CT meditates: a comedy (30) Tai Chi


I’m learning Tai Chi! I have a background in the martial arts, having trained in Shotokan, in Tae Kwon Do and most recently in Bushinkan Karate disciplines.

Tai chi is another take, much gentler, much more philosophical, much slower, and amenable to learning and practice by just about anyone who can stand on two feet.

I understand that older, frail patients at risk of falling can substantially lower their risk of falls and risk of hip fractures by learning Tai Chi. I have patients whose anxiety is improved with regular Tai Chi classes. Just about every community has a Tai chi class somewhere.

Of course, the introvert in me prefers to learn Tai chi from a DVD, and so there it goes. My choice was Tai Chi for Health with Terry Dunn:


I was not successful at finding anything really useful online on YouTube.

Having now memorized (not really mastered) all the 80-ish moves from the Yang Style Short Form of Tai chi, I find it to be relaxing, meditative, more active than sitting with eyes closed, more interesting than stumbling meditation, with less risk of unintended snoring. Furthermore, I find that I can make it quick (done in 5 minutes) or long (30 minutes) and easy or hard (I can be sweating at the end, if I hold my poses until my thighs start burning).

And, while traveling, if the gym and or pool at the hotel is closed, 30 minutes of in-room Tai Chi takes very little space, is meditative and a good workout as well. Business Traveler Secret!

Funny memory: there is a movie from decades ago called “A Great Wall” where a disillusioned computer programmer in San Francisco takes his family to Mainland China, and hilarity ensues. The one memory of this movie I have is the father doing Tai Chi on his tiny porch, and at the right moment, relaxing into a stance and farting.

Remember: those coming on the journey: 3 minutes of meditation every day! I’m holding both of us accountable to this important habit!

CMIO’s take? I won’t say if this happens to me, but there are times during my Tai Chi practice when I’m smiling and others in the room are fleeing.

CT meditates: a comedy (29). Impermanence



In the Book of Joy page 249. Impermanence, the Dalai Lama reminds us, is the nature of life.

All things are slipping away, and there is a real danger of wasting our precious human life. Gratitude helps us catalog, celebrate, and rejoice in each day and each moment before they slip through the vanishing hourglass of experience.

Remember: those coming on the journey: 3 minutes of meditation every day! I’m holding both of us accountable to this important habit!

CMIO’s take? No take. Just give. Let it be. Be present. Be grateful. Spread compassion. Have a great new year.

CT meditates: a comedy (28). How does mindfulness contribute to effective teamwork?


OK, lets review. We’ve learned how and why we meditate.
We’ve learned we can meditate in 3 minutes.
We’ve learned to forgive ourselves when we inevitably drift, and the Notice-shift-rewire.
We’ve learned to use meditation to improve mindfulness, presence, focus.
We’ve learned to use this focus to generate gratitude.
We’ve learned to take this gratitude and move into compassion for others.

So what? If it doesn’t contribute to the bottom line for my company, isn’t this a bunch of new age-y (#$* B.S.?

For me, pursuing daily meditation HAS improved my focus, my sense of calm, and I want to TALK ABOUT IT with everyone I meet (perhaps insufferably so). And then I form surprising connections with colleagues who have started similar habits. And then maybe our teamwork is riven with less strife.

Furthermore, my personal focus has me less distracted, seeking ways to find time for Deep Work (a future blog post), and more productive.

Finally, team meetings, or better yet, inter-team conferences with potential conflict is somewhat easier to navigate. One of my growing strengths is the ability to be even-handed and balanced. Being able to summarize the important positions of both sides respectfully can lead to more collaboration and a better group decision.

I love those moments in contentious meetings, when, about 2/3 of the way through the hour, when combatants begin repeating themselves, I finally speak up (Simon Sinek has a great YouTube talk on how leaders stay silent during meetings so that all voices can be heard; those who speak up in the beginning squelch creativity because the boss has already spoken). “So, I’m hearing at least 3 separate buckets of concern. One …., two …, three … I think one and two are easy solutions, can we agree? Three is where we should spend time. May I propose …”

And despite the appreciative looks from the committee leader and the nice after-meeting comments from others, I know fundamentally, this was a simple exercise in listening hard, staying focused, creating a clear summary and gently guiding to a win-win conclusion.

Remember: those coming on the journey: 3 minutes of meditation every day! I’m holding both of us accountable to this important habit!

CMIO’s take? Mindfulness, focus and deep work will be key skills that are future-proof in our age of acceleration, globalization and disruption.

CT meditates: a comedy (27): Forgiveness, Levar Burton, Audible.com

from: ask gramps dot com

From The Book of Joy page 234.

Forgiveness, the Archbishop added, is the only way to heal ourselves into being free from the past. Without forgiveness, we remain tethered to the person who harmed us. We are bound to the chains of bitterness, tied together, trapped. Until we forgive the person who has harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness, that person will be our jailor. When we forgive, we take back control of our own fate and our feelings. We become our own liberator.

I am working on this for myself: forgiveness, compassion for others. For example, on that drive to work, I’m no longer rushing to get there. I no longer mind it if someone cuts me off in traffic, seeking a momentary advantage. “Wow, he is an amazing driver; I’m sure he/she really needed to get there sooner. I hope he/she has a better day. I’m already having a great day.”

It helps that another one of my secret weapons in my search for peacefulness is my iPhone linked by bluetooth to my car, playing either a podcast (Hidden Brain, Planet Money, TED radio hour, RadioLab, Levar Burton Reads, or HBR ideacast), or a book from Audible.com.

I’m a sci-fi nut, if you didn’t get that already from my previous book reviews, and nothing is better than a long, sometimes multi-hour drive between hospitals during the CMIO’s journey, to listen to a great book. I try to alternate a non-fiction book with my sci-fi, but I always have one ready when I need to unwind.

Remember: those coming on the journey: 3 minutes of meditation every day! I’m holding both of us accountable to this important habit!

CMIO’s take? Be your own liberator.

CT meditates: a comedy (26) If something can be done about it …


From the Book of Joy:

If something can be done about it,
what need is there for dejection?
And if nothing can be done about it,
what use is there for being dejected?

Seems eerily similar to the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference

So, in multiple theologic traditions, there is this same sentiment. Regardless of the origin, I find it to be an interesting source of meditation and mindfulness practice.

Of course, there is always Seinfeld’s episode, Frank Costanza yelling: SERENITY NOW.

Remember, if you’re coming on the 3-minute daily journey with me:  eyes closed, with just the simple goal of spending 3 minutes in a comfortable pose, and focusing on breath. Then to watch the inevitable stream of thoughts floating by, observing each one as a puffy cloud, letting it just drift by without diving into it, and returning to breath.

CMIO’s take: Serenity. Now.

CT meditates: a comedy (25) Merry Christmas- Holiday- Kwanzaa. And Zen Shorts!


Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Care-filled Kwanzaa! Happy Buddha!

A book I gave to my physician and clinical informatics teams this year is ‘Zen Shorts.’ This is a terrific children’s book with wonderful watercolors. You don’t have to be a child or a Zen master to appreciate it. However the stories it tells are deceptively entertaining. Think about a little longer and it becomes a life lesson. Read this; you won’t regret it.

Take time to be mindful and grateful today. I hope you have a quiet, restful, joyful day.

CT meditates: a comedy (24) Three things you’re grateful for?


In multiple books including Option B, and Start Here: Life XT, I have come across the research finding that a specific practice of gratitude can be quite powerful.

The habit is: take paper and pencil and every evening before bed, write down three specific things that you are grateful for. I don’t mean “I have a good life.” More like “that person I met who gave me a 1950’s metal ukulele tuner just after my talk at Denver Health – that was amazing.” OK, or maybe something simpler like “I felt really good on the bike ride today.”

Research apparently shows that 30 days of repeated gratitude practice, of writing down three specific things you’re grateful for (trying not to repeat items) is as effective on a person’s mood, as TAKING AN ANTIDEPRESSANT.

Say again?

Not kidding. Look it up. We should all be doing this and teaching this.

This makes me think of Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music, “My Favorite Things,” which is perhaps the best musical expression of gratitude ever…

Childhood flashback; I have watched that movie EVERY December, since forever.

Remember: those coming on the journey: 3 minutes of meditation every day! I’m holding both of us accountable to this important habit!

CMIO’s take? What 3 things are YOU grateful for? Happy Christmas Eve, everyone!

CT meditates: a comedy (23) pomodoro timer


So, maybe some of you have read this far. Thank you for coming along! One of the threads of mindfulness and meditation is developing Focus. So maybe you’ve now blocked out 2 or even 4 hours of your day to dive deeply. But once you’re here, cleared your desk, turned off your Internet, laid out your pen and paper and resources, and you find your mind wandering off. Darn! Three minutes, breathe, OK, focused again. Oh! Wandering off again! Just remembered things I have to do!

So, for those of you struggling with focus, consider the Pomodoro Timer. There’s lots to read online, and now I guess there’s a book and maybe courses to take. In short, a tomato kitchen timer is set for 25 minutes. That is short enough to trick your brain into staying on track and long enough to get something concrete done. Then there is a 5 minute break, and back at it. Four timers and then a longer break. You can then do this all day. Over time you get better at predicting what you can accomplish in 25 minutes, and then how many segments of 25 minutes it will take to do something. Then you’re less frustrated at the end of day as you get better at predicting how much can be done.

Furthermore, the quiet, insistent, calming tick of the time reminds you to stay on task. There are more tricks, like having a pad of paper handy to write down any ideas that spring to mind, to distract. Writing it down allows you to let it go and return to task.

Try it. I think you’ll like it. You can buy a IRL pomodoro timer from the store. I downloaded an app called Focus Keeper that I really like. Works for me.

From the Book of Joy pg 56: Richard Davidson, neuroscientist tells us that there are four  independent brain circuits that influence our lasting well-being.
1. Our ability to maintain positive states
2. Our ability to recover from negative states
3. Our ability to focus and avoid mind-wandering
4. Our ability to be generous

So, at least one way to well-being is a tomato timer!

Remember: those coming on the journey: 3 minutes of meditation every day! I’m holding both of us accountable to this important habit!

CMIO’s take? Pomodoro Timer is one of my secret weapons.

CT meditates: a comedy (22) Deep Work, The Shallows (book reviews)

from amazon.com

Cal Newport’s important work emphasizes the power of disconnected, uninterrupted time. Nicholas Carr speaks of the opposite trend: that Shallow thinking has affected our brains and made it tremendously more difficult to focus because, on the Internet, it is SO EASY to click that next link, and soon, you’re looking at cute kitten videos instead of finding some important fact for a project you thought you were working on.

One of the biggest takeaways from Cal’s work, for me, was “attention residue.” Switching tasks rapidly from one to another can take away focus for up to 15 minutes. Multi-tasking is a MYTH. Worse yet, having your attention split in multiples creates a “residue” that builds up, where part of your brain continues to worry about other things and you can never achieve deep thinking about any specific project, if your browser or email client is ‘pinging’ in the background. This can only be addressed if you develop a discipline of offloading other concerns and dedicating 2 to 4 HOURS to a period of intense focus.

Listen to Cal here: https://www.npr.org/2017/07/25/539092670/you-2-0-the-value-of-deep-work-in-an-age-of-distraction

Another great takeaway for me was Leading and Lagging indicators of work. Many of us set a personal productivity goals of “publishing X papers this year” or “writing Y white papers” or (very personally) “writing Z blogs this week.” These are, apparently, LAGGING indicators; markers of work competed. Such indicators are not helpful at motivating effort. Instead, consider LEADING indicators of productivity, that can easily be measured, and that you can structure into your day, into your week. For example “Hours of DEEP WORK with email and phone and web browser turned off.” This is specific, something you can DO each day, track on a paper or calendar, and watch the hatch marks multiply. AND, it may lead to some surprising, productive outcomes.

Favorite quote from John Cleese’s talk on creativity:

We don’t know where ideas come from, but we DO know they don’t come from our laptops.

Just set an alarm so that you don’t miss a family meal …

CMIO’s take? The information worker MUST learn to be a DEEP WORK expert. Medical Informatics is so many things, among them: Leading Change, Crucial Conversations, Deep Work. (Wow, more blog posts and book reviews apparently to come!)

CT meditates: a comedy (21). Wisdom is like rainwater

from: the Noun project dot com, By Iconathon, US

The Dalai Lama, in response to the critique about detachment and laziness: if we are going to be mindful, and then detach ourselves from immediate concerns and not take them so personally, won’t we become lazy, un-involved? What if we are ambitious and want to improve?

From The Book of Joy page 212. The Dalai Lama states:

We should also realize that the recognition of our own limitations and weaknesses can be very positive. This can be wisdom. If you realize that you are inadequate in some way, then you develop effort. If you think, everything is fine and I’m okay just as I am, then you will not try to develop further. There is a Tibetan saying that wisdom is like rainwater –both gather in the low places.

Speaking of rainwater in low places; this is the flimsy excuse I used with my spouse to justify my need to upgrade my iPhone (a few years ago: hmm; maybe it is already time again):

I was on a bike ride with my kids around our neighborhood on some dirt paths. Westerly Creek is normally a tiny stream that meanders through our area and bisects one of the biking paths. Normally the depth is about 6-8 inches, easily forded riding a mountain bike (and a nice and messy adventure for middle schoolers). However, this particular ride was soon after a major storm, and the stream seemed only slightly deeper and wider than usual. The kids were reluctant to cross. Being the good parent, I made fun of them: “Couple of scaredy cats. Look, I’ll ride to the other side and you’ll see.” I promptly rode in, immediately sank in up to my WAIST, when I floated off my bike, and then scrambled back out. My son pointed out: “Isn’t your phone in your pocket?” And so it was. And no amount of blow drying, rice-filled container packing, or finger crossing would bring it back. I was “forced” to go get a new phone. 🙁 🙂

Those of you keeping track of my images on these mindfulness posts; thank you to The Noun Project (https://thenounproject.com) for being a terrific resource for Creative Commons icons licensed for public use, as long as you attribute the source.

Remember: those coming on the journey: 3 minutes of meditation every day! I’m holding both of us accountable to this important habit!

CMIO’s take? Do not mistake the calm exterior for someone who doesn’t care. Also: wisdom, unlike rainwater, does not ALWAYS gather in the low places.