balance · mindfulness

Mindful Check-In #How’sMyBalance?

It feels good to be writing today.

I’ve had a little break from the blog.  It wasn’t on purpose;  I think what happened was, my June 28th post emptied me out (read it here!), and I’ve been feeling inspired to do more creative writing.

I haven’t done a check-in for a long time.  I’m not really in love with my format for doing check-ins, honestly – but I do find it helpful to take a moment to evaluate where I’m at and how things are going.  Hopefully I’ll eventually find a way to check in that’s more fun.  But, for now:

My last check-in was on February 20th.  (See?  If my check-ins were more fun, I’d do them more often!)

💖  I’ve written twelve posts about nourishing my #heart by spending time with family, friends, and other kindred spirits.  This has been flowing pretty naturally for me.  Anytime with Teddy and Tee is amazing #heart food.  And we’ve been doing a pretty good job of making plans to spend time with family and friends, which is always a challenge for my little family of introverts.

☯️  I’ve written thirteen posts about nourishing my #soul by engaging in activities that bring me peace and contentment.  Solid.

💭 I’ve written seventeen posts about nourishing my #mind with podcasts, books, and other brain food.  Consistently my best category.    

🏃 I’ve written seven posts about nourishing my #body food with exercise, activity, and healthy food and sleep.  Ugh.  It’s hard to be a full-time working mom with a one-year-old and still find time to work out.  I try to take walks with Teddy; I’ll try to take more.  We shall see.

🌱 I’ve written four posts about nourishing my #spirit by doing things that are new, different, and/or challenging.  Not bad.  I think I forget about this category frequently.

Coming soon – (hopefully) a more fun way to check in, and a snapshot because my head is full of thoughts about all the things.

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mindfulness

#MBSR #mind #soul #body

Taking a break from our daily routine is always beneficial.

For clinical social workers, that can often be achieved by signing up for a training.

Last week, I spent Monday and Tuesday attending a training in MBSR – mindfulness-based stress reduction.  These two days included some pretty excellent self-care.  Re-listening to The Gifts Of Imperfection in the car.  Meditating.  Journaling.  Reflectinpicture-26g on what’s been stressful lately and contemplating my next move.

We used a Stress-O-Meter to measure our stress throughout the two days.  I started out as an eight.  I slowly relaxed my way down to a four.  (I immediately re-escalated to an 11 when I walked into work on Wednesday morning.  Ugh.)

I’ve been wanting to attend a training in mindfulness-based stress reduction for a long time, and it did not disappoint.  There were a LOT of takeaways:

-This is a list of mindful attitudes I’ve been encouraged to cultivate: non-judgment; patience; non-striving; acceptance; beginners’ mind; trust; and letting go.  All relevant.  Some challenging.  All of them powerful when exercised mindfully.

-Stress is contagious.  So is peacefulness.  Lately, I’ve been having a really tough time at work.  I can be really sensitive to the moods and attitudes of others, and in this case, that is NOT good.  I’ve set an intention to try to project peace rather than absorbing stress.

-Our instructor asked us this question: “How many times do we limit ourselves to the story of who we are?”  It’s really good to know ourselves.  For example, I felt very empowered by the knowledge that I’m an introvert.  HOWEVER – I don’t want to limit myself to only one story.  I don’t want to label myself as an introvert, or a runner, or a procrastinator, and thus write the story of how I live my life before I even live it out.

-Dear KEM, Stop being so attached to outcomes.  Okay thanks bye.9ada79c33c1ed3dbade5871ae148f74d

-When it comes to life, I would much rather be the passenger than the driver. Something to think about.

-We spend most of our lives rehearsing or rehashing.  Rather than just BEING in the moment.

-We are always practicing something.  And we get better at what we practice.

I’m eager to keep my mindfulness practice going.  However, this is always a struggle for me – the daily maintenance that comes with keeping a new habit.

Last year, there was a sale at PESI and I treated myself to two books: MBSR Every Day and A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook.  I brought them both with me to the training, thinking that I might finally start to a) read them and b) understand what exactly MBSR is. So far, in the workbook, I’ve finished a few chapters, and I am hoping to commit myself to formal mindfulness practice.  I’ve done a few ‘mindful check-ins’ and about 20 minutes of mindful yoga.  A good start.

anxiety · balance · mindfulness

The Struggle Bus Is Real #mind #soul

Oh, man.  I am definitely riding the struggle bus lately.967f0c589eb9b1e051bfda3412bd612d

Specifically, I’ve been experiencing an identity crisis related to my day job.

I’ve previously blogged about the ups and downs I’ve been having at work since Teddy came home.  For so long, waiting for Teddy took up all of my heart.

Now, Teddy’s home.  Tee and I are healthy and stressed-but-oh-so-happy.  And I’m trying to figure out what I want my life to look like.

I’ve come up with a few different things I’m looking for in my work life:  A shorter commute.  Fewer hours.  Less stress.  More fun and play.  An organization that is aligned with my values.  

I’ve always felt best when I was working with a group of people who felt happy, committed to their work, and inspired.  Genesee.  AmeriCorps.  Sigh.

So – I’m evaluating my options.  I’m deciding what my next move will be.  And I’m wondering, not for the first time, if I did it all wrong – career, 307grad school, jobs.

I once talked to a girl who’d decided to become a yoga therapist.  She was around 30 years old at the time.  She said, “I finish teaching a class, and I’m filled with energy.  I’m so grateful that I’ve found what gives me the most joy when I’m so young.”

Sigh, sigh, sigh.

I very much want to find work that helps me to feel energized and alive.  It’s possible that I just need a change.  Or, that I need to get back to my two greatest loves – working with children and creative writing.

So, I’m taking steps.  Applying for new jobs.  Going to interviews.  Trying to carve out time for fiction writing.

But – here’s the second half of my struggle: How do I stay mindful and peaceful in the midst of striving and change?

Transitions are always a challenge.  In my experience, it’s difficult to physically be at one job when your heart and your mind are out there searching for a new job.  Last week I felt a lot of anxiety for that reason.  I’m trying to recenter – to ground myself in the knowledge that I am, as always, exactly where I need to be.

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balance · mindfulness

#soul #mind

A few months ago, I set some heartsoulmindbody goals when I was neglecting my #soul quadrant.

-Attend a training in mindfulness-based stress reduction.

-Take an online writing class.

-Finish the self-compassion workshop I started on Brene Brown’s Courage Works website.

I am crushing it.

Today I attended a PESI training in MBSR and I loved it; it’s a two-day training, so I get to go tomorrow, too.  I’ve been journalling in an MBSR workbook and Tee and I did a mindful check-in just now.  I think this technique could be a touchstone for me – a central tool for my personal and professional growth.

I am signed up for a course in advanced fiction writing at Harford Community College beginning on March 15th.

AND today I re-committed to completing the self-compassion workshop.  I need it!  And the biggest barrier has been slow internet at home.  But today (and most work days), I was in a building with great internet.  So I watched some kickass self-compassion videos during my lunch break.  (#socialworkdork)

The workbook I’m using has exercises and text interspersed with bits of poetry.  Like this one by Mary Oliver.  Love.

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mindfulness · podcasts

Mindful and Kindful #soul #heart #mind

This week on the podcast Happier With Gretchen Rubin, Gretchen and her sister Elizabeth discussed single-taskingmaking a practice of doing only one thing at a time.  So, basically, mindfulness.

Mindfulness is my current obsession, so I love hearing it discussed.  And it’s discussed everywhere these days.  The trouble is, every day it gets easier to multi-task.  You can text in the car, using a dictation app.  You can watch a TV show on your phone while taking a walk outside.  You can write a blog post with a TV show on in the background (which I often do).

Tee, Teddy, and I just got home from a trip to Vegas for Thanksgiving; my mother traveled with us, and we spent the holiday with my sister.  It was a lovely trip, with lots of family togetherness and mini-adventures.  (Plus, when Thanksgiving is over, it’s officially time to be in the Christmas spirit!)

There were several moments during this week that I caught myself being sharp or testy, or nagging.  I think that being more vigilant about mindfulness would help with these situations.  When I’m multi-tasking, my attention is never fully anywhere, and it’s harder to stay in touch with my mind, my heart, and my body.  My nagging or testiness – these are tendencies I am aware of.  But I want to do more than just be aware.  My goal is to notice when I am feeling a certain way, and then to be kind and loving even when I am feeling aggravated.  I want to be mindful, and then I want to choose to be kind.

I’m all about mantras – I like having something simple that I can say to myself in moments of stress to remind me of who I am and who I want to be.  Today, I am trying out a new one: be mindful and be kindful.

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books + reading · meditation · mindfulness

#10%Happier #mind #soul #takeaways

I just finished re10-percent-happierading a nonfiction book.  This is a rare occurrence for me.

It’s called 10% Happier: How I Tamed The Voice In My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, And Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story.  It’s kind of a memoir-slash-self-help-book by journalist Dan Harris, and it’s about his journey through the self-help world, which ultimately ends with his discovering the power of meditation.

love this book.  It’s inspiring me to take up a daily meditation practice, which I’ve done before but have never been able to maintain for too long.

Here are my takeaways from 10% Happier:

Understand that ‘it is what it is’ – and then do what you need to do next.  

A lot of Harris’s writing is about his struggle to balance meditation with the ambition and productivity associated with everyday life.  He writes about how meditation is about acknowledging feelings and accepting thoughts as they are.  But then he writes about doing what needs to be done next.

You can accept where you are, and then you can do the next right thing; acceptance and action are not contradictory.

Learn to respond, not react.

Harris writes: What mindfulness does is create some space in your head so you can, as the Buddhists say, “respond” rather than simply “react.” In the Buddhist view, you can’t control what comes up in your head; it all arises out of a mysterious void. We spend a lot of time judging ourselves harshly for feelings that we had no role in summoning. The only thing you can control is how you handle it.

As my work week creeps on, I find myself struggling to respond rather than react.  I do a pretty good job with it on Mondays; I struggle a LOT on Fridays.

A really awesome definition of mindfulness.

I’ve read and written a lot about mindfulness, but Harris’s book gave the best and easiest to understand definition of mindfulness I’ve ever heard.

He writes that mindfulness is like looking at your thoughts from behind a waterfall.  Picture the mind like a waterfall: the water is the torrent of thoughts and emotions; mindfulness is the space behind the waterfall. 

So, if I am practicing mindfulness, I can watch my thoughts and my feelings flow by without becoming swept away by them.

Simple – but challenging.

-Do one thing at a time.12509431_1011472385587227_7921394802468337843_n

Harris writes: [Janice Marturano – founder of the Institute for Mindful Leadership – recommended something radical: do only one thing at a time. When you’re on the phone, be on the phone. When you’re in a meeting, be there. Set aside an hour to check your email, and then shut off your computer monitor and focus on the task at hand.

Another tip: take short mindfulness breaks throughout the day. [Marturano] called them “purposeful pauses.” So, for example, instead of fidgeting or tapping your fingers while your computer boots up, try to watch your breath for a few minutes. When driving, turn off the radio and feel your hands on the wheel. Or when walking between meetings, leave your phone in your pocket and just notice the sensations of your legs moving. 

“If I’m a corporate samurai,” I said, “I’d be a little worried about taking all these pauses that you recommend because I’d be thinking, ‘Well, my rivals aren’t pausing. They’re working all the time.’”

“Yeah, but that assumes that those pauses aren’t helping you. Those pauses are the ways to make you a more clear thinker and for you to be more focused on what’s important.”

I love all of this.

-Ask yourself if your thoughts are useful.

It’s all about being in the present moment – right?  However, Harris poses the question: What about when you need to think about the future?  You’re considering your career – or you’re planning how to be on time for your flight home to Maryland.

One of Harris’s meditation mentors, Joseph Goldstein (well-known teacher and author, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society), answers this question.  His response was (not verbatim) yes, wonderful, think about your flight.  But when you’re running through your route to the airport for the seventeenth time, be mindful of this and consider if this thought is useful.

This reminds me of one of my rules for things to say out loud: Ask yourself – is it kind?  Is it helpful?  Is it true?  

It also is a pretty great method for measuring when you’re thinking in a healthy, productive way, and when you’re thinking in an unhealthy and unproductive way.  I can just ask myself – is this useful?

Observe The Ten Pillars of Cutthroat Zen.

In the final chapter of 10% Happier, Harris writes a list of recommendations for using meditation and mindfulness principles in everyday life and the workplace.  I put quotes for the book in parentheses where I thought explanation was needed

1. Don’t be a Jerk.

2. (And/But …) When Necessary, Hide the Zen.  (“Sometimes you need to compete aggressively…it’s possible to do this calmly and without making the whole thing overly personal.”)

3. Meditate.  (“Meditation is the superpower that makes all the other precepts possible.”)

4. The Price of Security is Insecurity — Until It’s Not Useful.  (“Mindfulness proved a great mental thresher for separating wheat from chaff, for figuring out when my worrying was worthwhile and when it was pointless. Vigilance, diligence, the setting of audacious goals— these are all the good parts of ‘insecurity.'”)

5. Equanimity is Not the Enemy of Creativity.

6. Don’t Force It.  (“It’s hard to open a jar when every muscle in your arm is tense.”)

7. Humility Prevents Humiliation.

8. Go Easy with the Internal Cattle Prod.  (You can get a lot further when you practice kindness and self-compassion than when you are beating yourself up all the time.)

9. Nonattachment to Results.  (This is HUGE!  Work hard – but understand that the results won’t always go your way, and that letting go of your attachment to outcomes makes life so much happier.)

10. What Matters Most?  (Listen to your inner voice.  It does not lie.)

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books + reading · meditation · mindfulness

#mind #soul

I’ve been reading How To Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh – a tiny, beautiful book of meditations on mindfulness.  (One of my Powell’s purchases!)41IZUZgUAmL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

There have been a lot of amazing passages so far.  Like this one: We human beings have lost confidence in the body just knowing what to do. If we have time alone with ourselves, we panic and try to do many different things. Mindful breathing helps us to relearn the art of resting. Mindful breathing is like a loving parent cradling a baby, saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of you; just rest.’

My favorite takeaway so far from How To Relax is this – my daily life, conducted with mindfulness, is a gift I give myself.  I can’t remember if this is a passage I read in the book or a realization I had while reading it; probably the former.

I haven’t been giving myself a daily gift of life conducted in mindfulness lately.  My mind has been crowded and scattered – all over the place.

mindful

I am hoping to go to a training on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction sometime in the near future.  I want to learn more about mindfulness as a psychological strategy and an academic concept.

But with the day-to-day of mindfulness – I know exactly what I need to do.  I need to focus on the present moment.  The challenge is actually doing it!

I can get very caught up in my head; it’s a big struggle for me to keep myself in the present moment.  I get stuck in the past or in the future rather than staying in the peacefulness of the now.

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Be more present – this was one of my resolutions for 2016.  And I think I’m doing okay with it – good, but not great.  One of my defaults when I’m stressed or overwhelmed is to rely on background noise – usually TV or a podcast – and I have been doing somewhat better with this habit o’ mine.

I find that when I’m doing something that forces me into the present moment – my evening walks with Tee, most of my work day, a doctor’s appointment – I can stay there and exist there happily.  However, when I have the option to multi-task, I usually take it.  (Right now, the fifth season of The Office is playing in the background as I type.)

My quest for mindfulness is ever-present.  Someday (hopefully!) I will be, too.