Meditation: Are You Doing it Wrong? The #1 Barrier to Successful Mindfulness Practice...


Well, “wrong” is a judgment, and one of the tenants of mindfulness practice is non-judgment, so no, the problem is not that you are doing it wrong. Although, judging ourselves and feeling wrong or not good enough is what gets in the way of doing a lot things that are beneficial to us. The biggest barrier to meditation is the belief that there is a right and a wrong way to meditate. The best mediation practice for you is the one that you do.

Dr. Ellen Langer, the first tenured female psychology professor at Harvard University and Mindfulness researcher for the last 35 years says, “Life consists only of moments, nothing more than that.  So, if you make the moment matter, it all matters.”

When I start treatment with new clients one of the first things we work on is increased mindfulness, increased presence in the moment and decreased mindless, impulsive behaviors, or reactivity.  For this blog, I am going to speak directly about meditation even though it is only one form of mindfulness. I am trying to stick to writing blogs that I would read myself, which means it can’t be aversively wordy.

“I’ve tried meditation, it’s not for me. I have a busy brain.”

Myth # 1:

Mediation is the art of being able to be completely still, thoughtless, and relaxed. 

Sometimes that happens for a few moments. It likely happens more to folks who are dedicated to their meditation practice and have been practicing for a long time.  If you have a busy brain, your meditation workout is even better. Since meditation is noticing your thoughts without attaching to them or judging them, and returning to the present moment over and over again; then the busier your brain, the more reps you are doing.  The more repetition the stronger the muscle. 

 Like any other practice, it is not always the same.  The ability to allow ourselves to be exactly where we are without having to fix it or change it, is likely one of the most beneficial skills an individual can poses.  We practice this state of being present without needing to change anything, in part, to build exposure to tolerating discomfort. When life is not as we think it should be, and people are not behaving as we wish they would, is when we need increased tolerance and the ability to be non-reactive. We practice every day so when we need these skills, they are available to us. 

Myth # 2:

Meditation should leave you feeling relaxed and/or peaceful. 

This is true, sometimes, but at the beginning and even for seasoned practitioners, we notice we are feeling anxious, having a lot of thoughts or judgments, struggling with being present or staying focused, or having difficulty with sitting still.  Feeling peaceful and relaxed is awesome, and we are often not given the perfect set of circumstances to be mindful, therefore practicing no matter how we feel is much more useful and practical for our daily lives.  I don’t know about anybody else but I am usually pretty chill at home on my mediation pillow, it is when I am on the 4/5 train during rush hour that I need my mediation muscles. 

Meditation is not always immediately reinforcing, if you know how it feels to go back to the gym after taking more than 20 days off, you know that initial workout is not you living your best life.  And after about a week or so, you feel back on track and exercise is your friend again. It is always easier to stay on track than it is to get on track, and there is an initial getting on track that must happen.

Mediation is like medication, you don’t always notice the effects right away, the practice has to get into your bloodstream.  I usually experience the benefits of my mediation practice in moments, in increased capacity to detach, accept, and allow life and circumstances to be exactly as they are, especially when I don’t agree with them. I joke with my clients that being skillful when emotionally dysregulated is like trying to do your taxes while you are being chased by a lion. We need to learn the skills, build the muscle, have exposure to tolerating discomfort so we can use them when we need them.

Meditation Starter Kit

  1. Start with something realistic and manageable. I usually suggest 3-5 minutes. Transcendental Meditation is incredible and I have many colleagues and friends who swear by it, but 20 minutes twice a day is not where most people start. Let’s start where you are, the best practice for you is the one that you do.
  2. Pick a time of day, be consistent and gentle: It is important to be consistent when trying to build a habit and it is equally important to be flexible and forgiving. First thing in the morning when you wake up, during your morning commute on the train, right when you get home for the day, or before going to bed. It is helpful to pair the new practice with a habit you already have, for example if you journal in the morning, you can meditate for 3 minutes right before you journal.  
  3. DO YOU: Find a practice that works for you. Don’t compare yourself to other people or judge yourself.  Some people really like guided meditation practices, while others like to focus on their breath in silence.  I have clients who love using mantras or inhaling a word and exhaling another word, for example inhale peace, exhale fear. Find what works for you, start where you are, and practice every day. Remain flexible, because “what works for you” will change. Stick with it, you got this. 

My favorite Meditation apps are Calm, Headspace, and Buddhify

The Indecision Trap: When it Comes to Life's Challenges We Really Only Have 4 Choices.


Radical Acceptance is a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skill used to help reduce emotional suffering. It is also a common practice of meditation leaders, Buddhists, and Zen masters, and a book written by the incredible teacher, author, and psychologist, Tara Brach. It is called radical acceptance because it is freaking radical.  We don’t need to radically accept things that aren’t particularly challenging or causing us distress, those things are just fine.  When we approach life’s challenges we have 4 choices.

  1. Problem solve. When there is a problem that can be solved, by you, SOLVE IT. Admittedly my favorite option, I love solutions.  I love being able to fix things or make things work better.  When there is a problem that is solvable, go get at it.
    • Identify the problem and that it is in fact solvable (by you).
    • Analyze the problem, explore pro/cons of different solutions, what could go wrong, anticipate possible barriers and strategize the best solution for the problem at hand.
    • Implement solution: take action: troubleshoot along the way, tweaking and changing as you go, remain flexible and solution focused.
  2. Change your Perception of the problem. Re-frame. This involves changing the way you see a problem, for example, if there is someone difficult in your life you can view the relationship as an opportunity to learn about yourself and how to cope more effectively with difficult people. Now when difficulty arises you see it as a chance to practice new skills! This can take the focus off the other person and on to what matters most, YOU.
  3. Radically Accepting the Situation: Accepting completely and all the way whatever the situation is with your whole heart and whole self. Accepting reality as it is, rather than how you believe it should be. Letting go of the resistance, judgment, and control and detaching from the story of right/wrong or fair/unfair, settling into what is happening, because it is happening! Radical acceptance is not agreeing or condoning something, but rather accepting it as it is, because it is. For example, getting the flu and having to radically accept that you are sick and cannot go to Miami for an amazing conference you have been looking forward to! 
  4. Stay Miserable/non-acceptance: Of course, staying miserable is never an option we would sign on for intentionally. “This can’t be happening,” “I can’t stand this,” “This isn’t right.” It is almost as if we think refusing to accept the truth about what is happening will keep it from being true or stop it from happening. It is like closing your eyes, and hoping for the if I can’t see you, you can’t see me trick.

 I often reflect to clients after going through a decision dialogue around a particular problem, “so you are choosing to stay miserable?” Then we laugh and go back in, trying to find something, ANYTHING more effective than that.  Staying miserable is akin to a default state, it happens way more often than any of us would like. If you can’t solve the problem, are unwilling to change your perception of the situation, and aren’t ready to radically accept it, then by default you are staying miserable.

Refusing to accept reality doesn’t change reality, it just increases our pain.  Accepting you didn’t get the job, the person you love doesn’t love you back, that you were let go from a job you busted your ass at, these are not easy pills to swallow. Life is full of things we cannot change, accepting life is difficult when life is painful. When we think about challenges as being contingent on the choice we make, it makes our default state of “stay miserable” less likely, as we are being intentionally aware and mindful of the power choice has over our experiences.

I am reminded of the serenity prayer, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” We are often stuck resisting something or trying to change things that are unchangeable, like the past or another person. When we focus all our energy on things we do have power over like our own behavior, reactions and choices, we can get out of the tug of war game with ourselves and our problems. The real skill is the wisdom to know the difference.  It is hard to accept that things are out of our control or not solvable by us, trust me- it usually looks something like this:

Me: “You cannot change this, it is 100% out of your control.”

Also Me: “Maybe if you {xn•y<(7n+7y)*sum of + n-yz2} then you can change it…”

Pro-tip: Radical Acceptance is not linear and it is not a one and done kind of skill. Sometimes we need to radically accept something five minutes after having just radically accepted it the first time.  You may notice you have picked said accepted challenge back up, and now it is in your hand again. That’s ok, radical acceptance happens over and over and over again.  Put it down, rinse repeat.  You got this. Radical acceptance is the answer to ending unnecessary emotional suffering, one radically accepted breath at a time.

Pain + non-acceptance = suffering.

Pain + acceptance = pain that is about to pass.

Practice Practice Practice. <3 Meg


Sometimes “Crushing it” Means Asking For Help...


So often I hear people talk negatively about themselves in respect to challenges or situations they are struggling with.  The myth being that, in order to fit the category of “doing well” we are not struggling or don’t have difficulty. Truer, is that to live is to struggle in some capacity, always, and I say this dialectically because of course, life if not just to struggle.  Life is to live, connect, be vulnerable, get knocked on your ass, get back up and keep running at something meaningful.  Life is all these things.

Often, I have clients come to session and report some really challenging experience they had over the last week and feeling disappointed or frustrated with themselves for having difficulty.  The myth again arises that if we are in therapy, working on ourselves, and doing it “right” or doing it “enough” we won’t struggle.  Truer, is that the more we learn about ourselves and ways of coping more skillfully, the less we will struggle unnecessarily, but not in general.

I love when a client comes in with a story about how they got through something really difficult. Yes, you guessed it, I say: “I am so glad this happened!”  The goal is to struggle skillfully, the goal is to learn how to deal with difficulty, go through painful experiences and not further the pain or hurt ourselves, make situations worse, or cope in ways that keep us stuck destined to repeat said struggle.  The point is to be in your life and awake enough to be in the struggle.  When someone talks about how they ran right up against some deeply painful experience, felt the pain, reached out for support, were gentle with themselves, used 10 different distress tolerance skills and now here they are with the report... THAT is crushing it!

Asking for help is one of the most challenging tasks, especially when we are already feeling vulnerable. The in the middle space between when something happens and when we know what is going to happen because of it, is one of the most intolerable places in the human experience. My greatest teacher so far: Uncertainty. The alternative is something I like to call “presenting” which is when we go through something real difficult and then once we are through to the other side, talk about how difficult it was but here we are, and we got through it just fine, thank you.  Ultimately, getting through challenges and struggle the hardest way possible: ALONE. A great teacher of mine used to say, "This is one of the hardeest things you will ever do, why on earth would you want to do it alone?" Brené Brown calls this in the middle phase being “face down in the arena.” Those face down moments are the ones we are most compelled to have as few people (none if possible) know about. It is hard enough to tolerate the uncertainty and feel powerless, letting others know we have no clue what to do next feels like way too much.

Bottom line: It’s true that those moments of raw vulnerability feel unbearable, but it’s one of the few places that the real magic happens. Connection like no other connection, repair like no other repair, because the parts of us that we struggle so ferociously to protect are available, and only then can we have exposure to a new experience. I saw this quote on Instagram this morning and said out loud, “YESSSS.” Sometimes, “crushing it” means asking for help.  Sometimes “crushing it” means saying no, saying I was wrong, or being vulnerable when you want to harden up and hide.  I see people crush it all the damn time, it’s why I love what I do.  Keep crushing it guys…

5 Ways to Mark the New Year Without Invalidating Yourself with Resolutions...


Happy New Year! We made it, it was a tough one…

New Year’s Resolutions are quite invalidating considering the very nature of the concept is that we "decide" on changing something and then do it.  Wouldn't that be a blast?! Behavior change is quite complex, and is rarely a discrete or single event; however, we tend to view it in such a way. Change occurs gradually, over time. Change must be intentional and is never easy. In fact, there are only about 15-20% of things we do in our lives that are not habitual, meaning about 80-85% of our behaviors happen automatically.  Deciding to change something that is essentially happening on its own, doesn’t work.  We often have resolutions that are grandiose and global, for example, this year I will finally stop smoking, drinking, lose the extra weight, get healthy, figure out my life, etc. That’s a lot. Resolutions are also often things we feel we “should” change rather than things we are particularly motivated or compelled to change.

Change is incredibly difficult, and while we often believe we aren’t accomplishing our goals or changing things in our lives because we aren’t trying hard enough, it has very little to do with trying. Things we really want to change about ourselves and are unable to change, is not because we aren’t trying hard enough, but that something is getting in the way- something is wrong. Things unconsciously maintain our behaviors; our behaviors serve functions and often we may not even be aware of what they are. Sometimes the something that is wrong is we are completely missing the mark on the approach to behavior change, particularly around setting SMART goals vs. less effective means such as deciding or white knuckling tactics. Without behavior chain analysis which breaks down behavioral sequences into itemized slices including thoughts, emotions, and actions taken, we really don’t know why or what maintains certain behaviors.  Behaviors are also usually layered, so for example weight loss is not as simple as, “I am going to finally lose the weight,” we must examine the different facets at play. We cannot responsibly target weight loss without talking about our beliefs about ourselves, emotional eating, family of origin behaviors around food, the function food plays associated with escaping distress, numbing discomfort, and masking other emotional challenges.  Then we look at health and healthy weight loss which involves exercise, knowledge of macronutrients and nutrition, all of which require access, resources, and a lot of change.

Science tells us that behavior changes only when we specifically target something and work to shape the behavior incrementally. If you have a big goal or something you really want to change in your life, start with something you can absolutely accomplish.  Be specific and make sure the behavior is measurable.  Make your goals SMART like your phones.

  • S- Specific: be as specific and detailed about your goal as possible. Clarity on what exactly we are working towards.
  • M- Measurable: We need to be able to track the progress and measure the outcome. How much, how often, how will we know when we have met the mark.
  • A- Attainable: The goal must be feasible and achievable. Do we have control/influence over it?
  • R- Relevant: The goal must be compelling and feel worthwhile, goals must be meaningful to the person trying to attain them.
  • T- Timely: What is a realistic timeframe? Goal will be completed day/week/year.

If you are going to make a New Year’s Resolution make it a SMART one.  Here are some alternatives for marking the New Year.

  1. Vision Board- Make a collage of cut outs with images, words, phrases, and designs that capture the essence of what you want to manifest in the year to come. You can do this with friends/family/clients/partners.
  2. Write a letter to your future self- Write a letter to yourself next year describing your hopes, wishes, fears, and goals for the new year. Seal the envelope and open it next year on New Year’s Day.
  3. Write a letter to your-past-self: Write a letter to your past self, marking all the progress, accomplishments, challenges, connections, and events over the last year. Take note of things you are proud of and things you want to do differently in the New Year.
  4. Future Mapping- Map out the next one year with specific benchmarks of things you would like to accomplish.  Look at the different domains of your life; emotional, relational, career, spiritual, physical.  Decipher between short-term and longer-term making the goals SMART and broken down into manageable parts.
  5. Intention Setting: Set intentions for the upcoming year in each domain (emotional, relational, career, spiritual, physical).

Do Less: How to Halt the Glorification of Busy by Finally Allowing Enough to be Enough.


Are our unrealistic expectations of ourselves and over-functioning behaviors the very catalyst for maintaining our "not enough" self-states? I'm sure many of you are familiar with the saying, "Put on your own oxygen mask first."  It is one of those sayings that we say to each other when offering unsolicited advice about someone else's over functioning, people pleasing, or self-sacrificing behaviors.  Although in practice, many of us do not adhere to this sound advice. It makes since considering we wear "busy" as a badge of honor, so the more you have going on and the more people counting on you, theoretically, the more important you are.

Brené Brown says, "We are so busy that the truth about our lives can't catch up."  In a lot of ways "busy-aholism" is a very effective, yet maladaptive coping strategy. If we are too busy to slowdown and pay attention to our intuition, bodies, emotions, things our environment is communicating to us, and the impact of our unavailability, is it even real? If I am too busy to acknowledge how not fine I am, aren't I fine? No, it's real, and will rear its head in indirect, painful, sabotaging ways. 

Bottom line: The glorification of busy is not a sustainable model! Turns out, there is a limited supply of psychic, physical, mental, spiritual, and relational energy. Our energy is our most valuable asset, we must support each other in prioritizing alignment of our inner and outer worlds because even if we don't subscribe to this belief, the objective truth is THEY ARE THE SAME WORLDS. 

People: Do whatever you got to do to protect your energy, it’s sacred and in limited supply. We have been talking a lot over the last week about burnout and feeling tapped out trying desperately to fit it “all” in, and noticing increased vulnerabilities surrounding our tendency to just push harder.  Here's the equation:

We all have 100% energy to expend each day, unless you are a parent, or a caretaker, or a human, so likely none of us are starting each day with 100%. Everything is connected so if you are operating in the model described above you are running on fumes the latter half of your day which impacts your energy the following day.  Notice your give-get ratio, the things on your calendar that you want to do vs. the things you feel you "should" do.  If you have a lot more shoulds than wants you are heading down the road to burnout. 

  • 100% - 10% For disrupted sleep, evening anxiety about tomorrow, self-judgment about not doing more the day before, sick kids, sick dog, expired milk. 
  • 90% - 10-20% For morning commute, making lists for the day, early morning meetings that are frustrating or not what you expected, spilled coffee, cold weather, etc.
  • 70-80% - 20% For workday, life, emotional labor, people pleasing, not saying what you actually mean or want to say, and any other added stressors impacting your workday.
  • 50%- On an ideal day, when we have 100% energy we are half way done before we do anything other than our bare minimum responsibilities.  
  • Subtract additional 10% each added non-essential activity; meeting friends for drinks, going to the gym, conversation with family members, taking care of children, showing up for friends shows, concerts, parties, after work networking or work related events. 

Once the energy is gone, it is gone. What most of us do is carry on anyway with the rest of our obligations by "pushing" through, which leads to burnout, emotion minded behaviors and feeling not enough, never enough. We can re-up and recharge with self-care practices, however ironically self-care is usually the first thing to go when we can’t “fit” it all in.

Prioritizing Return on Investments:

If I have 20% energy left where so I want to spend it? If we start operating with the belief that once the energy is tapped out it is gone, our decision making may be more aligned with things we value. 

  1. You are the product: Taking care of your energy is necessary for anything and everything else.
  2. Do one thing at a time: Being one minded about your tasks means staying in the moment, not multi-tasking and completing one thing at a time. Break your day into manageable slices of time.
  3. Throw away the all or nothing attitude: There is actually quite a bit of gray within the black and white.  If you didn't do EVERYTHING it doesn't mean that you suck, letting good enough be enough. If you can't do EVERYTHING can you do something, what can you do? 
  4. Your Best is Enough: Be Kind to yourself, you are doing the best you can.  
  5. Slowdown and check-in with yourself: My therapist calls it the "give-o-meter" how do you know when you are running low on giving juice? My old answer was "Um, I have a meltdown?" That's not effective! Notice how your energy levels are feeling before committing to one more thing.  Give yourself permission to say, "I'll get back to you, I'd love to but I have a lot on my plate today." 
  6. You can change your mind: Say "No", make adjustments, reschedule, make room for balance.  Remember progress not perfection. 
  7. We are all in this together: Validate your people when they take care of themselves.  Reinforce skillful give-get relationships by communicating honestly and directly with safe people in your life.  This is a practice, we aren't going to do it perfectly, leave room for people to be imperfect including yourself.