Give yourself a break

When did you last spend 10 minutes doing absolutely nothing? Just 10 minutes?

We are busier than ever, running faster and faster, expecting more and more from ourselves.

 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

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Balancing life with mindfulness

I don’t know about you – but my meditation practice went down the drain as we got into summer with the kids being home, guests arriving, dog sitting, trips away from home and things going on all the time.

Meditation is one of those things that is as important to me as brushing my teeth. It is where I reconnect with myself, find balance, tune in to my core, listen to the songs of my soul and come home.

When I get out of my life-balance rhythm, I suffer and it leads to unrest in my body. As a result, I get stressed, I feel grumpy more often, feel restless. I get distracted and feel disconnected. I may overeat, convince myself I don’t have time to run or that I really, really need that bag of chips!

When this happens, I know it’s time for me to reconnect with myself, and one of the best ways I find, is mindfulness meditation.

In an earlier post I wrote about how meditation changes the brain – how meditation keeps us clam and grounded long after we finished mediating. It helps us stay calm and focused, even in stressful situations. The situation is very much like the way that running helps us to burn fat even in between runs and while resting, because our muscles have become a fat burning furnace. The same happens in the brain when we mediate – and even after just a short period of time it is possible to see changes in the brain. The propensity for relaxation becomes larger and it becomes easier to find back into the same peaceful place within, just as we experience during meditation.

I know that in beginning meditation may very well feel inside like Times Square during rush hour! It takes a while to find the calm and it is important to remember that meditation does not mean that the mind is totally quiet. As my mediation hero, Jon Kabat-Zinn, says: “If you have a mind, it is going to wander”! When the mind wanders and you start thinking about shopping lists, who is driving the kids to soccer, what you should have said to someone or should not have said, when you start telling yourself you will never learn to meditate and you don’t need it anyway – the trick is, to return to the breath – again and again, without judgement.

I have downloaded my meditations to my phone so I can hear them whenever I need them – 5 min, 10 min, 15 min 20 or 30 minutes meditations – voila no excuses.

The latest addition to my collection is a Mindfulness Meditation App – it has 4 guided meditations 3 min, 5 min, 15 or 30 min – it also has 4 silent meditations and a guided Body Scan. You can set it so that at certain times, it reminds you that it’s time to meditate. It can even poke you at certain intervals to remind you to be more mindful and allowing yourself to be exactly as you are – not escaping life as it is, but to be mindful in the moment.

For years I have used Jon Kabat-Zinn’s  mindfulness meditations and I never get tired of them

Here is a workshop Jon Kabat- Zinn gave at Google some years ago

Self-Compassion

We are so hard on ourselves – we are raised to be kind, polite and respectful to others – but not to ourselves. Somehow, it is okay to treat ourselves disrespectful and talk to ourselves in the cruelest of  ways!

We have about 25.000 – 65.000 thoughts a day – 90 % are critical and a big part of those are turned towards ourselves!  I  am too fat! Gosh, I look dreadful! I suck at math! I totally tone-deaf so I don’t sing along! I will never be able to do that! I am a terrible cook,!I don’t deserve that job/position/credit! I will never make that kind of  money! She is much more beautiful than me! He is much better than me! He (she) doesn’t love me! I am unlovable……………etc. etc. Would we talk to others like that? No-way! But nevertheless we bombard ourselves with it every day. Then we smile and pretend everything is okay and wonder why we feel so miserable!

These kind of thoughts are stressful on our body. They effect our health. They create imbalance in the body and they make us feel miserable and depressed!

If these negative thoughts were even a bit positive or helpful, if they could motivate us and get us on the right track – then we could use them – but unfortunately – they are not!

Dr. Kristin Neff Ph.D, associate professor, Human Development and Culture, Educational Psychology Department, University of Texas at Austin is the author of the book Self-Compassion. Kristin Neff is also featured in the best-selling book and award winning documentary “The Horse Boy” – that tells the story of her family’s personal journey with autism.

I love her approach – not the usual “think positive”  approach, but rather, having compassion for who we are with everything, the good, the bad and the ugly, shortcomings and all – accepting that we are humans, that we are not perfect and that we do make mistakes. She talks about self-compassion being healthier than self esteem in this great article in Psychology today.

She uses her own story, she has humor and insight – and she is hugely inspiring!

This is a great interview with Kristin Neff in the program The High Bar with Warren Etheredge

The High Bar

Kristin Neff’s book Self-Compassion is a wonderful book that I highly recommend. Her website is full of useful information, videos, self-compassion meditations, interviews exercises and more. Kristin Neff is also the writer in Psychology Today’s blog  with articles such as “Why self compassion is healthier than self esteem” and “Self-compassion for caregivers” and “let go of self-criticism and discover self-compassion” ! She also writes for  Huffington Post’s blog with articles like “Does self-compassion mean letting yourself off the hook”? and “Treating yourself as you’d treat a good friend”

http://www.self-compassion.org/

The Horse Boy Movie

You may also want to read my post about compassion

Mindfulness Meditation

Meditation is a great life skill, one that is part of a balanced life. For example, I feel that meditation ought be taught to children in school, along with math, PE and social studies!

Mindfulness meditation has been, and is, an important part of my life. It is one of the elements in my life that keeps me healthy, sane and adds balance to my life. It is as important to me as cleaning my teeth, eating well or going out for a run. I can live without it, yes, but …………….

when I feel stressed and imbalanced, when life is overwhelming, hectic or confusing; meditation, is a way to effectively find balance again. Breathing mindfully, even just a few deep breaths.  Sitting in mindful peace, even for only a few minutes, can make a difference, and I can feel the balance, peace and life-connection again.

Often I meet people who say “oh, I so wish I could get into a meditation practice but …….. I don’t know how, and every time I try my mind keeps racing – so I must be doing it wrong and I am also too busy, but I so wish that I could”.

I think that we all long for quiet space – we crave it. Meditation is such a great way to get it!

But we tend to have this illusion that meditation has to be done just right, sitting down on a mountain, cross-legged, for hours and years, with a perfectly blank and quiet mind. So many give up before even trying. And even if we give it a try, then we experience just how busy the mind is, thoughts bombard us with, what do I cook for dinner, oh, he won’t like that, I need to remember to buy washing powder, I should have asked…, I have to remember to call……etc. When this happens, we think we are doing it wrong, and give up, not realizing that is actually quite natural and part of it. The mind is a wanderer and we will think of a billion things while we meditate, thoughts come and go, feelings come and go, sensations come and go.

As Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, a researcher, a scientist and a teacher of mindfulness meditation says, ” if you have a mind it is going to wander“. We are not doing it wrong, we are just human with a wandering mind. Simply observing that there are different thoughts coming, without following the thoughts, just noticing and going back to the breath. Don’t strive, let whatever happens, happen – just notice and be mindful with what happens, without analyzing or judging it, then return to the breath.

Dr. Kabat Zinn has been an amazing inspiration for me on my meditation path! What I like about mindful meditation is that it is simple – there is no right or wrong – it is “just” being – it is straight forward and down to earth. Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn makes meditation simple and obtainable – he removes the mystic part and makes it easy, durable and fun. Something for everyone!

Meditation can be done anywhere and anytime, sitting cross-legged on the floor or on a chair, on the bus or in the airport, walking, standing in a line up or laying down.

This YouTube is a workshop he did at Google – it is full of great and inspiring information. I hope you will enjoy it.

12 years ago, when I first started meditating I bought Jon Kabat-Zinn’s  CDs and I have used them ever since. They are so helpful when you start out and still to this day, I use them – fortunately, before I wore the CDs out, I added them to my iPhone and  listen to them when I need it.

You can read more about the CDs here

You may also want to read these two other blog posts I wrote on meditation :

Compassion 

-Meditation changes the brain