Cynthia Kane is a certified meditation and mindfulness instructor dedicated to helping men and women change their communication routines so they feel in control of their words and understood at home and at work. She is the bestselling author of How to Communicate Like a Buddhist, Talk to Yourself Like a Buddhist, and How to Meditate Like a Buddhist, and the founder of the Kane Intentional Communication Institute, LLC. Cynthia has helped thousands of people change their way of communicating through her bestselling DailyOM courses, workshops, and Intentional Communication Training Program.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in Columbus, Ohio and I rode bikes, collected bugs, played four square, and remember falling down a lot. I saw double up till I was around 10 and so the world always looked different to me. I did vision therapy until I finished high school to help my eyes focus to see one. All my experiences growing up shaped my early adult life, and then there came a point where I decided whether to keep those notions of the way life was or not.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
That there’s no need to push the river. That the wanting for things or ourselves to be different or better causes so much suffering – and that when we allow what is to be as it is life gets much easier.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
It’s more the way people talk about communication in isolation is what feels unskillful. What do I mean by this? When people only talk about speaking or listening and the focus is solely outward, meaning communication with others. Communication is a practice and a process, and to be able to truly interact in a kind, honest, and helpful way with others, to become more responsive, there’s a process one has to go through for that to become reality. And the practice has little to do with others and more to do with oneself.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
I used to be a horrible communicator: closing off instead of sharing how I truly felt, reacting rather than responding to the words of others and being passive-aggressive instead of assertive and clear. I would judge others and compare my insides to their outsides, which always resulted in a tirade of negative self-talk. What changed was my first love tragically passed away, and with his passing, the world looked different. What I saw was that life was too beautiful to be upset all the time — constantly comparing, competing, thinking this is right and that is wrong. Life was too unpredictable to disrespect others and myself with my interactions. Life was to be enjoyed, not to suffer through. I craved to feel present, to enjoy my time here.
I wished nothing more at that time than for someone to come in and take all the pain away. To take my suffering and replace it. I wasn’t saying it had to be with something spectacular, but with a sensation of normalcy or at least an allowance of life being as life is. I read books, took courses, and signed up for workshops all on this quest to feel better. And no matter the class, teacher, mentor, over and over again I found that the root of my unhappiness and insecurity came from how I communicated. How I talked with others and myself dictated so much of my feeling state that to really enjoy each moment, to be here now, I had to teach myself a new way of interacting.
During this search to feel better in the world, I was introduced to the Elements of Right Speech in Buddhism and meditation. It was these two things that changed my life and when my career was really born. I started a lifestyle experiment to figure out how to speak in a kind, honest, and helpful way, which is what became the Kane Intentional Communication Practice and what I’ve now taught to over 60,000 people.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
I set intentions for the way I want to interact during the day. Doing this gives each day a purpose and gives a path to come back to if I’ve strayed.
What is your morning routine?
The time of my morning routine can change, but this is what it generally looks like.
- Wake up 7 a.m. est
- Eyes still closed I go through my grateful list for my family, my work, this day, my body. Then I forgive myself for the things I didn’t love about my interactions the day before. Then I set my intention for the day.
- Go downstairs and wake up my daughter. Give her a bottle. Read a book. My son then comes into the room after he’s up and dressed to say hi.
- Eat breakfast with my kids while they watch their music.
- Take them to daycare.
- Come home.
- Workout for twenty-five minutes
- Meditate for ten minutes
- Pour my water and decaf coffee and go sit at my desk.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Meditation. The practice of meditation has completely changed me.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I only schedule two calls a day. I don’t check social media during the day. Wednesdays I have no calls as it’s a dedicated full workday. I have a team.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
There are many books that have truly impacted the way I see myself and the world. The one though that stands out among the rest is Nathaniel Branden’s A Woman’s Self-Esteem. A lot of people will question a book written by a man about women’s self-esteem, but the concepts within the book identified a lot of what I was struggling with after my first love’s death. The subject matter is very big and complex but Branden’s book is short, simple, and practical, making it very easy to understand. I use a lot of his finish the stems of sentence exercises with my students when we’re working on having difficult conversations.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“You can either be a prisoner of your past or a pioneer of your future.” — Deepak Chopra
I come back to the above quote again and again as it reminds me that I have a choice in how I want to interact and live in the world. In each moment I have an opportunity to either move more in the direction of feeling ease and peaceful and calm, of expressing myself to help myself and others suffer less or of getting stuck in unhelpful thoughts and resorting to my old patterns of interacting that promote more discomfort and disease. To experience the world differently, we have to do something different than we’ve done before.