Thoughts, Emotions, and Two Wolves

Thoughts, Emotions, and Two Wolves

We were created with thought. Thoughts are energy. Emotions are energy. Everything is energy. That means that what you think, feel, perceive, judge, and the quality of your thoughts, matter a great deal as to how your life unfolds moment by moment.

I once heard a quote from Denzel Washington that “if you are only looking for red cars you will see red cars.” This is very wise. I see this often with my clients and have experienced this in my own life. If you believe that you are not good enough you will probably fall short every time. You become conditioned to that belief, attached to it if you will. You may then judge yourself to be inferior or inadequate and a swell of negative emotions can seep into your consciousness and subconsciousness to the point you are probably not even be aware of it. This then becomes a stress reactivity cycle and your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors become conditioned, and you get “stuck”  in the broken record and every time you try to get out of it you find some experience that reinforces your belief that you are a victim, the world is not fair, people are jerks, and there is nothing you can do about it. This is where anxiety and depression can manifest and become greater obstacles on your path as you continue to feed them.

In my own spiritual journey, psychological work, and inner child regression eventually, after confronting my self-defeating core beliefs, I arrived at my truth that… “I AM LOVED.”

The process of seeking truth and doing inner child work was not easy or comfortable but the result was terribly wonderful. All my life I had the ability to love others unconditionally. I practiced mindfulness and nonjudgment to others but in reality, I judged myself harshly. I didn’t love myself, not really anyway. I would have told you I did and believed it superficially, but I was too busy trying to help and support others and make them happy and thus my health and wellbeing was lost in the shuffle. I told myself that I was strong and could take it and became a martyr in my own mind, and I chose to suffer in silence because deep down I thought I deserved it. I was really good at making myself feel miserable and putting myself down. My view and actions towards others was inspiring and optimistic but my thoughts about myself and my place in this world were anxious, depressing, and brought in more negative thoughts and emotions reinforced by my own inner critic. The weight of this negativity became palpable both physically and mentally. I did myself no favors.

When I started meditating and went on a Vipassana Retreat I started to become aware of my stress, my thoughts, and the emotions I was carrying. I began to see for the first time how profoundly angry I was at my position in life and how much it was influencing my daily habits and relationships with others, including my relationship with myself, which brings to mind the story of the two wolves:


The Two Wolves

A Native American elder was teaching his young grandson about life.

 “I have a fight going on inside me,” the old man said to the young boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt and ego.

The other good- he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

 The same fight is going on inside you and every other person, too.”

 The child took a moment to reflect on this. At last, he looked up at his grandfather and asked, “Which wolf will win?”

 The old Cherokee gave a simple reply. “The one you feed.”


We can all relate to this story on some level. What I’ve learned through my own work in mindfulness meditation and other meditative, yogic techniques, and regression therapy is that we are often the only one standing in our path. We are the obstacle. Once I realized that my own thoughts and feelings of inferiority, self-doubt, and anger- that I was solely responsible for were of no service to myself or anyone in my life and that I could let that go, because eventually I learned that “I AM LOVED.”

Remember that the obstacle becomes the path. I was the obstacle, so I had to work on myself in order to find my freedom, peace, and love. Don’t make the mistake of looking outside yourself for happiness. No person or treasure will complete you or make you happy, it comes from within. By learning to counter my inner critic with a kind and loving inner compassionate coach I could start to build myself up and mold my intentions, thoughts, and actions with greater awareness, self-realization, and determination.

One practice tip on how to talk to yourself is to imagine what you might say to your best friend who is going through a difficult time. It is probably different than how you talk to yourself. Start talking to yourself with a positive tone using those uplifting words, love, and encouragement towards yourself. Be honest with yourself but build yourself up. Love yourself.


Exercise: use this affirmation while in prayer, meditation, or in an auto-suggestive state of contemplation or journaling. State the affirmation several times aloud, confidently, and with clear intention. Your word is a cosmic vibration and sets the stage for your success. After you have stated the affirmation aloud several times you may say it softly and then say it mentally. Write it down. You can be creative and make your own affirmation to suit yourself and present situation.





When you have soaked the affirmation into the roots of your mind and felt emotion while doing so you will have felt a shift or lightness. Repeat the exercise as often as is needed. You may even choose to do what I do sometimes and listen to Foreigner’s “I want to know what love is.” Music is energy.

When you love yourself, you will see yourself in a different light. Love is truth. Love is light. With greater awareness your thoughts and emotions will start to align effortlessly to loving yourself, loving others, and touching more positive thinking and emotions. Believe in the miracle of possibilities.





How to Burn Off Karma- 4 Exercises

How to Burn Off Karma- 4 Exercises

We all want to experience bliss, joy, and happiness while avoiding pain and needless suffering in our lives. We suffer to learn the broad range and totality of being human until we ultimately find the meaning of life, which is to love- it is our teacher. The first half of our lives is spent burning off karma, learning lessons, and the second part is to grow spiritually and eventually when we are ready is to discover the path of our spiritual awakening. Below I will share and comment on four exercises that can help accelerate burning off negative karma according to the channeled text, The Law of One: Book One, (10.4) by Ra, an humble messenger of the Law of One:

Exercise One. This is the most nearly centered and useable within your illusion complex. The moment contains love. That is the lesson/goal of this illusion or density. The exercise is to consciously see that love in awareness and understanding distortions. The first attempt is the cornerstone. Upon this choosing rests the remainder of the life experience of an entity. The second seeking of love within the moment begins the addition. The third seeking empowers the second, the fourth powering or doubling the third. As with the previous type of empowerment, there will some loss of power due to flaws within the seeking in the distortion of insincerity. However, the conscious statement of self to self of the desire to seek love is so central an act of will that, as before, the loss of power due to this friction is inconsequential.

Exercise Two. This universe is one being. When a mind/body/spirit complex views another mind/body/spirit complex, see the Creator.

Exercise Three. Gaze within the mirror. See the Creator.

Exercise Four. Gaze at the creation which lies about the mind/body/spirit complex of each entity. See the Creator.

The foundation or prerequisite of these exercises is a predilection towards what may be called meditation, contemplation, or prayer. With this attitude, these exercises can be processed. Without it, the data will not sink down into the roots of the tree of mind, thus enabling and ennobling the body and touching the spirit.

Intention to seek love in the present moment through the distortions (maya, Sanskrit for illusion). Choosing loving awareness can only be accomplished through Free Will. Mindfulness is way of being in the present moment, purposefully, so by being loving in the present is a beautiful and will sow rewards. When you choose love, negative thoughts and emotions fall away without effort just as a river flows naturally to the source.


“The total number of minds in the universe is one. In fact, consciousness is a singularity phasing within all beings.”

                                                                                                              -Erwin Schrodinger


The Universe is One Being. See others as God in the Flesh. “The Creator” is in you as well as others, even those whom you despise, loathe, hate, judge, hurt you or others you love and care about, make fun of you, throw stones, or make life just pain difficult and vice versa. God created them with love too. God, Brahma, Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, the Intelligent Infinity, the Universal Creator (or use your preferred concept of a higher power) resides in everyone. If you can see the spark of the cosmic flame in someone you fear or judge, then you will make tremendous progress letting go of negative karma. Imagine you had strength and courage to forgive everyone who has ever hurt you? Imagine you have the strength and courage to forgive yourself. This is powerful stuff. Forgiveness is a form of love. Be kind and love yourself. By realizing negative thoughts, emotions, and embracing love you will start to raise your vibration, feel lighter, more free, and raise your awareness more towards what might be referred to as cosmic, Christ, or Buddha consciousness. The friction with the distortion of insincerity I believe refers to frustration or resentment that can arise when you try to love someone that doesn’t care, it isn’t received, or doesn’t love themselves.

As for the third exercise as noted above, you are made of the substance of God, a spark of the fire of spirit, and atom of the cosmic flame, and a cell of the vast universal body of the creator according to Paramahansa Yogananda. This is Dharma or universal truth. Be curious, look into your own eyes, peer into your soul and wonder at the beautiful creation you are. Honor and cherish your divinity. Be kind and loving to yourself, forgive yourself if you need to, and free yourself from the bondages of karma and embrace the miracle of your being. Love and compassion must include you to be complete and whole.

The fourth exercise to my mind is to see God in all things. This can be accomplished through prayer, contemplation, and meditation to sink in and be absolutely absorbed by the mind. If God created everything then everything is a part of God, be ever mindful of this concept. Imagine seeing God in all things- a simple thought but I think challenging to perceive.

God is love. God is truth. God is light. Everything happens for a reason. There are no coincidences. This takes many lifetimes to learn. There is a natural polarity that exists in the world and in ourselves as well. We are all aspects of good and bad in some sense. The greater balance that exists in our minds, body, and spirit, the more power and energy we must overcome obstacles, things tend to flow without effort. We were created with a thought, and so our thoughts have the power to create. Loving thoughts will manifest love, and likewise fear and negative thinking will create correspondingly. The best way I can think of is imagining the voice of Sir Richard Attenborough in a nature documentary describing the vast beauty and awe of this planet, the nature, and the beautiful creatures that exist, life.

We all have the power to create beauty in this world. What are you willing to try? The world needs more love now then ever.




Embracing Fear & The Bangladesh Ferry

Embracing Fear & The Bangladesh Ferry

Fear is often defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the perception of a real or imagined danger. The natural effects of fear can range from mild emotional distress to debilitating physical trauma. Our ability to address new and existing fear is a skillset that requires awareness and support. Without this ability, fear can thrive, wreaking havoc on your mind and body, while imprisoning your soul and preventing you from experiencing life in its true perspective.

Throughout the current Coronavirus pandemic, individuals have been required to respond to both physical and psychological threats, which were often veiled within conflicting messages about personal safety and social responsibility. Many of the response options have revolved around our personal judgments and ability to overcome our fears. Whether quarantines, social distancing, avoiding family or friends, education choices, government support, and trust in the medical industry, this year we have all experienced fear and it’s paralyzing effects.

While walking on a trail recently in Old Ellicott City, a middle-aged woman yelled at me when she noticed that my mask was resting just below my nose. It did not matter to her that I was more than the obligatory 6ft. away and following posted guidelines in the park, in that moment I was a physical representation of death, she feared me, I was a sabretooth tiger in her mind. Juxtapose that with another hike in the Patapsco Valley park where I was fully masked. A mountain biker laughed at me, saying, “Hope the trees don’t give you the virus, haha!” for wearing a mask in the woods. I laughed too, it was funny, and wished him well, but I was motivated by my own fear of being yelled at by another “Karen.” We never please everyone, don’t try.

Recognition of fear can be healthy, and even lifesaving, when approached with a balanced mindset. To recognize fear, one must acknowledge its existence to cultivate awareness of how we react so we can better respond to this unpleasant emotion. Fear produces emotional, cognitive, and physiological reactions. Fear and excitement feel the same in the body. We can learn to identify and use these signals (physical sensations) to shift towards a more functional and creative mindset.

Not too long ago a client in my clinical practice was faced with the prospect of his employment contract expiring. When I asked him what he would do if that scenario happened, he became angry at me as to why I (as a therapist) would “put that idea in my [his] head.” He was denying that it was a possible outcome and wanted to avoid the fear, pain, and unpleasantness. The contract was not renewed and the fear, worry, and emotional pain came anyway. He did what many do, his belief was that if he did not think of the negative outcome it would not come true. Live and learn, right? I have done it, have you? No judgment is a skill to cultivate.

Contrast that with a more resilient client who when confronted with a similar prospect faced his situation with a more calm, wise, and creative mind. He reached out to his network immediately and identified several potential landing spots for his services. He was able to embrace the possible change and work with uncertainty. Remember that both change & pain are inevitable, but suffering is optional. Had the first client prepared for the possibility of change earlier, then losing the job would have been less painful, for he would have prepared for that potentiality. His fear was valid. The second client did not lose his job and is continuing to thrive but is now more confident in the knowledge that options exist should things change, as they probably will.


The Bangladesh Ferry Incident


When I was in Peace Corps Bangladesh, I lived in a village called Gopalganj, several hours south of Dhaka. To travel anywhere I had to cross the Padma (Ganges in India) river by ferry. Crossing a river by ferry is common and can be rife with danger. Try googling bagladesh ferry boats.

The process was this; take a passenger bus to the river, disembark, get on a small passenger ferry, and then cross the river while a second bus on the other side would continue the journey. On this occasion while crossing, a sudden, fast-moving, and fierce thunderstorm came upon us, causing the shallow draft boat to rock from side to side to the point I had to hold on to keep from falling off. If you can visualize the Viking ship from an amusement park going side to side versus front to back, not pleasant at all. At points during the pendulum motion, I was staring face to face with the fast-moving current. I quickly realized this was where my life would end, and if you have ever felt this or can relate… time stood still.

In that moment of stillness, a lifetime passed my conscious awareness. Some might say my life flashed before my eyes. I thought about my loving parents and family, and how terribly sad they would be, and how they would wonder what they could have done to prevent this tragedy. I didn’t see anyway out of this so I wanted to communicate to them that I loved them and to let them know I would be okay, I KNEW that somehow. A knowing beyond knowing.

I then remember smiling and being grateful for the life I had. I could not complain. I had wanted adventure traveling the world and I had found it. I also remember being in awe that the story of this life was coming to an end, we always wonder but never really know how or when our point of departure may occur, but this was the moment, and I found a tremendous peace in that.

I tried unsuccessfully to smoke a cigarette in the rain to calm my nerves a little and prepared to jump. One thing we were taught is that if the ferry vessel goes down it will suck you down if you don’t get far enough away. There were several other men standing around the back of the ferry with me smoking and nervously chewing betel nut. Inside the cabin of the small ferry were mostly women and children crying hysterically and wailing out loud and praying to “Allah” to save them from certain death. The atmosphere was charged with energy of the collective nightmare taking place. The ferry was overloaded of course with at least 150 people, maybe more, all believing that death was shortly upon us.

I curiously investigated the river as the boat rocked back and forth and was waiting for the precise moment to jump. I knew that jumping into the water meant death but there was at least a chance. My muscles began to tense. I was a decent swimmer, but the current was incredibly intense, especially with the winds of the storm. Michael Phelps would not have had a chance, but what the hell, I had nothing to lose. As I worked up the courage in my mind to make the leap a moment happened that changed my life forever.

I heard the words “DON’T JUMP!” vividly vibrate through my entire body.

It shook my soul and I stood there frozen. In that moment I heard God, the Creator, Jesus, Allah, Krishna, my guardian angel- call it whatever you want. I knew crystal clear, without a shadow of any doubt…that God or some angelic spirit had just spoke to me directly. I knew in that moment that the boat would make it to shore, which made absolutely no sense. This rickety overcrowded ferry in an already dangerous river in a storm with a shallow draft making a successful crossing defied my logical brain. My soul, or intuition knew we would live.

One of the old ferry men who had a weathered face with a white beard looked into my eyes just then and said “okay,” meaning we would make it. It made no sense to me at all, but his eyes looked calm amidst the storm, wailing, and crying of the women and children, and I was surely not alone in my catastrophic thinking. There was a lot of praying and negotiating going on with God in those moments. My brain knew instinctually that we should be dead at any moment, I hoped it would be quick… and yet my heart and soul knew that we would survive. My death was not happening today. I remembered the story of St. Paul and mused “I guess that is how that works.”

When the boat got closer to the shoreline I did not wait to disembark, I just jumped off the boat onto the muddy riverbank. I tried to climb up in the intense rain but kept sliding back down toward the water. I was covered in mud from head to toe, I looked ridiculous. Eventually I was able to claw my way up to the top. It was raining so intensely that all the mud just washed away as quickly as it appeared.

I was the only bideshi (foreigner) in the area, all alone, no one to share the story with. The bus conductor came up to me and apologized for leading such a hazardous journey on the Palash Bus Company of Gopalganj. I assured him that I had no complaints about him or the company. He was on the ferry with too, and I know he felt the same fear I did. I was just relieved to have dodged a bullet Matrix style on that trip. For the record I love the Palash Bus Company, and Gopalganj.

In one of the scariest moments of my life God revealed himself. Some people ask for signs. I did not on this occasion, but I did express gratitude to God for the life I had. I admit I was fortunate to have the experience, which is why I share it now. It is just impossible to doubt something like that when it happens to you. I do remember questioning myself- “Did that just really happen?” … “How in the hell did we just survive that?.” I spent a lot of time in my journal and in thought contemplating that event and my conclusion is that I had a purpose, it was not my time, and even though I did not know everything, I had lessons to learn.

We ALL have a purpose and lessons to learn. You do not need to believe in God, go to a specific church, or have the right faith. God made all of us in his image, we all come from the same source.

Years later having survived various challenges in life and now a pandemic I can honestly say that I am not afraid of death. My body will return to dust, but my soul and conscious awareness will continue to exist. It just is.

I share this story to hopefully inspire others in some small way. If you are still reading there was a reason, for there are no coincidences in life. Often in psychology we (professionals) fear talking about death and spirituality as some fringe aspect of life and the unknown but as a clinical therapist and more importantly a student of life, I have learned that many people have stories like mine but are afraid to share them even with loved ones for fear of being mocked and ridiculed.

I have heard far too many stories. However, science is increasingly studying the phenomenon of Near-Death Experiences, or NDE’s, and the research is beyond compelling. When we speak of mindfulness and conscious awareness, where does it begin and end? Perhaps the future and past are all wrapped up in this present moment.

Some people believe that all anxiety can be whittled down to a fear of death. If you are not afraid of death then you can begin to understand there is nothing to worry about. The happiest country in the world meditates on death five times per day in the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Think about that. When you are not afraid of death, you focus your time on living in the present, learning new things, spending time with family and friends. Mindfulness can help minimize distractions and prioritize paying attention in the present moment to meet fear and difficulty with kindness, love, and compassion.

Remember that the real meditation is the moment that you are living in right now, it is life. Do not be afraid to live, take risks, and fail. As my mentor Dr. Wendy Hill says, “from the ashes of your despair arises the Phoenix of your truth and joy.”





How To Change Your Life

How To Change Your Life

Mindfulness is classically defined as paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, with non-judgment. With awareness, true awareness, all things are possible. You have the power to change your life for the better, and our society as well, but you must want to do it. We all have free will. We all have choice.

One can see in today’s polarized world how easy our mindsets can find the worst in each other and become unbalanced, and quite negative to everyone’s detriment. People are incredibly good about projecting their judgment, fears, and anxieties onto other people, all in the name of moral virtue. I am right, and you are wrong gets replayed over and over like a broken record solving nothing and creating more conflict, polarization, and negativity in the world. It is harder to reflect on our own minds, attitudes, beliefs, and actions and how they impact ourselves and others. Here is a simple antidote: do not let miserable people make you miserable.

If you learn anything from a wise teacher, mentor, coach, or therapist then learn to love yourself and others as well, even those you do not agree with. By choosing with mindful intention to be peaceful, compassionate, and meet moments of difficulty with kindness we can begin the process of change not only in our own lives but in our society and world as well.

Intention: The thing that you plan to do or achieve: your aim or purpose.

Below is a brief outline about how to cultivate a powerful, kind, and loving mindful mindset.

1.    Intention shapes our thoughts, words, and emotions.

2.    Thoughts, words, and emotions mold our actions.

3.    Thoughts, words, emotions, and actions shape our behaviors.

4.    Behaviors sculpt our bodily expressions.

5.    Bodily expressions fashion our character.

6.    Our character hardens into what we look like.


Practice Tip:

List your intentions for practice, write them down, and start to bring awareness to the changes you want to see in your life. It will help immensely to journal your progress as well, daily if possible.


For example. I recently decided to let go of any negative thoughts, beliefs, and emotions that I was carrying. I didn’t really know how many I had since all of them  are not always in my conscious mind. However, though a formal mindfulness meditation practice and also meditating on the image of the violet flame, an image used to transmute (change in form) into the more positive emotion of love and forgiveness for anyone who has ever hurt me and also for myself, my actions, and for those I have hurt. By setting the intention to stop beating myself up with my inner critic (we are harder on ourselves than anyone) and choosing to love myself and others I have felt a powerful shift in my life. I feel lighter and more free to live how I want.

When we practice loving kindness meditation by myself or in a group we send our love and vibration to ALL sentient beings to feel safe, be loved, be happy, and be peaceful, not just those that agree with this belief or that, and it turns out that it feels quite good to release love into the universe. The world will start to change when we begin to see the good in ourselves and how we can contribute to the world. As with all things this must be practiced, so set an intention when you are ready and start making the change you want to see in your life!

Mindfully Fit Attitudes

Mindfully Fit Attitudes

The concept is simple. Mindfulness is a way of being you can have in any moment of your life. How can one be present and bring a kind, playful, and non-judgmental attitude to their workouts? Better yet, what if there were a community of people who cultivated and embodied that presence during a workout to help elevate, encourage, and support each other? You can check out our previous post on high intensity interval training here but the aim is simple and that is creating the intention to have fun working out no matter what level of fitness you are currently in, pain you are experiencing, as anything can be modified and met with compassion because exercise is medicine and vital to living well or at least as best we can.

To share some of my personal story I first came to mindfulness because I was stressed out, and I did not recognize the impact the stressors in my life were having on myself, my health, and my relationships with others. I ate and drank to cope with stress and my weight skyrocketed. I buried my emotions but it showed. I would have told you I was fine and believed it, but that was because I wasn’t paying attention to my mind or body. First responders are notorious for stuffing things inside, especially the trauma they frequently face, but pro tip, the body keeps score, i.e. depression and anxiety, obesity, headaches, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, and gastrointestinal problems. As a therapist I did too, inhibiting my stress. My doctor wanted to put me on blood pressure medication and my BMI was off the charts not to mention I would get winded walking up a flight of stairs, it destroyed my confidence and self-esteem. Mindfulness saved my life because the practices like the body scan drove me inward to explore the source of my stress, identify my emotions, and the underlying thoughts that fueled it all.

I wanted to be healthy and work out again, knew I needed to not only for myself but for my family, and yet I felt shame and embarrassment about how I had let my body go. There was no one to blame but myself, and it hurt. I’ve had my lowpoint, well if I’m being honest I have had a few but the point is I have been there. Maybe you are there too. The good news is there is hope. The obstacle is the path, and it all can start now. That is the power of mindfulness, because life is only lived in the moment.

My saving grace was hiring a young personal trainer, friend, and Mindfully Fit partner John Clingerman, CPT, of Happy Hour Fitness. I came to our workouts beyond motivated, and that energy combined with his enthusiasm met with a synergy that was not only fun but super productive. The weight melted off to the tune of 80lbs which sounds disgusting as I write it but it felt great. I felt lighter both physically and emotionally, and my confidence and self-esteem began to become positive and healthy again. My thoughts became more positive and I became more skilled at being open, non-judgmental, accepting, and better at letting things go, not to mention cultivating a deepening practice of gratitude, especially for the people in my life who generously continue to offer acceptance, love, and support.

Mindfully Fit is designed to provide an attitude of kindness, compassion, and mindfulness all in the endeavor to bring fun to your workouts and be more healthy and well, and working out in a group you may find there is power in connection with others. So if you feel compelled in your own individual workouts or if you join a group, or even wish to come workout with us at Mindfully Fit please know it is never too late to begin again. Each moment is a new moment.

What is mPEAK?

What is mPEAK?

I first heard about mPEAK (Mindful Performance Enhancement, Awareness & Knowledge) a few years ago when I began my training as a mindfulness based stress reduction teacher at the Center for Mindfulness at UC San Diego. mPEAK is a performance training program based on Jon Kabat Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program that has since caught on with law enforcement organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security, elite professional, and amateur athletes from MMA fighters to extreme sport runners, executives, physicians, and other high performers, although it was originally designed by neuroscientists for the USA BMX Cycling Team.

Go to an mPEAK course and you will meet some truly amazing people, at least this has been my experience. In my first course I met an ultra marathon runner, Brad, who ran the 240 mile MOAB, which blew my mind and left me in absolute awe, human beings are capable of amazing feats! Brad and his lovely wife Monica who crushes it in the private sector have now started offering mPEAK trainings in Utah which I highly recommend through RSG Performance.

Mindfulness is a way of being, and learning how to be focused, present, and equanimous in the moment can lead to a state of being called “flow” aka “being in the zone” in which performance is at its highest peak and our skills are able to emerge to meet the the various challenges at hand. Learning how to do this and perform under stress and pressure, i.e. a championship game or final round in a golf tournament, winning a race, or thriing in the octagon in Mixed Martial Arts can be all the difference in the world.

For law enforcement and first responders in can be being situationally aware enough to see and avoid danger before it arrives or during, survive, and learn how to transition back to home life and then be present with loved ones. However, we don’t always win, sometimes we fail, or miss the mark and get defeated. Learning how to meet those moments with compassion leads to greater resilience and fosters our ability to bounce back and not only survive but thrive.

Mindfulness meditation has been around for thousands of years being rooted in a more spiritual path although it has taken a decidedly secular tone in today’s world in its application in modern medicine. The connection to professional sports and basketball specifically went to another level with a man named George Mumford, a mindfulness coach, was asked by Kabat-Zinn to help a then young NBA basketball coach Phil Jackson foster cohesion with his team when Michael Jordan went on his brief retirement to play baseball. Jackson, who won two NBA championships as a player with the New York Knicks, and eleven as a coach with the Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers would later affectionately be nicknamed the “Zen Master.”

Read more on mPEAK training with elite athletes on Outside Magazine here.

However, it was Mumford, an MBSR teacher and author of “The Mindful Athlete,” a former collegiate basketball player at UMASS and roommate of the marvelous Dr. Julius Erving, who was behind the scenes in these championship moments helping those teams achieve greatness and even helping Shaq hit free throws (I am not hating, I am a Shaq fan)! This was highlighted in a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sports Psychology (A. Gooding and F. Gardner 2009) which showed amond Divion I Men’s Basketball players that mindfulness training helped increase free throw percentage by 5.75%, an amount that would likely impact a team’s overall win/loss percentage dramtically. This is exactly why mPEAK is gaining traction. Think about this, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant (RIP), Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and so many great players from those teams undergoing mindfulness training to perform their best under pressure.

When I first got into competitive golf as a young boy I never thought of the mental game as something to prioritize and practice to improve my game. Sports had always come easy to me, as I was naturally gifted physically. However, at certain points in your life you realize that you need to grow and improve. When I first tried out for DeMatha High School’s varsity golf team I missed the cut, and failed. Golf is slightly different when it comes to physical skills, as I could not outrun the competition. I was angry and was determined to make it the next year. I worked very hard, reading and learning how hard Ben Hogan worked, with images of his hands bleeding, and accomplished that goal. I even purchased Ben Hogan Apex irons to harness his hard work and determination, the mind is funny sometimes.

In the midst of this I will offer a personal story. In one of my first competitive junior golf tournaments I entered a playoff in one of the more prestigious local junior tournaments in the Washington Metropolitan Area. I was new at this but they announced our names and other players and fans started to flock around the hole. I started to feel… PRESSURE. I was able to nervously hit my tee shot into the fairway but I started to overanalyze my approach shot. I was in my head playing out various scenarios and ended up shanking the shot into a hazard. I was devastatingly embarrassed, and rightfully so. I was so angry at myself. I called myself all sorts of negative names in my mind and crushed myself with my inner critic. No one saw this, it was all invisible, but the devastation was done. I failed, it hurt, and it sucked. No one loves failing. And yet there are ways to relate to this experience and be mindful to overcome failure and get better! Afterall, it was simply a moment in time, and an opportunity to learn and grow from. I could have met that moment wither kindness if I had the tools to do so.

I will share another story regarding law enforcement. Many years ago my friends father who was and is a good man and police officer in Prince George’s County Maryland found himself in the worst situation. His name is Gary Sommers. He was with special operations on the SWAT Team and during a drug raid in a tragic sequence of events he accidentally shot his best friend and fellow brother in blue, Mark Murphy, whom he was covering and who had breached the doorway of a drug den. Officer Sommers was one of the best, it was an accident, and one that he beat himself up over, he was filled with guilt, hated himself for the mistake, and even contemplated suicide. His story is powerful and enduring. This event was a tragic accident. His friend simply moved into his line of fire as he was trying to protect him, an unfortunate blue on blue incident.

This was clearly traumatic for him and his family and also the family of Officer Murphy, and thankfully he is able to share his story with other first responders. Officer Sommers is a strong and resilient man, but he also needed help to get through all of this. He was physically strong but the mental strength and aptitude is not often taught to men and women of law enforcement and first responders. Learning how to be mindful in these moments can help us to soak in succes and adaptively cope with failure in productive ways. Officer Sommers could have folded and swallowed his pistol but he didn’t, and that took courage, strength and resilience. Police lost more men and women to suicide, 159, than in the line of duty last year. Self care programs and skills are available, and we can do better.

I want to make clear that for those soldiers, officers, abd first responders who have left the world too soon, and there are far too many of them that there is help available! Psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, physicians, often have therapists, and if they don’t they probably should in my opinion. There should be no shame in getting help, in fact it should be celebrated because it does take strength, courage, and compassion.

The mPEAK program is geared towards learning how to perform at your highest level in your specific area of performance. Whether you are a first responder, elite athlete, surgeon, lawyer, driven professional, entrepreneur, or anyone else looking on how to increase your level of performance there are skills you can learn to accomplish these goals. What is mPEAK? As a student and now trained mPEAK coach it is a way of relating to life that you can apply to being your best self, in whatever area of performance you choose to focus on and perform your best.

The mPEAK program is currently under the direction of Pete Kirchmer and Dr. Amy Saltzman and was founded by Dr. Lori Haase and Dr. Martin Paulus, and the UCSD Center for Mindfulness leaders Executive Director Dr. Steven Hickman and Managing Director Allan Goldstein.

Courses will be offered in the Baltimore/Washington Metro Region this year.