Advancing Our Community with a Growth Mindset using CBCT®

Do you feel like you want to make a difference in your life? In other lives?

“Growth mindset” is a popular term these days that we are seeing plastered all over social media. But, what does it mean exactly and how do we achieve it? At its face-value one might just think it means to read more. But in my work and research as a trauma therapist and compassion and resiliency researcher, intellectually understanding through reading something is only the tip of the iceberg. You can read a lot, and still understand very little about the world. Consider heartbreak as an example. You can read about broken relationships, but that wouldn’t necessarily cultivate an understanding as rich as if you have gone through the experience of heartbreak.

In order to create lasting change, we need to embody an understanding, through our experiences. Really feel it to our core. Take our learning from an intellectual understanding to one of embodiment. This is a much deeper dive….below the tip of the iceberg lies 90% of the ice. Literally change our cellular structure and course correct our nervous system. (Which by the way is a trainable, teachable skill that we can do.)

“We find comfort among those who agree with us, and growth among those who don't.” —Frank A.Clark

Read that again, slowly.

After reading that quote, notice how you feel? Does it spark a nerve? Or excitement? A challenge? Or a reluctance?

Can you reach across the aisle to a Republican or a Democrat and invite them in? Without “I’m right!” and “you’re wrong!” Intellectually, we get it. This is pedantic and silly. We intellectually realize that we are all humans underneath our belief systems and are all “on the same team.” But can you dive underneath the intellectualizing and embody it? Can you feel relaxed in your nervous system when you are engaging with someone who has radically different viewpoints? Can you agree to disagree, but also feel relaxed, calm, stable, without judgement, and attachment?

The CBCT® Cognitively-Based Compassion Training is helping people across the world reach across the aisles with compassionate understanding. It is an internationally recognized training program promoting health, healing, wellbeing and equanimity. It is being taught in school systems, hospitals, veterans programs, medical residency programs and more.

It is rooted in research and neuroscience which is radically advancing how we understand our minds. With the promise of neuroplasticity, in the last decade and a half, we are beginning to fully comprehend the potential of the human brain to form new neural pathways and regenerate, literally changing its structure in response to experience.

As a Level I SE™ practitioner of trauma and resiliency, digging even deeper than CBCT® the research shows how we have the inherent ability to bring our nervous system back into homeostatic balance. We can train in a growth mindset right down to our nervous system. The potential for growth is astonishing and I see it happen every day with my patients. Surpassing post-traumatic events, and relinquishing stuck residual trauma in their cells.

“Trauma is a fact of life. It doesn't have to be a life sentence.” —Dr. Peter Levine

What is Cognitively-Based Compassion Training?

  • A set of six wellness meditation modules that can be utilized as a set of skills used in your everyday life.

  • Resets the natural balance of our mind, body, and spirit if you will, to its natural unbiased, non-judgmental default mode.

  • Can be used by individuals for deep and lasting self-care, therapists, doctors, nurses, interagency helpers, corporations, executives, teachers, parents, churches, politicians, change agents of any kind. It is being used on systematic and/or community levels.

  • We call it “CBCT®” for short.

CBCT® skills are easy to learn!

You don’t have to be a professional helper to take it.

It is accessible to all people of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds and all faiths.

It is useful in all contexts of one’s life. In the office, at home, at church, or on the soccer field.

You have access to course materials, meditations, updated research, and more through an easy to use app.

CBCT® uses a Resiliency-Focused Strategy

  • It has identified with the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the best practices proven to build resiliency at both an individual and systematic level.

  • It seeks to proactively, rather than reactively, instill a strategic plan to heal our current system culture from the effects of stress, trauma, anxiety, loneliness, depression and a host of other mental and physical health concerns.

  • It provides you a useful language that you can easily and readily adopt into your everyday life. It gives you working tools and an embodied skill set for resiliency that you can immediately incorporate into your own life as well as the environments that you function in, i.e. family, church, activities, work, school, community.

  • It aims to restore the health of the entire system, community, or culture by promoting and cultivating health, well-being and a sense of inner confidence in ongoing ways through a ripple effect.

A growth mindset through CBCT® expands our resiliency zone.

Our resiliency zone is essentially the area where we feel most confident and capable. We can handle the ordinary ups and downs of a day without being thrown out of our nest. Unfortunately, on many days, there is an event or two that triggers your nervous system and throws you out of your comfort zone of resilience. How long your nervous system feels over or under activated as a result of that event, such as your boss yelling at you, depends on your training. This is where we all have a choice. What are we training in?

If you would like to train in CBCT® you can learn more here or register for the next course beginning this April.

20 NBCC CE Clock Hours or equivalent for your licensure are available and issued through Emory University.

Early Registration is strongly encouraged due to limited space.

Event will be held at:

Atlanta Center for Wellness

6100 Lake Forrest Dr. Suite 450

Sandy Springs, GA 30328

Event date and time:

April 12, 2019 through May 31, 2019

Meeting on Fridays from 10:00a to 12:00p

Learning Strength, Grit, Resiliency and Wisdom From Someone Who Has Done It Before

Rest in Peace, Ruthmary McColl Pope

  • Published on January 4, 2019

Todd Finch—Guest Blog Writer

Vital Connect Regional Sales Director (Southeast)


Rest in Peace, RuthMary McColl Pope. September 15, 1921-January 1, 2019.

Obituary for RuthMary McColl Pope

I am sad to announce the passing of my grandmother, RuthMary McColl Pope. She was 97. 97! I don't have a Facebook account or any other social media, but I feel LinkedIn is probably the most appropriate place for me to share my thoughts on her life and how profoundly she impacted me and taught me so much. 

Roo-Roo. As the eldest of 11 grandchildren, that's the name I bestowed upon her as a toddler because I couldn't say RuthMary. It stuck so well that everyone in the family and even those close in the community adopted it. My grandfather and her husband, Dr. Robert Pope, became Doc-Doc. He was the first pediatrician in the small eastern NC town of Wilson and they were married 58 years before his passing in 2006. Their marriage was a love story built upon genuine love for each other, true companionship, and many sacrifices (mostly by Roo-Roo as the wife of a pediatrician who made house calls his entire 50 year career and never made it through a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner without being called in to help a sick child and worried mother). She understood his calling, and gave him a supportive and understanding space in which he could thrive in his career. But we all saw her sacrifices.


These are the words that come to mind when I think about Roo-Roo. Gratitude. Kindness. Grit. Generous. Witty. Frugal. Health. Learned. Hydrangeas. Little Yellow Beach Cottage (LYBC). 

Gratitude. Roo-Roo awoke each and every day so thankful for what she called her wonderful blessings in life. Her large family, her many friends at church and the many volunteer organizations she led. That lightness and genuine spirit was contagious and rubbed off on us all. As the oldest grandchild and with her only living 45 minutes away, I was fortunate to spend much of my youth with her and I remember even as a child just how grateful she seemed to be for everything. Our comparing minds and ego are constantly trying to rob us of our innate gratitude. I would do well to stop and think of her when my comparing mind rears its ugly head. 

Kindness. Its so simple, isn't it? Just be kind. Don't be an ass. We come up with a myriad of excuses as to why we lost our cool in the moment. Yelled at our kids. Were insanely impatient because our Starbucks order wasn't ready in the mobile line precisely as we walked in. But Roo-Roo was genuinely kind to everyone. Everyone. She treated everyone equally. Like many in the south she had help with the house, and she treated them as beloved members of her family and taught me at an early age that one's title or job meant nothing. We can choose to be kind. 

Grit. As a hiring manager, I always gravitate to those who have persevered through adversity, be it personal or professional, and emerged with profound learnings in tow. Roo-Roo made it through the Depression. She would have been 12 in 1933. She lost her mother at a young age and an older brother as well. Rural, eastern NC at that time was a difficult place for a young girl and she assumed the role of head of house and the farm. That experience cultivated grit and a work ethic that I noticed even as a young boy. She just never. Stopped. Doing. Even at 97, beset with Alzheimer's, she was constantly trying to move from one place to another in the house and she didn't give up until the very end, which gratefully ended in peace. 

Generous. Roo-Roo and Doc-Doc raised 4 children on a pediatrician's salary between 1950 and 2000. I remember as a child seeing her at the credenza in the study writing checks. The Salvation Army. First Presbyterian Church. American Cancer Society. Giving a little extra cash to the milkman (yes, milk was delivered fresh in the 80's and even 90's in Wilson, NC). She always told me that they were fortunate to have what we did, and there were always people who could use some additional help and it was our duty to help them when we could. So we do. But we could do more. And we will. 

Witty. Man, was my Roo-Roo funny. She had a comedian's timing and acerbic wit. Maybe it was growing up with older brothers, or her time in the Red Cross in a Memphis hospital during WWII, but Roo-Roo developed a sharp wit that later became known as "Roo-Roo-isms." Zingers that left your sides hurting. Never mean-spirited or hurtful, more observational and matter of fact. As I got older, she'd sometimes share a ribald joke, totally not PC, and I thought she was the coolest grandma on the planet. She gave me my love for late night comedy, and when I would stay with her as a boy, we would stay up and watch Johnny Carson and then David Letterman together, long after Doc-Doc had passed out exhausted from a 16 hour day at the hospital. 

Frugal. Roo-Roo and Doc-Doc were well off, but they never acted like it. Oldsmobiles. Buicks. Leftovers. More leftovers. Reusing aluminum foil. Toilet paper rationing. As a 7 year old, I distinctly remember getting lectured on how much TP was appropriate to use. That stuck with me. Our family chalked it up to growing up descending from the West Scottish Highlands, as frugal a people as there are. My wife makes fun of me when I haggle about the price of everything. I derive such satisfaction from "is that the best you can do, or do you have any more room on the price?" As a result, we both drive Hondas. I love leftovers. And yes, I will wash out a perfectly good Zip-Loc bag as long as it didn't contain meat or fish and reuse it again. Thanks Roo-Roo. 

Health. Roo-Roo weighed the same at 90 as she did on her wedding day. She ate like a bird I used to think. She always ate small portions, snacked on healthy fruits and vegetables, loved a nibble of dark chocolate. And she was active. Gardening. She mowed the lawn. Cleaned the gutters. It was only 5 years ago that a neighbor visited the house and found Roo-Roo on the roof, cleaning the gutters, in 90+ degree NC humidity. At 92. When asked why, she said "they're not gonna clean themselves" and "why would I pay someone to do a job I can do myself." So there. 

Learned. I got my love of reading from Roo-Roo. She always had several books on her nightstand and the quiet moments she had when she wasn't tending to the house or yard she spent with books. No TV blaring. She particularly loved Southern literature and introduced me to Eudora Welty, Clyde Edgerton, Pat Conroy, William Faulkner, Alice Walker, and others. She encouraged intellectual curiosity. She encouraged an alternative point of view. She was interested and involved in politics and issues affecting her community. She was extremely proud of me when I got involved in student government at Appalachian State University, eventually running for VP of the Student Body. She'd write me letters in college and tell me of the books she was reading, mention she was proud of me majoring in English and History. Letter-writing is a lost art in today's digital world. She was instrumental in me learning how to write a proper thank-you letter, a skill I cherish and use frequently to this day. I loved seeing the mentions of George HW Bush and his prodigious letter writing after his passing. Roo-Roo would have admired that about him. 


Hydrangeas. Roo-Roo grew and cultivated the most beautiful hydrangeas all throughout her yard. She frequently had them scattered throughout the house in clear glass vases. The deep blue hues always gave me comfort and are a calming presence whenever I see them. We visited Cape Cod this summer where they just spill out of everyone's yards, bursting with color. I thought of her often that week, as we had just visited her a month prior, knowing it would likely be the last time we would be with her. She had moments of lucidity and clarity; less than more. My son played his ukulele and sang for her. I kissed her cheek and pressed my cheek against hers. She had the most beautiful and soft, baby-like skin. I cried as we pulled out of the driveway. 


Finally, the Little Yellow Beach Cottage (LYBC). When I die, I want some of my ashes to be scattered in the dunes in front of our LYBC. So many of my childhood memories are from the LYBC in Atlantic Beach, NC. Roo-Roo and Doc-Doc provided a lifetime of memories to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren by being fortunate enough and generous enough to share this place with us. Back in the 60's, they saw an ad in the paper for a decommissioned army barracks that was being sold from Fort Bragg, NC for $500. At that time, they couldn't afford to buy it, so they went in with another family, split the cost, =got a loan from BB&T, and shipped the duplex on a flatbed to the vacant lot. Since Doc-Doc was well-known in the community as the pediatrician, the bank allowed them to make payments whenever they could. So Roo-Roo would walk in a few dollars each month until it was paid off several years later. Quite a different time. But this is our family's Shangri La. Surf fishing. Boogey boarding. Shrimp functions. Starting and finishing a book on an all-day hammock binge. And a noontime rocking chair BLT with a Miller High Life with my Roo-Roo. Great times. 

You will be missed Roo-Roo, but the effect you had on others in your life was profound. May I be so lucky to positively impact 10% of those you did. Gratitude. Kindness. Grit. Generous. Witty. Frugal. Health. Learned. Hydrangeas. Little Yellow Beach Cottage. (LYBC). 

God Bless. 


Introducing Online Meditation Series!

Beginning this January 2019………


What are Dharma Talks with Jen?

Starting this January, I will be delivering four (4) 3-week meditation series online over the course of 2019. They will each follow the format of:


20 minute Dharma talk by Jen

20 minute guided meditation led by Jen

20 minute discussion, reflection, contemplation, and answering of questions

What is the Schedule?

January 15, 22, 29: Holding On to Your Self

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST



Course Description: As we brace ourselves to enter 2019, we will learn techniques in how to Hold On to Our Selves. We will be examining the psychology of differentiation and dive into self-exploration and personal development to help us reconnect, heal and grow intimately with others. Through a path to self-discovery and meaningful relationships it is essential that we know how to Hold On to Our Selves.

March 12, 19, 26: Emerging with Compassion

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST



Course Description: Spring signifies a time of Genesis. New beginnings. Starting Over. This 3-week series we will be excavating what lies already deep within you; your innate ability to be compassionate even amidst hardship, adversity, pain and struggle. We will be examining the science of compassion and taking a deep dorsal dive look into our fears of compassion. What keeps us from extending compassion to our adversaries? This spring, can we allow ourselves to shed these fears and emerge with compassion from an open heart?

August 13, 20, 27: Rebellious Self-Care

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST



Course Description: As we bound into the school year, we recognize the importance of taking care of ourselves in the most profound way. Rebellious self-care is a course on nurturing with sustainability. We are not talking about treatment or luxury service that is over with in an hour. This is a deep look into how a meditation practice can help you self-soothe and create calm on demand even when we are being pulled in a million directions. Rebellious Self-Care teaches us how to “Tie Our Selves to the Mast!”

November 5, 12, 19: Forgiveness Training

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST



Course Description: As we enter winter, it signifies a time of deep introspection. In this 3-week course we will be examining the science of forgiveness and the importance that it has in our own well-being. Forgiveness is absolutely possible, but it requires chivalry, and profound courage. A commitment to restore your boundaries and a willingness to receive healing from past wounds. We will be holding our fears of forgiving with compassion, as we bravely journey forward and step onto this path. Prepare yourself for healing and change.

P.S. Don’t Forget………


The Big Sit!

January 8th, 2019

Whole Foods/East Cobb/Merchants Walk

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

We will not be meeting at our usual time of the 1st Tuesday of this January month as that would be New Year’s Day. So we will begin our 2019 East Cobb Sangha on the 8th.

This group meets the first Tuesday of every month at Whole Foods/East Cobb/Merchants Walk from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (please check the schedule prior to attending)

Join us for The Big Sit January 8th as we begin the new year mindfully!


Registration is open and filling up fast for this one-of-a-kind event.

Treat yourself or a loved one or family member this holiday season and purchase a ticket to this experiential event. Kintsugi is an ancient Japanese art of repairing your flaws, fissues and cracks with gold, thus embellishing their beauty and making us uniquely you! We will be creating a space where we can be imperfectly perfect, using this beautiful art form, yin yoga and meditation.

Why Resolutions Will Fail

Why Resolutions Will Fail

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Why Resolutions Will Fail

If you want to make lasting change in your life, don’t set a resolution, practice Starting Over.


I first heard of the phrase “starting over,” used to describe a practice over 5 years ago from the Buddhist meditation teacher and author Phillip Moffit. In his book, “Dancing with Life,” he wrote about a strong message to teach you to dance with both the joy and the pain in your life. He shares the wisdom of the path of self-empowerment, and deeply rooted in this search for a more authentic life is the practice of self-compassion. Without it, we would endure suffering endlessly, as if we were stuck in purgatory. Serious stuff. But, he instead teaches about a gentler way, where we can allow ourselves to find peace and a balanced mind and calm spirit by simply “just starting over.” Again and again. Moment to moment.


I was deeply inspired by this phrase, and he instilled a radical attitudinal shift in which I began to seriously examine how my mind was continually stuck in self-criticism, expectations and aimed at unimaginable and quite frankly, unachievable outcomes. How easily I was caught and embroiled in my life. Every time I was reactive in my life, or knocked off of my intended path, “just start over.” I immediately incorporated this into my daily life practice.


As a meditation teacher, I am often solicited by students for advice on how they can improve their emotional or relational life, especially with their loved ones. They, like me, have tried an exhaustive list of attempts to change but fail repeatedly. They set goals to get in shape, stay thin, achieve work goals, eat better, react less, love more, parent mindfully but fail time and time again. I listen empathically to each person’s story and cater to their unique needs in a tailored fashion, but the essence of my response is almost always the same. Taking the advice directly from Phillip Moffit,“If you want to change your life and are having difficulty doing so, then you need to master the practice of starting over. More than any mantra, resolution, therapy, or behavioral self-manipulation, this is the practice that creates results.”


It is a powerful technique that trains us in self-compassion, gentleness, kindness, and allowing. It is not restrictive but allows us to meet each moment with a freshness that does not pull us into our ceaseless spiral of cognitive vomit, of criticism, shame, fear, imperfection and flaws. It is the practice of training in authentic wisdom, steeped in self-compassion and love.


If you have ever tried to meditate, you will notice instantaneously that the mind is constantly being pulled away from the object of discovering your breath and the full presence and existence of your body awareness, and is instead hijacked by mental activity and chatter that causes you to lose that exact awareness of the present moment. The mind sabotages this effort of simple, intentional focus, habitually. In the same way, in our daily lives, we get hijacked by strong emotions, and feelings and we get swept up and entangled into the story line that they create. “I am not good enough.” “I am not enough.” “If only I had more strength, courage, will-power etc….”


When we set a resolution to change, for instance we want to drop the middle aged 20 pounds, and your goal is to stop being the way that you are….lazy….tired….out of shape. You want to eat right and feel strong through exercise.  Usually right after you make the resolution to change your behavior, something happens that throws you off track and you return to the undesired behavior. You are invited to Super Bowl parties, and, once again you are drinking too much, not exercising, eating poorly. All of the old, habitual stories flood your mind, along with self-judgment, discouragement, frustration….this is really self-damaging territory.  You try again and again, but you never gain traction and you come to believe that you cannot change and that this is impossible, or that you are just not strong enough, or that you are not enough. You watch other people do it, and then social compare with, “How come I can’t?!” Be cautious here, because in that looking glass they are not perfect either. We are all just perfectly human, which is embodied with limitations and impermanence…..but I’ll save that for another blog post.


Often the problem is that you don’t know how to be resolute without also being rigid in your expectations. You haven’t learned how to surf on the waves of the ocean of your life, or of your mind. You haven’t learned how to lean in and then let go. You can however successfully navigate those emotionally charged or intractable parts of yourself that are causing the inner storms in your daily life simply by applying the gentleness practice of starting over. As many times as it takes. Even on the cushion, allowing your self to return to the breath again and again, start over and begin fresh again and again. And each time is an opportunity for brain growth. Strengthening the muscles in the brain, reinforcing neuroplasticity and creating lasting change.


Moffit says, “We have somehow learned in our culture the mistaken notion that you must know why you have a problem and must get rid of it before you can act in a more self-empowering manner. Starting-over practice takes a different approach. It switches your focus away from dwelling on those characteristics that limit you and redirects it toward recognizing your strengths from which you can realize your potential.”


This shift in focus is attitudinal. You simply apply and attune yourself to every task or person you care about with 100% effort, but when you can’t, you allow yourself to begin again. This is a humble attitude, but is exactly what is needed for you to sustain your resolution.


This year, in 2018, free yourself from your judging, self-criticizing, perfecting mind that thinks it can control the results and achieve grandiose expectations that you are capable of impossible things and way more than you can do in the present moment. You will not shoot below par every time you play golf. There are a multitude of conditions that encumber our outcomes. The weather, how much caffeine we have had, how our bad shoulder feels that morning, etc.  You become a more effective person simply learning how to use your time and energy to do what you can do right now with 100% effort.  And start over unapologetically how every many times you need.


Starting-over practice is like this – you attend as best you can to the immediate situation or person that is challenging you. This takes practice. Our mind will attempt to shift your attention away from starting over and instead attempt controlling the outcome. You train in abandoning your usual reactions of criticizing, judging, complaining, and lamenting and get back on track. You just say, “Okay, I just got lost, and now I’ll just start over.”


When you find yourself getting knocked off balance, don’t judge yourself for getting lost. Observe what happened, how you felt, notice the emotional energy that you waste by judging yourself and indulging in your puritanical mind. It only takes a moment to be compassionate with yourself, let go and begin again.


“Yes, I just got lost, and now I’ll just start over.”


Let your meditation practice be your training ground for this practice. It is a safe environment that allows you to start over, because no one can see that you are starting over. How wonderful! Simply start here by returning to your breath, returning to your intention and within that practice you are cultivating calmness, peacefulness, equanimity, self-compassion and lasting change. Find the spaces for allowing a fresh start. No matter how many times your mind wanders, don’t be interested in quantifying this, instead, be interested in how well you start over.