Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Month: August 2013

The Heart of August: Inspiring Links


Learning to live with ease is a practice.

At the end of each month, I publish my favorite articles from around the web, books, and resources – the ones that will help you live with more confidence, clarity, and ease.  There was so much goodness this month, you might need an I. V. drip to take it all in!

Outstanding Articles & Books

I’ve only read one book in full from my summer reading list, Zen On Fire, How I Found Peace in the Midst of War, which I rate highly for its evocative story mingled with self-care intelligence.  I’m going through Bouncing Back, Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being at a snail’s pace, but I’m absolutely fascinated by how much impact the first 18 months of life have on the remainder of our years.


August was an incredible month of accomplishment for me.  I opened my new course – Living with Ease:  The Mindful Way to Dissolve Stress – for registration.  You can still sign up until September 8; the course begins on September 9th.  I’ve been writing prolifically about finding ease for the course and in guest posts as well, inserting plenty of relaxation into the process as you can see from the photo above.  I’ve been sited in various beautiful places around the web:

Here are 3 things I learned about accomplishment in August:

  1. When the stars line up, everything flows.  Go with it!
  2. I need a conducive environment to create.  It’s up to me to know what that is and then put it together.
  3. Friends are eager to provide support and help. Just ask. What a wonderful world it is!

I’m incredibly excited about taking a journey toward more ease with all those who have signed up for my course.   This feels like a new beginning and a vision of more goodness to come.

How was your August?  Are you ready to say good-bye to the summer months?

I’m so glad you’re here! If you liked this article, please consider subscribing for free updates by email and joining me on Facebook.  If you can take a moment to share this post on social media, I would be very grateful.  With love, Sandra

How to Cultivate a Spacious Mind

Blue Sky

If you’ve ever wished for a moment of peace, you were longing for a more spacious mind.

An overactive mind seems to be the norm in our over-the-top busy lives.  Your mind may be cluttered with distracting thoughts, to-do lists, plans for the future or ruminations about the past.  Or maybe it’s brimming with fear, worry, doubt, anger, jealousy or desire having been triggered by a comment, occurrence or your own imagination during the day.

Is a busy mind a happy mind?  Probably not.  In fact, the root of all our dissatisfaction and suffering lies in holding onto whatever arises in the mind.  Observe for yourself and see what you find out.

My mind has been very tense for the better part of my life – wound up by fear and a sense of inadequacy. At last, it’s beginning to loosen up!  I’m more capable at taking life in stride and living with greater ease.

What’s changed for me?

  1. I have fewer expectations.
  2. I understand that impermanence is the norm and am less likely to let it shake me up.
  3. I have an increased awareness of my deceptive internal beliefs, emotional patterns and what evokes the stress response in my life.
  4. I’m less driven and thus more willing to pause, take care, and trust.
  5. I have more clarity about my life purpose so I’m more able to focus on priorities instead of the small stuff.
  6. I’m willing to do less and trade sanity for well-being.

But, the biggest change underlying all this is a more spacious mind.  Of course, I’m still a work in progress and there’s plenty of room for added space, but what a relief not to be tied up in a ball of constant strain.

What Is A Spacious Mind?

A spacious mind is the opposite of a stressed mind.  It is open, flexible, and loving.  This open mind graciously accommodates any thought or emotion that appears without following, amplifying or multiplying it.

These are some of the qualities of a spacious mind:

  • Non-judgmental
  • Free of concepts
  • Acceptance
  • Humor
  • Love and compassion
  • Alert yet relaxed
  • Perspective
  • Clarity

How to Develop a Spacious Mind

1.  First, you have to realize that a spacious mind is possible.  Most people are blended with their thoughts and emotions and think that’s all there is.  You are not your thoughts and emotions.  You are not your brain.

2.  You need to know there’s something much bigger than these seemingly endless thoughts and emotions that are really only like trains passing by or pausing in a station for a few minutes. What do you find when the thoughts and emotions stop for a moment?  There’s a gap.  In that gap, you will find an unchanging pure awareness that’s with you all the time.  You’ll find your true essence – open, spacious, and free.

3.  Stop following the thoughts, emotions, and perceptions that pop up in your mind. Instead, allow your mind to rest in present moment awareness.  When you find yourself distracted – and you will indeed get pulled away many times – just bring your mind back to the present moment.  That’s the essence of basic meditation and the heart of mindfulness.

4.  Recognize the insubstantial nature of the material world.  Everything that seems concrete right now will someday disappear:  your body, your possessions, your work, and your worldly accomplishments.  It’s actually all moving and changing in this very moment.  It just seems more solid than it really is.  Align with your true being rather than the temporary appearances.

It takes time to stop identifying with your thoughts and emotions, a habit we’ve had for eons at least.  But, if you truly want a spacious mind, it can be yours.  In fact, it’s already there.  You just need to tap into it.  Keep practicing and gradually day-by-day the thoughts and emotions will start to lose their power and you’ll find more peace and ease.

I’m so glad you’re here! If you liked this article, please consider subscribing for free updates by email. With love, Sandra

Sad? Amplify Joy!

candles in the dark

Life is a study in contrasts:

  • Birth and Death
  • Loving and Letting Go
  • Day and Night
  • Light and Dark
  • Joy and Sorrow

Do you ever get stuck in sorrow?  Then keep it going by generating sad-stained thoughts about the future, or going over glum stories from the past?

None of us can escape sorrow, but we don’t have to make it bigger than it is.  Once you learn how to hold suffering, you can damper the sadness by amplifying joy.

“The first noble truth states that the nature of samsara (the cycle of conditioned existence, in which our mind is turned outwardly lost in its projections) is suffering.  You can focus on the suffering element, but Nyoshul Khenpo said that if you realize and accept it, then when suffering comes it’s not a shock, just a fact of life, and you become free.

With more acceptance and less aversion, the suffering becomes almost bearable.  In the West, you focus too much on the mind, exaggerate, and get sick simply by worrying.”  – Sogyal Rinpoche

Don’t resist the sorrow.  Let it rise and flow through, while intentionally turning up the volume on joy.  You may feel the suffering, but you know there’s beauty, grace, and possibility too.

Remember the goodness!  Let it mingle with the sadness until the sorrow is diluted or even melts away.

  • A child’s smile.
  • Someone lending a helping hand.
  • The smell of fresh baked bread.
  • A favorite piece of music.
  • The exultation in a moment of grace.
  • The nourishment of solitude.
  • A kindness shown to you.
  • A bouquet of flowers.
  • The good fortune of another.
  • The unexpected visit of an owl in the daylight.
  • The birds singing to you in this very moment.

Temper sorrow with joy.  Dare to feel the fullness of life in all its contrasts and colors.

What do you do when you feel stuck in sorrow?

I’m so glad you’re here! If you liked this article, please consider subscribing for free updates by email. With love, Sandra

What Hooks You? And How to Overcome It.


“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”  – Marcus Aurelius

I’ve been living and working in a construction zone for the past 9 weeks.  I’m managing suprisingly well.  I’ve had my moments of frustration, stress, and tears.  But, overall, I’ve been following my flow, taking breaks, and swimming or soaking in the ocean almost every day to counterbalance the strain.  And, I’ve still accomplished my work.

In contrast, I sent an email to a close friend, and didn’t hear back from her for a few weeks.  After a while, I started to go into my story, but it was just a whisper, ever so subtle.  “Have I done something wrong?  Is she cutting me off?”  It was interesting to see where I go when someone I love seemingly disappears.

I knew I was hooked, and that my projections had nothing to do with my friend.  She was just taking a break.  When her response arrived, it was brimming with love and care.  Still, in that moment, all my insecurity suddenly burst to the surface, making me understand how subtle and deep these earlier wounds can be.

Living and working in the midst of construction would be completely unsettling for some.  But, it’s not my hook right now.  Abandonment, self worth, and inadequacy are my hooks.

For a very long time, I was so blended with these aspects of myself that they would take me over, and direct my thoughts, words, and actions. I bet you can imagine all the drama and distress that occurred as a result because I’m sure it happens to you too.  All the emotional pandemonium seems so important once you are hooked.

Discover and Disempower Your Hooks

Now, I’m getting to know my hooks. They still have the power to shake me up sometimes, but less so day-by-day.  I realize they are just a constructed story that began in an early part of my life, but they are not the truth.  And, I’m not permanently stuck with them.

In order to change, grow, and shine, you have to get to know your hooks.  And even befriend your hooks.  Here are some ways to do that.

1.  Make a list of your hooks, the ones that come to mind right now.

2.  Carry a small notebook with you and note down whenever you find yourself hooked.

3.  Make space for the emotions.  When you feel hooked, don’t suppress your emotions.  That might be harmful for you health.  Instead, let them rise, and see if you can just be aware of them until they melt away.  The problem isn’t the rising, it’s all the afterthoughts and emotions we create about it.  The rising will dissolve on its own if we don’t follow it up with thoughts.

4.  If you get stuck in the thoughts and emotions, be gentle with yourself.  Feel compassion for the part of yourself that is caught in insecurity, anger, or whatever the emotion might be.  Getting hooked gives you the opportunity to learn and grow.  So don’t be mad when you get hooked, be grateful instead. Then resolve to keep trying to heal and let go.

5.  Choose one of your hooks to explore.  Start with the smallest and easiest one.  Reflect or journal about it.  Do you remember when it originated?  What happened? What are the stories and beliefs connected to this hook?

6. Are there people who encourage you to react in this way, either consciously or unconsciously?  Are you caught in a victim-perpetrator cycle?  How can you release yourself?

7.  Question your hook.  Tell yourself, “This is not real.  This is just a story in my mind.  I can see it differently.”

8.  Counter your hook.  Create a new story.  Use affirmations.

Whatever your hook, start to deconstruct the beliefs and stories that hold it in place.  Subvert the internal assumptions that keep the pattern running.  Like a house of cards, removing one part of the story will begin to lessen its strength.

Usually our hooks are thoroughly ingrained in our psyche so it will take time to erase them.  But you have the power to revoke their significance.  You have the capacity to change your perception of and response to a hook.  And, in so doing, you will find so much release and freedom.

Do you know your hooks?  How do you overcome them?

I’m so glad you’re here! If you liked this article, please consider subscribing for free updates by email. With love, Sandra

Celebrating the Magnificent Web of Life


I rarely listen to music, but one piece I love is I Giorni by the Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi.  The story and song behind the composition makes it all the more hauntingly beautiful.

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Go Beyond Empathy: Cultivating Genuine Compassion, Part 3

Loving Spoonbills

Almost all of us feel a sense of empathy when we see someone in the throes of suffering.  This natural sense of empathy is the basis for genuine compassion.  But, genuine compassion is more than a transitory feeling.

“What is compassion? It is not simply a sense of sympathy or caring for the person suffering, not simply a warmth of heart toward the person before you, or a sharp clarity of recognition of their needs and pain, it is also a sustained and practical determination to do whatever is possible and necessary to help alleviate their suffering.” – The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche.

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