Mindfulness Check-In 2/23: Some Remedies for a case of the Work Mondays

Courtesy of mindful.org

I don’t want to talk at you, but just provide some tips for how to not just start The Monday, but also to progress through The Monday. I know for me on this Monday, though I woke up in an exceptionally pleasant mood, I was hurting from my workload yesterday. I spent almost the entire day (besides taking breaks to cook or prepare food) reading on the computer and then drawing a map for a class project by hand- I’m very proud of it. Though I kept taking breaks and reminding myself to stretch and sit mindfully, my neck and shoulders are still sore from hunching and being stuck in certain positions when I was drawing. So today, knowing it’s the official start of the work week for many I thought I would pass along this neat infographic I found on mindful.org– definitely read the post!

Often times when we enter the workplace, we’re all coming from our own whirlwind of adventures/stresses/tasks from the weekend. It’s like a crock pot that you fill with everything in your fridge, but only it’s people’s lives and emotions that putting in a place to all work “together”. It can be a bit messy or create some tensions that may start to toll on you or others throughout the day. This infographic is a nice way to think about trying a different approach when you find yourself or another coworker at work struggling. We’re all under our own pressures, so why not do your part in practicing self-care and mindfulness at work? You may even reach out to another coworker and help them shed some positivity on their day and workload too! The ending of the article references a quote that tells of how the mind manages emotions based on what the person chooses to focus on, and how they focus on it:

Think of the mind’s eye as a flashlight. This flashlight can always search for something positive or negative. The secret is being able to control that flashlight—to look for the opportunity and the positive. When you do that, you’re playing to win. You’re able to focus on the right things and maintain that positive self.

And keep in mind that a leader not only has to focus her mind’s eye, but help others focus their minds’ eyes as well.

What are you going to use your flashlight for? What are some things you do throughout the day or work week to stay focused, mindful, or positive?

Lastly, here’s a great 6 minute video from Adriene to do yoga at your desk- a short but energizing break!

Innovative Thoughts from Aaron Renn

“We don’t have a seed problem, we have a soil problem.” – Aaron Renn

Phew! I have been super busy with lots of researching and not enough reporting. I am currently working on a few projects to eventually post more resources, but today’s post will just be to share some insight to other planners and community developers/engagers out there. This past week I watched a video that featured Aaron Renn, speaking in Louisville, Kentucky at Governing Magazine’s Summit on Performance and Innovation. Here’s his video: The Evolving City.

Aaron Renn is an opinion-leading urban affairs analyst, entrepreneur, speaker and writer. After a 15-year career in management and IT consulting at Accenture, he created the urban planning website, The Urbanophile, and is also the founder and CEO of Telestrian, a data analysis platform that provides powerful data mining and visualization capabilities. Renn’s writings have also appeared in publications such as Forbes,The New York Times and City Journal. – Courtesy of governing.com

Basically, he’s awesome! I follow his posts on Urbanophile, and he has a great e-book recently published (I want to read it), “The Urban State of Mind”. His posts are always relevant and analytical, all with an honest, realist approach. If I could meet him I would- he’s my inspiration as a future planner and city policy analyst. I recommend checking out his site, along with Governing Magazine if you’re especially interested in policies and politics related to localities and states.

His talk is based on innovation and evolution of what innovation means in a city and for its people. Innovation is necessary for planners as well, and just how cities are changing, so do the planners and the systems that planners have to work within. How we as planners and city officials think of our cities determines a lot of how we’ll work in them, and sometimes we need to adjust our thoughts to be more inclusive or really hone in on just what makes a city (like a brand) and make whatever that is “work” for it. I took some notes from his video, and I hope you will watch (or at least listen to the video).

  • There’s a distinct difference between internal consultants versus external consultants. This usually is related to power and the tyrannical structure within a company/firm.
  • Consultants stand behind a veil of ignorance when it comes to their own status in their organization, which can affect how they present an idea depending on who they’re presenting it to.
  • “We don’t have a seed problem, we have a soil problem”. (Think about it. Often the ideas (seeds) people have are great, but whether they take off or not is usually dependent on the environment they’re brought to (soil).)
  • We need to create a culture of innovation all the way down to the beginning of the organization- even the higher ups need to be accountable, knowing that an idea came from that company, regardless of where it began.
  • Cultural Resonance: Honor the essence of the place, distill it down, then inject it into everything we do in that community.

Mindfulness Check-In 2/16: Stir Crazy Exercises and Ponderings

Another Monday off but today because of President’s Day and the celebration of George Washington’s birth! Along with the tumultuous amount of snow we received in MA and unbearable below 20 degrees weather, it just makes it nearly impossible to go outside for longer than you have to…shout out to Keely in Alaska (check out her blog)!

I kept debating on how I was going to frame my post today…and after lots of deliberation I came to the conclusion I needed today’s to be short but vividly expressive, so here goes.

In my effort to stick to my exercises and yoga routine, I give you my first successful inversion- Crow Pose:
Ignore background- Kitchen floor is being remodeled and thus kitchen contents are now in living room.

Ignore background- Kitchen floor is being remodeled and thus kitchen contents are now in the living room.

This was the best photo I could capture, which shows both of my feet are off the ground but did not catch when my feet were much higher. Regardless, this is what practice and progress look like. While I’m still going to practice this so I can have better balance, muscle strength, and bring my legs higher, I am also challenging myself to eventually be able to do a headstand. I can tell you I’ve had my fair share of falls and unintentional somersaults, but it felt so good when I finally got this after a few tries today. Adrenaline surged through me while my boredom subsided. For my pose I was following Yoga with Adriene’s Foundation video on “Crow Pose,” but had actually started with her video on “Headstands”. I was left with great advice to consider, which I realize greatly resonates with my personal belief of self-love and self-care.

She explained that doing inversions, especially something as challenging as a headstand, forces her to practice love and kindness to herself. This makes sense because if she’s reckless with her body she could get injured (ouch neck!) and also could leave the practice with toxic thoughts and not feel like she made progress. By slowing down the practice, taking care to listen to the body and what it needs at that moment, ease into the movements with the breath as the foundation, we can really tune in to our bodies and minds. Taking care of your body can be challenging, and so often times we rush the exercises or movements to feel the “good effects” as soon as we can. But being patient and kind to ourselves, through self-love and self-care, we can find greater peace and help ease the restlessness by just (metaphorically) sitting with it through patience.  

When you’re exercising, or doing anything physical for that matter (chores count), do you tune out or tune in? Does the thought cross your mind, or do you check in mentally, with how your body feels and the thoughts that are passing through your brain?

Mindfulness Check-In 2/9/14: Routines

Well, another Monday snowed in! This snow just won’t quit, and yet another Monday missed of classes and other things to be busy about. Actually, I’m still really busy, just not the “in your face, running around busy” and more like the “I’m thinking of the 80 things I need to do today regardless of the snow day”.

So I realized that this past week I did not write a single post on my blog dedicated to planning. I usually try to write at least 1-2 planning resource posts a week, but this past week that didn’t happen. This entire week seemed to have just been a whirlwind of going from place to place, jumping from one thing to the next. Honestly with all of these snow days and then traveling through the snow to places, I’ve actually lost more time than I think I’ve gained. And it’s thrown me off my rhythm. I know that last week’s Mindfulness post celebrated the time that we have to slow down, which I still think is valuable. My posts are not meant to lead you on, and definitely not meant to be just flaky pieces of fake advice. Taking time to watch the snow fall and sip your tea is super important (or whatever it is that you do when you practice mindfulness). But this post is no about hating on snow days, it’s about getting off of your routine.

For me, I thrive with routines. Yes it’s nice every once in a while to have a day “to do nothing”, but even then I usually find that hard to not fill up with at least a few things. I’ve got everything in my Google calendar that requires me to be somewhere, including when I’m having breakfast, leaving my house, and working out. It helps me stay accountable, and also not feel like I’m spinning in a bunch of directions and not getting anything done.

Like this! Courtesy of http://realdreamcatchers.com/

And so I need routines for most things in my life so that I don’t feel like the person above! With all of these snow days, it’s really taken a toll on my ability to stick with my routines that I’ve developed. It’s not like a snow day happens and I think to myself “Now I don’t have to eat healthy!” or “Now I don’t have to write that post!” No, but it definitely becomes more intriguing to take things slower than usual and that can mess with a routine that functions on timing and planning in blocks of scheduled work. Add on commuting in snowy conditions and that makes for a more of a mess when you get home and try to do all the things that on a regular day would fit in just fine. This sounds more like a rant so I’m gonna stop there. The point though is that I had a moment of realization today when thinking why I hadn’t written a post, why I hadn’t practiced my yoga as much, and why I may still be getting so many headaches.  I was off of my routine!

Part of being mindful means doing what feels good for us, recognizing when to stop if something does not feel good with us, and it’s also a practice- which means that even after a month of routine, you can still fall off the bandwagon. When I stopped today to notice all of the 80 or so things running through my mind, I thought about how it was making me feel. Then it led me down the dimly lit path towards what really was causing that moment of swirling anxiety; I was completely off balance from not following my usual schedules and practices. Despite all of the other things I know I need to be doing, at this moment in time I’m choosing to write this post, and that feels GREAT! I’ve been waiting all week to write more, and only now have finally just given myself time to acknowledge my anxiety and get back to what I need- my balanced routine. From Google definitions:

bal·ance
noun
  1. an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.

My weights are my commitments and things I am accountable to, and if those are not in an even distribution, I am not upright and steady. If something is taking longer than usual or more of me than I typically expect, I notice and it’s mostly uncomfortable. This is because it’s out of what we’re used to. It’s not bad, though it may make us have a negative feeling or reaction. But remember, it’s often when we’re most uncomfortable that we also experience the most growth! This leads back to the point of my blog, Productive Discomfort. You’ve sometimes just gotta experience what you don’t like, or maybe are scared of, so that you can reflect later and notice your growth and ability to come out of the experience with dignity. So even though this last week I did not write as much as I would have liked, and I felt a bit “off”, I came out of this experience with reflections, insight and a deeper commitment to my practice of mindfulness and routines. Happy Monday!

PS, I challenged myself to write this post without going onto any other website to distract myself (other than Google for the definition and picture for my post). This was uncomfortable since I’m used to stopping at other sites along through my work, but I made it through and published a post I feel happy about. YAY productivity!

Mindfulness Check-In 2/2/14: Snowy Day Thoughts

Some quick updates of the last week since my last post:

  1. I am still having migraines almost daily, and am trying to decipher what may be triggering them.
  2. I realized that even on Super Bowl Sunday, I cannot abandon my dietary restrictions, because it just brings me unnecessary bodily suffering.
  3. I still have been exercising and doing some form of yoga or meditation daily- my heels almost touch the ground in downward dog!
  4. It’s the second snow day of second semester!

After reflecting on my updates and past happenings at this current moment, the word that comes to mind is progress. At this moment, I am feeling nervous, sore, tired, and a bit overwhelmed. I am noticing the snow that is falling sideways outside, with no intentions of stopping until late into the night. I’m noticing how that dull ache which never seems to fully diminish is now present in back of my eyes and at my temples. I hear the murmur of the fish tank and tapping of the keyboard, and the humming of the plows outside. I am noticing how every time I think about breathing, my chest actually feels a little tighter, which then reminds me to inhale deeper the next time and let out a loud exhale. I slowly sip my Eggnog tea and hear how it sounds as I swallow. I’m deliberately working on being intentional and “in the moment”. I don’t necessarily have positive feelings towards all of the things I’m noticing, but I also have a beautiful choice.

I can choose how I want to engage with what is happening around me. I can choose to be grateful for my yoga practice and despite my body feeling what it feels, I still have an overall healthy body that allows me to exercise or practice yoga at all! I’m working diligently at tracking how my body feels, and noticing how to use my breath to guide my thoughts, movement, and reactions to my pain. Despite how Super Bowl food makes my body feel, I am grateful for the experience of cooking for my friends and sharing food with them, and that I even had food to cook, especially before the week began. And lastly, despite that my brain feels at points like it’s trying to run in opposite directions, I am still here, writing this post. I have this wonderful snow day and was lucky enough to not have to travel my usual 30 minute drive to my University today and jeopardize safety (and sanity). I was allowed more time to work on things that need to be worked on, things I want to do, and to just exist in whatever form I would like today. I’m sitting here now and after a moment realized I had been flexing my foot for at least 10 seconds. I’m making progress!

It’s not about the deadline for me because mindfulness is an ongoing practice. I’m usually the person that tries to accomplish everything on time, as efficiently as possible. But with mindfulness I can’t rush it, and I can’t necessarily finish it. All I can do is practice it and continue to show up and give whatever I can give each day, each moment. I have made progress on my goals, and I will continue to progress with my practice. I hope wherever you are, you can take a moment just to stop and notice what you’re thinking (or not), and how your body feels, what it’s doing, and what you see, smell, hear, taste, touch around you! The best thing about practicing mindfulness for me is the honesty. I can just be honest with myself and don’t have to pretend that everything is great just because it’s a snow day. I can just be what I feel and how I think, and don’t necessarily have to like it but can acknowledge it and let those feelings just sit there as they are- I don’t have to engage with them if I don’t want to! And if I do, I can catch myself in the moment and reflect on if my behavior is helping me or causing me increased suffering. I have the power to determine my own progress!

Here’s a picture I took today of my backyard in the woods. Though I haven’t trekked outside yet, it sure is a peaceful site.

If you look really close at the ground you can see how high the snow is!

If you look really close at the ground you can see how high the snow is!