Whether we are experiencing joy or adversity, each moment affords us an opportunity for growth if we are willing to learn from it. In life, our most challenging moments are often the ones we learn the most from.
When I was in my third year of graduate school, I failed my qualifying exams for my Ph.D. miserably, flunking 5 of the 8 questions. Returning to school the next semester, I didn’t know if I’d be staying or leaving after the completion of my Masters. After much deliberation, I’d resolved to do what I could to stay in graduate school even though I had panic attacks each time I walked up the stairs to our second floor classrooms. I felt totally lost and alone.
But like many of us, my story doesn’t end there. When I went back to school, I learned what I needed to know to make things different. Even more, I discovered an inner strength and resilience I hadn’t fully realized until then. An unexpected and most welcome gift.
In Stacey’s last post, she talked about mindfulness and how that’s helped her weather life’s ups and downs. Mindfulness is defined as paying attention to the present moment on purpose without judgement. In mindfulness practice which includes meditation, we learn to value each moment for what it brings us. Whether joyful or challenging, it always provides the opportunity for us to grow into the fullest potential of who we are.
As Rafiki says to Simba in The Lion King, “Oh, yes. The past can hurt but the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”
If you’re anything like I am, you spend a lot of time in your head-thinking, imagining, obsessing, over-analyzing, etc. What I continue to learn, lately, is that to have greater peace of mind, I need to get back in my body and feel what’s going on there.
As I’m sitting on my porch responding to friends via e-mail, I can smell the hickory chips of our smoker burning in the backyard. I breathe deeply and savor the aroma. I look up from my keyboard and soak in the plush greenery across the road. I hear the birds chirping-so many different sounds and melodies. I feel the wind brushing my cheek. It’s a sensory buffet.
I’m back in my body and out of my mind. Living, breathing, sensing, feeling. It doesn’t last long until thoughts return. I “note” them and let them go lovingly, returning my attention to my senses and my body. Inhaling the moment one breath at a time, again and again.
To help you practice staying in your body and getting out of your head, click on this link to my mindfulness video, the body scan relaxation-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Km42VBea9oc. Try it and let me know what you think.
Until next time remember, “Life is a journey. Stress less. Live better.”
See what they’re in for and what any of you expecting can expect. If you’re already a parent, send us comments about your personal ups and downs and joys and sorrows. Whatever, you’d like to share. For those of you who don’t know, Stacey and I specialize in pregnancy and postpartum emotional health and welcome your stories, questions and concerns.
It’s been a while since we’ve posted but finally life seems to be quieting down (I probably shouldn’t say that too loud) and I’ve missed writing and connecting with each of you. Since opening the Midwest Mind Body Health Center in St. Louis last October, I’ve not had much time to “catch my breath” which is an excellent way to reduce stress and the subject of this post.
By learning to focus our attention on our breath “without judgement” we can help settle our bodies and minds which are often tense and overloaded. The breath offers an opportunity for mindful awareness because it occurs without us having to do anything. All we have to do is “notice” the sensation of breath as it moves through our body. No more. No less.
If this sounds too good to be true it isn’t. Until I started studying mindfulness a few years ago, I didn’t believe these practices which include “breath awareness” could be so effective in relieving stress and tension but they can. In March there was even an article in the New York Times about mindfulness to reduce stress and worry. Seems everyone is catching the “mindfulness” bug.
To help you get started, here’s a link to the YouTube video I made so the students in my May “Mindful Stress Reduction Class” could practice “Simply Breathe”-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWmHn_YMsp8. However, as the NY Times article says, “If you don’t practice, it won’t work.”
So, here’s to your health one breath at a time. Enjoy!
I just got off the phone with a good friend of mine, Chris Miles, founder of Global Exercise Group, a company offering a holistic approach to lower back pain, which he’s just launched. I called him because I needed his advice about a situation I’ve encountered where politics has led to good people being harmed. Knowing his business acumen and character, I thought he could help me sort this out. He did.
Chris left the corporate world last year after watching countless examples of good people being sacrificed to corporate politics while others became drones of the status quo. A world I’ve managed to avoid (mostly) by being self-employed for the last 20 years. In listening to him, I realized that unfortunately the situation I find myself in is much like he described.
Chris is one of the “lights” in my life, supporting me in doing the best I can as a business owner and person. In The Four Agreements, one of my personal favorites, Don Miguel Ruiz’es Fourth Agreement is “Always do your best,” and I believe as he does that each of us has a responsibility to do so. What do we do then when we find ourselves in a situation where we are supposed to have the authority to make things better but aren’t allowed to due to politics? The solution I’m arriving at is to invest my energy instead in situations in which I can help create a positive outcome and let go of those I can’t.
Ah, the Serenity Prayer again. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
So, that’s my practice for this week. What about you?
As I sit here listening to absolutely beautiful music play from www.aholyexperience.com, my thoughts turn to Stacey, my dear co-conspirator at livingselfcare, and how she’s doing. I’ve had a rough few weeks myself with becoming acutely ill after a great vacation, but when I read about her taking her mom in, I thought this post needs to be about her and the generosity of spirit she and many of you have.
Knowing that this decision would raise many discomforts for her, she chose it anyway, as women often do. I am always awestruck by such unselfishness and yet many of us dismiss what we’ve done as obligatory or no big deal. But, it’s so much more than that. It’s about being connected to life at a very deep level and knowing that relationships are the greatest wealth of all. What is more important than loving and being loved? This is what makes life worthwhile.
Please extend your blessings to Stacey and all who are in need of comfort and support as they undertake the challenges life presents. When you awake and when you lie down, offer a prayer of healing for them and you. I will, too.
Diane will be back posting next Monday after she gets back from her fabulous trip to Spain! Hopefully we’ll get to hear all about it!
In the meantime, I wanted to share an experience of my own with you. My family and I recently decided that it was time for my mother to move in with us for several reasons. I felt such a mixture of emotions at the thought: happiness because I’ll see her more and because I’ll be there if she needs anything medically; apprehension because of our past relationship (though it has since been healed); and wariness that I might fall back into my childhood relationship patterns with her.
She’s only been here a couple of days and I have to keep myself from treating her like a guest. My impulse is to ask, “Can I do something or get something for you?” In reality, all she wants is to find her own way and settle into her own routine that is harmonious with ours. My offers to do things for her would just enable her to be more dependent than independent, and neither of us want that.
We have agreed on a code of complete honesty, even if that may mean hurt feelings. We have discovered the hard way through the years that mind reading is just not possible!
This is a big change for all of us, and I struggle to remember that. Holding myself back from offering things and allowing myself to be calm in spite of my mother’s habitual anxiety is a challenge. But my intuition is telling me that this is a good situation, so I’m focusing on an attitude of gratitude instead of stressing out. It’s not easy, but I am worth it – and so are YOU!