The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh

A book written by a great Buddhist monk of the 20th century offering some great advice to the novice or the advanced practitioner of mindfulness.

This book is comprised of letters that Thich Nhat Hanh sent to his practicing Buddhist monks in Vietnam from exile in France during the Vietnam war.

So the practice is centered around mindfulness in order to keep the peace in yourself and around others in times of struggle.

One phrase the author uses to invoke mindfulness is simply “Wash the dishes to wash the dishes” or “eat a tangerine to eat a tangerine.” So often we want to get the dishes over with and move on to the next thing, or don’t even think about eating a tangerine while we eat it.

But that’s not living life now.

What we all have to come to grips with is the fact that life is lived right now, not in your head, and not in the past or the future. This is it!

It sounds like I’m rehashing the same old mindfulness advice.

But the reason it gets so rehashed is that it’s MUY IMPORTANTE.

It creates genuine fulfillment in your life. For example, whenever I’m say eating or riding my bike and I’m in a negative thought loop, I’ll notice it and switch to noticing my physical experience.

I’ll notice the wind in my face, the sound of the tires, the mouvement of my legs. Immediately I feel better.

Mindfulness is also super important for noticing emotions.

Most people in society completely override their emotional body. But the thing is, you can’t live life in your head. Your body tells you a lot more about where you truly are in your life than your mind ever could.

Developing mindfulness of emotions may take some work, but it pays off. You get to see that negative emotions aren’t really that bad after all. Also, you will be forced to be more honest with yourself about what you feel.

Finally, mindfulness helps break down the concepts your mind makes about reality. You think that feeling and sound are separate. Is that true? What separates them? What separates the knower of the sound from the sound?

Back to the book.

The first half talks about mindfulness as a general topic, provides some anecdotes, and is just a pleasant read.

The second half gives the reader a plethora of exercises in mindfulness. How to do a day in mindfulness, counting the breath, making tea mindfully, visualizing a pebble (I like this one). Even a few contemplations for more existential purposes, such as contemplations on interdependence or who you were before you were born.

It was very interesting reading this knowing that he was writing to people who were in the middle of a war. It reminded me of a documentary on Tibetan Buddhism that I saw. The Dalai Lama was talking about a conversation he’d had with a monk who was sent to the Chinese gulags when they took over Tibet. The monk starts:

“Dalai Lama, sometimes I was afraid I would lose myself.”

“Lose what, your life, your sanity?”

“No, lose compassion towards the Chinese.”

These people are true heroes. Massive respect for them.

So the moral of the story is: mindfulness. Start now.

The Verdict:

Not a bad book at all. But if this post was enough of a kick in the ass to get you to be more mindful, the book will only be a bonus.

Favorite quote:

“I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. All is miracle.”


Feel more, think less

It’s become a cultural preference to downplay the importance of feelings in our lives. Nonetheless they are essential on the path of growth.

This is especially true for men. We have been conditioned to think that men have to be stoic and not show any emotion at all. This is complete bull.

Men, even though they might be less emotional than women, are still human beings, and still feel emotions.

Here’s the truth: emotions play a much bigger role in our lives than we like to think we do. Emotions are real, you can sense them, whereas thoughts are just images and sounds in the head.

Feeling = Living

Tattoo that on the inside of your eyelids.

We are EMOTIONAL beings. We aren’t meant to rationalize life, we’re meant to experience it. And that means to FEEL it.

There are lots of benefits to being more emotive that very few people in the classic self-help world talk about.

First of all, feeling more emotions will automatically require a higher level of mindfulness, which is ultimately always a good thing.

Feeling more of our emotions will also put us in touch with our authentic selves. Knowing what you feel in a given circumstance is such a comfort, trust me.

And you will discover that there is a plethora of possible emotions to experience! That’s what makes life worth living.

Also, by default, you will learn how to handle negative emotions: mindfulness. Mindfulness is a big buzz word nowadays, so I’ll just clarify what I mean when I say it; I define mindfulness as experiencing reality as it is.

So just by becoming aware of a negative emotion, you can make it dissipate. It’s pretty neat, actually. What most people do is try to suppress emotions (and thoughts), while forgetting the very true rule: “What you resist persists.” Instead of resisting the emotions, pause and feel into it.

Suppressing emotions is just driving them deeper into the subconscious. We can either deal with them now, or deal with them in a more painful manner down the line.

Finally, by becoming more sensitive, we also more sensitive to other people AND to how our egoic actions hurt ourselves. For example, if you steal from someone, you will feel guilt. By being more aware of that emotion, you will see how that action hurt you and automatically stop doing it. This also works for things like overeating: try overeating very mindfully, then just be aware of the negative emotions that come up after it: guilt, frustration, rage.

That’s how you develop and ultimately transcend your ego and bad habits: by becoming aware of them and their negative effects.

All right, so these benefits, sound great, but how do you actually go about putting this into practice? What if I can’t feel any emotions to begin with?

The first thing to realize is that emotions are a PHYSICAL phenomenon. We feel them in our bodies. So when we suppress emotions, we often tense up a certain part of our bodies. What I recommend is just becoming more mindful of where you are tense throughout the day, and also breathing more deeply.

This ties in with bioenergetic work: releasing trapped emotions through the body. Yes, there are specialists who do this. For more info, check out my review of The Language of the Body by Alexander Lowen here.

One way to become more AWARE of emotions is by developing a mindfulness meditation habit. There are many videos online about how to do this, so I won’t get into it here.

And finally and exercise you can do: for a whole week, set a timer for every three hours of the day from when you get up to when you go to sleep. When that timer rings, just check in with yourself, check what your emotions are doing. If they’re negative try to dissipate them. If not, enjoy them!

Hopefully this opened your eyes to the wonderful world of emotions.

How to DO Personal Development

How to DO Personal Development

This question had been bugging me for quite some time. A lot of people say they do personal development or self-help without actually doing any work.

And yes it does take work.

The thing is, most people just passively read a book, and assume they have grown.

But personal development is a lot more active than that.

To get results, it has to be.

So in this post, I’m going to give you MANY ways you can start DOING personal development, some of which I’m sure you’ve never thought of.

Ready to start?

Let’s go.


How to DO Personal Development:

1.Reading books

Classic. Books contain SO much great information. I’m sure you do this already, just know that acquiring the information without doing anything is the same as not knowing.
2. CDs, courses, and videos

Again in the acquiring information category, you can get a lot of information through the Internet that you won’t be able to get without going to expensive seminars. Which brings me to my next point:
3. Seminars and workshops

Personal development can seem very lonesome sometimes. Going to seminars gives you a support group for that as well as a lot of specialized information you can’t find anywhere else. Not even the Internet, sadly.
4. Taking and reviewing notes

Whenever I see something I find useful or interesting, I add it to my loooong list of PD notes on my computer. Going back over them is useful because it keeps it fresh in your mind and may remind you of something you’ve been neglecting in your growth.
5. Coaching

Not to be mistaken for therapy! Therapy aims to get people to baseline, coaching aims for success and moving way past the baseline. This can be useful for personal problems and tailors what you need to do for you. I’ll admit that I’ve never had a coach, so I won’t say more about that.
6. Journaling

Getting into the more active forms of PD, journaling is one of the best habits I’ve picked up this year. I love it because it acts as a second brain. I use it for brain dumps, answering questions, defining goals, and capturing those “aha!” moments. I also try to reread it often. It’s almost like you’re coaching yourself by getting you out of you own shoes.

Some great journaling questions are:

  • What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail?
  • What’s the one thing I can stop doing or start doing that will have the greatest impact on my life?
  • What advice would I give someone else in my exact same situation?


7. Gratitude

This goes hand in hand with journaling. I love the feeling of gratitude, it’s an easy way to feel happier!

Here’s my favorite way to practice it, straight from Tony Robbins:
Sit straight up in a chair. Then pump your arms straight up and down while breathing energetically. This will help energize your body. Put both of your hands over your heart, and feel it beating. Breathe into it. One at a time, think of and enjoy 3 thing that you can be grateful for in this moment. They can be people in your life, a situation, a coincidence, a simple object near you, or anything else. Fill up with a feeling of gratitude!

You can also do this in conjunction with writing them down!


8. Meditation

This should have been first on the list.

This habit holds the most benefit for you. I’ll write a whole other post on the importance of meditation and specific techniques, but for now just know that this daily practice can change your life.
Can you believe we’re not even halfway through the list?!?

9. Affirmations and visualizations

Ah the great PD classics! These are very basic forms of personal development, and can be very useful for newbies in the area. Proper technique for doing these isn’t hard to find on the Internet.

One of my favorite visualizations is one aimed at self-acceptance. This can be found on on Youtube. Self-acceptance is always the one thing we forget to do while simultaneously improving ourselves. We are so focused on what aspects of ourselves we don’t want we forget to accept that we have them, and that they are us.
10. Psychological exercises

Whichever way you slice it, personal development IS psychology. Some good psychological exercises are psychodramas (playing out episodes of your past), or role-playing (acting out different roles to emphasize characteristics). Writing out past traumatic episodes can also be helpful.
11. Sentence stems

This is a fun way to get answers from yourself! How this works is you have a stem of a sentence and you have to write 6-10 endings for it without filtering.

Here are 2 examples from The 6 Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden:
“If I am willing to express 5% more of myself today ___.”
“When I suppress my thoughts and opinions ___.”

A few more good ones I like:
“In order to please my father, I had to be ___.”
“The biggest thing I fear about leaving my partner is ___.”
“One area in my life where I’m trying to go too fast is ___.”

Try to do each question or series of questions first thing in the morning over a few days to get as many varied answers as possible.

The beauty of this technique is that it is easily applicable to any situation and any new concept you learn about or any problem you may have. And it’s not hard to come up with new ones!
12. Take action, push your comfort zone

Sure, it’s easy to repeat “I am brave” in front of your mirror for 5 minutes a day. Don’t forget you actually have to go do the thing you’re afraid to do. Consistently pushing your comfort zone will be very beneficial in so many way: it increases confidence, lowers depression, and ultimately makes you feel alive!

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do the thing and you will have the power.”
13. Mindfulness

Just sitting there. Just being. You’ll notice when you start doing this you’ll feel more relaxed, more fulfilled, and have more emotional mastery.

Another reason to do this is to increase your awareness throughout the day. There are many notions in intermediate PD that you do throughout the day that you’re probably not even aware of, like criticizing, lying, judging, people-pleasing, and resisting reality. Even overeating comes from a low level of consciousness. Noticing when you do these and how they affect you is the first step in changing these habits.

This goes hand-in-hand with meditation. I also like to be mindful for example when doing chores or going for a walk.

Remember, Yin and Yang.
14. Taking a walk

Again on the Yin side, this can be very beneficial. Walking for 20 minutes a day increases your mood, your energy, releases stress, and gets your juices flowing for the day. I love to walk to a park not far from where I live and then journal.
15. Bioenergetics / Dynamic meditation

Let’s stick with the theme of the body. I recommend you check out my review of the Language of the Body by Alexander Lowen. Here’s a brief snapshot of what bioenergetics is: it’s a therapy consisting of releasing trapped energy in the body.

So basically let your body do whatever it wants to. Dynamic mediations by Osho also have the same effect.

Let whatever wants to come out come out. Anger, screaming, crying, laughter, hitting stuff. Yep, hitting a cushion is my version of an hour of therapy!

You will feel so much freer after a session of this, not to mention so much more grounded.

A few other exercises I like to do is opening my jaw as wide as possible and holding it, also the bow. The bow consists of putting your hands wither behind your head or above it, and leaning back and breathing. This will induce a shaking throughout your body. That’s a good thing! That’s your life force being freed!
16. Defining and refining values, vision and mission statement

Again back to the classical type of PD exercises! These kinds of exercises and finalized notions can be useful for grounding your work, especially if you’re just starting out.
17. Introspection

Again on the Yin side of things, introspection is a very important part of PD. Asking yourself what’s true for you, what do you want, reflecting on how you’re life is going, all these things can help release anxiety and clarify some things for you. Seriously, some of the deepest things I’ve discovered so far have come from just thinking about stuff!

I most love introspection on deep philosophical topics such as epistemology, metaphysics, and ultimately the nature of reality. Pondering these things can greatly benefit you in the long term (see below).

Another thing to ponder is the shortness of life. This is the only one you have! Think about that for a while to stay motivated and grateful for what you have.

Who knows what’ll hit you?
18. Theater (say what?)

Yep theater.

I’m sure you’ve never thought of theater as being a means of improving oneself.

I’m here to argue otherwise. Theater has started to become a big part of my life and those around me. For those who don’t know, I grew up in the world of theater (both of my parents are singers and actors), and I always noticed that actors have something the rest of us don’t. I was only just able to pinpoint what that was.


My theory here is that after having tried on so many masks, actors know their own personality very well, they know what fits them. That’s the approach I’m coming at it from.

Also I’ve found that after doing a scene where maybe I play an angry character, I’m left feeling very clam and relaxed. Theater is cathartic in the same way dynamic mediation is.

The last point I’ll make about theater is confidence. Of course! You need to have confidence to go on stage! I’ve seen one friend of mine in particular go from a complete introvert, as in won’t open his mouth to save his life, to cracking jokes at rehearsals!

These three reasons are why I’m putting theater in this list of personal development work.

19. Life purpose work

This is a complicated subject, but an important one if you want to live an impactful, fulfilling life.

Life purpose = how do you become a benevolent force in the way that is most personal to you?

Finding it will take some time, no question about that. Some great ways are doing exercises in books, traveling, working different jobs, generally exposing yourself to more life has to offer, going wherever your interests lead you, and answering questions such as:

If you had 100 million dollars right now, and you had 2 months to use it however you want, what would you do after you’ve spent it all?
20. Questioning and doubting

Now we’re going really deep.

At the most advanced stages of PD, you have to be questioning everything. Ideologies, all beliefs, your identity, ego, thoughts, negative feelings, rationality, societal preferences, morals, knowledge, and the nature of reality itself.

This is where psychology and philosophy meet. You will discover that if you undertake an interest in this area, you will be much more fulfilled and lead a less petty life than most people do.

Also after doubting all these things for a few years, you ultimately come into touch with what you can trust. I recommend checking out’s video on this subject, it will explain it in more detail than I can go into here:

This is an ongoing process for me, and keep in mind I’m not far along it by any means.
21. Enlightenment work

This is the most advanced PD work you can do as a human being, discovering your existential nature. This can be accomplished in multiple ways: Self-Inquiry, Strong Determination sits, mindfulness, and other ways, or a combination of these. Different things will work for different people at different times.


This brings me to the end of the list of ways to DO personal development. If you have any more, leave them in the comments!

I think it would do good to remind everyone (myself included) that personal development at its core is getting rid of neuroses. What are neuroses? They come in many different forms, but all of them are destructive and all of them are self-deceptive. Hopefully now you have LOTS of tools and different angles for working on yourself!

Also keep in mind that you are the only one who can do this work. You can do some of it, or all of it, or take some ways of working and not others depending on where you are in your journey.

Will it take work? Yes. Will it be worth it? More than you can imagine.