How Do I Stop Blaming Others and Experience Real Freedom?

A blooming tree

Making somebody else responsible for how I feel is sooooooo tempting. How do I stop blaming others for what’s happening in my life?

When I make someone else responsible for my state of mind, I feel justified in feeling irritation and resentment – and reciting this constant “woe is me…” monologue in my mind.

“I am sad because they are treating me like dirt…”

“If only I had this… I would feel differently.”

“Who wouldn’t feel the way I feel given the circumstances?”

“If they really cared, they would have…”

It’s so hard not to blame. Blaming is addictive.

When I engage in this train of thought, the blaming narrative runs in my mind over and over, making me sick.

The more I blame others the more justified I feel in my victimhood.

But there’s a high psychological and physiological price we pay for choosing to marinade ourselves in blame and resentment.

Every negative thought entails a negative emotion.

Every negative emotion triggers the release of stress chemicals – adrenaline and cortisol.

The longer we choose to feel those negative emotions, the longer those stress chemicals circulate in our bloodstream causing our brains to create dense neural pathways around them.

This means that over time, our brains become hardwired to repeat the same behavior automatically – because it feels familiar.

The brain always chooses what is familiar over what is unknown.

We can’t stop blaming because we have practiced it for so long.

Our body has become our own inner pharmacy with an unlimited supply of our drug of choice.

The stress chemicals we choose to flood our body with wreak havoc on our nervous system over time.

“Persistent bitterness may result in global feelings of anger and hostility that, when strong enough, could affect a person’s physical health,” says psychologist Dr. Carsten Wrosch from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada

How can you stop this vicious cycle?

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The Powerful Parasympathetic Effect of Meditation – Science Behind Ancient Contemplative Traditions

Lake with a pine tree

Is there science behind ancient contemplative practices and, if so, how does it explain the powerful parasympathetic effect of meditation?

The element of “letting go” is at the heart of all ancient spirituality.

Letting go is this inner gesture of release – of whatever you are holding on to in the moment. Or rather – of what is holding you.

Until recently, this knowledge was intuitive and experiential. There was no science to confirm the powerful stress-reducing effects of meditation.

But in recent decades, an eye-opening correlation has been found between those ancient forms of spirituality and the activation of the so-called parasympathetic nervous system.

The California-based HeartMath Institute collected data from the functional MRI hooked to the brain of a person actively engaged in meditation.  

The results were astounding! And they show why meditation has such a powerful parasympathetic effect.

What is the parasympathetic effect of meditation?

It turns out that the way we respond to a stimulus in the outer world determines what neural pathways will be activated in the brain.

If we respond to the stimulus with any sort of negativity – which on the physical level feels like tensing up, constricting, freezing, tightening, pushing away, shortening of breath, clinging, clutching, seizing, etc.) – we activate the so-called sympathetic nervous system.

In this case, our lizard brain (the oldest part of the brain that controls the fight and flight mechanism) gets a signal to start pumping stress hormones into our bloodstream and we feel this high-adrenaline fight-and-flight response. 

However, if we respond with the inner gesture of release, letting go, and relaxing this inner resistance, we activate our prefrontal cortex – the rational part of the brain, which brings on a powerful parasympathetic response.

The parasympathetic effect of meditation is the result of the mental gesture of letting go.

It feels like opening up, inner softening, gentle yielding, accepting, consenting, allowing, embracing.

In other words, as soon as we stop resisting whatever we don’t like about the present moment and start welcoming it, our sympathetic nervous system shuts off and the parasympathetic turns on.

As a result, we switch from “fight and flight” to “rest and digest.”

Here’s how it happens in the so-called Centering Prayer – my favorite form of meditation.

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How Nature Helps Us to Dissolve Ego Without Fighting It

A lake encircled by mountains

How do you dissolve Ego without fighting it?

What you resist persists.

All attempts to fight ego will ultimately strengthen it.

What you focus on gets energized. Ego cannot be suppressed; it can only be transcended.

How do you dissolve Ego without fighting it?

It dissolves by itself when we no longer need it for our sense of self. It gets bigger every time we feel we need it for the survival of our Self.

It melts away when we encounter a loving Presence and lose ourselves in Wonder.

This year, I felt it most acutely at Lake Tahoe – the place we go to for a short break from the stifling heat of summer in Houston.

June and July were oppressively hot and humid this year. As the muck intensified, I was yearning for vacation. When I am tired or feel stuck in the rat race of life, Ego shows its ugly head.

It’s hard not to think about yourself when you feel you lack something.

I tend to get irritated, impatient, frustrated, demanding, anxious, and perfectionistic. I may look calm, but I churn inside.

What are the signs of true humility?

C.S. Lewis said:

True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.

But how do you think of yourself less without thinking less of yourself?

How do you diminish yourself without demeaning yourself?

How do you hush your Ego down without putting a gag in its mouth?

How do you harness your Ego without resisting it?

Can you just talk it into quieting down without making it into your enemy?

It turns out, the art of humility – thinking of yourself less – cannot be achieved through willpower. But it comes naturally when we are smitten by Wonder.

The Greek word for “beauty” — kalos — has the same root as the verb “to call” — kaleo. Beauty calls. Kalos kaleo. The true function of Beauty is to call – to call us out of ourselves by the magnetic pull of Wonder.

As I stood by the quaint jewel of the Sierra Nevada, Echo Lake, I was smitten by its turquoise-to-azure waters set against the backdrop of gorgeous snow-topped mountains with their granite arms outstretched far and wide around the Desolation Wilderness in the most exquisite embrace.

I felt dwarfed, quieted, struck dumb, and ecstatic all at the same time.

I couldn’t think about myself at that moment – and I didn’t need to.  

I forgot myself entirely – I was one with the Whole.

I was diminished but not belittled. And I felt great.

All the irritation, impatience, frustration, anxiety, and perfectionism were gone. I was pulled out of myself, soaking in the ecstasy of the moment.

The Greek word for “ecstasy” (ekstasis) literally means “to stand outside of or transcend oneself.”

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A Simple 10-minute Practice That Undercuts the Root of Anxiety

Green forest and a trail

About two years ago I learned a simple 10-minute practice that undercuts the root of anxiety.

Brene Brown, the world-famous shame and vulnerability guru, described it so well in Oprah Winfrey’s show when speaking of the inner workings of shame:

“To grow exponentially, shame absolutely needs three things: secrecy, silence, and judgment. Shame cannot survive two things: being spoken and being met with empathy.”

All destructive emotions feed on secrecy, silence, and judgment. Reversing this pattern involves:

  1. Breaking the secrecy.
  2. Speaking up.
  3. Getting empathy from someone who will not judge you.

A simple 10-minute practice that undercuts the root of anxiety is surprisingly counterintuitive

After struggling with anxiety for about 30 years, I finally found something that works. As of today, I have not been anxious for over two years, which is surprising, given the circumstances I have been through.

My first anxiety attack came at 21 when I was a senior in college. It came totally out of the blue — it must have been triggered by a train of thought that I totally didn’t notice. And it felt so bad, I had to excuse myself and go out to breathe it away.

Since then I would get it every once in a while — always hitting out of the blue. Trying to “figure it out” never helped. In fact, it made it worse. I couldn’t trace it down to any external cause.

Of course, I did a bunch of things to get rid of it — talked to therapists, worked out, memorized Bible verses, and read tons of books on self-help, philosophy, and religion. It helped… sort of…until the next time.

Little did I know that the solution was totally non-rational.

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Self-inflicted Stress — How I Learned Not to Force Anything

For some people, life is boring when all goes well.

Photo by sharon wright on Unsplash

Most stress is self-inflicted. That is, we can avoid it if we choose to. But we choose not to. The reason is that our bodies “need” it. Often people don’t reduce stress because they use it as compensation for nutritional deficiencies.

According to Dr. James L. Wilson, a leading specialist in nutritional balancing science, people who are constantly tired often use stress as a stimulant. Over time, they become addicted to stress and instinctively choose things, people, and situations where they can relive the level of stress they are used to.


Is stress a stimulant?

It sounds strange, but it is a well-established fact that people who grew up in abusive homes use stress as a stimulant. Eventually, they end up recreating the same degree of abuse in their adult relationships as they saw in their childhood.

They find partners who stress them out. They find jobs where they carry the brunt of the workload for pennies. They find friends who “need” them. They find people they can rescue.

They are ready to sacrifice themselves on every altar and feel bored when life goes well. Life should be tumultuous to be interesting. They need drama to feel good.


Does self-inflicted stress deplete your body of nutrients?

When the body experiences daily stress for an extended period of time, it loses some of the essential nutrients and minerals  (like zinc, for example) that get flushed out almost immediately through urine when we get stressed.

When the body is deficient in essential nutrients, its energy level decreases. In time, we develop cravings for things that can get us going despite fatigue — coffee, energy drinks, sugar, and stress.

Putting some stress on the body temporarily boosts adrenal hormones — primarily cortisol. Cortisol raises blood sugar, which, in turn, gives us some energy. We feel we can keep going.

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