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Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

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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The Journey

spiritual-journeyAre you willing to pause, and listen, and re-connect?

“…And there was a new voice,

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world…”

Mary Oliver – The Journey, in DREAM WORK (1986)

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mindful eating changes everythingMore from The Weight Escape  – can you tell that I’m liking this book?

“Mindfulness is the antidote to the modern fight or flight syndrome. It enables us to shift into an alternative pause and plan mode…and to respond with intention or purpose. Mindfulness gives us the mental space to ask the question, “What do I want to do in this moment?” or “What do I want to stand for now?” It helps us insert a mindful pause between our impulse to eat and the action of eating. Just one mindful breath can be all we need to gain control of our actions” (p. 132).

The authors call mindfulness the “ultimate habit,” and I’m inclined to agree, as a psychologist trained extensively in MBSR and other mindfulness-based approaches. Mindfulness training is now the foundation of every intervention I offer my clients. As I develop an updated, comprehensive EAT curriculum to teach beginning in October, you can bet that it will be at the heart of what I do, at A Mindful Meal!

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thinking-person-hiYou’ve seen this before, right?  And another: “Don’t believe everything your mind tells you.” Easier said than done. Especially if your mind is telling you that you are stupid. Ugly. Bad. Yep, the yucky stuff – the kind of messages we’d like to silence or ignore.

As I make my way through “The Weight Escape” book, I’ve found it helpful to review some of the principles and exercises from the Acceptance and Commitment
Therapy (ACT) model once again. To think about ACT principles, like how we all try to control our internal experience (and how that doesn’t work); how easily we can become fused, or caught up in our thoughts; and the value of living more fully in the present moment (if we’re willing). During a training, I heard one ACT expert say that we are trying to move away from a “feel good” agenda to a “feel your feelings well” agenda.  This can be hard, right? I know when I have a painful thought or feeling, I still want to run away! (Although I’ve gotten much better at recognizing this impulse, and staying, when it is in line with my values.) (more…)

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