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.
I am great in a crisis. Down to the wire is my jam. I can make things happen fast when I need to. For instance… someone is hypothetically coming to drop by my house in 15 minutes. I can whip my kitchen and living area into makeshift shape so fast you would think I was Samantha from Bewitched with a magical nose twitch. I can prove it. Just do NOT ask for a tour or to see any bedrooms.
I can claim that my procrastination comes from my calendar being maxed out by work, volunteering, kid’s activities, etc. but if I am being honest I was a procrastinator before I had just cause. It is one of the most frustrating things about me for many people who love me…I am sure of it.
This part of my personality, the part that is always right on time to 180 seconds late for 99.9% of the meetings and/or events I attend, struggled with the concept of self-care in a preventative manner. Deep breathing was always a go to coping skill in an anxious moment, but taking the time to mindfully breathe in the moments of my day that were filled with joy, peace, excitement, etc. was a less natural process for me to adapt to. I have a habit of cramming my day full. I know what you are thinking and YES, I have dug deep and self-examined to determine if busyness is a form of numbing for me…but I conclude that (more times than not) I just really like to carpe the shit out of each day. I like to do “all the things” and live to tell about it. (That is not to say that I have not been known to use distraction with a list of responsibilities as a way to avoid the tough stuff, I definitely am guilty of running away from struggles.)
Because of these realities of my personality and lifestyle, accepting and implementing preventative self-care has been an invaluable for me. I am perpetually “fine” until I am not. I have a high threshold for stress, but most of the time the straw that breaks my back is seemingly anticlimactic. To prevent these moments of losing it is crucial that I schedule self-care into my day to day activities. For me personally, self-care looks like:
Updating my planner
Updating our family budget (not fun, but necessary)
Getting ahead of my housework (also not fun, but necessary)
And of course, God willing…a massage, pedicure, or yummy dinner out that I do not have to prepare every once in a while.
These are the concrete, tangible activities that I go to for reprieve and peace. These moments provide opportunity to fill my cup, charge my batteries, fuel my engine; I think you get the idea. However, there is also a mindset to acknowledge here. What mindset is indicative of someone who is resilient to stress and crises? Brené Brown has a lot to say about resilience, specifically related to shame. Her book, Rising Strong™, is all about getting up after you fall flat on your face. She says that people who understand their values, are willing to be vulnerable, offer one another and themselves compassion and empathy, and who make an effort to recognize their emotional reactions to life events and process them in a way that allows rumbling and introspection rather that remaining in an emotionally triggered vacuum are more resilient. If you have not been living under a rock, then you have heard about the self-care sensation sweeping the nation, Girl Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis. Hollis discusses real life hurdles, overcoming them and persistently pursuing your dreams. Her mindset is contagious and she is creating a movement of empowered women who want to be better at being authentic and confident…and who want to remember their worthiness. Hollis says:
“know this one great truth: you are in control of your own life. You get one and only one chance to live, and life is passing you by. Stop beating yourself up, and dang it, stop letting others do it too. Stop accepting less than you deserve. Stop buying things you can’t afford to impress people you don’t even really like. Stop eating your feelings instead of working through them. Stop buying your kids’ love with food, or toys, or friendship because it’s easier than parenting. Stop abusing your body and your mind. Stop! Just get off the never-ending track.”
Like many moments in her book, this truth might be hard to swallow. However, there are times that a temporary crisis can turn into a lifelong battle as a result of our mindset and misguided coping skills. Recognizing and EMBRACING the power that we have over our own life is crucial. We will undoubtedly face grief, crisis, stress, heartbreak, trauma and other unexpected and hard realities; however, we are more likely to be resilient in the face of these realities if we take care of our minds, bodies and souls on a regular basis. Making ourselves a priority in the manageable moments, helps us to survive the moments that feel insurmountable. There will be moments that wreck our souls and deplete our resources; this is the dark part of the human experience. Those moments may not be avoidable, but knowing ourselves well enough to recognize our needs in the darkest of moments can lead to healing.
“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”
We cannot allow the overwhelming, difficult, devastating moments define our entire identity. However, the value of embracing our entire truth, our entire story (even the stuff we wish we could deny) gives us power. When we talk about the parts of our lives that are difficult, we are less likely to be consumed and fall victim to them. When we stop trying to achieve perfection and recognize that we WILL fall short and we DO NEED help, we are going to have the ability to experience increased joy and increased connection with one another.
Crisis often translates into feelings of shame, resentment, failing, not being enough, etc. We have to decide to not be victimized by our struggles. We must learn ourselves, recognize our individual needs, know when we are emotionally hooked/triggered, develop a set of go to coping skills and choose to take the reins when life seems to take us for a ride. The dark days our inevitable, life is a constant struggle. Our time here on this Earth is an opportunity to grow in our faith, cultivate connections and rise above the pain and to choose to embrace joy and peace. Rather than allowing anxiety and fear of what you do not know control your existence, prepare for the tough stuff by fostering resiliency today and each day. Develop your self-care regimen and pursue a mindset of empowerment and resilience. Susan Grimm says:
“Even in the grimmest of circumstances, a shift in perspective can create startling change.”
Our mindset, our perspective can lead us to chase after darkness or confidently turn towards the light. I will be over here looking for the sun friends.
The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause. Mark Twain
I sometimes find myself toting a “badge of honor” surrounding my busYness. You know what I mean right?? “Well I have so many things to do and I have taken on so much responsibility, my time is incredibly valuable because I must be the busiest person ever. I have 3 kids, 1 full time job, 3 side gigs, I sit on multiple boards and committees, but what else can I do for you?” I squeeze too much into my days and find myself running right on time or 5 minutes late to every meeting, commitment, birthday party, etc. This behavior and lifestyle is fueled by years of well-defined perfectionism and people pleasing. I feel pulled to say YES to all the things. All. The. Things. Taking on more than I can handle is not something I should hang my hat on. Learning to achieve balance in my life is a more valuable endeavor. Thank you Jesus that I discovered the beauty of balance and the power in the pause before I ran myself ragged.
In my journey with mindfulness, self-awareness, and (in lots of ways) awakening…I have learned a few things. One is that I enjoy an active lifestyle. I like going, moving and being productive. I like adventure. I like to get my kiddos out of the house. I enjoy the community-centered mindset of getting plugged in and making an impact. For me, self-care is about achieving a balance of saying NO when I really need to, but also saying YES when I want to and making sure that I do “all the things” in a way that promotes well-being for me and my family. Something that has been life-changing for me is the beauty of the pause. Taking pause in moments when I feel overwhelmed, when I am triggered or feel a rush of frustration, right before I have a scheduled session with a client, moments before I speak before a room full of people, when I finally sit down to nurse my sweet Maya, when my kids ask me to play with them, when I take a walk to recharge my batteries. At times, simply taking pause before I commit to or refuse to take on a new task makes all the difference. These (and many more moments) are enhanced or improved by my willingness to practice taking pause. This pause provides a moment to check in with myself, to provide a level of control regarding my brain’s instantaneous capacity to finish the story or create worst case scenarios and it allows me to soak in the beauty and gratitude of each moment. Kristin Armstrong says:
It’s not only moving that creates new starting points. Sometimes all it takes is a subtle shift in perspective, an opening of the mind, an intentional pause and reset, or a new route to start to see new options and new possibilities.
That is a perfect way to describe what I have found in my own pause practice. Drawing my attention to my breath. Checking in with my body to learn more about why I am feeling the way I am feeling. Am I truly overwhelmed and anxious, or did I just drink one too many cups of coffee? (oops, often that is EXACTLY the reason) Soaking in my surroundings. Shifting my perspective to move forward in a mindset of awareness, gratitude and openness. What I love is that pause/rest/awareness often produces new beginnings and motivation. It is not about ceasing activity forever, it is about taking the time to be genuinely mindful in our actions and responses. I remember when my sister was first encouraging me to implement meditation into my daily, self-care routine I would think about how I did not have time to stop for that long. There was no way that I could just not be productive for long enough to create a meditative space. I did not understand the ways that mindfulness and meditation can be wrapped into our daily activities. I also had this ridiculous idea in my mind that I had to be forever chill and perpetually relaxed to be successful at mindfulness. Mindfulness is a coping skill. Mindfulness is a way of life that transforms the perspective with which we view ourselves, our surroundings and our purpose. Mindfulness goes hand in hand with productivity, in fact, it enhances performance and focus.
I wanted to talk about some of the methods that I have used to implement pause into my day to day life:
The STOP Method: I have referenced this activity more than once in my blog, because it is effective and simple. This one minute breathing space is a guided thought activity that is perfect for a shift in perspective or to relax when you are feeling triggered:
S: STOP what you are doing. Close your eyes. Put your work down or your task away for this moment in time.
T: TAKE a deep breath. Draw your attention inward and focus on controlling your breathing pattern. I enjoy tactical breathing in this space. Inhale for a count of 4, Hold for a count of 4, Exhale for a count of 4, Hold for a count of 4. Put this on repeat until you feel that you have been able to clear your mind and focus fully on your breath.
O: Observe your surrounds, your thoughts, your feelings. Are you seated? What does the support of the chair feel like? Are you hot, cold, relaxed, tense, etc.? Think about your 5 senses. What do you hear, smell, feel, etc.? If specific thoughts and feelings are present, take a moment to non-judgmentally acknowledge them. Simply having the ability to define your current emotional state of being is empowering.
P: Proceed into the next moments with an increased level of positivity, awareness and openness.
This method can be used in various ways throughout your day. When you first wake up, rather than grabbing your phone to check notifications, take a moment to check in with yourself and get oriented to your immediate environment. When you are in the shower, take pause to experience the cleansing and relaxing task at hand. As you are sitting at your desk and you find yourself in a state of distraction, practice the STOP Method to regain focus.
Mindful Eating: In the world of numbing, food is my go to drug of choice. If I am stressed, sad, frustrated or bored, I am much more likely to make bad nutritional choices. Taking pause before I ask for another bowl of chips and salsa, drawing my attention inward as I open the fridge at 10:00 at night, or checking in to see if that bowl of ice cream is meeting a nutritional need vs. an emotional need has created a level of control with my food intake than anything else. Taking pause allows you to check your intentions and motivations. Being mindful of my choices rather than acting in reactive or impulsive ways helps me to honor my values and personal goals. Mindful eating can also enhance the way that we experience flavors and textures of our food. Slowing down to experience meals is a great way to practice mindfulness.
YOGA: On days where I am feeling especially overwhelmed, yoga allows me to create space for mind and body relaxation. It certainly requires the ability to remove distractions as you commit to the practice. This practice has taught me me to build increased awareness of my body and the places where tension and stress might hide. The concepts taught in yoga practice can be utilized in many facets of life and interaction. In my role as Employee Assistance Program Manager at Wise Health System, I have developed a program in partnership with our fitness facility that offers employees a Yin Yoga class during their lunch breaks twice weekly. The goal is to not only provide them will rejuvenation in those 2 hours of yoga practice each week, but also to help them learn how to separate, pause and practice self-care in the midst of stress and demanding work loads.
Personal Time-Out: Oh the good old “time out.” As a parent, I certainly use this one with my children. This gives them time to breathe, calm down, think about and discuss their behavior with me or their Daddy. I have found that I could use a time-out almost as often as my 6 year old. I facilitate Parent Café’s with the Wise Coalition for Healthy Children which is a great community initiative sponsored by Cook Children’s Hospital. We utilize Nurturing Parenting curriculum and in the Stress Management presentation we hand out magnetic timers. We recommend that parents use these for their own emotional regulation as much as for timing the time-out punishment when their children make poor choices. Taking pause in moments of conflict, stress and discipline can transform the way that we react to triggers. Whether it is with your spouse, children, co-workers or anyone else try to implement a pause when you are feeling triggered. Rather than allowing fear, anger, embarrassment and disappointment regulate your emotions…take a breath, try to rationally connect the dots in your brain and step away if you need to. Commit to returning to resolve the conflict, but sometimes taking 5 minutes to shift your perspective can be a gift to yourself and to the people in your life.
With the simple addition of these pause practices; we can be more in tune with and in control of our emotional reactions to life. This practice is full of struggle in the beginning, but just like a new workout routine or rehabilitation for an injured muscle… your body and mind will become more capable of taking effective pause and the process will become natural with practice and dedication.
Where have you learned to take pause in your life? How has slowing down to enhance awareness changed your experiences? I would love to hear from you and how mindfulness is transforming you and your relationships.
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.
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.
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!