ARE YOU A STRONG DOMINO?

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Happy New Year, friends!

‘Tis the season for personal resolutions. For setting intentions for the purpose of bettering our lives in some way…. But, as time drifts further away from that fresh, new year energy—we might start feeling a nagging tug toward our “old,” pre-resolution ways.

I know I’m starting to feel that tug. Are you?…

This year, my partner, Kate, and I resolved to eat healthier. Specifically, we decided to give up sugar, cow dairy, and all grains, except quinoa for (at least) the next 40 days (if you’re curious about what it’s been like—you can check out Kate’s amazing blog detailing her experiences, here).

The reason Kate and I resolved to eat healthier is because we want to feel healthier. Sugar, in particular, isn’t good for our physical—or mental health. It gives us both mood swings and varying levels of anxiety. And, we’re nicer people to ourselves, to each other—and to the rest of the world—when we don’t eat it.

Now, I haven’t eaten sugar, cow dairy, or grains in over ten days. And, it’s been challenging…. But, having eliminated these foods from my diet, I feel much more clear-headed. And my anxiety levels have been, literally, non-existent. However…. I’m starting to get bored with the limited flavor profiles and textures of the foods I’m eating. I’m yearning for more variety. And I’ve been craving bread.

Like, big time.

I went to a baby shower this past weekend and, literally, salivated at the sea of homemade pupusas waving around in front of me. I had to physically block my mouth with my hand to keep myself from eating one of these things. Just look at this picture, people…

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I wanted to shove ten of these puppies into my mouth and then make a beeline for the layer cake.

But I didn’t.

Because I kept hearing this phrase in my mind that they say at my son’s school, “Be the strong domino…”

Like, “Remember the force, Luke….”

But different.

Being the strong domino is about standing in your power. It’s about going against the stream. And, I managed to stand tall within the current of pupusa eaters at that shower. Kate and I both managed to stand tall. We didn’t succumb to our old eating ways. We ate the raw nuts and salads that we brought from home. We were strong dominos. Jedi dominos. Powerful, against-the-stream-swimming dominos!

And, of course, people at the shower asked us why we weren’t eating what everyone else was eating… So, we shared our resolutions to eat healthier. Most of them said how they admired our resolve and revealed how they wanted to eat healthier, too—but that they just couldn’t manage to do it… How every time they went out with their friends to parties and restaurants and bars, the temptations were just too much for them.

All this got me thinking… Kate and I made the commitment to eat healthier for ourselves. But, would we like to see our friends eat healthier, too?… Absolutely. And, would the world be a kinder, gentler place if everyone universally stopped eating just one harmful food, like, say sugar?… Probably—although, not for the first few days because DANG those withdrawal symptoms can be heinous, people…

Beyond the benefits of sticking to our personal resolutions to eat healthier for ourselves—and based on the feedback from those around us at the shower—I started wondering if we also had a social responsibility to follow-through with our personal resolutions. Coincidentally (or not…), just a few days prior to the shower, I’d heard some information that lead me to believe the answer to that question might be a resounding, YES….

I mentioned in last month’s post that I recently got back from a month-long coworking program at a modern monastery in Northern Vermont (The Center for Mindful Learning or “CML”).

One of the monastics at CML named Daniel Thorson hosts a podcast entitled, Emerge, in which he talks with thought leaders about ways to build a more beautiful future. Daniel’s latest episode, “Planetary Transformation through Culture Design,” features a conversation with guest, Joe Brewer, who has a unique background in physics, math, philosophy, atmospheric science, complexity research, and cognitive linguistics. Basically, he’s super smart.

In the podcast, Joe says:

“These two men, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler did a longitudinal study in the United States in which they asked a group of people about their behaviors over a period of 40 years. But they also asked them questions about their peers. They basically built a very unusual data set. And what they found was that people were more likely to stop smoking if the people around them stopped smoking. They were more likely to have healthy diets if people around them had healthy diets.

And, as they looked across this data set, as well as others they conducted—they found that 80% of our behavior is basically imitation of our peers, of the people who are around us. So, if you want to change your behavior. You don’t go through this deep, internal, self-help process. You change who you’re around…

If you’re around a bunch of people who are negative and complain. You’re going to be prone to being negative and to complain. If you’re around a bunch of people who are couch potatoes, eat fast food and are obese. Then you’re likely to sit around, eat fast food, and be obese. Recognizing the fundamental unit is not the individual, but the social group—the best way to act out your intentions, is to change who you associate with […].

You don’t have to go to the extreme of joining a commune—although plenty of people are doing that. It can be much more informal than that. It could be… there’s this person who I hang around who’s kind of a jerk. Maybe they’re sexist. And I don’t like being around sexist people. I’m just going to stop hanging around them. In these little ways, we’re being culture designers. “

A lot was said there, yes? But what caught my attention were two things:

1) “80% of our behavior is basically imitation of the people’s behaviors who we’re around.”

And….

2) “If you want to change your behavior. You don’t go through this deep, internal, self-help process. You change who you’re around.”

Now, the first statement isn’t a new idea. But now there’s scientific evidence that proves it.

The second statement, however, caught my attention for another reason… Because, you might not know this about me—but I’m the type of person who goes through deep, internal self-help processes… In fact—I’ve pretty much devoted my life to these types of processes. And, I’ve not only seen significant results in my own life from committing to these processes—but I’ve also seen significant results in the lives of those around me because I’ve committed to these processes. I’ve witnessed the very effect of what Joe mentioned—that 80%—but from the standpoint that I’ve seen the changes I’ve made in my own life ripple outward to effect my immediate family and close friends. 

Case in point—a few years ago, I was the only person who meditated in my family regularly. Today, both Kate AND our 8 year old son meditate regularly, too.

I’m a strong domino. 😉

To me, all this points to Gandhi’s quote,“Be the change you want to see in the world. Because the change we’re being in OUR worlds effects 80% of the people we’re around—and that 80% continues to ripple out and out….

In the episode of Emerge that I mentioned, Joe talked about the insights of science relating to contemplative practices—and how they’re in a powerful marriage that’s greater than either of the parts are on their own.  So, I don’t think he meant to suggest deep, internal processes aren’t beneficial.

As I see it, there are actually two stages for creating success when we’re looking to foster sustainable change in both ourselves, and in society…. One nodding to the science of networks, as Joe mentioned. And the other nodding to the wisdom of contemplative practices.

1) Stop hanging out with the people who are displaying the behaviors we don’t want, and seek out friendships with those who are displaying the behaviors we do want to adopt. This helps us gain the strength needed to change our behaviors and create new ones.

And….

2) Once we have the strength to stand tall in our new behaviors, we must personally resolve to stay committed to our intention to continue these new behaviors. One way to help ourselves do this is by undertaking a dedicated deep, internal, practice—such as meditation and mindfulness. These practices help us to “be the strong domino” when we’re in challenging environments (like pupusa-laden baby showers, bars, etc.).

So, I say, YES, we have a social responsibility to follow through with our personal resolutions! Because science is now proving that our personal resolutions aren’t just about us, personally, anymore.

Be a strong domino.

And be the change YOU want to see in your world.

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Mindfulness is meant to be shared. Please join me and a growing number of like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. Share this post with your friends. Participate in The Mindfulness Diaries’ growing Facebook and Google+ communities. And share YOUR personal journey with mindfulness in the comments below.

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Back from the Monastery!…

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(the view from the dorm room I shared at CML – simply gorgeous…)

Greetings, Friends! I’ve just emerged from an amazing, month-long co-working program at a “modern monastery” in Vermont (The Center for Mindful Learning), where I both meditated and worked alongside some truly incredible humans… My time at CML was a one-of-a-kind experience, for which I’m incredibly grateful—and I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with you!

During my month at CML, I woke up at 4:10am almost every day, ate only two meals per day (the last of which ended around 2pm), logged approximately 150 hours of meditation, and upped my meditation practice to a whole new level.

Over the coming months, you’ll be hearing a range of stories about the things I’ve learned from my time at CML—everything from my own, inner struggles, growth and insights in my personal practice—to the heart-warming and heroic tales of the young monastics living at the monastery. You’ll also hear about the pioneering work that CML founder and guiding teacher, Soryu Forrall is doing to merge mindfulness with responsibility in our society. You’re in for a treat, indeed! :)

Invigorated and inspired by my time at CML, I’m also excited to kick-up my efforts to help facilitate more mindfulness in our communities. Sound appealing?… If so, keep an eye out for announcements about how to get involved with mindful community-building activities and opportunities (both virtually—and locally in the Los Angeles area).

Onward and upward (and inward)!
+ jennifer

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Mindfulness is meant to be shared. Please join me and a growing number of like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. Share this post with your friends. Participate in The Mindfulness Diaries’ growing Facebook and Google+ communities. And share YOUR personal journey with mindfulness in the comments below.

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Nourishing & Flourishing

 

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After my big “come to mindfulness moment” back in 2010, I recognized that I needed to take some serious action to extricate myself from the toxic behaviors/habits, people, and activities that were taking up way too much of my precious energy and time (most of which had been a large part of my life for decades). And, although this realization felt painfully scary at the time, I knew that, if I ever wanted to feel any true sense of contentment and wellbeing—it needed to be done.

Letting go of the toxic elements of my life was far from easy—in fact, there were moments where the process felt more painful than keeping them around… But, just like removing a splinter often hurts more than living with it—I knew the temporary pain I was feeling would eventually lead to healing. And, letting go of the pieces of my life that weren’t serving me would, eventually, make space for the things that would help me flourish.

As my mindfulness practice continues to expand, I find myself becoming more and more aware of what feels healthy and unhealthy. I’m far more drawn toward things/people/behaviors that nourish me. And, I’m far less inclined to let the toxic things/people/behaviors stick around for very long. Sure, “splinters” still happen… But I’m much quicker to pluck them now. I’m also much more resilient in recovering from them. :)

Like tending a garden, the process of tending to ourselves is ongoing. There will always be weeds that pop up and need to be pulled in order to allow enough space for the plants in our garden to grow. And, although the process might not always be fun, it’s essential if we ever want to flourish.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some flourishing in my life.

Join me?…

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Mindfulness is meant to be shared. Please join me and a growing number of like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. Share this post with your friends. Participate in The Mindfulness Diaries’ growing Facebook and Google+ communities. And share YOUR personal journey with mindfulness in the comments below.

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Managing Mental Habits

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Eckhart Tolle asks, “Can you look without the voice in your head commenting, drawing conclusions, comparing, or trying to figure something out?”

I don’t know about you, but most of the time I can’t.

That little voice in my head comments, draws conclusion, compares, and tries to figure out pretty much everything. ALL. THE. TIME.

It’s relentless.

It’s exhausting.

And (more often than not) it’s completely unnecessary

But I’ve come to see how commenting, drawing conclusions, comparing, and trying to figure things out are all just mental habits—processes that my mind puts into action (largely without my consciously thinking about them). And I’ve come to learn that I have the power to disengage from these mental habits, as long as I’m aware they’re happening. <—- that last part is key!

You might be asking, “how exactly do we do this?”… Good question!  Follow me here for a second, and I’ll explain…

With mindfulness meditation, we notice when a thought has arisen. Once we’ve noticed the thought, we can then, consciously, disengage from the thought and redirect our attention back to our meditation anchor point.

You with me so far?… :)

Well, interrupting a mental habit (like needlessly commenting, drawing conclusions, comparing, and trying to figure things out) is exactly the same process!

Noticing when we’re caught in the midst of a mental habit that’s not serving us gives us the ability to consciously let go of and “reset” the flow of our thoughts, creating a sense of mental spaciousness that then allows us to skillfully—not habitually—choose how we’d like to proceed.

Sure, it ain’t always easy. But, it’s possible!

For me, when I’m going about my daily life and find myself caught in a mental habit that’s causing me suffering to some extent—I pause, do my best to let go of whatever mental process is happening, and then gently guide my attention toward something more neutral that will help me recalibrate. Like the sensation of the breath in my body. Or maybe the subtle tingling in my feet.

It might take a few moments to successfully “reset” in these instances. But, as I practice becoming more aware of my mental habits, I can see how it’s becoming easier to break free from them whenever they do appear.

And, as I shared earlier—they appear often!

Why?… Because I live in a society that conditions me to think I “need” to comment, draw conclusions, compare and try to figure things out. ALL. THE. TIME. The media is over-saturated with folks who are constantly role-modeling these types of behaviors. And it makes sense that I might easily fall into this “main stream” of thought, getting swept away by the strength of its’ current, and believing this is the way I “need” to be behaving, as well.

But, my mindfulness practice has proven this isn’t actually the case. I have a choice!

It’s been said that the path of mindfulness flows “against the stream.” It takes a great deal of fortitude, persistence, and conviction to keep moving in a direction counter to most.  But, if enough folks start swimming in the opposite direction from the mainstream, and start becoming mindful of their mental habits, maybe the tides might turn someday…

What do you think?

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Mindfulness is meant to be shared. Please join me and a growing number of like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. Share this post with your friends. Participate in The Mindfulness Diaries’ growing Facebook and Google+ communities. And share YOUR personal journey with mindfulness in the comments below.

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Getting Lost

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My family and I recently returned from a road trip up to southern Oregon and back. And I’ve noticed I’ve been feeling somewhat lost ever since we got home.

For me “lost” feels angsty—an unquenchable, restless seeking. That feeling I get in-between destinations. That desire for something more significant to be here. Now.

But, perhaps I’m confusing “in-between” with “lost.” The visual markers of having “arrived” as I’ve defined them might not be visible. But that doesn’t mean I’m not getting anywhere.

Life is moving.

Life is always moving.

I’m starting to see these in-between moments as a continuous flow of mini-destinations, unto themselves—and I’m starting to trust that the more “significant” destinations will appear whenever they arrive…

Maybe getting lost every once and a while is key in helping me find my way.

Have you ever felt “lost” in your life? Did you find these times helped you find yourself in some way?… Please share your story in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

And, if you’re a fan of podcasts, I invite you to check out About Meditation’s OneMind podcast, where I recently had the pleasure of sharing stories and tips with host, Morgan Dix, about my own personal journey with mindfulness. Take a listen and let us know what you think!

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Mindfulness is meant to be shared. Please join me and a growing number of like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. Share this post with your friends. Participate in The Mindfulness Diaries’ growing Facebook and Google+ communities. And share YOUR personal journey with mindfulness in the comments below.

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Time to Reframe?…

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As a multi-disciplinary artist who’s constantly in one phase or another of the creative process, I’m used to the point at which fear rears it’s gnarly head and roars ferociously in my face. It tends to show up right before I’m about to share a new creation with someone outside my inner circle. And, in the past (prior to my regular mindfulness practice…) this more often than not would halt any further forward momentum. I’d either stop working on the particular project, or I’d end up sabotaging it in someway.

Thankfully, I’ve learned how to mindfully persevere through challenges and keep marching my projects forward. My meditation practice has helped me build the necessary “muscles” to sit through the soul quaking fears that arise—riding them out and letting them move through me without destroying my work or myself in the process. And I’ve made it through this phase in my creative process enough times now that I didn’t think it was possible it could stop me again.

But the second I start getting cocky and stop paying close attention—I always get knocked on my ass.

Which is exactly what happened a few weeks ago…

I was deep into preparations for my solo show debut in the Hollywood Fringe Festival – 10 days away from opening night, when the fear kicked in. But this time, it wasn’t just fear. It was soul-quaking, debilitating terror. Nightmares for a week straight—all about loss of control and not knowing how to get myself out of life-threateningly dangerous situations. I’d wake up with crippling anxiety every morning, petrified of a judging audience doing nothing but seeing my every mistake and ripping both me and my show to shreds. No matter what I did, I wasn’t able to shake my fear.

And then, I had a dream in which I was faced (once again…) with the eminent threat of death. In the dream, an omniscient voice said to me “you have the power to change the way you’re experiencing what’s happening that will change everything for you.” Still panicked, I shouted back to the voice, “But I don’t know HOW!…”

When I woke up, the voice stayed with me—its’ words resonating throughout my day. Maybe there’s a way I can shift my point of view and reframe the way I’ve been seeing this upcoming solo show performance…

Later that day, I was chatting with a dear friend and fellow mindfulness geek, and it occurred to me that, instead of seeing the audience as a group of critics out to judge and scrutinize every mistake I make—I could choose to see them as a benign group of supporters happily cheering me on and wishing me success, instead.

As soon as I saw the choice I had in the situation, something immediately opened up for me. I was able to connect to my role as a creator and reframe my experience from the point of view of sharing the gift of my story—a gift the audience wants to receive.

My fear then shifted to excitement and joy. And it happened in an instant.

From that point forward—my anxiety evaporated, the nightmares ceased, and I felt genuinely excited about sharing myself and my work with the world.

I then consciously chose to focus my attention on this excitement (that part was key). Sure, my mind darted back to the terror and fear every once in a while. But I was able to catch myself, let the fear move through me—and then bring my attention back to the joy and my intention of creating a positive relationship with the audience, instead.

Looking back on it now, I can see how what I did was simply apply a variation of the mindfulness meditation “technique” to my difficult situation—consciously disengaging from the challenging thought (or negative mindset, in this case…), letting the thought/mindset dissipate, and then redirecting my attention back to a more helpful anchor (the idea of giving the gift of my story to the audience).

The voice in my dream was right. I really do have the power to change my experiences. Now the real trick is remembering I have the power!… 😉

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Mindfulness is meant to be shared. Please join me and a growing number of other like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. Share this post with your friends. Participate in The Mindfulness Diaries’ growing Facebook and Google+ communities. And share YOUR personal journey with mindfulness in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

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The Hidden Power of Words (Why Being Aware of What We Say Is Important)

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On May 7th, my family conducted an experiment to see how words might physically effect our bodies. Our 7 year old son had recently started developing a habit of saying mean things to himself when feeling down – like, “I’m stupid.” And “I’m the worst.” My partner and I had been trying to get through to him that saying unkind things to ourselves (as well as to others) leaves a damaging impact. But, he just wasn’t “getting it.”

And then I remembered having seen the amazing results of a fascinating experiment Danielle LaPorte conducted with her family—where they talked smack to one half of an apple for a certain period of days, and loved up the other half. Admittedly, I felt somewhat skeptical about whether or not we could achieve the same results. But we decided to go ahead and give it a try.

To start the experiment, we took a fresh apple, cut it in half, and placed each half in a separate, airtight jar. We labeled one of the halves “Good Apple” and the other “Bad Apple,” and we left both sealed jars on a dark shelf in the corner of the kitchen.

Every day we said kind, loving, encouraging things to Good Apple—and mean, nasty, discouraging things to Bad Apple.

And 20 days later…

Bad Apple was rotten.

And Good Apple was still good enough to eat.

WOW, right?!

Sticks and stones might break bones, but words can definitely hurt…

We generally don’t see the negative results of our language choices manifested in overt, physical ways—so it can be challenging to be aware of their consequences (especially when they’re directed inward)… As a mindfulness geek—and someone with a loud inner-critic—I can’t help but wonder what type of damage we must be doing to ourselves when we fall into the unconscious habitual patterns of criticizing and berating ourselves regularly, instead of loving ourselves up.

After seeing the physical results of his negative words and energy revealed in this experiment, our son is finally starting to “get it.”

I hope we all do…

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Mindfulness is meant to be shared. Please join me and a growing number of other like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. Share this post with your friends. Participate in The Mindfulness Diaries’ growing Facebook and Google+ communities. And share YOUR personal journey with mindfulness in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

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Shifting My Relationship to Pain

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As you might already know from reading this blog (and my memoir…), managing intense pain of some sort—both physical and psychological—is a reoccurring theme in my mindfulness practice.  I generally manage pain to some degree daily. And, based on my past experiences, when I go on silent meditation retreats—I expect to find myself managing MUCH more.

But I recently came back from a 5 day retreat (with Trudy Goodman), and something felt different this time. Sure, pain showed up (both types I mentioned above). But my relationship to pain seems to be shifting.

Up until very recently, I never understood the saying “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” It didn’t make any sense to me because I always collapsed pain and suffering to mean the same thing. Any time pain showed up, my knee-jerk reactions was to do one or more of the following:

  • Clamp down and wallow in it because I needed to prove to myself (and others…) that I was tough
  • Resist it (this shouldn’t be happening!)
  • Avoid it altogether by distracting and/or numbing myself in some way (drinking, eating junk food, over-working, etc)

Spoiler alert! None of the above “coping methods” ever helped me alleviate pain in the long run… In fact, they only ever lead to MORE pain and discomfort on top of the original amount I was feeling.

In other words: my automatic reaction to pain was to make it worse by creating suffering on top of it.

But, as I mentioned earlier, something seems to be shifting. My meditation practice is helping me notice when I’m slipping into old, unhelpful patterns that cause suffering—and I’m learning how to mindfully manage pain when it arises. To hold space around it. To allow it to move through me and run its natural course with kindness and compassion—no matter how difficult that course might be…

In the container of my retreat experience, I was able to see how far my relationship to pain has evolved since I started practicing regularly back in 2010—the spotlight of my experience shining brightly on my forward progress along my path. It felt quite satisfying. Nourishing.

Healing.

What’s your relationship with pain? Do you have any mindfulness tips for managing pain? Share your comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

 

A Tip for Staying Grounded (From Sharon Salzberg)

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I recently had the pleasure of attending a half-day retreat with renown meditation teacher, Sharon Salzberg. Sharon is one of the foremothers of mindfulness meditation in the west (and I encourage you to explore her many books and offerings on mindfulness if positively moved to do so).

Anyway!… During the retreat, Sharon took questions from the practitioners in the audience. One woman stood up and talked about how living in the city was so challenging for her—that every time she goes out, she feels bombarded by the constant stream of energy and activity. It inevitably knocks her off-center, and she wanted to know if Sharon had any advice.

Sharon mentioned the importance of grounding ourselves in situations when we’re feeling off balance (especially important for those of us who are highly sensitive). And then she said something that I didn’t quite understand at the time, but it felt significant, so I wrote it down…

“When you’re feeling off balance, see if you can feel your feet from your feet.”

I’m a highly sensitive person and can find myself easily effected by external factors like crowded streets, bustling stores, etc… I’ve written here before about my challenges with getting out of my head and more into my body, so I found the phrase, “feel your feet from your feet” sticking with me throughout the rest of the day. I had a feeling the practice would be good for me—but I wasn’t quite sure what it meant… In search of some clarity, I approached Sharon after her closing words.

“I have a tendency to live so much in my head, and you said something earlier that caught my attention. ‘Feel your feet from your feet.’ It feels like this could be a helpful exercise for me… Can you expand on that instruction a bit?…”

Sharon went on to tell me how, when she was living in India and studying with Sayadaw U Pandita, she was, similarly, finding it challenging to stay connected with her body. She asked Sayadaw for help with this, and he simply asked her, “what did it feel like to drink your tea this morning?” Sharon tried to connect with her experience, but she couldn’t remember what it felt like.

“Okay,” Sayadaw said.  “Then go home and feel what it feels like to drink your tea.”

So the next morning, when Sharon was drinking her tea, she paid careful attention to her experience—the feeling of the warm, smooth mug in her hand, watching the steam evaporating from the surface of the liquid, the sweet smell of jasmine.

Then she went back to visit Sayadaw to report her experience.

Sayadew welcomed her, but when Sharon started to report what she’d felt when she drank her tea that morning, Sayadew interrupted her.

“Never mind that… What did washing your face feel like this morning?…”

Sharon smiled at me as she concluded her story. “I couldn’t answer because I hadn’t paid attention to the experience of washing my face. I was only focussing on the tea.”

And that’s when it clicked—I had the proverbial “aha” moment—but I wanted to make sure I was understanding her correctly…

“…Because Sayadaw was always asking you about a different experience than what you thought he was going to ask you, at some point you just started continuously checking in with your body throughout your day and started to become more aware of how ALL your experiences felt—not just what you thought about them… “

She nodded. So, I continued…

“And, what you’re saying is that if we do this regularly over time, this somatic form of gathering information through our senses starts connecting us more intimately with our experiences because we’re not filtering everything solely through our minds. And when we’re more connected to the actual experiences, as opposed to what our minds THINK about the experiences—when we’re feeling our feet FROM our feet—then we can more easily stay grounded in the experience of the moment and not get knocked off balance by what our minds might be THINKING about the experience.”

“Exactly…” She shook my hand with a smile as I thanked her and stepped aside. Feeling the pressure of the ground beneath my feet as I slowly walked back to my car in the crowded Santa Monica streets that day.

I’ve been working with this practice ever since. And, wow, has it made an impact.

Join me?…

Can you feel your feet from your feet? Do you have a tip or trick that’s helpful for connecting with your body to help you stay grounded? Share your experiences in the comments below—I’d love to hear from you!

Saying YES

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I was flipping through Jan Chosen Bays’ book, “How to Train a Wild Elephant and Other Adventures in Mindfulness,” the other morning, searching for inspiration to share with my Monday night meditation group. And the chapter titled, “Say Yes” jumped out at me.  As is often the case with most of the material I choose to share with the group, the title captured my attention because I probably need to be saying more of that word, myself, right now.

As I’ve shared here before, I seem to find myself continually feeling stuck these days—unable to fully expand and spread my wings. Something’s holding me back. And I’m starting to think it might have to do with the fact that I’ve been running a pattern of knee-jerk “No’s” whenever new opportunities (or new ways of being…) present themselves.

It reminds me of the cardinal rule in improv—in order to keep a scene alive, one must always respond with a form of “Yes, and…” Because, the moment “no” is uttered, all action stops. End of scene.

Looking back, I’m fairly certain my auto-No’s have been a reaction to having my boundaries repeatedly trampled on again and again while I was growing up. Somewhere down the line, I later learned how to overcompensate for not saying the word when I wanted to (or for not making sure it landed firmly with whomever I was aiming it toward). And I just automatically started saying “No” to pretty much everything new and/or unknown in a constant attempt to deflect and protect.

Jan Chozen Bays, explains it well…

“People who are stuck in aversion make major life decisions based not upon moving toward a positive goal but rather on moving away from something they perceive to be negative. They are reactive rather than proactive.”

Contemplating this, I get the vision of a ball in a pinball machine, frenetically pinging off everything it touches. NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! Until the ball, inevitably, falls into the little black hole.

End of game.

When I feel my internal pinball thwacking every which way, bouncing off everything with automatic “No’s”… Taking a mindful pause helps me to recalibrate, to find my balance and gather my energy so I can make a conscious choice whether or not I want to say “Yes” and move something forward—instead of just reactively ending all possibilities of forward momentum.

The image that comes to mind here is of those little plastic hand mazes—you know the ones that often show up as prizes in crackerjack boxes? “Solving” the puzzle entails making slow, incremental movements and making deliberate, mindful, moves forward, toward the end “goal.”

This latter, more deliberate way of “playing” in life feels a lot more sustainable at this point in my life—and way more conducive to fostering the expansion I’m ready to experience.

YES?…