Taking on too many tasks during the day? Constantly checking your phone? Easily distracted?  Let us help you get centered once and for all.

“Centering” isn’t just another term for being focused.  There’s an actual physical center of the body, located just below the navel. In Qigong, it’s called the “lower dantian.” Concentrating on this center will help quiet your mind.  Once you’ve reduced the chatter in your head, you can get in touch with your badass higher self.

Then again, maybe you need a bigger shock to your system, something that will completely remove you from your current situation and give you what we call “Superoptimal Centering.”  In that case, pack a satchel, jump in the car and head to Lebanon, Kansas. Here you’ll find the geographical center of the 48 contiguous United States.  Just take US Highway 281 north 1 mile, and turn west on K-191.  Go for another mile until you see the marker at the end of the road.*

There’s very little to do once you get here.  And isn’t that the point?  Relax, slow down, sign the guest register and luxuriate in the great expanse that is the Sunflower State.  Just think: now nobody’s more centered than you!

*Note: the actual geographical center is about a half mile away, in the middle of a former hog farm.

On June 7, 1893, a young Indian lawyer was asked to vacate the first class compartment of a train because he was not white-skinned. He refused and told the railway officers that he would not go voluntarily, they would have to throw him out.  This act of standing up against injustice was, in effect, this holy man’s first act of civil disobedience.*

Even thought it’s not the exact anniversary of Gandhi’s first time speaking truth to power, it’s always a good day to channel the spirit of this activist for people’s rights. And independent thinking besides!

*He got what he asked for.  Gandhi was thrown out of the compartment, and his luggage was flung out too.  The train sped away, leaving him freezing outside the station.  However, he didn’t lose his front teeth in this encounter, that came later.


Feeling stuck? Blocked? Like you’ve hit a brick wall?

You’re not alone. But rather than work yourself up into a froth, we suggest taking a page from Marcus Aurelius’ notebook.

True, it is a pretty old notebook. After all, Marcus was a Roman ruler back when you could count the centuries on two fingers. But that doesn’t mean he was ancient in his thinking. In fact, he was one of the first guys to carry around some papyrus and stylus and pen notes to himself to keep him on track.

It was his journaling, at first untitled, then known as “Marcus’ Writings to Himself,” and finally as the “Meditations”, where we gain our understanding of Stoicism, an early form of philosophy.

Stoicism sets out to remind us of how unpredictable the world can be, how brief our moment of life is, and that the source of our dissatisfaction lies in our view of the situation, not in the situation itself.  In fact, Marcus wrote to himself that any problem we might face could actually be opportunity in disguise.  As he put it: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

In other words, everything is opportunity.  Even the brick wall that you’re currently banging your head against. So there’s no need to panic. Being stuck isn’t “bad.” It just is. By stepping back from self-flagellation and gazing at the problem dispassionately, you can begin to accept it. And in the acceptance comes growth.

So enjoy every blessed obstacle in your path, and they’ll return the favor by offering you a chance to overcome them!


Whether it’s writing, painting, or opening a kebab stand, conventional wisdom says that you must “find your own voice.” But is that true? Maybe instead of driving yourself mad chasing after that invisible ghost known as “originality,” you should just lock yourself away for awhile and get busy copying the person you admire most.

That’s what Ray LaMontagne did. Before he was a world famous musician, he was just another schlub working a dead-end job in a Maine shoe factory, with no prospects other than surviving another shift.  Until one morning he awoke to his clock radio playing  Stephen Stills’ “Treetop Flyer.” For reasons known only to the gods, the clock radio and Ray, instead of reporting for work that day, he decided to become a singer-songwriter himself. But how the hell would he do this, with no training up to this point?

With what little money he had, he bought a bunch of old records by Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and The Big O, Otis Redding, and began slavishly imitating them. He basically holed up in his apartment for a couple of years and let Redding’s voice be his guide.  By being laser focused on transmitting The King of Soul through his own larynx, he developed his own skill set that eventually lead him to multi-platinum recording success.

Ray found his own voice by borrowing someone else’s. So if you want to make The New York Times bestseller list, quit your job, tell your friends you’ll be unreachable for awhile, and immerse yourself in the works of your favorite writer until you can type them all by memory. You want to be a professional squash champion, start by watching all the video of Mohamed Elshorbagy you can find while glueing a racquet to your hand. Whatever your pursuit, it won’t be long before your mind alters its circuitry based on the information you’re feeding into it.  And yet, you will still be processing it through your own passageways, so what comes out on the other side will be considered “your voice” — unless your goal is to be an Elvis impersonator.

How long with it take for you to hit the big time?  If you’re a fast learner, give it about five years. And then when you become a raging success,* be like Ray and admit your thieving ways without shame. There are no original voices. And isn’t that a relief!

*Notice we didn’t say “if.”  This is SuperOptimism, after all.

As Babe Ruth said, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.”  He never let the naysayers prevent him from approaching the plate with a swagger and a smile.  Yet plenty of people wanted to see him fail, and fail he did.  Not only was the Babe called the “Sultan of Swat,” he was also known as the “King of Strikeouts.” In fact, he led the American League in whiffs five times, and accumulated 1,330 of them in his career. If he had been afraid of getting beaten at the plate, he never would have launched 714 dingers over the outfield fence.  So take a tip from the Big Bambino; dare to fail, and laugh about it when you do.  Then get back in the batter’s box and see what happens next!

If you find it getting stuffy in your home, office, car or — most especially — cranium, take a cue from Aldous Huxley and open some doors.

Now we don’t advocate taking drugs to break open the head.  Rather, we recommend literally opening the nearest door, walking out of the confines you are currently in and towards a meditation center, nature preserve, or art studio.* All are more genuine ways of breaking through to the other side, without the nasty side effects.

As Aldous said, “The ordinary waking consciousness…is by no means the only form of consciousness, nor in all circumstances the best. Insofar as he transcends his ordinary self and his ordinary mode of awareness, the mystic is able to enlarge his vision, to look more deeply into the unfathomable miracle of existence.”

So open all the doors.  And windows too.  Especially if there’s a nice breeze to be enjoyed.

*Huxley himself began practicing meditation years before he experimented with substances.  

In the midst of all the tributes to the former First Lady and mother of “W.”, we couldn’t help but wonder how this woman survived in the midst of two Georges and a Jeb.  So we did a little research and found this quote from her:

“The darn trouble with cleaning the house is it gets dirty the next day anyway. So skip a week if you have to.”

It seems that Babs overcame society’s push towards having everything neat and tidy (which, as we all know, life never is). One could also extrapolate this to include work, eating vegetables, and returning phone calls from the IRS.  We applaud her for turning her back on such small-minded thinking in favor of letting her freak flag fly — as well as not dying her hair or getting any botox (that we know of.)*

*As for her politics, well…as Babs also said, “I don’t like attacking.” So we’ll leave it at that.


Stuck on a problem at work? Feeling trapped in a relationship? Wishing you could beat the wave of hopelessness and fatigue that arrives every afternoon at 3? We advise you to take a lesson from the Sufis and become your own “spin doctor.”

By cranking up the stereo, focusing on the heavens, and turning around and around in a tight circle repeatedly, you can reach “Kemal”, the source of all perfection. How does this happen? For one thing, you get a vigorous workout that raises your endorphins. For another, your mind can’t focus on your egocentric issues when it’s focused trying to keep you upright.

Many dervishes start their practice with a cup of strong Turkish coffee, which we heartily subscribe to. And if you’re looking for an appropriate song to start your fancy footwork, try “Peşrev in maqām acem.” This one’s guaranteed to get you spinning like a top!

When you smile, don’t hold back.  Show as many teeth as you can.  See if the observer can count at least half your teeth when you beam at them.  A smile is infectious.  But rather than a nasty virus, you’re spreading mirth and merriment.*  And if you can smile even in the worst of circumstances, then you’ve truly mastered the secret to a happier life.

And don’t worry if you don’t have perfect teeth.* Many celebrities have incorporated their crooked smiles into eight-figure incomes. Kirsten Dunst, Steve Buscemi, and Ricky Gervais come to mind. “Are you havin’ a laugh?” They sure are!

Ricky Gervais: 'Before The Office I never tried hard at anything' | Ricky Gervais | The Guardian

*Even if you have poor dental hygiene, people will still return your smile, though they may back up a step or two. We recommend brushing and flossing and visiting the dentist twice a year.

Sleep science is all the rage, along with bespoke mattress companies, open-cell, poly-foam pillow design, and the promise that melatonin will lure you gently into that good night, minus the hallucination and hangover of pharmaceuticals.  Yet your subconscious couldn’t care less about the new sleep sound machine you’ve configured to “relaxing rainforest.”

Once you start snoozing and the heavy REMs arrive, the dreams come forth in bunches.  Naturally, you’d prefer to be uncovering a treasure chest filled with gold doubloons, seducing the fairest of them all, and waving from an open convertible as the ticker tape alights on your shoulders along the Canyon of Heroes.

But think about it: waking up from pleasant dreams into the cold light of reality is much more difficult than bolting upright after experiencing a twisted nightmare. As you wipe the sweat from your temples and realize you haven’t actually lost a limb to a tiger shark, or been fondled by your father, you can be grateful that the day ahead won’t involve a flock of purple vultures feasting on your intestines.

So celebrate all dreams, especially the god-awful ones.  They can serve to give you a new lease on life.  After all, you’re not standing naked in front of your classmates from grade school minus the speech you were supposed to memorize.*

*This can actually happen if you don’t remember to dress properly in the morning. Please make sure you belt your trousers securely.

Bonus suggestion:  Don’t try to repress undesired thoughts before bedtime. They’re more likely to find their way into your dreams that night.  This according to a study at Goethe University, Frankfurt. 

Illustration: Dream interpretation of birth.