Monday, September 29, 2014

Practice Mindfulness for a Healthy Body, Mind and Heart

Practicing mindfulness connects us to the present moment, gives light to what's most important in our lives, and helps reduce anxious and stressful feelings. It is a very grounding and healing practice as well as challenging. So what is mindfulness and how can we practice in every day life? To get free tips and activities please read the full article at

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Beyond Coping there is life...

Today I was thinking about how precious life is. That each moment is a gift no matter what we're facing in life. It's sometimes a challenge to remember this as we get caught up in stories, opinions and drama. When we arrive right here, feeling our feet on the ground, the sensation of breathing, looking out and taking in our surroundings, this is a moment of pure awareness and it's a gift. I say it's a gift because when we step out our busyness and into life it's like seeing clearly for the first time. Our senses come alive and colors, sounds, sensations are more vibrant. Live each day with moments of mindfulness and your view of the world slowly shifts from one where things are happening to you, to one where you're interacting with life.

This is a wonderful passage from the book "Beyond Coping" by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. It's a reminder about what a gift it is to live in the present moment:

Beyond Coping

"You shouldn't chase after the past,
or place expectations on the future.

What is past
is left behind.

The future
is as yet unreached.

Whatever quality is present
you clearly see right there,
right there.

Not taken in,
that's how you develop the heart.

How can you practice this today? Pause and take a break to connect with this body, mind and heart. Notice what surrounds you and the aliveness within you. For this moment, meet whatever arises with awareness, loving kindness and curiosity.

May you be peaceful
May you be joyful
May you be safe

Monday, September 15, 2014

Is there a Right Way of practicing MIndfulness Meditation?

Am I doing it right? What is right?     
By J. Hood                                                        

I thought there was a script, and I was struggling with it. I wondered if I was doing it wrong and of course, I judged and questioned myself. The perfectionist in me wanted perfection to yield the highest level of success. If I was going to embrace this Mindfulness stuff, I had to do it right. Every day, I would sit and meditate and do my best, but let’s face it my mind was all over the place.

It took me some time to realize that my experience is just that. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.
When my mind wanders I simply notice it and focus back on the breath. Some days are better than others and that’s OK, that’s just my experience and noticing it, is mindfulness. 

Meditation isn't about getting somewhere. It's about being present and open to the life that is right here. C. Ricardo 
“Looking at beauty in the world, is the first step of purifying the mind.”
Amrit Ray
For me the content of my meditation is not as important as consistency. I make it a point to sit every day. In the beginning, I was waiting on some AH-HA moment and these BIG changes would envelope me. It didn’t happen that way. The changes were gradual and subtle. About six months into my practice I started noticing things. I’m more aware of life and the little things. I’m more patient, compassionate and balanced, both toward myself and others. I can better regulate stress and my reaction to it. The list goes on and on. I find now, after 18 months of meditation, that the list grows daily and the benefits aren’t as subtle, these changes are pretty clear.

It’s clear my success lies in the repetition and consistency of a daily practice. For me this is a routine much like any other daily activity. It’s something I look forward to; it’s my time to be with myself.

In the beginning, it may seem hard to find the time. If you’re like me, there’s probably some unnecessary activity weighing you down. I eliminated just a little bit of that and replaced it with a daily routine of meditation and self-exploration and it’s changed my life.

I’m hopeful this will inspire you to pick your time, a quiet place and begin a routine of loving kindness toward yourself.  Stick with it even if it seems like nothing is coming from it. That’s just you being more mindful. Soon the joy of the practice will come shining through.

*This post is written and shared by guest blogger Joe Hood. He practices mindfulness meditation on a daily basis and shares his experience with this grounding and peaceful practice. Sharing his insight and experience is a wonderful way to learn about this practice.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Open to Life, Love and Experience

When was the last time you were really aware of breathing in and out? Is there tightness or ease in the body?

Moments of checking in are important, as they helps us become aware of what we carry in our mind, body and heart.

In the midst of writing, I pause and notice that I'm  caught up in thinking, planning and worrying. As I connect with the body, I notice a buzzing sound in the head and a tightness in the legs. There's a feeling of restlessness and agitation in the body. Thoughts about the future enter and attached to them is a thread of anxiety. Anxiety begins to circle the heart and there's a tight feeling in the chest; a hand slowly closing into a fist. Can I let the worry thoughts be there without reacting to them as if they are true? Can I hold this experience in a compassionate and accepting embrace? Can I soften the tightness, gently breathing in and out and feel the sensation of the breath, the fullness on the inhale, the release on the exhale?

If I go through the day on auto pilot it's like living in a trance. I'm ungrounded and lost in the world of thoughts. Pausing allows me to connect deeply with what is happening right now. So I pause, become curious and explore by connecting with what is happening through inquiry. I notice:
  • How is the body right now?
  • How is the energy? 
  • Am I reacting or responding?
  • If I'm reacting is it possible to soften? To allow whatever energy is within to flow freely?
  • Can I be open to what ever emotion is present? (sadness, joy, gratitude, love)
Pausing in this way, I immediately connect with the inner world of sensation and feel the vibrant aliveness that is here. This pausing, noticing and opening is an act of love and a act of mindfulness.

So how are you today? What sensations are felt in the body? Pause and notice. Open to the breath? Check in and send loving kindness to this body, this heart, this mind. Connect with the life that is right here.

May you be healthy

May you live with peace and ease

May you be peaceful

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Meeting Reactivity wth Compassion

"Reactive responses are triggers and are like invisible land mines tied to deeper hurts, fears and pain. Meeting reactivity with compassion can help tame the reactive mind, body and heart." C. Ricardo

Are you aware of your triggers? How do you react when something painful or hurtful happens? Do you blame yourself or others? How does this affect you (body, mind and heart)?

     We all have triggers. There are certain situations, feelings or interactions that when touched set off a reactive/defensive response within us. This defensive response is often instinctual and automatic. It's a natural response to pain and meant to protect us from danger. However, it can backfire when we react in hurtful and wounding ways towards ourselves or others. So there is the pain that lies beneath the trigger and there is the defensive response that is meant to protect us but instead creates more distance, hurt and can potentially turn into  suffering.
The first arrow is the pain in life, the second is suffering...

     This reminds me of a story I heard about how Buddha approached teaching a student about suffering. Buddha asked the student, “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful?” and the student replied “It is.” Then the Buddha asked, “If the person is struck by a second arrow, is that even more painful?”  again the student replied, “It is.” The Buddha then explained, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. The second arrow is optional.”  

     The first arrow is the pain we encounter in life, the second arrow is the layer of thoughts, stories and meaning we attribute to the pain. This added layer is suffering. There are many instances where this happens in everyday life. You might be in a hurry to get to the office and stuck in traffic. As you sit there inching along, frustration begins to build. You begin feeling angry and impatient. Once your emotions are triggered your body responds by tensing up. Your heart begins to race and your muscles contract. By the time you get to the office, it feels like steam is coming out of your ears and when a co-worker greets you with a welcoming smile you lash out at them. Or maybe you made a mistake and dropped coffee on your brand new shirt and  your inner judge goes on the war path criticizing an shaming you for not paying attention. The point is that the problem isn't the trigger, it's the way we react to it. 

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom." Victor Frankl
     Much of the time pain turns to suffering because we are in some way resisting our experience. We may be  caught up in the world of thoughts, emotions, past regrets or guilt or perhaps we're trying to control the situation or outcome. When we engage with what is happening in our lives in this way, we lose our ability to respond and instead are reacting, trying to fix or in some way control the outcome. We're usually doing this in an effort to dampen or avoid pain, but it doesn't work. In fact, it has the opposite effect of transforming pain to suffering. Meeting pain with resistance causes us to disconnect from our bodies, minds and hearts. It is this disconnection that creates suffering as we tend to go inwards and in doing so feel alone and adrift in a whirlwind of thoughts that may be filled with judgment and fear. To help ourselves, we need to shift back into connection, into the present moment. When we are triggered and pause before reacting, we're able to be present and that moment is an opportunity to shift from reacting to responding. If we really want to stay connected with our values, with the people that matter most in our lives (starting with yourself!) we must be willing to shift the reactive response to one of understanding, love and compassion. This shift is a moment of profound awareness as we notice how the reactive defense is affecting our body, mind, heart. This moment of awareness is a moment of mindfulness.

When challenging/painful situations arise meet the pain with compassion and mindfulness...

"Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." Carl G. Jung

     The first step towards helping ourselves is to become aware of when we are getting caught up in a story or when our emotions are so overwhelming that we and the emotion become fused. The next time you are feeling overwhelmed pause and reflect on the following questions:

  • What is happening in your body right now? (Tension, heart rate is fast, breathing is shallow)
  • How are your thoughts affecting you emotionally? (feeling hurt, sad, angry)
  • What are you believing? (my partner doesn't love me)
  • Before you react, can you pause and call on the breath to help you ground yourself?  
  • As you breathe in really tune into the breath. Think of the breath as an act of self care that helps tame reactive emotions.  
  • Notice how you' re caught up in reactivity; reacting to what is happening. 
We need to pause, breathe and bring a feeling of love and kindness towards ourselves. It's important to express understanding and acknowledge the difficulty we are experiencing in going through this challenging time, event, situation or feeling. This pausing and connecting helps us come back to the is only a first step but an important one.

Awareness, compassion and learning to stay in the face of pain are essential to healing and connection... 
Awareness is what can help us find our way back to connect with body, breath and life...An acronym that can help is R.A.I.N. it stands for:

Recognize - what is happening. That you've gotten hooked and drifted into thoughts or stories.

Allow - open to your experience. Bring acceptance to meet the pain. If sadness is present then name it and notice where you feel it in your body and pause..can you soften around the sadness...let go of resisting it or judging yourself for it (i.e. I'm weak or silly for feeling this).

Intimacy/Investigate - Get Intimate with what is happening - how are you reacting to your experience. Are you pushing it away? What is in need of attention or kindness?

Non-attachment - know that what you are experiencing (fear, sadness, anger) is an experience you are having and not who you are. For example some people will say I'm just a sad or angry person. You aren't sad every minute of the day and you can't be angry all the time. Being able to see what is happening without getting hooked to it helps you to be more open to the experience.

These are some tips on ways to begin to explore this healing practice.

May you be well
May you be free from suffering
May you be peaceful

Friday, September 5, 2014

Does the Universe Really Know Me?

"A human being is a part of the whole, called by us Universe..." Albert Einstein By Joe Hood (Guest Blogger) 
For better or worse Mindfulness allows me to notice things I wasn’t aware of in the past.

As I progress with my practice, I’m not surprised that I’m more mindful, but I am surprised at how naturally this comes to me. I now notice things that I never noticed in the past. For example, I may be struggling with something in my head and out of the blue someone plays a song that hits me like a ton of bricks. It may not solve the issue, but it allows me to see it with more clarity.  As I become more present and open to experience, I’m able to see what’s happening with a greater depth and perception. Which leads me to ask the question, how does the universe know me so well? Constantly, subtle things are presented to me, which fit into place like tailor made gloves.

I‘ve never been a big believer in fate, or the idea that things happen for a reason. I mostly subscribe to the theory that you make your own fate and you’re in control. But I’m not so sure anymore and that’s “BIG” for me.
Lately, the things that come before me are so dialed in and relevant, that it’s not to think there’s a programmer behind the curtain. Sometimes these things are so obvious, that I get the feeling someone’s messing with me.

"Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources
or insight, transformation, and healing."- Jon Kabat-Zinn -

Mindfulness practice has changed me in many obvious ways and in ways that I’m not even aware of. As my mind becomes less cloudy, it’s easier to see things that I wasn’t able to see when I was less mindful and sometimes that’s a little scary. Particularly when these random things don’t seem so random anymore.

Giving up control is very hard for me. But I look at it this way; I don’t have to give up TOTAL control. I am only giving up enough control to allow all the data and information to come to light. This allows me to act mindfully and proceed with deeper clarity.

Now (don’t tell anyone I said this), but I do think there is an element of fate to our lives. For me, the saying “If it’s meant to be” is beginning to mean something and I’m finding peace in that.

I can see that things do happen for a reason.


* This post is shared by guest blogger Joe Hood, who practices mindfulness meditation on a daily basis and shares his experience with this grounding and peaceful practice. Sharing his insight and experience is a wonderful way to learn about this practice and I'm honored to have him post on this blog. I'm looking forward to his future posts :-)