We don't give our own minds the same level of attention that we give to our body and even other people. Many of us go through life without realizing we automate behaviors and create beliefs based on our past experiences - no one teached us how to spend time with our own minds and inspect and question our thought patterns. This book written by Owen O'Kane gives awareness on that and proposes a methodology to question, inspect and learn from our own thought patterns, behaviors and beliefs - or, like we say on software development, to 'debug' and 'profile' ourselves. If that sounds interesting to you, keep reading.

2022 October 4

(you can find a link to the book at the bottom of this page - it is NOT an affiliate link, since I am more interested on the teachings it provided.)


The book takes a pragmatic approach, and its' author is a professional therapist that has a strong scientific basis and mindset.

It advocates a “mind workout” named as “Ten To Zen”, which consists of dedicating (at least) 10 minutes of your day to calm down the mind and mindfully focus on what deserves attention at that moment.

On the last chapter he also details a “Two to Zen”, that condensates the 10 minutes to 2 minutes to be used on “emergencies”.

The practice is based on mindfulness, CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy), EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and interpersonal and compassion-focused therapies.


  1. “This will not be ten minutes of stopping to do nothing or simply taking a breather or having a nap. It will be ten minutes of using highly effective, clinically researched techniques, from various psychology models, to slow down the processes of your brain and restructure unhelpful thinking. "

  2. “The mind sometimes appears to do its own thing. This is related, in part, to what I’ve just described around neuropathways, plasticity, and how our particular patterns develop. At times our minds will produce worries and fears or even misinterpret situations based not on what is actually happening outside in the real world, but on old patterns or habits that are in place. Sometimes the thoughts our minds produce make no sense whatsoever.”

  3. “Think of the amygdala as an emergency alarm system that, when triggered, causes a chain of events physically and psychologically. This is a fantastic system that is extremely useful in an emergency or genuine crisis; in the event of actual danger or threat, it gives us the necessary energy and adrenaline we need to help protect us from harm. However, when it goes off out of context, or is exaggerated, or simply starts working on autopilot, it becomes problematic.”

  4. “When activated or put on high alert, the amygdala also releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which in turn make some systems in the body work harder and faster. If you have ever experienced fast heartbeat, rapid breathing, or tummy churning when feeling distressed, this is probably what is happening. It won’t harm you, but the brain thinks it’s helping you when often it’s not. "

  5. “In switching off the threat center, you can simultaneously activate other parts of brain that may be more helpful in regulating your well-being. "

  6. “Recognizing that none of the early programming you received was your fault can be liberating because it is a step toward no longer feeling powerless and unable to do anything about it.”

  7. “Most people wouldn’t dream of treating another person with the same level of harshness that they treat themselves. In its extreme, this becomes a form of self-abuse.”

  8. “If, like most of us, you have experienced some negative messages, adverse life events, and less-than-perfect families or social setups, then the chances are your brain may not always be working in a way that is best for you. Your brain has probably been programmed to automatically protect, defend, react, or view things on the negative side.”

  9. “Create space between your mind and yourself.”

  10. “Mindfulness is the simplest yet most powerful option available to us as humans. We can choose at any point to be mindful—eating, walking, running, playing with the children—we simply make a decision to be fully present and become aware of the one area of focus in that moment. If the mind distracts us, we return to focus. We step out of autopilot and experience what is happening, rather than feel like we are on a treadmill. We are alive, rather than just existing.”


Ten to Zen:

It is recommended to go through the steps below at the start of our days, to get the benefits all day. We can have other sessions during the day when we feel the need to recharge or deal with a specific situation/emotion.

  • Minute 1: A) Stopping, B) Checking in
  • Minutes 2 and 3: Arriving in a Zen-like, calm headspace
  • Minutes 4 and 5: Relaxing and slowing down in this space
  • Minutes 6 and 7: Finding new perspectives and ways of thinking
  • Minutes 8 and 9: Recharging
  • Minute 10: Gently coming back to the real world, ready to conquer whatever the day brings.

Two to Zen:

This is a “condensed” version of Ten To Zen, to be used on “emergencies” - any difficult situation or when your feel your “automatic triggers” have been pushed.

  • 20 seconds: Simply stop and check in: What’s going on for you? .
  • 30 seconds: Connect to your calm space: Go immediately to your Zen-like, calm space using your visualization, your word, and ten bilateral taps.
  • 30 seconds: Breathe: Using three consecutive deep breaths, in for four, out for four .
  • 20 seconds: Thoughts: Notice which unhelpful patterns have emerged and let go of them immediately.
  • 20 seconds: Be in the present moment: Sit in stillness in the present moment, mindfully allowing yourself to be recharged.


It was hard to choose only 10 quotes to remember from this book. So, here are many others that give more context and are valuable to remember.

  • “You are stopping to let the engine of your mind cool down. This is a priority to prevent it overheating and burning out. Taking this time is making a decision to value yourself and take your mental well-being seriously.”

  • “This is about stopping to recharge our brains in the most helpful of ways. I want the ten minutes you spend on Ten to Zen to be a practical and useful part of your day that will change how your brain functions and how you live your life.”

  • “There is no getting away from the fact that a brain that is not looked after can run riot and lead to many detrimental consequences. We all need to try to understand our minds a little more and treat them with great care. We also need to change how we relate to ourselves, and treat ourselves with more kindness and compassion. Care of our minds and compassion to ourselves change everything beyond measure.”

  • “As you move away from autopilot, the chaotic activity in your brain slows down.”

  • “The practical part of your ten minutes will include the following: . Stopping the train of thought that is causing you distress . Using mindfulness and interpersonal psychotherapy to check in on what’s going on with you . Using therapeutic techniques to bring the chatter of the mind down a notch and slow down the mind’s activity, thereby creating a safe place for you to stop and breathe . Using breathing techniques for mind and body to bring the mind down another few notches to a calmer state . Decluttering any unhelpful thinking through cognitive behavioral therapy . Using mindfulness and present-moment awareness to clear away any mental fog . Donning your invisible Ten to Zen “mental cloak,” which represents your principles of self—compassion, acceptance, and authenticity . Going on to face your day with awareness, courage, and hope.”

  • “Mindfulness is about living in the present moment and not becoming too attached to the past and anxious for the future.”

  • “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on the connection between how we think and how we feel.”

  • “Ten to Zen is not therapy, but a mind workout that allows your mind to settle down quickly so you can function better.”

  • “As a therapist, I often see people trying to run away from or bury their difficult emotions, whereas I believe they should see them more as signposts.”

  • “You are not the content of your mind”

  • “Each event will trigger an automated learned response from our brain that in turn leads to the emotional consequences we experience.”

  • “What most of us fail to recognize is that we have some choice in how we manage our minds. When they are behaving a little chaotically there are ways of regaining control.”

  • “When the mind is trained to be mindful (for example, through the techniques in this workout), the threat system in our mind is deactivated.”

  • “If you ever question whether you are good enough, are lovable enough, are worthwhile enough, or matter enough, then chances are you live with some degree of shame. Shame takes on many forms and guises but—like most things—it is learned, and thankfully it can be unlearned, too.”

  • “Negative emotions, as they are often termed, can come accompanied by a very lively commentator in our brains telling us these feelings are deserved, or wrong, or bad, or harmful, and should be pushed down at all costs. The commentator may even actively look for more evidence to support the negative thoughts, thus creating even more distress. The problem with this commentary is that it intensifies these emotions, and without fail, if they are not attended to, they will return. Get to know your commentator, but realize he or she isn’t in charge. You don’t have to listen to them or take them seriously. Your commentator is a pattern or a programmed response from your brain. "

  • “Instead of terming these “negative emotions,” I like to think of them simply as “human emotions,” just like happiness or joy. They just have different lessons to teach us. There is no right, wrong, good, or bad. They simply identify a need in us at a particular time and we can use these emotions as an opportunity to grow.”

  • “Visualize your breath as a source of power. This power can be used to recharge, re-energize, and strengthen. Each breath you connect to with awareness can become a powerful mechanism for change.”

  • “If you do become distracted by anything, it is the noticing this that shows you are aware and in the present moment. Try not to be hard on yourself; rather, make a decision to be kind and patient. Whatever happens is fine. The magic is purely in noticing whatever is happening for you in that moment.”

  • “The stories we tell ourselves are often not based on any real facts and say nothing about our value as people. We often do not challenge the negative stories we choose to believe as truth.”

  • “Who Is Running the Show, You or Your Thoughts?”

  • “Start letting go, and seeing the thoughts for what they were—just thoughts, not facts.”

  • “Identifying unhelpful thought patterns should be an interesting exercise to complete. While I am aware the content may seem negative or even irritating, my suggestion is that you approach it with a sense of humor and curiosity. It will be like uncovering a part of you that you were never really aware existed, because negative thought patterns are very automated, almost like fish that jump out of water.”

  • “If you try to push an unhelpful thought pattern away, the processes of the brain will keep coming back to it until it gets the attention it needs. However the solution to this problem is simple. Stop running away from your thoughts. They won’t harm you and they don’t define you. "

  • “A calmer mind in itself isn’t enough because the mind will never always be calm, and life will never always be smooth. How we respond to ourselves when the storms of the mind or life move in is more pertinent.”

  • “Read back over some of the negative/merciless/unhelpful thinking styles and ask yourself, would you speak to someone you care about in this way? Would you tell them they won’t cope, they are useless, ugly, a failure and don’t deserve anything good to happen to them? Your answer to this is likely to be “no,” so let me present a second question: If you wouldn’t speak to someone you care about in that way, why would you engage in and believe thoughts that tell you this about yourself?”

  • “Your mind may be doing all sorts of things that you are currently unaware of, such as deleting inconvenient truths or aggravating or catastrophizing others.”

  • “As our neuropathways develop, patterns of thinking, behavior, and reactions begin to emerge whenever something is triggered.”

  • “Bringing unhelpful thought patterns into present-moment awareness, you will discharge some of their power.”

  • “You are also creating new neuropathways in relation to your negative thought patterns. Essentially, you are moving from maladaptive patterns to more adaptive patterns, courageously facing the bully that can be your mind. "

  • “When we observe a busy mind, it is rather like observing a naughty child. When a child becomes aware they are being watched they are less likely to act out, and our minds respond in a similar way. The activity automatically begins to slow and we move out of autopilot to a more present-moment awareness that ultimately brings a sense of stillness.”

  • “Anything can be practiced mindfully and, yes, it’s still a form of meditation!”

  • “Moments of letting be and enjoying the present are possible at any point in the day. So benefits are available to us twenty-four hours per day if we choose to allow ourselves to be wholly in the present moment.”

  • “Most of the distress we experience on a daily basis is a result of what goes on in our minds, as you now know: our thoughts, our interpretations of events, our ruminating on the past and obsessing about what the future will bring.”

  • “Firstly, we return to simplicity in mindfulness within a world that is often frenzied. Secondly, we stop judging our experiences—whatever is present in mindfulness is embraced and accepted, even the tough stuff. The battleground of the mind ceases momentarily, and then increasingly, with practice.”

  • “I encourage you to accept that certain things cannot be changed and to just allow things to be. To accept what each moment brings, remember the following: . What’s happened in the past is over now; let it be. . Whatever is to come in the future is not in your control; let it be. . Whatever is going on now in your life, accept it as part of your experience and move towards it with curiosity; let it be.”

  • “Learning to be compassionate to oneself changes not only your world but that of those around you. It is not fluffy or selfish. It is only when we learn to treat ourselves with kindness and respect that our strength and internal power are fostered and our internal voice is no longer one of shame, judgment, and criticism but becomes kinder and more reasonable. Mistakes are OK. Perfection isn’t necessary. Blame becomes a thing of the past. New possibilities and clearer thinking are endlessly available.”

  • “Look after yourself in just the way you would someone you care deeply about. And I would extend this further to suggest that, as with the principle of acceptance, this compassion to oneself should also be extended to those around you.”

  • “The important thing is to simply notice when your automatic responses have kicked in. Observe if you are experiencing any physical changes in your body, cluttered thinking, a raised emotional state, or difficulty focusing.”

  • “Whatever the situation, you are feeling overwhelmed because the threat center in your brain has been activated; it simply needs deactivating.”

  • “It may be necessary to let go of dysfunctional or toxic relationships. This can be painful but is sometimes essential for peaceful living. Surrounding yourself with people who enrich your life is honoring your Ten to Zen principles of compassion, acceptance, and authenticity.”

  • “My point is, all of what we need is already within us. Others can support us and help us, but ultimately the onus is on us to take responsibility for the life we live and make it the best one possible.”

  • “Explore the benefits of foods that enhance mental performance and help maintain equilibrium. For example, numerous studies show that fish oils are helpful and excessive sugar exacerbates stress and can contribute to low mood. "

  • “There are few better ways of regaining perspective than walking in nature. We all get absorbed in our day-to-day issues and often can’t see the forest for the trees. Find a place to walk that uplifts you in some way.”

  • “There is only the now, and within that is to be found great peace. It provides freedom from the past and future.”

  • “Being human at times can feel messy, which I’m sure we all know but most of us don’t like to admit to. Yet in the mess there is great wisdom to be found. There are no promises that there won’t be a fall in the future, but next time there will be more mental resilience and wisdom to manage the fall.”

NOTE: The original content(s) that inspired this one can be found at:
All copyright and intellectual property of each one belongs to its' original author.