Are you Archie bunker or meathead?

Do you remember going to the school nurse for the annual eye exam? Resting the chin on the bar and deciphering the tan dots of the number 4 from all the other speckled dots, while the nurse tested for color blindness – the vision test, not the racial test. Sometimes we have an incomplete view of reality and don’t see the whole picture (in various circumstances). Often, we aren’t conscious of it. Archie Bunker and his son-in law, Meathead from All In The Family lived in the same house yet they had radically different perceptions of the same event.

Take these two examples I used in MBSR class this week and play with your perception.

Can you see two women?

Connect the   9 dots   using four straight lines without lifting the pencil from the paper.

Connect the 9 dots using four straight lines without lifting the pencil from the paper.

When we are stuck, we need to meet our resistance by thinking outside the box, allowing us to see with a new set of eyes. It takes a certain amount of intention to meet a situation with openness, curiosity, and kindness to counteract the part of ourselves that thinks we have it all figured out. Suzuki Roshi said "In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few".

It’s only natural for us to view the world from our history. Who we think we are is based on our beliefs, environment, and the identities we’ve taken onAll of that conditions and confirms our sense of self in the world. Our perception determines whether we see the glass as half full or half empty. Dr. Richard Lazarus took Selye’s definition of stress and added this magical word called perception. “Stress occurs when an individual perceives that the demands of an external situation are beyond his or her perceived ability to cope with them”. We can change our perception of stress by changing our distorted perceptions. Whether we see something as a full-on catastrophe or an inconvenience comes back to our perception and our resources we have to deal with them.

What situation in your life calls you to take on a new perception?

Come join us for a retreat in Lake Tahoe March 20-22. A weekend of mindfulness, yoga, skiing, hiking & spa-time.          




Are you bragging about your stress?

It seems like we are all running around, moving faster, doing more and living more stressful lives.  The Center for Disease Control believes 80% of medical visits are due to stress-related conditions. 


So what is stress anyway?  I like the simple definition of – demands exceeding their resources.  This phrase can be applied physiologically when we are fighting an illness, or more commonly with mental or emotional overwhelm, which requires us to take a break and sometimes to enlist additional resources. 

It seems a stressed out lifestyle has become perfectly acceptable in our culture.  Some of us even wear our stress as a badge of honor, parading stress as proof that we’re busy, productive and valuable people in the world.  I’ve certainly had those moments, but what if there was another way? 

In 1966, thirty years after Selye coined the term stress, Lazarus created his definition and threw in a clever twist linking perception with stress. “Stress occurs when an individual perceives that the demands of an external situation are beyond his or her perceived ability to cope with them .”


I love that twist because I have witnessed a vast array of responses to stress within myself, as well as the people in both my personal life and professional life.  I’m sure we all know people or patients we’ve cared for that perceive an event as a challenge while others consider it a tragedy.  It’s a bit like having Jack Bauer or Scarlet O’Hara as patients.  Most of us live somewhere in between feeling inconvenienced, concerned, or stressed.  Nonetheless, our adrenaline and cortisol surge through the body doing their thing on overdrive.

If there is a way to bring awareness to yourself during stress and/or fear, try to get curious about what is really happening. Consider asking yourself these questions during stressful moments:

Am I safe in this moment, right now?

Is history playing a role in creating more worry or stress? 

How can I meet this moment with a new perspective, or new understanding?

What might I be able to do to support myself through this?


Thich Nhat Hanh talks about the mind as a garden with many kinds of seeds: joy, peace, mindfulness, love, craving, anger, fear, worry and hate.  The quality of your life depends on the seeds you water. What seeds will you water?