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How I Turn Early-Waking Insomnia Into a Gift

I wake up early. Not by choice really. There’s not much to do at 4:30 a.m. or 5 a.m. but practice. I look serious here. But that’s the mood, the vibe, before sunrise. At least, to me. It feels like a time to consider and contemplate and journal. Life. God. Purpose. That kind of stuff.
This morning I contemplated the yoga terms abhyasa (practice) and vairagya (detachment). Abhyasa is often described as sustained, consistent commitment to practice over time. It is the effort it takes to repeatedly come back to the present moment, again and again.
Vairagya is the aspect of practice, the complement to abhyasa, and literally means ‘not getting stirred up’. Sometimes it is translated as detachment or letting go. The essence of it is the practice of not reacting to your perceptions, letting things arise in our mind and experience without a knee-jerk reaction based on our conditioning from the past. Vairagya is allowing life to unfold fresh and new in each moment...
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What My Bluenose Pit Bull Taught Me about Love

dogs love travel yoga May 22, 2020

When I used to travel a lot as a magazine writer, I tried to work fast so that I could explore more of the countries I visited. I gravitated toward holy sites. Temples, churches, ashrams, ancient ruins, active charnel grounds. I wasn’t a believer, so I wasn’t even sure what “holy” meant. But those sites, with their dim light, pungent incense, burning candles gave me a holy feeling, as if I was connected to something greater than myself. And then, several years ago, while on walkabout in Israel and Palestine, aka, The Holy Land, I learned something important. The holy feelings that I’d been seeking weren’t coming from the places I visited. They were within. And these feelings? Well, they were the tip of the iceberg.

I still love to travel. But these days, my vessel of discovery is yoga. I practice because I want to wake up. Way more than a physical activity, yoga shows us life as it really is—the good, the bad, the ugly. It pulls me...

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A Middle-Aged Journalist Grows Up to Be a Yoga Teacher

Last February, a few weeks after my 51st birthday and on the twisting road to becoming a middle-aged yoga instructor, I skulked through the orange-themed lobby at a Boulder, Colorado, CorePower Yoga studio. Past the racks of Lululemon yoga pants and T-shirts that read “Spiritual Gangster,” I finally came to a halt in Room 1: a wood-floored space with wall-to-wall mirrors. The other students were mostly about half my age. Their reflected images accentuated my feeling: I’m surrounded by youth.

I saw my reflection, too. I’m a typical fifty-something; salt-and-pepper beard, a few pounds overweight. But I still feel plenty young, and after I spread my well-worn yoga mat to join the cluster of fellow students, I noticed something else in my reflection. I was wearing a grin as wide as the world.

Here I was, of AARP age but embarking on a yoga teacher training, and I was excited and fearful at the same time. I had that happy but slightly unhinged feeling...

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How to Be a Spiritual Finder Rather Than a Perpetual Seeker

Transformation is hard. It takes work to break old habits and create new ones. We must stay diligent at “doing the work.” Yoga, meditation, self-inquiry, and therapy are methods that, when practiced regularly, can lead us back to our true selves. But I’ve learned that there are pitfalls to focusing too much on “the work.” Sometimes I catch myself being too diligent at doing the work. I forget about the other path to transformation: self-acceptance. When we focus too much on “the work,” we can easily become self-aggressive and escapist. As important as the work is, we must accept, maybe love, the person we already are. We are all we have, right. And wanting to be different is a trap that keeps us separate from our true selves.

For example, I am a lifelong seeker. I seek knowledge, wisdom, connection, even God. I read books about spirituality and self-growth. I travel to experience new places and new people. But I suspect seeking is really...

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How Yoga Shows You Who You Really Are

fath psychology yoga May 22, 2020

A consistent yoga practice can be powerful. It’s like standing in front of a mirror and staring at your reflection. This can be frightening for anybody, but for a middle-aged man it is especially so.

First, you see things that surprise or shock you. Is my belly really that lumpy? Is my hair that gray? With time, these judgments soften some. But then it can be easy to swing too far in the opposite direction. “On second thought, I don’t look too bad for 52. My stomach may not be a six-pack, but look at those arms! They’re coming along! All those chaturangas I’ve been doing have yielded some nice deltoids. I don’t look half-bad. I can add some sit-ups, but otherwise, Brad, you’re looking good!”

But if you stand at the mirror longer still, your feel-good thoughts fade, too. If you’re lucky, you land, finally, in self-acceptance. You accept the good with the bad and the handsome with the ugly. But more likely, you will overshoot...

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How to Write an Irresistible Book Proposal

Do you seek to publish your nonfiction book with a traditional publisher? Then you’ll want to write a compelling book proposal.

To help you get started, I’m offering you this free guide to writing your book proposal.

I am an experienced book-proposal coach. I help people write powerful, irresistible book proposals. If you’d like my expert guidance through this process, please email me at [email protected] to set up your free 30-minute phone consult.  I offer several book-proposal coaching packages on my website:

I hope you find this guide useful.

Understand The Parts of a Proposal

Most proposals range from 35 to 50 pages and have three parts: The OverviewThe Outline, and a Sample Chapter.

The Overview

Your overview must prove that you have a marketable, practical idea and that you are the right person to write about it and promote it. Provide as much ammunition about you and your book as you...

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Love and Memoir

Uncategorized May 19, 2020

Working in memoir requires a writer to stand in the fire of truth. This means holding ourselves accountable to seeing what’s true about our lives. Part of my process as a book writing coach is to point clients to ways they can write with a more open heart. Writing well about our life requires us to open our hearts. When one’s heart is open, we bring full awareness and presence to all situations and people. We are capable of writing patiently and honestly about the heartbreak and the ecstasy, as well as the ordinary. We can face the whole catastrophe of being alive, as Zorba might say. And we can do so from a place of wonder and generosity instead of from blame and shame.

Here’s an amazing thing about the human heart: you don’t need a field guide to learn how to open it. Yes, meditation, yoga, and other spiritual practice can help us slow down and develop distance, open space, between what happens to us and how we respond to the challenges. But, if...

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How to Make Writing a Daily Spiritual Practice

Uncategorized May 19, 2020

I once wrote a feature story for The New York Times Magazine about “the real Indiana Jones.” His name was , and I met him at a seaside bar on Oahu’s North Shore. I was riveted by his tales about his swashbuckling days searching Peru’s jungles for forgotten ruins of ancient civilizations. All of his stories were memorable, but one in particular lodged in my mind, and only recently did I grok what he meant. The story was about the time he and his support team became hopelessly lost in remote jungle, and he became convinced they would all die.

The Solution: Paying Attention to the Present Moment

“The jungle was impenetrable. During the day, we’d hack our way a few hundred yards, and at night, the jungle would grow back in. One morning, as I was drinking coffee and looking over my maps, I heard a loud ringing sound, like a bell. Curious, I got up and went to where I heard the ringing. I found a team member hacking at vines near the ground. I...

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The Hidden Power of a Daily Writing Practice

Uncategorized May 19, 2020

Writing is more like yoga than you might think.

Both disciplines require learning specific rules and vocabularies. Yoga has its 8 Limbs, one of which is asana, or the physical poses that most Westerners consider to be yoga. Each asana asks the yogi to hold the body in a specific and precise way. By focusing on the mechanics of the pose and sitting in the uncomfortableness, we see ourselves in a mirror. We learn things about ourselves.

Writing-crafting sentences out of symbols composed of curved and straight lines-is similar. When we write, we see ourselves in a mirror and learn things about ourselves. Things that we couldn’t see before we did the writing.

Both disciplines can lead to waking up from the trance that afflicts us all when we get consumed by the demands of work, home, and society. When we do yoga or write, we experience ourselves in a deeper and more subtle way. This isn’t spiritual mumbo jumbo. We actually become more human.

Both disciplines can be thought...

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Reflections on a Twelve-Hour Mystical Experience in India

india mysticism travel May 19, 2020

At the age of twelve, I had a brush with death that changed me.

On the first day of a weekend father-son canoe trip in the Ozarks, the canoe carrying my dad and I capsized, and we were both sent overboard into the cold, fast-moving water. In the chaotic next seconds, my lifejacket snagged on a submerged tree, and I was trapped there. Though my mouth remained above water, the rest of me felt the fury of thousands of gallons of water running through a narrow channel. The upriver current flung my torso violently into the log at the same time that the downriver current seemed to claw at my spindly limbs, enticing me to be free. I was terrified, and, for ten minutes, I believed I would die. Because of the way my lifejacket cradled my head, all I could do was stare at the wide blue sky.  At first, I screamed. Then, I raged. Then I stopped. I prayed and bargained at the same time: "God, I'll do anything you ask me if you save me." 

After ten minutes, I heard a loud...

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