The Ultimate Power

“Words only weigh as much as the air used to breathe them unless you give them the ultimate power.”–my mind has been musing over this quote from B.A. Hunter for nearly a week now.  I’m often amused by what comes out of my mouth when I am in a conversation, but more often it’s the words that are unspoken, bobbing around as my thoughts, that are the most elusive. Obviously as I try to “quiet” my mind, it leads to a deeper exploration of  my mind’s “search engine”, as I observe the needs, beliefs, and emotions that seem to color my perspective of reality. What am I focusing on? Because what I focus on gives it meaning, and that meaning produces emotion; this emotion produces my action. What’s my model of the world?–how do I feel about the state of my world.

henry-ford-airplane-quoteWhich has got me thinking about my auto-pilot: how can I create a positive mindset that is programmed and automatic? After watching Habit’s 101 , I made it a daily dedication to study how I can create proactive habits in my life. Now that I recognize that my mindset mostly dwells on the past, and my past=my future,  I can set the intention to get new habits of mind that promote the changes I wish to see in my life.

So then focus becomes my ultimate power and my point of change. Noticing that I have a pessimistic view point seems to be the most obvious place to start. You can’t change what you aren’t aware of, right? Then once I am aware of it, I have the opportunity to pivot when I encounter a negative/ non-self serving thought. It takes deliberate practice, but with effort, comes the change. This is where the rubber meets the road!

In order to transform my perspective, I have to DECIDE that I can do this– reframing ‘impossible’ to I’m Possible–cheesy but true. Currently my confidence comes from finding some ideas that inspire nudging me in the right direction. Here are some strategies that I have found and am willing to try out:

  • Generating positive emotion by exploring possibilities with “What if”.
    • Example: What if I made that goal? What if I had more time?
  • Dr. Daniel Amen has a a strategy for countering what he calls “ANTs” (a negative thought).
  • Tony Robbins suggests that we can DOUBT IT OUT! He says “we doubt we can succeed when we should doubt that we could fail.
    • Pondering 5 Reasons why the “worst” may not be true.
    • Finding “exceptions” to the rule.
  • Influenced by Daniel Kahneman’s research on our thinking processes, David Casti suggests redirecting those mental movies to transform guilt and regret with using the sentence stem: “Next time, I intend…..”
  • Change the focus from having resources to being resourceful. This cultivates appreciation and considers how contributions are being made for improvement.
  • And I love this idea from Brian Johnson about playing Angel’s advocate and finding “what can go right” in a situation.

You know what I find so ironic and cool, that the minute I start researching how to modify my mindset, I find a warehouse of resources and tools that are out there. Most of them are super simple and take minimal time.  I also find exercises like the ones I’ve listed not only mind-opening but also alter my emotion and lift my spirit. Win-Win!- I dig it!

So,  I’ve decided to amplify this approach by using  my new favorite app: Way of Life. I understand that what I measure, I can improve; so if I keep track of it, then I suppose “shift happens”.

Until next time….Keep Breathing!

 

 

Just Drop IT

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. ”  The Notebooks of Lazarus Long, Robert A. Heinlein.

This excerpt reminds me of the great pressure we put upon ourselves to be “perfect”-diligent, resourceful, competent and clever. Multi-tasking has been a dream that all have aspired to in our current day and age. But is it really making us better and more efficient humans? “Survey SaysX!” (Family Feud game show allusion)

Attention switching, aka multi-tasking, has now been proven to make us actually less productive and switched off than ever.And this attention residue lingers when you switch from one task to another, making it harder to focus on either effectively.

Lately I’ve been inspired by the idea of deep work–work which is rare and valuable to produce because of the intense focus and emphasis you put into it; it is produced through blocks of time dedicated to it. And what I find some fascinating is how wonderful it is for our brains–we get a myelin workout whenever we remove distractions and pay attention intensely to a task at hand. Turn off the phone and the device cartoonnotifications and banging out a project or task with a single-minded purpose is quintessential–not just for our productivity but also our brains.

Mindfulness is brain candy? Turns out to be so–and I love this!

 

Moreover, not only is mindfulness handy  with completing work, but also in our social interactions. UCLA scientists found that sixth-graders who went five days without even glancing at a smartphone, television or other digital screen did substantially better at reading human emotions than sixth-graders from the same school who continued to spend hours each day looking at their electronic devices. (Learn more: reading emotion in digital communication ).  So it seems that just dropping your need to be on your device temporarily can make you more connected–not just to your work but to others around you. Seems like a simple solution in a complicated world.

So this week, I’m honoring my commitment to be present and switching off so I can switch on.

 

 

 

Where do you get Soul Oxygen?

I’ve been really reflecting lately on this idea of static vs. dynamic action lately. I saw this video by Brian Johnson that really inspired me this week with a reminder that we need to pay attention to our own self-care so that we can manage life’s constant ebbs and flows; he refers to this as the Law of Rhythms. This reminded me a bit of Eckart Tolle’s A New Earth, in which he reminds us that “this too shall pass”–both the “negative” and “positive” emotion. I can’t tell you how often I’ve relied on that mantra-This too shall pass– in a multitude of situations, whether it is a moment of frustration at work or a joyful moment with my daughter, so I must soak up the essence of this emotion and appreciate its brevity.

There’s been a lot going on at work lately so I’ve been really putting in the effort to keep my head on straight while we undergo a shift in our school culture. I want to become more resilient and focus on developing the creativity and patience to weather this low point.  I find that I must find the source of oxygen for my soul so that I might find the good in this. I am gatherieffortng  more and more emotional and mental evidence that I must not only sit and quiet my mind, but I must also move my body. No matter how “bad” I feel, I must find at least 5 minutes to meditate and 5 minutes to exercise!! It’s not an option–this small effort keeps me engaged with the dynamic nature of life, so that my perception of the “problem” does not become static and rigid. These “mini-movements” help me to not only lower my stress levels but also nudge my habits towards those that benefit my body, mind and spirit on a more consistent basis.

So “in the event of a crash landing”, I am coming to derive soul oxygen from mindfulness and movement. As I open my mind by emptying it of (negative) thoughts through mindfulness, I can now expand this practice to include moving my body in a thoughtful way so I can engage fully and be prepared for the next season of my life’s rhythm.

Where do you get your soul oxygen from?

Habit Forming

There’s nothing more motivational than developing positive momentum. Since there are areas of my life that I wish to improve,  I read the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  This book really inspired me to think about keystone habits and how I might cultivate them. Since then, I’ve really been researching ways that I might be more successful at converting a new habit into something that becomes second nature. Obviously my practice of mindfulness is a habit that I am working on. Habits-101-Poster

With that in mind, I found a couple of things that have really inspired me and kept me on track:

  • The wisdom shared by Brian Johnson in his video: Habits 101.
  • And this tracker: Way of Life app ( I only use the free version because 3 habits seem like plenty of cultivate at a time.)

These two things have really helped me to sculpt my intention to develop positive habits like meditation, and have also given me a way to celebrate my success as I endeavor to become the best me that I can be. I hope these tools serve you as well.

Keep breathing!

Big IFs

Have you ever read the poem, IF, by Rudyard Kipling?

If you can keep your head, while others around you are losing theirs…..If you can wait and not be tired of waiting….If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same….

This poem comes to mind as I reflect on my practice–not just when I have my eyes closed, meditating, but also when I am engaged in my life’s daily events. It’s really those times “off the mat” (to steal a yoga phrase) that I know mindfulness is truly being cultivated. Indeed, it is how I approach those those difficult moments that I am able to recognize that my effort is worthwhile.

I have to celebrate the process, the journey, and the struggle of mediation.  Although noticing that my mind is wandering may seem like a failure at first, however, over time, it is becoming the evidence and validation that my practice of mindfulness is paying off. This awareness is the essence of a mindful moment.

What surprises me is the development outside of my meditation- not just the awareness of the emotion that I am experiencing but also theHeart-Rate-Variability the shift in my perception. I can look at challenging people and situations and find something within these experiences to have gratitude for. It’s like these emotionally gritty experiences are turning dirt into pearls of wisdom for me. Of course, to become attached to this transformation seems to contradict the point of mindfulness as well. However treating my successes and failures with the same openness is something I can strive towards. Though cultivating  mindfulness as my preset default mode seems to be a BIG If, but nevertheless, its pursuit is worthy of my effort.

 

 

The Hear and After

In my last post , Accepting the Journey,  I wrote about how I am grappling with the aging process and hearing loss of my mother; particularly since I feel like I may suffer the same fate, if not worse than my poor mom, as I have partial hearing loss in one of my ears and now my other ear has a dull pain in it, which the doctor told me was nerve damage.  But, I found it quite magical that when I was doing my work for the Mindfulness MOOC, and one of the exercises involved watching a TED video from Julian Treasure: 5 ways to listen better.  I found this video fascinating and timely. Although the video didn’t address hearing loss specifically, it got my mind wandering and wondering–does going deaf have to be inevitable as I age? As I researched ways to improve hearing, I was amazed that so many of the practices of mindfulness came up as the key exercises to “sound” health.

One of the ideas that Julian shared in his TED talk was to take notice and find joy in the sounds of the mundane. So this morning, before I got up, I just listened and tried to count as many sounds as I could in the room. One of those sounds was my husband’s breathing and I decided to folistening2cus in and listen to this sound–a sound that I have probably never really listened to (at least with any appreciation) for the last 11 years. And as I listened with curiosity, gratitude for Ryan began to well up in me. I found this strange and wonderful at the same time, not expecting to generate love and joy as a result of listening to the “mundane”. But what a wonderful way to wake up!

Naturally this simple exercise has now opened my ears, as well as my heart, and I feel infinitely grateful for the simplicity of it. As I ponder the serendipities that have arisen as a result of this Mindfulness MOOC, I feel encouraged to continue my commitment to this practice. I thought that this was only going to be a class about meditation, but it has turned into so much more. Finding beauty, experiencing gratitude and developing a state of awe are wonderful side effects which I wish for everyone to connect to.

 

Accepting the Journey

This past week we celebrated the 4th of July in Indiana. It was a wonderful time of celebration and patriotism–something that I haven’t experienced in a long time due to living overseas. It also was a time spent with family. And spending time with family in the context of celebration can challenge us because we work hard to avoid conflict and remain in a cheerful mood, even if we discover that there are painful realizations about our loved ones (or ourselves) and some members are going through difficult seasons in their lives. It can feel like forced happiness at times.accept-4 But then, that is the beauty of loving someone–cultivating joy through holding the space of what is possible for someone else and believing in the change that this loved one needs in order to create a shift in their life.

In this past week, I began to see the benefits of mindful communication, by generating more presence and engagement in these conversations with loved ones. Taking my practice “off the mat”, sort of speaking, and into my everyday life, allows me to develop greater empathy and compassion for my favorite Earth travelers–my family.

For me, my greatest struggle was accepting the aging process of my mother. older.jpgI found myself losing patience at first with her because she has become so elderly, embracing old age and submitting to decrepitude. I have come to witness that my reactions to her are a result of my own fear of aging and worry that I may become a burden to others.  My mother is losing her hearing, in particular, and I found myself shouting in order to communicate. At first, I just yelled and I am sure that my frustration came out as I “spoke” to her.  Then I decided that I needed to take a mindful breath as I engaged in conversation with her so that my communication could soften and be more gentle. Whether or not I like my mother becoming elderly is a moot point; she is my mother and I love her. (Perhaps one day my own daughter will have to face some of the challenges I have with my mom–what kind of role model am I being for her? Am I showing her how to be kind and respectful to aged persons?) So I just kept breathing, noticing my feelings and accepting my frustration, until it began to loosen its grip on my me.

Obviously mindful communication is not a one-off practice but a habit that must be cultivated patiently. My loved ones provide rich fodder for my practice, especially since I often engage with them in “default mode” in which I have attachment to my opinions of them and how I think their lives “ought to be”.  And of course, no one pushes  my buttons like them. Bless them! lol

Clearly the challenge now lies in whether I can stay committed to making mindfulness a habit in all areas of my life. And I wonder: Can I really become the person I wish to be?

As I understand that change begins with awareness and then with acceptance. Perhaps in a year’s time, my commitment will create a significant distance toward this goal. Meanwhile, I can be grateful for my loved ones and the struggles, as we journey on the Earth together.