"If you can practice cultivating a sense of completeness - even a glimmer, right now, in this moment, with the little things in life - there is a chance that you would be better able to cope with those aspects of mind that keep telling you that you are not there yet; not yet happy, not yet fulfilled. You might learn that you are complete, whole, just as you are." - pg 240
I love to sing the lyrics of Bruno Mars "you're amazing, JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!" at the top of my lungs to my kids. We judge so much of our days - we judge others, and most of all, we judge ourselves. What would it be like to accept and be amazed at the people we are? I imagine my shoulders relaxing and a deep breath coming. I don't have to try so hard and I can enjoy life a little more. Acceptance doesn't mean I don't think and try hard and work for things, it just means I do it without an extra sense of criticism. I recognize with open eyes where I'd like to be and work towards it, falling and picking myself back up along the way.
At the end of the book, the authors encourage you to look at how you can incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine. This doesn't necessarily mean meditating 45 minutes a day. Their suggestions:
1. When you wake up, take five deliberate breaths, check in with yourself mentally, emotionally and physically. Acknowledge and accept what is there with compassion. Spend another moment in silence or doing some gentle stretches and start your day deliberately.
2. Use Breathing Spaces to punctuate your day. (If you forgot, listen here). This allows you to respond with wisdom and compassion to thoughts, feelings and sensations.
3. Maintain your formal Mindfulness practice no matter what that looks like - 5 minutes or 2 hours.
4. Befriend your feelings with open and kindhearted awareness. Welcome all your feelings!
5. When you feel tired, frustrated, anxious, angry or any other powerful emotion, take a Breathing Space.
6. Try to do as many activities as possible during your day as mindfully as possible.
7. Increase your level of exercise.
8. Remember the breath. It is like a good friend. It reminds you that you are OK just as you are.
This is a portion of the poem that end the book. I wish you well. Keep me posted on your progress.
I was hoping no one would notice that I missed the last 3 weeks, that everyone else was just as busy as I have been. And it seemed to have worked for awhile, until my conscious woke me up and reminded me to finish my job. It’s so easy to start things, and to keep them going for a little. It’s the finishing that I am notoriously challenged by. So I have vowed to finish the last two weeks of this book. The next chapter “When Did You Stop Dancing” starts with a wonderful reminder of the ‘exhaustion funnel’.
Does this sound familiar? Your life is so busy and you realize you need to focus on the “important” things. So we narrow our focus to the task at hand, often at the loss of doing things for ourselves. We then still have the work to do, but aren't getting the nourishment we need. Our energy is all getting sucked out
and nothing is coming back in. We end up being spit out at the end of the tunnel, exhausted and drained.
The authors of the book encourage you to make a list of all the things you do in a typical day and classify them as either nourishing or draining. Then become aware of what the balance is and how it leaves you feeling at the end of the day.
The second assignment in the chapter is summarized in this quote “When you feel tired, unhappy, stressed or anxious, waiting until you feel motivated may not be the wisest course of action. You have to put the action first.
When mood is low, motivation follows action, rather than the other way around. When you put the action first, motivation follows” (pg 229)
So this week’s homework (click here for printable sheet):
Use this chart to classify nourishing vs draining activites.
Make a list of things you can do when motivation is low – a list of things you can do to be kind to your body and a list of enjoyable activities you can do.
Practice 2 meditations of your choice from the recordings for a total of 20-30 minutes 6 days this week.
Practice the breathing space exercise 2 times a day.
It seems only fitting that I am writing this post at 6am after spending much of the last few hours tossing and turning in bed with endless thoughts running through my head. As I near the end of a 2 week vacation, I am presented with what seems to be an endless amount of "stuff" to think about and process. The difference between now and a few years ago before my mindfulness practice is the way I feel about it all. A few years ago, I would have gotten angry about not falling asleep, wondering why and stressing about how the day was going to turn out. I would have added a layer of "self-talk" to the story that only serves to make falling asleep even more of a dream. But now, sometime around 5:30 am, I laid in bed and did a simple loving kindness meditation: "May I be happy, May I be healthy, May I be safe, May I live with ease".
Repeating these words seemed to bring a sense of calmness and acceptance towards my situation. Yes, it would be nice to enter today more well rested and refreshed, but here I was, wide awake, and in a beautiful place in this world. So I got up, grabbed my computer and am now sitting outside on a cozy porch watching the world wake up.
One practice I love doing and reminding others of is what I call "the best friend litmus test". Think of the last time you made a mistake, did something "wrong" or otherwise beat yourself up internally. Think of what you said to yourself. Often, it's something like "boy, that was dumb, I can't believe I did that, what was I thinking?" (or perhaps more colorful dialogue). Now think of a time your best friend told you about something they did that was similar. What would you say to them? Chances are, it wouldn't be the same.
If you wouldn't say it to your best friend, why say it to yourself?
Either sit quietly for 15 minutes or use tracks 1 and 4 (Mindfulness of Body and Breath, Breath and Body)
Then 10 minute Befriending meditation (track 7)
Three-Minute Breathing Space (track 8) - aiming to do twice a day or whenever you feel you need it.
Habit Releaser (choose one or do both!)
1. Reclaiming your life: think back to a time where pressures were less for you and recall activities you used to do then. Choose one thing you used to enjoy and plan to do it this week. It could be 5 minutes or 5 hours, important or trivial, involving others or alone. It is only important that it puts you back in touch with a part of your life that you had forgotten or left behind.
2. Do a good-natured deed for someone else. A random act of kindness for someone you know or a stranger. How can you make the life of someone else just a little bit better? It needn't be big, but notice how you feel when you do it.
Here is your printable homework sheet.
I recently saw the movie "Inside Out" with my family (which I highly recommend to anyone, whether you have kids or not!). Reading this chapter reminds me of the struggle between joy and sadness in the movie. Joy thought she always had to come in and save the day - she felt like a day where all the memories were joyful was a success. She had a hard time seeing the point of sadness. But eventually, she witnessed Sadness sitting next to the main characters forgotten imaginary friend, Bing Bong. Joy had been trying to cheer up Bing Bong, but it was only once Sadness sat down and let him cry that he eventually felt better.
Trying to hide from our difficult emotions doesn't make them go away. That is the point of this chapter. Sometimes (actually more often than not) we need to turn towards our difficult emotions and give them space. The exercises this week work on developing awareness and our habitual responses to difficult emotions, as well as noticing our bodily responses to these emotions. After we create awareness, we are able to turn towards them, saying, "It's OK to be feeling this way", and we are able to move on in a more open and accepting way.
This weeks daily plan:
8 minute Breath and Body
8 minute Sounds and Thoughts
10 minute Exploring Difficulty
3 minute Breathing Space
http://bit.ly/rodalemindfulness tracks 4,5,6 and 8
Habit Releaser: Plant a seed or tend a plant
Download the printable homework sheet here
I love the theory behind this chapter, it is something we talk about often in our coaching work. It’s worth pulling a paragraph or two from the book:
“The way we interpret the world makes a huge difference to how we react. This is sometimes called the ABC model of emotions. The “A” represents the situation itself – what a video camera would record. The “B” is the interpretation given to the scene; the running story we create out of the situation, which often flows just beneath the surface of awareness but is taken as fact. The “C” is our reactions: our emotions, body sensations and our impulses to act in various ways.
Often we see the “A” and “C” quite clearly, but we are not aware of the “B”. We think the situation itself aroused our feelings and emotions when, in fact, it was our interpretation of the scene that did this.” (page 137 “Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman)
This rings so true for me, especially when it comes to parenting. My son might start to protest at bedtime and my immediate response is almost blown out of proportion, I get frustrated so easily, because the “B” I’ve added on top of the situation is the thought of “Oh my, here he goes again, I will never make it through this, I can’t believe how irrational he is getting, will he ever learn? How could I raise such an inconsiderate kid? I am a horrible parent…..” which just makes the situation worse. I’m reacting to my thoughts rather than the situation at hand.
The idea behind week four is to enhance your ability to see when your mind might be turning negative and self-attacking, when you might get “pulled into a vortex”.
Practices for week four:
8 minute Breath and Body meditation followed by
8 minute Sounds and Thoughts mediation
(try to do the above twice a day)
Three minute breathing space meditation
(twice a day and whenever you need it at any time)
Habit Releaser: a visit to the movies
-for this, ask a friend or family member to go with you to the movies at a specific time and just choose whatever movie appeals to you only when you get there.
Click here for a downloadable homework sheet.
This chapter starts with a few different stories highlighting the key message "The spirit in which you do something is often as important as the act itself." The story of the boy tugging and pulling on the donkey's collar often reminds me of my struggles with my 6 year old son. The more I pull and push him into something I want him to do or be, the more he struggles (and the angrier I get!). But in hindsight, I am so glad for his strong will and I hope he never loses it. He is my constant reminder to slow down and let things unfold on their own. He also shows me the power of a negative spiral and how hard they can be to get out of. By creating awareness of these traps, hopefully I am on the road to a little more freedom.
This week's exercises further enhance our awareness of body and mind and continue to help weave mindfulness into our daily life.
8 minute Mindful Movement meditation followed by 8 minute Breath and Body meditation
http://bit.ly/rodalemindfulness (tracks 3 and 4)
3 minute Breathing Space twice a day (track 8 at the link above)
Habit Releaser: Valuing the television
Printable checklist here
For the habit releaser, it is suggested to choose one day to consciously decide, BEFORE turning on the TV, which show you want to watch, and then turn it off afterwards. If the TV isn't an issue, considering doing this with your computer - deciding what you are turning it on for, how long you are going to be on, and shutting it off when done (instead of skimming Facebook for hours on end...)
Thanks for following me on this journey, I welcome your comments at any time. These blog posts will always remain up, so if you want to follow, start over, go at your own pace, you can!
Welcome to week two! I'd like to quote pages 94-95 of our book "Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World".
"The first week of the mindfulness program began the process of building a capacity for sustained mindful concentration and awareness. It may have given you a glimpse into the mind's inner workings and its tendency to "chatter". Gradually, moment by moment, you may have come to realize that although you can't stop the unsettling thoughts from arising in your mind, you can stop what happens next. You can stop the vicious circle from feeding off itself.
The next step is to deepen your capacity to see the mind's reactivity by learning to pay mindful attention to the body. Here, you can feel the first stirrings of emotionally charged thoughts. Instead of your body acting as an amplifier, it can become a sensitive emotional radar; an early warning system that alerts you to unhappiness, anxiety and stress almost before they arise. But if you are to learn to "read" and understand the messages from your body, you first have to learn how to pay attention, in detail, to those parts of the body that are the source of the signals. As you will soon discover, these signals can arise anywhere in the body. This means you need to use a meditation practice that includes every region of the body, ignoring nothing, befriending everything. And for this, we use the Body Scan."
This chapter also discusses how we often expect that, now that we have been practicing, that we will magically be able to clear our mind of all thoughts and how untrue that often is. Your practice will vary from day to day and month to month, not always in some clear trajectory. The day after your "amazing" meditation session might well be your biggest struggle, as you enter into the session expecting what you got yesterday. Each day, each moment, is different. And we are practicing sitting with whatever is present WITHOUT judgment (ack! why is it so hard to not judge??)
For this week, the Habit Releaser is going for a walk. Try to get in a 15-30 minute walk with an open frame of mind. Focus on your feet, the movements in your body, the smells around you, the sounds of the trees, animals, leaves. Try stopping and looking upward as well, seeing all the delicious details of nature or the manmade structures around you.
Click here for a printable copy of the week's homework
Practices for week two:
Body scan (recommended to do twice a day for 6 out of 7 days)
Mindful daily life activity
Habit releaser (mindful walk)
Let me know how you are doing!
Summary of chapter 5 in “Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World”
In this chapter, the authors discuss how many of us tend to live constantly either thinking about the future or the past and that much of what we do ends up being on auto-pilot. The exercises assigned are to help bring awareness and all our senses to what is happening NOW.
A quote from page 86 “She began to think of her mind, its thoughts and its feelings, as a weather pattern, with her task simply being to observe the weather, even if it is stormy”…..she “was not trying to gain control over the ‘weather’.”
In mindfulness, we are strengthening our ability to observe our thoughts, rather than get caught and rushed downstream with them.
Click here for a printable homework log – there are several suggestions on what to practice this week. If it is too overwhelming, just choose one or two things to do consistently. Let’s work on consistency and support. What do you need to get these pieces a part of your daily life?
I’ve been wrapping my head around these two concepts for awhile now. Mindfulness seems to be the buzz word these days. Everywhere you look, people are jumping on the “mindfulness” bandwagon. Time magazine dubbed 2014 the “Year of Mindfulness”, celebrities meditate, large corporations like Google have meditation rooms, but what is it? Critics describe mindfulness as “meditation without the religion”. Is that what it is?
Jon Kabat-Zinn is largely credited with bringing mindfulness to the west with his mindfulness based stress reduction course (MBSR). He describes mindfulness as "paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.”
So where does meditation come into play? Meditation in the dictionary is described as “think deeply or focus one's mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.”
I like to think that mindfulness is a way of being and meditation as the practice, or weight lifting, you do to be able to be mindful more often. It is possible to be mindful without meditation, but it makes it easier to be mindful if you have some practice in your back pocket. Mindfulness is deeply living in the present moment. It is being aware of all that is going on around you, in a physical, emotional, and thoughtful way. Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention on one thing, your anchor, and training your brain to come back to it over and over again. Your anchor could be your breath, body sensations, chanting, mantras, and a host of different things.
I’ll leave you with an example of a meditative vs. a mindful walk:
A meditative walk would be focusing on the sensations of your feet as they lift, move, place, lift, move, place.
A mindful walk would be noticing the blue sky, hearing the birds, feeling the warmth of the sun and noticing how your body responds.
What are your thoughts? Does this ring true or do you have another point of view?
Welcome! I am excited to start this journey and explore a new format for learning and connection. This is my first time leading this type of course and I welcome comments and feedback at any time. This course is arising out of a desire to apply the skills we already know more regularly into our lives. Many us of know why it is important to be mindful and we recognize the value in connecting with the life that is right in front of us. We want to be able to not always get lost in our emotional quicksand and see things for what they really are. But, with our busy lives, our constant e-connection, and our attention being pulled in 10 different directions at once, it is easy for us to get scattered, overreact and fall into old habits. My hope is that the format of this class will allow you to start (and maintain) a mindfulness habit that takes just a few minutes a day and permeates all that you do. I look forward to starting this journey.
This week, we will be doing some pre-work before diving into week one in the book. We will be discussing the course format and also working on some homework. If you would like to deepen your learning, this will also give you time to purchase the book and read chapters 1-4 (pages 1-66). I suggest supporting your local bookstore, buying the e-book or purchasing online:
Starting next week, for 8 weeks, I will have a printable sheet for you to check off the different areas of homework. These will include:
Daily Life Activity: Each week, you will choose an activity that you do every day (brushing your teeth, washing your hands, washing dishes, drinking tea or coffee, doing laundry, starting your car, etc). Whenever you complete this activity, bring all your attention to this activity and immerse yourself in it completely. When you are washing your hands, for example, chances are your mind is thinking about something else – planning your day, talking with someone, anything but washing your hands. The idea of this activity is to bring your attention to all the sensations of the present moment – feel the water flowing over your hands, inhale the scent of the soap, feel the slipperiness of the suds. You don’t have to slow the activity down, or even enjoy it, just be fully present and alive while you are doing it. Mindfulness doesn’t mean we are happy all the time, it just means we are present in the moment for whatever it brings.
Habit Releaser: Each week, you will be presented with a ‘habit releaser’. This course is focused on making us more aware our habits, and these tasks will help, and challenge you, to notice what your habitual patterns are. These include such things as changing the chair you normally sit in to examining your relationship to your TV.
Meditation: You will also be presented with a meditation to complete each week. Copies of these can be downloaded here. The authors suggest trying to complete these 6 out of 7 days. These range in time from 3-20 minutes. If your life is slightly insane, don’t sweat trying to make a 20 minute time commitment every day. Even a one-minute pause intentionally put into your day can make a difference. I’ve met some folks who are great meditators – they can sit quietly for 30-45 minutes every day, but once they are done, their lives come crashing back and they ramp right back up. It’s almost like they have an on/off switch, or like they have a wonderfully tended garden with a beautiful gate in one small area of their yard, but the rest of the yard is wild and overgrown. The idea I am proposing is trying to plant little seeds of mindfulness throughout your day – one minute here, one breath there. Rather than having one meticulously cultivated corner, bring the mindfulness in throughout your day in small doses. With time, the seeds grow and we can be prancing through an expansive beautiful field rather than frantically pushing through our life of crazy weeds to get to that one area of solace.
Gratitude practice: This is not included in the book as a formal practice, but will be explored in this course. You will be asked to complete a daily gratitude practice, either written or oral, each week.
That’s it! Each week, I will provide a summary of the reading for the week and provide a printout of the homework for you to complete. This week, there are just questions for you to journal about:
1. What is important about having a mindfulness practice be a part of your life?
2. What are your hopes for this course?
Please feel free to leave your answers, thoughts, and introductions in the comments section below!