Our youth is starving for some HOPE, we owe it to them to deliver.

We are all energy; we are all connected…

When we cast our negative energy into the world, it causes a ripple that effects everyone who sees/reads it, they absorb it; if they are in a relatively good space from an energy or mental well-being standpoint, it may not have any immediate effect. However, BE AWARE that the negative energy in your “tiny rant” of opposition, hate, racism, blaming, bashing, accusing, etc… may be the one bit of energy that tips the scales for one individual. It may cause them to go into a downward spiral that they can’t stop, they may hurt themselves or others because of it, if nothing else, they will most likely continue to spread more negative energy into the world. And so it goes…

Of course we all want to find a particular person or thing to blame for things we don’t like, but that’s because we want to believe we can control it. The truth is, we can only control what we take responsibility for, once you give responsibility away, you have given away your control.

So the good news is…we are all responsible for the state of our nation today. Every single one of us. We are either trying to solve the problem or we’re making it worse, but everyone has an effect, there is no neutral.  See, THERE IS NO US AND THEM, there is only US, and we effect each other, intentionally and unintentionally.  The unintentional effect is collateral damage, but guess what? It hurts the same regardless of the intent. Pain doesn’t care if you meant it or not.

Every time we post, snap, protest or whatever it is we do to communicate these days, we have a choice. We can add to the swirling sea of hate, opposition, division, fighting, accusing, blaming, etc.. the negative energy that is obviously swallowing up our youth, or we can JUST STOP.

We can stop and think before we “post”. How do I feel about what I am posting? Does it make me smile inside (positive energy) or does it cause me that burning, shoulder raising feeling (negative energy)? If it doesn’t make you smile, think again…do you really need to post it? Are you solving any problems by doing so or are you just adding your sticks to the fire of negativity that is already incinerating all hope? What is your goal? What are you trying to achieve? And then ask yourself, what are you actually achieving? Is your post really going to do anything besides maybe make you feel better about yourself in some way? And at what cost?  Any chance your words may upset someone? Was that the goal? Did that help the actual problem you claim to be trying to solve?

When is the last time you got someone to listen to you by “yelling” at them or telling them why or how they were wrong? When is the last time that worked on you? Can you get your point across in a way that isn’t negative? Can we realize that we are all trying our best to do what we believe is right and just talk to each other?

What if, at a minimum, we all pledged to put out at least as much positive energy into the internet as we do negative? What if for every post that spews hate, racism, division, fighting, accusing, blame, gloom etc… we posted one that spreads love, connection, peace, helping, congratulating, responsibility, gratitude and/or joy? And if that seems like too much of a challenge, WHY?  

We are without a doubt living in the greatest nation in the world, yet no other nation finds more to complain about…You find what you’re looking for. Focus on the positive and you will help change the world. Ultimately, we ARE what we DO on a regular basis…

What if we pledge to start seeking out and spreading the positive for our youth? What if we go out of our way to give them hope? What if we start now…what have we got to lose?

TIP: If you can’t post it with a heartfelt smile, reconsider. 🙂

 

Life is merely a collection of moments, strung together in chronological order. Imagine if you could find a tool that allowed you to get just a little more out of each moment…how much more that could mean for your life?

Recently, I was on a retreat.  One morning we had the opportunity to attend a guided meditation in a beautiful Sanctuary. After the session, I strolled down to an area called “Serenity”, where a bench overlooks a beautiful little pond filled with lotus blossoms preparing to bloom for the day. As I sat quietly, an older woman came by and asked if I minded if she shared the space with me. I happily moved over and we both sat, in silence, staring out over the pond.

Suddenly she exclaimed, “I just don’t really get meditation”. I asked if she had just been in the sanctuary to which she replied, “yes, I keep hearing all about meditation and I’m trying really hard…but I don’t think I really get what it’s supposed to do for me or my life”. I smiled and said that it was probably one of those things that she would realize as soon as she stopped “trying”. The two of us remained sitting in silence, looking over the pond and enjoying the warm morning sun on our faces.

After several minutes, a turtle came right to the edge of the pond and peeked his head out, as if to ask what we were doing at his pond. The woman laughed and said, “I didn’t know there was anything in this pond but the lotus”.  As we sat quietly a large catfish began to swim out from under the floating flowers, followed by several large coy fish in varying colors. Before we could finish admiring them a school of smaller fish hurried by, as if to see what was going on. It wasn’t long before a large frog began to sing his song from the far bank as three stunning little hummingbirds seemed to float right in front of us. It was absolutely beautiful, almost like being in a fairy tale. The butterflies flew from one blooming Lotus to another and the dragonflies seemed to be playing tag along the top of the water. A brightly colored mallard duck came waddling down from behind the yellow blooming cactus plants and casually plopped himself into the water as his mate remained behind in the shade. The lone turtle was soon joined by two friends and they began to sun themselves on the rocks protruding out of the water. None of the wildlife seemed to either notice or have any concern for our presence.

As we sat there admiring each new arrival, the woman looked out over the pond, let out a big exhale and exclaimed, “It’s really amazing…the longer you just sit here quietly, the more you become aware of.”  I took in her words and smiled. As I turned to her, I put my hand on her knee and said, “What a beautiful metaphor for how meditation enables you to live a more fulfilling life”. She sat silent for a bit, turned toward the pond, admired all of our friends, and suddenly began to laugh. “I get it” she said, “I have sat at this pond so many times this week but each time I have either been chatting with my husband, looking at my emails or figuring out which class to go to next. I have never actually taken the time to just be here.”  She said she was “grateful to the universe” for putting me at the bench to help her stop, be there, and notice all that she had been missing. With that, I thanked her for her beautiful metaphor and for helping reinforce my feeling of connection, the thing we all strive for most.

As I stood up to leave, she explained that she was going to stay at the bench a while and enjoy all that she had been missing. She marveled as to how all of the wildlife seemed to be appearing out of nowhere yet it had been there, right in front of her, the whole time. She realized that it was the first time all week that she had sat on that bench for the purpose of being on that bench. Before now, it was just a place to sit while she did something else. Being there this time, with no other focus, she was able to make space in her mind to allow for new awareness’s to be received. Instead of cluttering her mind with thoughts about the past or the future (what she just did or needed to do), she allowed herself to truly experience the moment, the “now”. She was emotionally present and we both felt a greater sense of fulfillment as we parted.

“Meditation is the process whereby we gain control over the mind and guide it in a more virtuous direction. Meditation may be thought of as a technique by which we diminish the force of old thought habits and develop new ones”. –Dalai Lama

Meditation is the tool that empowers you to stay emotionally present in the moment. Doing so helps you get off auto-pilot and become an active participant in your life. Ultimately, this is the easiest and most assured way to live your Best Life.

There are as many different ways to meditate as there are people, there is no “right way”, just a way that is right for you. If you are brand new to the concept, guided meditations are available all over the internet, start with one, see what you like, what you don’t, and keep trying until you find what works for you. There is sitting meditation, standing, walking, laying down, etc.…, this is your one life and once you discover the benefits of taking 5 minutes a day, you’ll wish you hadn’t waited another second. Start where you are, start now, and don’t stop until you find what works for you. Enjoy your search, it is the journey that provides us with what we need to succeed when we reach our destination.   –Namaste

 

That’s true. Life isn’t fair, it just is… that’s why when a tiny fawn finally makes it to a drinking hole, after no water for days, only to meet up with a starving lion…it’s not a matter of fair, it’s just life.

Fair is something we make up depending on our perspective, the particular situation, and our history. For example, if you are the tiny fawn, this scenario seems extremely unfair and maybe even wrong. However, if you are the lion, this same scenario is an incredible stroke of luck, maybe even a blessing.

So…the good news is…if fair is just an illusion we make up in our minds, by decorating a set of circumstances with a collection of colorful thoughts, then if what we are imagining doesn’t make us happy… if it makes us upset, angry, resentful, etc.…then we have the power to change it!

Sounds simple right? It actually is.  We only make it difficult because it’s unusual or new.  It requires leaving what we know, doing something very different, breaking a habit

This very act physiologically activates the reptile portion of our brain (“flight, fight, and freeze”).   It’s not your fault that leaving the comfort zone doesn’t come naturally, it actually doesn’t. Staying with what has kept us alive to this point, good/bad or otherwise, is what our survival instinct will automatically strive to maintain.

But are we really talking about “survival” most of the time? No…WE know that, but the physiological parts of our incredible brain do not. It’s our own built in computer, but we have to program it, or at least update the existing program. Our brain can only do or know what is input into it, through awareness, experience, intentional education, etc.… If we don’t consciously enter new information and/or challenge and change what is there, our brains are wired to simply run on the old programming, automatically. To change how you feel about “things”, you have to change your “programming”, and it has to be intentional.

Your attitude about your life really IS your choice.  You don’t have to be pissed off every time things don’t go as you had hoped, upset when you’re expectations aren’t met, hold grudges, etc.… You can choose to accept what is, without judgment; deal with it, maybe even look for the lesson and learn from it. Either way, it’s always your choice, no matter how many excuses you give yourself. 

No- it’s not easy, no -it’s not quick, and no -it’s not all sunshine and rainbows all the time, but it IS your one life and WHATS THE ALTERNATIVE? Why wouldn’t you continue to try? THERE IS NO FINISH LINE…it’s NEVER too late…Life is a process. And every second of every minute of every day…you have a choice: You can live on auto-pilot or take back control of your own mind.

“You can control your thoughts or your thoughts will control you” -unknown

Life really is what you make it: if you find yourself in a situation that makes you…not happy, try taking all of the emotions, thoughts and/or judgement away for a moment before you react or decide how you feel. Look at the facts, just what IS, not what you or others thought it should have been, what you expected or wanted it to be etc… and then, see if you can figure out how to take the next small step to move forward instead of getting sidetracked by discouraging thoughts…

At the end of the day, we all just want to be happy. Everything “thing” we desire to have or do is really just a means to the same end; we think it will make us happy. Fortunately, Life is more about your attitude than anything else and you are in charge of that. Blaming others only gives your power away. Take responsibility and take back control.

Change your attitude and watch your whole life change too. There is no such thing as FAIR or UNFAIR, it just IS, and it IS your LIFE!

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What is Hero Support?

Hero Support is a term I use to describe a certain personality or role that some people have/assume in life, or some period of time. Some people are Heroes, some are Hero Support. I think it’s OK, even great, to be “Hero Support”. They are the “wind beneath my wings” that Bette Midler sings about in her song of the same title; a different type of Hero. It’s an important position and one that is an intricate and necessary part of life.

Not everyone wants the spotlight, hero support provides an opportunity for introverts to contribute, feel important/necessary, make a significant impact etc… without taking center stage, or even any of the stage. When I think of “Hero Support” I think of; the 1st lady, vice president, right hand man, the “woman behind the man”, wife, mother, nurse, administrative assistant, etc.… the people who make it possible for someone else to be the more stereotypical “hero”.  They provide the essential foundation upon which others can build a beautiful home.

Everyone is different, and that’s how it’s supposed to be; it’s what makes us all necessary. Its proof that we were meant to work together, it’s why we crave/need connection.  My mom used to say, “If we were all the same there wouldn’t be horse races”, and she loved the races.

Recently, I began thinking about why sometimes being Hero Support can be so fulfilling and yet, other times, so draining. Sometimes it brings joy and yet, other times, there is resentment. It occurred to me that the difference is the motivation driving the support at the particular moment. When you are motivated by your heart, supporting others makes you feel energized and alive, it adds richness to your life. It is a way of honoring an inner need to help others, to contribute. When support is motivated by a sense of obligation, or putting others needs before your own, it often makes you feel lacking, depleted, even insignificant. I believe many Hero Support are motivated by both of these things at different times of their lives, maybe even different times in the same day.

What Motivates You?

Supporting others can be a strength or a comfort, depending on its motivation. By strength I mean, it’s what feeds your sense of purpose. By comfort I’m referring to a habit created by a desire to remain either invisible/out of the spotlight, or sometimes loved and accepted; this habit can ultimately deprive the world of You, while depriving You of Your Best Life. 

I also believe that when the strength is not accompanied by solid/clear boundaries, the lines become blurred and Hero Support can begin to become an “Identity”, ie. an obligation as opposed to simply ‘actions that fulfill a greater purpose’. Over the years, I have noticed a pattern…

Hero Support, when motivated from the place of comfort/habit, or strength without boundaries, begin to define themselves, or become defined by others, as the ones who have it all together, they’ve got it “under control”. From the outside, Hero Support seem to have the perfect life and things come easy. You appear to have been “blessed” with many gifts that many struggle for.  After a while, you tend to pride yourself on these attributes and strive to make sure that the image is true, or at least perceived to be true. Sometimes, if you fake something long enough, you forget what’s real and what isn’t. This role provides a sense of purpose, pride, and even value/worthiness. Its makes you feel needed or important, it’s where you “fit” and/or why you matter. It somehow satisfies the innate need for connection.

I’ve also noticed that Hero Support’s “problems” are often perceived (by themselves and others) as not as big, real, important, etc.…as someone else’s. Hero Support tend to go out of your way to not “burden” others, you tend to downplay problems because “you got this”.  As a result, your “problems” are less obvious or more hidden/controlled. This can give the impression that you don’t still hurt the way others do. As if you can handle anything and don’t need or maybe even want support.  Perhaps it’s because others need Hero Support to be “strong”, and Hero Support wants to comply.

We All Need Support:

Regardless, we all need to be allowed to need support, we need to allow ourselves to be supported. A small cut on your own finger will always hurt you more than a leg being amputated from someone else; that’s just reality and it’s OK to feel your own pain. You really don’t have control over that, it’s simply how you are physiologically wired.

I believe hero support people go through life learning all sorts of protection from vulnerability, so you “don’t get hurt”.  You understand that others don’t plan to hurt you, your pain is only collateral damage and shouldn’t be taken personally…most of the time you are hurt by inconsiderate acts, not malicious intent.  No one intentionally hurt you, they just didn’t even take your feelings into consideration.  It doesn’t make it hurt less…

So you learn to build protective armor, you use: busyness, independence, productivity, perfectionism, being incredibly organized, clean, helpful, accommodating, or using drugs, alcohol, sex…the list goes on. But every once in a while there’s a crack in your armor and when the light gets in, it stings. At that point, you either reinforce your armor, while yelling at yourself for being pathetic, weak, needy, etc.…, or you realize that, it’s not the stinging that hurts anymore, it’s the fact that you don’t have the time or space to allow for it. In a strange way, you don’t mind the sting because you welcome the fact that you “feel” it.

Suddenly, you’re no longer afraid of “being hurt” by others; you’ve helped enough others through difficult times to truly understand that it’s simply part of life, for everyone. You’ve had enough life experience to cushion the often careless blows and put them into perspective. You understand that there is a flip side to all emotions. But now you’re faced with the fact that when Hero Support shows up sad, hurt or weak, it causes a problem; Hero Support can’t do their job if they are not “emotionally stable”.

Hero Support’s entire identity and/or purpose is put into jeopardy if they lose their cool or ability to handle their own mess. After all, from all appearances, you really have nothing to complain about. You are “the rock” and rocks that are used to hold things up are not very useful if they become soft. Hero Support doesn’t like to make others feel uncomfortable or waste their time, that’s not what support looks like. If you’re not “on” it makes those you support uncomfortable and wastes their time; or so it seems. Hero Support has become The Pleaser, your job is to make sure everyone is happy. Hero support is not comfortable in the “needing support” role, but who is comfortable in a role they don’t practice?

Who Supports You?

Does anyone support you the way you support others? Who empathizes and makes you feel emotionally secure and/or significant?

Sometimes it’s not until you are ready to accept help that you suddenly realize that you’ve spent so much time, and taken so much pride in, being there for others that you never let anyone be there for you. So now, instead of being scared of being hurt, now you just don’t want to face the hurt of having no one to support you. How can you have spent your whole life caring so much for so many and yet feel so alone? How does that happen? What does that mean? How did you get into this situation and, more importantly, how can you get out?

How comfortable are you with giving support? And receiving it? Can you take a compliment? Do you share your stories?

How do you feel about those you support? Wouldn’t it be OK to let others feel that way about supporting you? What if you were to think of allowing others to support you as a gift to them? Do you know that you ARE worthy of it? Do you know that you need it? We all do.

What would you do for a friend like you? When will you start? Sometimes it helps to think of it this way…if you don’t take care of you, who’s going to take care of your heroes? Remember…you can’t pour lemonade from an empty pitcher. Your feelings matter .

Hero Support people need support too. It’s OK to be strong for others and also, periodically, need/accept others being strong for you Nothing in nature thrives alone, nothing. The only time you ever see a tree in a field by itself is when some other/external force has taken the others away. In time, if that space is left untouched, either that single tree will die or others will grow around it. The strongest, healthiest forests are the fullest because of symbiotic relationships.

The healthiest bodies of water run two ways, spring/streams/rivers fill them and they in turn feed other springs/streams/rivers; the unhealthiest only run one (i.e. the Dead Sea in Israel). I believe that relationships are the same, everyone needs a place to give and a place to receive, either one without the other isn’t healthy long term and, ultimately, can’t thrive. Connection is a two-way street.

Are You Hero Support?

How many people know your favorite color, place to visit or even your dreams? Do you know theirs? Are you perceived as pretty much having it all together…not really “needing” anything?

Is it natural to want to do whatever you can for others; do they seem to come to you, open up and “know” that you will be there for them? Do you genuinely love to listen to and help others? Does it give you a sense of purpose?

How many “heroes” do you support? When did you take on this role? Is it still serving you? As a strength or a comfort? If it’s a strength, how are your boundaries? Do you know about personal boundaries?

What do you do to replenish yourself so that you can continue to be Hero Support from a place of strength?

When is the last time you let anyone see you cry? Do you still cry?  How about the last time you allowed someone to comfort you, to let you know they were there or just listen to what was going on in your head? How would it feel to be the Hero in your own life and ask for support?

I think Hero Support is an amazing and commendable character trait that is fundamental to any thriving community. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t occasionally need support too, you’re still human. One important key for Hero Support is having someone to share with, something I’ll be writing about next…

If any of this sounds familiar, or a topic you’d be interested in delving into deeper, contact me and let’s keep the conversation going.

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We are only ever as great or small as we allow ourselves to be.

I think, deep inside, we all know that this is true but, for some reason, we allow others so much input into who we become, even though we are the only ones who are actually there for the whole show. So, if we are like actors in this play called “life”, who is your director? Who is writing your story line… the next scene… the ending?

Who is in the audience? Are they friends- family- colleagues or strangers?  Are you trying to impress them or are they there to support and encourage you no matter what? Will they stay for the next scene or will it depend on your performance? Which of them do you expect to be there when the curtains are closing and who is there helping you “backstage”?

What role are you playing?  Was it your first choice or the one you thought you were most capable of? Was it handed to you, or did you have to work hard for it? And now….? What do you think about this role? Will/Does it allow you to live up to your full potential?  Do you feel like you are BEING ALL YOU CAN BE or is there something more?

How do you feel about it?  Are you happy or satisfied?  Enough to spend the rest of your life playing it?  What have you learned? Is this role what you thought it would be? Does the “costume” still fit or have you outgrown it? Has it become even more comfortable, tight and restricting, or way too big?  Is there a new and/or different role you’d like to try before it’s too late?

If you’re stuck in a role or a story line that doesn’t provide you with happiness or life satisfaction, why are you still there? What value are you getting from, or trading for, continuing? Is that value worth your sense of fulfillment from life? Does it make you grateful to be alive? Are you, generally speaking, excited to get up each morning? If so, great, you’re probably right where you belong, but if not… don’t let a few bad scenes determine the entire play. Be bold enough to stand up for yourself and make a change… We will never make everyone happy, but imagine if we all took responsibility for making ourselves happy? I believe the people in our lives that truly love us would rather have us happy in a new role than simply getting through each day in the wrong role. After all, if they spend any significant time around us, my guess is that they too will reap the benefits.

One day your role in this “play” will end; is there anything you can do now to help ensure that you can answer all those questions the way you want to when that time comes?

Remember when you were young and you imagined what/who you would be when you “grew up”? How you would feel?  Are you there? On your way? If not, what’s stopping you?  What’s the worst that could happen if you tried?  Are you sure?  Is that fact or something your mind is making up to keep you in the “comfort zone”? How much time have you spent exploring the edges?  Either way, is it worth it?  Can you deal with, even overcome, whatever that “worst” may be? Is it any harder than getting to the end of  the show and realizing you did nothing?  What are you hoping for and how do you foresee that happening? 

What if it’s as simple as changing the way you look at your life rather than actually changing anything in your life? Maybe all you need to do is shift your focus and realize that you are not just an actor in this play, you get to write it… What if you are living the life of your dreams and just haven’t taken the time to realize/appreciate it? Sometimes we get so caught up in the daily grind we lose sight of what’s right in front of us. We get so easily impressed by someone else’s “role” or “costume” that we forget how great our own is too.  What if you were to intentionally look for all that’s good/right in your life, avoiding comparisons, at least a couple of times a day….every day?

How do you want the next scene to go? Can you visualize your perfect “ending”? What do you need to do to get yourself one tiny step closer to “really happy”, to “I love my life” and/or “I’m so glad I didn’t wait another minute to try that”?

Go for it… the show will go on either way….what have you got to lose?  Be the Director of your own life, make your childhood dreams come true, you CAN do it…

It may not be quick or easy but…so what?  You’re worth it! (and you have to stick around for the whole show anyway…)

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This is YOUR TIME to shine, but you have to TAKE IT… 

 

Mindfulness seems to be somewhat of a Buzz Word lately, even in circles it’s rarely been mentioned in before. Why is this? Is it because of “the grass is always greener…” phenomena? Have we, as a society, gotten so far away from being mindful that it has become the coveted “thing we don’t have”? I don’t know, but I think there’s a connection. I think things” have gotten so fast, even somewhat automatic, that taking a moment to be mindful of our life feels like coming up for a breath of air after swimming across the entire length of the pool under water. No one will deny that huge sense of accomplishment when you finally make it across the whole pool without surfacing; but how good does that breathe of air feel the moment you finish? That’s what mindfulness feels like to me, filling your life with more of those quality “moments”.

Mindfulness is practiced by many different people in many different ways and for just as many reasons, very much like meditation. Some people confuse mindfulness with meditation, and although they are often combined in mindfulness meditation (ex. being mindful of your breath while meditating), mindfulness is merely one of many types of meditation.  Generally speaking, the goal of meditation is to reach a heightened level of overall consciousness as a human being, whereas mindfulness is about living in the now; being aware of what is happening as it is happening without judgment, without even necessarily thinking about it, just experiencing it as it actually is. In short, the goal of mindfulness is to focus on being in the present, one moment at a time. Both are great practices alone and/or together. Knowing what you want to achieve and finding the method that works for you is what’s important. Personally, I have a daily practice of mindfulness, and I try to incorporate mediation into my life as often as I can. So, even though I don’t always make time for meditation, I’m always working on mindfulness.

Lately, I’ve been asked “Why do people practice mindfulness and “What’s so great about it”? I imagine answers vary greatly depending on who you ask. For me, having a mindfulness practice helps me stay grounded in my most authentic self, thereby helping me to get the most out of my life (becoming my Best Self to live my Best Life). By regularly touching base with what is real and how I feel about it, as opposed to what I think about it (or even what others think about it), I become more consciously aware of what is truly important to me, what matters to me; as opposed to allowing myself to get too caught up in or carried away with the everyday fast paced auto pilot of social comparisons and competitions; all of the external “shoulds”, which is so easy to do. This may sound strange but, by purposefully staying in touch my core values, I end up taking a more active role in living my life intentionally (instead of waking up and realizing that years have passed and wondering where the time has gone).

Some still wonder why that’s important to me. After having a mindfulness practice for a while, I have definitely noticed that I am far more grounded, stable and comfortable in my beliefs surrounding who I really am (my most authentic/best self), who I want to be (the role I want to have in my life story), and how I want to live and/or show up so that I feel good when I go to bed each night. I believe this is because now, as a result of this practice, when I am faced with certain situations, I am better able to instinctively stop for a second…and  consciously choose how to respond; versus before I would have merely reacted and, much of the time, fought with myself later about that reaction; How could I have said or done such a stupid thing, what was I thinking, etc.… thereby continuing to waste more of my life feeling badly about myself and, thus, creating a negative chain reaction; setting a mood/tone for whatever came next based on something that was already done. Now, because I work on making a habit out of stopping (if only for a split second) and getting in touch with what actually is, as opposed to my thoughts around it (i.e. how it should/shouldn’t be or even how others might perceive it), I am more aware of the difference between consciously choosing a response that is true to me versus reacting from a place of fear, anger, excitement, etc.… a place triggered by my thoughts and/or emotions about the situation instead of the actual situation. The more subtle, yet constantly increasing, benefit I feel is an overall sense of more depth in more moments of my life; I actually notice more incredible things than I use to on an ordinary day. I have become increasingly aware of how amazing our universe is and it helps fill me with a sense of gratitude even when I may be having a bad day.  In the long run, the ability to appreciate the richness of these moments more fully, adds up to more days, weeks, months, etc. and eventually more of my life.

Ultimately, by making a practice of mindfulness I am basically just training my brain to periodically stop and be more aware of things that are happening, as they are happening, and process them without judgement or even too much thought. Very much the same way I have trained my brain to drive a large suburban down crowded streets and end up at Target without much recollection of how I got there; it’s all about creating a habit through repetition, and it’s amazing how quickly your brain can adapt. Your brain is an incredible piece of a physiological miracle. When I’m driving to Target, for example, I am generally not triggered by emotions or thoughts about the trip, so my mind is free to wander. It wanders over to thoughts about the past, the future, songs on the radio…and before I know it, I’m parking the car. Now, because of my practice, when I, and/or my body, am triggered by emotions or thoughts, I am better able to notice the sensation of my mind running away (or sometimes just spinning) and stop it. Sort of like training a loyal pet who, because of past experiences, trusts you unconditionally so that when you ask it not to run off, it instinctively listens. Eventually, some pets will actually wait and look to you for a command before even considering running off; you have earned that trust. In much the same way, mindfulness has allowed me to become better at controlling my thoughts as opposed to allowing my thoughts to be in control of me.

As far as what my mindfulness practice is, I try to be mindful most of the time; whether I’m doing menial tasks around the house or having serious conversations with loved ones. I make an effort to stay mindful when I’m with my kids and even when I’m at the gym. However, almost every day I make a point to consciously dedicate some time to my practice, much the same way I dedicate time to the other muscles in my body that I want to maintain or strengthen.  To do this, I generally walk outside, in nature, with my dog. I watch the trees, sometimes a butterfly or a bird, or just my dog as he appreciates everything around him, with no obvious thoughts or judgments about anything beyond the moment. I do, and have done, many other types of mindfulness meditations and practices, but as for a consistent practice, which I feel is the most important ingredient for success at anything, for me, it’s always involved walking, nature, and the conscious decision to release all thoughts and judgments about whatever is happening from my mind and just be aware of WHAT IS. I notice thoughts and judgments when they occur (because they definitely still occur) I just don’t give them any time or attention. I notice it’s happening and I practice moving on, letting them go by like a cloud in the sky and I refocus on what is happening around me.

Do you have a mindfulness practice? What is it? Don’t have one yet? What will it be? You can google “mindfulness” and get more ideas and/or possibilities than you have time to try; check it out and see if any of them speak to you. What have you got to lose?

The way I look at it is this: The human body is between 50 and 75% water, with the average human body consisting of around 55%. That is at least half of our body weight! Knowing that, try to imagine yourself as a large container of water. When that container is calm, the surface area of the water is like a mirror, accurately reflecting all of its surroundings. However, if you rattle that container, throw a pebble into it, etc.… the water begins to ripple and the reflection of its surroundings becomes distorted. I think of having a mindfulness practice as a tool to help “keep my waters calm” so that when “life happens”, I can process a clear reflection of what is actually happening and choose how to respond. As opposed to reacting to a distorted perception of that reality.

Have fun finding a practice that works best for you, no matter what it ends up being. Maybe you’ll come up with something brand new and unique to you. Maybe you’ll have a few different practices for various times/situations and/or circumstances in your life. There are no rules, the important thing is that it works for you and that you do it, that’s really all that matters!

Be an active participant in your life, one moment at a time. You won’t be sorry!

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