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Archive for the ‘General mindfulness’ Category

“We are lacking intimacy with the activity – and reactivity – of our minds…,” which can have tremendous impact on our health and well-being.

Humorous, relevant, and deeply embedded in wisdom: check out this new lecture by one of my most influential teachers of mindfulness meditation.

 

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body-awarenessIf you are interested in refreshing skills or dipping into mindfulness practices for the first time – particularly those oriented toward awareness of our eating experiences and of the body, join me for my 7-day “mindful eating challenge” (from 2014). You can participate over the next week by visiting my Facebook page.

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Feeling stirred up? Emotions on fire? Perhaps you’ve found yourself turning to food, to soothe, celebrate, or cope. Stop, Drop (in) and Roll with a mini-meditation exercise, adapted from the MB-EAT program. This one-minute mindfulness exercise is useful at any time of the day, particularly before or during meals.

1: Take a few breaths, bringing awareness to the body as a whole. Can you observe the sensations associated with breathing?

2) Bringing awareness to the mind, use it to scan your body for other sensations or emotions. You might ask yourself: “What is happening, now?” Notice the state of the mind: is it busy? racing? or quiet?

3) Allow a sense of curiosity to flavor the exercise – you are gathering information, and checking in, not policing your experience. Witness “should’s” or judgmental or self-critical thoughts, as they come and go.

4) Proceed with eating, or other desired activities. Notice how it feels to do so, after pausing for this mini-meditation.

Feel free to adapt the exercise as needed. In the future, you might also try choosing one object of awareness, such as hunger cues. Emotions. The level of stress felt in the body. Remember, there is value in learning how to attend to your experience, without always trying to change or avoid it. Don’t take my word on this, however. Experiment. And observe what happens.

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What did you see? What didn’t you see? I’ll talk more about the nature of selective attention – and what we potentially miss during activities such as eating, during this weekend’s free virtual event.

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2370002698764This past month, I’ve re-read “Heal Thy Self: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine,” by Saki Santorelli, Ed.D., the Executor Director of the UMASS Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society. Dr. Santorelli is a long-time MBSR practitioner and teacher,  and I would add poet and philosopher to his impressive list of credentials, after moving through his book for a second time. And truly, I was moved.

Narrative medicine has been described as a way for healthcare providers to “…reach and join their patients in illness, recognize their own personal journeys through medicine, acknowledge kinship with and duties toward other health care professionals, and inaugurate consequential discourse with the public about health care. By bridging the divides that separate physicians from patients, themselves, colleagues, and society, narrative medicine offers fresh opportunities for respectful, empathic, and nourishing medical care” (Charon, 2001).

In Heal Thy Self, this author thoughtfully enters into an intimate exploration of his own experiences, personal and professional (as Saki himself reminded us during an MBSR training, the two are not separable, as much as we might wish to demarcate a distinction), over the span of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course.

More than ever before, healthcare providers and their patients are engaged collaboratively in efforts to improve individual health and well-being. (more…)

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worried-woman-with-doctor-patient-breast.jpg All of us have felt vulnerable in our bodies at some point in our lives, especially during an illness, fleeting or chronic, or as part of the normal process of aging. But what do you do when you find yourself preoccupied excessively with health concerns?

In mindful eating, we often talk about “inner” and “outer” wisdom, as in: listening to the cues from the natural feedback system of our bodies, and consulting reputable, solid resources in our community. Sometimes, however, life feels overwhelming. When it comes to food, we are often flooded (via the Internet, popular media, sometimes by well-intentioned friends, family members, or even providers) with too much – or conflicting – advice about what is “good” or “bad.” Similarly, our minds can become flooded with thoughts of anxiety, especially when we are struggling with some aspect of our physical experience. After all, it’s not as if we can leave our bodies entirely (even if “checking out” is a strategy you might use, from time to time). As someone who is recovering from an inner ear condition that has caused symptoms of vertigo, I can relate to feeling off-balance (literally) and sometimes out of control in my body. But how do we decipher all of these confusing messages from mind-body, respond effectively, and not get lost in our fears?

Whether it relates to making skillful food choices (what/how/why do I want to eat), or navigating medical conditions such as chronic pain, diabetes, or heart disease, the S.T.O.P. exercise can help when you begin to feel lost:

  • Stop what you are doing. In the parenting world, we used to talk about taking a “time out,” but a more helpful approach is often allowing a “time in” – with yourself. Go to the bathroom, shut your office or bedroom door, pull over to the side of the road. Do what you can, within your power, to pause for several moments.
  • Take a breath (one complete in-breath, followed by one complete out-breath). You know what? Go wild and crazy – take two, or three!).
  • Observe – what thoughts are you noticing right now? Emotions? Sensations in the body? This isn’t the time for an analysis or dissection of your experience, but the equivalent of putting your head out the window to gauge the current “weather” system. Your weather system. Also, do you find yourself wanting a particular part of your experience to go away right now, or are you feeling curious and interested? There are no “wrong” answers. Whatever information you discover is useful.
  • Proceed forward, perhaps toward something that is in line with your values (completing a task, connecting with a loved one, attending to your body in some way). Not sure what to do? Take a few more breaths, notice what happens in your mind and body, and then see if a choice becomes clear.

Repeat as needed. These are the kinds of skills I love to teach clients, whether to navigate food, health issues, or other life stressors more effectively. Remember, sometimes we can’t change the occurrence of experiences we are having, but we can learn to work with them differently and respond in a way that reduces our suffering.

 

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morning-viewThis morning while I was engaged in a short morning sit, my daughter peeked her head into the room. She was holding her bunny lovey and several other stuffed animals under one arm, and watched silently until I gestured that she could come in.

Over the remaining fifteen minutes, she sat, scooted, scampered, created a fort of meditation cushions and yoga blocks for her orange-and-black stripped Tiger, and only occasionally spoke aloud to me, quickly falling back into quiet when I put one finger to my lips. This is noteworthy for my “spirited” child who brings a loud, energetic presence into our daily lives. I suspect that something about my own intentional stillness this morning – and the fact that I’ve been slowly introducing mindfulness to her, over the years – contributed to her response.

Perhaps something in the stillness called out to her, to her own busy body, as well.  (more…)

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