Cultivate Ease Through Mindful Meditation

I am an inherently emotionally driven person. I feel everything in the moment, vividly, wholly, and openly. I am that person you can always tell is feeling happy, sad, frustrated, angry, or any other myriad variety of emotions one can have on any given day.

In a recent conversation with a close friend (here’s looking at you, Megan), we got to talking about the concept of being more graceful as we move through life. The idea that we don’t have to be so reactive and reactionary to every small thing. And more importantly, how incredibly draining it can be on our energy levels. Here’s a thought: not everything needs a response or reaction of epic proportion…or any proportion. 

I recently started to expand my mindfulness journey by starting meditation teacher training (!). The first concept that was taught is that the mind and body are not separate and that we should stop thinking about them as divided entities. Instead, the mind is the body, and the body is the mind, thus giving way to the concept of the mind-body. No longer should you refer to an ailment as effecting one or the other, instead, the mind-body is what’s feeling what you’re feeling, meaning any emotion or physical pain effects ALL OF YOU (even if you don’t realize it). A strong reaction isn’t just making the sting of tears come to your eyes and make your face flush, it’s also starting a narrative in your mind that you’ll inevitably replay over and over again until (eventually) both the mind and the body can process and let go.

A lot of meditation and mindfulness practices also include the importance of breath-work. I’ve written about breathing, how something so innate to our bodies, can also be quite difficult. But, breathing in and out is an incredibly cleansing act. After all, there’s a reason why when you’re feeling upset, they tell you to take “deep breaths.”

“Ease” like grace has a beautiful way of rolling off the tongue. When spoken, it naturally leaves your mouth on an exhale breath. Go ahead, say it. It’s freeing in the purest way — the word itself begs us to let it all go.

The hardest part of being mindful is learning how to redirect energies and cultivate more ease with how to approach day-to-day life. If we meditate on cultivating more ease throughout our mind-body, we will by inherent practice, do that very thing: cultivate the very ease we are searching for. So with that, I urge us all to breathe into ease, breathe into grace, and breathe into the calm. 

Happy #mindfulmonday !

 

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Read Yourself Into Mindfulness

In my honest opinion, a mindfulness practice reaches far beyond daily meditations, yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, chakra clearing, etc. Though all these things have certainly helped to strengthen my mindfulness practice, there is one in particular that I’ve been doing for so many years I just realized was part of my holistic practice.

Reading.

Yep, here I am, making a PSA about the importance of reading, reading rainbow style!

I have always been (and remain) a voracious reader. For me, it is the purest form of escapism. I open the pages, inhale the smell of a well-worn book, or even the crispness of a brand new one and settle in to breathing life into the characters and scenes before me. I sink into another world where the reality of daily stressors of emails, meetings, work conflicts, long lists of life to-do’s melt away into the pages of the narrative.

Admittedly, like any child or teenager who wanted to escape a less than perfect home life, I used reading as a way to be away from all of that. It was free-ing when “escaping” was limited by no car, cellphone, and dial-up internet (yes, I’m that old).

But now…I am purely present.

My breath evens out, my long list of anxious worrying thoughts take a back seat, my body relaxes as the only movement being asked of it is the gentle turn of the page or swipe of my thumb. All that matters is the next word, the next paragraph, the next chapter. I am living and breathing moment-to-moment, just like every meditation practice teaches us.

I turn myself inward by immersing myself in storytelling. So practice a little gentle escapism by turning into a character of your choice. And when you bookmark that page and come back to reality, remember the evenness of your breath, the comfort of a story, and create your own–mindfully!

 

Are you mindful when you argue?

Fact: All couples argue.

Fact: All couples argue about the stupidest stuff AND really important life decisions and how they’ll impact the life you’re (hopefully) building together.

Question: How do you practice mindfulness in an argument with your significant other?***

***Especially when you have a hot temper and your arguing style is on complete polar opposites of the spectrum. 

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m the one with the short fuse and my S.O. is the one who’s got the calm, thoughtful, rational way of arguing. I fly off the handle and he will sit quietly staring at me waiting for me to stop acting like a banshee so that he can begin his painstaking over-explanation of his point of view until we’ve beaten the dead horse, dug it back up, and beat it again.

Needless to say, we are rather different people when we argue and well beyond that, but this is also the very reason why we work – we balance each other

As I thought more about this delicate balance and how important it is to keep, I thought about how mindfulness practice needs to extend and permeate into the way I argue or confront my S.O.

Having a temper is counterproductive to being mindful–it doesn’t exactly allow for calm, collected, kind discussions to happen. But herein lies the challenge: to be mindful in an argument, you have to be able to step away from that person you’ve become that’s reeling from frustration and practice some compassion and active listening towards your partner.

More often than not, the argument that is happening has very little to do with the thing that started it (for example [yes, this actually happened]: whether or not you believe in expiration dates on food or you think they’re just general “suggestions”).

Here’s where I’ve started:

  1. Don’t react in the moment–try and observe your emotions. Are they really stemming from the expiration date on milk or is there something deeper?
  2. Take yourself out of the catastrophe to give yourself space to articulate calmly your feelings and emotions when you’re ready.
  3. Don’t dismiss your partner’s feelings or yours in the heat of the moment. This means being patient and this is really hard.

Mindful living means that we must lead with this practice in every aspect of our lives. Perhaps, as a pleasant consequence, arguments will be less over spoiled milk (#noreally) and more about the things that truly matter. 

 

Overthinking: Death by Analysis Paralysis

I have no idea how not to think. 

In my line of work, we often joke about “death by PowerPoint.” You know what I’m talking about–we’ve all been there! Someone walks you through 50 to 100 slides of PowerPoint slides chock full of data, white background, and no color to speak of. Everything blurs together and you learn nothing except for vowing that you’ll never sit through another one of these presentations for as long as you live.

I propose that there’s a similar death when you are working to climb the mountain of mindfulness: death by “analysis paralysis,” or “what if’s.” 

Here’s what happens to me when the grim reaper of analysis paralysis knocks on my door: the mind races and a seemingly incessant stream of “what if” scenarios, bordering on the irrational and unrealistic start to unfurl behind my eyes. It’s like watching a bad b-movie where I’m the main star and I can’t seem to get my shit together, over and over again.  To add on to the joy of the mindless spiral, physical symptoms of jittery impatience start to manifest: legs jiggling, shallow breathing, shifty-eyed, giving each task or conversation before me approximately 2% of my attention.

Ideas / worries / disappointments / potential failures surface and bleed into more uncertainties that rip me away from my ability to stay present in the moment because I’m busy starring in my own movie of All The Things That Could Possibly Happen in the Future – Ever.

There are few things that can pull me out of that death spiral, but one thing in specific has yet to fail me. And, that is, the importance of body work. By body work, I mean physical activity of any kind, physical touch of any kind (massage, a simple hug from a friend or a loved one), my personal favorite: placing my hand on my heart center, and most recently acupuncture.

There is nothing more grounding than using the strength, movement, and physical presence of this beautiful and imperfect body that I’ve been given. Acupuncture has provided me a forced stillness when I’ve needed it the most. There is no where to go when I’ve got a bunch of needles stuck in random places all over my body. My limbs become heavy on the table. I am forced to face the ugly demons of over thinking, to quiet them, put them in a corner. I am in my own stillness breathing in quiet serenity and breathing out every thought as it slowly loses it’s tenuous grip on the edges of my mind. 

My mind elopes frequently with all of the possibilities and uncertainties of life. But my body is always here. Present and in the moment. Rooted and grounded to this earth. 

For it carries all of me, mind and spirit.