DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Mindfulness and Hot Tea

I was sitting here reflecting on what to write about when I noticed my mug of tea.  To some, it may seem irrelevant; however I try not to do things that aren’t on purpose (meaning, I like to be mindfully awake to my life: what and why I make choices).  Mindfulness means that you happen to your life, not the other way around.  When I used to be less aware and less mindful, I would often go all day without drinking anything…or i’d be half way through a frappachino before I realized that I had ordered it.

Being mindful and tuning into my body, my emotions, my urges, my sensations…has allowed me to notice when I am thirsty, when my body needs a hug, when I am feeling overwhelmed.  This is not a bad thing or a thing to fear as many believe; rather, it allows me the chance to make wise-minded choices.

Hot tea is like a warm hug from the inside.  When I sip my tea, I feel nurtured and cared for.  It reminds me to slow down.  The process of making tea can be a mindful practice on it’s own: experiencing the smells, sounds, sensations, etc.  Hot tea is not something I drink fast either, which makes it a lovely reminder to slow down and enjoy this one moment. The reality is, that all we have is this one moment. Now is now. You might as well enjoy it!

The reality is that my moment currently doesn’t look as beautiful as the photo above…yet when I close my eyes and take a sip, I can transport myself to that photo each time!

DBT, mental health

Noticing in Nature

Continuing with the message from my previous post, I would like to share some nature (landscape, animal, plants) photography from my Texas vacation.  Nature photography is a way for me to cue myself; to remind myself to slow down and really observe.  I am fascinated, in awe of the variety and uniqueness in each plant (the same is true of each human)!  I wish we all remembered to slow down and smell the roses more often, this practice is a hidden gem that will always calm me (I bet you too)!

Animals are also great teachers because they don’t fear judgment at all! The giraffe doesn’t worry about whether she will will be judged for sticking her tongue out, the unidentified animal from the safari doesn’t care that it is muddy, and the peacock cares not that the people watching want him to display his tail-feathers.  Animals just are.  They are masters of being in one moment.

DBT, mental health

Learning to be mindful

I am a mindfulness teacher, and yet…I am still learning to be mindful.  I was caught off guard two days ago during a moment with my children.  We were at a nature preserve and they were playing at a free-play mud-kitchen type set-up.  They were sharing, playing together and truly enjoying themselves….and yet I found myself growing restless.  My internal dialogue was “hurry up”, “c’mon, let’s go”, “let’s go find the next thing” “I’m bored” AND it was very cool that I was fully aware of these urges to live on fast forward.

It dawned on me in that moment (thankfully), that this moment was perfect just as it was.  Sure, there are times that we must hurry children along…but this was not one of them.  In this moment, we had no where else to be.  In this moment, everyone was content.  In this moment, everything was at peace.

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Fast forward to today: we were visiting a Japanese Tea Garden (which was stunningly beautiful) and we came upon a waterfall.  Two things I am teaching the girls is to notice and point out the different colors they see in nature and to close their eyes and “just listen”.  Here is a pic of them practicing mindfulness of sound at a waterfall.

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I am so grateful that I have these mindfulness teachers in my life! Take some time right now, in just this one moment and take a deep breathe, exhale slowly.  Just this moment is all that exists.  There is no need to rush.

Inspiration, mental health

Yelling is Futile

Are you a “yeller”? Yelling at your kids, your dog, your spouse, your siblings, your parents, your friends?

I do fall into this pattern at times: yelling at my kids more than I intend.  Either after a bad day, a tiring day, or long stretches of grey weather.  It is futile and literally has no effect on the outcome (except that I feel awful and they avoid me)…

…so why do we do it???

In general, yelling at another person is a punishment.  From behaviorism research and theory, punishment is the least effective way to get another human to change their behavior…so…

…why do we do it???

In general, yelling at another person is a REWARD to the yeller…and we know that behaviors that are reinforced (it feels good and it relieves our pressure/stress) are likely to continue.  The fact that we feel calmer after blowing off steam keeps us coming back to it time and again, even though it does not get the results we want! So many times we want to blame others or say things like “I don’t know why I did that”, so I am here to unveil this conundrum.  We yell because yelling rewards US.  We also have a lot of beliefs surrounding yelling that reinforce the behavior:

  1. That they will take us more seriously (the opposite is true, you are probably regularly telling them to speak to you calmly and respectfully; you are not modeling the behavior which makes you a hypocrite)
  2. That they will respect us more (again, the opposite is true…see reasoning above)
  3. That they will listen better (the opposite is usually true: either they respect you less and therefore don’t listen, they might think you are blowing off steam and therefore don’t take your yelling topic seriously, or you frighten them which causes their anxiety to spike and their brain processessing abilities to tank)
  4. That they are more likely to change (research shows that they are actually just more likely to lie to you, avoid you, and resent you)

Debunking the beliefs and educating ourselves on the facts about yelling is one step toward reducing the behavior.  Taking time to understand why we act in certain ways can allow us to increase our awareness and become more mindful of our behaviors and triggers.

 

 

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Meditation 101

Formal Zen meditation is the type that I practice and encourage my friends, family, clients, etc to practice also.  Notice I said practice…yes, sitting upright and still requires PRACTICE! The basic components are:

  1. Sit upright and still on meditation cushions (zafu and zabuton) with three points of contact with the floor to stabilize you.  This should be a comfortable position and should not cause straining.  For example, if you cannot get yourself into lotus position, don’t! It is encouraged that you find a position that you can hold for the duration of the meditation without discomfort.  Frequent shifting is discouraged, I recommend that you experiment with different positions in your first few weeks.

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  1. Clear your mind as best you can and focus on either nothing or your breathing.
  2. Practice non-attachment when you notice your mind drifting (as it will) by gently bringing your attention back to your breathing. The reality is that your mind will wander and it will wander more when you are new to meditation and/or when your stress is higher.  We can acknowledge this without judging ourselves or the practice.  It is simple, not easy! Many people complain that they feel MORE anxious when they try to quiet their mind…which may be true because they have removed all of the distractions that they normally put between their feelings and their consciousness.  Ride that wave, calmness will follow. It reminds me of snorkeling in choppy water…the water is only choppy until you put your head under the water to see the reef below!
  3. Length of meditation varies, the magic isn’t in the number of minutes; rather it is in the willingness to practice steps 1-3 over and over and over.  Meditation is a muscle that most of us forget we have, thus it is out of shape and needs to be worked consistently over time.

The benefits of sitting practice are innumerable.  Science finds that:

Benefits-of-Meditation

You can really meditate whenever your want, where-ever you want, with whoever you want. I recommend group meditation in the beginning…think about how much you cognitively know about exercising and eating healthy vs what you actually do in your day-to-day life…? I find that group meditation holds you accountable and achieves better results just as group exercise does! Most major cities have group meditations or a zen center to provide this structure.

 

 

Inspiration, Journaling, mental health

The Sound of Silence

In 2005 I took a trip as a college credit across the United States in a 15 passenger van with 12 other students that I really didn’t know.  The purpose of the trip was to experience different cultures and create art in ways that I could not experience in my Midwestern campus life.  The most inspiring part of the trip for me, that has left a lasting imprint on my psyche was a hike down into Canyon de Chelly in Arizona.  Hiking down into the basin of the canyon was the only time I have every experienced true Oneness with the world.

I recall a specific moment during the descent in which I subsequently felt minuscule and gigantic…and immediately started crying! In this one moment, I remember seeing a small flower growing out of a rock.  I was so much more complex, large, and evolved than this plant AND at the same time I looked across this canyon and realized that I am a tiny speck on this planet.  The hike into the Canyon is 1 1/4 miles each way and I would estimate that I had this experience about 1/3 of the way down.  I hiked the rest of the way with complete awareness of the awe of nature.

This is the sound of silence.

 

View of Canyon de Chelly

 

How would you capture silence in a photograph? Is it a positive image like this one, showing a much-needed break? Or is it the opposite, revealing the lack of communication in a friendship or the dangers of not speaking out? Show us your interpretation in a new post.

Inspiration, mental health

Things I learned from my 5 year old daughter:

1. Tell other people they are beautiful if you think they are.

It never ceases to amaze me how kind-hearted and honest kids can be. The truth is, I am shy! My daughter doesn’t get her outgoing nature from me! And yet…even today as we were walking into a building, she turned to another little girl (a stranger, approximately 9 years old) and said “you’re beautiful!” to her….and the little girl smiled so big and said “thanks! you are too!”

IT WAS AMAZING! In what world would two adult women (strangers) exchange compliments like that!?!

Furthermore, she does this often…grocery stores, church, etc…If she thinks you are beautiful, she will let you know 🙂

2. Dancing is a guaranteed mood boost.

Again…shy mom…NOT SHY kid! She can dance and dance and dance…My child will hear the faintest music in a store and break out dancing to her heart’s desire! It has taught me to join in occasionally…and it ALWAYS cheers me up 🙂

3. Slow and steady wins the race.

Being the mom of a preschooler is hard.  There are a LOT of comparisons.  There are parenting books about which parenting books to read! At every turn it seems like your preschooler is falling behind because she doesn’t know 7 languages and can’t write her entire name in cursive… but what I am learning right along side her, is that comparisons are crap.  Kids all get there in their own time and no amount of stress is going to speed them up, if anything, it will slow them down.

 

So think about your own life, what would be different if you were vocally kinder, danced more, and stopped comparing yourself to others?

DBT, mental health

Thoughts, Feelings, Behaviors

ThoughtsBehaviorsFeelings

Thoughts, feelings, behaviors. They are all connected and the relationship is transactional.  This means that while one influences another, that change will in turn influence another factor.  None of the three can exist without the other two.

This begs the question, where do we make the change in our lives if we have suffering?  Do you change what thoughts you have, do you change your actions before or after the thoughts, or do you change how you feel about the situation?  The answer is ANY of the three will elicit change; however, I will tell you that I believe that it is easier to BEHAVE your way into thinking differently than it is to THINK your way into behaving differently.  Feelings will happen.

Think about it: You wake up to your alarm.  You are very tired as you didn’t sleep well.   You were up late crying, emotional about something that had happened.  Is it easier to get yourself to think “gee, I am so glad to be awake early! The fact that I have a headache from crying is no problem! I look forward to seeing people today who may ask me how I’m doing!” OR is it easier to get out of bed, turn on the radio to some upbeat music, and pour a bowl of fruity pebbles?  I imagine that if you try to change your thoughts, you may end up with anxiety, dread, sadness (and you may never get out of bed, at least not on time!)…whereas if you try to change your behavior, you may actually feel pride, competence and contentment.

We know it is one of the HARDEST things to do, to act differently than we may feel.  Think back to the last time you were feeling depressed, I bet it would have been REALLY hard to get you to go exercise!  The last time you were really anxious, I bet it would have been REALLY hard to convince you to go lay down and listen to a meditation.  And the last time you were fuming mad, I bet it would have been difficult to get you to go for a walk…and yet this is what I suggest! Why would I suggest something so radically difficult? Mainly because if you do, you will see how quickly it remedies the intensity of the emotion and thoughts.  I propose that if you do it a few times in a row, you will begin to trust the process…this is pretty much what all people with good habits say about how they stick to their routines!

So work on doing the opposite of your (ineffective) urge and see if the thoughts and feelings come along in a helpful way!

Inspiration

Real Life Moments

As I walk through my house turning off the lights…heading toward bed, there are things that catch my eye…things that fill my heart with joy, love, peace…

I cannot imagine my home without these things, although some are new; some are fleeting…yet all make a home.

I want to share with you the images that when I rest my eyes upon, fill me with such positive emotions, such positive thoughts!

First we have the artwork on the fridge. No…I am not the mom that keeps all art; rather I prefer to truly savor each peace. If I find myself walking past without notice, it is time for a fresh picture!

I could stare at this for eternity. A tree covered in the love of hand painted and hand crafted ornaments, stockings hung in anticipation: a reminder of the magic of Christmas, and my “happy painting” that is a staple of our main room. No matter how messy life can become…a reminder to live it fully!

This little piggy stayed home. This little piggy has been in my life for as long as I can recall. I remember emptying his contents as I prepared to head off to college, emptying it’s contents in a panic when trying to “adult” (unsuccessfully at times!) and now I look at this piggy with prolongued grief as I am aware of the cracks that will oneday (soon) expand and shatter my trusty sidekick…likely the result of me using it as a step stool and a chair one too many times in childhood!

Guidance. As is necessary in all endeavors. Knowing that the answers are there, waiting, anytime I care to ask the questions.

A reminder that our mindset matters…and that just as we can strengthen our muscles…we can strengthen our minds to seek the good in life.
Post a photo or two below. Share with us…where are your peaceful places?