In one of my psychotherapy sessions, I found myself saying, “I’m your body’s advocate!” to a woman who was struggling to balance her need for food with the other urgent to-do tasks of the day. I wondered, aloud, how we’d all become so far removed from such basic elements of self-care, when feeding our bodies (and spending a few moments to think about the optimal choices) seemed an inconvenience, one we were eager to rush through and get done with, rather than a valued action.
But I get it, really I do. Even though I spend much of my professional life counseling others on how to “come home” to their bodies, and how to reconnect and respond with compassionate care. Because I’m also a cautionary tale, a “workaholic-in-recovery,” who spent 5+ years of doctoral training saying things like, “When I graduate, I’ll….” (take care of myself). “After I get licensed, I’ll….” “After I become a mother, I’ll…” Read More
Recently I came across this article from the American Psychological Association on the power of the “redemptive story.” As many of us know, the stories we tell ourselves – the meaning we make out of life events, whether they are positive or painful – can shape our identities, our futures, even the our memory of the experiences themselves. If we allow ourselves to feel (and accept) the impact of living through adversity, we can come out on the other side with greater wisdom and positive well-being.
What’s been difficult for you, in your life? And how much do you allow or acknowledge its impact? Do you tell yourself a story that is distorted or negative – that you are inherently “bad” or “unworthy,” as a result of these circumstances? Or do you admit that while painful, the event might have revealed a need for greater awareness, skills, or support, or otherwise taught you some lesson that has made you stronger as a person?
What we say to ourselves – and others – really does matter…
Today, I woke up in pain, lots of it, after attending a second yoga class at a new studio. I’d felt hopeful and proud that I was committing again to regular practice, even if I was a little skeptical about whether the studio was a good fit. Because here’s the catch: because of previous injuries, and due to years of benign neglect, as I pursed academic training and attended to many things, but not, in particular, my body, I still forget (or deny) that my body needs extra care and support. This process requires loads of patience, and self-compassion, and also, ideally, a skilled teacher who understands my struggles, who doesn’t look at my body and quickly say: “You can do that…” or “you should…”
The best teachers are those that are invested in our process, not just in making sure we attain a pose or goal. They meet us where we are at, and provide encouragement, especially when the going is hard. Sometimes, we need them to help us become more grounded and strong, before we are ready to take the next step. Sometimes, we need them to stay with us in our place of vulnerability and fear, so that we feel a little less alone along the way. In our society, we’re often congratulated for appearing self-sufficient or independent, but less often so for seeking help. Even if pulling back from something that might over-extend us, or asking for more support, is the wisest, bravest (and hardest) thing to do.
While each of us identifies those wise, skilled teachers to help us along our journeys, we can also practice standing by ourselves. Standing BY ourselves – as in, not alone, but instead, befriending: Acknowledging and Allowing our experience to be what it is, whether it is easy or hard; not Over-Identifying with the story of what this “means” about ourselves or our possibilities; and offering heaps of Self-compassion, along the way.
When walking, just walk. When eating, just eat. This might sound like something you’d read in a fortune cookie, but not how many of us participate in a typical day, right? Because when we’re eating, we’re often scrolling through our emails, surfing the browsers on our smartphones, maybe even driving or talking or doing something else multi-task-y. You might be thinking: Who has the time to do Just One Thing? Read More
Check out this great video from Mindful.org.
Friends, it’s been a while. I’ve been busy working on other writing endeavors (and parenting….and the garden…and a little rest, when I can), but hopefully you’ve been visiting my Facebook page for updates on mindfulness in the world and in our local community.
Remember how we were all taught to “Stop, Drop, and Roll” in fire safety class? Lately, as we’ve been navigating the public school system, I’m realizing how essential mindfulness practices are to our children and ourselves as adults. Wouldn’t it be great if our children were taught to “Stop, Breathe, and Listen (to their Bodies)” as part of a normal school day? What would your life be like, today, if you were taught these skills right alongside reading, writing, and math?
The good news is that our friends at Peace in Schools (for our local high schools) and Mindful Schools (for the littler folk) are trying to do just that. Pretty soon, mindfulness training might be coming to a school near you. But the good news is, it’s already available in your community, and easy to bring into your home life right now. Be sure to check out my updated resource page for lots of good information on the basics of mindfulness practice, the benefits, and the science.
Happy summer! And this picture is a reminder that mindfulness practice doesn’t have to be all serious and somber…there is so much joy and possibility in our lives: right now. Just wake up, and listen.
Worth viewing – she outlines some important points about the politics of our current food system, and about our relationship with food.
A well-made documentary on the applications of mindfulness practice with kindergarteners in a CA school, including interviews with the Mindful Schools program developers and a well-known neuroscientist. If you are interested in introducing mindfulness to your preschooler or young grade school child, there are some lovely examples.
An article with Amy Saltzman, MD, who is a pioneer in the field of mindfulness, children, and teens: http://www.mindful.org/mindful-magazine/mindfulness-children-and-parenting