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mindful minute

We are freed and imprisoned by our thoughts

Post by: Mark Fontaine

Black Friday is giving us a black eye. We have allowed the holiday season to degenerate into a riotous crush to purchase cheap electronics and appliances. The mobs outside the big box superstores are more desperate and violent than a UN emergency feeding station in Darfur Africa. People are being shot and pepper sprayed.

What does this say about us as a society and culture? Rather than spending Thanksgiving at home enjoying the company of our loved ones, we are camped out in an electronics store parking lot. It appears that half off the price of a flat screen T.V. is more important than fostering our relationships.

No wonder we have unprecedented political rancour. We hold the dollar and the pursuit of self-indulgent toys over the well-being of ourselves and our loved ones. We have become so self-absorbed, we won’t acknowledge and foster the needs and desires of others. Others are seen as an impediment to our rights, liberty and freedom.

How does this end? Are we left standing alone cocooned by many luxurious possessions and surrounded by a scorched earth?   If you don’t like what you see this holiday season, be mindful to be the change you seek.


Post by: Mark Fontaine

Where have all the blueberries gone? Take a look at the nutrition label of your favorite blueberry muffins, blueberry bagels and blueberry cereal. Are blueberries on the label? Are blueberries one of the first 10 ingredients? Is the blueberry referred to as a blueberry bit or a blueberry product?

The health benefits of blueberries are well documented. Food corporations want to capitalize on your desire to eat healthy. But, they have a problem. Real blueberries are expensive.

The food corporations have come up with a solution to this dilemma. They have created something that looks and tastes like a blueberry. It consists of a mixture of sugars, artificial flavoring and food coloring. This blueberry bit or blueberry product costs a fraction of the real deal. Unfortunately, it has little or no nutritional value.

Is it any wonder that we are becoming fatter and fatter? Is it any wonder that rates of diabetes and cancers are rising?

We must be mindful of what we are eating. Most food corporations do not have our best interests at heart. In fact, they may purposefully label their products in a manner to disguise the contents or misrepresent the nutritional value.

Mark Fontaine

More is better. Excess and decadence revered. We live in a consumerist society. It takes a great toll on our spiritual well-being. The push to overconsume is everywhere. Why have one when you can have three for the price of two?!  We gorge, then encourage all our friends to join in through social media.

The media makes overconsumption entertainment. Network T.V. programs feature obesity, hoarding, and reality quasi-celebrities engaging in self-indulgent excesses.

Do we consider excess a right?  If having more stuff fills our needs, why are we currently experiencing a cultural, spiritual and financial stagnation?

When more energy is devoted to material “stuff” than to tapping into the soul’s needs, it leads to an imbalance. When we fall out of balance, we don’t feel well emotionally, physically or both. Our lives stagnate. We care less about taking care of ourselves, others and our environs.

The drive to overconsume may be a symptom of “soul loss”. We may have suffered a trauma from which we feel we can’t move on. We use things to create walls that render our souls inaccessible. Symptoms of a walled soul are: depression, relationship problems and ignoring obligations. If we don’t have a soul, we attempt to fill ourselves with things that will temporarily make us feel alive. We get trapped into thinking that we can buy happiness. We fill our lives with distractions that distance us from what we don’t want to deal with. We don’t feel. We can’t heal.

What we don’t heal in ourselves we pass on to others–our children, our relationships, the planet.

When we become mindful of our lifestyle, we can stop the cycle of excess. We pursue what we need versus what we want. We become more aware of the needs of others.


No matter how much we want to be different, wherever we go, there we are. You can’t get away from yourself. Go on vacation — there you are.  Wherever we are, we are looking out of the same pair of eyes. Whatever we do, it’s still the same person doing it.

In the attempt to get away from being with ourselves, we search for something or someone to make us happy. We’re looking for greener grass. But in every relationship and every situation, there we are again.

Our mind is like a drunken monkey jumping from fear to drama. We are trapped in endless rounds of worries and concerns. “What if this happens… what if I fail..?

We believe happiness is somewhere other than here, and spend too much time looking for it, without realizing it is already with us. Look back and there is pain and regret. Look forward and there is uncertainty.

Just stop. Nothing else is going on. Nothing else is happening. There’s nowhere to go.

What a relief to realize that nothing more is required of us than to just be fully here now without expectations or longings.

Step into sanity and greater connectedness. Being in the moment means having the courage to know we will never be someone other than who we are and who we are is absolutely wonderful. The grass is vividly green exactly where we are.

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Your boss is a witch. Your partner is lazy. Your best friend won’t return your calls.

It is easy to feel victimized by our lives.  How much of your destiny do you control? How much are you a victim of circumstance and how much are you a victim of yourself?

Early life experiences have a significant impact on our development and our adult relationships. Negative events in our past shaped our minds, our emotions and our behaviors in ways in which we are unaware. Do your reactions that puzzle you? Are you baffled when you “lose it”?

Certain events trigger the memories of  stresses we felt as children and reactivate the behaviors we developed to cope with those feelings. If these triggers are set off, we are instantly transported back to when we were small and vulnerable.

The vulnerable child’s voice can affect you in all your present day relationships. It can leave you at odds with authority figures and created distance between you and your partner.

What can we do when these early influences sabotage us in our adult lives? There is an inner critic in every person that comments on and informs us of our actions. This inner critic nudges us to see the world through a negative filter.  This internal dialogue shuts us down during moments of tension.

What can you do?

1. Identify what your inner critic is telling us about yourself.

2. Work to become conscious of the unconscious influences from your past.

3. Separate yourself from your critical voice and act according to who you truly are.

When we aren’t mindful of the voices that are influencing us to relive old patterns, we tend to select people who fit in with our old identity, and we relate to them in ways that recreate a comfortable negativity from our past.

This voice keeps us from our goals and diverts us from our destiny. No matter how painful or unpleasant our past experiences may have been, we adapted to them, they became comfortable despite their negativity.

Recognizing this internal enemy helps us understand our behavior and make sense out of bad choices. We can instead take actions that are in our own self-interest.

Taking these actions will increase your sense of self and weaken this internal enemy. Soon you will feel more comfortable with these new behaviors.

Written by Mark Fontaine

We’ve all felt anger.  It can range from a minor annoyance to full-fledged rage.  Anger is a normal human emotion.  When it spirals out of control,  it can lead to problems at work and with personal relationships. Uncontrolled anger can leave you at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.

Are You Too Angry?

If you have a problem with anger, you probably already know it.  Do you find yourself acting in ways that seem out of control and frightening?

Some People Are More Angry Than Others

Not everyone shows their anger in a loud spectacular manner.  Sometimes they are just chronically irritable and grumpy. They don’t curse and throw things.  They sulk, or get physically ill.

Those who are easily angered have a low tolerance for frustration.  They feel that they should not have to be subjected to inconvenience or annoyance.

Is It Good To “Blow Off Steam?”

People have used this myth as a license to hurt others. Blowing off steam actually escalates anger and aggression.  It is preferable to find out what it is that triggers your anger and then to develop strategies to keep those triggers from pushing you to an outburst.

Anger shows us something vital about our emotional life.  It is an indicator: something needs attention and investigation.

The Nature of Anger

Like other emotions, anger is accompanied by physiological and biological changes.  When you are angry, your heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline levels rise.

Anger can be caused by external and internal events. You could be angry at a specific person or event.  Or, your anger could be caused by worrying about personal problems and bad memories.

Expressing Anger

It is instinctive to express anger aggressively. Anger is an adaptive response to threats.  It inspires us to fight and to defend ourselves. It is part of our survival instinct.

Should I Suppress My Anger? 

Should I hold it in?  If you choose to do this, anger will eat away at your insides. Your ability to express finer emotions will be compromised and you will suffer with ill health. Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. The danger of not allowing outward expression is that your anger can turn inward upon yourself.

Unexpressed anger can lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behaviour.  The passive-aggressive individual gets back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on.  These people seem cynical and hostile. They put others down and criticize everything. They aren’t likely to have successful relationships.

Expressing Your Anger

Say what you are feeling. Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive—not aggressive manner can be a healthy way to express anger.  Be mindful to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met.  Act assertively without being pushy or demanding.

Relaxation Techniques

Calm your anger using relaxation and meditation techniques. These methods can work wonders if you commit to learning them and practice them regularly. These techniques can teach you a lot about yourself. They can help to eliminate the source of your anger.  You can calm down from within. This means not just controlling your outward behavior, but also controlling your internal responses, taking steps to lower your heart rate, calm yourself down, and let the feelings subside.

Some simple steps you can try:

1. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm.

2. Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as “relax,” “take it easy.”

3. Visualize a relaxing experience from your imagination.

Transform your anger.  Use the power of anger to fuel positive change. Ask the question: “why am I angry?”.  Explore the question  until you arrive at a deeper understanding.

Cognitive Restructuring

Change the way you think.

Be careful of words like “never” or “always” when talking about yourself or someone else.  These words alienate and humiliate people who might otherwise be willing to work with you on a solution.

Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything and it won’t make you feel better.  It may make you feel worse.

Anger, even when it’s justified, can become irrational.  Use logic on yourself. The world is “not out to get you”.  Why do you feel a need to demand fairness, appreciation, agreement and a willingness of others to do things your way?

Problem Solving

There is a western cultural belief that every problem has a solution.  This isn’t always the case. Be patient if an answer doesn’t come right away.

Better Communication

When we are angry we tend to  jump to and act on inaccurate assumptions.  One should be mindful to slow down and think through their responses. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying and take your time before answering.

It’s natural to get defensive when you’re criticized. Seek to understand the message that’s underlying the words.  Question the speaker to get clarification.

Changing Your Environment

Sometimes it’s our surroundings that give us cause for irritation. Give yourself a break. Make sure you have some personal time scheduled throughout the day.

In The End

You can’t eliminate anger. Life is filled with frustration, pain, loss, and the unpredictable actions of others. That you can not change, but you can change the way you let events affect you. If you have an understanding of the pitfalls of anger, you will be on the road to happiness.


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Breathing Meditations

Written by Mark Fontaine

The purpose of breathing meditation is to calm the mind and develop inner peace.

A Simple Breathing Meditation

First, stop distractions and make your mind clearer and more lucid.  Choose a quiet place to sit in a comfortable position. You can sit in the traditional cross-legged posture or in any other comfortable position.  You can even sit in a chair.  Keep your back straight and this will prevent your mind from becoming sleepy.

Sit with your eyes partially closed and turn your attention to breathing.  Breathe naturally, through the nose.  Become aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and exits the lungs and nose. Try to concentrate on that sensation to the exclusion of everything else.

Your mind may be very busy.  You may even feel that the meditation is making it busier.  Remember, you are simply becoming more aware of how busy your mind usually is.  Resist the temptation to follow different thoughts as they appear.  Remain focused only upon the sensation of breathing.  When your mind wanders, immediately return it to breathing.  Repeat this cycle as many times as needed until you have settled on breathing.

Benefits of Meditation

If you are patient, your distracting thoughts will subside.   You will experience inner peace and relaxation.  Your mind will feel lucid and spacious.  You will feel refreshed.  You will likely stay with this state of mental calm for a while.

Although breathing meditation is only a beginning stage of meditation, it can be powerful.  You will be excited to experience inner peace and contentment just by controlling your mind.  You will learn that you don’t have to depend upon external conditions or medications.

Much of our ill health is caused by stress.  Ten or fifteen minutes of breathing meditation each day will reduce this stress.  You will be better equipped to deal with difficult situations.  You will feel warm towards other people.  Your relationships and general health will improve.

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