Archives: Mindfulness Tips

Saying YES

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 11.09.50 AM

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?…

 

Mindful Living Challenge: Leave No Trace

Mindful_Living5

Mindfulness isn’t just about sitting down to meditate every day—it’s about bringing the practice into our daily lives… And, if you’re looking for some fun ways to do this, I highly recommend checking out, How to Train a Wild Elephant by Jan Chozen Bays, MD.

Bays presents 52 practical mindfulness exercises (one for each week). And each exercise includes tips on how to remind yourself to do it, as well as deeper life lessons connected to it. Regardless of how long you’ve been practicing, it’s a great book for any mindfulness enthusiast to have handy.

Over the past month or so, I’ve been posting “Mindful Living Challenges” based on Bays’ exercises over on The Mindfulness Diaries Facebook page as well as in our Google+ Community. And this week, I’m posting “Leave No Trace.”

If you feel positively moved to do so, give the exercise a try and see what comes up for you—and maybe even share your experiences/observations with “The Mindfulness Diaries” social media communities…We’d love to hear from you!

Personal Space

space

I’ve been thinking about the concept of “personal space” lately… How it’s not just a physical thing—how we can also experience personal space in an emotional and mental way, too…. I’ve come to realize how important it is to my well being that I get hefty doses of all three varieties. When I’m getting “enough personal space,” I feel comfortable and at ease.

And when I don’t get enough of it—I feel edgy. Suffocated. Compressed. Panicky.

I’m a tall woman (6’0 to be precise). So, I’ve always been acutely aware of my personal space in the physical sense—especially not having enough of it….My pants and shirts are often too short, and the beds I sleep in—never long enough; cars rarely have enough leg room for me; tables are often too short to cross my legs underneath…. And the list goes on.

I grew up in the middle of the woods in rural NH, where I played in the vast expanse of woods behind our house. I had ample personal space back then….I could run around in every direction—with nothing but birch and pine trees in my path. The forest was dense. But it felt like an endless expanse. I never felt constricted.

Inside my home was another story, though… Sure, the house I lived in with my mom and dad was amply sized…. But, a palace wouldn’t have provided enough space for me to comfortably sit with the tension that hung between my parents most days. Looking back on it now, it’s no wonder I spent most of my time outside in those woods.

When I left home for college, I ended up in NYC, where I continued to live for the next 16 years. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I’d inadvertently swapped one sensorially claustrophobic environment for another—this one bombarding me from the outside.

Around the 14 year mark of living in that city, I remember thinking to myself…

I’m a ball of anxiety—neurotic beyond belief. But, I don’t think this is who I am at my core. I don’t think this is ME

I saw how I’d become a product of my environment. The city became a part of me because I never gave myself any space from it, and my nervous system just couldn’t take it any longer. I needed to be somewhere where I didn’t hear, see, smell, touch—or sense anyone else. I needed “personal space.” In every sense of the word.

So I moved to Los Angeles.

Yes, I’m aware this might not seem like the anecdote to sensory overload. But LA seemed like the equivalent of moving back to “the country” at the time.

Reflecting on it now, it makes perfect sense that mindfulness would end up resonating so loudly with me. One of the core elements of the practice is about intentionally creating (and gently holding) emotional and mental space for ourselves.

When I sit down to meditate every day, I’m giving myself the amount of space I need to “be.”

When I sit down to meditate, I’m giving myself the personal space I need to be ME.

(image from http://www.toonpool.com)

What is Mindfulness?….

Wake Up

Mindfulness isn’t….eating an entire pizza and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s because you’re feeling bad about yourself.

Mindfulness isn’t….drinking a glass or two of wine and smoking a few hits of weed just to help you “take the edge off.” Every. Day.

Mindfulness isn’t….verbally beating yourself up for everything you do “wrong.”

Mindfulness isn’t….passive-aggressively beating everyone else up for what they do “wrong.”

Mindfulness isn’t….staying in a toxic relationship because you’re too afraid to be alone.

Mindfulness isn’t….stuffing your feelings while your mother’s dying of cancer—and then continuing to numb and ignore them for the next ten years because you have no idea how to let yourself feel.

What is mindfulness?…

MINDFULNESS IS WHEN YOU WAKE UP ONE DAY AND REALIZE, IF YOU DON’T START PAYING MORE ATTENTION TO YOUR LIFE—REALLY START BEING MORE PRESENT FOR IT….THEN YOU’RE PROBABLY NOT GOING TO HAVE IT FOR MUCH LONGER.