“Joy is always in process, it’s under construction, it is in constant approach in the doing of what we are fashioned to do.”
Imagine just how enormous the Golden Gate Bridge is. The deck of the bridge itself weighs a whopping 166,397 tons. With its 746-foot towers and the 600,000 rivets in each of the towers, it is obvious just how big of a task it was constructing the Golden Gate Bridge. The building project began on January 5th, 1933 and took more than 4 years before the first cars would make the journey across on May 27th, 1937.
Although engineers knew that it was going to be difficult to keep up with the maintenance of the bridge itself, they vastly underestimated the amount of time, energy and materials needed to ensure that the exterior was well-taken care of.
Taking care of the bridge is now a never-ending quest in order to keep it protected and looking sharp.
The bridge is under a constant barrage of attacks from its' predators, which in this case, are corrosive salt air, pollutants and contaminants from the millions of vehicles that pass over it each year, UV rays, and age itself. A team of 35 painters is assigned the never-ending task and taking care of the iconic structure that connects the city of San Francisco to Marin County, California.
The endless cycle of maintenance doesn’t have a start or finish. Instead, the painting team focuses on the parts of the bridge with the worst corrosion then moves on to other areas in need of restoration. This cycle repeats itself over and over again and will do so for years to come. Although the main objective of this project is to keep the bridge protected and looking sharp, it’s not as simple as throwing a coat of paint on the area in need of improvement and moving on.
I use the Golden Gate Bridge ongoing maintenance project as a metaphor for the ongoing maintenance that is required to look after our own well-being. If we don’t do the consistent, deep (underneath) work needed to protect ourselves, the constant threats that we are under can take a huge chunk out of our own levels of well-being.
Just as the corrosive salt air and contaminants from motor vehicles eat away at the Golden Gate Bridge every day, so too do the barrage of threats that humans face in regards to their own levels of well-being.
Anxiety, stress, lack of sleep, fear of judgement, fear of failure, masking inefficiencies that we feel we have, fear of never reaching our potential, lack of authentic connections in our lives, lack of vulnerability, suffering in silence etc. are just some of the ongoing threats that people face on a regular basis.
It takes constant awareness and maintenance to be able to look after ourselves in a way that counters the daily threats people face. No matter how physically, mentally, and emotionally strong we think we might be, it’s worth it to put specific strategies into action to help us counter the negative impact that daily stressors can have on our well-being. There is no question that these threats can potentially wreak havoc in our lives.
So, what can we actually do about these threats?
As you read this part of the blog, just think about how hard you have been on yourself in the past, maybe even recently. Humans have a very common tendency to privately shame themselves for their shortcomings, failures and self-perceived inadequacies. In knowing and accepting that we are all fallible, we can learn to better deal with the self-judgement that comes from feeling as though we do not measure up. By understanding this, we can put more self-compassion into action in our lives.
Self-compassion extends ourselves the freedom to say, “I’m not perfect, I will make mistakes. I know I don’t want to repeat these mistakes but am willing to give myself a break.”
As world renowned author and speaker, Brene Brown, says, "We all need the courage to stand alone." What she means by this is that we need to understand that we cannot let others define who we are or what we are about. The courageous act of standing alone requires that we are willing to do the hard work necessary to better understand ourselves, our triggers, and our habitual ways of thinking and feeling. Having the courage to stand alone means that we can sit alone and find the quiet space needed to be honest with ourselves and to identify what might be holding us back from living a more fulfilled life.
Although this might seem like an insurmountable task, when we cut to the core of what matters most, it is about being reflective in order to better understand ourselves and our ways of being. Defining ourselves under our own terms and conditions and not by what others think about us is an important step in the right direction. However, if we are not willing to sit alone to do this very hard work, we can find ourselves drifting aimlessly away from where we ultimately want to be.
Meditation and mindfulness are tools that we can apply that assist us in our ability to courageously stand alone and do the hard work described above.
By staying active, we arm ourselves with one of the most important tools there is to combat the daily stressors that can take their toll on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Whatever you do, plan for daily physical activity. The impact of physical activity can be felt almost immediately. Show more love for yourself by moving your body!
Are you presently where you want to be right now?
If not, the above three strategies are a good place to begin the exploration of improving on your own levels of well-being in order to create a better version of yourself. In doing this, you are better for others too. Thanks for reading.
It is difficult to have a Zen-like attitude in a life that is filled with constant interruptions and distractions. However, living more mindfully is a way that we can devote the time necessary, if even for a fleeting moment each day, to find the stillness and solitude needed to slow ourselves down.
Living in the present and being more mindful is a trainable skill that can be developed if we are willing to commit just a sliver of time each day to finding some calm and quiet. One of the ways to stay centered is to pay attention to your breathing. Slow, deep breathing has been proven to lower the body's fight or flight response and help to calm us down. The more we can find calmness, the more we can develop the ability to consciously be more aware of how we respond to anxiety and stress and to do something to combat these things in a proactive manner. However, it definitely requires a daily commitment.
Developing more mindfulness in our lives does not require a Herculean effort that ends up robbing us of all of our time and zaps us of the much needed energy to get us through our busy days. There are 1440 minutes in each day. All we need is just 0.5-1% of our day, just 7-14 minutes to begin this practice.
Imagine that we start off with just 7 minutes a day of mindfulness practice. By extending our practice by just 30 seconds each week, we can slowly build on the mental and physical stamina needed to sit for longer periods of time to focus purely on self. With each passing month, we will find ourselves being able to sit for much longer periods of time.
Starting with 7 minutes of daily practice (0.5% of our day) was just an example. Start with whatever amount of time works. We can then slowly build up from that point, but make it a daily practice whenever possible. For example, a person can begin with 10 minutes a day and increase by one minute each week. That’s a 4-minute increase per month which equates to 44-minute increase per year. 10 minutes in the first month will lead to 14 minutes in month two, leading to 54 minutes in your twelfth month.
There are no hard and fast rules about how much time is needed to begin this practice. The main point is to slowly build up on the ability for sit for longer periods of time.
Focused Breath Work
There are a number of different ways to focus on the breath while sitting still. If the mind wanders, no problem, just return back to the pattern of breath that you are focusing on. It’s natural to get distracted but using the breath an a anchor point always helps us get refocused. Below are some examples of breath work that you can try out.
The 7-11 Breath
Slowing inhale for a count of 7 and exhale for a count of 11. Repeat this for the entire duration of the meditation. It’s OK if you lose count of the number you are on, just keep consciously returning to the pattern when you find that you’ve become distracted.
Box Breath (4-count)
Breath in for a count of 4
Hold for a count of 4
Exhale for a count of 4
Hold for a count of 4
Repeat this process for the duration of the meditation
The Staggered Inhale, Long Exhale Breath
Inhale through your nose in short bursts making a noticeable sound with each burst. Slowly your lungs will fill to maximum capacity. Then exhale steadily in one complete exhale. Repeat process for duration of meditation
There are many more types of breath that you can work on but the above three might be a great starting point if this is your first time trying it out. If you are experienced at doing breath work, you’ll know many different ways to focus on the breath while meditating.
The opening quote in this blog post is an important reminder that improvement and results take time. By focusing on the long haul, we can make the micro-improvements necessary for lasting change. Our well-being matters! In the long run, mindfulness practice can be slowly infused into our lives by choosing to focus on one small step at a time. Hope this blog post helps you to reflect on your own well-being and what needs to be done to make it more of a focus in your life.
There is no question that being the recipient of an act of kindness can have a very positive impact on the way that you think and the way that you feel. Being on the receiving end of an act of kindness can cause a shift in your brain’s neurochemistry due to a spike in ‘oxytocin’, the hormone responsible for creating internal feelings of belonging, warmth, and significance.
Research has also shown that being the ‘giver’ of kindness has a very similar impact on your brain. When considering how you might increase your own sense of well-being and the well-being of others in 2020, it’s worth considering research done by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky and colleagues.
Sonya and her team of researchers were interested in measuring the impact that being kind to others can have on well-being and happiness. More specifically, the well-being and happiness of the person providing the act of kindness for others.
In regards to performing acts of kindness for others, does the frequency and intensity of being the giver of kindness have an impact on well-being and happiness? This was the question that Dr. Sonja explored with her colleagues. To take a deeper look at this question, the researchers placed participants of the study into two different categories:
Which group do you think benefitted the most from providing acts of kindness for others? Do you think the sprinkling of kindness throughout the week had a greater impact on well-being and happiness or was it the group that had devoted an entire day to providing acts of kindness to others?
When questioned about which group benefitted the most from performing acts of kindness for others, 80% of people believed that the ‘Sprinklers’ benefitted the most in regards to the impact it would have on their level of well-being and happiness. In other words, the people who performed just one act of kindness a day for others, over a succession of days, experienced a greater sense of well-being and happiness than the "chunkers" of kindness.
However, the research conclusively showed that most people who chunked their acts of kindness had higher levels of well-being and happiness. Setting aside an entire day each week to providing acts of kindness to others far outweighed the sprinkling of kindness over the week.
Why was this?
When analyzed on a much deeper level, the ‘sprinklers’ of kindness, although well-intentioned, felt that over time their effort to be kind was just a ‘drop in the bucket’. Therefore, they felt that the act of kindness that they had bestowed on another person didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. They didn’t feel as though they were making a difference.
Humans by nature want to make a difference and to know their efforts matter. The group of people who had devoted an entire day to providing kindness to others felt that their efforts mattered. One kind act after another made them feel more significant thus deepening their own sense of well-being and happiness.
Dr. Sonja’s research has been replicated many times with the same results. The chunking of kindness has a deeper impact on well-being and happiness than the sprinkling of kindness.
Of course, being kind to others should be a daily part of what we do. If we choose to devote one full day a week to providing acts of kindness for others, it doesn’t mean that we refuse to be kind on other days. The ultimate aim of being kind to others is for them and not the person providing the kindness. However, the byproduct of a kind act can also impact the well-being of the 'giver' of kindness.
Dr. Sonja’s work can help us to see things a bit differently when it comes to kindness. This blog post is meant to jolt your thinking about kindness and what it means in your own life and to get you to reflect on the people who have been kind to you. It's meant to get you to think more deeply about the impact that acts of kindness can have on others and ourselves. Being more present and mindful allows us to stay connected to kindness and to be more willing to acknowledge the powerful role it plays in our daily lives. Thanks for reading.
“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” --Bill Copeland
We all have the very best of intentions when it comes to setting New Year’s resolutions. Without goals it can be very difficult to make any progress at all as we have no clear objectives in regards to the areas of our lives that we want to make growth and improvement.
To be honest, I’m steering clear of setting New Year’s resolutions this year as my thinking has shifted when it comes to goal-setting. I don’t know how accurate this statistic is, but I once heard that more than 80% of people fail in sticking to their New Year’s resolutions, especially within the first two to three weeks of January.
Do we actually need a new beginning to set goals? How might we look at goal-setting differently?
It is so common for people to set goals at new beginnings. Be it the beginning of a new school year, the start of the new year itself, the first day after our birthday or the start of a new season. However, the process of creating positive change in our personal and professional lives does not require new beginnings to set goals. It just requires a reset and reframe in the way that we choose to pursue our goals.
Rather than this endless cycle of using new beginnings to set goals or resolutions, we can become more focused on reflecting on our own journey of learning about ourselves and the habits and routines that we have in place that are serving us well or holding us back from achieving the goals that we have set. This can better lead us to make the necessary adjustments and modifications to stay on track with our goals. Deepening our learning about ourselves can be a very mindful act that requires both presence and patience.
- Where are we at?
- What have we done well?
- Where might we have fallen short?
- What might we be carrying with us that may be hindering or derailing our efforts to become a better version of ourselves?
To illustrate his point, Murphy uses the example of truck weigh stations. These stations are commonly located at several different points along long haul expressways. Truck drivers are required by law, to pull over and to get their trucks weighed at different weigh stations along their journey.
Murphy believes that the ‘truck weigh station’ is a perfect metaphor for pulling over in our own lives and genuinely evaluating where we’ve come from and where we are going to. At several points throughout the year, we should be taking the necessary time to stop and assess where we are at in regards to the personal and professional goals that we have set for ourselves and the direction we are headed in our lives.
As well, these check ins are a perfect time to also reflect on our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Rather than a continuous cycle of setting goals, failing to meet these goals, kicking ourselves when we have failed, then waiting for a new beginning to set new goals or resolutions, we can create the time and space needed to develop more self-forgiveness and deeper self-learning. When we choose to look at goal-setting differently and instead focus more on our own journey of learning, we can better identify the self-imposed roadblocks and obstacles that get in the way of our own growth and improvement.
Setting goals is such an important part of growth and improvement. Without goals, we can wander aimlessly with no specific vision or hopes for ourselves. We must be able to clearly articulate what our goals are and document these goals in order to hold ourselves accountable.
Constant Check Ins
Creating the time needed to assess and reflect on our goals. As Murphy says, think of it as a truck weigh station. We must take time to pull over and stop, in order to genuinely assess where we are at in regards to our personal and professional goals. Are we moving toward them or away from them? What do we need to do to stay on track? These check ins can be done informally as well. For example, a long walk or run or even through a chat with a close friend. The key is to build in time to check in with ourselves and our goals.
Rather than beating ourselves up if we fall off track, it is essential to be kind to ourselves and to create more self-compassion in our lives. We must try to develop a better relationship with ourselves by accepting that mistakes will happen. However, we must be willing to identify how we are self-sabotaging ourselves in order to break the habit of giving up on our goals too early or too often.
Always be willing to identify our successes as we move toward our goals. No matter how small these successes are, they are worthy of recognizing. Being able to identify our successes helps us to understand that we can progress and improve when we set our minds to it. Making the commitments needed to move closer to achieving our goals in an important part of this process.
The act of goal-setting requires us to be mindful and present in order to stay focused on our own growth. Through a self-reflective process, we can learn to approach our goals differently to free up space and time to deepen our learning.
What are your goals for 2020? How will you hold yourself accountable? And finally, how will you ensure that you put more self-compassion into action in order to push you closer to achieving the goals that you have set for yourself. Happy New Year and best of luck in 2020 folks.
Thanks for reading.
However, leaders who consistently made people genuinely feel valued and appreciated in the workplace had much more of a long term impact on levels of productivity. Some studies had shown a 50% increase in productivity over the long term. Studies of the brain also showed that both the giver and receiver of acts of appreciation had increased levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This chemical is what helps to regulate mood and social behavior. There is a direct link between low levels of serotonin and depression and other mood disorders.
Showing others that they matter and that they are valued is not only the job of leaders. When was the last time that you let a colleague, family member, friend or even a stranger, such as the clerk at the store who regularly serves you, know that they are appreciated and valued?
It's amazing that the simple act of showing appreciation for others and letting them know that they are genuinely valued can work wonders. Why is it that we have so much difficulty in doing this? What is it that we fear about expressing to others that they really matter and the reason why you think that they matter? Sitting quietly and reflecting is a great form of mindfulness in action. Try taking 5 minutes to sit in solitude and to reflect on the people that you value in your life both personally and professionally. Try to identify why it is that you value them. Make a conscious effort to let this somebody know that you value them either in a written note or better yet, let them know in person.
This random act of kindness can literally make someone's day. I challenge you to do this at least 3 times in the next week. I promise to do the same. Good luck!
One of the most important underpinnings of this training is to always ‘connect before correct’ and in doing so we not only strengthen the bonds of trust, we also create much deeper levels of significance and belonging in our schools. Seems like such a no brainer that creating the conditions for human connection to flourish in our classrooms should be a top priority. Why is it then that we sometimes have so much difficulty investing the necessary time and energy into making this happen with more consistency in our schools?
As love, compassion, and altruism are the fundamental basis for peace, there is no greater time than the present moment to devote ourselves to this cause.
What might we need to let go of in order to place belonging and significance at the top of our priority list as we start the school year? How do the conversations that we have need to change in order to ensure all members of staff genuinely understand the importance of creating a greater sense of belonging and significance with their students? What is the role of leadership in helping to prioritize this pursuit?
As mental health issues have been steadily increasing among both young people and adults every single year over the past decade (and projected to rise dramatically each year into the future), it is the dire responsibility of every school to create curriculums that embed social and emotional learning as part of the fabric of who they are and what they do. However, it’s the ‘how’ behind how they get this done that needs to be a part of the ongoing conversations happening in their schools on a daily basis.
As well, it is an important reminder that creating a greater sense of belonging and significance does not only apply to our students. Our teachers must also feel that they matter and that their own levels of mental, social and emotional well-being play an equally significant role in the workplace.
When planning for great teaching and learning, there is no question that student achievement data in literacy, math, and other areas of the curriculum are a critical part of the conversations that need to take place during meetings. However, in what ways are we building time into these meetings to address the social and emotional needs of our teachers? How do we need to better structure our meetings to allow time for teachers to unpack where they are at, what they are struggling with and what they might need in order for them to be at their best both personally and professionally? If our teachers are not in a great place mentally, socially, and/or emotionally, how can they possibly be there to the extent that their students need them to be.
This blog post is an important reminder about the need to create more authentic conversations in our schools about how we all play a critical role in building a greater sense of belonging and significance in order to allow all stakeholders to thrive. Consider how the 6 questions below might help to spark more meaningful discussions about strengthening the bonds of trust and deepening levels of belonging and significance in our schools?
What commitments will your leadership team make to prioritize social, emotional and mental well-being within your school?
How much time will be devoted to having authentic conversations about social, emotional and mental well-being in your school?
How will social, emotional, and mental well-being be unpacked and co-constructed with both teaching faculty and students in your school?
How will leaders and teachers hold each other accountable for ‘connecting before correcting’ in your school?
How are we building psychological safety in a way that allows all voices to genuinely be heard in our schools?
What role will mindfulness play in helping to promote a greater sense of belonging and significance in your school?
You can download a PDF of the visual with the 6 questions for your own use. Thanks for reading and let us know how things go.
Although the anniversary of the attack brings a certain sense of somberness to this city and its people, the day itself is also devoted to sharing the importance of world peace.
Each year, on the evening of August 6th, the city holds the "Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony” which is a beautiful event that anyone is welcome to attend. Thousands of people write personal messages and appeals for peace on colorful lanterns, which are then set afloat down the Motoyasu River, where they pass directly in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome. Praying for lasting peace is the focus of this evening.
Having lived in Hiroshima, Japan for nearly ten years, my wife, Neila Steele and I, were able to attend this ceremony a couple of times between the years of 1997-2007 when we had lived there.
The beautiful city of Hiroshima remains a very special place to us. We developed strong friendships with many of the Japanese people and ex-pats that we had connected with over the years while living there. As well, both of our boys were born in the city that still feels like a second home for us. One of our close Canadian friends, Scott Mckeeman, still lives and works in Hiroshima today. Scott is the godfather of our oldest son Eli.
As I reflect on our time in Hiroshima, I’m always drawn back to the city’s journey of understanding and identifying what peace means to them. The city has taken ownership and autonomy over this journey in a way that has placed peace at the very core of what it represents.
Although Hiroshima’s efforts are devoted to raising international awareness about the importance of nuclear disarmament, it is a deeper sense of peace that they envision not only for the citizens of their own city and country, but also for the people of the world. As you walk the streets of Hiroshima, you can feel the strong undercurrent of peace that prevails.
In her best-selling book, Practicing Peace, the author Pema Chodron, asks her readers a very important question to reflect on:
“Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war today?”
Peace can be so easily disrupted in our lives in lots of different ways. Perhaps this disruption of peace is caused by our own internally activated voice that might be trying to create chaos, fear or worry within. At other times, it might be our knee-jerk reaction to daily annoyances and frustrations that result in us reacting aggressively and defensively toward others. Whatever the cause of our disharmony is, we can do something about it.
Some questions we might consider exploring are:
How might we more readily practice peace in our own lives?
How can we strive to be more peaceful and self-compassionate with ourselves?
How might we lower our own levels of defensiveness when interacting with others in more stressful situations?
Peace in our own lives can be greatly impacted by the mindset and attitude we carry with us throughout each day. The practice of mindfulness allows us to be more present with our thoughts in a non-judging way. In bringing more concentrated levels of attention, focus, and self-awareness to our daily lives, we can begin to see certain patterns of behavior and response.
The act of noticing comes from being more present. Simply paying closer attention to how we emotionally respond to our own negative self-talk or how we respond to others in stressful situations is a great starting point. Rather than subconsciously going into autopilot mode, we can consciously choose to bring greater levels of self awareness into our daily lives by more deeply observing our own thoughts, actions, and emotional responses.
Take the next few days to think about what peace with yourself and with others means to you in your own life. Take a moment to find a quiet place to just sit with your own thoughts about peace and how you might be able to bring more of it to your life. With peace comes more happiness and a greater sense of well-being.
If you had to set a more peaceful intention in your own life, what would your message to yourself be. What message would you write to yourself on your own colored lantern to set afloat?
Thanks for reading.
“Conscious thoughts, repeated often enough, become unconscious thinking.”
~Dr. Joe Dispenza
“If only I would’ve given them a piece of my mind and told them what I really thought.”
“I should’ve stood up for myself and reminded them that they’re the ones that keep screwing up not me.”
“If only I wouldn’t have been so nervous when speaking in front of the group, I would’ve been able to communicate my message so much more confidently.”
“The next time he/she says that to me again, I’m going let them have it straight back.”
“Why does that person always think that I’m incapable of doing things for myself”
Re-living the past can be commonplace for many people as they can be quite harsh on themselves and find themselves re-experiencing negative emotions and feelings with regularity.
Dr. Joe Dispenza, a neuroscientist and best-selling author, states in his book Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself that there is such a strong connection between our bodies and our brains and that the mere thought of negative events or experiences from the past can trigger neurotransmitters and neuropeptides in our brains to send messages to our bodies. This immediately causes specific hormones to be released that spark the negative emotions we find ourselves consumed by or even trapped by. These negative emotions can range from very mild to quite harsh and even damaging if repeated on a consistent basis in our lives.
Of course, it is human nature to experience negative emotions. However, through greater self-awareness, we can become more cognizant of habitual thinking and feeling loops in our lives that do not serve us well and hold us back from being a better version of ourselves.
The thinking and feeling loop is very real and presents itself to us multiple times a day. Below the surface, there are some very strong and intense chemical reactions taking place that are directly responsible for producing the thoughts and feelings that we experience on a daily basis. When these thinking and feeling loops are rooted in positive emotions, we can experience intense feelings or joy and contentment. However, when we continually allow ourselves to re-live negative moments from the past, it can cause a downward spiraling of emotions and feelings that push us into a very negative state of being.
Mindfulness is a great way to be present and to draw attention to the habitual thought patterns that we find ourselves potentially repeating with regularity in our lives. In an effort to better understand these repetitive thinking and feeling loops, we can put ourselves in a much better position to deal with negative emotions and feelings in more proactive ways by putting mindfulness into action.
A strategy that Andy Puddicome, the co-founder of the mindfulness app called Headspace, promotes through some of the meditations he teaches is a labelling strategy. This strategy is aimed at drawing awareness to the negative thinking and feeling loops that we experience that may be troubling to us.
The purpose of the labelling strategy is to disrupt this type of thinking by ensuring that we do not let these thoughts and feelings determine our identity and become who we are.
Puddicome asks his listeners, as they sit in a meditative state, to allow thoughts and feelings to come and go. Many people, as they meditate, try to cut off these feelings and work endlessly to ignore them or push them away. It can be a constant battle in our minds as we try to deflect or cut off these negative emotions and feelings.
Instead, we are meant to just sit with them and notice them, but rather than saying, “I’m angry” or “I’m frustrated” or “I’m worthless”, we simply flip these statement to being a label.
We can do so by saying things such as, “Oh, that’s anger” or “That’s frustration” or “That’s doubt”. In creating these labels, it depersonalizes these negative emotions and feelings. We notice these emotions and feelings, we label them, and let them pass. These thoughts and feelings do not define us or our identity.
Rather than cutting off these negative thinking and feeling loops, we can raise are own levels of self-awareness in order to disrupt them. When we do this over time, we can lessen the neurological impact that they have on us thus decreasing the intensity of these emotions.
Once we practice raising our levels of self-awareness through the labelling strategy described above, we put ourselves in a position to be immediately catch ourselves when we are re-creating or re-living negative thoughts and emotions that we have experienced in the past. We begin to understand that we do not want these past emotions dictating our future. We place little value on these emotions and develop the ability to reframe and restructure how we want to feel, think, and act in order to experience more fulfillment and joy in our lives.
As you reflect on your past week, what negative thinking and feeling loops might you be experiencing? What kinds of feelings and emotions are being generated as a result of these negative loops? How are these negative loops impacting your state of being or mood?
I encourage you to sit in total silence for 10 minutes and put on a timer.
As you sit in silence, notice and observe any negative thoughts or feelings.
Let these thoughts and feelings simply float around within your mental space without judgement.
Do not try to fight them off, cut them off, or deflect them.
Simply attach a label to them and what they represent instead of diving into the reasons for these thoughts and feelings. (Ahh, that’s anger or that’s frustration)
Breath and repeat as many times as needed in that ten minutes.
If you get distracted return to the breath and let your thoughts come and go.
It takes a lot of practice, but you can get better and better at it. Once you are done the ten minutes, if you want to take it to the next level, journal about the experience. It always helps to put it down on paper.
Hope you try this out. Thanks for reading.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!...
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond."
I’ve been working hard to reframe the story that I have created for myself the past few months because it hasn’t served me well.
My friend opened up about some of his experiences with feeling the same way at times and that a constant go to that he holds close to his heart is a story about Buddha. He learned the story from Tara Brach and her inspiring book called Radical Acceptance. In the story, Buddha is constantly trying to be attacked by the Demon God Mara. Mara always sets out to hurt Buddha and makes regular appearances in his life by trying to cast fear, doubt, insecurity, hurt, hopelessness, shame and guilt toward Buddha.
This story is really a metaphor for the troubling emotions and fear that lives in each human heart. Rather than ignoring these negative emotions, Buddha chose to deal with them by inviting the Demon God Mara to join him for a cup of tea whenever the Demon God decided to make an appearance in Buddha’s life.
Buddha would make Mara an honorary guest and offer a cushion so that the Demon God could sit comfortably as they had tea. Buddha would sit with the negative emotions that Mara was trying to project on to him, but do so in a non-judging and undisturbed way.
By accepting these experiences with a warmth of compassion, Buddha chose not to try to fearfully drive Mara away. This made it much easier for Buddha to deal with these troubling emotions and fear in positive ways and understand that it is deeply part of the human psyche to experience fear and other negative emotions.
In our own lives, what’s most important to think about is how we deal with these emotions. In accepting these emotions and fear, we can actually create a more empowering personal narrative for ourselves that helps to better serve us now and in the future.
While meditating, we can invite our own form of Mara to tea with us. We can sit with these troubling emotions and fear that we experience in a non-judging way rather than ignore these emotions or try to drive them away.
Speaking to my friend this week helped to remind myself that it’s OK to experience darker moments and that when I do, there is definitely something that I can be done about it.
I’ve chosen to invite Mara to tea with me this week through the meditations I am doing. In choosing to look at self-doubt, fear, uncertainty, and frustration differently, it has quickly helped me to get back on track with my work and to feel a greater sense of fulfillment and kindness toward myself. The act of self-compassion can be one of the greatest things that we can gift to ourselves.
What troubling emotions might you be experiencing this week? What fears might unknowingly be present in your life that may be impacting the personal narrative you have been creating for yourself? How might you better sit with these troubling emotions and fear in a way that empowers you to be a better version of yourself?
Hope this blog post helps to give you some ideas to mindfully put into practice in your own life. Thanks for reading.
Neila Steele & Andy Vasily
Passionate about making a difference in this world through mindfulness and education.