April Kaiserlian

Pointing at Mindfulness for Therapists and Their Clients

A teacher once asked her students to imagine standing outside on a dark, starry night. “Imagine you are with a friend, and your friend is trying to show you the moon. ‘Look!’ they might say as they lift their index finger toward the sky; ‘There’s the moon!’ Imagine how your eyes would follow their finger as it guided you to look at the moon hanging high in the night sky. Without your friend pointing you in the proper direction, you may have missed the moon completely.” The teacher then wisely concluded, “Don’t mistake the finger pointing at the moon for …

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Election Stress: Ways to Meet a Mess of Emotions

This month’s election is unprecedented. It is unprecedented in the sense that everyone will be impacted by it one way or another. After the election is said and done, there will be a group of people celebrating and a group of people grieving, angry, and scared. There may also be a third group who feels indifferent or ambivalent.  There is no doubt in my mind that we are going to be dealing with a MESS of emotions—a mess of so many different thoughts and feelings, both on Election Day, as well as after the results are announced. As I pondered …

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How to Motivate Yourself in the Midst of Hard Times

My teenage son and I recently got into yet another argument about bringing his dirty dishes from his bedroom to the kitchen. Have you ever stumbled upon a bowl full of months-old, dried-up cereal and milk? Or a glass with a mysterious sugary substance now devoured by mold? Yuck! We’ve gone back-and-forth about this issue over the course of days and months. I have tried every possible creative, as well as punitive, solution to remedy the situation.  During one of our most recent disagreements, my son protested that he kept forgetting to bring his dishes to the kitchen because he …

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Give Your Mind A Place to Sit

Who am I? Do people like me? Is my work good enough? Am I failing at being a parent? What if I don’t get that job? I know the rattling noise in my car is going to be a huge repair bill! Can you relate to any of these thoughts? There’s nothing wrong with you. In fact, with nothing to focus on, the brain will begin to search for potential threats in the environment. It is a mechanism designed to keep you safe, but it can leave you feeling like your mind is ricocheting out of control. When the mind …

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5 Tips for Maintaining a Mindfulness Practice

The ancient Greek poet, Archilochus, wrote, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” Do you have high expectations for yourself? I know I do. Another word you can use for expectations is “hope.” I like the word hope because it feels more gentle than the word expectation. When I say, “I hope to be a more peaceful person,” it lands more softly than “I expect to be a more peaceful person.” It can feel risky to be honest with yourself about your hopes because you will likely fall short of …

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The Violence of Self-Improvement

I recently came across a brilliant quote by the rocker, David Lee Roth. He said, “The problem with self-improvement is knowing when to quit.” It connects to another favorite phrase of mine which is “the violence of self-improvement.” It is a poignant phrase because it combines two things we rarely associate with one another—violence and improvement. Most of us believe that anything we can do to improve ourselves is a good thing, and we forget that violence can live at the extremes of anything, including the quest for improving one’s self. For me, the violence of self-improvement shows up most …

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A Beautiful Challenge for the New Year

I am going to give you a beautiful challenge for the new year! Are you ready? I challenge you to cultivate affection for your meditation practice! Did your face scrunch up a little as you wondered how affection and meditation could possibly go together? After all, isn’t affection better left to the realm of romance? Not anymore! Affection can be defined as “a gentle feeling of fondness or liking.” If you dig a little deeper, you will find that affection is also associated with words such as devotion, sympathy, caring, warmth, and tenderness. Take a moment to imagine the sweet …

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Mindfulness Can Be Hard: 8 Reasons Why You May Not Want to Start a Mindfulness Practice (and 4 Supports)

We Are Experiencing a Mindful Revolution Mindfulness is all the rage right now. In 2015, Time magazine declared that we are in the midst of a mindful revolution. Rigorous studies in the field of neuroscience continue to demonstrate the efficacy of the practice in areas ranging from chronic pain to post traumatic stress to the emotional health of children. So Why Would I Tell You to NOT to Start A Mindfulness Practice? For the sake of illustration, think of a young Superman who suddenly realizes he can fly, but he doesn’t yet know how to fly well. Instead of being …

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Easiest Meditation Practice Ever

There is a wonderful meditation story in which a student asks his teacher, “How do I practice meditation in my everyday life?” The teacher replies, “By eating and sleeping.” The student protests, “But everyone eats and sleeps! How is that meditation?” The teacher answers, “But not everybody eats when they eat, and not everybody sleeps when they sleep. When I eat, I eat; when I sleep, I sleep.” Clearly, the teacher is exhorting the student to do one thing at a time as a way of weaving meditation into his everyday life. The Easiest Meditation Practice Ever If everyone in …

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3 Essential Elements of Self-Compassion

“Sweetheart. You are struggling. Relax. Take a breath, and then we will figure out what to do.” I love these words from long-time meditation teacher, Sylvia Boorstein, for two reasons: 1) They challenge me; and 2) they contain the three essential elements of self-compassion. Let’s start with the first reason. I am challenged to the core by the word sweetheart! Who in the world refers to themself as “sweetheart” when they are struggling? Not me! In fact, the thought of it makes me cringe and causes my chest to tighten up. It seems I share this response with many others. …

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