Blair Ashby  720-789-4000

Coaching and Training
Learn how to minimize your suffering.

The secret of self-compassion and communication is working with your mind.

A Riddle for Beginning A New Way to Think About Your Life

Self-compassion frequently seems like a riddle to people as they learn it. Here is a riddle demonstrating the exact conundrum people face when learning to treat themselves well. As you work on this riddle, try to watch your mind. Watch what it does. How does it think, react, process, or behave? Now, here is the puzzle.
Imagine a bird in a bottle, (like a wine bottle or an olive oil bottle).
Get the bird out of the bottle without hurting the bird or breaking the bottle.
Now, try to watch your mind work on this riddle. What does it do?

I’ll guess that instantly, your mind begins to fill up with questions like, why would the bird be in the bottle? And how did it get there, anyway? Potential answers to the riddle probably started to burst through, like cutting a hole in the bottle. Just as quickly, there may have followed reasons why that solution won’t work. Alternatively, maybe your mind began telling stories to explain the mystery. Finally, notice all the emotions you start experiencing, such as confusion, curiosity, exasperation, etc. Please take a moment and observe all of your brain’s activity sparked by this puzzle
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I appreciate you.
Learn about self-compassion and how valuable you are.
Learn about communication and Blair's methods of helping people communicate better using self-compassion.
Notice all the Thoughts and Emotions Going Through Your Brain and Body
If you don’t know the answer to the riddle, your mind may spend minutes or hours trying to find the solution. Soon, the wonder and fun may start to wear off, and irritation begins to set in. Suppose enough time passes without your mind giving up or solving the mystery. In that case, the minor irritation probably morphs into frustration and, eventually, anger at me for beginning this page with that riddle. Try to notice everything happening in your brain wrapped around this riddle.
What’s going on in our heads?
Generally, our brains do not tolerate negative thoughts and feelings. Instead, our brain tries to distract itself from conflicting ideas or uncomfortable thoughts and feelings by blaming something else for the problem or shifting our thinking to more pleasant thoughts. Your mind may even yell at me for “writing this dumb webpage and riddle.” Our brains usually work hard to avoid the discomfort of negative thoughts and feelings.
Awareness and Information Give You Power
Please notice that all of the reactions above represent some form of fight, flight, or freeze. If your mind didn’t bring up any of the options mentioned, please look at what it did think. Look closely and be honest with yourself; probably everything your mind thought of somehow fits fight, flight, or freeze reaction. It’s okay; it is normal. Parts of our brain automatically think this way all the time; it’s supposed to.
We Are Not Our Reactions
Finally, please note that I did not include you in the reactions of your mind. I call the reactionary parts of our mind the Survival Mind or the reactionary mind. The purpose of the Survival Mind is to keep us not dead, and it has five tools at its disposal.

The Survival Mind interprets everything that happens to us as a benefit, a threat, and sometimes neutral to our survival. It reacts instantly to survival benefits by trying to Grab and Hold onto the perceived benefit while generating positive feelings in us like hope or happiness.  The Survival Mind also immediately reacts to threats to our survival with a fight, flight or freeze action, which generally causes negative feelings in us. No feelings imply the brain doesn’t identify anything important in the situation to our survival, so our Survival Mind stops paying attention.

However, physical survival situations don’t happen very often, yet we still feel positive and negative emotions many times a day. Here is an example of feeling emotions when we aren’t experiencing any physical threat or benefit. We’ve almost all had nightmares and funny dreams: there is no physical threat or advantage; the dreams are all in our minds, and we still feel scared or laugh in our sleep.
Ironically, the Survival Mind has no capacity for logical thinking; it can’t distinguish between physical and mental situations; it reacts the same to a bear chasing you as it does to your spouse looking angry; we feel fear in both cases; we laugh when we see something funny, whether on a stage or in our minds. The Survival Mind can’t recognize the difference between physical and mental reality.
Physical Survival or a Mental and Emotional Sense of Survival
Our homes, offices, and social spaces are relatively safe. As a society, we have worked hard to create a feeling of safety and security. Unfortunately, many of us still feel threatened (and occasionally benefited) all the time. Our emotions are the giveaway. They tell us whether we perceive our world or our thoughts as threats or benefits. For example, a coworker’s behavior irritates us, our spouse gives us positive feedback, our kids disobey, or our boss assigns us to a task we don’t like, etc. Our thoughts about these situations form our mental and emotional survival or, as I call it, our Sense of Survival; this means we can tell the Survival Mind is activated because we feel emotions generated by how we think a situation benefits or threatens us.

Unfortunately, in our 24/7 work culture with unceasing workloads and chaotic schedules, we frequently suffer from burnout and exhaustion. Adding to these stressors, some of us go home to seemingly dysfunctional relationships. Between work and family, stress can feel overwhelming. Eventually, under all this effort “to survive,” the strain becomes too great, and we collapse from exhaustion. Then tomorrow, we start it all over again—no wonder we don’t feel meaning or satisfaction in our lives.
Wellness Programs Help Us Cope
Many of the companies that employ us have noticed we need support, and individually, you may also have seen it’s hard to function in survival mode all the time. As a result, many companies and wellness centers offer wellness programs to give people ways to get by. Additionally, consultants and experts have developed wellness programs that sometimes help us cope. By providing classes on meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and other decompression tools, they counter some of the negative dynamics we experience. These coping skills are helpful; they deescalate the negative thoughts and weaken the negative feelings for a brief time. They help us keep going even though we’re “walking wounded.” Thus, the critical question is, do you want something beyond coping mechanisms?
Going Beyond Coping Mechanisms
Fortunately, there are additional possibilities besides just coping. Self-compassion lies in navigating these mental minefields with the least amount of negative feelings or suffering (suffering is when we feel negative emotionally). The result of navigating a situation with self-compassion is that we feel more joy, peace, and contentment. In other words, our lives feel meaningful and satisfying.

What if we could learn skills that help us prevent the pressure from building up initially?
Coping mechanisms are excellent skills to know; they are Band-Aids, though. They soothe and protect the wounds we already have. If you’re thinking, “I want more than just relief,” here is a story introducing a new way to think.
A Story About Shielding Ourselves From Physical Pain and Mental Suffering
Long ago, a leather salesman man decided to hike up to three scenic overlooks. The path to the first overlook was rocky, and his feet were severely cut and bruised. He looked over the valley below while he sat down because his feet hurt. Wanting to finish the hike in one day, he quickly left for the second vista.

Unfortunately, spiny weeds and brambles covered the trail to the second overlook. Towards the top, the rocks, thistle, and burrs injured the man’s feet; they were cut, swollen, and inflamed so much that he couldn’t sit still to take in the view. Instead, his body fidgeted, trying to escape the pain in his feet. Hoping to distract himself from the pain, he set off for the third vista.

The path to the third overlook was up a steep mountain and covered with snow and ice. At first, the cold felt good, and he enjoyed some relief from the pain. However, his feet began to freeze, and the pain increased exponentially. By the top of the third overlook, his feet hurt so much that the man just wanted to go home and nurse his battered feet.
All three views were fantastic, but the suffering he experienced and the pain he felt dominated his mind and quashed any joy from the beauty.

After limping home, he complained to his wife about the ordeal. He said that he would cover all three paths with leather next time and protect his feet the whole way. His wife could see his painful feet and how much discomfort he was enduring, so she did what she could to ease his pain. Then she asked him a question. “Instead of trying to cover the paths with expensive leather, why don’t you get two thick leather squares and cover only your feet? Then, no matter where you go, your feet are protected.”
Cover Your Mind With the Leather of Self-Compassion
Interestingly, our daily lives are full of rocks, thorns, and ice. The dangers are the negative thoughts about ourselves, others, and our experiences that torture our minds automatically. Our brains mentally criticize ourselves and others with anger, regret, and shame for how we or they behave. Then, we increase our suffering by mentally yelling at ourselves or them for not acting the way we want. We punish ourselves further with disappointment and anger for feeling and thinking negative thoughts that are “wrong” or “unkind.” And, as if that still isn’t enough abuse, we criticize ourselves for being so judgemental to begin with. Our brains stack negative emotions upon negative feelings—no wonder we feel disappointed, disillusioned, and unworthwhile.

An alternative way to live is self-compassionately. Self-compassion is caring for yourself the way you truly want to be cared for and treating yourself the way you genuinely want to be treated. Self-compassion protects us from the mental rocks, thistles, and ice that in our daily lives look like anger, shame, regret, frustration, etc., or in other words, the negative feelings we endure. We can learn to navigate our day-to-day lives more comfortably by covering our minds with the “leather” of self-compassion.

For example, in the story above, the man’s wife did not personally experience the pain her husband’s feet were enduring. She could see his injuries and bruises and felt concerned because she loved him. In her wisdom, though, instead of making his pain her personal experience, she cared for his physical pain while soothing herself from her mind’s tendency to personalize his feelings. She did not add to her suffering by owning dynamics beyond her control. You, too, can learn this skill.
When things we don’t like happen,
the initial affliction we feel is terrible enough.
We don’t have to increase the torture
with further unnecessary suffering.
Unnecessary Suffering?
The majority of negative feelings we experience are unnecessary. In other words, they are optional; we don’t have to endure them, and generally, they do not help us deal with the situation positively. Instead, they increase our suffering because we usually can’t change the situation, no matter how valiantly we try. We then feel worse from trying and failing.
Do you want to suffer over something you can’t control? The experience is already bad; why make it worse by feeding the negative feelings from our mind’s unmanaged reactions?

Our autopilot reactions, habits, and normal behaviors are the usual way we live, and they are comfortable, yet they frequently also cause us to suffer unnecessarily. At this point, you may think, “If my automatic reactions cause me unnecessary suffering, isn’t changing my habits also going to cause me suffering?”

Yes …for a while.
It takes some effort to live a happier, more meaningful life.
Here is where self-compassion makes your life better.
You know you can control your behavior with effort, even though behavior modification can be challenging for us in ordinary life. What about the ability to transform how you think? To many, this paradigm seems near impossible.
Here is some good news. With practice, you can learn to see situations and thoughts that cause you suffering, and then you can learn how to change your mind’s thought processes about them. With consistency, you can also create new automatic thought patterns, so your automatic reactions make your life easier. You can train your mind to think and react in ways that improve your life automatically.

Yes, it takes some training and practice, which probably isn’t comfortable. This effort entails some purposeful suffering because rarely does something worth having come easy. Another way to look at it is that you can suffer unnecessarily or suffer intentionally (necessary suffering) while creating a better life for yourself. Therefore, the critical question is, which kind of suffering do you want to endure?

Self-compassion is treating yourself the way you genuinely want to be treated.

I can train you on how to be self-compassionate. You can learn to treat yourself and love yourself how you truly want to be treated and loved. I teach individuals and groups how to cover their minds with leather so that no matter where they go in life, they can focus their energy on being the people they genuinely want to be. Whether the situation is a relationship, office dynamics, work/life balance, or any other event in life, you can learn how to reframe your life for more satisfaction with self-compassion.


Gaining this skill will require intention, knowledge, and practice.

I will guide you in a gradual, gentle method so that you can accomplish your goals. I invite you to call me or contact me here to learn more. We can begin your training once you decide you want a more satisfying workplace, relationship, and life. Call me now to start creating your life your way.

PS: If you want the answer to the riddle, call me at 720-789-4000. I wont tell you the answer; Instead, I will help you solve the puzzle yourself because I know you can. Call me.


PS: If you want the answer to the riddle, call me at 720-789-4000. I won’t tell you the answer, but I will help you solve the puzzle yourself. Call me.

Self-compassion is a skill we learn faster when we practice together. Please sign up for my newsletter, and together, let's create better lives for ourselves. I will only send out a few emails a year.


Thank you.


PS: My website will send you a second email to verify  you truly want to sign up for  my newsletters.  Please, confirm your wish to receive my mailings.  Thank you!

Self-compassion is a skill we learn faster when we practice together. Please sign up for my newsletter, and together, let's create better lives for ourselves. I will only send out a few emails a year.


Thank you.



PS: My website will send you a second email to verify  you truly want to sign up for  my newsletters.  Please, confirm your wish to receive my mailings.  Thank you!