Mindful Ninja Moves To Face "Difficult" People.

It's easy to be mindful, connected, inspired and caring to people that are kind to us or represent our idea of "awesome".  But waiting for that will be a losing battle.  Most people are going to challenge us in at least a small way (perhaps we aren't normally consciously aware of it - but pay attention and you will see) and simply reacting to their behavior is passive and disempowering.  You can choose how you show up to these situations.  

Mindfulness is of no use when only selectively applied to people and situations we like the most.  And you stand to gain the most from applying it to the people that challenge you most.  In fact, a clumsy and "unsuccessful"-feeling attempt at applying mindfulness to a difficult interaction will provide more personal growth than a successful attempt at applying it to situations that are easy and comfortable.

If someone is being “difficult”…well they’re not.  Although they are challenging to interact with, they are no real threat to your well-being (unless they have a flame-thrower aimed at you.  If this is the case…skip to Appendix A).  All that is making them difficult are your own expectations that they're supposed to be some other way that fits your guidelines of what an acceptable person might be.  Apply one, some or all of these "ninja moves" to break through those blocks into understanding, compassion and grace in interacting with someone that may initially seem far away from our own preferences.

  1. Thank them (internally) for giving you an opportunity to learn about yourself, learn from them, and grow into a better person.  This internal statement of gratitude will transform your dynamic.  
  2. Practice Abundance: Know they cannot take power or energy from you.  Imagine yourself as an overflowing fountain of energy.  Be generous with it.
  3. Practice Tonglen: Breathe in deeply.  Imagine yourself breathing in their pain and discomfort and breathing out relief to that pain.  Imagine you have an infinite capacity for channeling their pain, just as you have infinite energy to give in addressing it. 
  4. View them as a child.  Not to look down on them, but to conjure compassion.  See what is innocent within them and remember that their “difficult" behavior is rooted in that place.  Their agitation stems from fears and uncertainties that stem from childhood.  And, if this difficult person is a guest in a restaurant, hotel or some other provider of basic needs like food and shelter, then their childlike insecurity is being triggered by a perceived obstacle to fulfilling these basic needs.  Their behavior might be threatening and overbearing, but it’s all coming from a need for safety and belonging in a strange environment.  Be their parent: make them feel safe, accept them fully and put your attention on whatever you find most charming about them.  This will be detected and is the most reliable pathway to calming them.
  5. Try to find the need they are expressing.  Do not concern yourself with how they are expressing the need.  Avoid the temptation to respond to the behaviors they are displaying in their attempt to fulfill their needs.  Validate the need (not the behavior).  It may help to imagine yourself as having the same fundamental needs and the discomfort you feel when they are not met (this is know in Buddhism as a “So Am I Practice”).  This is embracing human need as an opportunity for connecting.  The division that may be created by a “difficult” person then becomes a pathway to unity.  
  6. Remember Karma Yoga: you can only be inconvenienced insofar as you are attached to the situation going a certain way.  Act in a way that you believe is most in service to the needs of the moment and understand that you cannot control the results.  Be resolved that you have done everything you can to elevate the situation and you are not responsible for the resolution.

Appendix A

How to deal with actual threats to your life.

  1. Run.

For more detailed instruction or further coaching give me a shout.

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Effortless Meditation.

Our minds are powerful sources of energy and intelligence.  Throughout the day, this energy is directed outwards into perceiving, calculating, solving, doing, etc - in a word: activity.  What if you were to take that energy and invite it inwards so it can clean out, reconfigure, refresh and re-energize our minds and bodies?  This is a state that is the opposite of activity - one that is restful, but more alert and intent than sleep.  It allows the deepest strata of our consciousness to be healed and restored in ways that are just not accessible when the nervous system's resources are occupied with matters of everyday waking life.

To meditate, I get the best results from using an effortless Yogic technique.  It seems simple, but is really powerful (precisely because it is so simple).  It uses a mantra as a sort of guiding beacon for the mind to enter this state of "restful alertness."

All you need to do is the following:

  1. Find a place to sit. Back support is ideal so you’re not worried about body position. Legs crossed is good for the body, but not necessary. A chair is fine.
  2. Sit as straight as possible, but don’t struggle to maintain your posture.
  3. Close you eyes, sit quietly for thirty seconds and just scan you body, making sure all tension (especially in the face) has been let go.
  4. Don’t worry about your breathing or hand position.
  5. Begin to think the mantra "Aham” (Pronounced “Awe Hum”)
  6. Think it in as faintly and effortlessly as possible.
  7. As thoughts come and you’re pulled away from the mantra, just return to it as easy as you left (at this stage it’s important to not feel like you messed up…not because “it’s okay to mess up” but because you didn’t mess up. That’s what mantras do, they pull the mind away from whatever it was trying to focus on. To reject like having other thoughts in meditation is to reject a very natural and very beneficial aspect of it).
  8. After 15-20 minutes, gently let go of the mantra and sit quietly for 2 minutes.
  9. Slowly open your eyes.

That’s it. It’s as simple as that. Your mind will try and complicate the process, and I spend hours and hours working with people and teaching them how to keep it this simple.  

Here's what not to do to complicate the process:

  1. Attempt to "quiet your mind": impossible to do, not the point of meditation, and any effort or strain to accomplish this is the opposite of meditating - so nothing could be more counterintuitive and unnecessarily discouraging.
  2. Resist or reject any experience that occurs: including, especially, the mind and body being busy, agitated, or bored - this is a sign that valuable work is being done.)
  3. Evaluate or interpret your experiences: The analytical aspects of the mind are a very surface level function.  Meditation works on a much deeper level than what can be analyzed or understood.  Analysis of events in meditation is pointless because a) so much of what is experienced during meditation is just debris getting through around as your mind cleans itself out and b) most of what's actually happening in meditation (healing, reconfiguring, releasing of irrelevant programming) has nothing to do with whatever surface level experience you're having.  You are thwarting the meditative process by hanging yourself up in the realms of analysis.
  4. Try to make anything happening at all: meditation is about inviting the spontaneous to occur.  It's a deep, subconscious intelligence that needs to be allowed to take over.  Manipulating it not only doesn't work, but it disrupts the natural intelligence of your mind/body from resolving its issues.  Your conscious mind just simply doesn't know what it needs from meditation today.

So just keep it this simple and don’t worry about what happens during the process, and everything will turn out well.

For more detailed instruction or further coaching give me a shout.

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Lethal Kindness.

This is a practice based in Tibetan Buddhism called "Metta Bhavana". It's a very flexible template that you can sort of make your own - so I geared it to the service role.  "Metta Bhavana" means “Loving-Kindness”, and is a meditative practice for cultivating goodwill, care, compassion and broad thinking (though when you take it outside of meditation - and just do it right now, while you fold laundry - it can completely transform how you live). This may seem kind of fluffy, but the intention is not what you think it is. The Buddhist idea of love, kindness and compassion is a lot more no-nonsense than “let’s all hold hands” or “hey sit here and suck me dry with your neediness.” It’s more about simply taking the high road. Compassion is a process of expanding your sense of self to include others. It doesn’t mean bending over backwards to provide them with anything they need (as a waiter, I’m sure you do enough of that). It means acknowledging the world as non-threatening and providing understanding of anyone's situation. This is egoic expansion.

Metta Bhavana is a visualization technique. That doesn’t mean that the better and more faithful the visualization, the better the results. It means even attempting a shoddy visualization will give you powerful results. Neuroscientific study has shown that somehow this rewires your brain to have an expanded perception of others, lending you more patience and resilience to whatever they throw at you. 

An audio guided version of the practice can be found here.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sit down, closed your eyes and just sort of settle in and soak in yourself.
  2. Feel your body naturally fill and empty itself of air.
  3. Settle your attention into your body and noticing the sensations of breathing
  4. And then just have a look at what’s churning in you..
  5. Bring your attention to your heart area.
  6. Try and see what feelings of goodness in are churning you. You'll recognize them: they might feel warm, good-willing, caring, expansive, etc.
  7. And now let’s stir those sensations up a bit.

Think to yourself.

“Let’s be happy.”

  1. And just take a minute and see how that feels.
  2. See if the feeling of care and goodwill heightens.
  3. See what feelings of care and goodness begin to percolate and radiate.

Any time those feelings diminish, then just repeat to yourself…

“Let’s be happy.”

  1. See what arises.
  2. Where are these feelings?
  3. Soak in whatever’s there.

And then think to yourself.

“Let’s thrive."

  1. And just take a minute and see how that feels.
  2. See what feelings of care, goodness begin to percolate and radiate.
  3. Soak in whatever’s there.
  4. Where are these feelings?
  5. Are the feelings just in your own body or do they radiate beyond it?
  6. How far does is radiate?

And then think to yourself.

“Let’s belong.”

  1. And just take a minute and see how that feels.
  2. See what feelings of care, goodness begin to percolate and radiate.
  3. Soak in whatever’s there.
  4. Where are these feelings?
  5. Are the feelings just in your own body or do they radiate beyond it?
  6. How far does is radiate?

Now, visualize everyone you love, everyone that irritates you, everyone that you’re indifferent to - people you saw once the other day in a line somewhere - and everyone you serve in some way.

  • Rather than just thinking thoughts about them, try and just see the details of them like you’re watching a movie.
  • And if all these individual people are too much to process, just maybe visualize a crowd that represents them.
  • Now see if you can view them as a loving mentor, friend or caregiver would see them. Or perhaps the Buddha. Or perhaps a parent.
  • Hold them as best you can, with openness and care.
  • Note they’re all probably struggling with something right now.
  • Or probably a number of things - things, that make them feel unsafe or hurt in some way.
  • What’s happening in your heart when you notice this?
  • What feelings are churning? (It could be irritation, everything goes).
  • Then repeat that first process of well wishing: "Let's be happy, thrive, belong."

And keeping your attention soaking in your goodness, bring your attention back to your breath.

  • Feel yourself back in the room.
  • Open your eyes.
  • Done.

Each phase can be repeated as many times as you have time for. This practice can also be targeted to specific people that you want to work on your relationship with (or work on how they're occupying your head).

For more detailed instruction or further coaching give me a shout.

Transform Your Inner Service Game.

Let's look at the tools and principles that will allow you to give the service you know you can give.

Action Yoga.

One might think that Yogis only consider themselves engaged in spiritual practice when they are sitting and meditating or doing Yogic postures.

How about “getting shit done” as a spiritual practice?

Karma Yoga teaches us to maintain the Yogic mindset (aware, intent, reflective, grounded in ourselves, non-attached, non-needy, etc.) while in a state of action.  This mindset not only brings integrity to our actions, but elevates our relationship to what we do.  With this mindset, the actions themselves can provide the same benefits of Yoga and meditation.

Now, it is important to have practices like meditation (my first priority as a teacher is making that part of everyone’s program).  But Karma Yoga is a crucial point where we leave our isolated state of rehearsal, and take our state of mindfulness with us.  Even though we are now “performing", we haven’t stopped “practicing".  It is where everything that we have cultivated gets seeded into the world - and ultimately tested.  

This is mindfulness with the intent to serve.  Serve what?  Serve everything.  Serve our best selves.  Serve that endless space beyond ourselves (i.e. all of humanity, nature, the universe, our God(s), whatever we know is truly important).  Serve the highest need of the moment, whatever that presents itself as.  

The most concise way to summarize Karma Yoga would probably sound like a Nike ad.  For the athletics company, the phrase “just do it" probably means “push yourself, do what scares you, don’t get in the way of yourself, etc.”  That’s never a bad idea, but for me this means more than just the act of doing.  It describes a crucial attitude about doing.  With Karma Yoga, particular attention is paid not just to our actions, but our relationship to the results of those actions.  It’s about doing something and not being attached to what follows.  We must remember that life is bigger than our expectations and we simply have one small role to play in a bigger narrative.  We just need to show up, pay attention to the needs of the moment, act according to our sense of truth, and need nothing in return except a sense of what to do next.

It doesn’t mean not having goals.  It doesn’t mean not having a code of integrity.  It doesn’t mean not preferring things turn out a certain way.  It’s just a state of acceptance-in-motion.  It’s an openness to life defying our expectations and teaching us something new and the humility to understand that the fruits of our actions don’t belong to us, but the swirling intelligence of this entire collective (human and otherwise).

It’s not easy to stay steady with a state of pure Karma Yoga or even to know when we are truly in such alignment.  So all we do is practice.  We practice doing, observing how we feel about the results, how we relate to them, and what we learn from them.  And the practice ground can be, well, any realm of life that requires action.  From brushing your teeth to major diplomatic endeavors.  

There is no act too small to benefit from reverence (which just means devotion of attention).  And no act too big to require our non-attachment to the results.  

I consider it to be a practice that elevates any job we have, any role we have in society (big or small).  Anything we do can be a medium for service to ourselves and humanity.  My present project Serve Conscious stages the world of professional hospitality (waiters, bartenders, hosts, etc) as a Karma Yoga laboratory.  

Acting with Karma Yoga integrity requires this mindset: “I need nothing from this, I’m just doing what I consider to be the highest need of the moment.  My role is simply to serve that.  What my action yields, and the where the fruits of it go, are not up to me and don’t belong to me.  My joy and nourishment comes from the doing itself.”

Understand your relationship to your actions -- questions to ask yourself:

  1. Where did I expect at least some amount of personal gain?  Why did I think I needed this "gain"?
  2. What did I gain today (wisdom, inspiration, fulfillment, opportunity, etc) that I wasn’t expecting?
  3. If my choices were a religion, what “god” would I be serving?
  4. What actions were fulfilling in and of themselves (without needing to experience the results)?
  5. What actions were not satisfying except as a means to an end?  Did that end come and was it satisfying?
  6. How did what I do help someone else?
  7. What prevented me from responding to a need of the moment?
  8. What propelled me to “just do it” when the moment arose.
  9. What prevented me from doing something that may not have served the moment?
  10. Who was this person doing all this doing today?  Who is this person right now?

The most comprehensive text on this practice that I know of is by the prolific grandmaster Swami Vivekananda - and, awesomely, it's available online for free here.

For more detailed instruction or further coaching give me a shout.

Struggling Done Right.

This is a "don't leave home without it" practice. This is a special one because it's not meant to be done in a safe, quiet place. It's a self-compassion practice, which are meant to help you meet your moments of greatest struggle.

Yeah, service is painful and emotionally challenging. And in case you're saying "Yeah...and so is, like, all of life", that's exactly why you need to always have this in your back pocket.

Customers can be cruel. Even if they weren't we make mistakes that invite us to lash ourselves. 

What if our biggest, most painful inner challenges only need to be moments of emotional discomfort that pass without leaving an imprint?

By default, we tense up and speak viciously to ourselves, furthering the intensity. And also, more deeply carving beliefs that we are lowly and deficient (too easy of a temptation in the service role). What if we could break that pattern and meet the reactions we have with the kindness and support of a good friend?

This podcast episode provides a step-by-step guide to meeting your inner challenges with understanding, support and care rather than the self-condemnation we so often subject ourselves to. It's a game-changer. Follow the instructions, get comfortable with the approach and get into the habit of doing this on your own.

Below is a brief summary of how to quickly move through this practice on your own. 

  1. Call it: Recognize a moment of struggle (emotional discomfort). Tell yourself "this is struggle. It's natural and universal.
  2. Notice: What you're thinking and feeling with openness, curiosity, and non-rejection. 
  3. Inquire: Ask yourself, "what kind of support do I need right now?" Understanding? Care? Motivation? Encouragement?)
  4. Serve Yourself: Speak to yourself as a friend would. Provide the support you would normally outsource. See how much of a caring feeling you can offer yourself. Embrace the struggle as a mentor to yourself that knows you are growing and learning

The effects of this practice on happiness, energy levels, growth, success, you name it, are unquestionable. Deliver a powerful dose of self-compassion to yourself, disrupt the usual cycle of negativity and you'll feel capable of handling anything (after all, challenges are usually only scary because we expect to abuse ourselves through the process).

For more detailed instruction or further coaching give me a shout.

Service That Opens Your Customer's Eyes.

Access FREE live monthly Service Superpower Workshops and learn the techniques that optimize the inner service game of your team to meet the non-stop demands of the service role.