Triggered by ‘Difficult People’? Step away from the Reactive Mind towards a Heart-Centered Mind

TGI’s perspective on cultivating a Whole New Heart-Centered Mind

A spiritual practice is an essential part of spiritual life. One example of practice would be cultivating presence and discernment between a reactive mind and an open mind.

Eckhart Tolle invites us to be grateful for the big egos around us, as they are a “wonderful spiritual practice.”  He says, “Ego cannot manipulate presence.” 

There is a story of a zen master who used mundane tasks around the monastery as a teaching tool. Students would be asked to dig holes or sort rocks as they practiced presence.

One extremely agitated man complained bitterly about the silly chores, making everyone feel on edge. Finally, when asked to dig up patches of grass, this student became enraged. He threw down his shovel and sped away in his car which left everyone elated. To their surprise, the zen master followed him, convincing him back to the class.  Later, when someone asked why he would want him there, the old monk replied simply, “because I pay him to be here.”

Difficult people are everywhere these days and it’s natural to think that getting rid of them is the best solution to the problem. (Which may or may not be possible at times.)

However, it is possible to learn how to stay present when things feel uncomfortable, a practice that can rewire the brain for equanimity and nonduality around difficult people.  It trains us to bring space into our reactive mind and invites a deeper relationship with life exactly as it is.

In his book, No Mud, No Lotus, The Art of Transforming Suffering, Thich Nhat Hanh writes,

“Meditate on your perceptions. The Buddha observed that the person who suffers most in this world is the person who has many wrong perceptions, and most of our perceptions are erroneous.”

In my experience, difficult people are suffering in ways that aren’t always easy to see.  When triggered by someone’s behavior, I notice how my mind tends to reactively judge. They shouldn’t be acting like that!

These thoughts create suffering in me which creates more thoughts based on the perception that they shouldn’t be acting like that when they ARE acting like that. Accepting reality means allowing people to be as they are and not taking it personally. Asking myself, can I accept this, too? And if possible, offering compassion to the suffering arising in myself and the other.

The Coaching with Spirit program gave me spiritual practices to connect with my inner experience. Primarily, I discovered that my reactivity to other’s behavior can either be a call to battle (adding fuel to the fire) or an invitation to engage with self-care and grow.

By cultivating a greater capacity for self-compassion in those moments, it’s possible to keep an open heart in any relationship. 

The blog is written by Kimberly Ruggiero.

Kimberly Ruggiero is a long-time meditator. She also works as a transformational coach and artist.  She has a BS in Chemistry, MA in Consciousness Studies, and studied at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Art. Kim has training in MBSR and is certified through the Engaged Mindfulness Institute.

She works as a Program Coordinator in Integrative Health and Healing and facilitates a Mindfulness Meditation Group at TGI –  every Tuesday evening online – 


Mindfulness Teacher
If you like this blog learn more about Kim and her teachings by attenDing our Mindfulness Meditation group every Tuesday. This friendly, open-hearted group is for anyone interested in meditation and exploring awareness training. Newcomers are always welcome. The basic structure is guided meditation, conscious sharing and topic discussion. We go about 90 minutes, sometimes more or less but you are welcome to arrive and depart as your schedule allows.

Learn more:

Mindfulness Meditation Class with Kim 

@ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm EDT


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A better world arises out of the Awakened Consciousness

Are you experiencing post-pandemic stress or trying to calm anxiety about an uncertain future?

It’s believed that Apollo’s temple at Delphi in ancient Greece was a place where people would go over 500 BCE seeking answers from the transcendent; answers to questions like,  What should I do with my life? or How can I find happiness?

While these are important questions, the two words of wisdom carved into the stone entrance are “Know thyself”.

Socrates taught, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”

According to spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, unless you know yourself from a larger perspective, the conditioned mind will continue to create the same dramas over and over. Knowing yourself at the deepest level shifts identity from the form to the formless, from ‘me’ to something more profound and authentic.

Left unchecked, old mind structures will unconsciously recreate the same things and the same kinds of relationships.

Tolle states, “We don’t need to think about how to create a better world, a better world arises out of the awakened consciousness.”

Mindfulness and meditation practice removes barriers to source, inviting a direct relationship with the transcendent. 

Tolle suggests identifying what is relatively important vs what is absolutely important… a connection with the Source.

Inviting moments of spaciousness and stillness into thinking quiets the monkey mind that is always trying to figure things out. From here it’s possible to bring a deeper knowing that isn’t as likely to get stuck on the level of duality, separation, and thinking.

This is also important in relationships with others. Recognizing the other in yourself is the realization of oneness and unconditional love where compassion and empathy can be felt.

You may like to read a similar article from our Blog written by the same author:

Blog is written by Kimberly Ruggiero.

Kimberly Ruggiero is a long-time meditator. She also works as a transformational coach and artist.  She has a BS in Chemistry, MA in Consciousness Studies and studied at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Art. Kim has training in MBSR and is certified through the Engaged Mindfulness Institute.

She works as a Program Coordinator in Integrative Health and Healing and facilitates a Mindfulness Meditation Group at TGI –  every Tuesday evening online – 


Mindfulness Teacher

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Psychedelic Integration and Consciousness (Studies)

Psychedelic Medicine and  Integration by Robert Krause, DNP APRN-BC 

Psychedelics are experiencing a resurgence after almost half a century of prohibition since the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 made, among other classes of drugs, Schedule I, illegal to own or possess or use clinically, which made it very difficult to study. Schedule I drugs have no medical therapeutic value and are considered dangerous and addictive.

What’s very interesting is that the majority of psychedelic medicines have medicinal value (that was known and reported in medical journals at the time), are comparatively safe, and are not habit forming.

More people are using various psychedelics in both legal and underground contexts. The Wild West that this creates is a place where there are widely varying experiences, offering greatly differing opportunities to properly integrate the profound and sometimes troubling experience that people come away with.

To understand this, a recent hypothesis, described The Entropic Brain, has been proposed by Robin Carhart-Harris, et al. They argue that a chief function of psychedelic medications is to move people from lower states of entropy, such as depression, trauma, and OCD, to higher states of entropy. It is common for people in low entropy states to think the same things repeatedly and have vastly reduced quality and variety of experiences in life.

As our brains become more stimulated by the medicines, our minds become more flexible.

We see possibilities that were previously obscure and hope where there seemed to have been none. We enter into what might be called “flow states,” or states of peak performance. During these states, our minds are flexible, open, and creative. Another factor that is known is that most psychedelics increase a compound called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that I often describe as fertilizer for our dendrites.

Basically, BDNF promotes new neural connections that are reinforced by our behaviors. So the period of integration after a psychedelic experience is incredibly important because it is in this period that lasting healing and new life patterns can be created and reinforced.

When we are not properly prepared for these experiences or when the setting of the experience is not well planned, the experience can be difficult or troubling.

When we do not properly integrate these experiences, at the very least, we lose the opportunity to make the most of the experience; and at the worst, we can find ourselves floating without previous world view in question and no place to land. Fortunately, there are therapists who specialize today in integration therapy for people who have had these experiences.

Also, training in such things as yoga, meditation, Buddhism, Tantra, world mythologies, and the study of the nature of consciousness can be quite helpful to begin to understand the profound experience that the journeyer had and put it into context.

There are legal and currently available medications that fall into the overall categories of “psychedelic” experiences or consciousness medicine, where licensed and trained professionals can assist one in preparing for going on and recovering from these experiences. Still, it is important also to know that these experiences are not for everyone.

There are some whose medical or psychological condition would preclude the safe use of many of these. This is another reason to consult a trained and licensed professional before embarking on a journey of this magnitude.

Imagine if you were to plan a trip to Mount Everest, or to the Amazon jungle, wouldn’t you want a guide who knew the way? A guide who knew how to get you there and back in one piece? Someone who knew the dangers to avoid and the sublime places to see?

About Robert Krause

Robert Krause, DNP, APRN-BC is Visiting Faculty at the Graduate Institute and a former faculty lecturer in the GEPN program at the Yale School of Nursing where he worked for the past 20 years. He has extensive experience in teaching including having taught courses at Western CT State University, Quinnipiac University, and the Yale School of Nursing. He coordinated the GEPN Clinical Psychiatric Nursing experience as well as lectured for Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing and a professional issues course. His research has involved using yoga, meditation, and other practices to decrease aggression in-patient psychiatric populations. Currently, he researches the use of Psilocybin for depression and also maintains a private psychiatric practice treating most major psychiatric conditions with therapy and pharmacology.


If you are interested in Psychedelic Medicine and learn more about Robert Krause and his career as a nurse, tune in to his interview below: 



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Let us live, feel and be together in Ubuntu. Let us celebrate Juneteenth!

Dear TGI Community –  let us celebrate Juneteenth and honor freedom! 

Today marks the first celebration of Juneteenth – the anniversary of the day that the Emancipation Proclamation reached the last U.S. state under confederate control to bring freedom to enslaved Africans.

We know the story of America is violent, hopeful, aspirational and complicated.

The Graduate Institute fosters holistic thinking and perspectives that help our community develop capacity together so we can hold multiple perspectives, build empathy, and live with ambiguity.

We learn and grow together both in the classroom, as well as with our families, our work colleagues, and in our home communities.

As we join with our Black siblings in remembrance and celebration today, we focus on freedom and hope.


Juneteenth band. Photograph by Grace Murray Stephenson of celebrations in Eastwoods Park, Austin, 1900.

It took two years for the Union army to reach all of the confederate states and declare liberation for the enslaved Africans there. Freedom wasn’t immediate, and relief wasn’t guaranteed. We know the history of African slavery in this country is traumatic, and African Americans, and Black Americans continue to be marginalized across all sectors of society. And yet, there was celebration in the streets.

That year and in the 156 years since, Juneteenth celebrations are a recognition of hope for a future that was different from the present, and are, in themselves, an act of resistance.

Today we remember together the pain and the suffering. And today we celebrate freedom and liberating futures.

Ubuntu is an African term that describes a new vision of humanity.

Here is how Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes Ubuntu:

“It is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong. It speaks about wholeness, it speaks about compassion. A person with Ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole. They know that they are diminished when others are humiliated, diminished when others are oppressed, diminished when others are treated as if they were less than who they are. The quality of Ubuntu gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them.”

We encourage you to learn more about Black liberation in the U.S. by engaging with this reading list from the New York Public Library, Schomburg Center, for adults, and this one for kids and teens.

You can read scholarly articles, curated by the Journal Storage Digital Library, here.

Let us live, feel and be together in Ubuntu.

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The Power of Forgiveness and Gratitude

Could Forgiveness be a gift and a passage to Grace?

When asked to write an article about forgiveness, I felt hesitant. With so much contention in the world how can anyone willingly surrender their strong position and forgive?

I consider forgiveness to be a superpower, right up there with gratitude. It’s recognizing there is a state of grace beyond suffering, no matter the situation.  They are both evolved qualities that require a certain capacity to hold strong negative feelings in a larger perspective.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”  –Martin Luther King Jr.

Anger and fear are normal, intelligent emotions signaling that a boundary has been crossed. Something needs our attention. When a human being feels betrayed, diminished, abused, oppressed or exploited, instinct is to fight back, run away or dissociate. If the hurt isn’t processed and resolved, seeking revenge, ruminative thinking and resentments often follow. Blinded by emotion and thoughts, we have difficulty seeing that we are hurting ourselves by embodying that painful emotion and resonating that energy inside our bodies and to others.

 “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”  –Buddha

Neuroscientist Rick Hanson, author of Buddha’s Brain writes, “Our brains are like Velcro for bad experience and Teflon for the good.” When hurt, our tendency is to want to hurt back. Forgiveness requires the we stay present with all of our reactivity. It requires that we meet the moment with an open heart and feel what we feel. if we can’t then we stay open and gentle with that, too.

Holding onto anger may offer a temporary feeling of justice, (as anyone knows whose ever held a grudge) but it doesn’t make the hurt go away; there’s often an energy that remains below the surface, growing and expanding the feelings of separation. Unforgiveness feeds the ego that wants to be right. It can also be a powerful energy that fuels destructive action. Unforgiveness, when it is unconscious, is not bad, it simply keeps the suffering growing and expanding, bringing us more of what we don’t want.

Rather than trying to get to a state of forgiveness or gratitude, I think it’s enough to just be present for what’s happening right now. Presence is staying and participating with our experiences in each moment; giving non-judgmental, open-hearted attention to what’s within, whether it’s forgiveness or non-forgiveness. Softening the resistance to a situation or person we have difficulty forgiving can be triggering, so a big dose of patience and gentleness helps. It doesn’t mean becoming a doormat or staying in an abusive relationship. It means making decisions from a place of love not fear.



Practicing presence helps build the neuropathway of wisdom; making us better able to respond with equanimity. Meeting non-forgiveness with self-compassion and self-acceptance begins the process of healing and wise action and raises our vibrational energy. The body moves from fight/flight to homeostasis.


Forgiveness, like gratitude, comes from a non-dual mind that recognizes we are one. It arises when we include other perspectives; when we are able to shift from a mind that is certain–it’s either right or wrong, to one that is open and willing to observe the nuances of a given situation—I can see why it could be right from another perspective.


Presence, like forgiveness, has a quality of receptivity and wonder. It sees and accepts what is, without the reactivity. We discover that what we resist persists, and so we learn how to drop the resistance and stay with the moment.

Anger is palpable in the world right now and many are blaming whole groups of people (politicians, white men, the wealthy, the poor, immigrants, the police, protesters, people who won’t protest, people handing out money, people taking money). Angry energy resonates in the collective and we all tend to blame each other. Recently, anger has been directed at me for not wearing a mask and also for wearing one in the same day.  

 This unconscious behavior isn’t anybody’s fault. It’s our wiring. We can’t see what we are doing because the decider (ego-limbic system) shuts down the prefrontal cortex (newest part of the evolving brain).  The reactive reptilian brain of our ancestors is wired for tigers and, for the most part, it’s worked fine for thousands of years.  But we are realizing that the old mind isn’t working.

We are at a moment of potential global awakening. With meditation practice, a non-dual mind emerges and the prefrontal cortex learns how to stay online; we can notice the reactivity of the limbic system sooner. There really isn’t a tiger, it just feels like one.

World problems aren’t getting solved by the old mind of right and wrong thinking. Racism, sexism, partisan politics, and economic inequality are still here and thriving.

“We cannot solve problems with the same mind that created them.” –Einstein

The new mind is one that has a capacity for nonduality. It knows how to cultivate presence and invite forgiveness and gratitude, not as a strategic quid pro quo, but because it’s our true state. Nonduality can recognize the dual as part of itself; not a bad part, just part of our wiring. Awakening is a natural unfolding of universal intelligence and the implicate order of an evolving self-organizing system.  

The non-dual mind can engage the prefrontal cortex and open space so the different, limitless energy of our universal heart and mind can emerge. A non-dual mind can express the need for reparation without blame or criticism because it sees the nature of our interdependence and accepts the reality of both, human darkness and light.

For example, the dual mind might say, “I am angry at you. You are wrong.”  With awareness, the non-dual mind might say, “Anger is arising, let me investigate what this is about.” Personalizing the situation isn’t necessary, just an ability to be with anger and respond from our wisest self.

Nelson Mandala embodied the power of forgiveness. Anger did not rule his actions. He once said, “Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.”

We don’t have to wallpaper over unforgiveness with fake forgiveness. I suggest we come to recognize our capacity for presence with whatever is; to begin to intimately know and process anger and unforgiveness so we can finally move on from duality.

There’s a fragile, mysterious and beautiful interconnectedness of all things– the good, bad and the ugly. Forgiveness is not something we do, it is an energy that arises from the awakened consciousness.

Eventually, we realize that the world is our household and our capacity for forgiveness and gratitude, and the wise action that emerges, has the power to stop the war against ourselves and the planet. 

“Your heart is the light of this world. Don’t cover it with your mind.”  –Mooji


Blog is written by Kimberly Ruggiero: Kimberly Ruggiero: Kim received a BS in Chemistry and MA in Consciousness Studies. She works as a Program Coordinator in Integrative Health and Healing and facilitates a Mindfulness Meditation Group at TGI. She is also a professional coach and fine artist.

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