Tomorrow, Author, ERIC MAISEL will be visiting my blog as the last day of the Ten Zen Seconds World Blog Tour. If you have been keeping up with the tour, then you have read some interesting ways to use Eric's technique of mixing mindfulness with a simple breathing technique. Ten Zen Seconds introduces a new, powerful approach to mindfulness. It is a book, a practice, and an invitation to live a more centered, grounded, and meaningful life. Marrying Eastern and Western techniques, it builds on the simple idea that deep breathing coupled with right thinking is the perfect tool for growth, healing, and transformation. The first in a series of books exploring this next step in the practice of mindfulness, Ten Zen Seconds offers you the tools to make changes, solve problems, and simply feel better.
Dr. Eric Maisel is the author of more than thirty books. He holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology, Master's degrees in Creative Writing and Counseling, and a Doctorate in Counseling Psychology. He is a California licensed marriage and family therapist, a creativity coach and trainer of creativity coaches, a columnist for Art Calendar Magazine, provides regular segments for Art of the Song Creativity Radio, and teaches Ten Zen Second techniques through lectures, workshops, and teleseminars. He lives in San Francisco.
Dr. Maisel’s books include:
• Ten Zen Seconds
• Creativity for Life
• Everyday You
• The Van Gogh Blues
• Toxic Criticism
• Coaching the Artist Within
• Fearless Creating
• The Creativity Book
• Affirmations for Artists
Today we will focus on what Ten Zen Seconds is about and what the phrases are.
AM: What is Ten Zen Seconds all about?
EM: It’s actually a very simple but powerful technique for reducing your stress, getting yourself centered, and reminding yourself about how you want to live your life. It can even serve as a complete cognitive, emotional, and existential self-help program built on the single idea of “dropping a useful thought into a deep breath.”
You use a deep breath, five seconds on the inhale and five seconds on the exhale, as a container for important thoughts that aim you in the right direction in life—I describe twelve of these thoughts in the book—and you begin to employ this breathing-and-thinking technique that I call incanting as the primary way to keep yourself on track.
AM: Where did this idea come from?
EM: It comes from two primary sources, cognitive and positive psychology from the West and breath awareness and mindfulness techniques from the East. I’d been working with creative and performing artists for more than twenty years as a therapist and creativity coach and wanted to find a quick, simple technique that would help them deal with the challenges they regularly face—resistance to creating, performance anxiety, negative self-talk about a lack of talent or a lack of connections, stress over a boring day job or competing in the art marketplace, and so on.
Because I have a background in both Western and Eastern ideas, it began to dawn on me that deep breathing, which is one of the best ways to reduce stress and alter thinking, could be used as a cognitive tool if I found just the right phrases to accompany the deep breathing. This started me on a hunt for the most effective phrases that I could find and eventually I landed on twelve of them that I called incantations, each of which serves a different and important purpose.
AM: What sort of hunt did you go on?
EM: First, I tried to figure out what are the most important tasks that we face as human beings, then I came up with what I hoped were resonant phrases, each of which needed to fit well into a deep breath, then, most importantly—which moved this from the theoretical to the empirical—I tested the phrases out on hundreds of folks who agreed to use them and report back on their experiences. That was great fun and eye-opening!
People used these phrases to center themselves before a dental appointment or surgery, to get ready to have a difficult conversation with a teenage child, to bring joy back to their performing career, to carve out time for creative work in an over-busy day—in hundreds of ways that I couldn’t have anticipated. I think that’s what makes the book rich and special: that, as useful as the method and the incantations are, hearing from real people about how they’ve used them “seals the deal.” I’m not much of a fan of self-help books that come entirely from the author’s head; this one has been tested in the crucible of reality.
AM: Which phrases did you settle on?
EM: The following twelve. I think that folks will intuitively get the point of each one (though some of the incantations, like “I expect nothing,” tend to need a little explaining). Naturally each incantation is explained in detail in the book and there are lots of personal reports, so readers get a good sense of how different people interpret and make use of the incantations. Here are the twelve (the parentheses show how the phrase gets “divided up” between the inhale and the exhale:
1. (I am completely) (stopping)
2. (I expect) (nothing)
3. (I am) (doing my work)
4. (I trust) (my resources)
5. (I feel) (supported)
6. (I embrace) (this moment)
7. (I am free) (of the past)
8. (I make) (my meaning)
9. (I am open) (to joy)
10. (I am equal) (to this challenge)
11. (I am) (taking action)
12. (I return) (with strength)
A small note: the third incantation functions differently from the other eleven, in that you name something specific each time you use it, for example “I am writing my novel” or “I am paying the bills.” This helps you bring mindful awareness to each of your activities throughout the day.
Tomorrow I will repeat the incantations and ask Dr. Maisel how artists can use them in managing their high energy creative lives.