What this page is about: Black Belt in Inner Peace contains short journal entries I have kept and continue to add to, as I go for a black belt in inner peace by endeavoring to move through each busy and sometimes stressful day with greater grace and ease. 

Number 33: Receiving

My family and friends threw me a birthday party and during the planning I became aware that I was shutting down emotionally, wishing I could call the party off. When I meditated on what was turning my heart cold, I discovered it was a very old shame reaction I thought I’d healed … a feeling of unworthiness and undeserving of being celebrated. Obviously, my sense of shame needed more work.  So, at the party, I committed myself to being vulnerable whenever I started to shut down emotionally, moving through it toward opening my heart to receive whatever form of love someone was extending at the time. It was uncomfortable but gradually those moments of receiving became the best birthday presents I’ve ever received.

Number 32: Expecting a miracle

I know a woman whose expectation influenced the course of her cancer. Her cancer was aggressive, and the prognosis was highly unfavorable, and yet when her oncologist delivered the bad news, the woman misheard and left the office thinking her chances were highly favorable. Over the course of treatment, her mindset was built on the expectation of complete remission, which is exactly what happened. It was not until her case was presented at a conference that she discovered she had misheard her doctor. She told me, “If I had heard the doctor correctly, I think I probably would have died.” Research shows that expectation literally shapes our lives. It’s called the “expectancy effect.” So, today I am expecting a miracle.

Number 31: Smiling from the heart

I want to follow a thought today about God, which for me is Love with a capital ‘L’ … not love as emotion but Love as the most powerful force in the universe. So, here is my thought: God is Love and, being Love, is happiness. Nothing makes a human being happier than love and science has shown that happiness predicts success in life (not the reverse, as once believed). Therefore, it follows that marshaling this limitless power to succeed is carried on the decision to be happy …  today. So, I plan to start today counting on one hand what I am most grateful for and then smiling more today from the heart. I expect to be a billionaire by five o’clock.

Number 30: Community

I just returned from a three-day gathering on Spain’s Mediterranean coast of 50 people from around the world who were invited there by a rather famous person to celebrate his birthday … but also because this wonderful person wanted his close friends to meet each other, since many hadn’t.  The first day was spent getting the basic facts on each other and working through the awkwardness of finding something more to talk about.  The second day we began letting our hair down and revealing more about ourselves.  The final day it was easy to be authentic and to care about one another and there were hugs everywhere as we left to catch planes home … and I thought: all it takes is three days away from the rat race and humans start becoming a community.

Number 29: The power to choose

My spiritual practice has come down to one very simple approach: choosing what I want to experience. Everyday some stressor, problem, blunder, bad news, or absurdity surfaces and if I’m unconscious it can take me down. Today the challenge was with a friend. But it is now my practice to be keenly aware of any self-doubting thoughts and emotions that raise their ugly head and to consciously choose happiness over whatever happens on the outside. When I make happiness more important, my fear of failure fades and what takes its place is the faith in myself that happiness restores. Then anything feels possible.  I have been practicing this long enough now that it is wired into my brain, making it easier for me to make this shift quickly.

Number 28: The better angels of my nature

This morning during meditation I could see two incompatible selves at work in me. There was my old self – the graduate of the school of hard knocks – moving incessantly, often pointlessly from one worry to the next, becoming more and more anxious until I was hopelessly lost in all its confusion. That’s where my meditation began today — in a bad neighborhood. But I managed to recover by standing back from the frenzy simply by observing it and as I did my mind began to untangle and calm down and the Self that deserves a capital ‘S’ began to emerge all by itself, and my mind became expansive and I was happy and felt alive and could see every reason to be optimistic in what I am. It was quite a shift.

Number 27: Certainty of purpose

I grew up in a home where it was ten-parts-shame to three-parts-love, which made a long hard climb of believing in myself. This morning while thumbing through a spiritual book, I came across an affirmation that captures (for me) what it takes to heal self-doubt. The affirmation goes: “All my doubts I lay aside, as I take my stand with certainty of purpose.” These words wowed me, and I carried them into the day to help with a problem that has troubled me lately, simply by detecting my worried thoughts, then sitting back and reciting this affirmation until I genuinely felt that certainty of purpose. It actually felt like standing up. When I returned to my problem I was like a mountain climber seeing the summit up ahead.

Number 26: Understanding

While crossing the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, my mind slipped out of its pointless chatter into the present moment and I became one with it, and the world and I came to life. Across the water, the city skyline was clear and shining and behind the skyline the old majestic fog was rolling in from the Pacific. The beauty of the moment took my breath away and suddenly my whole being opened with a child’s sense of wonder and somehow I recognized that this was the way I felt nearly all the time as a child, but I’d forgotten how to be that way. Afterwards, I recalled the passage in Matthews that says “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” and I finally  understood it.

Number 25: Dodging a bullet

While traveling to conduct a workshop on the brain power we gain in making the shift from stress to inner peace, I experienced a moment of dread. The dread came out of nowhere, unrelated to anything immediate, so it had to have been the firing of a rogue brain cell that got wired into me way back in my past … probably from my stepfather pounding me with “You’re worthless.”  As soon as the dread arrived, I sent it packing. I practice everyday catching these brain disturbances before they take hold and darken the day. They rarely get their foot in my door anymore.

Number 24: How I measure my success

I am going to change my definition of success because the one I’ve been following lately oppresses me.  It’s measured in terms of the world bending to my goals, indicated by numbers going up or down … book sales #, evaluation #, # of clients … # of likes and followers … # of calories and the bathroom scale #, my next birthday #. So, as I go for goals today, success will be about … was I kind … did I stop to smell the roses … did I follow the light and look only on what it showed me … did I forgive … did I choose to be happy … was I grateful …was I at peace with myself.

Number 23: Loving admiration

Over the years, I have come to see my beloved through the lens of us, as in I am her and she is me and we are one together. But today, right out of the blue, I saw her just as herself, distinct from me, as if I were seeing her for the first time.  And I was taken in all over again by who she is.

Number  22: Getting clear

Today, when I stopped to relax and catch my breath, I was met by a murky worry that started with the troubling thought of failing at a goal, which my brain automatically believed, evidenced by the emotional jolt it set off making the thought feel real. There was no fact or logic to the worry, just a growing anxiety about to paint my mind into a tight corner. So I practiced sitting with the disturbance without believing a single thought it spun and gradually my mind cleared, the way a glass of cloudy water will clear on its own, and I was passed back to the strength of having faith.

Number  21: Happiness

I awoke from what felt like an enlightening dream in which I climbed to the top of a high Mesa – like those in Arizona – and then walked across it for miles and miles to a point at the very edge overlooking a scary vertical drop into a deep canyon. Above me was a dark cloud formation with sunlight breaking through in streams like a Renaissance painting indicating God is present. So, assuming it was God, I asked, “Tell me, what am I supposed to be doing down here,” to which the clouds answered “Be happy.” I was a little bewildered by this … I was expecting something different, like “save the world” … but I said “OK, I will,” and then I woke up.

Number 20: Pure grace

I’ve been working hard all week, getting ready for an upcoming gig, and this afternoon I took a badly needed break and sat by the bay window and watched the tall trees bend in a furious wind, waving their limbs like wild dancers, breaking up and scattering the bright afternoon light everywhere as if the light was cosmic paint … and for about 30 seconds I was filled with such unexpected happiness that was not of my own making but from some merciful grace that took me into its mystic beauty long enough to transform my fatigue to joy.

Number 19: Judgments

There are days when I can’t help but love everybody, from strangers on the street to the people I work with to my friends and family.  Life doesn’t get better than a day like that. But today (oy vey) my ego got loose, and I seemed to be judging everyone … like the guy in my yoga class who never returns a hello … the “silly” clerk wearing that polka dot bow tie … the technical support representative who was “a waste of time” …  on and on, culminating in me judging me for judging them. 

Number 18: Creating the day from a blank canvas

Today has been magical, all because I started this morning trying to imagine what it would be like to feel free of every limitation, simply by being open to everything and attached to nothing … most of which meant detaching from my hopes of success and fears of failure. As I imagined this freer mindset, suddenly the day became like an enormous blank canvas on which I was invited to paint a masterpiece. Every hour since then I have taken a few minutes to accept this invitation and all day it has lit me up with creativity and made me happy.

Number 17: Wanderlust

As I write this, the sky is dark and tumultuous, brewing up a rainstorm, and I try becoming one with its power and beauty, so I can embrace all the fresh possibilities for creating success today. But my heart won’t cooperate; it doesn’t want to work today. It wants me to jump on an airplane and fly faraway to some wild unknown country and disappear into the wonders of this world … and I’m seduced and even think of quitting … until I hear Robert Frost whisper in my ear, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but you have promises to keep and miles to go before you sleep.”

Number 16: Expansive

For a long time, I didn’t meditate … it felt tedious … but research on meditation is way too positive to ignore, so I committed to practice consistently, and WOW did it paid off. Now when I meditate, my mind and heart expand and a light in me comes on and I feel happy  … like I am on the road headed back home to the place where I am loved, after having been gone for a long time. Today as I closed my eyes to meditate I worried that I wouldn’t make it to the light this time but a voice inside said, “That’s just your old nonsense talking; come along now, this couldn’t be easier” … and sure enough it was.

Number 15: Freedom

My intention this month has been to embrace difficult feelings by not resisting them and today a very old wound surfaced, which was a betrayal from long, long ago that I have never quite gotten over. So, I stepped up, bit the bullet, and embraced the heartbreak and rejection without indulging the devastating story I’ve told myself a thousand times, and to my great surprise and relief, the pain’s grip gradually loosened, then let go, and I was free. I thought, can it be that easy … yet it was.

Number 14: A lighter happier heart

Today I committed myself to being mindful to bust small grievances during the day by forgiving them immediately …  and, of course, the world offered me a good number to work with … like the truck driver who tailgated me for half a mile, and the grocery clerk wasting time, chatting it up with a customer when I was in a hurry, and the woman who came late to yoga and squeezed into the tiny space between my mat and the wall.  I forgave them all, as well as a few other “trespassers,”and my reward … for real … was a lighter, happier heart and way better energy for my work.          

Number 13: Stressed-out

Yesterday, I made the mistake of going to my home office first thing, reading emails, checking my to-do list, and drinking another cup of coffee … instead of starting out meditating on the expansive, positive, enthusiastic attitude of self-worth that embraces a brand-new day and makes good on it.  Before I knew it, my mind was a rider flinging itself on a horse and riding madly off in all directions. By two o’clock, I was irritable and scattered, but at least it produced the resolve not to make the same mistake this morning.

Number 12: Connection

This morning I have been remembering my younger brother with such gratitude. Four decades ago, he died of an overdose and at that time I thought I had failed as an older brother to save him, which added guilt to my grief making the loss unbearable. Then one day miraculously my brother came to me in a lucid vision looking vibrant and happy and we even talked, and afterwards my guilt was gone and my grief much lighter, because obviously, wherever he is, he is alive and well, and now I can embrace him and thank him for crossing the great divide to let me know all is well  

Number 11: My brain’s faulty wiring

I was taught growing up to stay clear of dogs because my uncle had been badly mauled by one.  I love to hike but when I come across a big dog, like today, my brain’s fear center goes on full alert  which takes effort to embrace the surge of fear to keep me from bolting. Today as I passed this big dog, I looked down at him and what I saw was a “happy to see ya” smile on his face, which his waging tail validated, and I wondered, how many unfounded knee-jerk fears like this are wired into my brain.    

Number 10: Freedom through forgiveness

There is an old grievance that I haven’t completely forgiven, and this morning it raised its angry head once again. Once more I had to recognize that the pain of not forgiving punishes me, not the other person, so I stopped what I was doing, practiced acknowledging the light in this person and not the lampshade that my anger has made of his mistake.  Then I listened to Mozart’s piano concerto #21 on my iPhone and let it all go.

Number 8: My heart clenching

I love to write articles and posts like this one and I love working with people in workshops and giving keynotes. But sometimes, like this morning, I feel vulnerable after speaking my truth or being honest about one of my imperfections. So this morning I had to embrace that fear to keep my heart from freezing up, because I know if I don’t, I’ll lose the courage to do what I love to do.

Number 7: Vibrating with a child’s heart

This morning I woke up smiling, with the attitude of a kid who can’t wait for the day to get going. It’s now a quarter to three and that sense of wonder is still vibrating in me. I even enjoyed doing my Saturday chores (if my mother was only still alive to have witnessed that).

Number 6: Losing

I’m competitive, I admit, the upside of which is I never give up on my mission, no matter what, but the downside is a stupid streak of petty jealousy I suffer under at times … like today when I learned a competitor is succeeding more than me.  So, to ease the pain, I am devoting my practice today to remembering this old saying my daughter hipped me to  that goes, “Blowing out someone else’s candle won’t make mine burn brighter” (it just blows out the peace in me).

Number 5: At peace with myself

During my morning meditation, I noticed I felt unhappy about something not being enough of this or that or whatever, which when I penetrated turned out to be my ego’s perennial opinion that I’m not enough … no surprise there.  So, I responded to its poor opinion of me by practicing 100% self-acceptance, simply by letting go of anything having to be different than the way it is today, including me.    

Number 4: Light joy and peace

I have been practicing stopping for 5 minutes every hour to embrace the idea that there is a light shining within me that radiates with joy and peace. I’ll admit I was annoyed by the interruption a couple of times when the reminder bell rang at the top of each hour, but even then I managed to embrace the idea long enough to experience, at very least, an improvement in my mood. I’ve been doing this simple exercise now for 8 straight hours and my mind is lighter, more creative, and happier, enabling me to cruise through my work.

Number 3: Doomed

Today started with a discouraging thought about a goal I want to achieve which, unfortunately, I believed, and my mind began to stringing even more limiting thoughts into a story. I understood that I had to head it off at the pass, so I practiced what I teach which was to ask, What is the deep-down belief below this story that threw confidence and enthusiasm under the bus? The answer came as a picture from the painful past and it was uncanny how liberating it was to connect the dots.

Number 2: The future is out to get me

Last night I awoke from a sound sleep  afraid and worried. Instead of resisting it I practiced embracing the fear and dropping the fretful story fear was making up. Gradually, my fear dissolved on its own and I feel back to sleep. This morning I woke up happy.

Number 1: Not good enough

I’ve written three books, but today as I sat before the keyboard to start a new book I have been using every excuse not to begin, l sank into a feeling of inadequacy and was defeated by the thought, “I am not good enough to write this book.”
Instead of resisting the hard feeling I embraced it and gradually the self-defeat passed, and a better feeling replaced it that had me believing I could do it.  It worked.