Living Mindfully

Good morning!

I just wanted to share the opportunity I was given to be a guest on the Decatur Public Library Podcast. I had the opportunity to define mindfulness, speak at length about the benefits, guide a brief STOP method practice and offer advice about starting your individualized mindfulness practice.

The definition of mindfulness I have devised is, the practice of holding space to offer loving, kind aware as to your present reality.

Recording this was SO fun!! I hope you enjoy and find it to be informative.

 

 

Living Mindfully – Long Overdue Podcast

Braving Minneapolis

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…Theodore Roosevelt

In the month of June, I had the privilege of attending the Daring Way™ Training in Minneapolis. The Daring Way™ is curriculum based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown. Brené Brown has published various books covering the topics of shame, vulnerability, resilience, courage, worthiness, owning our story and so much more. I have been a fan girl for quite some time.  Not only do I enjoy and respect her research, I can relate to her story and voice. She is incredibly authentic about her struggles and background and she does not take herself too seriously. No question…she knows what she is talking about and her grounded theory method leads to many feeling like she is talking directly to them as they read and listen to her thoughts. Yet, she consistently presents as a human being, a flawed yet beautiful and impactful human being. (As I gush about her, you can see what I mean by fan girl.) For years I have wanted to attend this sought after training and, luckily, with the work that I am doing at Wise Health System, I was able to attend this year. My organization sent me because they recognize the value of this work and the impact it can have on our employees and the community.

I arrived in Minneapolis on a Sunday afternoon right as the Pride Parade was wrapping up. I immediately felt the vibrancy and warmth of this city. I checked into my huge hotel room at the Embassy Suites in Downtown Minneapolis (got quickly excited about not having to clean for 4 days and the idea of 8 hours of sleep without interruption.) My nights typically involve wrangling my 3 beautifully energetic, adventurous and messy children and then sharing the bed with all of them and their unique and unassuming sleeping positions.

That night I had the chance to catch up with a dear friend, Torie, who is wrapping up her law degree and doing important work in child protection. She told me about her love for the city, her dreams for her career and I felt like I got to know the woman she has become. I already loved this trip before my bucket list training even began.

daring way megan

Day One of The Daring Way™:  I wake up and only have to worry about getting myself ready!!! Wowza. When I drank my first cup of coffee for the day…it was HOT! So far, so good. I catch my scheduled ride to the training and have the pleasure of meeting an incredible primary care physician from Canada named Melanie. The driver pulled away not knowing that he was leaving another lady waiting on transportation behind but we quickly circled the block and came back to get her.  I am so glad that we met in this moment because she became an important fixture in my Minneapolis experience, and I am hopeful, that we will continue to explore this work and life together moving forward.

This training requires an application and pre-work process. I earned my way here and did the work to hold a seat with these impressive folks. Despite my excitement and preparation for this experience, as I hear members of my small group tell their stories and what brought them to this training…I have flooding thoughts of imposter syndrome. I am wondering if I have the chops to be here and I am praying that I have meaningful thoughts to share throughout this time.  The beauty of this curriculum focusing on shame, vulnerability, and living brave is that we all eventually discussed our fears and identified that multiple people in that room were feeling the exact same way. We cover values, relationships, trust, vulnerability, empathy and self-compassion during the activities and conversations of Day 1. This curriculum pushes you to face fears and own the thought processes that keep you from living an authentic life. You gain insight and courage to truly allow yourself to enter “the arena.” Exploring this with the women in my group, led by an incredible facilitator was a gift. Reeling from excitement and inspiration, 5 of us went to dinner at a great rooftop restaurant a few blocks from our hotel.  Three Canadians, a magical gal from San Fran, and I enjoyed conversation about human rights, politics, advocacy and dreams.  Building these relationships and debriefing the content of our training was arguably as beneficial as the training itself. I hope to always have the chance to touch base with these women and witness the amazing work they will do.

Day Two of Daring Way™: This was by far, from an emotionally challenging perspective, the toughest day of training. Shame was central to our conversations. I felt closer to each of the women in our group as we worked through tough topics and offered vulnerability, authenticity and empathy to one another. I was physically and emotionally whipped after 8 hours of shame education and processing, so I opted to spend my time that evening at the free happy hour and ordered an (essentially) free meal because I chose to go the green route and re-use my towels throughout my trip. (I received 2 $5 vouchers in turn for making an environmentally friendly choice – I have taken free meals for less honorable reasons.) Again, I was surrounded by colleagues who were also receiving this refining and thought-provoking training. We talked about parenting, magic, our specialties and, again, our dreams surrounding our practice and individual communities. I relished in this interaction and exchange.  Relationships are so valuable to me and most of my favorite people in life have come to me during these types of experiences.

daring way desk

Day Three of Daring Way™: We got to enter the Rising Strong™ curriculum on the final day of training. Throughout the Daring Way™, “participants are invited to examine the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that are holding them back and identify the new choices and practices that will move them toward more authentic and wholehearted living. The primary focus is on developing shame resilience skills and developing daily practices that transform the way we live, love, parent, and lead.”  When we Dare Greatly, we will fall. In Rising Strong™ participants learn “what it takes to get back up and how owning our stories of struggle gives us the power to write a daring new ending. Struggle can be our greatest call to courage and the clearest path to a wholehearted life.” We only partially delved into this material as we learned about expectations and next steps moving forward: four weeks of online training + six months of case consultation prior to becoming an officially Certified Daring Way Facilitator (CDWF.)

I said my goodbyes to my newly developed friendships, small group and my wonderful facilitator (who has an emphasis on mindfulness in her own practice which could NOT have been more perfect.) As I headed back to Texas, I was flooded with excitement to get back to my family, but also with inspiration and ideas about integrating this meaningful material into my practice, organization, blog, relationships and life in general.  My heart was (and still is) full of gratitude. The value of exploring these topics is difficult to express briefly. This work is life changing and the reality that I will be able to bring this work into my practice is ridonkulously amazing.

I continued with the four weeks of online training and am now getting set up with a case consultant to develop a relationship with and learn from over the next six months. I plan to offer groups, workshops, retreats, intensives and individual counseling utilizing this curriculum. My personal growth from this training is evidenced by my ability to realign with my core values, honor my boundaries, walk in authenticity and live brave. I cannot wait to share this with my clients and community. The practice of mindfulness is relevant to this work and discussed in both Daring Way™ and Rising Strong™. Let me know if you are interested in getting plugged in to an upcoming group, workshop, or retreat! You can also look for Daring Way™ opportunities near you here: The Daring Way

Check out my creative project on Shame versus Authenticity!

Until next time my friends.

Peace, love and laughter,

Megan

courage

*This image is from The Daring Way™ curriculum

Why I Choose Forgiveness, over and over again…

Greetings friends! It has been a little bit since I last made a post. Lots of life has happened. Lots of mishaps…lots of mindfulness. The stories will come, I promise but today I wanted to approach the topic of forgiveness.  I am currently in the middle of training to become a Certified Daring Way Facilitator. This means I will be certified to utilize the curriculum of Dr. Brene Brown in my individual and group therapy, in workshops, etc. I have a difficult time expressing in written word how thrilled I am about this experience and the ability to formally implement her work on vulnerability, shame, resilience, bravery, and so much more into my clinical practice. In today’s online class, we are Rumbling in our Rising Strong process. In brief summary (for full understanding I recommend you read Rising Strong,) when we show up, be seen and live brave we are going to have face down moments. We will fall. We will hurt. We will be brokenhearted. There is so much beauty in our ability to rise following our fall. This week’s content focuses on the portion of our struggle that faces grief, forgiveness, anxiety and criticism. In MY facedown moment there was certainly grief and certainly forgiveness. The curriculum uses a quote by Joe Reynolds, “In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die. If you make a choice to forgive, you have to face the pain. You simply have to hurt.” Something has to die: a relationship, a dream, a belief, a home, etc.  In my case, a relationship changed. It did not end, but the old version of this relationship was built of poor boundaries and over-sharing…on my part. The previous version had to die for forgiveness to truly happen. A new, healthier relationship was renewed, but grieving my concept of this friendship as I thought it had been was necessary to genuinely forgive and, essentially, hit reset. I was not cognitively aware of this process as it was occurring. I knew it sucked. I knew it felt lonely and sad, until it felt peaceful and constructive. I did not call this grief and forgiveness as I lived it…but that is exactly what was happening.

I know what it feels like to hold on to hurt and refuse to forgive. It is heavy and burdensome. The pressure of holding onto the pain holds you captive. You cannot move too far from your comfort zone for fear of releasing the pressure of resentment, grudge holding and anger. Anger feels like control. It feels like power. But the hard truth is that when we hold on to the pain and anger, we are only condemning ourselves to feeling tied to the pain; playing the role of the victim. It is not powerful to express our hurt, grief and heartbreak in revenge seeking hatred. It is actually an act of numbing and offloading hurt. We avoid facing the true pain of loss which is necessary in the process of forgiving. We miss out on the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat when our thoughts and actions are driven by our inability or unwillingness to forgive others.

This week’s work led to me to pick up The Book of Forgiving by Desmond and Mpho Tutu. I have discussed the South African word Ubuntu when discussing the interconnectedness of humanity. This word simply describes the concept that we all rely on one another, what is good for one human benefits all of humanity. This book discusses how good for our body, soul and humanity forgiveness is. We are inherently good and pursuing forgiveness is something we do to restore our inner peace and willingness to live a wholehearted life. Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes:

Without forgiveness, we remain tethered to the person who harmed us. We are bound with chains of bitterness, tied together, trapped. Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness; that person will be our jailor. When we forgive the person who harmed us, we take back control of our own fate and our feelings. We become our own liberators. We don’t forgive to help the other person. We don’t forgive for others. We forgive for ourselves. Forgiveness, in other words, is the best form of self-interest. This is true both spiritually and scientifically.

There is a great deal of research that supports the science behind forgiveness and physical benefits.  Various studies have findings that demonstrate a link between forgiveness and a reduction in depression, anger, insomnia, reduced blood pressure, pain, headaches, etc. People who hold on to anger and resentment or more likely to suffer from these ailments, the willingness to forgive can be motivated by self-interest. Just the decision to live for you in the present moment feels like freedom from the chains of past hurts.

Tutu says, “To forgive is also to release yourself from whatever trauma and hardship you have experienced and reclaim your life as your own.”  And, sometimes, maybe the person you need to forgive is you. If you are carrying pain, anger and resentment, my hope and prayer for you is that you find the courage to face the hurt head on and achieve healing in your life.

This reclamation and freedom is not only healing but provides the opportunity for deepening connections. While we may have to forgive and release some perpetrators of pain, some people just do not get to hold space in our world.  We will find though that through forgiveness we can achieve new levels of connection with those we love. We, as humans, require connection to thrive. We are built for community and our hunger for connection seems to grow as we experience the isolation and ridiculous standards of personal persona in today’s culture.*

This weekend I watched Moana with my children for the 2700th. I love the music and beauty of this movie, but the story embedded in the narrative about overcoming trauma speaks to me each and every time I watch this movie. Te Fiti is a Goddess that breathes life into the islands, until her heart is stolen by a demi-God and she is overcome with darkness. Throughout the movie, the viewer believes that a terrible monster of fire and fury, Te Ka, is another villain seeking the heart of Te Fiti. What we learn at the end is that Te Ka is actually the angry and broken version of Te Fiti. The trauma of having her heart taken from her brought about darkness and pain.  Through empathy and forgiveness, Te Fiti is able to breathe life and beauty again. Her heart is restored. This scene is breathtaking and I encourage you to watch this movie with this perspective in mind. This is the most tangible and relatable example I can think of to paint a picture of the power of forgiveness.

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Holding on to pain for fear of exposing what lies underneath our heartbreak is devastating to your mind, heart and body. There is a beautiful 21 day guided meditation developed by the Chopra Center entitled “Free to Love.”

This guided meditation is one path that can guide you to forgiving, releasing and restoring your capacity for connection.  Read Rising Strong or look for a Rising Strong course near you. I will be leading a workshop in the near future about the Rising Strong process, let me know if you are interested in attending…this work is powerful.

(for more on my thoughts of societal isolation, check out my previous posts Overcoming Isolation and Constantly Connected.)

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Laughter…

Megan

Learning to Live with Intention

Intention.

Intentions.

Intentional.

This word, these words…are words that I have often struggled with, but also words that often present themselves during counseling sessions. My personal struggle with the word intentional is that I have never felt like I was intentional enough as a friend, sister, daughter, wife, mother, etc. I am not an awesome gift giver. I typically do not function with a great deal of advance notice, like 48 hours in advance is my average planning time. I may throw something on the calendar further out but the nitty gritty planning and prep happens last minute. This is not a representation of how invested in or how much I care about something, it’s the way I am wired. But I OFTEN say, we may be susceptible  to selfishness, forgetfulness, or other weaknesses but that does not mean that we cannot take steps and make changes so that we are better and ever-evolving humans.

I feel so loved when people are intentional with gifts, gestures, and acts of service. I am quick to compliment what I see as intentionality. Making intentionality a priority for me in regards to relationships continues to present me with a great deal of room for growth. It’s a work in progress. I love with enthusiasm, but planning ahead with creativity is something I am continuing to focus on. Because of this focus, my 2017 One Little Word was Intentional. If you have never heard of the One Little Word experience, check this wonderful website out. This is something I focus on each year.

I chose this word to focus on external relationships; I had no clue that perseverating on the word intentional would change my relationship with — ME. Studying and meditating on the meaning of intention and bringing intention into multiple spaces and places for me led to:

  • Recognize the thoughts that drove my decision and behaviors.
  • Focus on being present in interactions with others.
  • Bring attention with intention to my needs, my rhythm, and my purpose.
  • Appropriately gauge my expectations, in turn, reducing opportunity for resentment.

The perfectionist people pleaser chose a word to improve the way I poured out love but drawing awareness to my thoughts, words, and actions allowed me to grow in my understanding of my inner self. I was over simplifying the meaning and importance of intention. My journey with this word and concept allowed me to recognize the needs and expectations associated with relationships. The coolest part – in gaining awareness of my own needs and expectations, I believe I have become a better friend, sister, daughter, wife, mother, etc.  Not in the way I planned, but in a manner that promotes long term health in my relationships.

Recognize the thoughts that drive you.

Do you ever stop to consider what drives a decision or behavior? Why do you need to have that fight? Why do you need to take that drink? Why do you need to make a drastic change in your life? Why is saying those words important at this moment? What are your intentions? Is there necessity, purpose, or kindness in your intentions? Taking pause to consider the driving force behind our actions is monumental and simple. Think before you speak. Consider the collateral damage of your potentially misguided intentions. If you gather, after taking pause, that your decision is necessary, kind, or purposeful then keep on keeping on. However, if you draw awareness to lofty, selfish, or cruel intentions…maybe it’s a better idea to reflect on how you got to that point rather than reacting.

Focus on being present in your relationships.

Intentionality can be broken down and as simple as eye contact and avoiding distraction during quality time with those that you love. The willingness to focus and give the gift of time to someone is becoming more and more priceless with each addition of technology that makes work, news, to-do list, and noise more accessible. While we all have obligations and responsibilities, setting aside precious moments with your family and friends to sincerely hear them and respond thoughtfully is necessary. Promoting moments of genuine and focused connection helps those you love to feel valued.

Bring attention to your needs, rhythm, and purpose.

Are you intentionally finding moments to connect with YOU? I believe that when we are not in tune with the parts of us that make us unique we become incapable of holding authentic space with family and friends. If we cannot identify our needs, if we are out of touch with our individual rhythm, and if we have lost sight of our purpose…how can we have meaningful connection with others? Talk about imposter syndrome? Journaling, meditation, music, dance, nature, exercise, and a variety of other outlets can help us develop an inward awareness. Find moments to recognize the parts of your heart and mind that feel real to you. Recreate these moments as often as you can. When we grow in familiarity with ourselves, it can help to enhance emotional regulation because of the deeper level of understanding we achieve regarding our feelings and reactions.

Gauge expectations and reduce resentment.

As a people pleaser from way back, I can tell you a thing or two about resentment. Not clearly gauging and communicating expectations, leads to feelings of disappointment and resentment.  Check your expectations. The best example of this I have heard comes from Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong. She tells a personal story about parenting. When one spouse is out of town, the other spouse can manage to juggle all the roles and responsibilities with minimal stress. They make it work. When both parents are in town, busy weekends end up leading to increased conflict and frustration. The root of this is when we know we have to make it work alone; we manage with minimal emotional reaction. When we anticipate that having our partner around will make the busy weekend stress free because they will manage half of the responsibilities  AND we do not clearly communicate these expectations…we end up feeling ALL the resentment. We must create realistic expectations and have assertive communication about said expectations. No one is going to read your mind. Without sharing your hopes and dreams for days, weekends, or life in general with the people that you do life with, you set the stage for bitterness and resentment.  This is wrapped up in the word INTENTIONAL, because this behavior was something I had to intentionally implement into my life, specifically my marriage. My hubs is great at a lot of things, reading my mind is NOT one of them. If I clearly express my plans and the role I hope for him to play in those plans…we have the chance to either agree to move forward or make amendments to my unrealistic ideas. This level of intentional and assertive communication has been meaningful in minimizing resentment and enhancing our connection.

In my One Little Word journal, I listed these synonyms for intentional: conscious, purposeful, willful. If we set out to live a mindful life…we must learn to speak, act, live, and love with intention. We have power in choosing our reactions to the waves that crash into our lives. Enhance your awareness, define your values, and live with intention. I am thankful to have had this journey with these words. Exploring these concepts with an open mind led to a complete different end result that I planned on and it was such a necessary lesson for me to learn.

Let me know your thoughts on the meaning of intention. How do you implement intention into your life and relationships? I want to hear from you and I would love for you to subscribe to my blog!

Peace love and laughter,

Megan

photo credit: angiedevon (instagram)

Are you in AWE of your life?

I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world – present and in awe. – Anne Lamott

How often do you slow down long enough to “smell the roses?” Do you step outside at night to witness the majesty of a meteor shower or a sky full of stars on a clear, crisp night? Can you envision the last time you were in awe of your surroundings? This could be the end of a long hike that brings you to the edge of a powerful waterfall, it could be the first time you saw your child take a step, or it could be the moment you fell in love with your person. Put yourself in that place for a moment right now, recall the wonder and excitement. Man, I wish I could bottle that feeling up and keep it on hand for moments that feel routine, mundane, stressful, defeating. Spray a little awe around in the moments that rob us of childlike astonishment and lead us to forget the world’s expansiveness. What if we could daily acknowledge the brilliance, beauty, and transience of this world?

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I took a little personality quiz on the Greater Good Science Center website today called “The Awe Quiz.” I found that I have a tendency towards engaging in situations that challenge my thought process, make me feel curious, leave me with the childlike awe feelings that we should all seek. I am not sure that I would have had the same results one year ago. Prior to engaging in a journey that encouraged presence and awareness, I think I was missing out on opportunities to live an AWE-some life.  I am thankful for the people in my journey that have helped me to redirect my energy.  I remember the initial moments of resistance when my sister encouraged meditation. I remember doubting the impact and questioning my ability to commit to a new practice. My willingness to engage in moments of wonder and awe is one of the many benefits of living a more mindful life.

I remember being in awe of the sky when I was younger, I have rekindled this love for looking up. Sunrise, sunsets, clouds, the rays emitted from the sun though those clouds, stars, the moon and its phases all remind me daily (and nightly) how brief and ever changing this moment is. It takes mere moments to miss the evolving colors of the setting sun.  I love bringing the attention of my children to the beauty of the sky. I love asking them what they see, what colors stand out? What shapes do they see in the clouds? Absorbing their reactions of surprise and awe is contagious. It is good for the soul. But I wanted to dig into why these moments are so memorable and impactful and potentially how to create increased access to this feeling.

I found an article on the Huffington Post website titled, How Awe-Inspiring Experiences Can Make You Happier, Less Stressed and More Creative. That’s what I’m talking about…let’s dig into this goodness. This article provides various definitions and results from multiple university studies surrounding the emotion of awe.  It discusses a foundational paper:

In “Approaching Awe, A Moral, Spiritual and Aesthetic Emotion,” psychologists Dacher Keltner of UC Berkeley and Jonathan Haidt of New York University outlined how exactly awe works and what affect it has on us. Awe consists of two qualities, Keltner and Haidt say: perceived vastness (something we think to be greater than ourselves), and accommodation, a need to assimilate the experience of vastness into one’s current mental structure. Keltner and Haidt describe awe as an emotion “in the upper reaches of pleasure and on the boundary of fear.”

Awe is the sweet spot between pleasure and fear. I can only imagine the brain’s chemical reaction to these moments. It is no surprise that we cannot exist in these moments perpetually; doing so might remove the component of wonder. I can also gather that what induces feelings of awe for me is not necessarily going to trigger the same reaction in everyone else.  Our experiences with wonder are all unique to the fabric that makes us who we are.

The Huffington Post article goes on the discuss the reality that  experiencing awe provides a healthier relationship with time, boosts creativity, increases our ability to be hopeful and grateful regarding our life, improves our relationship with nature, and aides in transforming our lives.  Abraham Maslow’s description of “peak experiences” seems like another way to describe feelings of awe. He says that peak experiences are indicated by:

“disorientation in space and time, ego transcendence and self-forgetfulness; a perception that the world is good, beautiful and desirable…He emphasized that moments of transcendence could take the form of an intense religious or spiritual experience, but it could also come from the simplest moment of love, beauty or natural wonder. If nothing else, awe teaches us, as Maslow suggests, that there might be something just a little bit magical about everyday life — a realization that can help us engage with life from a place of joy, wonder, and gratitude.”

I recognize a connection to my discussion of human connection in my post about The Importance of Finding Your Tribe when discussing the benefits of awe. When we can have human connections or awe filled experiences that help us get outside of ourselves, we can live happier and more fulfilled lives. When we are not driven only by ego, status, and pride…we are more apt to practice gratitude. Imagine how minuscule the past due bill, lost job, or moment of defeat seems in comparison to the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls,  the incredible life beneath the surface of ocean waters, the birth of a baby, the first time your child speaks the words “I love you,” or the intense beauty of the setting sun.  There are certainly moments that take our breath away, moments that give us no choice but to lose ourselves and be completely consumed in that moment. But what if we are missing out on opportunities to experience the simple beauty and love that can leave us in wonder on a daily basis? Our focus could use some re-shifting from time to time. Perhaps we should make time to slow down and look up more often.

My favorite Emerson quote is tattooed on my back:

Live in the Sunshine, Swim the Sea, Drink the Wild Air. Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I try to live in this manner but the more I become consumed with duties, roles, responsibilities, and to-do’s the more distracted I become.  The reality is that I am only gaining more responsibilities as my children get older and become more involved little humans. Therefore, my perception needs to shift. Traveling with my family needs to become a priority. Getting in nature needs to become a priority. Looking up long enough to recognize the beauty in how quickly our life is passing by and the value of relishing in every moment that I possibly can need to become priorities. I think we can live in awe and be ridiculously productive and involved in our communities. For me, mindfulness and presence has been the key to this shifting perspective. Releasing situations or stressors that I have zero control over frees up space in my heart and mind for awe, wonder, and gratitude.  The next step is to seek out moments to experience awe.

Find out your tendency towards experiencing awe…take “The Awe Quiz” now!

Looking to experience awe from your desk…check out this gorgeous series of photographs from National Geographic

Images in this post are all courtesy of the crazy talented, Janey Cooper Photography.