Mindfulness Mondays 5/18: Spring Awakening from Blogging Hiatus

1 week…since I’ve stopped taking my medication for fibromyalgia (not intentional).

1 week…since I arrived in NYC and had the best time I’ve had in a while.

2 weeks…since finals ended.

2 weeks…since I saw my mom and finished my first year of graduate school.

3 weeks…since finals began.

3 weeks…since my boyfriend arrived back home from a long trip away.

4 weeks…since my last blog post.

4 weeks…and here goes nothing!

Friends, it’s been a while. I can’t lie- it’s been nice to take a break and honestly it hasn’t been easy to willingly neglect my blog but still has just been a breath of fresh air to just take a break amidst the business.  I was even putting off writing a post until later today though all day I knew I was going to accomplish my first post in 4 weeks, but like always, it’s hard to get back into rhythms. It’s not that I’ve been dreading to write or not necessarily wanting to write, but more so that I’ve been enjoying other things that have been occurring, or also just caught up in the many responsibilities that have fizzled out as the semester has closed. The first week I didn’t post I’m going to admit, I was feeling guilt and sadness, and also extreme stress. I hadn’t realized it was even Monday until it was late that night- talk about unmindful. As the weeks went on I grew more willing to take the break and let other things come my way. I feel like I’ve let my readers down, and have been wrestling with the feeling of responsibility to my blog and the act of simply writing for it. But even thinking at this very moment, maybe taking this break was needed and my resistance towards writing a post is trying to tell me something? I’m unsure.

“Writer’s block” is common but there are many reasons for why it occurs. For some it’s simply a part of procrastination. Others base it out of fear or anxiety, which can also stem from procrastination or fuel it further. Some people say they can’t write when they just simply don’t want to do it, and honestly I think there’s some good reasoning behind not doing something when you simply don’t want to. I also believe there’s great merit behind recognizing your resistance and then working with it by attempting to write regardless of your feelings that may be hindering you in the first place. Simply “showing up” which I wrote about in an earlier blog post and is advocated by Seth Godin, is vital when it comes to writing or any activity that requires your best efforts. Moral of the story here is that if you ever find yourself either avoiding doing something (doesn’t matter the reason), or you’re giving yourself a reason to not do what you had set out to do, it’s worth exploring those emotions/reasons to see what’s really causing the behavior. See, one simply does not have “writer’s block,” there’s lots of reasons behind it as we’ve already explored. But if you never take the time to explore what’s behind you not writing or doing your work, well that’s not really mindful is it?

Through this post, I keep thinking, wow I’ve got something good here. It’s like my entire four weeks of “writer’s block” was pointless because I thought I didn’t have much to contribute so just didn’t bother. But clearly as this post shows, I’m making progress just by putting my words to a screen. As I’m putting these words to screen, I’m considering more of the reasons that contributed to my hiatus of writing. I know that I’ve been under more stress than usual with moving to a new apartment and then moving to DC for the summer, along with finishing up my first year of graduate school. With more stress comes (usually) less prioritization of other things (typically the things that we enjoy). It’s the same repeated merry-go-round that many of us face daily, weekly, sometimes throughout our entire lives. But stop and think for 30 seconds, what is it that keeps bringing you to that merry-go-round, and then for another 30 seconds think what brings you out of that lifestyle?

Sometimes when we’re doing the same thing for so long, it can almost be mindless rather than mindful. Sometimes we grow to resent or resist things we once enjoyed because it just seems stale or we have this idea that we need something newer. Well maybe you do need something different and maybe you don’t. The point here is to take that time to stop, think, and explore what those feelings or urges mean to you and what can be done about them. Maybe you do need to take a well-deserved break (and in these days, we rarely give ourselves enough credit to be break-deserving). Maybe you need to go on a mini-adventure or a large adventure, or pick up a new hobby just to say you tried something different. You’ll never know what you really want until you stop to really listen to yourself and then go do it! And don’t ignore those emotions that come with those choices, you’ve got to be able to accept the good and the bad feelings. That’s being mindful.

Maybe I was just burnt-out, or maybe I felt like I really had tired out my thoughts? Honestly, I’m still not quite sure and will continue to work through these feelings. Over the last few weeks I’ve experienced a lot of exciting things since being done with school, and I’ve simply been trying to live more in the moment. I’ve done a lot of things I wouldn’t normally in my routine, but I’ve enjoyed every moment because I did my best to live it with intention. Being out of school has dramatically changed up my schedule and really my entire life. In two weeks I’ll be starting my internship in DC, which will be my first professional experience since when I was a teacher (and even that experience was a lot different than working in a national office of a not-for-profit organization). My schedule will thus change again, and I’m sure so will some of my priorities. Every summer I have these great intentions and they may be a bit far-fetched and then things shift. But what I’ll actually accomplish, and every intention behind that effort and if I’ve lived in that moment with ease and acceptance- that’s what matters.

I hope that if you’re reading this and you’re simultaneously thinking about that “thing” you’ve been avoiding or just taking a break from, you’re a bit more at ease. It happens to everyone and we shouldn’t feel guilty, feeling guilt is when you haven’t accepted your actions and their outcomes. Acceptance is the first step, just accept your action and what it may entail, then move on. I know it sounds easier said than done but trust me it gets easier the more you do it. Go do that thing you’ve been thinking about but not trying because you’ve been trying to be content with the merry-go-round of life. Stop pretending and go try something different. You may find your passion again (or may not) but at least you listened to yourself and got off the merry-go-round and out of the “comfort-zone”. Oh look, productive discomfort. 🙂

Mindfulness Monday 4/20: You live, you learn, and you still live

Folks, I am determined to not let you down. Today I have been wrapped up in many projects that are all coming to the wondrous head of finals in under two weeks! Throughout that time I would pause and think, “Okay, time to write my post.” And then I would get started on something else completely different. Well here it is, I will not let down a “Mindfulness Monday” post.

This past week has been a whirlwind. On Monday I had a phone interview with the American Planning Association for an internship that I knew I was perfect for and seriously wanted with everything in me. On Wednesday just before my next class, I received the call- I was chosen for this national internship position! This internship will be in D.C. for the entire summer and though there are many things swirling around my head when I think about leaving Amherst for D.C., that I will save for another post. I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity, and know that this internship will open many doors to my education in the planning field and also direct experience in policy and planning related to community health. Well of course then my initial reaction was to find housing (on top of the many things I needed to do for school). Since Wednesday I’ve also secured my housing, and even bought a few second-hand clothes to fit my new body measurements (I’ve made so much progress since the New Year began!)

So now this gets into the “living” part of the post. Recently the feelings of “life” and it being “full” or lacking this sense of “full” have been more and more present with me as the days go on. This past weekend I decided to relax and go against everything I said I would do- work. From Friday evening until Sunday night, I literally didn’t do anything except hangout with friends, sleep, and I even went out dancing for the first time since I can’t remember! I mean for me, this was a lot and on Sunday I really had to have some deep reflection about my “living” over the weekend, along with a few naps. Like I said, finals are in full swing and so honestly this may not have been the best use of my time. However, I’ve come to terms with my actions of this past weekend through acceptance, and that has helped to relieve the almost instantaneous guilt that I’m very used to feeling when I give myself time away from working. Maybe I went overboard on the “living” part of my life, or maybe it was just what I needed to jumpstart my energy to sustain me to the finish-line.

What I’m saying here is that life goes on- even if you decide to put work on hold, stay up late to dance until exhaustion, sleep a lot, and even go to bed early for a few days afterward. I lived my past weekend with no regrets (well those regrets are still trying to pop up but I’m able to accept them with a few deep breaths and then let them go). Regardless, I lived and that’s what matters here. I could have kept trudging through in my efforts to “make it” to the end of finals like some “champion” that I’ve envisioned, who can work all day with no play, no time to step outside of what’s “comfortable”. I wouldn’t say graduate school is comfortable, but it definitely is what I’m used to and so doing anything outside of the graduate school bubble is a bit “uncomfortable”. Did I question my actions? Yes. Did I feel not-so-great physically? Yes. Did I have fun? Heck yes. I lived this past weekend to the fullest happiness levels I could, and though I learned from some of my actions afterward, I’m still here- alive and mostly well. And I’ll keep living, riding the ebb and flow of life’s waves. Balance and unbalance. Full and incomplete. Still trying to live each moment mindfully- no matter what life brings.

Mindfulness Mondays 4/13: Feeling “Full” of Life

Remember last week when I told you I was working on a new habit of waking up earlier- I’ve made progress! Today I was woken up at 5:45 am, though finally got out of bed at 6am. My sleep app showed that I did not enter into deep sleep at all, and so I could feel throughout my body the soreness and indigestion that comes with inadequate sleep. Though I’ve been trying to get right out of bed, it’s been difficult since I’ve been suffering from tendinitis of both shoulders which is making it harder to lift the blankets and bring myself up. Despite all of this I have made huge progress with when I awake and actually get up (I’ve gained a whole 25 minutes since last week)!

I’ve also re-invigorated my practice of some yoga and stretching in the morning, as well as a prioritizing just being alone with my cat before my partner rises. This has been really amazing, since normally I reject alone-time though lately I have been finding I crave it the more I’ve been giving myself that “practice” alone-time in the morning. Today, I was able to watch the sun rise as it peaked through the trees of my wooded backyard while holding my cat calmly- after 5 minutes of me cradling him, we both were still in awe. It was a beautiful moment of peace and I reminded myself out-loud of my intentions for the day and that I was going to let myself shine no matter what. After reflecting on recent events and being mindful of the opportunities I’ve been taking part in, I keep coming back to this feeling of “being full”. What I mean is that I’m actively checking in with my thoughts and emotions on situations in my life more regularly. In this, I’ve noticed there are areas of my life that I feel could improve, and so something is missing and I’m not completely satisfied or “full”. There are other areas where my satisfaction is almost overflowing, and so I have much thanks for the “fullness” that is present, but also recognize that there needs to be a balance.

This past weekend I was able to spend some time with friends I have not seen in a while, as well as meet complete strangers and have lovely conversations. Over the last week I’ve also had times where I have been by myself throughout the day and even at home overnight while my partner was traveling. I’ve realized that I do thrive off of being around others and the engagement that can occur. I also am working through my natural inclination to avoid loneliness at all costs, by giving myself opportunities in the morning and throughout the weekend to be by myself. Though this has not been easy it has been a joy to see my progression, and is my own way of practicing self-care. Yes, I have found joy throughout this process because despite life’s less-than-satisfactory moments, they’re only still moments, moments then that can turn around. This feeling of fullness is more of an appreciation for all of those moments that I’m able to be a part of, as well as the turn-around process. I’m full because I’m experiencing all of what life has to offer: the loneliness and the community, the scary and the fun, and that is truly a fulfilling experience.

Mindfulness Mondays 4/6: Rising Early and Greeting the Day with Gratitude

So this past weekend was a bit jarring in that it definitely was not my typical weekend in how I would normally spend my time, which is working on school. I spent a lot more time with friends and family, shopping, and eating than I normally would even in a regular week! My typical reaction would be to begin stressing on my Sunday evening, or even all throughout Sunday, thinking about the many “things” I needed to get done before the week even began. However, I made a few small efforts that dramatically changed my typical response, which has positively impacted my approach for this week. I realize it’s Monday, however Monday is almost over and my enthusiasm has not deflated yet despite I’m starting to get tired.

Last week I came across a blog called zenhabits, and I checked out a bit about the writer and what the blog was about. Everyone should read this blog. You feel that you’re talking with someone who is so kind but also down to Earth, which makes their expectations/suggestions sound reasonable. One title intrigued me: The Most Successful Techniques for Rising Early. Lately I’ve been struggling with getting out of bed early like I had started in January, when I would meditate or practice yoga in the morning and have much more time to just process my day before it actually began. After reading this article, I was motivated to give it a try. My main takeaways in practice were to start gradually, along with following the 3 steps on actually getting up. Since reading the article, the next morning I set my alarm 15 minutes earlier than usual and then increased that everyday since (yes, even on the weekend). I also have been putting my alarm across the room and jumping up to it. Something that was hard was not going back to bed (I’m still working on this but today successfully only snoozed it twice at 5-minutes each). The biggest piece for me was having a reason to be excited, which was that I planned to run 2 miles! (I hadn’t run since early December).

Today, I officially got out of bed at 6:25am, and completed some light stretches. I put the coffee on, and did a few light things around until my boyfriend finally rose.  Then I did something I haven’t done in a while in the morning- I meditated! This entire weekend, though different than my usuals, was calming overall and just a nice experience. Nothing was too chaotic and time was well spent with good people doing fun things. This left me feeling very thankful for the people around me, the time I’ve spent with them either in person or talking on the phone, and with how at peace I’m feeling rather than noticeably stressed. I went back to the Stop, Breathe, Think app and did a quick check-in, and then chose the recommended meditation “Gratitude”. Though it was a five-minute meditation, it was all I needed to get me in a grounded state where I felt good about the things happening around me, and it was an excellent way to start my day!

Since this morning, I’ve been so productive in my amount of readings accomplished and my overall demeanor. I wore a bright yellow cardigan and was excited for the pleasantly warmer weather and sun. I actually did an assignment that I had already done 2 months ago, but hadn’t realized it. Instead of being upset or feeling that I wasted my time, my initial reaction was satisfaction in that I had re-read the material and was able to synthesize it better than the first time. Stepping outside of myself for a minute here- it was really great to watch myself respond so pleasantly! Then I finally did it, I stuck to my exciting goal of running 2 miles. I didn’t just have a 2-mile run however, because that would be too plain. Nope, instead my excitement and motions kicked up my acid reflux and at mile 1.7 I vomited on the side of the road as I had just reached the top of the hill. I guess there’s a first time for everything?

After a quick check in with my body and decided I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I still had another tenth of a mile back at least to my house, and so I knew one way or another I had to get there and I was going to attempt at finishing my run. What do you think happened? I took those last 3 tenths on with a smile to some great motivating music, and relished in my accomplishment and sticking to my goals. I reminded myself of this morning’s earlier meditation, and how grateful I was for my experiences- even the not-so-pleasant. I knew that my vomiting was not a sign of sickness or weakness, just more a reaction to one of my ailments that I could come back from without much effort. I knew I’d be okay, it wasn’t worth reacting over with stress, and I was happy that I had given myself the time to go out and run in the first place in the pleasant weather.

All in all, today has been a good day. It’s still nice out. I’ve had some good conversations and gotten a lot accomplished. I’ve even gotten my blog post done earlier than usual. Yes there’s more to be done and it will get done. I’m liking this “soaking up the good vibes” feeling, and just taking the time to appreciate the things happening around me and how I’m reacting to them. I’m going to keep rising early and meditating on gratitude for the rest of the week, and see just how I do. I don’t see it ending badly 😉 .

If you’re thinking about ways to try and get up earlier, here’s another short and sweet article that is pretty blunt about how to get started and why it can make a difference. Remember to stop and ask yourself at least once this week, if not once a day- What are you grateful for?

Good luck this week y’all and happy Monday!

Mindfulness Mondays 3/30: Defining Strength Mindfully

So we’ve had these quotes up on our wall for about two years now. Though I did not purchase them, I thought they were encouraging and would serve as great visual reminders on the wall. Today, while re-reading over one of them, my Critical Cap came on. I didn’t notice this right away, since I normally am pretty critical of most things (it’s an automatic response that I’m working on). Here is the first quote:

20150330_204609

I read it and I realized this definition did not sit well with me. It sounded very dark, with strong verbs and adjectives with negative connotations (at least to me) like “dark”, “banish”, “wrestle”, “demons”. I couldn’t help but respond rhetorically “This is not inspiring. It’s telling me to do everything that is simply a response of ignorance and elimination! Instead of accepting my pain and dark parts of myself, this definition wants me to banish and wrestle them.” Yes, this definition of strength asks us to banish the darks parts through illumination, but one does not simply just illuminate and forgive. Before we can forgive, we must accept. I mean, I know it’s a wall decoration, but this is also a definition of a word that often characterizes many people and their responses to tough situations. I have always thought of myself as a strong person, but never imagined it would involve fighting and banishing, and using pain as fuel.

One of the main teachings of Thich Naht Hanh is that in order to deal with tough situations mindfully, we must take the past of least suffering, which is actually through acceptance rather than resistance. In other words, strength cannot be defined as how hard you can push away or fight through your pain and suffering, but how much of it you’re willing to accept the pain, let it in, and be at peace with its existence. By accepting things or situations that have hurt us, only then can we move to the stage of forgiveness (actually one could argue there are many phases), so that we can then determine our strength. Though this quote will probably stay on our wall (it belonged to my boyfriend), I am okay with this because now I have actually defined my own terms for what strength actually means.

I then read the other quote on the wall next to the Strength definition. I think this sums up a way to live mindfully pretty well.

20150330_204654

How do you define Strength? Do you agree or disagree with the definition in the quote, or with mine? What times have challenged you and how have you dealt with them? Who or what has helped you remain strong?

I found this picture when scrolling through my phone today. I forgot I took it but instantly remembered why I did once I re-discovered it. I love asiatic lilies and seeing them reminds me of their smell and how beautiful they are. Something that definitely provides me strength in tough times is being reminded how beautiful natural life really is, like this lily.

20150328_202449

Happy Monday y’all!

Mindfulness Mondays 3/16: To Love is to be Vulnerable (at least a little bit)

I’m going to share with you a bit of my day and the raw emotions that were part of it. It’s not entirely full of roses, but it’s human, so it’s real.

Today was harder than usual.

It wasn’t the kind of hard that is prominent and right in your face. It wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t somber. It was a class of it’s own. I didn’t realize how hard it actually was until my boyfriend came home.

All day I had been doing whatever I could to check in with my emotions and try to remediate them…yoga, healthy snacks, an afternoon walk, and even trying to get my work on my to-do list done. (Yes I know that may not sound so joyous to some) I’m going to tell you the truth here. Today was the first day in a while where it felt like I really needed to lean on someone, particularly him.

Today was the official start of my “spring break” and to a graduate student I suppose that doesn’t mean what it would to a stereotypical undergraduate. How did I spend today? Sucked into the couch heavily searching the internet for summer jobs and internships. I only awoke from the trance after three hours of searching to realize I hadn’t drank water or stood up! This was a trigger for me because I not only allowed myself to partake in mindless activity, but I didn’t have anything fruitful to show for all of my work- as in I really didn’t come out with many leads. I was disappointed and by that point hadn’t realized my burnout.

By the time my boyfriend got home and I began laying out what had happened today, I was spiraling. My emotions came to a head, and I began to weep in the comfort of his arms. It was if it was “Okay” to be exposed. He listened and let me have my moment, and proceeded to comfort me afterward. Then he sprung on me the option of spontaneity! He suggested we go out to eat and have it feel like a regular vacation, rather than a work overload day. We went out to eat and I ate things I normally would not, mostly of the fried kind.

I bet you’re like “How is this mindful at all?” You see, I waited to write today because I knew I wasn’t quite myself. All day I was trying so hard to be “My Best Self” and be as productive as possible. Again though, I was running from my true desires and feelings. I really just wanted to give myself a break but since I knew I would be traveling with friends to Niagara Falls later this week (YAY!) I tried to work and get ahead of the game. I’m not advocating here for breaking your rules or motifs, or “letting go” of your goals. I’m not giving reason to be a slacker and give up on any future initiative to work hard. I’m simply living in the moment with how I’m feeling, and allowing myself to be, with mistakes or “mistakes” and all.

Living mindfully does not mean living perfectly. That’s a constant struggle I have within myself. I tell myself that since I have the conscience to recognize my thoughts and choose how I want to react, that I have to always make the best choice. But that’s not true! Being mindful is simply just being able to allow yourself to recognize and then acknowledge your thoughts at all, and furthermore being active in choosing how to respond to those thoughts. Tonight I engaged in indulgence. Earlier today I engaged in yoga. It’s all in moderation and knowing yourself well enough on how to moderate (or be vulnerable enough to explore in moderation) is key.

Today during yoga, I cried. I didn’t know why I cried and it scared me. I knew at that moment there were some deeper things I needed to check in with, and that furthermore scared me since I’d been able to get through my work and responsibilities without as much emotional effort for the last few weeks. But I tried to run from what I was afraid of. I knew all day I just needed a hug and someone to let me feel safe in my emotions, someone that would let me cry or be whatever I wanted to be at that moment. All day I had been trying to maintain the strong version of myself just to simply show myself  I could do it… but then I unraveled. This is why I like mindfulness- because I have this space to reflect on my progress over time and my learning moments! And so my takeaway here is that I allowed myself to be vulnerable to someone I love deeply, and who I know loves me back just the same. I felt safe enough to unravel to my partner who also is my best friend. I allowed myself to not “be perfect”, but “be human”- I allowed myself to be vulnerable and accept the compassion and healing of someone else.

I think now about how fortunate I am to have him in my life. I think about those that suffer with mental health issues that don’t feel like they have anyone to share their feelings with or being truly vulnerable. I am extremely lucky to have many people in my life whom I feel safe to be open with and share my vulnerabilities, and I only hope that people feel the same towards me.  I’m going to challenge myself to check-in more with my emotions this week, and also allow myself to really say what I’m feeling in the moment (this means pushing myself to not shy away from asking people what I need from them). I want to challenge you to do the same, and also take time out to remind yourself who you’re thankful for. Let’s all be mindful and acknowledge who is there for us when we really need them to be (even when we think we don’t need anyone).

Happy Monday y’all!

Mindfulness Check-In 3/9: Sunny(er) Days

Today was a whirlwind of events! From the moment I woke up, I knew it was going to be a day where I would have to go from place to place, without much time to even think about what would come next- and that’s exactly what happened. I’m not sure if I willingly accepted this fate when I woke up later than usual this morning, but I know that there were times today when I felt I might have some control on how my day would go and turned them away. During these moments I didn’t feel the urge to plan or think through how to regain control, but just moved on with my day and the events happening in it. It’s almost like I resisted any ability that involved reaction and reflection because it would take “too much time” or “too much effort”. At this point after the day it’s been, I’m not even sure how I feel about this lack of wanting to control the day and its outcomes, and even from that realization I’m not sure how to move forward…

This is where I am at this moment in time. It’s an uncomfortable state. As you may remember from last week, my mind and body both felt very loud and expressive, antsy and driven. Today (and now that I’m thinking about it) and throughout the past weekend I could see myself almost in a state of quiet apathy. My entire day was taken up by events (my Mondays are normally not like today), and I only had this time now to sit with my thoughts and write my post; and the state that I’m in is not the most conducive to writing epiphanic thoughts. I know myself well enough that I’m not deliberately trying not to care, and that there is no motif or drive behind my current state. It’s almost like there is this cloud of calm over me, but it’s not a reassuring calm. Instead it brings me to a place of tired thoughts, tired body, and then the lack of initiative to think further because it’s just tiring. Maybe my mind and body are now showing the effects afterward of a week of feeling so antsy and driven with loud energy? It’s like I exhausted my thoughts and energy reserves after last week’s feelings and state.

As I sit now and start to re-read my post and notice my current state, I can remind myself that though I may not know how to process my feelings and move forward, these feelings and “state” are only temporary. It’s my “current state”. That is enough for me to know that when tomorrow comes, I can wake up at my usual time and actually eat my healthy breakfast at home. I can take moments through the day to notice the warmer weather, the sun that shines later into the evening, and even get home at a decent hour tomorrow to have dinner with my significant other and work on the things I need to accomplish. While there is a little voice that is lightly calling at me from the back of my brain saying “make your to-do list tonight so you know what to do for tomorrow!”, I know that if I choose to wait until tomorrow I’ll be more rested with a clearer mind, and it won’t set me back for my day’s accomplishments.

Yesterday I rejoiced because of changing the clocks forward! I now have one more hour of daylight to see into the evening. Spring and summer are coming. Warmer weather was here (40 degrees!). Today I was still excited but I acknowledged that it was changing the clocks forward that impeded my ability to fall asleep, wake up at my usual time (I’m used to waking up to light, not darkness), and aided in my mindset of tiredness throughout the day. Tomorrow is a new day that will have even more sun than today or the day before. Each day will get sunnier. And that gives me hope that tomorrow I will be more like myself. Though my “current state” is not what I’m used to feeling or how I typically respond, it’s only current and does not have to carry into my tomorrow. I hope that through the blur of this post you can find the glimmer for your tomorrow to shine!

Mindfulness Check-In 3/2: Loud Thoughts and Meditation Bells

Sometimes your thoughts actually just sound like LOUD NOISES!

yell

Sometimes this is how you want to get those thoughts out! But you can’t…

Last Wednesday, and then in-and-out since, I’ve been experiencing moments (or a majority of the day) where all of my thoughts seem extremely LOUD, URGENT, EXPRESSIVE, FAST-MOVING, EMOTIONAL, and if I don’t catch myself in time, those thoughts then either turn into actions or words in reality. It sometimes feels like there are 3 different heavy metal bands playing 3 different songs at once, all songs including double bass drumming and loud screaming! Naturally, this can alter some moments and how people see you in that moment in time. So how do you manage to not let your thoughts come out in a manner that is uninviting and sometimes quite scary? You stop for a 1/2 second and just notice, without reaction, the thought(s), and then, notice how it makes you feel and how you may want to respond.

This morning, after I reflected on this internal energy that I’ve experienced over the last week, which is still somewhat present today, I was able to meditate for the first time with my therapist. His specialty is in meditation and mindfulness practice and though I’ve been seeing him since the beginning of September, this is the first time we’ve practiced together, in a session. He actually has one of those little metal meditation bells that look like this:

Photo credit: Zengroupon.com

Well I’m going to spare you the 10-minute recap and just get to what I really wanted to share. Those loud thoughts do mean something, but just because the thoughts are loud, doesn’t mean so do our actions (or reactions). I expressed how often when I practice and I’m noticing, I typically tell myself in my brain, “Thinking about writing a blog post” or “Wondering about my Professor’s email”. You see, that’s just too much text already- too much of the story I’m trying to capture and develop. My therapist led me through the meditation and told me that when a thought or worry comes up, to just repeat in my head “Thinking, thinking, thinking” or “Worry, worry worry”. He explained that by practicing that in the moment, it helps to simplify all of what’s attached to the thought in my brain, that story that I’m ultimately creating and further developing when I think to myself “Thinking about this and that, etc.” By just boiling down the details of the thought or feeling to their most simple state, the act of thinking or worry or anxiety or boredom (you get the idea), we help to simplify the brain and come to terms with those thoughts easier, and thus can choose further how we would like to respond to those more basic thoughts or emotions.

So all in all, you may want to yell out your thought or you may see yourself getting really wrapped up in the creation and re-telling of the story that means so much to you. When you do, stop and notice. Repeat to yourself (or practice getting there) the word that is truly the essence of that thought or feeling- just one word!!! Simplify all those loud thoughts and really see them for what they are, thoughts. Fro there you can then choose the path for best approach.

Happy Monday y’all!

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!

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?