivers. They are providing much needed care and support for the terminally ill family member, but need care and support themselves. This care for the caregiver is often totally lacking.


Mindfulness practice has been shown promise in improving the health and well-being of caregivers (see links at the bottom). Is it also effective for individuals providing end-of-life care? In today’s Research News article “Evaluating the effects of mindfulness-based interventions for informal palliative caregivers: A systematic literature review”

Jaffray and colleagues review the literature exploring this question. They report that the published literature shows that mindfulness practice reduces depression and caregiver burden and increases quality of life in informal caregivers of palliative care.


The effect sizes for the reported improvements were moderate. This suggests that mindfulness practice is helpful but is not a miracle treatment for this difficult situation. This indicates that there is need for further study to try to identify what sorts of practices are most effective to improve the effectiveness of mindfulness techniques.


Some studies obtained interviews with the caregivers who reported that the practice increased acceptance of the care recipient’s illness, as well as of the self and family, increased a sense of presence, increased the sense of peace and reduced stress, and decreased the reactivity response to difficult care recipient behavior. These reports are interesting and suggest that the mindfulness practice may be having its effects by improving non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. This is exactly what mindfulness practices are aimed at developing. These reports also suggest that improved emotion regulation may also be responsible for the improvements, allowing the caregiver to be more in touch with their emotions and improving their ability to respond appropriately to the emotions.


So, caregivers should practice mindfulness to care for themselves.


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies




Mindfulness practice improves the stress levels experienced by caregiver for autistic children (see and in caregiving for spouses with chronic pain (see

Yoga’s Lost Spirituality



Yoga developed in India millennia ago as a deep spiritual practice. It developed as a contemplative practice that unified body and mind. Yoga was known to have physical benefits, but the most important benefit was seen to be spiritual development. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in has address to the United Nations proposing an International Day of Yoga stated that “yoga is not just about fitness or exercise, it is about changing one’s lifestyle.” It is “a holistic way of life that stresses harmony between man and nature.”


Yoga was engaged in as a meditative practice. Awareness was focused on the movements, the postures, the sensations from the muscles, joints, and tendons, and in coordination with an aware controlled breathing. It was more complex, but in essence, no different from the simple meditative practice of following the breath. It was a mind-body focused attention practice, one that has immense subtlety and beauty and that can lead to profound insight.


But, as yoga emerged and was practiced in the west it was secularized. This was for good reason, as western society was not ready to accept an ancient eastern spiritual practice. In a sense, the tactic of secularization worked and resulted in an unprecedented and rapid acceptance of yoga in western culture. I commented to my yogini spouse that a clear indicator of yoga being not only accepted, but adopted by western culture was when yoga attire became a fashion statement.


There are many forms of yoga and many practitioners who are focused on the spiritual aspects of yoga. But, to the vast majority of westerners yoga is an exercise for physical fitness. It is a means to mold the body to look good, as a health promoting practice, and as a strategy to help loose weight. These are good and reasonable goals. But, they have replaced the far more important spiritual development promoted by yoga. As Jon Kabat-Zinn has remarked, ‘there is the potential for something priceless to be lost.’


Our research has demonstrated that a typical western yoga practice produces significantly less spiritual benefits than a meditation practice does, that spiritual awakening experiences are far less likely to be associated with yoga practice than meditation practice, and when people practice both yoga and meditation, it is the meditation component that is responsible for spiritual development. In fact, the way western yoga is practiced, it produces smaller increases in mindfulness than meditation.


Fortunately, the recognition that spirituality is being lost may very well be the first step toward the recovery of the spiritual nature of yoga. People who practice yoga feel something special has happened during the practice, but don’t have the understanding of what it is. Yoga practitioners do show increased mindfulness and spirituality, but far less than meditation practitioners. They interpret these feelings, not as spiritual but as relaxation, as a high, similar to a runners high, or as a physical arousal. It is not a great leap to reinterpret this as the beginnings of a deep spiritual experience.


Now that yoga has been accepted in the west and not looked on as some kind of pagan or demonic ritual, there is the potential to slowly and gently reinsert the fundamental spirituality of yoga practice. The promotion of deep and relatively lengthy yoga nidra as the conclusion of each yoga session is an important beginning. The return to a deep focused awareness being preeminent in yoga practice is another important step.


There also needs to be teaching that yoga spirituality is not a religion. It is entirely different and does not in any way contradict the religious beliefs or practices that are common in the west. This is a subtle teaching that cannot be taught without the groundwork being completed of the experience of the spiritual feelings that are the outgrowth of focused awareness yoga practice. But, once in place, a new understanding can emerge that is entirely acceptable to western sensibilities. It can lead to a return to the true spiritual nature of yoga.


So practice what Prime Minister Modi termed “India’s gift to the world,” and become healthier physically, psychologically and spiritually.

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Make better Decisions with Meditation


“For me, the most interesting people are ones who often work against their best interests. Bad choices. They go in directions where you go, ‘No no no nooo!’ You push away someone who is trying to love you, you hurt someone who’s trying to get your trust, or you love someone you shouldn’t.” – Paul Haggis


We are confronted daily with a myriad of decisions, many small of little importance; chocolate or strawberry, pass or follow, do the dishes or empty the trash, watch a movie or sports, etc.. But some have a major impact on ourselves and others; take a new job, get married, buy a home, retire or stay working, exercise or not, etc. The problem is that humans are not always good decision makers.


We often make decisions for emotional reasons; buying a new car, not because we need one but because it makes us feel like a race car driver, selling a stock out of fear of losses, marrying someone out of fear of being alone, etc. We also have a tendency to make decisions based upon how we’ve made them in the past regardless of whether that strategy is still appropriate. Having decided to finish high school, get a college degree, and going back to school to get an MBA may have helped our careers, but then going back to school again may not.


We respond to the fact that we’re already invested resources in something and hate to give up, called sunk-costs bias. So, we may continue on in a marriage even after the partner has become abusive. We often procrastinate in making decisions out of fear of making a wrong choice. We frequently fall prey to the gamblers fallacy and believe that “we’re due” for a lucky break. We take unnecessary risks because of we love the adrenalin rush and the thrill of risk. We tend to weigh negative information to a greater extent than positive information and thus respond more to the possibility of loss than the possibility of gain.


The marketing and advertising industries well understand the illogic and emotionality of human decision making. Ads are tailored to appeal to our emotions rather than our reason. Salesmen and telemarketers use pressure tactics because they recognize that people have difficulty with confrontation and saying no to another human. Stores are designed to evoke spur of the moment impulse buying.


Decisions are important to our prosperity, health, and happiness. So, how can we make better decisions? In today’s Research News article “Calm and smart? A selective review of meditation effects on decision making”

Sun and colleagues review the literature on the effects of meditation on decision making and conclude that meditation practice helps to make people better decision makers.


They propose that meditation practice works to improve decision making in three ways. First it has been shown to improve attention, memory, and rational thought processes. (see and So, meditation leads to a more reflective consideration of the information, better ability to differentiate between relevant and irrelevant information, reduced irrational behaviors, reduced habitual tendencies, reduced risky decisions, and overreacting to negative information.


Secondly, meditation practice is known to improve emotion regulation and non-judgmental acceptance of the present moment (see and Meditators are better at sensing their emotions and controlling their reactions to those emotions. Thus meditation practice can reduce the influence of emotion on decision making and lead to better decisions. Finally, meditation practice improves empathy and compassion for others and it improves our ability to listen to the concerns of others (see This more compassionate understanding of others and attention to their desires and needs can lead to superior social decisions.


So practice meditation and make better decisions.


“We need to know how we are feeling. Mindfully acknowledging our feelings serves as an ’emotional thermostat’ that recalibrates our decision making. It’s not that we can’t be anxious, it’s that we need to acknowledge to ourselves that we are.” – Noreena Hertz


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Reduce Inflammation with Yoga

“You can’t live without inflammation, but it can also be hazardous to your health.”


Inflammation is a normal response of the body to outside threats like stress, infection, injury, and toxic chemicals. It is a response of the immune system that is designed to protect the body and ward off these threats. It works quite well for short-term infections and injuries and as such is an important defense mechanism for the body.. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, it can itself become a threat to health.


Chronic inflammation can produce autoimmune diseases such as colitis, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, increased cancer risk, lung disease, sleep disruption, gum disease, decreased bone health, psoriasis, and depression. Needless to say chronic inflammation can create major health problems. Indeed, the presence of chronic inflammation is associated with reduced longevity. So, it is important for health to control the inflammatory response, allowing it to do its job in fighting off infection but then reducing its activity when no external threat is apparent.


Contemplative practices appear to relax the physical systems of the body including the immune system, reducing inflammation. Mind body techniques such as the ancient practice of Tai Chi and meditation  (LINK TO “Control Inflammation with Mind-Body Practices – with RN Bower 2015”) have been shown to reduce inflammation. In addition, yoga practice has been found to reduce the inflammatory response in industrial workers


In today’s Research News article “Effect of Yoga Practice on Levels of Inflammatory Markers after Moderate and Strenuous Exercise”

Vijayaraghava and colleagues found that yoga practitioners had lower levels of immune system agents that are associated with inflammation, Tumour Necrosis Factor alpha (TNF-α), Interleukin-6 (IL-6). Additionally, they found that when exposed to strenuous exercise there was less of an increase in these agents than in participants who did not practice yoga. These results suggest that yoga practice reduces chronic inflammation and also blunts the inflammatory response to exercise.


Yoga is both a mind-body relaxation technique and a mild exercise. Both of these aspects of yoga practice may be involved in reducing the inflammatory response. This may occur by creating an overall state of physical and psychological relaxation, by reducing the the response to stress, and by exercise moderating pro-inflammatory cytokines.


Regardless of the mechanisms involved, these results are exciting and indicate that the relatively safe practice of yoga can be very good for health by reducing chronic inflammation. This may be one of the reasons that yoga practitioners appear to be healthier and live longer.


So, practice yoga, reduce inflammation, and be healthier.


“I don’t think anybody would argue that fact that we know inflammation in the body, which comes from a lot of different sources, is the basis for a lot of chronic health problems, so by controlling that, we would expect to see increased life expectancy.”.Josie Znidarsic


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Take Command and Control of Your Emotions

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” – Daniel Goleman


Emotions are powerful forces that have profound effects upon the course of our lives. We strive to obtain and maintain positive emotions. We are driven by negative emotions. And we are bored when we lack emotions. To some extent we can become a slave to our emotions unless we discover means to effectively deal with them.


Mindfulness appears to help to deal with our emotions. It has been shown to improve emotion regulation and It doesn’t block or prevent emotions from rising up. Rather it appears to allow us to recognize and feel the emotions but be able to control our responses to the emotions. So mindfulness appears to put us in control so we are no longer slaves to our surging emotions.


Mindfulness appears to act to improve emotion regulation by improving cognitive reappraisal It simply allows us to think more clearly about our emotions and interpret their source and meaning appropriately. So, rather than taking everything personally and interpreting our emotions as due to our own failings, we can see that they may be caused by the actions of others who are simply acting out their own issues that have nothing to say about us.


All of this indicates that mindfulness produces an overall improvement in our emotional intelligence It improves our ability to recognize our own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use this information about the emotions to guide our thinking about them and the situations that evoked them, and to control our responses to them. It truly makes us smart about emotions and in control.


A number of mindfulness trainings have been shown to be effective in improving emotion regulation. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was developed specifically to help the individual cope effectively with emotions particularly depression. But, it can also create a positive emotional upward trajectory where good feeling build on good feelings.


The cognitive component of MBCT is specifically designed to develop cognitive reappraisal of emotions, to help the individual better identify, label, and think about their emotions. This leaves open the question as to whether MBCT is effective because of the mindfulness component or the cognitive component or perhaps both.


In today’s Research News article “History of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is Associated with Increased Cognitive Reappraisal Ability”

Troy and colleagues compared MBCT to Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), without the mindfulness component, and to no-treatment controls. They found that the mindfulness component was crucial. Only the MBCT group showed increased cognitive reappraisal.

This is quite surprising that Cognitive Behavior Therapy alone did not change cognitive reappraisal, but only did so when combined with mindfulness. This suggests that the focus on awareness of present moment experience viewed without judgment may be a potent practice to induce effective cognitive reappraisal. It suggests that being able to look at experience without judging it may be the necessary groundwork that allows the individual to look at the experience anew and appraise it optimally. By removing an initial inappropriate judgement about the situation, MBCT may make it easier to see the experience for what it is rather than have to overcome a wrong interpretation in order to rethink it. In other words it allows thinking to start from scratch rather than from error.


Regardless, it is clear that mindfulness gives you command and control of your emotions.


“To balance and control your emotions is one of the most important things in life. Positive emotions enhance your life. Negative emotions sabotage your life.” – Dr T.P.Chia

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Beating Radiotherapy for Cancer with Mindfulness

Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.” – Jim Valvano


About one in every eight women will develop breast cancer during their lifetimes. About 40,000 women die from breast cancer every year in the US.  Radiation is frequently used as a component of the treatment package for cancer with nearly two thirds of all patients receiving radiation treatment. Although it has been shown to be effective in treating the cancer it has very difficult side effects as patients experience increased pain, difficulty sleeping, much greater fatigue, problems thinking clearly and paying attention, and physical issues such as heart problems and nausea. All of this leads to a marked decrease in the patients’ quality of life.


Hence it is important to develop methods to assist the cancer patients in coping with the treatment side effects. One promising technique is mindfulness training. It has been found to be helpful in coping with cancer especially in dealing with the psychological consequences of a cancer diagnosis.


In today’s Research News article another contemplative practice, yoga, is evaluated as an adjunctive treatment. In the study “Randomized, Controlled Trial of Yoga in Women with Breast Cancer Undergoing Radiotherapy”

Chandwani and colleagues compare six weeks of yoga practice or stretching exercises to control patients who did not receive yoga or stretching but were placed on a waiting list to receive future treatment. They found that the breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy who practiced yoga had improved quality of life including clinically significant improvements in overall physical health and physical functioning, significantly greater decreases in fatigue, and positive effects on stress hormones.


These are encouraging results that suggest that the practice of yoga may be beneficial for breast cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment. How can yoga practice be so helpful? One way that yoga may help is that it is a form of exercise and exercise has been shown to decrease fatigue in cancer patients. Also yoga can improve coping with cancer treatment by relaxing and calming the mind. Worry and rumination about the treatment side effects can act to amplify these effects. Yoga practice by increasing mindfulness may reduce rumination and worry and thereby reduce the experience of the side effects and improve quality of life. Finally, the practice of yoga may make the patients feel that they can still function physically and that they can be active participants in their treatment and recovery helping them to feel more in control of their health and lives.


I’m happy to tell you that having been through surgery and chemotherapy and radiation, breast cancer is officially behind me. I feel absolutely great and I am raring to go.” – Carly Fiorina
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Forget the Bad Stuff with Mindfulness

“Suffering is not holding you. You are holding suffering. When you become good at the art of letting sufferings go, then you’ll come to realize how unnecessary it was for you to drag those burdens around with you.” – Osho


Mindfulness has been found to have great psychological benefits. It improves mood, reduces stress (see, depression (see, anxiety (see, worry (see, anger (see, and fear (see It allows for efficient and realistic regulation of emotions (see and improves emotional intelligence (see, improves attention (see, and even heightens creativity


There are a number of ideas as to why mindfulness is so beneficial, but one idea that has not been previously tested is that mindfulness may alter memory. In today’s Research News article “The Effect of a Brief Mindfulness Intervention on Memory for Positively and Negatively Valenced Stimuli”

Alberts and  Thewissen investigate the effect of the induction of mindfulness on the memory for words that are rated as feeling emotionally either positive or negative. They found that mindfulness did not improve or impair memory overall. But, it altered what tended to be remembered. The mindfulness group had significantly poorer memory for those words that were emotionally negative.


This suggests that mindfulness impairs negative memories. It makes us better at forgetting and letting go of troubling memories. This may be one of the ways that mindfulness improves mood, by focusing on the good things in life and forgetting the bad things. Negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, anger, worry etc. all rely on a memory process. It is troubling memories of real or imagined past events that create these emotions. Being able to better forget them should reduce these negative emotions. In this way mindfulness may have great psychological benefit.


Mindfulness training emphasizes non-judgmental awareness. We are instructed when memories intrude on the present moment awareness to not judge them as either good or bad, just to see them as memories, nothing more, nothing less, and let them pass away. Mindfulness, by making us less judgmental about past memories they may be neutralized and become less troubling. This could help to control negative emotions. So, mindfulness may be improving our psychological makeup by helping us focus of the positive memories and let go of the negative memories.


So, be mindful and forget the bad stuff.


“Let go. Why do you cling to pain? There is nothing you can do about the wrongs of yesterday. It is not yours to judge. Why hold on to the very thing which keeps you from hope and love?” – Leo Buscaglia


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Headaches are a Headache – Reduce them with Mindfulness

“To diminish the suffering of pain, we need to make a crucial distinction between the pain of pain, and the pain we create by our thoughts about the pain. Fear, anger, guilt, loneliness and helplessness are all mental and emotional responses that can intensify pain.” ~Howard Cutler


Headaches are a headache and can be disruptive to our productivity and happiness. The most common form of headache is tension headache constituting 90% of all headaches. Occasional headache is a common ailment but when it becomes chronic it can be quite disruptive to the sufferer’s life. Chronic tension headaches affect about 3% of the population.


It has been demonstrated that mindfulness training can help with a wide variety of types and sources of pain, for example it has been found to be effective for fibromyalgia pain, a particularly difficult pain to treat. It has also been shown to be effective for migraine headaches.


In today’s Research News article “Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Pain Severity and Mindful Awareness in Patients with Tension Headache: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial”

Omidi and Zargar test the application of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for chronic tension headache pain. They found that MBSR produced a clinically significant reduction in pain and also increased mindfulness in these patients.


There are a number of ways that MBSR training could be producing the reduction in tension headache pain. MBSR was designed for the reduction of stress and has been shown to be very effective. Since, tension headaches are often precipitated or amplified by stress, the reduction in responsivity to stress produced by MBSR would be expected to help reduce pain.


Pain itself can amplify pain by producing a fear of pain which can cause the individual to not only suffer from the current pain but add to it with worry about future pain. Many pain patients ruminate about their past pain which can also produce worry and stress and make pain worse. Indeed, meditation has been shown to reduce pain by decreasing catastrophizing. (see By helping the individual focus on the present moment mindfulness training can reduce the rumination about past pain and the expectation of future pain, reducing currently experienced pain.


Mindfulness is known to affect the brain’s processing of pain stimuli, blunting the neural activity associated with pain. This by itself could be responsible for the reduction in tension headache pain. Mindfulness also increases relaxation and reduces activity of the segment of the peripheral nervous system that’s responsible for activation and tension. This reduces the response to pain allowing greater relaxation and less pain. Mindfulness also increases awareness of one’s internal state. This self-monitoring could lead to better self-care and early intervention for a tension headache. Finally, mindfulness improves emotion regulation. It allows the individual to more effectively respond to emotions. This would include the emotions elicited by pain and those that can precipitate a tension headache. In this way, responses to pain and the intensity of the pain can be mitigated.


Regardless of the mechanism, mindfulness training is clearly an effective strategy for dealing with chronic tension headache pain. It remains to be seen if a simpler mindfulness training than MBSR might also be effective. MBSR requires a considerable commitment of time and energy and the presence of an instructor. This is not always practicable with the busy lives that many people lead. So, it would be better if a simpler training would be equally effective.


So practice mindfulness and make a headache less of a headache.


“When our pain is held by mindfulness it loses some of its strength.”Thich Nhat Hanh


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Let Spirituality Help You through Tough Times

“My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.” ― Albert Einstein


Bad things happen even to good people. These negative life events and the distress that comes with them can damage mental health unless the individual has a means to cope with the distress. Religion/spirituality is often used as a refuge during challenging times. Does it actually help? There is some evidence that it does. It has been shown that spirituality works with mindfulness to relieve depression (see and can improve end of life (see


In today’s Research News article “The effect of spirituality and religious attendance on the relationship between psychological distress and negative life events”

Kidwai and colleagues investigated this very question. They studied the relationship between attendance at religious services, spirituality, and distress in an urban population. They found that people who were high on spirituality were less likely to be distressed following negative events as compared to those who were low on spirituality. They also found that high levels of spirituality were associated with attendance at religious services and that religious attendance was associated with lower distress. So, spirituality seemed to work indirectly on distress through increasing religious attendance that in turn reduced distress.


It appears that spiritual/religious coping is a powerful coping mechanisms that has the potential to buffer the damaging effects of negative life events on psychological functioning. There are a number of processes that could account for this. But, from the results it appears that religious attendance is primary and spirituality works by encouraging religious attendance.


It is possible that religious attendance provides social support when traversing difficult life situations. The common belief system connects individuals and promotes support and understanding during problems. In fact, this is precisely what Kidwai and colleagues found. Religious attendance was associated with higher social support which in turn was associated with lower distress. Hence, religious attendance can go a long way toward relieving distress directly and also by recruiting social support.


Regardless of the mechanism it is clear that spirituality and religious attendance can be helpful to the individual in difficult times.


So, be spiritual to help get you through life’s challenges.


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies




Look Inside


The following story was used as a teaching by the great Sufi teacher, Nasrudin.

His friend, Mansour, comes to visit him and sees Nasruddin on his hands and knees, crawling on the sidewalk under the street lamp, obviously searching for something, appearing frustrated.

 Concerned for his friend, Mansour asks, “Nasruddin, what are you looking for? Did you lose something?”

 “Yes, Mansour. I lost the key to my house, and I’m trying to find it, but I can’t.”

 “Let me help you,” responds Mansour. Mansour joins his friend, kneels down on his hands and knees, and begins to crawl on the sidewalk under the street lamp, searching.

 After a time, having looked everywhere on and around the sidewalk, neither Nasruddin nor Mansour can find the lost key. Puzzled, Mansour asks his friend to recall his steps when he last had the key, “Nasruddin, where did you lose the key? When did you last have it?”

 “I lost the key in my house,” Nasruddin responds.

 “In your house?” repeats the astonished Mansour. “Then why are we looking for the key here, outside on the sidewalk under this street lamp?”

 Without hesitation, Nasruddin explains, “Because there is more light here . . . !”

 The great teaching contained in this story is that we are constantly looking for what is important to us outside of ourselves. It is easier to see outside and so this is where we look for happiness, truth, understanding, and love. We believe that we will be happy when and if we can obtain something, be it a promotion, raise, or new position, an object such as a new car or house, or an experience such as a travel or a vacation. We believe that we will find the understanding and love that we seek with a new relationship, or once we change a significant person. We believe that we will find the truth by following a particular religion or spiritual teacher, or by studying what great thinkers and scientists have discovered.

All of these things can be beneficial, good, and useful. But, after a while after obtaining them we discover that they were not the answer. They may have been briefly satisfying, but that satisfaction did not last. So we seek something else outside of ourselves leading to the same outcome. So we try again on what psychologist’s term the hedonic treadmill. It’s amazing that many people never realize that this strategy is simply not working.

The problem all along has been that we’re looking in the wrong place. Like Nasrudin we are searching outside when the key can only be found inside. We can only find happiness, truth, understanding, and love within ourselves. Contemplative practice is the means for internal exploration. It allows us to carefully view our mental and emotional landscape seeking the keys.

With practice we can begin to see that happiness is a choice that we can make. It’s everywhere around us and in us if we only appreciate life for what it is and cease to fight against it. If we accept things as they are and then look deeply at them we will see the splendor and glory of life as it transpires moment to moment.

The more we engage in contemplative practice and the deeper we go, the more the mind begins to quiet. Once settled, we can begin to see that the love we’ve been seeking is already there within us. When we learn to love ourselves first we will see that others love us but it has to be viewed through a compassionate understanding of the emotional upheavals within them. Eventually we may even have the revelation to see that love is the substance of the universe.

All of this can lead to understanding that life is to be experienced not opposed, that the truth of existence is always present inside us if we only allow ourselves to see it, that heaven is not a place but is everywhere, and that ultimate truth was there all along.

These revelations do not come easily. They require often years of dedicated practice. But, they are there. If we’re looking in the right place we can find them. If we’re looking outside, we’ll never find them. If we’re looking inside we’re on the right track. The keys are there.


“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies