Tag Archives: Mindfulness

Compassion Practices For Challenging Times ~ New Program Starts 11/21! Come explore!

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“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” 
― Albert Einstein

In times of challenge and adversity, our natural human tendency is often to close our hearts and shut down. However, if we can stay present to these feelings of pain and suffering, we see that there is actually a call asking us to allow our hearts to “break” open more fully!

We are living now in very challenging times!  They have been and will continue to be.  And, right now there is an emergence of the collective shadow that wants us to continue to feel ourselves as separate – separate from others, from ourselves and from our Source.

When things are calm and going smoothly, we often don’t feel the call to look within. That’s just human nature. Now is a time when we are being called to not only look within but move beyond the illusion of separation that is emerging so strongly in our worldThis is not purely about politics or election results, it’s about our future as people and community – it’s about unity!  We are being called to embody this truth in our lives more fully at this time – that is clear!

Back in September, I was invited to participate on a panel for World Peace Day. We were asked if we believed peace on earth was possible and I found myself responding “Yes” and “probable, too”. That’s what my heart wanted to say at that time and at times I truly believe this. And then, there are others times when I wonder if it’s possible.

In many spiritual traditions, the Earth is seen as a school where we come to learn and grow. As we incarnate, we enter into a state of separation which we are then called to move beyond that so that we can grow and move on spiritually. If that’s so, perhaps the nature of Earth is to be in chaos and conflict; otherwise we would not grow.

And yet, I do believe, as others do, that it’s possible that as our critical mass changes and expands in compassion and unity that the energy of our world can change, too!

Right now that there is a lot of fear, anger, hurt, judgement and pain surfacing in the hearts and minds of humanity.  It’s particularly strong here in the US with the energy of opposition and divisiveness that is pervading our national stage.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that, although we can take steps to try and change things outside ourselves, it is essential that we work to resolve these feelings and reactions inside of ourselves. As Gandhi so beautiful shares, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” That’s really how true change happens!

And, how do we do that? The most powerful way I have seen and experienced; and that is practiced cross-culturally is through cultivating compassion.  It is in opening and softening our hearts to ourselves, others and the world itself, that we can find peace amidst the challenges and chaos of our lives and our world.

How do you wish to proceed in life today?

I invite you to choose COMPASSION!

I invite you to join me and The Heart of Awakening Blog community for an 18 day journey into “Compassion Practices For Challenging Times”.  18 is a number that in some spiritual traditions, including my Jewish roots, represents life or is consider auspicious.

So we will journey together from November 21st through December 8th…

  • Each evening I will share a post which will include a reflection and suggested practice for the following day.
  • You will receive posts via email; and if you’d like can join a private Facebook group for sharing.
  • We will also come together for 3 teleseminar calls. Dates/times TBA – all will be recorded if you cannot attend live. I will be scheduling based on who joins us and their locations.
  • I will also be sharing some audios and videos with guided practices for you to explore.

Some of the practices we will explore include Loving-kindness, Gratitude, Meditation & Mindfulness, Shamanic Journeywork, Prayer, Emotional Awareness and Council.

When: November 21st – December 8th

Where: Virtually via Email, Teleseminar, Audio/Video and FB group (optional).

*Cost: Suggested Amount $27 or Heart Based Donation in any amount your heart guides you to. All Welcome!

*30% of all proceeds will be donated to a charity of the participants choice.

Register at https://compassionpracticesforchalleningtimes.eventbrite.com.

Come join us as we choose compassion today!

Mindfulness Mondays: Listening To Your Body

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“We may ignore or deride the messages of the body but its rebellion demands to be heeded because its language is the authentic expression of our true selves and of the strength of our vitality.”

Alice Miller

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How to practice, where to practice, when to practice? These are all great questions that come up about meditation! And, ones that can sometimes become an obstacle to actually practicing, especially for those new to meditation or just returning to a practice.  I’ll be sharing a few posts on this topic over the next month or so.

Today’s practice involves a bit of an exploration of posture and how to explore mindfulness through the body.  This question of posture is one that comes up often in my meditation groups. And, it’s important to know there is not one answer!  Depending on the style of meditation practice, certain specific postures can seen as beneficial.  Sitting cross-legged on the floor or in lotus posture is a common suggestion; however, this is not comfortable for everyone.

It is very important to listen to your body.  For most of us, as we move through our day, we tend to sit on chairs most often.   So taking time to explore how to practice meditation in this way can help us to bring mindfulness into our daily life.  It can also help us to begin to listen to and in a sense “befriend” our bodies.  This might not seem to be what we think meditation is all about – but being present with our bodies is a way of knowing ourselves more deeply and can be an anchor for many mindfulness and meditation practices.

I invite you to be curious!

Here’s a simple practice to explore:

Sit at the leading edge of chair so that your feet are flat on the floor.  Feel the support of mother earth beneath your feet.  Allow you spine to be straight but not tense; shoulders and stomach relaxed.  Place your hand on your knees or your lap.  If you are comfortable, gently close your eyes or have a soft gaze on the floor a few feet in front of you. 

If you feel tense, take a few deep breaths — breathing in for a count of five and out for a count of five.  If possible, begin to let some of the tension in your body go. Then, let your breath fall back to its own natural rhythm.

Begin to open up to observe your whole body; and then begin to notice any specific sensations you may be feeling.  Perhaps feeling your body on the chair, your feet on the floor, or the feeling of your clothing against you skin.  Noticing if the air is moving or still, are you feeling hot or cold, or tired or energized and so on.  Focus on any sensations you notice related to your physical body.  Just noting them and them moving on to the next sensation. 

You might notice areas where your feel pain tension, pain or discomfort. Observe them and then continue on to other sensations that are present.  This is a time to notice physical sensations without attaching to or resisting any one of them. You are simply noticing!

If you notice that your mind is wandering, which it will, (this is the nature of the mind) simply bring it back to the next feeling or sensation that arises in your body.

To finish, take another moment to tune into your whole body.  Then, focusing on your breath, envision yourself  breathing into and out of your entire body for a few cycles of breath.

Finally, take a moment to express gratitude for your body and all it does to support you in being alive and awake in each and every moment!

As always, feel free to share your reflections in the comments below.

Tashi Deleh (I honor the greatness within you!)

Day 1 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Our Journey of Lovingkindness Begins

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Welcome to May is for Metta 2016!  Today is the first day of our annual 31-Day Exploration Of Loving-kindness Meditation here on The Heart Of Awakening Blog.   Each day will offer an exploration, guided meditation practice and journaling reflection in Metta, Loving-kindness meditation.

The intention of May Is For Metta is to support:

  • Cultivating greater loving-kindness and compassion in ourselves, others and the world
  • Developing or deepening in a daily meditation practice
  • Reflecting and expanding our self-awareness through contemplative practice, sharing in community, and journaling exercises

If you are new to May Is For Metta and would like to learn a bit more about it, you can explore the following:

May Is For Metta Page

Introduction To May Is For Metta 2016! Daily Posts Start Tomorrow!

Exploring Metta Meditation

May Is For Metta ~ A Journey Of Loving-kindness On Heal My Voice Radio  (2014)

Over the course of the next 31 days, we will be exploring cultivating greater loving-kindness and compassion in our lives, our relationships and our world.  Our vehicle will be the Buddhist practice of Metta (Loving-kindness) Meditation.  We will begin gradually with the focus on cultivating loving-kindness for ourselves.  In the Buddhist tradition, it is understood that in order to have the ability to offer loving-kindness and compassion to others, we must have a foundation of loving-kindness towards ourselves.

For many Westerners, this is something that can go against our grain.  We may have been taught to love others first or even that loving ourselves is selfish.  This is something we will be exploring during our journey together.  For now, I encourage you to just be open and notice what arises as you enter into the container of May Is For Metta.  There will be lots of support to work with our resistance and to shift our patterns towards greater loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves.

There will also be lots of support around creating a daily meditation practice.  Take some time to decide where you will do your practice and when.  It can be helpful to have a set place to practice that is clear and quiet.  You may wish to designate a meditation area in your home or office for this exploration.  However, do not let this be an obstacle.  As Mindfulness Meditation Teacher & Author Jon Kabat-Zinn says in his popular book title, “Wherever you go, there you are.”  So, wherever you can find the time and space to practice can the perfect place to start. Also, this is something you can explore during the practice period.

Meditating first thing in the morning can be a great way to start the day if you can create room to do so.  If not, just find a time that works for you.  For instance, if lunchtime is the only time you have, perhaps going outside is a good way to practice this time of year.  Be open and creative in finding a time and space that feels good to you whether it is in your home or elsewhere.  Last year, one of our participants shared that after struggling for a while to find a place to practice at home where there were many obstacles, she started doing her May Is For Metta practice in her car right as she arrived at work.

Consistency can be helpful in terms of where you practice, when you practice and for how long; this is something we will explore in the coming month, but feel free to be creative in your process – this is your journey!  Consider May Is For Metta as an opportunity to explore different aspects of meditation practice and to develop a structure that supports you where you are and where you would like to be on your path of transformation.

Daily Practice:

As we begin, find a comfortable position for your body. This can be on a chair or on the floor.  If you are on a chair, it is good to sit with your spine straight and feet flat on the floor.  Sometimes, it helps to put a pillow behind your back for support or to sit at the leading edge of the chair rather than leaning back.  If you are on the floor, sit cross-legged or in lotus posture.  Make sure to have a cushion or blanket to sit on and adjust your leg position so that you feel comfortable.

Once you come into your sitting position, check that your spine is straight, but not tense; shoulders and stomach relaxed.  Your hands can rest on your knees or your lap.  Allow your chin to tuck slightly toward your chest.   Let the eyes close, or if you prefer, leave your eyes open, gazing softly at the floor in front of you.

Begin with a few deep breaths, breathing in for a count of five and out for a count of five. It is helpful to allow the body and the mind to relax.  Take a moment to scan the body for any areas of tension or discomfort.  Allow the next few breaths to wash over those areas melting away any tensions.  Also, scan the mind for any thoughts, worries or busyness of the day.

Bring your breath and awareness to the heart center in the center of your chest.  Notice how it feels to be present in the heart.  This is the center of love, compassion, gentleness and mercy for yourself and for others.  As we begin, we connect with the energy of our own heart.  When the Buddha spoke of Metta he used the example of a mother’s love for a child; he taught that we need to love all beings as a mother loves her child.  The essence of Metta practice is generating the feeling of loving-kindness and compassion to create that foundation for ourselves and then share it with others and the world. We will explore a few ways to cultivate this feeling.

To begin, take a few moments to recall a time when you felt loved totally held in unconditional love and compassion.  Sometimes calling on the memory of a moment with a grandparent, good friend or even a loving pet is a way to generate this feeling. There may be a certain place such as a childhood home or place in nature, which brings on this feeling for you.  Imagine yourself in that moment and let that feeling, that quality of loving-kindness and compassion fill your whole being, every atom and cell.

This is the quality of Metta, or Loving-kindness; this is where our practice begins.  Allow yourself to simply spend some time just being with this feeling.  If your mind wanders or distractions arise, just remember to come back to the quality, the feeling or the image of the moment you have called on to generate it.  Breathe that feeling right into the center of your chest, into your heart center.  Allow yourself to spend some time being present in the heart, with the quality of loving-kindness.

This is your practice for today.  We are beginning by keeping it simple and exploring the essence of Metta, the feeling of loving-kindness.  If the chance arises and you remember, try to connect with this feeling of loving-kindness as you go about your day.  Bring your breath and awareness to your heart center whenever you feel to.  Simply notice how it feels to connect in this new way.

Today is the day to invite loving-kindness and compassion into your life in a more conscious way.  Although not required, it can be helpful to create a journal for this practice period and to spend a few minutes in the evening to reflect on your daily practice and exploration.

Daily Journal Reflections…

Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today. 

  • What did you notice? 
  • Did you find time to practice today?  
  • If yes, how did it feel?  If no, what stopped you? 
  • Did you decide on a place to practice?
  • What will help you to practice tomorrow? 
  • How did it feel to connect with your heart center and the feeling of loving-kindness?
  • Are there any obstacles to your practice that you are aware of?

Feel free to ask questions or share your experiences and reflections in the comments below or on The Heart Of Awakening Facebook page.  There is also a private Facebook group if you’d like to connect with others doing the practice ~ Request to join.

An important message from your host & facilitator, Beth Terrence:  

This practice is about loving-kindness and compassion.  For many of us, our tendency is to be harsh and critical with ourselves.  When we begin a new practice, we set high standards and when we don’t meet them, we tend to beat ourselves up emotionally.  This is an excellent opportunity to change that pattern, to approach change and growth from a place of gentleness and self-love rather than harshness and self-hate.

As Zen teacher, Cheri Huber, says, “If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago…”.   So, however your practice unfolds, remember to be gentle and loving with yourself.   This time is a gift you are giving to yourself to support your personal journey of transformation and healing. Let’s allow it to be a space to transform our harshness into gentleness and our self-hate into self-love.  This is truly the heart of our practice.

I am so happy you are joining us for this journey of loving-kindness and compassion.  I look forward to our time together!

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

Introduction To May Is For Metta 2016! Daily Posts Start Tomorrow!

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I truly believe that the greatest disease of our time is one of disconnection.  We can see this in our disconnect from the natural world, from community and on the deepest level from our own selves.  This imbalance is one that tends to accompany the many benefits of living in a modern world.  And, it is one that seems to contribute to suffering, sorrow and even disease itself.  The good news is that there are resources and tools that have been around for millennia that can support us in reconnecting and returning our lives to a state of wholeness.

As a long-time meditator, trained shaman and holistic practitioner, I have come to view life on earth as a journey of awakening.  In many ways it is like a school — we come here to learn and to grow.  What presents itself to us through our life experiences is our curriculum or our program.  One of my teachers always reminds me of this when I am struggling with the affairs of daily life.  Whether great or small, our challenges, and particularly how we respond to them, are the key to unlocking the greater truth of who we are.

In my own journey, I have found no greater tool than meditation and mindfulness for facilitating a sense of awareness and connection.  And, these are practices that are not new but that have been a part of spiritual traditions for thousands of years.  They have been proven by those who have treaded the path of seeker; and today, science is joining in to uncover that there are benefits on all levels — body, mind, emotion and spirit.  Perhaps, it is this marriage between spirituality and science that is stirring an invitation for these ancient practices in our modern culture.

Everyone has a longing to transform themselves in some way and to find happiness in their lives.  Meditation and contemplative practices can help us to get to know ourselves on a deeper level, to move into acceptance of who we are and to develop the sense of connection that for many of us is often lacking in our lives.  There are many types of meditation practices available ~ enough to meet the needs of every person in this world.  I always encourage people to explore and find practices that truly resonate with them, with where they are in life today and in moving toward the person they would like to become.  As we meditate, we begin to discover that true change comes from within.

One of the most beneficial practices I have found, both in my personal practice and in sharing meditation in workshops and trainings over the last 20 years, is the practice of Metta (or Loving-kindness meditation).  This practice derives from Buddhism and in many of its traditions is considered a foundational practice.  Metta can be translated quite simply as Loving-kindness.  It is connected to the energies of the heart — love, compassion and gentleness.

I was first introduced to Metta in my early twenties when I lived and worked in New York City.  I had been meditating since I was 14 years old, mostly on my own, learning through books and occasional lectures (there was no internet yet)!  After I graduated from college, I moved to NYC and was blessed to find many centers, classes and workshops where I could go to learn about meditation.  I spent quite a bit of time at a couple of Buddhist centers and that is when I was introduced to Metta practice.

According to the Buddha’s teachings on the practice of Metta, we begin with cultivating Loving-kindness for ourselves, then for others beings and finally, for our whole world.  This is done through visualization, reflection and repetition of simple phrases like these:

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free of suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

I have to be honest, as someone who has a voracious inner critic, I found the suggestion of offering loving-kindness to myself to be a bit challenging at first.  Thankfully, I had committed to exploring Metta, so I followed the instruction of offering loving-kindness to myself as the foundation for the practice.  I can now see this resistance to loving and nurturing ourselves is a challenge that many people in our world face; back then I thought it was just me and my upbringing.

It took many years of practice for me to embrace and understand the deep importance of offering loving-kindness and compassion to oneself as a foundation, not just for Metta meditation practice, but for life itself.  Today, I view working with the resistance to this as one of the most powerful teachings of my life.  However, in those early years of exploration, it was in offering Metta to others where I found myself connecting to this practice in a profound way.

So, there I was in my early 20’s in New York City.  I hadn’t found my direction in life and was working at a job I didn’t love but I was figuring it out.  I would take the subway from my tiny apartment in Astoria, Queens to my office in Manhattan.  It didn’t take long to see that there was whole lot of the suffering going on around me.  On a daily basis, I was faced, as were all New Yorkers, with seeing people who were homeless, sick, and often unhappy.  The subway wasn’t somewhere you came across a lot of smiles, especially during the morning commute!

I think it was this feeling of suffering — others and my own, too, that led me to bring my meditation practice to my morning train ride.   At first, it was really because that was when I could find the time.  Soon, I found it helped me to practice stillness and find my center amidst the chaos of the world around me.  Then, things seemed to really change when I learned Metta.  Instead of focusing on myself alone, I was able to extend my practice out to those around me.  I noticed immediately that this helped my sense of connection as well as feeling like there was something I could offer others without having to do anything outwardly.

Like many other New Yorkers, I always wanted to help to the homeless people who I passed daily on the street — sometimes I had money to give, sometimes I didn’t or didn’t know if giving money was the best kind of support.  Often, I wondered “what else can I do to help?”  I ended up doing a lot of volunteer work with homeless shelters and programs.  As I began to practice Metta, I realized that the energy of Loving-kindness was something I could always offer.  Did it actually help that other person?  I hope so but it’s hard to know how for sure.  I do know that it helped how I felt about the world around me, it deepened my sense of connection and transformed my attitudes about life.  I truly believe these inner changes have an impact on our relationships and the world around us.

Since that time, Metta has been a foundational practice in my life.  At times, it’s been at the forefront of my daily meditation practice and at other times, I practice it on the spot, wherever I am and with whomever I encounter.  It is also one of the main practices I share with others as I have come to see that loving ourselves is a key to transformation and healing on many levels and one that is much needed in our lives and our world.  For many of us, It is one of the hardest things to do.  Metta offers a vehicle for loving ourselves like few others I have encountered — it is both simple and profound.

It was with this awareness that the vision for May Is For Metta emerged in 2010.  After leading meditation groups in a variety of settings in NYC and the MD/DC area, I found I was getting quite a number of requests for support from folks I had worked with previously and those I was connecting with online for some type of virtual program.  At the time, I was working part-time in a residential addiction treatment program as a shaman and holistic health practitioner.  One of my weekly groups at the center was on meditation and mindfulness.

In this group, I would introduce the clients to a variety of practices with the intention that they might find one they resonated with enough to practice in an ongoing way once they left treatment.  Inevitably, I found that the practice most “loved” and embraced by my clients, who were in very early recovery, was Metta or Loving-Kindness meditation. It’s not really surprising… Not only had Metta become a foundational practice in my own life, but it was also one of the tools that really helped me in my own process of long-term recovery from trauma.

The concept of loving oneself was new and somewhat scary for many of the clients, but I could also see it was something they felt excited about exploring as most had tried so many other ways to recover and were still struggling.  What I noticed was that in addition to the benefit of the feeling of loving-kindness, which is generated at the beginning of the practice, the Metta phrases actually provided a strong anchor for their practice, perhaps a bit stronger than the breath itself.  Additionally, having the ability to offer loving-kindness to others gave them an opportunity to work on their relationships that had been damaged through their addiction in a powerful way.  They may not have been able to heal or change the relationship directly, but what I noticed is their response to it changed and often softened in ways that seemed to open the door for communication in a new way.

So, in the spring of 2010, when I decided to start some type of virtual mediation program, Metta was at the forefront of my mind and heart.  One day while I was practicing, and repeating the phrases, I had an idea bubble up to do a 31 Day program.  Since May was coming, I decided to call it May Is For Metta.  The first year, the program began through a Facebook group.  I just began by inviting folks I knew who were interested in meditation.  The word spread organically and we had 118 people participate that May from various parts of the world.

In the following years, I moved the monthly practice to my blog, The Heart Of Awakening: Searching for A New Paradigm and decided to offer the program as a series of daily posts.  In 2014, it even evolved to include daily audios to accompany the posts. I am excited to share it as we move into the 6th year of May Is For Metta: 31 Days Of Loving-kindness Practice, which happens live every May 1st to 31st.  It can also happen anytime and anywhere that you feel called to practice. 

Perhaps you have joined us because you:

  • are curious about the Buddhist practice of Metta
  • have thought about meditating for sometime
  • already meditate but would like to deepen or explore a new practice
  • struggle with feelings of self-criticism or harshness
  • feel stuck in your life
  • have a sense of disconnection (this may be with your self, in your relationships or with the world itself)
  • would like to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion in your life, your relationships and the world
  • have participated in May is For Metta before and want to continue your explorations

Just know, you don’t have to be an experienced meditator or a Buddhist to practice Metta. Loving-kindness is universal!  You are welcome to work with the program in a way that feels good to you.  This program is designed to support you at whatever level of experience or interest you have.  As they say in many twelve step programs, “Take what you like and leave the rest.”  And, in the spirit of loving-kindness and compassion, it is essential to follow the guidance of your own heart — this is a concept we will explore more on our journey together.

A Note:  I am not a monk or nun, guru or authority, just a person who is happy to share this exploration with you!  It is offered by just one human being on the path of life who has explored Metta and Loving-kindness as a foundational practice and tool for life on earth.  It has helped me to open my heart and find joy in life.  I hope it will help you, too!


How To Participate in May Is For Metta 2016…

Come Explore!

Spring Cleaning Inside & Out Virtual Writing Retreat Part II Starts on 4/18!

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Spring has appeared to begin with fits and starts this year here in Maryland.  We just had a bit of snow this past weekend! Now, it’s beautiful and sunny in the 50’s and we’re headed to 70 deg. on Sunday.  I’m not sure if that’s why the Virtual Writing Retreat also had some fits and starts; initially, it was my intention to go straight through but it turns out, we’ve have had a Part I and now it’s time to explore Part II.

I actually found that taking the time to tune in and reflect on Part I’s explorations, looking at body, mind, emotion and spirit, helped me to create a foundation for some of things I have a deep desire to plant seeds for in my life and begin to cultivate this Spring.  And, it took a few weeks of exploration in that way for me to feel the call for a full on “Spring Cleaning”.  I’m in the process of doing that now and it feels good to focus on my physical space as well as personal space.  There is such a powerful interrelationship with our inner and outer spaces.  We’ll take some time to explore this in Part II of this series, which will run from April 18th to 21st.  Stay tuned!

Here is a summary of the posts from Part I if you are just joining in or if you’d like to re-explore them:

Day 1 ~ Spring Cleaning Inside & Out – Body

Day 2 ~ Spring Cleaning Inside & Out – Mind

Day 3 ~ Spring Cleaning Inside & Out – Emotions

Day 4 ~ Spring Cleaning Inside & Out – Spiritual

If you have any reflections from Part I, feel free to share them in the comments below.

Looking forward to exploring more starting on Monday, April 18th!


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Spring Cleaning Inside & Out 7-Day Virtual Writing Retreat Day 1 ~ Body

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As each season arrives, we move through a period of change and transition.  This can be seen easily in  changes of the natural world all around us but it is also something that is going within us on many levels.  By taking some time to harmonize with the energy of each season, we gain an opportunity to look at the patterns in our own lives with a deeper perspective and insight.  And, we can be supported by the energies that are most active during the current time of year.

As Spring sets in, the days begin to get longer giving us more light.  We can begin to observe new growth in the natural world ~ shoots break through the previously frozen ground and buds pop up on plants and trees almost miraculously, all in preparation for the big Spring Bloom.  Spring is the truly a season of new growth and transformation. With all this happening, we may feel our own energy is expanding, flowing and blossoming with new ideas, too!

This makes Spring a wonderful time to reflect, refresh and renew.  It is a time for new beginnings and offers us a time to tune into our whole self – body, mind, emotion and spirit.  It’s also a great time to review and update our self-care plans as well as explore what might support our well-being during this transitional time and beyond.

I am excited to be sharing this Spring Cleaning Inside & Out 7-Day Virtual Writing Retreat with the HOA community.  I’ve started to offer a number of virtual writing retreats throughout the year as a way to tune in through writing and reflection; and to support transformation and healing in ourselves, our relationships and our world.  I invite you take some time to explore as you feel called to.  It’s not always easy to take time off for a retreat, however it is something we can always create for ourselves in our own way.

I just finished my early Spring Cleanse last, a nine day fast of juicing and master cleanser, which I find helps me to detoxify and recalibrate my system.  It may seem like a fast is focused on the physical, but it is actually a way to clear ourselves on many levels.  I was amazed out how much more spaciousness I found in my mind and how many emotions were moving through during that time.  We often tend to think of spring cleaning in terms of the physical – our bodies, our houses, etc.  However, this is a perfect time to really look as all aspects of ourselves inside and out.

Each day for the next seven days, I’ll be offering a reflection and a prompt for you to explore how you can work with the energy of Spring to support transformation and healing in all areas of your life.  We’ll be looking at body, mind, emotion, spirit and space – inner, outer and sacred.  Come Explore!


 

Day 1

Spring is a great time to look at your life and make a new self-care plan.  Take some time this Spring to look at how you care for yourself, consider where you may be out of balance and where you need to give greater attention to support your overall health and well-being.  Consider what you may need to let go of and what you might like to create in your life – this is what Spring Cleaning Inside and Out is all about!

According to Chinese Medicine, Spring is the season of the Wood Element.  The organs most active are Liver and Gall Bladder.  The color is Green.  So, this makes Spring an ideal time for cleansing and rejuvenation of our overall health and well-being.

A person with a balanced Wood Element would experience much of the following:

  • Sense of Connectedness to Nature
  • Clarity
  • Organization
  • Energized
  • Ability & Capacity for Control
  • Spiritual Connection
  • Enthusiasm
  • Healthy Expression of Emotions, especially Anger,
  • Mentally Relaxed
  • Creative

Wood element imbalances may be experienced in a variety of ways.  Let’s take a look at the physical today.  These many include:

  • Spinal Problems
  • Poor Flexibility
  • Headaches
  • Poor Resistance to Illness
  • Allergic Sensitivities
  • Skin Problems
  • Irritated, watery eyes
  • Muscle Fatigue and weakness

Whether or not you notice that you have some type of Wood imbalance or not, now is a good time to reflect on your physical well-being.  Take some time to reflect on the following questions:

  • Are you physically healthy and active?
  • Do you feel comfortable in you body?  
  • Do you have health issues that limit your life?
  • Are you eating a diet that supports you where you are and where you want to be?
  • Are there certain things it might be time to let go of from your diet that you are aware aren’t healthy for your body?

Take some time to write and to explore how you might change this area of your life.

Here are some suggestions to explore:

  • Begin to develop your own program to keep you body fit and healthy (this may involve trying different things to see what works – be creative!)
  • Take a walk for 15 to 20 minutes daily.  
  • Try a yoga or tai chi class.  
  • Eat a balanced diet (explore and discover what diet best supports you today!)
  • Listen to the messages that your body is sending to you.  
  • Go for a massage.  
  • Drink plenty of water.  
  • Fast or cleanse to detoxify and rejuvenate your body.  
  • See appropriate health care practitioners or get supports as needed.

Make a list of 3 – 5 things you can do to support your physical well-being.  And, keep adding to this list as you learn more about yourself.

I hope you’ll take some time today to write, reflect and explore a whole new you!

As always, you are welcome to share reflections and thoughts in the comments below.

See you tomorrow!

 

 

Mindfulness Mondays: Actualizing The Power of Intention

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“Every journey begins with the first step of articulating the intention, and then becoming the intention.” ~ Bryant McGill

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I just finished up leading a 30 day program on Setting Intentions & Visioning Your Dreams for  2016.  It was a powerful journey and I was amazed how it really helped me to deepen in my daily practice of mindfulness and meditation as well as the theme of intention setting and visioning.

How does actualizing the power of intention relate to mindfulness?

In mindfulness and other meditative practices, we tend to find something to focus our awareness on.  It may be our breath, our body or the beauty of nature around us.  The possibilities are endless.  We can also focus on our thoughts. This may include noticing the thoughts, worries or concerns that arise in our mind.  And, it may include cultivating positive thoughts or intentions such as gratitude, peace or loving ourselves.

To me, working with intention is a mindful practice. By setting intentions, both in an overall way and on a daily basis, I find I am more able to stay present with myself, to notice when I am aligning with that intention and to also recognize when I am distracted or off center.  In a way, an intention that we’ve created for ourselves is an anchor for our practice and for living mindfully.

I’ve shared several posts on Actualizing The Power of Intention previously on The Heart of Awakening.  For today’s practice, I’d like to share this audio meditation…

 

If you’d like to explore this topic more, I invite you visit my website’s Actualizing The Power of Intention, which includes a free 60 minute teleseminar previously recorded on 2/2/15 and a special offer, too!  Learn more…

Feel free to share you comments, thoughts and reflections on this week’s exploration below!  Or, join our Meditation & Mindfulness in a Rapidly Changing World group on Facebook.

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!


 

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Mindfulness Mondays ~ Walking Meditation

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“In order to have peace and joy, you must succeed in having peace within each of your steps.  Your steps are the most important thing.  They decide everything.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

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Last week, we explored Movement with Breath as a way to explore mindful movement.  I thought to continue this week with an exploration of walking meditation.

Walking meditation can be both a formal practice as well as a simple way to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life. It is one the most powerful ways to cultivate embodied awareness.  It invites you to be present as you walk, to use your steps and movement as a vehicle for mindfulness and for staying present in the moment.  It can also be a way to cultivate peace and calm as we move through our world.

You may wish to work with it on it’s own or incorporate it with a sitting meditation practice.  You may find you are on your way to work and simply choose to walk mindfully for a few blocks or for the whole trip. Be curious. Explore.

Here is video of Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh sharing about Walking Meditation…

Walking Meditation Exploration

Standing with your eyes open with a soft gaze on the floor in front of you, simply focus on your breath and begin to step right and then left, with mindful awareness.  If it’s helpful you can label your steps, “stepping right” and “stepping left”.  You can explore synchronizing the breath with each step.  As you stay present with your steps, notice what is arising in body, mind, emotion and spirit.  When you noticed you’ve become distracted or drifted off, simple return your awareness to your next step. 

Walking meditation can be done by walking in a circle or by walking back and forth in straight line, pausing when you get to an end point and really taking time to notice as your turn around.  In practicing walking back and forth, you can pause at each turn to notice how it feels to shift from movement to stillness and to movement once again.  Exploring in this way is something we can inform us so that we might walk and move more mindfully and with greater awareness as we move through our daily lives.

You may wish to incorporate some of what Thich Nhat Hanh shared about taking peaceful steps into your exploration.  During our annual, May is For Metta event here on The Heart of Awakening Blog, we explore combining Walking Meditation with Lovingkindness practice.  Here is last year’s post if you’d like to explore this practice on Walking Metta Meditation.

Feel free to share your experiences and reflections in the comments below.


Come join us on Facebook! Meditation & Mindfulness In A Rapidly Changing World group is a space where I share each week’s practice and additional resources on mindfulness and meditation. Come Explore!

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Movement With Breath

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“In the midst of movement and chaos,

keep stillness inside of you.” 

~ Deepak Chopra

Butterfly BeautyThere are many ways to practice mindfulness meditation.  Beginning to include practices that incorporate movement can be a way to deepen your presence and support you in being more mindful as you move about through your daily life and the world around you.

Anytime that you practice mindful movements, with your attention fully in the activity and with a mindful attitude, you are practicing meditation.  Some activities to explore include walking, eating, cleaning, or doing the dishes. We’ll take time to work with each of the in future Mindfulness Mondays posts.

For this week, I was feeling to share a few simple ways to begin to explore working with mindful movement and the breath.  As I’ve shared before, sometimes due to the subtlety of the breath, it can be hard to focus on it, especially for beginning practitioners.  Also, for people who have experienced trauma or tend to be disconnected from their bodies in some way, bringing together movement and the breath, can be a way to really become more connected within themselves.

Movement With Breath Exploration

You can do these practices either sitting, on a chair or crosslegged/lotus position on the floor or in a standing position.  Sometimes it is good to explore practicing mindfulness in a standing position — if you have not done so, I encourage you to do so with this practice.  There may be times when practicing mindfulness is helpful in your daily life but taking time to sit and practice is not possible.  As you cultivate a standing practice, it will become easier practice mindfulness as you stand on line at the grocery store, walk down the street, etc.

Come to a comfortable position either sitting or standing.  If standing, stand up straight with your feet about hip-width apart. Allow your knees to be slightly bent, not tense. Relax your shoulders back, your chest and your stomach.  Tilt your chin a bit toward your chest so that your head is balanced on your neck and shoulders.

Whether sitting or standing, have a soft gaze on the floor in front of you, about 3 feet forward.  Begin to notice the sensation of your breath.  Become mindful of any areas in your body that feel tense or uncomfortable. Without trying to relax them, simply notice.

3 Ways To Practice Movement With Breath…

1) Floating Arms ~ After a few moments of tuning into to your breath and your body, begin to move your arms upwards in front of you with palms facing the floor.  As you breathe in, letting your arms simple float up to about shoulder height, continuing to rise for the length of the in-breath.  Once at shoulder height, slowly let then move back down as you breath out, returning to the side of your body on as the out-breath completes. Repeat this practice 10 or 15 rounds and notice any physical sensations as you do so.

2) Butterfly HandsHolding your hands in front of your body at a 90 degree angle. Place your palms together, fingers touching and then cross your thumbs one over the other.  As you breathe in, allow the pinky side of your hand to move outwards, spreading your finger and keeping thumbs intertwined so that your hands appear to be a like a butterfly opening it’s wings. As you breathe out, allow your bring your hands back together palms together, fingers touching and thumbs crossed.  Repeat this practice 10 or 15 rounds and notice any physical sensations as you do so.

3) Lotus FlowerHolding your hands in front of your body at a 90 degree angle. Place your palms together with all fingers touching and pointing straight out from your body.  On your in-breath, move the thumb side of your hands outward, allowing all of the fingers but the pink to become open, like a lotus blossoming.  On the out-breath, slowly bring your fingers together one by one from ring finger back to thumb until palms are together once again.  Repeat this practice 10 or 15 rounds and notice any physical sensations as you do so.

Take a few mindful moments to watch this video of a lotus blossom opening and closing.  There is a a rhythmic stillness in this movement which we can bring to our own mindfulness movements.  

After exploring these practices, you may also like to create your own mindful movements.  Be creative.

At the end of your practice, take some time to reflect, explore and journal about the following questions:

  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how mindful did you feel as you began?
  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how mindful did you feel as you finished your practice?
  • What did you notice about your bodily sensations?  Was one movement more beneficial for you than another?
  • What thoughts arose while you were practicing?
  • What emotions arose for you while your were practicing?
  • How did it feel to incorporate movement with the breath? How might you continue to work with this type of practice?

I hope you’ll take some time to explore mindful movements this week. 

Tashi Deleh (I honor the greatness with you!)

Beth

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Labeling Thoughts

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Whether one is new to meditation and mindfulness practice or a more experienced practitioner, there will be days that are more challenging than others, when we simply find the mind is busier.  Also, there many be times when we are really struggling with certain thoughts such as worries, concerns, judgements that can really take us out of the present moment.  

Practicing mindfulness is in a sense like any other exercise practice one might develop.  It takes time to build our muscles when we start lifting weights and it takes time to build our “mindfulness” muscles when we begin to practice.  Working with noticing and labeling our thoughts is a way to begin to grow in our ability to be more mindful. 

Oftentimes, there are so many thoughts circling round and round in our minds that we cannot even identify them.  Or, if we stop to notice a thought, we can’t imagine how we even got there.  Practicing mindfulness helps us to de-clutter our mind and allows us to be more awake and alive in the present moment.  As we can notice some of our habitual thoughts and patterns, we can begin to acknowledging and accepting them and let them go. 

The practice of Labeling thoughts helps can help to raise awareness about the specific types of thoughts you may have and it is also a way to engage your mind during practice.  In a sense noticing and acknowledging our thoughts can become and anchor in the same way the breath may be used as an anchor.  As we notice our thoughts, we don’t judge or analyze them, we simply notice and let them go as best we can.  The labeling is a way to begin to let go.

Labeling Thoughts Practice

This practice can be done formally as a part of a sitting practice and informally, as on the spot practice, throughout your day.  I do often suggest to begin to work with a practice as part of a sitting practice, even if it’s for 5 or 10 minutes, to begin to get familiar with the practice. Then, begin to bring it into your daily life.  

Find a comfortable position sitting on a chair with feet flat on the floor, spine straight but not tense, shoulders and stomach relaxed, hands on your knees or lap. Or, sit comfortably on the floor cross-legged with a cushion to support your body. 

Gently close your eyes or have a soft gaze on the floor in a few feet front of you if that’s more comfortable.

Take a few moments to connect with you breath without changing or depending it.  Just begin to notice the breath as it flows into and out of your body.  Notice how it feels to slow down and center yourself.  Continue to be present with your breath. 

Begin to notice any thoughts that may arise.  You may notice a flurry of thoughts right away.  You may be thinking about your To Do list, grocery shopping, worrying about a family member, etc.  You just begin to notice your thoughts.  If there are many, try to notice just one thought and as you do, begin to label it, “Thinking”.  Then, come back to your next breath – breathing in and breathing out.  When you notice another thought, label it “Thinking”.  And, once again simply come back to your next breath.

At times, you many be “Thinking, Thinking, Thinking, Thinking…” and at other times you may begin to notice some spaciousness as you are present with your breath.  Either way, you are simply noticing what is arising in your mind and in your practice. 

This is a simple way to practice Labeling Thoughts.  Sometimes it is helpful to label types of thoughts and we will explore that in future posts, however, by using “Thinking” as the label it is actually helping us to detach from our thoughts or the type of thoughts we may be having, e.g. worry, judgement, etc.  Building a habit of not identifying with a certain thought can begin a powerful process of letting go.  We are just being with whatever is arising in our minds, noticing it, labeling it “Thinking” and letting it go. 

I hope you’ll take some time to explore Labeling Thoughts this week.  As always, feel free to share your reflections in the comments below.

Namaste.

Beth

Mindfulness Mondays ~ 7 Ways To Practice Mindfulness

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I thought to wrap up the last Mindfulness Mondays post of 2015 with a summary of practices we explored recently and added a post on Gratitude practice, too!  I am planning to continue this weekly series in 2016 to offer a virtual space for you to explore mindfulness and meditation practices.

If you’d like to connect with a virtual mindfulness meditation community, I invite you to join my Facebook group, Meditation & Mindfulness In A Rapidly Changing World.  Each week, I share our practice plus some additional resources and information.  There’s an opportunity to connect and explore together; and I am planning to offer some teleseminar gatherings in the new year, too!

As always I love to hear your reflections, so feel free to drop a note in the comments below if there is something you’ve enjoyed, benefitted from or would like to see more of in 2016! 

  1. Parallel Breaths

  2. Urge Surfing

  3. Take Your Mindfulness To Work

  4. Noticing Feelings & Emotions

  5. Coherence Breathing

  6. Practicing STOP

  7. Make A Gratitude List


Upcoming Events

January 1 – 30 ~ Setting Intentions & Visioning Our Dreams 30 Day Writing Program (Virtual)
1st Sundays ~ Healing The Shadow Shamanic Journey Telelcass (Virtual)
2016 Dates TBA ~ Healing The Shadow Shamanic Journey Process Group in Annapolis, MD (Local)
May 1 – 31 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: 31 Days of Loving-kindness Meditaton & Practice (Virtual)
June 2016 ~ Discover The Healer Within 4-Session Program (Virtual)
For details and registration information on events, visit http://www.bethterrence.com/Events.html or Sign Up my for Discover The Healer Within E-News to get updates on events, articles and special offers.

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Parallel Breaths

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One of the things I notice that happens this time of year is that there is a tendency to feel a sense of chaos or overwhelm that goes beyond our personal experience.  My sense is it has to do with the contraction of energy that is happening as we approach Winter and the Solstice, particularly for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.  Whether it is seasonal or not, at various times in our lives we can experience a sense of chaos or disorder.  Meditation and Mindfulness offer a space for us to ground, center and open ourselves more fully in the present moment.

The Parallel Breath practice is one that I use daily and have shared with my clients and in classes for many years.  I initially learned it from Fritz Smith, the creator of Zero Balancing, a cutting edge body/energy therapy that I utilize in my holistic healing practice.  In Zero Balancing classes, we begin each day with this practice and it is easy to see the difference it can create in your state of being with just a few minutes of practice.

A few months ago, around the time of the Autumn Equinox, I shared a short audio of this practice and I think it’s even more beneficial at this time.  If you’d like you can simply listen to the practice or see the overview below…

Guided Parallel Breath Practice

 


 

Here is an overview of the practice:

Close your eyes and begin by just observing your breath as it is.  For a few moments, deepen the breath a bit and try to establish an even rhythm, breathing in for a count of five and out for a count of five. 

Then, begin to imagine that as you breath in you draw energy in from above and down through the top of your head.  As the in breath continues, draw this energy to down toward the base of your spine and exhale out into the earth.  On the next inhale, draw the breath up from the earth into the root center at the base of your spine, allowing to flow upwards exhaling back out the top of your head.  Continue in this way breathing from earth to heaven and heave to earth.  

You may wish to image the breath flowing like a wave of energy or even a waterfall cascading up and down through your body.  If you are feeling tension in a physical area or are having a challenging emotion, you can imagine that as the breath moves up and down it is loosening or moving your tension away. 

This practice support grounding in that we are connecting with earth and we are also connecting with spirit or source, however we define that for ourselves.  The parallel nature of the breaths helps us to feel more stable energetically and this helps with any sense of chaos or disorder we may be feeling. 

Practice for as long as you feel to.  5 or 10 minutes is a good amount of time to explore and as you work with this practice, you may find that just a few breaths in this way can help you to recalibrate and move more fully into the present moment. 

I hope you’ll take some time this week to explore!

Namaste.

Beth

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Urge Surfing

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Change Your Life Message #1

Urge surfing is a term coined by Alan Marlatt as part of a program of Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention that his research project helped to develop as an alternative resource for people recovering from addictions to alcohol and other drugs.  Urge surfing can actually be used to help with any addictive behavior or pattern such as emotional eating, smoking, compulsive shopping, etc.  It can also be applicable overall as a tool for staying focused from all of the distractions that arise in our lives that may keep us from being more fully present with ourselves.

Through research, what Marlatt found was that urges for substance use rarely last for very long. In fact, they almost never last for longer than about 30 minutes, if there is no opportunity to actually use a substance.  Research found that people admitted to a detoxification center where there was no access to their drug of choice often found it remarkable how little craving they actually experienced and/or how their cravings would move through in a short time. 

This is fascinating!  It is this internal struggle that feeds the cravings and attachments.  Marlatt likened trying to fight cravings to trying to block a waterfall from flowing.  We end up being flooded.  Urge Surfing invites us to use mindfulness to step aside and allow our cravings, impulses & urges to simply flow right past us.

Urge Surfing Exercise (adapted from Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention)

  • Find a comfortable position sitting on a chair or the floor
  • Begin with a few mindful breaths
  • Observe yourself  for any sensations of discomfort such as restlessness, an itch or body pain such as a headache, back pain or knee pain
  • Notice you natural response to rub, scratch, or move as a way to resist your discomfort as it arises
  • Notice any thoughts that may arise such as “I wish this itch would go away”, “This itch is driving me crazy”, or “I would love to scratch this itch”…
  • Remember that these thoughts are just that – simply thoughts; you may wish to label it, “it’s just a thought”.
  • Whenever you notice thoughts arising, gently and lovingly bring your attention back to your next breath and awareness of your bodily sensations
  • Begin to notice how the position, shape and quality of your discomfort shifts over time.  Continue to feel it as best you can, noticing how the intensity and shape changes with each cycle of the breath. You might inquire, “Is it stronger during the in breath or during the out breath?”
  • If you find your thoughts going onto other matters, such as your to do list, a situation at work, your plans for the weekend, etc., remember that these are “just thoughts”.  Gently and lovingly bring your attention back to your breath and body sensations.  And, notice how these sensations may have changed.

In this exercise, you have begun to observe the changing nature and impermanence of urges.  When you notice the physical sensations with interest, you are directly facing the urges rather than feeding them through resisting them.  As we try to eliminate our urges by distraction or talking ourselves out of them, we often just intensify those urges.  Research has shown that trying to suppress a thought, feeling or sensation, including pain, rather than decreasing it, actually increases it.

In Mindfulness, rather than avoiding our thoughts, feelings or urges, we simply notice them.  If we can simply let an urge be – non-judgmentally – without feeding it or resisting it, we will soon notice that it begins to rise, subside and finally drift away, just like an ocean wave.  It may come back again but as you become able to stay present with it, you will notice that these feelings will become less powerful and less frequent, too.

As an additional resource, visit the Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention website which offers lots of resources including a series of audios on mindfulness practices.

I hope you’ll take some time this week to explore Urge Surfing and Mindfulness practice!  As always, feel free to share your thoughts and reflections in the comments below.

And, if you’d like to join a virtual community exploring mindfulness and meditation, come join my Facebook group, Meditation & Mindfulness In A Rapidly Changing World

Namaste.

Beth

 

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Take Your Mindfulness To Work

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“Meditation is a way of being, not a technique. Meditation is not about trying to get anywhere else. It is about allowing yourself to be exactly where you are and as you are, and the world to be exactly as it is in this moment.”

 ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

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Last January, I had the pleasure of joining hosts Carolyn Owens and Mark Thorn on their Blog Talk Radio Show, Let’s Coach With Mark & Carolyn.  Our topic was “Take Your Mindfulness Meditation To Work”.  For this week’s Mindfulness Mondays post, I wanted to share some of what we discussed as well as a link to the show for you to explore.   One of the benefits of mindfulness practice is being able to bring it out beyond the meditation cushion and into our daily lives and relationships including the world of work.  Listen Here…

The relationship between our personal lives and our work lives has often been one of disconnection or separation.  When we go to work, we put on our work persona.  When we come home, we take it off.  Even when organizations and individuals desire to be more open, authentic and heart-centered, the transition is difficult.

It is such a fascinating time when we see science is getting on board with what spirituality has long know – meditation is a powerful tool for both consciousness and well-being.  I am amazed to see each week new information being shared about a variety of practices and one that seems to be in the forefront is mindfulness meditation.  Here is a brief summary of recent research from Dan Seigel, co-director of UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center:

• University of New Mexico researchers found that participation in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course decreased anxiety and binge eating.

• Office workers who practiced MBSR for twenty minutes a day reported an average 11% reduction in perceived stress.  

• Eight weeks of MBSR resulted in an improvement in the immune profiles of people with breast or prostate cancer, which corresponded with decreased depressive symptoms.

• A prison offering Vipassana meditation training for inmates found that those who completed the course showed lower levels of drug use, greater optimism, and better self-control, which could reduce recidivism.

• Fifth-grade girls who did a ten-week program of yoga and other mindfulness practices were more satisfied with their bodies and less preoccupied with weight.

• A mix of cancer patients who tried MBSR showed significant improvement in mood and reduced stress. These results were maintained at a checkup six months later.

• The likelihood of recurrence for patients who had experienced three or more bouts of depression was reduced by half through Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, an offshoot of MBSR.

• After fifteen weeks of practicing MBSR, counseling students reported improved physical and emotional well-being, and a positive effect on their counseling skills and therapeutic relationships. (Source: The Science Of Mindfulness)

So, what is mindfulness?

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, defines mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.

Mindfulness is a not just a practice, but a state of being in attention to the present moment.  When you’re practicing mindfulness, you are observing your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judgement, comparison or the need to understand.  It is a way to be present to life as it unfolds.  It’s simply practicing moment to moment awareness.

Here are some of the overall benefits of mindfulness practice:

  • Reduced stress
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Improved self-awareness
  • Boosts to working memory 
  • Clarity and Focus 
  • Less emotional reactivity 
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Improved immune functioning
  • Sense of well-being
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Increased empathy and compassion

How can this support our us in the world of work?

As Dan Seigel mentioned in his overview of scientific research, mindfulness meditation has been shown to benefit people at work as well as in their personal lives.  Mindfulness supports greater clarity, clearer focus, improved wellness, reduced stress, increased productivity, stronger resiliency and even enhanced creativity – these are all things that can benefit us in the world of work, whether we work in a large corporation or are a self-employed entrepreneur.

For an individual, mindfulness meditation offers a way to stay present, focused and bring more of our authentic self to our work.  For organizations, mindfulness meditation offers an opportunity to cultivate a culture of clarity, focus and employee engagement.  For both, it also supports a new paradigm for leadership development that is based on authenticity, self-awareness and openness.

Basically, bringing mindfulness meditation practice to work is a win-win situation.  So, whether you are an individual wanting to bring your personal practice more fully into your daily life or an organization wanting create change, bringing mindfulness practice to work offers a powerful tool for transformation.  We can see this happening at companies like Google, Apple, Proctor and Gamble, General Mills, Harpo Studios and The Huffington Post.

Some ways to incorporate mindfulness into your work:

Ways to incorporate mindfulness into your work:

  • Practice the “just one breath meditation”.  Simply take a mindful breath, noticing the sensations of the breath, where you feel it in your body, the rhythm of the breath and/or labeling it “breathing in and breathing out.
  • Count your next five breaths.
  • Give yourself a break – get up, stretch, step a way for just a moment.
  • Go for a mindful walk around the office or go outside and get some fresh air.
  • Feel your feet on the floor. Feel the support of the earth beneath you.
  • Give some attention to you body.  Notice where you feel might feel tension or discomfort.  Bring the breath to that area for just a moment.
  • Pause and notice all of the sounds around you, just listen and notice.
  • Get a mindfulness app or set a timer to remind you to pause several times during the day. 

Feel free to comment or share on how you bring mindfulness or other meditation practices to your world of work! 

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Mindfulness Mondays ~ Noticing Feelings & Emotions

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Take a few mindful breaths.

Allow yourself now to notice any emotions or feelings you are experiencing right now,          in this moment… 

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Often, we relate with our emotions or feelings in one of two ways.  We may tend to ignore our feelings and emotions to push through our experiences; or, we dive into them and cling to them in a way that defines who we are.   We may view our feelings as good or bad, positive or negative.  In Mindfulness practice, our feelings are viewed as neither good nor bad, they just are what they are. Feelings may be uncomfortable or difficult; or, they may be comfortable or easy.  But, regardless, none of them are viewed as wrong or something we want to get rid of, they just simply are!

This week’s practice is simply Noticing Feeling & Emotions that you are experiencing in the moment you are feeling them, with gentle, non-judgemental awareness, loving acceptance and gentle curiosity.

You can do this practice in two ways.  First, as formal practice, which means taking time to sit, be present and work with the practice for a period of time (5 or 1o minutes is a great start).  Secondly, you can practice it as an “on the spot meditation” – when you notice a feeling or emotion arise, you simply take a few moments to tune in and work with practice.

One of the things than can begin to happen as we work with this type of mindfulness practice is that we come to see our feelings and emotions as fluid.  Rather than attaching to them as we humans tend to do, we can come to see that our feelings and emotions come and go just as waves crashing upon the shore come in and go out – some are bigger, some are smaller, some are stronger, some are weaker but, none of them stay the same all the time!  This awareness can create a sense of freedom and spaciousness. 

  • Begin with a few mindful breaths.  If it’s helpful, label the breaths “breathing in and breathing out”.
  • Then, allow yourself now to notice any emotions or feelings you are experiencing. You may be able to name the emotion or it may just be a vague sort of feeling, either way is okay.
  • Begin to notice where the feeling or emotion is located in your body – your head, throat, chest, stomach, abdomen, gut? Notice if the physical sensation moves or shifts as you bring awareness to it.
  • Notice any sensations connected to the feeling or emotion – heat or cold, anxiousness or calm, contraction or expansion…
  • Allow yourself to be present and observe any shifts or changes in your feelings and emotions and/or any physical sensations in your body connect to them as you continue noticing feelings and emotions for as long as you feel to practice.
  • Finally, bring your awareness back to your breath for a couple of minutes.

“Think you’re destined to respond the same way emotionally to the same old triggers? Not necessarily so, says Sharon Begley. With a little mind training, you can chart new pathways “

Learn more about mindfulness, neuroplasticity and changing how we respond emotionally in Rewiring Your Emotions.

I hope you’ll take some time this week to explore Noticing Feelings & Emotions.

As always, feel free to drop a note about your experience in the comments below or join my Meditation & Mindfulness In A Rapidly Changing World group on Facebook to stay connected throughout the week.

Namaste.

Beth

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Coherence Breathing

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Breathe in slowly for a count of 5.
Breathe out slowly for a count of 5. 
Continue for 5 or 6 cycles of breath or as long as you feel to practice.

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One who has gradually practiced, 
Developed and brought to perfection 
Mindfulness of the in-and-out breath 
As taught by the Enlightened One, 
Illuminates the entire world 
Like the moon when freed from clouds. 
Developing a relationship with our breath is at the heart of many mindfulness and meditation practices.  Although some feel that altering our breath, may not fall under the realm of mindfulness, I have found that a practice of coherence breathing is highly beneficial in cultivating our relationship with the breath and is particularly helpful in becoming present with the in and out breaths.  Counting in and of itself, without changing or deepening the breath, is another good practice, which we will explore in another post. 
 
In the book, “The Healing Power of the Breath”, authors Richard Brown, MD and Patricia L. Gerber, MD, share:
“Breathing can alleviate negative feelings, such as fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, depression, self-blame, confusion, restlessness, and physical discomforts. With regular practice over time breathwork can bring improvements in physical health, physical endurance, and resilience. But breathing is not just a treatment for life’s ills,; it can also enhance pleasurable and creative activities such as musical performance, writing, team sports, or just being with nature. Breath practices nurture positive emotions, loving feelings, compassion, our sense of connection with what is meaningful in life, and our sense of bonding with others.”
Coherence Breathing is a simple way to work with your breath by synchronizing the in and out breaths for a count of five on both the in and out breaths; this can be varied from four to six counts depending on your comfort and breath patterns. This type of breathing can have a profound impact on your body, mind, emotions and spirit.  
Meditation teacher Tara Brach refers to this technique as a “heart breath”.  In a sense it is training your system to have deeper, slower breaths, which supports greater calm, balance and well-being.   Often, our natural tendency is to have shorter, shallower breaths. Coherence Breathing also supports your ability to become more mindful as you practice; and as you cultivate a deeper relationship you also deepen  your awareness of your whole being.

Scientists have found that there is an ideal breath rate for each person, somewhere between 4 and 6 breaths per minute using equal timing for breathing in and breathing out.  This patterning helps to increase our heart-rate variability and balance our stress response systems. Also, the electronic rhythms of the heart, lungs, and brain become synchronized, which is known as a resonant rate amongst researchers.  Although the research is new, this pattern of breathing has been known amongst meditation practitioners and traditions for centuries.  

Here is a chart of some of the benefits of Coherence Breathing vs. Shallow Breathing:

For this week’s exploration, practice Coherence Breathing by working with breathing in for a count of five and out for a count of five.  You may need to vary the in and out between a count of four and six depending on what feels comfortable for you.  Ideally, practicing for 5 – 10 minutes is good start, but even one minute can be beneficial.

Namaste.

Beth

 

 

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Practicing STOP…

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Stop!
Take A Few Deep Breaths.
Observe Your Experience.
Proceed With Awareness…

“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 our freedom.”

 ~ Viktor E. Frankl
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I am excited to announce the return of Mindfulness Mondays.  Each week I will be sharing a mindfulness practice or tool for you to explore.  And, I will be also sharing a bit of research and a related article on some of the many benefits of mindfulness meditation.  I invite you to explore the information and practice as a weekly tool.  If you’d like explore more, I invite you to join my Meditation & Mindfulness In A Rapidly Changing World Group on Facebook –  you can request to join here.  As always, feel free to share your experience and insights in the comments below!

STOP is a simple mindfulness technique that you can use to create space in the day, calm down from a worried mind and shift back into the present moment. It has been found to be enormously helpful in mitigating the negative effects of our response to stress. As we drop into the present moment, we’re more likely to gain perspective and see that we have the power to regulate our response to the pressures we are experiencing. Here is how to practice STOP:

 

S – Stop what you are doing.  Wherever you are, just pause.  You may wish to sit, slow down, and just be still for a moment.

T – Take a few deep breaths.  Begin with some deeper breaths and then if you like you can continue to follow the natural rhythm of your breath for a few moments, labeling it “breathing in” and “breathing out”. 

O – Observe your experience. Noticing what is happening by looking at your thoughts, feelings and emotions.  
Also, notice your body, your posture, any pain or sensations you may be experiencing.  
Take a few moments to reflect on what is arising for you.  You might like to name your thoughts and emotions – research shows that naming what we are feeling can slow down the fear circuit in our brain and help to calm us down.  

P – Proceed with awareness.  Have paused and tuned in, move back into your day knowing what might best support you at this time. Perhaps it would be good to go for a walk, call a friend, have a cup of tea or stretch your neck and shoulders before returning to the next thing on your list!  Even if you can’t take that time right now, you can tune in and know what will be helpful to do later in the day.

There is a growing amount of research on the benefits on meditation and mindfulness practices.  Just this past week, Time Magazine share an article entitled,

Meditation Reduces Emotional Pain by 44%: Study

Many studies now show that mindfulness meditation can reduce anxiety and our overall response to stress. The exciting new is that “Mindfulness changes our brains!”.  Studies reviewing MRI’s of Mindfulness practitioners show the following changes:

  • Increases in the density of gray matter in the Pre-frontal Cortex, an area connected to awareness, concentration and decision-making.
  • Increases in the cortical thickness in the Hippocampus, an area which governs learning and memory.
  • Decreases in the volume of cells in the Amygdala, the brain’s “fight or flight” center, helping to reduce fear, anxiety and the response to stress.
  • The connection between the amygdala and the rest of the brain gets weaker, while the connections between areas associated with attention and concentration get stronger.

And, some of the overall benefits of practicing mindfulness include:

  • Reducing stress
  • Decreasing anxiety and depression
  • Improving self-awareness
  • Boosting working memory 
  • Enhancing clarity and focus 
  • Reducing emotional reactivity 
  • Fostering relationship satisfaction
  • Enhancing feelings of well-being
  • Cultivating a positive attitude
  • Increasing empathy and compassion for others and self!

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it! 

I invite you to take some time this week to explore working with the STOP practice.  And, check back next week for another Mindfulness Monday post!

Namaste!

Beth