Pause, Breath & Reflect with Michael O’Brien

Breathe in…Breathe out… It’s time to stress less and Pause Breathe Reflect with Michael O’Brien. He’s a survivor of a horrific near-death cycling accident that he calls his ‘Last Bad Day’ and recently rode his bicycle across America. In this episode we talk about  how do you prevent a bad moment from turning into a bad day?  The power of forgiveness and self-compassion/care. The value of mindfulness, how to tackle hard things and more!

Michael is a qualified meditation teacher, executive coach, endurance athlete, and creator of the Pause Breathe Reflect Meditation and Relaxation app. He loves helping people accomplish hard things through mindfulness.

He has shared his personal transformational story and leadership advice with Fortune 500 companies, at TEDx, and with Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Real Simple, ABC, and NBC.


Watch OR Listen to Ep. 116: Pause, Breathe & Reflect with Michael O’Brien on Self Love & Sweat THE PODCAST

Timestamps to help you navigate this episode:

(0:00) Intro
(1:52) Breathe & reflect with Michael O’Brien
(5:26) The “last bad day” a horrific biking accident
(10:16) Box breathing – what is it and how to do it
(18:09) Why are guys turned off by ‘mindfulness’ and ‘meditation’
(22:01) Breathwork to support injury and healing & the small habits
(30:42) Core values
(34:40) The 3 A’s of Mindfulness
(36:11) How do you forgive and move on?
(45:55) Learning your cue to slow down

Everything in your life is neutral, until you label it

“Hey Michael, you know what? Everything in your life is neutral. Until you label it. You get to choose how you label this moment.” Michael shared that one of his mentors told him after his accident. “I’m going to call that accident day, my last bad day, which is not like rainbows and unicorns. It’s basically this fact that if I have my family in my life, if I have people around me who love me, I can’t label the whole day as a bad one.”

Meditation & mindfulness

“Now, back in 2001, I was not a meditator. I was not into mindfulness.” Michael said. “And so I just knew I had to quiet my mind in order to heal my body. And I started there and then got into mindfulness based stress reduction. And I kept on pausing, breathing and reflecting through my corporate career…”

What’s the value of mindfulness

“But the practice I do with myself is a body scan as I begin the day. I believe like our bodies are amazing and our bodies can heal themselves if we are or if we’re patient enough, which is one of the challenges that we have in current day society. So I believe our body will whisper to us before it starts to scream at us.” Michael described. “So the body scan, I’ll do a practice about 10 to 15 minutes of a body scan meditation first thing in the morning. So it’s a way to check in with myself. It’s also a way to visualize that my mind, body and heart are coming into alignment, and then I’ll do another 20 minutes of yoga or some type of movement before I hop on my bike.”



Lunden Souza: [00:00:00] Welcome to Self Love and Sweat the podcast, the place where you’ll get inspired to live your life unapologetically, embrace your perfect imperfections, break down barriers, and do what sets your soul on fire. I’m your host Lunden Souza.

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Lunden Souza: [00:01:52] Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s time to stress less and pause. Breathe and reflect with Michael O’Brien, who’s my guest today on the podcast. Michael is a qualified meditation teacher, executive coach, endurance athlete and creator of the Pause. Breathe, Reflect meditation and relaxation app. He loves helping people accomplish hard things through mindfulness. He’s a survivor of a horrific near-death cycling accident that he calls his last bad day and recently rode his bicycle across America. He has shared his personal transformational story and leadership advice with Fortune 500 companies at TEDx and with Entrepreneur Fast Company. Real simple, ABC, NBC, all the things. Welcome, Michael O’Brien. I’m super excited to have you here today. We were just talking off air about an upcoming trip to Mallorca that you have planned. So I know there at least is something wonderful happening in your life. I haven’t known you for that long, but I’m excited to get to know you more here in this episode. So yeah. How’s it going? How’s it been? And tell us a little bit more about what you do and what you’re currently working on.

Michael O’Brien: [00:03:12] Awesome. Lunden Well, thanks for having me on. And so yeah, the trip to Mallorca, it was a pause breathe reflect moment for me because I was on the phone with the US Passport Agency because I was renewing my passport and it’s not back yet. So we were on the phone trying to find a place where I can go over the next day or two to go in person to get my passport so I actually can go on my trip. So I think we got it set. It was a little bit of a like a stressful moment, but I think we’re pretty good. So off to Mallorca Thursday for a cycling camp and the things that things that are happening right now and like my life is sharing the app with folks or just really more importantly, the big umbrella sharing the value of a mindfulness practice. I think the the moment that we lived through the last three years, which I call like the big kerfuffle, I think really calls for us to slow down and really step into more of an intentional way of living and a values based life to really think about like what? What do we wish to ripple out into the world? How do we how do we want to live? How do we want to live with each other? And I think it all sort of comes back down to some of the things that you talk about all the time as far as being healthy and promoting wellness, but slowing down, connecting with our breath and practicing mindfulness. So I’m on a mission now to bring mindfulness to as many people across the world as I possibly can.

Lunden Souza: [00:04:47] Yeah, I love that. I love that you said values based life. I wrote that down on my little my little paper notes because I always feel like I’m. Yeah. Learning and growing through these conversations with people like you. So this is super cool. I love that value based life. Okay, so today, for example, bad moment, people can relate. I can think about a lot of bad moments, bad situations. How do you keep a bad moment from turning into a bad day, a bad week, a bad thing? You know, that’s like keeping you up all the time at night. How do you make that switch? I know you have your pause, breathe, reflect. Like, what does that look like in real life?

Michael O’Brien: [00:05:26] Yeah. So I’ll give folks a little context. So I’ll go I’ll take us back to my accident, which I call my last bad day. So when I was recovering from that accident and the particulars of it, I was riding my bike in New Mexico. I got hit head on by a Ford Explorer going 40 miles an hour. Doctors don’t know how I survived. They told my wife, Had your husband been ten years older, probably would not have made it to the hospital alive. Spent many days in ICU, come out of the ICU. They paint a terrible picture of my future. They fly me back to New Jersey for more surgeries, more hospital visits, all that jazz. And I was in a real funk, right? I made a commitment to myself as they put me on the medevac to take me to the hospital in Albuquerque, that if I lived, I would stop chasing my happiness because I was really good at chasing happiness back in the day. I was actually good at chasing. I never really caught it, though. That’s the problem. So I just kept on chasing. And so during a moment through a rehab session, I had this big aha that I had to find a way to slow down, heal my mind in order to heal my body.

Michael O’Brien: [00:06:41] A few days earlier, one of my mentors shared with me that, Hey, Michael, you know what? Everything in your life is neutral. Until you label it. You get to choose how you label this moment. And at first, Lunden, was like, What? What are you talking about? I didn’t get it. I thought it was sort of like, woo woo stuff. Now, keep in mind, this is 2001. You know, this is before really the Internet we know today. But I let that. Marinate a bit. Noodled it and was like, okay, so if I can label everything in the way that I wish to label it, I’m going to call that accident day, my last bad day, which is not like rainbows and unicorns. It’s basically this fact that if I have my family in my life, if I have people around me who love me, I can’t label the whole day as a bad one. And so I have bad moments. I still do. So fast forward to today. So that whole concept of like, we all have bad moments, we all have difficult moments, but we don’t have to add fuel to them and create a bad day or longer. So here we are. As I just mentioned, I’m having a little bit of an issue with my passport and I got off the phone with the passport office about 45 minutes ago and they’re like, There’s nothing we can do.

Michael O’Brien: [00:07:55] Your passport is not coming and there are no appointments. So here I’ve already paid for this trip to Mallorca and it could easily have turned into a moment as it was. But it could have blown up my whole day, could have blown up the rest of the week. Be like, I’m so bummed out. I can’t believe I can’t go like this. This stinks. Life is so unfair. The passport agency totally screwed me over. Yada, yada, yada. And so what I did was I took a moment to pause. I connected with my breath, and then I reflected, okay, what are my options? Let’s say I can’t go. How do I want to repurpose the week? But maybe I’ll call them back and see if there’s any other options. So I called them back up and I sort of explained my situation again to a different person. And he was my perfect person. So he got working for me and we were trying to find appointments and we found one in Washington, D.C. So this whole concept of pausing, breathing and reflecting was born out of my recovery from my accident.

Michael O’Brien: [00:08:59] I would just have these quiet moments when I felt like things were getting overwhelming for me in my recovery because I had so far to go. I would get quiet. I would hit pause because I’m a type A personality, so I don’t like to stop, right? So it was more of a pause not stopping. And I did a box breathing pattern that was my very first relationship with mindfulness. And then the reflection piece is part gratitude, part what do you want to ripple out into the world? It’s just slowing us down just enough to be intentional about our lives. And so that’s the big thing. So when we have a bad moment, we’re going to have them. My recommendation is, you know, pause, take a few deep breaths and then reflect in that space, you might see some other options and you might have some other people you can tap into. Or another way of looking at it, you know, reframing, reframing the situation from is this happening to me to is this happening for me? And but that that initial pause, breathe reflect is the key to not allowing more fuel to be added to the bad moment, which then makes it turn into a bad day or even longer.

Lunden Souza: [00:10:16] Yeah, and I love the I mean, I know that there’s a lot of layers and the simplicity of, like you said, like I just started with like intentionality and box breathing. Can you walk us through box breathing and what that is? Because as you walk us through, I’m going to do it because I would like some.

Michael O’Brien: [00:10:34] Yeah. So okay so perfect thing so so for everyone listening so you find just a comfortable position. You could be standing, you could be in the car, you could be seated or lying down. Just find that posture that feels dignified. I like to say chin up, crown on. Just a position that allows you to feel all the wealth that flows through you. And then you can close your eyes or keep them open. And we’ll start by taking a few deep inhales and nice slow releasing exhales and breathing in through your nose, out through your mouth. Allowing yourself to settle into this moment, Settle into your posture. And then when it feels right to settle into the natural rhythm of your breath. And then I’ll guide you through the box breathing pattern. So with box breathing, we’ll breathe in. We’ll inhale for a count of four. We’ll hold for four. Well, exhale for four, and then we’ll hold for four. I will do a few cycles of this to get you acquainted with box breathing. So breathing in. Count two, three, four. Hold. Two, three, four. Breathe out. Two, three, four. Hold. Two, three, four. Breathing in two, three, four. Hold. Two, three, four. Breathing out. Two, three, four. Hold, two, three, four. And you can keep with this pattern or just settle into the natural rhythm of your breath. And then when it feels right, you can open your eyes if you’ve had them closed. And. Come back into the moment. So the box breathing pattern is. For me, it’s always a go to. It just helps with concentration.

Michael O’Brien: [00:12:59] As we count, it takes us out of our mind a bit and just focus helps us focus on the counting and our breath and just just the attractiveness of our of our breath and something that we take for granted. We you know, there are so many things in our lives that we just love and cherish. But. As we’re rushing through life, we take them for granted until we don’t have them. And that’s how I felt about my health back in the day. I was like, I’m healthy, I’m an athlete, all that. And then I. I really didn’t realize, like, what my relationship with my health was until I didn’t have my health anymore. And then all the things I was chasing, I was I basically said, Listen, I don’t need any of that. I just want to be healthy again. And I knew enough that. The breath was key to regulating how I was showing up in the world. Now, back in 2001, I was not a meditator. I was not into mindfulness. I actually thought it was something that you Californians did that was really right. So but then but I knew enough as an athlete that your breath is so vital. And so I just knew I had to quiet my mind in order to heal my body. And that’s I started there and then got into mindfulness based stress reduction. And I kept on pausing, breathing and reflecting through my corporate career, but didn’t tell anyone because in a corporate space back then, it was really seen as fringy or hooey. Okay. To, like, pause.

Lunden Souza: [00:14:39] Yeah, well, I love that you say that. And I just want to pause there for a second because I love what you’re saying. But the you said it’s like breathwork or breathing was really like the key to regulating, right? It wasn’t like the key that fixed everything. It was like something like regulating, right? You keep revisiting and using as a tool and as you saw or heard for people listening, you can tap into your breath anywhere. You said the attractiveness of it. I also thought of another a word availability like it’s just so easy. And I have, um, you know, a lot of or I should say a specific family member in particular who is sharing with me That was like, Oh yeah, I got to that particular situation early. I did the breathing, you know, that you suggested and that you were posting on Instagram. It was super helpful. So I feel like breathing. Yeah, potentially at that time was like fringy woo woo. And I found that it’s a great place to help people start in the direction of whatever they want to, you know, whatever you want to make it mean, right, that breathwork is going to do. But we know there are so many amazing benefits and reducing stress and just coming back to the present moment I think are all things we can love and try. And so I found breathwork also something like really easy to share.

Lunden Souza: [00:15:53] And then people are like, Oh yeah, I tried those. And then, you know, I got a lot of feedback from my guy friends that were like, Oh, I loved the Breathwork videos you posted on IG because it reminded me to do that. Breathwork And like one of them was like, Yeah, I go fishing and I’ve been doing the breathwork like on the boat, you know, And I’m like, Heck yeah. You know? And so, um, kudos to you for not always pausing, breathing and reflecting in private. And also like, yeah, times are different where it’s like, Breathwork Oh my gosh. I remember, you know, using essential oils or natural remedies when I had things going on with my hormones, whatever. It was just like I I’ll say it like this. I got to observe a variety of people’s reactions based on my choices in those realms, right? So I think that, yeah, Anyways, that was really, that stood out to me about, you know, the key to regulating and revisiting it and also the ease of it and the ease of sharing it, right. But at a time where you were doing it, maybe it wasn’t something you were sharing, but it was working. And you know, as I thought of this, I had these moments. I didn’t call them that because, yeah, until I met you, that’s not what I thought of.

Lunden Souza: [00:17:02] Like the pause, breathe, reflect moments. But when I lived in Austria, I worked for a startup and there was a bunch of us from a bunch of different countries and we were like moving and shaking and doing the thing and lining it up and knocking it down. And I would go in the bathroom and I would like, yeah, not go to the bathroom sometimes. Just be in there, lock the door and be like, okay, thank you for allowing me to utilize my strengths and strengthen my weaknesses. Like, thank you for this opportunity as I’m like, you know, feeling maxed out. We’re startup mentality, doing the thing motivated, loving my coworkers and then still needing that like, breath of fresh air. So I would kind of, yeah, create those moments, I guess, for myself in the office. And I remember doing that specifically on like multiple occasions because it was so necessary. And like you said, I didn’t tell anybody. Like, Hey, I just did my mantra in the bathroom locked in. I really wasn’t peeing like, by the way, you know, it’s like no one knows what you’re doing anyways, regardless of if you have the desire or like, you know, it’s the times to share, if you will. So how did you move from like knowing this worked for you? Just doing some breathwork and then let’s say expanding that and especially like with your, your healing.

Michael O’Brien: [00:18:09] I think, the way you just shared. So there’s actually a meditation on the app for when you go to the bathroom. So it’s, it’s like like so I try to do practices that are really they sort of speak to the real world experiences that we all go through because I think we’ve all been in a stall. Like, I need a moment, right? Just like I’m losing, I’m losing my shit and I need a moment. And I also love I want to acknowledge this, how you refer to it as breathwork. I think that’s important for for us guys because I think sometimes guys hear mindfulness or meditation and they’re immediately put off. But when you say no, this is breathwork for some reason they’re like, Oh yeah, I can do a little work, right? So they step into it. So I love your framing of that for me, like the big sort of. Door opening, if you will, was just hearing my clients as an executive coach, like hearing what they were dealing with, like all the stress and was like, oh my God. Like, I thought that was a little bit of just my story. And then I realized it’s everyone’s story. Like we’re all going through something, and if we can come into the world and understand that everyone you meet is going through something and we all have maybe different values, we all have different lived experiences.

Michael O’Brien: [00:19:30] So it’s an open invitation to be kind to each other, kind to yourself. And I really felt like people needed a moment just to be. And most of the people I deal with in from a corporate perspective will tell me, Listen, I’ve heard about this mindfulness meditation thing, Michael. I just don’t have time. Like, I don’t I don’t have ten minutes in the morning. I got too much going on. And so my particular philosophy is I’m going to meet you where you’re at, you know, So if you have a minute, cool. If you have ten times during the day where you have a minute, then let’s do those ten times. So it doesn’t have to be ten minutes in the morning. It can be ten one minute segments of pausing, breathing and reflecting. Because I do believe this. I know you do this in your work like you’ve met plenty of people that have a yoga practice in the morning or a meditation practice in the morning, but they don’t take their practice off their mat and weave it into their day. And so what I’m trying to invite people to do is take your morning routine, your morning ritual, whatever it may be, take your yoga, take your meditation, and let’s take those practices off the mats, off the cushion and weave it into your day because you’re going to have a moment about 210 this afternoon or again, going back to the passport situation for me at 1130, right before a podcast interview where everything seems to be going to hell in a hand basket.

Michael O’Brien: [00:21:05] You got to figure out how do you just stay focused and in this moment. And so your breath, to your point, is always there. It’s always available. I like to say it’s the one tool on everyone’s Swiss Army knife that we carry around with us because we don’t really carry a toolbox around with us. It’s too damn heavy. But we all have a Swiss army knife that we have in our pocket book or purse or back pocket that we can tap into and our breath is it so we can show up the way we want to show up. Because after all, we’re we’re all rippling something into the world. Each time we have a moment, let’s, let’s make sure, especially now, that it’s what we intend to put out there, Like something kind, something loving, something empathetic, something abundant, as opposed to some of the the crap that some people are rippling out into the world. Mhm.

Lunden Souza: [00:22:01] Yeah. Some intentionality goes a long way that’s for sure of I love what you, I want to come back to something that you said about. You know the story and kind of what you make it mean when you’re in that space of like, yeah, a lot of pain and like physical pain and all this stuff that you went through. I kind of want to go back there a little bit like, how do you go from head on collision with, I think you said a forerunner and you were like, you know that to believing in like the power of your breath and some of these fringy types of things. And I guess from my experience with things that I’ve tried out that I’ve, you know, it’s like when they start working, right? Was it there a moment where you’re like, Oh, whoa, this is like a whole different tool that I didn’t even know how to use because. That. Yeah, that’s a big gap. Like a big gap of, you know, you go in and you’re like, physically, right, destroyed and it’s horrific. And then it’s like, oh, something as, as simple as as available as like, how did you get on board with that after feeling so broken and actually being broken?

Michael O’Brien: [00:23:19] Yeah, great question. Small steps. I think this is the key. You can go back to anyone who’s written about habits. James Clear is often referenced with his book Atomic Habits. But back then, back in 2001, it was a small step. It was like one box breathing practice. And then it was like, okay, that felt pretty good. We’ll do another one tomorrow. And you build it over time. So I like to say that small ripples lead to big, big waves of change. And so you have the consistency and the discipline. We tend to Yo-Yo our way through like our wellness a lot. Like we get to a point where like, oh my God, I’ve had enough. I have to detox or I’m going to make this massive change. I’m going to start working out an hour a day. I’m going to start doing yoga. I’m going to go plant based, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that. And it’s like way too much. It can happen for some people, but I think that is rare. I think real change, change that’s lasting over time. Small steps consistently with discipline. I’ll give you another example. My youngest daughter challenged me on my nutrition, you know, athlete my whole life. So eat well. But it wasn’t plant based. And she had been plant based since she was eight years old. And she was like, okay, dad, like the challenge is that you’re going to go plant based for the beginning of the year.

Michael O’Brien: [00:24:48] And the way I did it was, okay, I’m going to start small like I’m going to do. I’m going to do a day. I’m going to do a day of going plant based. And then that day ended and I’m okay, we’re going to do another day. And so what was key for me about three weeks in and this was also the case with pause, breathe, reflect and mindfulness was like, wow, I started to notice. I noticed that things were different. And for me being plant based, the big key was I did a race, a bicycle race, three weeks in it. Usually is the first race of the year. So the next day I’m a little sore. I did that race. The next day I felt I could race again. I was like, okay, there’s something here. Like like the less inflammation in my body. I’m like, okay, that just gave me enough of a door opening, enough of a sign to say I’m going to continue doing this. And yeah, there are some days where you might have a day off, right? When you develop anything new, you just don’t want to have two days in a row that are off. And so you come back to it. You come back to your breath, you come back to your plan. But I’m a huge believer in small ripples over time can help us do hard things.

Lunden Souza: [00:26:01] Yeah, that compounding effect over time is so real and is so important. And. I think the yo yo that you mentioned and just hitting anything is really important to or like valuable to come back to because I was talking on a podcast with a couple girlfriends of mine that are from my hometown. We did like this podcasting series together and I was sharing a story about how me and my one of my close friends, we call each other Gus Gus from Cinderella movie, which is like, for those of you that don’t know, I don’t know. I just have this thing with I grew up with Disney movies, so it’s the rat on Cinderella that tries to, like, run and get all the corn and he tries to stack it underneath his teeth and it just all falls out and he runs again, and he just does it over and over again. And so me and my friend will sometimes be like, Are you being a Gus Gus? Like, are you trying to do the most and all the things? And so it’s like, yeah, when you try to do all the steps all at one time, it’s too much and you can’t manage it and you can’t hold on. And so I think of that evaluation and in fact, I have a a picture of him in my phone saved because after that conversation it reminded me of it.

Lunden Souza: [00:27:12] And I was like, I need a picture of this little Disney character from my childhood. But one of the things that helps me that I think people don’t do enough and it’s kind of underneath like that clarity umbrella and like continuing to seek clarity. But I think a lot of the times the yo yo happens or we’re like on or off or whatever is like we forget to like, reevaluate our non-negotiables. We forget to, like, recheck in with where we’re at in the moment and like what’s important and what we might need. There are a lot of modalities and a lot of tools like in the Swiss Army, Knife, whatever. It’s just like, Hey, which ones need to be sharpened? Like ready to go right now? Because like in this season of life that I’m in, it’s important to have. And so I guess that’s my way of saying to like what worked in a season might not work later. Like what you never thought you might try, which might have been fringy, woo woo, whatever it might be like. Time to try that out and like, see how that works. And that’s also why I love Breathwork because it’s just like, you know, just try it out.

Lunden Souza: [00:28:06] See one minute, like a couple minutes, see how that works here. So do you have like, Yeah. Values or non-negotiables or like. Yeah, that kind of variety of tools that you’re working with at any given time. I feel like Breathwork is always one that I will access and shall access to infinity and beyond. And then sometimes there’s things like, I don’t know, certain teas I like or stuff where I’m just like, Oh yeah, right now. I love that. I want that to be a part of like my ritual and my life and coming down and all, you know, whatever. Um, do you feel like that ebbs and flows and which ones are like your go to tools? And then I want to dive into meditation too.  Hey, really quick, I want to interrupt the podcast for just a minute to tell you about one of my favorite supplements for hair, skin, nails, digestive and gut health, and that is snap supplements, super greens with collagen. Now, if you’re following me on social media, you’ve probably seen me post about this a bunch because honestly, this product tastes amazing and it’s jam packed with nutrients, like I said, to support healthy hair, skin and nails. It helps support detoxification, a healthy immune system.  And there’s even probiotics in there for a healthy gut.

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Michael O’Brien: [00:30:42] Yeah, absolutely, I think. What I try to do each morning is take a look at my values, take a look at my day, and I ask myself this question as I’m having my athletic greens. How do I wish to honor? How do I wish to honor my values today? Like, what would a good day look like in terms of my health or in terms of kindness to in my values? So besides breathwork and meditation, like, yeah, my yoga practice is fundamental. That was something that I developed though, later in my recovery from my accident. As a guy, I’m pretty much into essential oils. I believe in that. So which there are not too many guys I know are like, Huh, what is this? It makes the room smell better. I’ll go, It’s more than that. It’s deeper than that. So but but some of those practices, like, you know, say acupuncture, right? So that’s something I also believe in. I believe in Western medicine, but I also believe in Eastern treatments as well. But my I would say my acupuncture ebbs and flows a bit because my acupuncturist is about an hour away from me. So that’s a little bit of a barrier. But I think with some of them are staples, I’ll do them every day. I will always move my body. I always will begin the day with water or some type of hydration, like as I mentioned, athletic greens and everything else. I’ll try to fit into my day depending on how much space I have in my day. If some days I don’t have space, I’m okay with that because I know it’s just a day and then tomorrow will be another day and I get another crack at it if I’m so lucky. So but yeah, definitely go. I tend to allow things at least my intent is allow things to unfold as they’re going to unfold and lose that whole grip of control that used to unfortunately control me before all this happened.

Lunden Souza: [00:32:51] What’s your meditation practice like? And what’s like the value for you of mindfulness?

Michael O’Brien: [00:32:58] Oh, gosh. Great question, Linda. So. So my my own individual practice because I lead group practice, live group practices through the app each day. But the practice I do with myself is a body scan as I begin the day. I believe like our bodies are amazing and our bodies can heal themselves if we are or if we’re patient enough, which is one of the challenges that we have in current day society. So I believe our body will whisper to us before it starts to scream at us. So the body scan, I’ll do a practice about 10 to 15 minutes of a body scan meditation first thing in the morning. So it’s a way to check in with myself. It’s also a way to visualize that my mind, body and heart are coming into alignment, and then I’ll do another 20 minutes of yoga or some type of movement before I hop on my bike. So because I still have to get my bike on because I’m a crazy cyclist. So that’s the practice. Usually I’ll I will also do love and kindness. So a couple of different staples of my practice as it relates to pause, breathe, reflect is a loving kindness or metta practice. I just believe in rippling out goodness out into the world. The body scan is another one, and any practice that involves the sense of gratitude because I think that was a key thing to my recovery, just the power of a gratitude practice. And for me, mindfulness really has helped me open up my awareness and get to a level of acceptance.

Michael O’Brien: [00:34:40] I call it my three A’s. So awareness, acceptance and then purposeful action. So there was a big part of my life where I would argue with reality In the early days of my recovery from my accident, I was arguing with reality like this should not have happened. The driver had a revoked license. He should not have been driving like this is so unfair. And I finally realized I could argue all day long that this happened, but it happened. So acceptance isn’t tolerating a bad situation. It just basically says, all right, this happened, now what do you want to do next? And so by slowing down, I open up my awareness, I get to acceptance, and then I can ask the classic mindfulness question, what is called for now? And so the answer to that question, what is called for now helps me take purposeful action that aligns with my intentionality, aligns to my goals, aligns to my values. And when we live life that way, I believe it’s less stressful. It doesn’t mean it’s without stress, it’s just less stressful and we’re in a better position to handle, as we just talked about those bad moments and we can handle them. We know it’s just a moment. It will pass and we have the next moment where we can be present for it and hopefully do some magic in that moment.

Lunden Souza: [00:36:11] Yeah. How do you. How do you forgive? And move on from that person that you kind of mentioned where you’re like revoked license. I don’t know what the other circumstances were. How do you do you know this person or you don’t? I mean, feel free to answer. Not like, how did you meet this person? Do you know? Was it did they move on? Like, how do you not hate that person?

Michael O’Brien: [00:36:37] So I didn’t know the driver at the time he was driving. On the service road to the hotel that we were at. I was out in New Mexico for a company offsite, so he was a hotel employee driving into work. I only met him once after because we had a we had a reason to meet, but that’s it. So I don’t know what’s happened to his life since like that moment. And for the most part, like in the well, in the early days of my recovery, I was angry at him, like revengeful. I would I would I would dream up schemes to get back at him because I grew up believing an eye for an eye. Right. You harmed me. I will harm you. That’s that’s how I was raised. And over time that softened. But it never really went away. And then we took a trip to Europe in 2012 and we went to Auschwitz and we had a private tour with 50 other people by Holocaust survivor Eva Ker. She had moved to the United States, to Terre Haute, Indiana, and we knew her and she was doing a private tour of Auschwitz. Her family went there during the war, and her and her twin sister were the only family members that survived. So she has quite a tale. And so part of her experience was that she forgave the Germans and the Nazis. And this is with, you know, has some controversy to it. And what she shared with us during that tour is I forgave them because I deserve forgiveness, that if I carried around all that emotion and all that hatred toward them with me everywhere I went in my life, I couldn’t do the work I wanted to do in my life. And this was not the answer I was expecting her to share with us because she was asked like, like how do you feel about the Germans? How do you feel about the Nazis? And she said, I have forgiven them, not because they deserve it, but because I do.

Michael O’Brien: [00:38:52] And I was like, Holy cow, if she can do that, what’s preventing me from doing the same to the person who hit me? Because I realized I still had some rocks in my backpack. Towards him that were not happy rocks that it was probably holding me back. So for. As it relates to forgiveness, I generally share with people like, Do you believe you deserve forgiveness? That’s a big question because some people believe that they don’t. And how can you take a few small steps to start giving process to help you heal, to help, you know, to give yourself forgiveness and and you start slowly. You start with as much care as you possibly can muster for yourself to yourself. And that’s that’s how I started. But I had a really good role model in Evercore who showed me that there was a path that I could travel down. And I have moments where things get a little difficult for me, where I go back and, you know, I want to hate on the guy, but then I catch myself and I realize that’s probably not good energy to put out into the world. And I slow my roll and I realize, okay, you deserve forgiveness. You don’t have to carry those rocks with you anymore. You can show up differently when the when the load you’re carrying is a much lighter. And that’s a bit of the the thinking or the mantra is I try to share with myself as I show up in front of other people and with other people.

Lunden Souza: [00:40:31] Yeah. Less rocks in your backpack. That heaviness resonates. And I love how you’re like, Yeah, sometimes I do go back into, like, reaction mode or like, whatever, but I just have to remind myself and come back to that forgiveness mindset. I remember when I had the awareness that forgiveness was like a gift for me instead of what I thought it was previously is like, Oh, what you did is, okay, I forgive you. So that means like you’re off the hook and no, you’re not, you know? So when I really started accepting that forgiveness was for me, um, yeah, it made forgiveness a lot easier because I was like, Oh, yeah, you’re right. This does feel good. And I don’t have I can have forgiveness with boundaries and, you know, whatever that might look like moving forward. I get to paint it. I get to make it mean something when I need that moment to, like, check myself or come back to some of those basics that we talked about that are like our non-negotiables or like our faves for regulation. I feel like I’m cleaning out the lint of a dryer in, you know, when you dry your clothes and you have to clean out that that like very satisfying swoop. And then it’s like things can move past more. That’s kind of what I tell myself. I’m like, clean out the lint dryer. I think you said like the whispers before the screams. And I love that acknowledgment there too. How do you know when it’s time to clear your lint dryer? How do you know when your body is? Like, what are your like, unique? Do you get a physical sensation? Do you know? Do people around you? Do you have people checking you to make sure that like, yeah, keep you in that space of joy and love and gratitude and like what you want to be doing even when it doesn’t feel that way.

Michael O’Brien: [00:42:23] I love that analogy. Lunden As far as the lint in the dryer, the one I use a lot is the peanut butter in the jar, like the last bit of peanut butter. You can’t get out of the jar, you know, like you can scrape and scrape and it doesn’t come out. And then over time it can build up. And then all of a sudden you have a full jar of peanut butter all over again. So for me, it really is tuning into my body. Like I can feel it. I think we all can feel it in our bodies again, different parts of our bodies for different people. But I know when the stress is building up, when I feel tightness in my jaw, others feel it in their shoulders, or maybe their low back or in their hips. We all have a place where we trap our stress. So when I feel things tightening around my neck or my jaw, I’m like, Hey, Michael, slow down. Time to unload some stuff. What’s here? And that’s what I that’s what I tend to do. It’s like that’s why that body scan in the morning is so important. Now. Sometimes I choose not to listen because I am human. The body is telling me, Hey, Michael. And I’m like, No, no, no, I’m too busy. I got stuff to do. And then it’ll be showing up the next day and the day after. And but that’s the big thing, I think checking in with our body, having that great body awareness can be that early warning signal that slow down, unload a bit, slow your roll however you want to look at it and tap into the things that help promote your wellness.

Michael O’Brien: [00:44:00] So for me, mindfulness and meditation is key, but it’s. I will also say it’s not for everyone. Other people have different modalities, different tools they tap into. My feeling is do what helps you? Do you better? So if it’s a morning routine, great. If it’s an evening routine, great. If it’s meditation, awesome. If it’s going out in walking in nature, great find. Find the the recipe, if you will, the ingredients that can help you live a life of wellness. A well intended life. I don’t care what it is, as long as it’s something so you can step into mindfully living. Because again, as I mentioned up front, I think this moment calls for us to be more mindful about ourselves and with each other because we we have some heavy lifting we need to do. And it’s better to lift heavy things with a open awareness and and. That’s why. But I’m I’m optimistic. I believe we can do that. I think the moment of the pandemic, instead of looking at it from a lens of this happened to us, it really happened for us to wake us up to different ways of living, different ways of working. And I think right now we’re just in this awkward stage of going back and forth like, do we want to commit to a new way of doing things or do we want to go back to what’s easy, the normal? And it feels stressful and awkward because it is. That’s what change is all about. But I believe that a vast majority of people will step into a new way eventually and we can solve some of the things that we need to solve.

Lunden Souza: [00:45:55] Yeah, I think my hope in that space too is like the eventually is and maybe you had this moment as we’ve talked about a lot here, but like once you see the possibility opportunity, like you can’t unsee it, you know. So I feel like. Yeah. As people are doing the work, it just. Yeah, once you see the possibility, you can’t unsee it. And I loved what you said, kind of about the physical and emotional cues that your body gives for whispers and recognition and, um. Physically so. Or also what you said, too, is what I loved. I’m probably going to quote you here. Like, do what helps you do you better, right? So in order to figure out what helps you do you better, you have to follow certain signals that you might get to said hopefully desirable outcomes. So then it’s like it comes with like, you know, you got to like excavate and do some of that work there. And so what I know about myself is like, if I’m physically doing too much, which I’m pretty happy doesn’t happen as often as it used to. Like I don’t find myself maxing out and exercise a lot anymore. I find myself doing a lot of walk and grounding stuff in nature, which I love, but I would get this like scratchy feeling in my throat and I’d be like, Oh, that was my cue. And I knew pretty much because from multiple times of not paying attention and ignoring it, I’d get this sore throat that would turn into something worse. And then emotionally, as I started to do a lot more of this emotional healing and work, I noticed that the area of stagnates and pain was like on the other side of my heart, on my back.

Lunden Souza: [00:47:31] So like on the kind of the left side back there where it would just be this physical tension, I would know if I haven’t cleared out the lint from the dryer enough, right? It was like this very clear feeling. And one of the things you said about your morning meditation routine was the body scan, which I love, like that check in and then, like, opening up to love. I don’t know exactly what your words were, but like, just giving joy or receiving that joy, getting into that feeling of elevated emotion. All of that is so important to me because it helps open up that area of stagnant for me. And I know, yeah, just from doing the work and going through the hard shit and the fun stuff and the realizations and whatever, like that’s the way that my body communicates to me most. And I also know, like, you can feel your feels elsewhere and have your body communicate to you in other ways and still benefit from opening up the heart and that elevated joy state. So let’s talk about that a little bit And what does that look like for you to. Open up to love and possibility and sharing and receiving and like a more fluid way. And how do you do that? I’m sure you have a lot of great stuff in the app that guides us through that. But I love heart opening stuff, at least for me and my journey. It’s been so helpful.

Michael O’Brien: [00:48:49] Yeah, I know. And for me. I was a late comer to all this, like the early part of my life. I was guarded, had body armor on. Don’t want to let people in. You know, you don’t want to see the messy parts. All that stuff like that. And then through my practice and really like stepping into a loving kindness practice. So loving kindness practice is a really good way for people to be introduced to meditation and mindfulness because you’re not just sitting and trying to focus in on your breath or something in the soundscape. It’s the repetition of mantras. So it can sound like this, like may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you live in harmony in at peace, may you live with ease, and you’re thinking about someone who might be special in your life. And we then offer our attention to someone who might be struggling. You can offer your attention to someone who might know how to push all your buttons and you offer them love and kindness. And then we also provide love and kindness to ourselves. So that sounds like, may I be safe? May I be healthy? May I live in harmony and at peace? And so it’s a beautiful practice because you’re you’re sending goodness and open heartedness to yourself, to someone you love, someone who might be in need. To all beings, all creatures and even someone who gets under your skin.

Michael O’Brien: [00:50:27] And it’s a beautiful way to start your morning. If you do it, then I do it frequently when we have our group sessions through the app because I think it’s a great way to put out a great ripple. And and I think once we start opening up more, with that comes some vulnerability, comes some courage, right? Which, you know, we know that the root word of courage is core, which is heart. And so we tap into that, I think. I think we we walk around a lot of times scared of what people think of us. You know, we we hear the conversation that we have with ourselves. And I think when you have that at play, it’s natural to want to close down, to put your body armor on and say, I don’t want to open up, but in times of need, you know, we’re really great about caring for one another. You know, we offer help and we might be in a better position of accepting help. So and around that because you asked about that in the early days of my career, I was the one always offering help, like, how can I help you? Where do you need support? How can I fix these things? Like it was almost like leadership and and being a hero, right? Like, oh, you got a problem, I can fix it. I’m the hero.

Michael O’Brien: [00:51:49] I’m the leader. Right. And that’s still with us current day. And then when I was going through my recovery, my accident, one person asked me, hey, where do I need help? And I was like, Oh, no, I’m good, I’m fine. Like, and he said, Listen, you’re in the hospital like in traction. You’re not fine. Like, you need support. It’s okay to ask for support. And for me, that moment was a lesson that when we receive help, when we accept help, it’s it’s an invitation to get closer to each other. And it’s not a sign of weakness. For the longest time, I thought asking for help was a sign of weakness, that I couldn’t do something. But really, for me, I’ve come to appreciate it as it’s a statement to say I’m not quitting. Like I need some help. I’m not going to quit. I just need some help. Right? So you’re staying in the game and you’re getting closer to other people. You’re building community, you’re forming, belonging, all things that we need more of. And it ties back into that, that notion. It’s an African proverb. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. And I’ve come to really appreciate that. So we can provide help. Yes. But we should also be in a position of accepting help as a way to come together, especially during these times.

Lunden Souza: [00:53:18] Yeah, it can be hard. I talk about this with my friends too, where we like practice with each other, asking and receiving help and you know, I think it’s one Yeah, I think like you said, it drives that connection when we ask for help. And I think when you struggle asking for help, sometimes we struggle asking for help like how to ask. And I think sometimes it’s like I’m stuck, I’m stuck, I’m stuck. And then you’re like, okay, cool. And a better way to communicate is like, Hey, I’m stuck here and I want to go there. This is my mission vision. So I’m trying to go from here to here right now. And I think that we could, you know, like being able to communicate it, I think in a way that is clear of what you’re asking for, what your needs are, how you’re feeling, which is a whole nother episode and topic. But I think that’s important too, because when we ask for help, it’s not just like, raise my hand and know what I need, right? We got to communicate that too. And so I’m really a proponent of what you said of like asking for help and receiving help drives that connection because you have to learn to communicate in new ways that you might not have language for yet.

Lunden Souza: [00:54:25] And I love discovering that language. Um, thank you so much for your time. I feel like we covered so much. Look it, this was my notes today. For those watching, you can see I had a number that I was like, This is what I do when I doodle, when I podcast because I’m like, Ooh, that was nice. And I like what you said about forgiveness. So I wrote, you know, I just for me, that helps me process information and communicate on a podcast for in a valuable way a little bit better. Plus this is just like fun. But thank you so much for your time today and for sharing and for what you do and for what you’re creating and continue to create for to help people be cool with being on the fringe and diving in full heartedly into what helps them just fully express who they were meant to be. So how can everyone connect with you on social media website? All the things How can we? You mentioned group stuff, so tell us more about that.

Michael O’Brien: [00:55:16] Yeah, well, first off, thanks for having me on. Like, I love what you’re doing. You’re putting a beautiful ripple into the world. You’re changing lives. And I encourage people to follow you because they’re going to get some wisdom from you. So keep on doing what you’re doing as far as reaching me and you know, all the things as you say, like website is pause, breathe, pretty easy. You can find our app in the Google Play store or the App store. It’s really designed for a busy professional. So we’ve overindexed on shorter meditations and there we do a group practice. Multiple times a week so you can have a sense of belonging and learn how to meditate with a community that I like to say is light hearted, not like minded. Often we hear of, Oh, you’re like minded. I don’t. That’s Michael. I don’t want someone like minded. I want different perspectives. But I do want to be associated with people who are light hearted, that are putting love and kindness out into the world. So those are two good places. So the app store and then pause, breathe, reflect, dot com and of course you can use that to, to find me on Instagram.

Lunden Souza: [00:56:31] Wonderful. I was watching look, I clicked on my app and then something popped open. So there you is. For those of you listening, I just popped open the app which I had downloaded and I’m excited to use. I really like your logo to the way that it’s written in that little circle shape. I don’t for some reason, I don’t know. I’m not an art anything, design anything. But when I look at it, I’m like, That’s cool. I like it.

Michael O’Brien: [00:56:53] It’s a little it’s like a little wavy and, you know, fun. And I believe, like, if we can if we can sort of just. Go, you know, go with the flow a little bit. You know, the spirit of we can’t stop the waves in the ocean, but we can learn how to surf. So I like to think that I’m helping people learn how to surf.

Lunden Souza: [00:57:15] I love it. Yeah, it does look wavy. I love it. All the stuff that we mentioned, website app, all of that you will find in the description. So thank you so much for being here, Michael. I appreciate you and thank you everybody for listening. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Self love and Sweat the podcast. Hey, do me a favor. Wherever you’re listening to this podcast, give us a review. This really helps a lot and share this with a friend. I’m only one person and with your help, we can really spread the message of self-love and sweat and change more lives all around the world. I’m Lunden Souza reminding you that you deserve a life full of passion, presence and purpose, fueled by self-love and sweat. This podcast is a Hitspot Austria Production.