Here’s a modern day paradox that has just arrived. A Christmas card from a Tibetan monastery.

    Announcing a new, old podcast

    It was early April 2017. I was sitting in an Airbnb in Portland, OR. My wife and I had returned to the city that had been our home for eight years, to sort out a storage room of our belongings, to decide what was going with us back to Maui and what we were going to sell. Behind The Thoughts  3 Border I had decided to start a podcast to help people start and build a meditation practice. It was to be called Behind The Thoughts Podcast. I had been fortunate to have a community around me when I started meditating, a community that was a source of a lot of support as I built this new habit. I felt that this probably wasn’t true for everyone, and wanted to offer something to help those who wanted to learn about and start a meditation practice. Podcasting was new to me, but I just felt like doing this.

    So here I was in the Airbnb, sitting in front of my laptop on take ”x” trying to get past the nerves and just record the first episode. Eventually, through frustration with myself that I might never get this done, I put down my first episode. It did not have to be perfect, indeed never would be as I did not have studio grade equipment for recording. My tools were, depending on where I was recording it,

    • my MacBook Air (the microphone on that)
    • my iPhone (the microphone on the accompanying headphones)
    • an application to capture the recording
    • a sound file of a meditation bell/gong
    • Apple GarageBand to string it all together
    • a service to host the podcast (Podbean at that time)

    On my way

    Once that first episode was out of the door and I got use to sticking the sound files together, I was off. Over the course of the six months I recorded forty episodes. They were recorded in all sorts of different locations, some outside, some inside. I was enjoying myself…and then it just stopped. There was no particular reason. I reached the fortieth episode and recorded no more…

    …until now.

    Thoughts of starting up again

    In May 2019 Jean MacDonald ask me in an episode of Micro Monday if I was planning to launch a podcast on At the time I was and my affirmative answer has stayed with me, though I could not find the push within me to get a podcast out of the door.

    In the early months of the COVID pandemic I ran a series of meditation videos, still available on YouTube, to give people some tools to deal with the isolation of the lockdown that was happening in many parts of the world. I enjoyed putting together this unplanned series and it made me think again of my podcast that I had stopped and was now archived on Google Drive.

    New website makes it very easy to host a podcast and so the idea came to me of taking the old episodes off of Google Drive, uploading them to and use that as the basis for continuing the Behind The Thoughts Podcast. So over the Christmas/New Year holidays of 2020 I purchased the domain name for the hosting website and uploaded those first forty episodes. With that done I re-registered the podcast with Apple podcasts.


    With that done, on Saturday, January 9th, 2021 I recorded the forty first episode and published it. The Behind The Thoughts Podcast had officially been relaunched. The aim of the podcast is the same as before. To help people build and maintain a meditation practice. It is for anyone regardless of level or experience with meditation. The first episode includes a short guided meditation. Going forward I am expecting to offer more guided meditation sessions than in the initial forty episodes.

    The details


    • Behind The Thoughts Podcast website
    • On Apple podcasts, or wherever you listen to your podcasts (if they draw from Apple’s podcast directory)

    How often?

    • My plan is for once a week. That will be the guiding frequency, but occasionally this might vary less and more often

    Material covered?

    • Building a meditation practice
    • Dealing with obstacles to meditation
    • Taking your meditation into everyday life.
    • At times informed by things that I am dealing with in my life (on the good chance that they’ll be something in there for you)

    And You?

    • If you have a question, concern or something that you would like me to cover, please get in touch

    I hope that you can join me on the podcast and the meditation journey.

    Being Interviewed by Melissa Schwartz - Video

    Melissa Schwartz of Leading Edge Parenting, where she coaches parents of highly sensitive children, recently interviewed me. Our discussion looked at the overlap between Tibetan Buddhism, particularly meditation and High Sensitivity. You can watch the complete interview below.

    I hope that you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the conversation with Melissa.

    Trust In Your Natural Wisdom

    Buddhism speaks of Buddha Nature, the fundamental nature of all beings. This is our natural, innate wisdom free from all obscurations. It is a state of simply knowing which is right now clouded by the mists of our untamed mind. In the coaching world they speak of people being naturally creative, resourceful and whole. The implication with both of these views, and others similar to them is that we have a natural, compassionate wisdom at our core, we just have to create the causes to allow that nature to grow and manifest in our lives.

    The nature, the pen on paper…why do I feel that I do so little of this - get out, walk, breathe and put pen to paper? Why do I drop into the, “stay in front of the computer and something will happen” mode? Probably out of fear. Probably in the hope that my mind will kick into action. It doesn’t, at least not as often as I would like.

    What causes me to speak of this natural wisdom? I recently went for a walk through Washington Park here in Portland. We are experiencing a beautiful early spring (a little scary as well if looked on through the lens of climate change). I’d taken my journal with me and sat at a picnic table in the afternoon sun to do some writing. I didn’t know where my writing would go, but the first words that I started jotting down were,

    Taking A Break

    I am a strong believer in taking breaks from work to allow the mind to move more freely. No longer tied into focused work, take yourself for a walk, let go of “thinking” and at times that break will be sufficient for ideas to surface as if from nowhere. My most vivid example of that was while I was working on my final project for my undergraduate degree. I was studying computer programming at the time and was sat staring at the computer until late into the night trying to figure out why the program for my project was not working. Eventually tiredness got the better of me and I went to bed. In the early hours of the morning I woke up with a start, an idea in my head (although with the benefit of hindsight I’d also call it ‘a knowing'). I switched the light on, grabbed a pen, wrote down what was in my head, turned the light off and went back to sleep. In the morning I knew with certainty that what I had scribbled on that piece of paper was the answer that I had been looking for the night before. I’m sure that many of you can speak to similar experiences.


    Nevertheless, for all of my strong beliefs in the power and importance of taking a break, I am surprised at how little I do it…and I ask myself  “why?” My musings conclude that it is fear based. If I am wanting to move something forward but the ideas are not forthcoming, my fearful mind tells me to stay put in front of the computer. Its logic is that as long as I am sitting in front of my computer results will happen. It is a flawed logic though. Out of fear you spend time online hoping to pull out of other people’s ideas the solutions that you want. At times though, space is needed.

    Sometimes in order to grow wisdom into fruition you need to read, sometimes you need to reflect.


    As I was sitting in Washington Park I was reminded of the Tibetan teaching of hearing, reflecting, and meditating. How can you meditate if you do not know or understand the subject that you are meditating on? First you must hear or read the teaching, the wisdom that you want to develop. Next you reflect on it, ironing out for yourself any doubts that you might have. The reflection can take the form of your own quiet time, discussion with others, going back for further reading for clarification. Finally, with the ideas clearer in your head, you sit and meditate on the subject, focusing those ideas into your heart and mind, starting to bring about the transformation that meditation can bring. The subsequent wisdom does not just arise from meditation alone, rather the seeds are sown by the hearing and reflecting, and later watered by the practice of meditation.

    If we are working in the online world as a solopreneur. If we are using the online world for research and searching for ideas. Perhaps even if we are spending a lot of our time in books or simply in our head - step back. Take a walk, get some perspective, find the rhythms of the natural world to calm your mind and allow the wisdom to arise from that natural resting. Don’t force the ideas to arise, don’t expect them to arise on demand. Do the ground work, do your research…and then put it down and trust in your own creativity. With time and patience your natural wisdom will arise, and quite possibly in ways that you did not expect.

    Letting Go

    Buddhism was once described to me as “the big letting go.” The Buddhist teachings can lend many angles for why that is such an apt description of Buddhist philosophy. “Letting go,” so easily said, so hard to put into action. Out of fear we strive to control and manufacture what we want to experience in life. Letting go acknowledges the need for us to sow the seeds of what we want, create the causes in our life for what we are working towards, nurture those seeds and then give them space so that they can arise within the context of what is happening in our lives.

    If the results are not coming to you, let go. Make sure that you have done the ground work and then stop forcing. This is not about giving up, it is about creating space for emergence. Where our natural wisdom allows for it, the ideas that you are looking for will arise.

    What the Tibetans Taught Me About Quiet Time

    I am writing this on a flight back to the US from England. I have spent the last two weeks in the UK, where I was born, visiting with family and friends. The UK is home and so visits back there become a run around of trying to see and do as much as I want to in the time available. The truth is though there is never enough time. For those who need their quiet time, the phrase “run around” can get the alarm bells ringing, and indeed my first week back was exhausting - seeing friends, meetings, coping with jet lag - read, “little sleep”.

    If you want to do one - see a lot of people in a short time - and are effected by the other - get tired easily and need recharge time - you need a plan B to keep yourself going…even if it is only a temporary fix.

    Tibetan Monasteries

    To start, let me take us on a side trip from England to Southern India and the Tibetan refugee settlements where the monastic universities of Tibet have been reestablished. These particular monasteries are not quiet, reclusive places of contemplation. They are peaceful, yes, but they are far from quiet. The monasteries are centers of learning, in this case the study of Buddhist philosophy. Those who successfully complete the program of study are given the title of Geshe, the equivalent of a PhD in Buddhist philosophy.  The monasteries are as busy as any university in the West. From early in the morning you hear the shouting of young monks as they memorize the Buddhist texts. They recite groups of lines out loud, over and over again, slowly committing books to memory. An accomplished memorizer can retain many volumes of text, which is an extremely useful asset when they are pitted against other learned monks in the centuries old form of debate that they engage in each evening…and more often than not, late into the night. During these very animated and sometimes intimidating encounters, which are designed to sharpen understanding, the monks defend their position by quickly referencing a line of text drawn from the libraries in their mind.

    Added to all of the study, there are the jobs that monks have to do just for the smooth running of the monastery. Younger monks will attend to more senior monks, food needs to be cooked for a population that can reach into the thousands. All of these responsibilities along with their studies means that the only true quiet time is in the early hours of the morning. Some monks have little alone time for their own meditation practice. If they can get up in the early hours, that gives them some opportunity, otherwise they are forced to find another way to practice - not another place, but another way.

    Meditation and Quiet

    The ideal for meditation practice is a quiet place. Indeed within Tibetan texts much time is devoted to describing the ideal conditions for meditation. However, meditation is not about running away to find quiet time. Indeed my own teacher would sometimes disturb me when I was meditating and take me off to do some more mundane task. There is a place for quietening the mind, for allowing the mind to rest and let the agitation that is disturbing your peace, fall away. When things get too much, we just need to come up for air. However, searching for results in meditation practice can be dangerous. Meditation is about doing the practice, not about looking for results. Just show up, sit down and engage in the instruction that you have been given. The results will come if you stay with the practice as you are instructed. Looking for results will draw you further from them. Meditation will not remove the storms that you encounter in life, but it will give you the tools and ability to be present with those storms and ultimately transform how you react to them. The peace comes through acceptance, letting go and transformation.

    Meditation on the Move

    And so back to the Tibetan monastics. As you watch those monks who have woken up to early morning chores after a night of debate, you will probably see their lips moving. Listen carefully and you might hear some sounds coming from their mouthes. A lot of Tibetan meditation practice is made up of chanting sadhanas, prayers,  and reciting mantras, while engaging in visualizations and reflecting on the meaning of what it is that you are saying. This can obviously be done in solitude without distraction, allowing more time for focus and reflection, but if that is not an option the Tibetans do these practices while on the move. They could be preparing breakfast for others, but they will be saying their prayers at the same time. They don’t wait for the outer conditions to be perfect, they might never be, they just get on and do it wherever they are. In time this becomes a habit and lays the foundation for those times when undisturbed practice is possible. It also means that you do not get lost in arguments in your mind over “how inappropriate this situation is”, or “I wish so-and-so would be quiet." The outer conditions are as they are, you accept that and get on with your meditation practice, laying the foundation for a transformation of your mind.


    But what if you do not have a Tibetan practice? How does this cultural observation translate in to dealing with busy times such as I experienced while in the UK? What might you do when finding a quiet space is not possible? How might you bring a meditative practice or what strategy can you develop to help find quiet in the busyness of your life? Here are some suggestions:

    • When a conversation quietens down, or you can afford to be more of a listener than a participator, anchor yourself to your breath. Become aware of the breath at the nose or the rise and fall of your belly. By drawing your focus down to the the belly you will also ground yourself. Instead of living in the anxiety of the mind that wants to get away and have a rest, you drop your attention. This will better root you to where you are, creating a more stable feeling within yourself.
    • If you are walking, become aware that you are walking. Use the footsteps on the ground as your anchor. If are distracted by thoughts in the mind, come back to the footsteps. Again, drawing the focus down more deeply anchors you to place.
    • If you are engaging in some activity, just be aware of what you are doing. If you are eating, just be aware of eating - of cutting your food, of taking a bite, the process of chewing and finally swallowing the food. If the situation allows, don’t busy yourself with chatter or reading, just focus on the activity at hand.
    • If you driving and the radio is on, turn it off. It is amazing how much that can distract you and turn up the volume on an already agitated mind.  While driving, use the brake lights of the car in front of you, or a traffic signal as a reminder to return to your breath.

    In Conclusion

    In essence, find a process that draws your mind away from the anxiety that is forming through your tiredness. Or as Elaine Aron says in her book The Highly Sensitive Person, “Think in terms of containers - who or what quiet, familiar presence could hold you right now?”

    How to Approach Difficult Situations ... and Manage Those Holiday Blues

    A lot of good advice has been offered online on how introverts and HSPs can manage the social demands that might come their way over the holiday period. I was not intending to add to this well informed conversation, until I came across this short video (below) by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher who is based in Seattle. The advice that he gives stretches beyond the Buddhist world and applies to any time and place in our lives, not just the this holiday time.

    He speaks of how by reaching into core principles such as love and compassion, principles that speak for the well being of the other and not of self, we find more peace of mind by not dwelling on that which is causing us pain. In doing so we lessen our own load and make the difficult more bearable. We transform the situation by not dwelling on the negative. Continued practice of acting in this way creates a new habit for ourselves, our heart and mind are more at peace and we are able to weather more challenges in our lives.

    If and where the Buddhist terminology does not work for you, I invite you to replace Rinpoche’s words with words or phrases that help give his advice meaning to you.

    Have a happy and safe holiday time whether with family and friends or by yourself, and wishing you all the best for 2015.

    Broad Shoulders Aren't Always Necessary

    How do you deal with those situations where someone dishes out an attack on you, offering accusatory remarks that are untrue? Their words are spoken before reaching out and trying to understand where you are coming from. You know that an image of you is now out in the world, however small a corner of the world, which is unfounded and not a true representation of who you are. What do you do?

    From my observation…and experience, a few common ways of dealing with this sort of situation are:

    1. You can go back and fight your corner, but now there are two of you angry and a two person fight will just serve to increase the wedge between you, and probably the misunderstanding with it.
    2. You can contact the person and try and explain your way out of the accusations. That might work, but then again it might not. Indeed it might make the situation worse. Anger, as we have all experienced at some time or another sadly blinds us of wanting to hear, understand or take a step down from the position that we are standing in. If the other person is consumed by anger, you showing up to tell your version of the story might be like throwing another coal on the fire…just your presence.
    3. You can develop broad shoulders and just learn to ignore the situations as they arise. In my opinion this is better than the pervious two in that you are not continuing the conflict, and in the best case scenario you are holding the door open for reconciliation further down the line when the time feels right. However, I believe that there is a fourth option which holds the door further open. I think that there is a danger with this third option that the broad shoulders become a stance of toughness, “I can put up with that.” “I don’t have to stand for their nonsense and will ignore it.” The fourth option I will expand on for the rest of this post.


    This fourth way might be called a way of compassion, a way of non-violence. Within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, compassion is defined as the wish for beings to be free from their suffering or their problems. When we are angry, regardless of the how right or wrong we are, we are not happy. Our blood is boiling, our mind is mass of churning thoughts, our heart is beating fast, we’ve probably lost our appetite and it is hard for us to find any peace of mind in that moment. Within this fourth way the issue is not about what you have been accused of, rather it is about the other person who is accusing you and what they are going through as a result of their disagreement with you. It is about a relationship that has been wounded and holding the door open for reconciliation. It is not about you claiming that you don’t make mistakes or get angry, rather in this moment where we have been wrongfully accused it is about seeing if we can lay the foundations for building bridges and if that is not possible to move forward in our lives without holding a grudge.

    Of course this is all easier said than done. It is easy to read these words, but when we are feeling wronged the voices inside us start shouting loudly in defense and we soon fall back into accusatory ways. The trick is to have a commitment to something that can act like a trigger to catch yourself before you react.


    The commitment that I would like to suggest of you is to being present, to being aware of now. By coming back to this moment, we are moving towards the root of our own suffering. That root is not concerned about whether we have been wronged or not, but how we are reacting to the situation. Is our response going to protract the suffering or work to remove it?

    This commitment of being present speaks to our mindfulness practice. It is taking our meditation practice off the cushion and into our daily life. By committing to be present, we are more likely to catch ourselves when we feel that we have been criticized unfairly. Through that catch, there is a pause. In that moment we have a choice - we can fall back into old ways, or choose another path, a path that does not exacerbate conflict but looks to build bridges.

    Motivation's Role In Your Adventures

    This article first appeared on Arthur Coddington’s Peak Performance website.

    Call to adventure…

    The vision is set. The goals are in place. You are positioned in front of your computer, note book, or on your way to your office (even if that it is 30 second walk from bed to another room in the house), and nothing is going to stop you. Today is not only the first day of the rest of your life, but also the day that your life vision is to take birth – business, sport, learn a new musical instrument, walk round the world – the “what” does not matter. {{more}} What does matter is that today is that day, finally, that you and the world (though they don’t know it yet) have been waiting for. You are about to launch yourself. Watch out everyone…

    …and then

    Fast forward to five o’clock in the evening. The fist pumping enthusiasm of earlier that day is still there, though perhaps not knocking the punch that it did that morning. You’ve read a few more blog posts than you intended, got to know your social media timelines more intimately, and got up to make yourself a few more hot drinks than you usually do. Hhmmm, what has happened to that “watch out world” enthusiasm of 8 hours ago? You are feeling deflated and struggling to find a kick, and on top of that there’s a hollow pit in your stomach due to the lack of accomplishment. All that reading that you had been doing had ratchet up your sense of untouchability. This was your year, month, day. Now was the time that you had been waiting for and you were now going to head out and live your dream…..but you feel it faltering before it reaches the first hurdle. Or perhaps to be more accurate, the hurdle was already sitting there, you just did not see it.

    Finding your resources

    Wishing to live your dream, to make real that which you feel as though you were put on the earth to do requires of you resolution and strength that has to be fed from somewhere. That somewhere can in part come from close family, friends, a significant other, but there also needs to be an inner resource from which you can draw. This becomes even more relevant when there isn’t someone in the wings offering that support.

    Any endeavor that is seeking to take us out of the norm that our everyday lives currently inhabit is like a call to adventure. Within that call are voices that are sitting there waiting to give us every good reason not to set off. If all that we rely on is an adrenaline fueled pump of energy to keep us going, we better have a good supply of Red Bull sitting in the refrigerator as sooner or later that initial surge is going to wane. As the initial enthusiasm dies off, the doubting voices will start to emerge out of the shadows telling us what a dodo we were to even think that we could embark on this journey in the first place. All best laid plans will in some way be rendered useless by the voices and slowly we’ll find ourselves dragged away from that which we believed in.

    What we need to do is create a stronger base on which to build our vision. The foundation needs to be stronger. So what are the ingredients that can help to build that stronger foundation?

    Building a solid base

    In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition before we start a meditation session we are instructed to set ourselves a motivation for engaging in the practice. This can be anything, but the one that is suggested within the Tibetan tradition is to familiarize ourselves better with our mind, so that we can develop it to be better able to help others. At the end of the session we dedicate any benefits, any insights gained from the practice to the accomplishment of the goal that we set ourselves at the outset. The reason behind this short ritual is to first set a direction and then cement within us what we have learnt from our meditation.

    It is very easy to just plump ourselves down on the cushion to meditate and then jump up afterwards and get on with our day without reflecting on what we have just done. I’m not going to suggest that you will get no benefit from ‘just’ sitting but by engaging in the ritual of setting intention, the reason for which you are engaging in the meditation practice will become more firmly embedded within you. Even when you don’t feel like sitting, you’ll have your off days, the motivation can help bring you to the cushion. The distracting voices are kept at bay by your continual resolution to accomplish a goal, in this case developing a mind more infused with patience, love and compassion.

    Renewed resolve

    As we set ourselves our goals for that grand plan that we want to embark on, it is useful to stop for a moment (perhaps a day, a few quiet hours away when things are less hectic) and reflect and embed within in us what deep down inside is driving us. In our vision for our future were values. Our vision was built upon standards that we hold as very important and dear in our lives. However, in the enthusiasm and adrenaline high of wishing to succeed, we didn’t take time to cement within us what the dream was being birthed from.

    To quiet the doubting voices we need to become deeply familiar and intimate with these values that drive us. Take a moment each day to remind yourself of what is driving you and use that as a resolution to drive yourself towards your goals.