Thursday, November 21, 2013

Learning to be present...

Acceptance is an important part of the practice of mindfulness. On the flip side so is resistance. These two (acceptance and resistance) are connected through awareness or moments we wake up. Waking up means that we notice when we are resisting what is happening within or when we are reacting to the outside world. When we are reacting we are living in the world of stories, judgment and defenses.Yet there are so many moments that fall by the wayside as we race through life as if there is some imaginary deadline or destination we need to get to. We're surrounded by beauty but are unable to see it when we're caught up in thinking mind or in an emotional tornado.  In these moments we are blind to the world that's around us and within us. When this happens we suffer and unable to see clearly or appreciate life. There is an abundance of worry, fear, anger and no space for compassion, acceptance or being present with what is happening right here and right now. I'm not suggesting you drift through life on a cloud or deny that there are things that have to be addressed. This isn't practical, this is denial. What I am suggesting is that there is a need to slow things down, notice when you are caught up in your defenses, stories, or judgment...breathe and notice what you are feeling in your body. Come home to the breath and notice what is happening in your body as you breath. This pausing creates space, a space where we can shift from reactivity to response. What do you need in this moment? What helps to calm the emotions? Maybe pausing and connecting with kindness and compassion.

Practice pausing and shift from reacting to responding. Allow yourself the gift of listening to this guided meditation on the practice of mindfulness and the Sacred Pause. 

May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you be peaceful :-)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The gift of opening to life...

It takes a real willingness to open our hearts, minds and bodies to life and to connecting with others. To be open to both joy and pain. Both are temporary and in their own way create suffering. When in pain our tendency is to clench like a tight fist and in doing so we intensify the pain. Or we begin to catastrophize about how awful the situation we are going through is and when we look to the future we imagine the worst. On the other side of the coin are the things we long for, to feel happy, joyful, connected and alive. So what possible suffering can joy cause? When we are in connection with all of life, with our body, breath and heart we feel expansive and life is wonderful. At the same time we may be wondering and worrying about how long this being joyful is going to last. When this happens we aren't fully present to experience this moment and this one and this one...

I sometimes experience this in teaching yoga. At the beginning of the practice I am aware of the worries, concerns and things to do. As I arrive in the moment I begin to connect with my body, breath, heart and my surroundings. I am in the moment and at times there is a genuine feeling of peace and calmness that flows through me. At the same time there are moments where I find myself drifting off into thought and this is a reflection of life outside the yoga studio. There can be a real longing to stay in this peaceful place forever but this isn't realistic. Instead, if I can really be present to enjoy the practice and accept that there will be times I drift off into thought then I am not at war with what is happening, lost in judgment or wishing it didn't have to end. It's also important to acknowledge that judging things, experiences, myself and others is a natural part of being human. The real question is can I shift from judgment into connecting with what lies beneath the judgment, can I bring compassion to this getting caught up in judgment, or lost in thought?

Mindfulness isn't about being present to life in every single moment of the day. It is about bringing awareness to what is happening and arriving back home to the body, heart and mind when we've journeyed into the land of thinking, planning and worrying. Taking the time to reconnect with what is happening right here and now. This practice helps us to see more clearly, to be open to live and feel alive.

Today, pause and take time to connect with both your internal and external world. Read the following and then make a commitment to practice this 3 minute mindfulness practice:
  • Feel the ground beneath your feet, the chair or cushion supporting you...
  • Gently close your eyes and take 3 full breaths...
  • On the in breath feel the expansion that happens, the places in your body where you feel the breath the most, on the out breath feel the emptying out, the letting go...
  • On your next breath scan gently through your body and soften the places that carry tension...
  • Allow your breath to be natural and see if you can stay connected to the natural rhythm of the breath...
  • Notice when your mind wanders and bring your  attention back to the breath or back to sensations...
  • End with another three full breaths in and out
  • Bring your palms together in front of the heart and end with these words of loving kindness
  • May all beings be free from suffering
  • May you be free from suffering
  • May I be free from suffering

Notice how you feel and know that you can incorporate these moments of mindfulness throughout your day to help you be present.

May you be well
May you be happy
May you be peaceful

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Three words that create connection...How are you?

Do you take the time to really see the people you come into contact with? I am guilty of saying what's expected. So someone asks me how's my day and I automatically say good or fine...but this isn't always true. So,  I was really surprised when I asked the cashier at the grocery store how she was doing and she gave me an honest answer... After my initial surprise I took in what she said and responded with understanding and compassion. Her response to this was a true appreciation for having been heard, seen and validated. Just three words,  a real desire to connect and an interest in a persons wellbeing can make a difference on both sides. I felt empathy and she felt gratitude. I'm not suggesting that you go around sharing your life story with everyone! But pausing to really connect with others helps us get out of our heads and into life!

Checking in to see how you're doing is an act of care and compassion...

A good practice is to use this question as a way to check in with yourself...what are you thinking, how are those thoughts affecting your emotions, does it escalate the feelings, are you reacting or responding... It is an opportunity to come into the present moment and see if there is a need to slow things down and really connect with what is happening... This in turn gives you a chance to begin to respond in a way that is healing. It could be pausing to breathe, or give yourself a break from thinking, doing, acting or being. So go ahead and give it a try! When you take care of yourself the world becomes a brighter place, you feel balanced and are able to connect from a place of abundance. 

Here's a beautiful podcast by Buddhist Meditation Teacher and Psychotherapist Tara Brach where she guides us on how to practice checking in and explains the benefits of this loving practice.

May you have moments of peace
May your heart be filled with compassion
May you be free from suffering

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Staying Grounded in the Midst of an Emotional Storm...

When you are in the middle of an emotional storm it is hard to stay grounded. The emotion can come on so strong and so suddenly that you are swept up in the feelings and end up saying and doing things, behaving in ways that are irrational and hurtful. Whether you are hurtful toward yourself or others there is a real need to learn how to help yourself through the emotion. Emotions are like the waves of the ocean they are meant to flow through you. What stops this from happening is that our thoughts pair up with the emotion and then we are off and running into stories that are laden with negativity, and fear. It is out of this fear that we often react in ways that aren't helpful. So the next time you find yourself triggered and getting primed to react try the following:

  • Become aware of the signals your body is reacting to thoughts or feelings (hands clenched, jaw tight, blood rushing to your face, heartbeat racing).
  • Begin to connect with your breath. Not just breathing, actually attuning to the sensation of the breath enter through the nostrils and feeling the breath fill your chest, lungs and as the diaphragm lifts feel your belly rise. 
  • Count each breath slowly 1........2......3.....4....5....and as you breathe out try and soften the places of tension in your body.
  • Use a mantra to help soothe the emotions. A mantra can be a positive statement made in present tense such as I breathe in peace, I breathe out peace. Continue until you begin to feel calmness come into your body and the mind is more settled.
  • Take care of yourself as long as you need to before addressing the issue.
  • Exlplore what you need in the moment rather than sharing a story filled with judgment, criticism and blame. Instead of telling your partner "You are so selfish.." connect with what came up for you and express this in an "I" statement. An example would be, " I really wanted you to listen to me and understand my feelings."

Above all know that when you practice mindfulness in moments of intense reactivity you are making a healthy choice to stay present and tend to what is happening in the moment and that is a very loving and compassionate act.

May you be well
May you be peaceful
May you be free of suffering...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Looking for love....

Sometimes we are looking for happiness, love, healing, acceptance on the outside. It can feel like there is a void or some deep wound that is in need of filling/healing but since we're not in touch with it we seek to fill it with people, places and things. It's not wrong to want connection or to want to feel supported, accepted and loved but when this need becomes so big that you are in constant need of reassurance, or when it becomes a way of trying to heal the wound then it can lead to intense suffering. Seeking love on the outside doesn't work because if that love, happiness, acceptance and healing doesn't live within you, then taking it in and being able to hold this feeling in your heart is like trying to hold on to water.

The path to healing begins when we are able to respond to our our wounds, hurts/feelings and the actual healing starts with our ability to feel self compassion during those times when life becomes challenging. What helps us stay connected with life and others is our ability to acknowledge when we are judging ourselves or others and be willing to allow compassion to fill our hearts. This is what heals, this is what connects. So open your mind,let the judgment fade into the background,and let your heart open to compassion. When you do this the void within begins to fill and from that place of fullness you can give and take in love, support, happiness and connect with life.

How do you practice self-compassion?

It can be difficult and awkward when practicing self-compassion for the first time. Having steps or a guide can help. Watch this video by Tara Brach where she talks about how cultivating compassion and practice with her as she guides participants in the practice of self compassion.

May you be well

May you be peaceful

May your heart be filled with compassion

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Thoughts often increase the pain in life...

When you are suffering, when all seems hopeless and you are feeling despair,bring awareness to your thoughts. What are you believing? How is this growing your emotional pain? It's not about denying the pain you are's noticing when you are adding to the pain and transforming pain into suffering. Thoughts are not just held in the mind, they often feed the emotion that is triggered by the thought. If I am anxious or fearful and begin to panic I might start having fearful thoughts, I create a story about what catastrophe is around the corner and when I do this my body begins to prepare and goes into flight, fight, attack mode. One way to help soothe the emotions is to bring compassion to the pain, let your thougths fade into the free...breathe in peace...breathe out stress

Monday, April 8, 2013

Soothing the Hungry Heart

How many times have you reached for something; distractions, addictions, an attempt to fill an inner void? How many times has that something been food? Why, if you aren't physically hungry do you eat?

There are many different reasons we eat. The healthy ones are to stay fit, to nourish our body and often times because it is one of life's pleasures. However, there are times when eating becomes a harmful way of coping with uncomfortable feelings, physical pain, trauma, societal pressure and the list goes on. Today's post focuses on emotional eating; why we do it and a healthy, healing approach towards connecting with emotions.

Emotional eating is an attempt to fill a void, loneliness, anxiety, sadness, fear, anger...when it becomes an addiction is when it becomes the way we cope with painful becomes a habit a harmful pattern...and in actuality it transform the pure emotions into toxic there are added layers to what was first a signal of "ouch! Something hurts!"

What if you were to choose a different healing route so that instead of automatically reaching for food you were to pause when you notice the craving or even in the middle of the behavior...just pause...notice the sensations in your body...what feeling is in need of attention, understanding, acceptance and soothing...can you send healing to that hurt place? Can you place your hand over the place of most pain; connect to it, and with a loving and accepting presence send healing?

This is a gesture of love, of brings the feelings that are suppressed and stuffed down out into the light...this in turn creates safety and an opportunity to see and heal the wound/hurt.

Give it a try and be patient with takes time to transform a reactive habit into a loving response.

Note: Geneen Roth's book on feeding the hungry heart is a great healing resource.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mindfulness Practice : Let Life Flow Through You

So many different emotions flow through me and every day is filled with different experiences, thoughts, feelings, etc. One thing that helps me live in the moment is when I catch myself resisting what is happening in life or clinging to an experience because I don't want it to end. This catching myself is called awareness and this moment of awareness presents an opportunity to wake up and arrive right here in this moment.

It is when you arrive in the moment, when you become aware that you are resisting by making up stories, catastrophising, judging, etc that you can truly live in the moment. This is the practice of mindfulness...

I love this poem because it truly captures the essence of mindfulness and how it applies to life. It's an invitation to allow all experience to flow through you and open to life.

The Guest House
By Rumi

This being human is a guest-house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture.
Still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

May you be well...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Are you stressed out? Learn healing ways to deal with stress...

Are you overwhelmed, worried or stressed out? Do you find yourself feeling anxious much of the day? Do you want to relax but just don't know how?

There is a saying that our thoughts create our reality. There are days that we experience as stressful and other days that are calm or even boring. I have experienced stress on the days that I'm hooked into negative thoughts, predicting, catastrophzing or worrying. Some days it doesn't take much to trigger a stress avalanche and before I know it I'm caught in the whirlwind of negative thoughts and stories. In the midst of this storm it isn't just my mind that goes for a ride it's my body, emotions and heart. I've learned to help myself by checking in periodically and practicing what Mindfulness Meditation Teacher and Psychotherapist Tara Brach calls the Sacred Pause.

What is a Sacred Pause?

A sacred pause is the action of stopping all activity, closing your eyes, tuning in your breath and beginning to notice what you are holding in your mind, body and heart. It's called a sacred pause because the practice requires us to set aside judgment, opinions, shoulds, and just notice how you are reacting to what is happening. So the problem is not what is happening on the outside (although it may truly be a stressful event) it is what we are telling ourselves about the event and how we are reacting to it. This is what causes suffering/stress. Below are two videos I've attached to help you deal with stress. One is Tara Brach's video where she guides you in the practice of the Sacred Pause and the other one is calming music that can help you take a break to help you relax and unwind.

Here is a calming and beautiful video with relaxing music. Take a moment to pause, close your eyes and allow your body to relax in response to the music. Even practicing this for a five minutes can have a healing and soothing effect.

Take time throughout the day to check in. The most common places we accumulate stress is in the neck, shoulders and lower back. Learn to listen to your body, notice where you tend to carry stress and take a sacred pause or just listen to relaxing music.

May you be well!