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ABC of Mindfulness

An excerpt from Medium.com by Ravi Lekkala

Have you ever tried to pull a door when it actually says push, or tripped over not minding your step? You are not alone. And these are only less complicated situations in life.


I’m grateful to my yoga teacher at my primary school who introduced me to the world of meditation. I’ve been practicing meditation for over three decades and interacted with several other practitioners, learning and sharing different approaches. When it comes to mindfulness, three key elements are crucial.


I would like to throw light upon those 3 basic elements of mindfulness. I believe they are fundamental and indispensable in anybody’s mindfulness journey.

A — Awareness

Awareness is the core aspect of mindfulness.

It is a device to observe and acknowledge the present reality dispassionately, moment by moment.


How to practice:

Start your meditation with focus on your breathing and slowly expand your awareness to the extent possible of the five basic senses. If you notice your mind wandering, you acknowledge the deviation and refocus on your breathing and awareness. Then, you further expand your awareness to your thoughts. You try not to control your thoughts but just observe and acknowledge them without judgement.


How it helps:

Not surprisingly, this state of awareness starts reflecting in your day to day life. You notice improvement in your focus and concentration. You are more often attentive and seldom absent-minded.

Please note this is only a by-product of your practice and not an expectation to start with.



B — Being with experience

Being with experience complements and enhances awareness.


How to practice:

You try to observe your thoughts and feelings by fully being with your experience of the current moment. You try not to resist uncomfortable thoughts or encourage comfortable ones. You try to avoid digging past associations or building future aspirations. You just try to know and cherish being with your present experience.


How it helps:

You start to comprehend situations of life with increasing clarity, and start accepting the reality. And this makes you better equipped to be unaffected by the feelings of anxiety and even pleasure.

Please note the reality itself doesn’t change, but your reaction to it does.



C — Choice

Awareness and being with experience leads to a conscious choice.


Once you have a lucid awareness of the present reality and accept the same by being with the experience, you are in a better position to make a clear choice of doing or not doing something. That is in a more free manner without being subject to pressure or prejudice. You will start seeing that the decisions you make and the actions you perform seem like a matter of common sense, and more appropriate.



Like everything else, it takes some practice to become comfortable with meditation. I believe the framework of these 3 basic elements advances your journey of mindfulness and helps you avoid tripping over your next steps of life. Namaste!

Full Article:


ABC of Mindfulness


 BY Ravi Lekkala


Plotkin, Robert. “3 Components of Mindfulness & How They Impact Our Mood.” Technology for Mindfulness, 6 Nov. 2019, technologyformindfulness.com/3-components-of-mindfulness-how-they-impact-our-mood/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

Having simple steps to Mindfulness can make a concept that seems so overwhelming and difficult a little more comprehensive in a time in which you really need it. Sometimes being in the moment may feel like the last thing you want to do, but when you approach your current situation with attention, you can more easily overcome it.

Don’t Give Up! Four Stages on the Path of Mindfulness

An article from Everyday Mindfulness by Amy McMillan

Mindfulness is becoming more popular day by day. Often viewed as a panacea for every mental and physical ailment, it seems that there is nothing it can’t help. However, before jumping onto the bandwagon, it is important to note what mindfulness is not. It is not a quick fix. It is not just a set of self-help techniques. It is not designed to help you achieve great things in life (if your interpretation of achievement means career success, money or status).

Mindfulness is a way of being. We open to life as it is in the present moment without judgement, clinging or avoiding. This does not come naturally for most people and requires daily commitment and dedication. However, mindfulness should not be seen as a chore or just another technique to be fitted into an already busy life. Mindfulness practice gradually becomes more natural and effortless, and for the committed, the benefits will continue to deepen over a lifetime. Jon Kabat-Zinn calls it an ‘adventure in living’ and I love this approach. I like to take an open, curious attitude to my practice; learning to see the world with a vibrant clarity as the incessant mental noise inside me calms and stills.

Most people seek out mindfulness because they want to suffer less. This could be for any number of reasons although our fast-paced lives in the west have led to a particular focus on stress-reduction. It can be disheartening in the beginning as expectations of instant, blissful relaxation, calm and inner peace are replaced with the reality that meditation can be uncomfortable mentally and physically. We discover that there is no ‘Off’ switch for the brain. Lack of instant success can be a stumbling block for many people (myself included) which is why it is particularly effective to learn in a group where we can see how common these pitfalls in the journey are. It is most definitely worth persevering as meditation is a firm foundation for a lasting mindfulness practice (even if only for brief periods each day) and it is where the much publicized positive physiological changes take place.

Rick Hanson refers to the following four stages of mindful development in his excellent book ‘Buddha’s Brain’. Also known in psychology as the Hierarchy of Competence, these stages can be used to clarify our mindfulness practice as we encounter pitfalls and breakthroughs on our path. I find them very useful and encouraging in my own practice.

stAGE 1

Unconscious Incompetence

Unconscious incompetence is the opposite of mindful awareness. In this stage we are mindlessly caught in our unhelpful patterns of thought and behaviour. Many people spend a lot of time here, caught in a loop of repeating thoughts and behaviour. These patterns can initially seem helpful (for example, distracting ourselves from painful feelings), but a continuing reliance on harmful patterns can negatively affect us both mentally and physically. I spent many years here; anxious about so many things and feeling that if only outside circumstances were different, I would be happier. I was unaware that my own unhelpful thought patterns were creating my sense of inner unease. I was unconscious.

stAGE 2

Conscious Incompetence

As we begin to practice mindfulness meditation, we start to become aware of our unhelpful patterns of thought and behaviour but we cannot yet change them. It can be uncomfortable and confronting to become more self-aware; we realise just how unhelpful our thought processes can be. We become aware that we are unable to focus, re-living the past or rehearsing the future, full of judgement or anger. This is where we often want to quit. Perseverance and self-compassion are key to surviving this stage. Understanding that all of these ‘negative’ patterns are simply part of the human condition; we all experience them at one time or another and they will come and go. In fact, they are likely to always come and go, but we learn to take them less seriously as practicing mindfulness gives us a new perspective. I have been in and out of this stage countless times, becoming acutely aware of my anxious and judgemental thoughts. Developing self-compassion is an ongoing process for me, both in meditation and daily life. I am learning to treat myself as my own best friend; accepting & appreciating that I am perfectly imperfect – and so is everyone else.

stAGE 3

Conscious Competence

As mindfulness practice becomes firmly embedded in our lives, we notice that difficult thoughts and feelings still arise but we are less caught up in them. We have become the observer of our thoughts and no longer identify so closely with them. We understand the transient nature of our thoughts and feelings, and are able to step back and let them go. We have the space to choose how to respond to our thoughts and feelings rather than reacting unconsciously. We are able to open up and engage with life with more skill and less fear. I still feel anxious thoughts but I can now usually make the conscious choice not to let them overwhelm me or carry me away down the uncontrollable river of rumination.

stAGE 4

Unconscious Competence

This often elusive stage is where our mindfulness practice really becomes effortless. Unhelpful reactions no longer arise. Situations that would have once created anxiety, depression, anger or frustration are met with acceptance and equanimity. Our perception shifts as we experience a growing sense of the peace and clarity of our true nature beneath the noise of incessant thinking. As Wayne Dyer says ‘it’s all small stuff’. I get glimpses of deep peace and clarity, arising more frequently as my practice has deepened over the past few years. These glimpses can occur during meditation or arise spontaneously during everyday life, even in the midst of mundane or painful circumstances. These glimpses are often only fleeting but they encourage me to persevere with my practice.

We will repeatedly encounter these stages on our journey and understanding them can help to give us clarity and encouragement. We may find ourselves feeling fairly competent and aware in some areas of our lives, only to find that we are still easily triggered into unconsciousness in other areas. I would honestly say that after several years of practice, I still only experience brief periods of unconscious competence. I spend most of my time being consciously competent with some lapses back into conscious incompetence if I neglect my practice! Nowadays, if I fall into my old patterns, I am usually much quicker at catching myself and I have the power to make better choices in thinking and behaviour. I am also quicker to forgive myself for those lapses as I know these are a natural part of this fascinating journey.

Finally, I’d like to make it very clear that these stages are only suggested as for guidance and encouragement. In this age of obsession with goals and progress, it is important to understand that it is impossible to rush progress on the mindfulness journey, whether your goal is simple relaxation or enlightenment. It’s a paradox but we are not trying to do anything or get anywhere all; the key is simply to practice daily without attachment to any particular goal. We commit to mindfulness practice for its own sake; to simply open to the rich tapestry of life unfolding as it is, in all its pain and glory, one breath and one moment at a time.

Full Article:


Don’t Give Up! Four Stages on the Path of Mindfulness


 BY Amy McMillan


McMillan, Amy. “Don’t Give Up! Four Stages on the Path of Mindfulness.” Everyday Mindfulness, 2015, www.everyday-mindfulness.org/dont-give-up-four-stages-on-the-path-of-mindfulness/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

Starting a mindfulness practice is not always as simple at it seems. It is easy to get in a mindset of "I'm not doing this right" or "This won't work for me" and giving up seems like the best option. This article helps to identify why we feel this way, and how we can use it to preserver in our pursuit of mindfulness.

3 Components of Mindfulness and How They Impact Our Mood

An excerpt from 3 Components of Mindfulness & How They Impact Our Mood by Robert Plotkin

Mindfulness is a very broad term; there are so many aspects of mindfulness and so many different ways in which it can be practiced. With the rise in popularity of mindfulness, there have been more studies popping up about mindfulness and its benefits. One recent study set out to differentiate how different components of mindfulness impact us.


In this study, students aged 20-30 received mindfulness alerts on their smartphone 6x per day for 9 days. These alerts include things like questions about recent emotions, problems they encountered, and how mindful they had been. The questions were based on three dimensions of mindfulness:

  1. Present-Moment Attention
  2. Nonjudgmental Acceptance
  3. Acting with Awareness

Research findings discovered that each of these dimensions lead to different benefits for those practicing mindfulness.

Present-Moment Attention

This was the strongest predictor of increased positive emotions in the students who were more aware in the present moment indicated that they felt happier and better overall. Why might this be? When you allow your attention to wander it shifts to things like anticipation of future events or regrets about the past.

When you notice your mind wandering, try focusing on your breath or something in your current surroundings.

Nonjudgmental Acceptance

The ability to withhold judgments of your experiences and emotions was strongly linked to a decrease in negative emotions. This means not labeling your experiences as good or bad or placing labels on yourself and others around you and accepting everyone and everything around you for what they are.

Instead of thinking that person is annoying, change your mindset to something like this person has asked me 4 questions in the last two minutes and is making it difficult to complete my work. You’re still noting your emotions toward the person, but without judgment and without labels.

Acting with Awareness

Although you’ve probably seen mindfulness practices that ask us to do everything with intention and awareness, rather than on autopilot, this study actually discovered that acting with awareness has little to no ability to predict people’s positive or negative feelings.

So, if you want to feel more positive, keep your mind in the present moment. If you want to feel less negative, learn to accept without judgment.

Full Article:


3 Components of Mindfulness & How They Impact Our Mood


 BY Robert Plotkin


Plotkin, Robert. “3 Components of Mindfulness & How They Impact Our Mood.” Technology for Mindfulness, 6 Nov. 2019, technologyformindfulness.com/3-components-of-mindfulness-how-they-impact-our-mood/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

Having simple steps to Mindfulness can make a concept that seems so overwhelming and difficult a little more comprehensive in a time in which you really need it. Sometimes being in the moment may feel like the last thing you want to do, but when you approach your current situation with attention, you can more easily overcome it.

The Research on Mindfulness in Schools

An excerpt from Best Practices for Bringing Mindfulness into Schools by Caren Osten Gerszberg​​

While the implementation of school-based mindfulness programs for children in grades K through 12—such as Inner Resilience, Mindful Schools, Learning to Breathe, and MindUp to name just a few—is becoming more popular, empirical research proving the benefits of mindfulness is only beginning to emerge and more rigorous research will be needed over the coming decades.


“We know very little about which programs work and what works for whom and under what conditions,” said Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, Ph.D., co-author with Robert Roeser of the recently published Handbook of Mindfulness in Education: Integrating Theory and Research into Practice, and a professor and researcher at the University of British Columbia.


A 2015 study by Schonert-Reichl looked at the effectiveness of a 12-week social and emotional learning (SEL) program that included mindfulness training. Ninety-nine 4th and 5thgraders were divided into two groups: one received MindUp’s weekly SEL curriculum and the other a social responsibility program already used in Canadian public schools. After analyzing measures, which included behavioral assessments, cortisol levels, feedback from their peers regarding sociability, and academic scores of math grades, the results revealed dramatic differences.


Compared to the students who learned the social responsibility program, those trained in mindfulness scored higher in math, had 24% more social behaviors, and were 20% less aggressive. The group trained in mindfulness excelled above the other group in the areas of attention, memory, emotional regulation, optimism, stress levels, mindfulness, and empathy.

Compared to the students who learned the social responsibility program, those trained in mindfulness scored higher in math, had 24% more social behaviors, and were 20% less aggressive.

Although in its early stages, research on the effects of school-based mindfulness programs is being fueled by three decades of studies on adults, which shows promise for its psychological and physiological benefits.

 

Researchers are turning their focus to children and teens to figure out what, when, how much, and from whom the teaching of mindfulness works best. “We don’t have conclusive evidence at this point about the benefits or impacts of mindfulness on youth,” said Lisa Flook, Ph.D., associate scientist at the Center for Healthy Minds, at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.


“We do see the promise of interventions and trainings on outcomes related to grades, wellbeing, and emotional regulation.” In other words, the research looking at the benefits of mindfulness in education is pointing toward the positive.

“Mindfulness is a powerful tool that supports children in calming themselves, focusing their attention, and interacting effectively with others, all critical skills for functioning well in school and in life,” said Amy Saltzman, M.D., director of the Association for Mindfulness in Education, and director of Still Quiet Place.

 

“Incorporating mindfulness into education has been linked to improving academic and social and emotional learning. Also, mindfulness strengthens some underlying development processes—such as focus, resilience, and self-soothing—that will help kids in the long run.”

Full Article:


Best Practices for Bringing Mindfulness into Schools


 BY Caren Osten Gerszberg


Gerszberg, Caren Osten. “Bringing Mindfulness into Schools.” Mindful, 25 Jan. 2017, www.mindful.org/mindfulness-in-education/.

Former President

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[Rachel]

This article covers so much great information on mindfulness in classrooms. In some areas of the country, this has been taught in schools for years. Anything that can bring the science, research and benefits to the forefront – I love! The skills mindfulness builds to support SEL feels particularly meaningful in this work these days.

How to Implement a Mindfulness Routine in 2021

An article from Oregon Counseling

This year has forced us to slow down much more than previous years, due to the pandemic. Spending more time at home and not knowing when the world will open up again has meant that we have to live more in the present. However, it’s not always easy to do that. We tend to fill our days with distractions or become so fixated on the past or the future, that we forget to live in the current moment. This is where mindfulness comes in. Here are our tips for creating a mindfulness routine in 2021. 


What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a practice of the mind and body becoming more fully in tune with the present. It involves having heightened awareness of the “here and now.” Mindfulness can be linked to meditation but it doesn’t always have to involve meditation by any means. It can be any action that roots you to the present and brings peace to the current moment.

Practicing mindfulness can have remarkable benefits. It can help if you are struggling with feelings of stress, anxiety or depression. Mindfulness can also help us if we are having trouble concentrating or are experiencing any negative emotions. Overall, mindfulness can help us curate more self-compassion because we are taking the time to relax and take care of ourselves.


How to Practice Mindfulness

There’s no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. You can try out many different things and see what works best for you. Here are just a few examples of how you can implement mindfulness more into your daily routine in the new year:

  • Do a full body scan. Lie on your back comfortably and focus your attention slowly and deliberately on each part of your body. Start with your toes and work your way up to your head. Be aware of each sensation of your body.
  • Focus on your breathing as a mindfulness exercise. Sit comfortably and breathe in your nose and out of your mouth, becoming aware of the tides of your breath.
  • Practice mindfulness while walking by yourself, free of distractions from music or a podcast in your ears. Focus on the experience of walking by being aware of your surroundings and the sensations you feel throughout the walk.
  • Take part in a mindful activity that you enjoy and that roots you in the present. This could be through drawing, journaling, practicing yoga or any other hobby that brings you peace.

Carving out even just five to fifteen minutes a day to focus on a mindfulness practice an have profound effects. We can all set the intention to prioritize being mindful more in the new year, by creating a mindfulness routine for ourselves.


Mindfulness Practice for 2021

To get started practicing mindfulness, here is an exercise from Mindful that can help us transition into 2021:

  • Sit comfortably and gently breathe through your nose and out your mouth.
  • Now, imagine you are breathing in all of 2020 and what transpired for you.
  • Survey your memories as they come in with each breath, and catch glimpses of the year’s highs and lows.
  • Allow yourself to feel the good and the bad, the disappointments and excitements, and everything you’re grateful for from this year.
  • Feel the fullness of the year and then slowly let it go, with a few deep, long exhales.
  • Experience the flow of your breath, how it goes in and out.
  • Next, imagine a field of snow, freshly fallen, pure, and inviting.
  • Ask yourself, what is calling to you this year? Where does your heart long to go? Feel and sense deeply.
  • When you are ready, let your eyes slowly open and welcome a new beginning.

Full Article:


How to Implement a Mindfulness Routine in 2021


Counseling, Oregon. “How to Implement a Mindfulness Routine in 2021.” Oregon Counseling, 17 Dec. 2020, www.oregoncounseling.com/article/how-to-implement-a-mindfulness-routine-in-2021/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this article because for the upcoming new year, I have realized that it would be beneficial to set goals that are more self-care oriented than the average new years resolutions we are used to making. 

Five Essential Elements to Develop Your Mindfulness Practice

An excerpt from Mindful.org by Elisha Goldstein​​

Science continues to reveal that an active practice has important health benefits, relational benefits, and even corporate benefits. But no matter how much we talk about it, read about it, or study it, putting a mindfulness practice into practice can be challenging.

Sometimes, all we need is a simple road map to get us started—or restarted, if it’s been some time since we practiced. Here are five essential elements to creating a mindfulness meditation practice in daily life:

1.

Prepare Yourself
Before even attempting to do any practice, it’s important to understand that your practice is not a performance. Each practice doesn’t need to be evaluated about whether it was a “good” meditation or a “bad” meditation. This performance-based mindset misses the point entirely. If there is any goal at all to the practice, it’s simply to learn.

For example, if someone is using their breath as an object of attention, the goal is not to stay on the breath for a long period of time, it’s to learn about what it’s like to settle attention on the breath. If the mind wanders a lot, then you learn how busy the mind is. If it wanders a lot on a particular topic, you learn to what degree that topic is on your mind. If it is on your mind a lot you learn that whatever it is, it needs attending to and you can later make the choice to focus on it.

Everyone’s mind wanders, even people who have been meditating for 50 years. It’s part of what the brain does. In fact, you could make the argument that the more it wanders the more you have an opportunity to train the mind to see “choice points” to gently bring it back. What you practice and repeat becomes a habit and so you’re strengthening the habit of choice.

2.

Bring Your Heart Into It
There is sometimes confusion in how people teach mindfulness practice, but in the way that I’ve come to understand it is that it’s simply not as effective unless you’re bring your heart into it. The quality of attention has relaxed curiosity and tenderness to it. It’s as if we’re bowing with respect to the life being lived, whether the attention is on the breath, the body, or any sense perceptions.

You’re doing this practice ultimately because you care about yourself, and possibly because you know that doing this practice will also be a gift to those around you.

When there is pain involved, there is an awareness of the pain and the attention has this quality of wanting to be supportive in some way. It is a quality of care and self-compassion.

In other words, you’re doing this practice ultimately because you care about yourself, and possibly because you know that doing this practice will also be a gift to those around you.

3.

Forgive Yourself
You’re going to be completely imperfect at this, like the rest of us. If time goes by and you forget to practice, practice “forgive and invite.” Forgive yourself for the time gone by, investigate what took you off course, and then in that space of awareness invite yourself to begin again.

This is a very forgiving practice; you can always begin to be present to your life again. It only takes a moment.

4.

Thank Yourself
Perhaps even the most important part of this practice is to thank yourself each time you do it. When the time is up, you acknowledge yourself for making the effort to take time out of daily busy-ness for your own learning, health and well-being.

This imprints in your memory that you care enough about yourself to pay attention to you! That self-compassionate caring type of energy is healing. What would the days, weeks, and months ahead be like if you had more of that energy circulating through your mind and body?

Keep coming back to these four essential elements of a mindfulness practice.

5.

Find a Buddy
You could do the previous four elements of practice on it’s own, but it sure helps when we have people to do it with. Maybe you know someone who has had the interest to start a practice or you go on meetup.com and check to see if there are any groups in your area. Or maybe you look at an app like Insight Timer that has worldwide online and in-person groups to check in with.

Again, a buddy is not essential to start, but it can help you feel more connected to others who are aligned with this interest of yours. Ultimately that really helps motivation.

Full Article:


Five Essential Elements to Develop Your Mindfulness Practice


 BY ELISHA GOLDSTEIN


Goldstein, Elisha. “Five Essential Elements to Develop Your Mindfulness Practice.” Mindful, 9 Oct. 2019, www.mindful.org/starting-your-mindfulness-meditation-practice/.

President

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[Rachel]

One of my favorite things about meditation practice is how practical and accessible it is. It can be as simple as this article describes and really it only becomes difficult when we make it difficult. This is a great reminder of how to approach a daily practice.

How Mindfulness Can Help Kids (and Parents!) Weather Emotional Storms

An article from PBS Kids for Parents by Deborah Farmer Kris​​

A couple of weeks ago, I let my five-year-old son stay up late to watch a big game on TV with the family. Sometime around 8pm, the mixture of excitement and exhaustion overwhelmed his system. He lost it.

Often, he can dial down these emotional storms without much help. This was not one of those times, so I took him to the stairs for a time in. As he sat shaking on my lap, his breathing sounded like panicked panting.

“Can you breathe with me?” I asked. “It’s too hard!” he wailed. In stops and starts, we inhaled and exhaled, using belly breathing techniques we’ve practiced together during calmer moments.

As I wrote in an earlier post, teaching kids basic principles of mindfulness has been found to have a lot of benefits, including improvements in flexible thinking, emotional management, attention and academic performance.

Mindfulness tools won’t prevent emotional storms. Sometimes, that’s just what it means to be a kid (and an adult!). Yet being aware of our thoughts, our emotions, our surroundings and our breathing can help us remain anchored while we wait for the clouds to pass.

Settle the Glitter


All children have times when they become overwhelmed, overloaded or overstimulated. In her new book Under Pressure, psychologist Dr. Lisa Damour shares the helpful phrase, “Let’s settle your glitter.” Imagine a bottle filled with water and glitter. Now shake it vigorously: that’s a child’s brain during an emotional meltdown.

When kids are overwhelmed by emotions, they don’t respond too well to reasoning. In the height of a tantrum in a grocery store, our words — however warm and wise — get lost in their neurological glitter storm. But as Damour told me recently, “You have to wait it out. These storms do pass.” The emotional meltdown will subside. The glitter will settle.

After talking with Damour, I pulled out a sensory glitter jar that my kids like to play with. “Remember last week when you got really mad and sad during the football game?” I asked my five-year-old. “Remember how you said it was hard to breathe slowly? Let’s pretend this bottle is your body. When you got upset, it looked kind of like this.” I shook up the jar. “It’s so busy and stormy in there!”

We watched as the glitter begin to drift back to the bottom. “And remember how we snuggled on the stairs and breathed together,” I said, “and then you bounced on your little trampoline for a while. Those strategies helped your glitter calm down.”

“And then I felt better!” he announced.

This is a helpful mental model for parents. Sometimes, we need to patiently wait for the height of the storm to pass (while keeping kids from hurting themselves and others, of course, as some little ones are prone to do when their bodies feel overwhelmed!). When children are a bit calmer, we can continue to work on strategies that will — with time and practice — strengthen their emotional self-regulation.



Take a Deep Breath


My favorite technique — with preschools and adults — is mindful breathing. When we are anxious or upset, our breathing often becomes rapid and shallow. It’s a normal biological response to stress. When we take deep breaths, we send a message back to the brain: It’s okay to calm down.

In moments of peace, teach your kids to notice their breathing and to take deep breaths. This can be as simple as pretending your fingers are birthday candles and blowing them out one by one. Or maybe your child will respond to a “breathing buddy”: Lay on your back, put a favorite stuffed animal on your tummy, and watch that animal slowly move up and down as you inhale and exhale. You could also watch this episode of Daniel Tiger together, and then use the strategy song, “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.”



Model Mindful Responses


Dr. Sharon Saline, child psychologist and author of What Your ADHD Child Wishes You Knew recently told me that one of the most important things parents can do for kids is to model self-control. A core message kids have for parents — even if they can’t put it into words — is this, said Saline: “The first thing I need you to do is manage yourself the best you can in face of my eruption and distress so you can assist me. If you are upset by my upset, there is no hope for me to learn self-control.”

Some days this will be easier than others. Lately, I have tried to talk out loud how I work through my feelings, so that my kids can hear the self-talk in my head.

Here are a few things I have found myself saying:

  • I am feeling a little frustrated. I am going to take a walk around the block because fresh air and exercise always help me feel good inside.
  • I am tired right now and that makes it harder to be patient. Do you ever get upset when you feel tired? I think I will go to bed a little earlier tonight.
  • Looks like everyone’s a little upset. Maybe we need a snack. Sometimes a healthy snack helps me feel better.
  • When I was driving in the snowstorm, I was nervous. I started breathing fast — just like you do when you are upset! So I did some belly breathing to help me stay calm.

Like so many moments in this parenting journey, when I work to help my kids, I am also helping myself. I am becoming more mindful how I respond to daily stressors and how I can respond with a little more courage, patience and self-compassion.

Full Article:


How Mindfulness Can Help Kids (and Parents!) Weather Emotional Storms


 BY Deborah Farmer Kris


Kris, Deborah Farmer. “How Mindfulness Can Help Kids (and Parents!) Weather Emotional Storms.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 8 Sept. 2020, www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/how-mindfulness-can-help-kids-and-parents-weather-emotional-storms?utm_campaign.

Communications Director

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[nekiesha]

Since the quarantine, I’ve noticed my own children seem more anxious and unsettled. They have had quite a few “emotional storms” and I continue to seek resources, tips and tactics to help them through it. Mostly, I’m seeking ways to help them understand the power they have within themselves to redirect their emotions and calm their mind. This article provided a few new ways to do that.

Set Appropriate Goals for Your Practice

An excerpt from The 7 Essential Elements of a Transformation Mindfulness Practice by Nick Grabovac

Don’t get me wrong…

Learning how to relax and destress after a hectic day is a really good thing.

But I consider relaxation and stress-reduction, nice as they are, as only incidental benefits of mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness goes much, much deeper than that.

In this blog post, I want to show you how to go beyond the conventional approach that’s become so popular, and teach you the key things that separate a superficial level of practice from a powerful and transformative one…

Since 2013, I’ve taught over 3000 people how to meditate and develop the skill of mindfulness.

In this article, I’ve distilled my 23 years of meditation experience into 7 Essential Elements that will help you take your practice to the next level.

Here they are…

  1. Meditate Every Day
  2. Set Appropriate Goals for your practice
  3. Apply Balanced Effort during your practice
  4. Cultivate Awareness of Thoughts to overcome the tendency to get lost in thought during meditation and learn how to work with an unruly mind
  5. Increase your level of Alertness and learn how to maintain it for the duration of the meditation session
  6. Develop Receptivity and Equanimity
  7. Practice Mindfulness in Daily Life

As you scanned down that list, you may have thought to yourself, “No surprises here. That looks pretty obvious. What’s the big deal?”


But the devil is in the details…


And one of the things I’ve appreciated most in my own teachers has been their willingness to reveal those sometimes subtle, but critical, details. To give it to me straight, without all the fluff and obfuscation that tends to surround this stuff.


Set Appropriate Goals for Your Practice

If you want to really maximize the effectiveness of your limited practice time, you need to treat those minutes as precious.

Meditation isn’t the time to work on your todo list, or plan your kid’s birthday party 🙂

You worked hard to make the time to practice, so use it wisely.

To help you do that, I highly recommend you begin your session by resolving to practice diligently.

That means that you commit to following the meditation instructions to the best of your ability, for the entire session, regardless of how its going.

Hold the intention to give the sit everything you’ve got for however long you’ve decided to meditate.

And then set an appropriate goal for your meditation session.

Wait.

Hold on a sec...

Did I just use the words “goal” and “meditation” in the same sentence?

Yes. It almost sounds sacrilegious, doesn’t it! 🙂

Meditation is supposed to be this goal-less and effortless activity, where you’re not supposed to strive towards achieving anything in particular, right?

You’re supposed to just sit, without expectations, without any attachment to the results.

I’m sure you’ve heard this kind of stuff before.

So, if meditation is supposed to be the antithesis of striving and goal-oriented behaviour, how are you supposed to motivate yourself enough to make the time in your busy schedule and sit down, day after day, and do something with absolutely no expectation of any result?

Well, here’s the secret...

You’re not.

At least, not at first 😉

As with a lot of this stuff, it’s not quite so simple and black and white as it’s usually presented.

At advanced stages of the practice, it’s true, you really do need to abandon even the most subtle forms of wanting to get somewhere.

But until you get there (and believe me, you’ll know if that’s where you are in your practice), setting the right kinds of goals is one of the most important things you can do to take your practice to the next level.

But it can’t be the usual sort of goal setting, where you pick an outcome to shoot for, like...

My goal is to get enlightened by 10:32 pm on Monday, May 25th

Egads!

That kind of goal just sets you up for misery in meditation!

Instead, you need to use “process-oriented” goals.

These are goals that focus on the process of meditation -- the application and development of the skills involved in the practice.

The idea behind setting a goal or intention for your practice is to get clear on exactly what you’ll be working on during your meditation session, so that you can maximize the effectiveness of it.

So try not to make your goal for your practice something like:

to get to where I was in my last session
to attain some particular state or experience
Doing this is bound to lead to frustration and disappointment and usually results in a very unproductive, strained form of practice.

Instead, focus on skill development.

Focus on developing your ability to apply skillful effort and remain alert, receptive and equanimous (more about the last two in a bit...)

Here’s a few examples:

My focus for this meditation session is to notice the very beginning of the very first physical sensation in my abdominal area at the start of each inhale

or

During this meditation, my goal is to observe, with as much clarity and equanimity as I can, every physical sensation that arises in association with the breath

or

My intention is to notice the different layers of conceptual processing that are overlaid on, or follow immediately after, each physical sensation

Notice how these example goals say nothing about the outcome?

These goals are focused on the execution of the skills that cultivate mindfulness.

If you remain focused on learning and applying skills, it not only helps you to develop mindfulness more effectively, it also helps you to avoid the common obsession with outcomes and “getting somewhere”.

The result is that you maximize the effectiveness of your limited practice time.

And your practice is more relaxed because you’re not constantly evaluating your progress against some unrealistic expectations you may have.

Without striving for a particular outcome, you’ll nevertheless experience a progression in your practice and be able to enjoy the fruits of your efforts.


Admin Note: See the full article to see the remainder of the 7 Elements. 

Full Article:


The 7 Essential Elements of a Transformation Mindfulness Practice


 BY NICK GRABOVAC


Grabovac, Nick. “The 7 Essential Elements.” The 7 Essential Elements of a Transformational Mindfulness Practice, 2016, www.joyfulinsight.com/mindfulness/7-essential-elements.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[Emily]

When reading the entirety of the 7 elements, I appreciated the detail of each section in terms of using it to elevate one's practice. Practice can be difficult for me, so I see the benefits and creating a game plan before jumping in. 

Exploring the Four Pillars of Purpose

An excerpt from What it Means to Have Clear Vision by Rich Fernandez​​

There are four research-backed qualities that lead to a strong sense of purpose: awareness, values, aspirations, and congruent behaviors. The good news is that these qualities can be nurtured with simple mindfulness practices designed to activate these four “pillars of purpose.” Those practices are: awareness, to connect with what’s alive within you; intention, to visualize your best life; alignment, to match your actions with your values; and resilience, to unhook from rigidity.

How to Practice Awareness

1.

Connecting with What’s Alive for You

Illustration by Edmon de Haro

Awareness simply means paying attention to the experience you are having as you are having it. You can practice awareness of your own sense of purpose through quiet meditation, taking the time to simply notice the thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations that arise when you consider your life and what purpose means to you. By observing your thoughts, emotions, ideas, sensations, discomfort, and anything else that arises, with kindness and curiosity, you can begin the process of discovery that can lead to insight into your purpose.

You can also integrate the practice of awareness into your everyday life. Ask yourself: What do you notice as you move through your day, or as you engage in tasks, meetings, or other forms of work? Is your life and work situation energizing? Draining? Does it sometimes bring feelings of joy or well being, or the opposite?

Remember that awareness practice is a process and that each phase, stage, and chapter of your life is a stepping-stone and a learning experience in which you can exercise awareness. Be kind to yourself as you bring curiosity to these large questions of purpose. We’re all unfolding. Life is a process. The fact that you’re interested in aligning your life with your purpose means that you’re already halfway there. Reflecting on purpose helps you gain insight into your own lived experiences and, when necessary, into how to respond appropriately and effectively to opportunities as they present themselves.

The fact that you’re interested in aligning your life with your purpose means that you’re already halfway there

In both the formal meditation and integrated practices of developing awareness of purpose, the most important consideration is whether your life or work situation is contributing to a sense of aliveness for you. Perhaps more than anything, focusing on what makes you feel alive and energized is a key indicator of what is good and true and worthwhile to consider in terms of purpose. Aliveness can take many forms: joy, absorption, meaningfulness. I find that this concept of a search for what is most alive in one’s life is not only profound and beautiful but also very practical. You know it when you see, feel, or sense it!

How to Practice Intention

2.

Imagining Your Best Life

Intention is your innate capacity to harness and direct your energy and effort at will. It seems simple enough, but it takes a lot of practice to harness your innate ability to direct your attention at will. And it’s also a critical skill for the journey toward realizing your purpose.

In many ways, setting the intention to live with purpose is an act of imagining an ideal future, and then living and working toward the realization of that vision.

Setting a clear and strong intention toward realizing purpose helps you to create the conditions for that purpose to arise. Some call this serendipity but there may be a more scientific explanation linking our thoughts and intentions with our behaviors. Neuroscientist Regina Pally describes how setting intentions (or goals) for yourself causes your brain to nonconsciously predict what is most likely to happen in order to achieve those goals. Then your brain becomes wired to act in ways consistent with those expectations. “According to neuroscience,” says Pally, “even before events happen, the brain has already made a prediction about what is most likely to happen, and sets in motion the perceptions, behaviors, emotions, physiologic responses, and interpersonal ways of relating that best fit with what is predicted.” In many ways, setting the intention to live with purpose is an act of imagining an ideal future, and then living and working toward the realization of that vision.

Setting intentions isn’t reserved only for things relating to your purpose with a capital “P.” Living a life of purpose means investing everyday moments with intention—which is why another key element in practicing intention is love. Having our intentions informed by love emphasizes the quality of how we are being in the world, rather than what we are doing. Bringing love to the mundane activities of everyday life is an invitation for each of us to live every day as our best selves. No matter what, intention imbued with love can bring us closer to a sense of congruence and alignment between what we value and how we act in the world.

How to Practice Alignment

3.

When Your Actions Match Your Values

Illustration by Edmon de Haro

After you do the hard work of uncovering what’s alive for you, and setting the intention to direct your energy to incorporating those things in your life more, the next step is aligning your actions. It can be hard work: acting in a way that aligns with your values. It is sometimes all too easy to lose sight of what’s most important to you when you’re in the middle of the slings and arrows of everyday life. It is very easy to succumb to the “busyness trap,” or prioritize the needs of others over your own—to lose the forest for the trees. The days, months, and years pass by and there can be the surreal feeling or realization of “How did I get here? Where did my time go?”


It’s helpful to consider that all of the decisions and actions you take eventually help you better understand what alignment means to you. The very act of recognizing that you feel misaligned is the absolute necessary beginning point on the path to full alignment with your purpose.

The very act of recognizing that you feel misaligned is the absolute necessary beginning point on the path to full alignment with your purpose.

So, how do you know if you are living and working in an aligned way? In the simplest sense, it is about congruence. “Look closely at the present you are constructing; it should look like the future you are dreaming,” suggests Alice Walker, the renowned American writer and activist.


How do you know when you are on course to this “future you are dreaming”? I’d like to offer the following inquiry-based practice focused on the three “gates” that lead to aligned action.

How to Practice Resilience

4.

Unhooking from Rigidity

Illustration by Edmon de Haro

Resilience is the learned capacity to bounce back from adversity, adapt, and thrive, according to world-renowned resilience expert Linda Graham. Learning resilience is critically important to realizing your purpose because it allows you to gracefully and effectively navigate the challenges you will certainly meet along the way. Challenges and setbacks are inevitable. I’d go as far as to say they are necessary: They force you to redefine and connect with your purpose in an even more meaningful way. That’s why the final pillar of realizing purpose is the ability to harness resilience to come back to your sense of purpose when you lose your way.

The good news is that more than five decades of research show that resilience is highly trainable. A mindfulness practice called response flexibility underpins the core research-backed resilience factors of optimism, balanced management of strong or difficult emotions, a sense of safety, and a strong social support system.

According to Graham, response flexibility is “the ability to pause, step back, reflect, shift perspectives, create options and choose wisely,” especially when we are met with adversity.

Your purpose is not some elusive hidden treasure that reveals itself all at once in a blaze of euphoria. Contemplating your purpose and taking aligned action is a process, a sometimes scary and painful process that unfolds over time. Sometimes long periods of time. Perhaps even the arc of a lifetime. As you live your way into a deeper understanding of what is true and good and meaningful for you, no matter how on or off course you might feel right now, you will gain the capability to acknowledge and invite new possibilities to live and work with awareness, intention and aligned action.

Developing your purpose is ultimately an exercise in imagination and creativity, because as the beloved Brazilian philosopher and educator Rubem Alves noted, “The frontiers of the possible are not determined by the limits of the actual.” What, then, is possible for you? Developing a sense of purpose for all that is possible (and not only what is actual) means listening deeply to your inner voice and connecting with what is most alive, true, and good in your life

Full Article:


What it Means to Have Clear Vision


 BY RICH FERNANDEZ


Fernandez, Rich. “What It Means to Have Clear Vision.” Mindful.org, 24 June 2020, www.mindful.org/what-it-means-to-have-clear-vision/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this article because I think it is important to understand the concept of purpose and what it means to us personally. Purpose is not a destiny that is handed to us but something that we create through practice and mindfulness.

4 Basic Elements of the Mindfulness Practice

An excerpt from 4 Basic Elements of the Mindfulness Practice by Aware Meditation App​​

Breathing

Breathing is an essential aspect of one’s being. Yet, we take this activity for granted without realizing its effects on our body. Breathing is very important for us to efficiently conduct our day to day activities without giving up on the sense of well-being. It can help relieve stress and calm our minds. Though breathing seems to be an indispensable and a natural form of exercise, you need to understand and master the techniques to make the most of it towards not just being alive but feeling one

Body-Scanning

Body scanning is a special and unique opportunity for us to become mindful of our body. It allows the mind to become aware of hidden pain or discomfort in the body. It helps us to stay attuned to our physical needs and sensations. This is really helpful in taking better care of our bodies and make healthier decisions with sleep, food and exercise.

Mindscape

This means to become aware of your thoughts. Studies show that the brain uses 60% of energy to do simple activities, and this percentage increases when we try to focus really hard. 80 to 90% energy is consumed as we work each day. When we are so consumed by thinking on a daily basis, it becomes really hard to not let thoughts overpower us.

Thinking is the source of a problem. Negativity is the outcome of this source.

Wind Down

Living in the moment means to be present, in the now, feeling a deep connection with your mind and your body. This has to come with no distractions or negative emotions. That’s why we must wind down by asking your mind to be free. When we add breathing, body scanning and mindscaping, the mind has adapted( even if it’s only for 5 minutes) to let go of thoughts.

Full Article:


4 Basic Elements of the Mindfulness Practice


 BY MEDITATION BY AWARE


Kiran, Ravi. “4 Basic Elements Of The Mindfulness Practice.” Aware, 12 May 2017, awaremeditationapp.com/4-basic-elements-of-the-mindfulness-practice-mindfulness-facts/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this article becuase sometimes in my practices I get lost, unaware of what to focus on or do, but this gives me 4 simple steps on how to better refine my practice keep myself on track. 

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