Does Mindfulness Help?

(video 3:30m) If Mindfulness Meditation doesn’t take away the things that are bothering me, how does it help? How does noticing what’s bothering me benefit me? I already know how bothered I am! How is paying attention to it going to make things better?

Great questions! Glad you asked.

It does seems counter-intuitive to do something that not only doesn’t fix the bad things, it has you pay attention to them more! The difference is really about perspective or point of view… normally, when we’re realizing that we feel terrible, we’re in the middle of it. We’re believing the thoughts and emotions that we’re having and we think and feel as if they are our whole reality. We’ve forgotten that actually they’re just thoughts and emotions and that they come and go.

Mindfulness offers us another place to notice from, a place that we have access to at all times if we care to be in it – that part of us that is simply aware that we’re here doing what ever we’re doing (thinking and feeling). It’s simply to notice from that state of mind that is always here, available, that can notice what we’re thinking and feeling.

It’s so simple that it is easy to miss. You can access it right now by noticing where you are physically. Notice that you (in your body) are standing or sitting or lying down where ever you are. Notice that you are there and not say, in Paris (unless of course you are and then notice that you’re in Paris and not in London.) That part of you that just noticed that simple fact is the part we’re using in mindfulness.

If you start thinking or feeling things about the place that you’re in, say that you really like the temperature, there’s a part of you that can notice that you’re thinking. There’s a part that can say, “This is me having the thought that I like the temperature.” That’s it. That’s the part of you that we’re accessing. Super simple.

So how does accessing that part help? Well, imagine that you’re really upset about something. Your heart is racing, you’re breathing fast, you’re looking around for someone or something to yell at… you’re in the middle of emotion. What if you could in that moment access that part of you that can say, “Hey, this is me feeling really upset. Wow. This is big! I’m REALLY upset!”

Right in that moment, you have just given yourself a tiny bit of room from the emotion. You’re still feeling it and you’re also aware that it’s not your whole reality. Suddenly, you have choices. “Hm. I wonder what I want to do with this feeling? Do I want to yell at the person in front of me? Or do I want to let them know I’m super upset and need to go outside and vent for a few minutes?”

See how that works?

Yes, it takes practice and commitment to keep practicing, and if you like it it can change your life. In the beginning you might just get to watch yourself yell at the person, which is pretty painful. “Wow, this is me yelling at this person and being a complete jerk. Ouch.” And slowly, we get better and better at being in the mindful place even during stress, and our ability to choose what to do (vs just yelling) gets stronger and stronger.

Enjoy being mindful.

(p.s. If you’re interested, practicing this state actually causes measurable changes in the brain according to studies. Psychologists call it “self-regulation” and neurologists have found that the related part of the brain grows in size. Look for Dr Sara Lazar’s studies on my Links page.)

3 Minute Yoga: Back and Knee Flexibility

(video 2:45) We also worked on back and knee flexibility.

Here are a few quick yoga exercises that you can do to regain flexibility in your back and knees.

Here is how I see these exercises working best for your body: If you have back or knee issues, for each movement only bend or stretch as far as feels good. If you do these exercises with out straining yourself (stopping your bend or stretch BEFORE it hurts) you will allow your body (muscles and joints) to relax and loosen. You will find that as we repeat each exercise you will naturally be able to bend or stretch a tiny bit more each time, eventually regaining your natural flexibility in that area. Celebrate each centimeter of improved flexibility!

If instead you push your body into the pain zone as you do these movements, your muscles will tense up to protect your body. You will not relax or loosen, and you will not regain flexibility. You will remain stiff. At best you will keep your injuries in place and at worst you could injure yourself more.

Of course, you may not agree with me, and you are welcome to use these exercises in the way is best for you. Whatever you do, enjoy being bendy!

 

Sun Saltuation de L’ile de Re

(video 3:46min) And now for something different…

This summer, I had the pleasure of sharing yoga with several lovely humans new to it. Over the course of the week, we slowly built up to doing a Sun Salutation…  and here it is.

Note on breathing: There are many, many schools of thought in yoga on how to breathe. For me, the most important part is that you connect your breathing with your movements, meaning that you time your movements to your breath. Whether you’re breathing in or out during a certain movement isn’t as important as that the movement starts when your breath starts. As you begin to breathe in (or out) you begin a movement. Then as you begin to breathe out (or in) you begin the next movement.

Enjoy breathing as you move! 🙂

Savoring Summer

Summer is filled with wonderful moments! Time with our family, our friends, our favorite past-times.

How can we make these moments last? Easy! Take a deep breath and let it all in. Take a moment to notice all of your senses… what can you feel, hear, see, smell and taste? Breathe in the richness of the moment and let it sink in.

Body Strength Challenge 3 (Plank)

(video 55sec) Here is the third body strength exercise that Personal Trainer, Joey Hunter, challenged me with. She asked me how long can I hold 3 simple exercises & what goes through my mind as I do them?

I decided to see what would happen if I did each exercise a second time while practicing mindfulness. Would it change my experience? Would I be able to hold it longer?

Above is the third exercise, a plank, done ‘normally’ and while voicing my stream if conscious.

Below is me doing it mindfully! (video 1:16min)

Try this yourself! On your hands and the balls of your feet, hold your body as straight as you can and  and see how long you can hold it. Then do it while practicing mindfulness meditation and see if you can hold it longer.

Body Strength Challenge 2 (Wall Squat)

(video 49sec) Here is the second body strength exercise that Personal Trainer, Joey Hunter, gave me. She asked me how long can I hold a few simple exercises & what goes through my mind as I do them?

I decided to see what would happen if I did each exercise a second time while practicing mindfulness. Would it change my experience? Would I be able to hold it longer?

Above is the first exercise, a wall squat, done ‘normally’ and while voicing my stream if conscious.

Below is me doing it mindfully! (video 2:04min)

Try this yourself! Put your back against a wall, thighs parallel to the ground and see how long you can hold it. Then do it while practicing mindfulness meditation and see if you can hold it longer.

Body Strength Challenge 1 (Static Arm Hold)

(video 2:38min) Personal Trainer, Joey Hunter, gave me some body strength challenges: how long can I hold a few simple exercises & what goes through my mind as I do them?

I decided to see what would happen if I did the exercise a second time while practicing mindfulness. Would it change my experience? Would I be able to hold it longer?

Above is the first exercise, a static arm hold, done ‘normally’ and while voicing my stream if conscious.

Below is me doing it mindfully! (video 3:57min)

Try this yourself! Hold a water bottle at arms length & time how long you can hold it. Then do it while practicing mindfulness meditation and see if you can hold it longer.

Why is it important to practice mindfulness regularly?

(video: 5:31 min) Does mindfulness ever become permanent? Will I ever be mindful all the time with out having to practice it regularly?

Well yes. And no.
Yes in that you can reach a stage where mindfulness is something you’re doing all of the time, as a behavior, a habit or an state of being.

And no in that until it becomes an ingrained habit, you need to keep reinforcing the behavior by practicing it!

Why? Because your brain learns and changes based on your behaviors. What you do today is changing your brain. You’re either creating & maintaining neurological structures for mindfulness today or you’re creating structures for something else.

Thanks to Dr Lara Boyd on TEDxVancouver for making the relationship between our daily behaviors and our brain so clear.

Help! Can’t Concentrate!

(video: 2:49min) Every 3 months or so I drink a cup of coffee (love the bitter + sweet!)… and then remember why I don’t do it often! I get super jittery, my mind goes 3-million miles an hour and I can’t concentrate! Yikes!

Yesterday, I had this experience while working at a coffee shop, and after struggling for a while I stopped and practiced mindfulness for a few minutes.

Whew! That 3-minutes saved my day! After that I could focus again. I was really thankful to have that tool handy.

Next time you can’t concentrate, take 3-minutes to practice, and see if it helps!

What to Do When You Feel Bad

(video: 9:44) Confused? Angry? Guilty? Sad? Depressed? Anxious?Overwhelmed? …?

What to do?
Mindfulness gives us a great tool: notice how you feel. Feel it. Observe it from the inside – feel how it feels to feel what you are feeling. What does it feel like to feel confused right now? What does it feel like to feel angry right now? Ask and feel and remember the whole time that you are asking the question, that you are exploring, that a part of you is doing the noticing, the observing, the exploring and taking notes.

This is incredibly powerful because it allows us to feel what we’re feeling and learn from it at the same time.

Maybe all we learn is what it feels like to feel confused. Already this is a million times better than being lost in confusion, where confusion is our entire experience & we can’t gain from it because we’re drowimg in it.

Bringing in the noticing is like popping our heads out of the water. Suddenly we have a bit of breathing room. We’re not drowning anymore. We can look down and see that we’re up to our neck in confusion. We have a whole new perspective on the situation. We can see that we’re in it versus being overwhelmed by it.

And then what?… You’re welcome to watch the video for my recent experiences with the next steps.