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

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Turn Towards the Light

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:

  • Yoga
  • Mediation
  • Working out
  • Being alone
  • 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.

Brené Brown says so beautifully,

“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.

Peace, love and laughter,

Megan

down angle photography of red clouds and blue sky
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Surrendering and Resilience

Surrender and resilience are both words that come up frequently in my line of work. As a social worker, mental health professional, and employee assistance provider the meaning of resilience and the art of fostering resilience is woven into so many of my days. At first thought, resilience is about strength, hardiness, steadiness, ability to withstand pressure. During an exquisite Yin Yoga session, the concept of surrendering flooded my mind as the instructor urged us to settle into the pose, surrender to gravity, and allow your body to go where it needs to be.

Breathe. Surrender. Breathe. Let go. Breathe. Surrender.

The concept of elasticity is important to the definition of resilience. Elasticity is the ability to return to previous form, the ability to bounce back.  Elasticity allows you to bend without breaking.

Have you ever seen the movie “Forgetting Sarah Marshall?” It makes for a great laugh. The goal of the protagonist, Peter, is to travel to Hawaii to get his mind off of his adulterous ex-girlfriend. In one scene, he takes a surfing lesson. Chuck, his surfing instructor, keeps encouraging him to “do less.” “The more you do, the less you do.”  This guy is hilarious and has all the chill. While his methods are questionable, I think what he is aiming to get Peter to accomplish is the art of release. Peter needs to surrender to the flow of the waves. He needs to release his grip on his heartbreak, fears, failure, regrets, questions, and whatever else holds him back from being in sync with the ocean and, more importantly, with himself.

I think we can all relate to the moments of life where we insist on holding on with white knuckles to control, expertise, success, being right, being seen as we wish, and the other traps that comparison and the need for power can lead to. Right? Have you been there? Holding so hard to something? Being too rigid in your thought process? Building a wall between you and moving forward in life and relationships because of your need for control or perfection or avoidance of vulnerability?

When we white knuckle life, we can miss out on the moments or perspectives that help us bounce back after heartbreak, failure, or trauma.  In Yin Yoga, the more you are able to surrender to the pose, the more your body benefits from the stretch. This practice not only begs for physical surrender, but emotional and spiritual as well. In this case, the less you do…the more you do. Surrendering your thoughts and preoccupations creates a meditative experience that is truly rejuvenating. Letting gravity and breath carry you through the extended posture hold creates a necessary release of toxins and emotions.  When you face resistance, breathe through the discomfort and allow time for your body to release into the position you are seeking.

These lessons must carry over into our day to day lives to be optimally beneficial. We must learn to release our expectations, judgement, resentment, and fears. We must learn to breathe through the uncomfortable and trying times. We must grow comfortable with the idea of letting go of control when we know we do not truly have any real control from the start. We cannot continue to white knuckle time, money, and power and also hope to experience true joy, gratitude, and love.

In pursuit of resilience in the face of critical stress, trauma, grief, loss, and work/life balance we must aim for elasticity. It is possible to hold on to values and convictions while also taking pause to see the world through the lenses of others. It is possible to be ambitious and motivated while also making self-care a priority and releasing the binds of perfectionism. It is possible to speak your truth, but walk in grace and empathy to allow others to find and proclaim their truth. It is possible to be vulnerable, and brave, and steadfast, and flexible all at once.

I encourage you to take a moment to surrender the thoughts, fears, regrets, shame, etc. that hold you back. What creates tension in your body, mind, and soul? Close your eyes imagine the heavy weight taking form, floating to the sky, and leaving your sight. Surrender the parts of your life that make you feel powerless; holding tighter will only make you grow tired. Practice the art of surrender. I hope that letting releasing whatever binds you today help you to bounce back to your intended path.

Find a Yin Yoga class near you to help you manifest the practice of surrendering in your life.

 

Peace, Love, and Laughter,

Megan

 

 

Understanding Our True Self

I am currently participating in a 21 guided meditation through The Chopra Center. This particular meditation, “Shedding the Weight: Mind, Body, and Spirit” is a collaboration between Deepak Chopra and Oprah. I am on day 7 and loving it. Oprah and Deepak talk through the concept of balance, lightness, and shedding the heaviness that interrupts our joy, self-kindness, self-awareness, and wakefulness on a day to day basis. Today they spoke specifically about the role of self-care in the pursuit of balance and lightness. The most beautiful parts of my journey with mindfulness have been the moments that allow me to acknowledge (with kindness) parts of me that previously led to insecurity or discomfort. In today’s words, Deepak shares that self-care must be about “inclusion rather than denial or rejection.” Self-kindness is not about pretending we are perfect or allowing ourselves to continue on unhealthy or inappropriate paths. Self-kindness is wrapped up in loving ourselves enough to grow and acknowledging our areas needing growth without judgment. The Centering Thought for today is “My true self leads me to an inspired life.”

Let’s explore ways to understand our true selves. The first step is awareness. Awareness of our bodies and minds helps to guide us to a deeper level of understanding about who we are, what needs we have, and what speaks to our souls. Clearly…mindfulness and meditative practices are a key step to achieving a heightened level of awareness. Implementing practices that encourage us to press pause on our hectic and fully consumed lives to come into a moment of stillness and peace in effort to acknowledge where we ARE in the MOMENT helps us find presence and understanding. There will not necessarily be an AH-HA moment when it all clicks and your questions about who you really are will finally be answered. It is more visceral than logical in my opinion. The questions, fears, experiences, trauma, heartache, failures, etc. all muddy the waters that separate us from remembering who we are outside of our habits and experiences. I think Deepak says it best:

We are the thinker behind the thought, the observer behind the observation, the flow of attention, the flow of awareness, the unbounded ocean of consciousness. We spontaneously realize that we have choices, and that we can exercise these choices, not through some sheer will power but spontaneously. Through meditation, we gradually bring harmony, laughter, and love back into our soul and, in the process, rediscover our unconditioned self, which can never really be lost.

Life can leave us feeling lost. The busyness of the day can leave us feeling numb. Our habits, addictions, and fixations can lead us to a place of shame and discontentment. We so easily exist in a place of unbalance. When we quiet the noise and distractions both literally and figuratively…we get closer to rediscovering the parts of us that get lost though our worldly experiences. I encourage you (with everything in me) to pursue a practice that encourages these moments. There are so many methods, outlets, and guiding points to get you there. From The Stop Method I previously introduced, to the Body Scan Meditation, Yin Yoga, to The Chopra Center Guided Meditation and a million other resources…find a mindfulness practice that fits your lifestyle and personality. The benefits are uncanny. Not only do you achieve increased balance emotionally and spiritually…your body can achieve a greater sense of balance. The impacts of chronic stress can be relieved. Studies have shown that mindfulness slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, provides relief for chronic pain, lowers cholesterol, reduces the level of stress hormones and toxins in your system, enhances immunity, and so much more. I had multiple influences in my life’s journey that encouraged this practice. I was resistant and stubborn. I told myself I was “bad” at meditating and got stuck in a place of judgement rather than opening my mind to this opportunity. Now that I have been able to reap the benefits of practicing mindfulness, my only wish is that I had been open to this lifestyle sooner. I was craving the stillness. I needed to get back in touch with who I was underneath the baggage of my past and fears of the future.

When I think about the idea of TRUE SELF, I think about children. I am surrounded by my own dynamic and vibrant children so often that they are often on my frontal lobe and in my thoughts. Children are brave, joyful, excited, non-judgmental, and decisive. They are inspired. They are hungry for life experiences. I want to not only get back to the parts of me that laugh out loud and dance without hesitation; I want to inspire my children to cling tightly to their true selves. I want them to be less jaded and influenced by the outside world. When I struggle with committing to my self-care and mindfulness practices, I remember the inherent value that this journey has provided me and my family.

Outside of mindfulness, there are some other fun ways that I have gotten to know myself more and obtained a deeper understanding of what makes me tick. One of my favorite practices (in my personal life and in my counseling practice) is the Meyers Briggs Type Inventory. I was able to take the full version of this inventory in graduate school and taking this test was such a meaningful moment for me. Not everyone wants to invest in the cost associated with the official inventory, so the alternative is the 16personalites.com. This is a brief quiz that will let break down different components of your personality and provide you with 5 letters that make up your personality type: Mind (how we interact with our surroundings,) Energy (how we see the world and process information,) Nature (how we make decisions and cope with emotions,) Tactics (our approach to work, planning and decision-making,) and Identity (how confident we are in our abilities and decisions.) Taking this test provided me with a great deal of insight into how I engaged with others, where I get my energy from, why I view the world the way I do. I definitely recommend taking some moments to head over to 16personalities.com and giving this test a go! I think you will find it both affirming and encouraging. It is nice to recognize the unique components of your personality in the type you fulfill and it helps you feel connected and understood. Clients always ask, “Did I get a BAD personality type?” And I always respond, “There is not a negative type. The world goes around with all kind of kinds. Our purposes, preferences, and personalities are unique and suited to our purpose. We can always grow and learn to engage our strengths in a purposeful way, but there is no BAD personality.” I happened to be an INFP and have been each and every time I take the quiz. The accuracy is mind-blowing. I LOVE to search INFP on Pinterest to find new quotes, articles, and comparisons that speak to me or make me laugh. Try it out and tell me your thoughts.

I encourage you to take the time to gain a deeper understanding of yourself, your personality, your values, and your true self. Self-care is dependent on inclusion. To obtain balance, live out self-compassion, and live our best lives…it is necessary to have self-awareness. Be inspired by your truest self today. Life out your dreams and pursue your goals with the inspiration of knowing your inner self. Release the expectations of others, fears for tomorrow, and shame from yesterday…actively pursue an understanding of who you are in the truest version of yourself.

 

Peace, Love, and Laughter,

Megan