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Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

As 2019 approaches, more quickly than I would like to admit, I find myself reflecting over the weeks and months of 2018 and sinking into the many lessons that have popped into my life during this time. As I have not written my blog now for several months, I thought I might take the time to share what I have been thinking about and consider what is important in forging forward.

Learning to Walk Again
I am now officially bionic, or at least in my view. On January 5th and July 11th of this past year, I received two new knees. Even as I write this, doesn’t it sound and seem just a little weird; the idea that my used and very arthritic knees could be replaced by Titanium and Teflon. Cool!

And as I write this and consider that I met my Orthopedic surgeon just over a year ago, I am feeling blessed by the presence of a small miracle. I can walk again, easily and effortlessly. I can no longer kneel or do squats (Darn!) and so what!

Yes, I am being a bit glib as I hesitate to mention how challenging the journey has been. I have had to both literally and figuratively learn to walk again. Literally, because it had been at least four years since I had been able to walk with comfort. This was a huge blow to me as I am a ‘distance walker’ priding myself in walking 6 km or more 3-4 times per week. Walking was where I found solace, quiet and answers, my meditation. All of this had come to a grinding halt. I had had to learn other ways and means of deriving the same benefits walking could no longer offer me.

And although walking has returned, I quickly realized that a few years of less than optimal physical activity had left my walking muscles tight, shortened and weak. Indeed, I have had to learn to walk again, heel to toe, engaging hips, knees and torso. You would think that as a former physical therapist this would have been obvious. My thoughts – it’s not obvious until it happens to you.

And then there was the metaphorical learning to walk again. In the last few years I have stepped more fully into my third act. Knee surgeries, and a few other health hiccups this past year, have given me ample time to rest in the ‘neutral zone’ of transition; time to wonder, reflect, explore and probe the possibilities of what’s next. Going slow is not my usual speed. I enjoy action. This has been new territory for me. I continue to learn how to walk in this space.

Love, Loss and Lessons
In August my brother-in-law David left us. He died by his own hands; yes, it is difficult for me to say – suicide. This act is one of those things that you hear about and which happens to other families. And now it arrives on our doorstep.

At the wake, watching a series of slides featuring Dave and the way he lived, looking into his eyes, I asked my brother-in-law Todd where Dave went to. We were both puzzled. This is the hidden story of depression and anxiety and our inability as a society to understand the pain, hopelessness and frazzled brains that leads to this choice. Dave’s descent into all of this was rapid and insidious. Therapy, medications, support – nothing reached him.

The lesson for me, as I hope it is for our family, has been to exercise my understanding, to celebrate who he was in health (an amazing father, husband and citizen), and to exercise non-judgment. I have endeavored to understand that he died of depression, as malignant and aggressive as any cancer I have ever experienced. I am sad; our family is sad. We are a relatively tight knit family and a hole had been punched in the fabric of who we are.

And on the other side, Jim and I have been privileged to be part of Mary’s journey. My sister-in-law has amazed me with her courage, her ability to face this sudden loss and the effect this has on her life, her capacity to support her three children, and most importantly, to move on. She is and has been a role model for all of us.

Cultivating Curiosity
When I grow up, I want to be….. How many times do you hear that from youngsters and the occasional adult. And, do we really want to grow up. Doesn’t it imply that there is an endpoint to reach. And once reached, then what? This has me wondering.

I have decided that growing up is overrated. That end point I mentioned feels too finite, that once I reach it I will have learned all I need to know, that growing up is the death of curiosity. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration AND…..

If I have learned anything over this past year is that curiosity is the life blood of remaining young and vibrant; it may even be a significant antidote to aging. Curiosity is more than just learning although learning is definitely involved. For me it is living with the ‘what if …’ What if I made different choices, what if I go in this direction, turn that corner, jump, leap or run. What if I stopped doing all the things I habitually do and do well, what would show up? What if I created more ‘being’ space, what would I learn or experience? What if I traveled and explored more, what surprises would reveal themselves to me?

You get the drift. I recognize not everyone will agree with me just as I understand that curiosity is like breath to me. And with that understanding, I will continue to cultivate curiosity and to endeavor to understand what is left for me to be and do as I continue my life journey. Care to join me?

Living in the White Space
Take out a clean sheet of paper. Now take a pen or pencil and draw a dot on the paper. You chose how large. Step away, avert your gaze for a moment. Now look at it again. What do you see?

Most people will see the black dot. Do you? What else do you see? Do you see the white space around the dot? Which occupies more of the paper, the black dot or the white space?

Imagine for a moment that the black dot represents all the negativity around you – sickness, loss, negative news, fake news. Yes, these are the things that both capture and hold our attention. And yet, in reality, they are only a single black dot in the whole. Negative events exist in a field of other events, mostly positive and uplifting, small miracles happening around us, generally unwitnessed because the black dot holds our attention.

I want to learn to live in the white space. I fear that the black dots may take over and I will lose my sense of optimism. The white space does not imply ignorance, it simply means learning to be in the small miracles of everyday from waking up, to a new flower or fresh snow, to the abundance of life and to the good and great things happening in the world around us.

I remember listening to an Abraham (Esther Hicks) tape a few years ago on the topic of negative news. She was counselling an audience member with a fatalistic and downward spiraling attitude and reminding him that for every piece of negative news reported, there are thousands of uplifting and positive events occurring and unreported. Fear makes news. Love does not.

And so part of my learning to walk again, despite the changes and challenges contained within 2018, is to remain in the white space, to identify the daily miracles, to cultivate my curiosity and seek out the amazing things that are happening around me.

I would love to hear your thoughts and observations.

Wishing everyone a joyful holiday season and celebration.

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During the Positive Psychology conference, one of my favorite workshops was with a colleague of mine Marla Warner who led us through a number of mindfulness activates. She actually saved my day as this was the final workshop of the afternoon and I was feeling the fatigue of a full conference schedule. Her presentation and the activities were a clear reminder of how restorative mindfulness is.

Just to clarify, many people assume that mindfulness is meditation. In fact, meditation is a form of mindfulness, and mindfulness is so much more. As defined by Jon Kabat Zin, mindfulness means ‘paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally’.

In recent weeks, with a full schedule and the task of working with Jim’s family to mover his parents to a Senior Citizen’s residence, I have engaged mindfulness in many ways. First, I have a daily routine which includes a number of exercises and stretches. At the end of the routine I have a mantra is use as follows: I am the Light of my Soul, I am bountiful, I am beautiful, I am bliss, I AM, I AM. This is followed by an Ohm and the setting of my intentions for the day.

Regardless of your choices, a daily practice such as this immediately brings you to a mindful state. Accompanied by breathing, this type of practice brings you to a place of calmness and clarity.

The second aspect which has kept me grounded throughout a time of significant transition, are the intentions set for new beginnings, in this case on behalf of our family. Living intentionally, stating clearly what you want to attract to your life, is a mindful act. Bringing yourself back to these intentions repeatedly, keeps you grounded, centered and focused. These are just a couple of examples of integrating mindful practices in your day.

Of course mindfulness is linked to positivity. As a practice mindfulness can help you literally sever the link between negative thoughts and emotions. The practice forces you to stop and to notice what is rummaging around in your head and what feelings are associated with these thought patterns. Without noticing, without being mindful, you cannot begin re-programing your thoughts.

So what can one be mindful of on a daily basis? Breath, contact, movement (such as walking a labyrinth), bodily sensations, feelings and emotions, thoughts attitudes and beliefs. You begin to realize that there is so much you take for granted on a daily basis without examining what unconsciously propels you forward in life.

Mindfulness is a skill – it takes practice. Over time it changes the way your brain works – you can use it to break down the circuits that promote negativity and build the circuits linked to positivity, taking advantage of “neuroplasticity”, the fact that your brain can be re-programmed.
Research regarding mindfulness includes the following benefits:

decreased blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension, reduced cholesterol, improved immunity, reduced pain and anxiety, improved sleep, and decreased inflammation.

Add to this, mindfulness leads to more optimism and decreased depression, greater self-awareness, the opportunity to change negative thought patterns, improved coping abilities, greater efficiency and productivity, improved learning capabilities and memory, and developing a sense of inner calm.

As you review this list, can you see the opportunities for all of us in our Third Act. The great gift of this time in our life is that you get to choose how you live. Many of you have the gift of more time. An important and useful part of this time is the investment in a few mindful practices which can serve to help you stay grounded, to intentionally explore the options for this time in your life and invest in your health.

Some Additional Mindful Practices: Meditation; Prayer, Yoga, Creative endeavors, Gratitude Practices, Mindful Eating (putting the fork down between bites and savoring the flavors), acknowledgement of others and what they bring into your life, washing dishes, gardening and so much more.

Consider this my invitation to you to put aside time every day for yourself for some type of mindful practice.

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“You need two things to get unstuck: Clarity and Courage. And, clarity is the reward of having courage.”

It has occurred to me in the last two weeks that courage is something to embrace as the opportunities for self-expression continue to unfold in my Third Act. Why courage? I am finding it challenging to crack open the eggshell of old habits and daily routines which have governed my life for so long. One of my greatest gifts in life has been my purposefulness and goal orientation. One of my greatest liabilities in life is my purposefulness and goal orientation!

It takes courage to face it down, to challenge it, to understand how I trip myself up by relying on what I have always known. It is a bit of a trap, for even though we can agree that purposefulness and goal orientation is a great thing, I also see the limitations, the blinders these habits impose.

Enough self-flagellation; this is not meant to be a critique of me. The question really is ‘now what’?

In a moment of clarity, the other day I realized that what I really wanted to release was the ‘need to work’. Yes need. I don’t know how it has been for you, but I was raised in the school of responsibility, obligation and ‘shoulds’. The reality for me is that I no longer need to work. Now on the government payroll with CPP and OAP, I may not be completely set for life and I know that our financial health is strong. So what is this need thing, this drive?

In its place I would much rather embrace the joy of work and be open to whatever that may be. I still love what I do and offer clients. I thoroughly enjoy coaching, facilitation and teaching. Am I not fortunate? And there are as many opportunities out there for me now as there were 20 years ago when I started my business, perhaps even more.

And here’s where courage comes in – saying ‘NO’ to the less than perfect opportunities, releasing the work that lingers that no longer engages me, because I don’t need to hang on. This gives me the space for clarity, the opportunity for opening new avenues of connecting with and serving people. None of this is a surprise; I have been ruminating on this for a while.

I am a person that also enjoys structure and routine and again I am asking if I need it. With summer upon us, I dream of morning walks, time on the front porch in the early morning sun, gardening and painting, hammock time with a good book, evenings in the gazebo sharing a glass of wine with friends. My usual work schedule does not accommodate these things or this life style.

As I envision the July and August landscape, I see great possibility. The second week of July is fully booked with a series of workshops we will be facilitating from Quebec City to Vancouver. Yes, it will be an intense week. More importantly, by having the courage to speak honestly with our clients, we will be engaged in work that we love and which we believe will make a significant difference for our client. Clarity was our reward.

Then guess what, the remainder of July and August is a fallow field. Will I have the courage to ‘BE’ in it allowing time for new possibilities to emerge and clarity to grow?

So onto you. Some things to consider. Are some of your greatest strengths also your liabilities? It is a great exercise to recognize this.

Is it time for you to address some on the repeating patterns that have governed your life and crack open the egg? What would you like to replace these patterns with? Remember if you can’t name it, it is unlikely you will get it.

Summer is such a wonderful time to relax and allow yourself to sink into the days. Why not do so? I plan to and hope you will join me, perhaps even share with me a few of your AHA’s that show up.

Have the courage to let go of what you have always known and create space for clarity to walk in the door.

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Last week I had the privilege of attending a networking event for entrepreneurs. I chose this event at it was billed as The Gratitude Circle. There have been many ‘gratitude roadSIGNS’ in my life of late from simple conversations, to radio programs, to articles, all extolling the importance of gratitude in our lives. In contrast to this however, I continue to find that many people are not aware of the idea of a ‘gratitude practice’ or the important role gratitude can play in your life.

Being Consciously Aware
Bringing gratitude into your life is really a ‘mindfulness practice’, specifically taking the time to become consciously aware of what your day has offered you and to express gratitude for the many apparently insignificant things that have shown up. For example: a colorful morning sky, an inspiring song on the radio on your way to work, a heartfelt interaction with another person, meeting a client’s needs and receiving great feedback on a job well done, a shared moment after work with a few friends, a great dinner with your family, seeing the first hummingbird of the season, or simply having great health and feeling amazing.

Notice how actively unconscious most of us are. Consider this; you get in the car every morning to drive to work. You arrive and as you pull into your parking spot you suddenly realize, wow, I am already here. I didn’t even notice the drive in – I was on autopilot. The radio was blaring yet I didn’t hear anything anyone said as they were all talking at the same time. I didn’t notice anything along the way – did I miss something? OMG, I really am living in auto-pilot! The day continues, and because much of your life is routine, it slips by, the details of the day unnoticed.

Gratitude Lifts YOU Up!
Gratitude gives you an opportunity to look at your life through the lens of positivity. In her book entitled Positivity, Barbara Fredrickson states that the old story is that anything that feels good is merely a distraction – trivial, inconsequential and expendable. The new story however, backed by science, is that these same good feelings are the active ingredients needed to allow us to flourish, that is feel good about ourselves and our lives. This begins by learning to cherish those special moments in your life, bringing your focus to what you are grateful for.

By cherishing those special moments in your life, you begin to feel better about yourself. This allows you to be more resilient. Research has demonstrated that feeling positive about your life, which is the end product of gratitude, has far-reaching benefits including building a stronger immune system, a cardio-vascular system which is less reactive to stress, and increased optimism. Finally, if you feel better about YOU today, there is a good chance that you will feel better about YOU tomorrow.

I have nothing to be Grateful for!
I do hear this, often!  A former coaching client of mine shared that she had nothing in her life to be grateful for, no one loved her and she was all alone. I asked her to take a closer look at her life, her relationship with her son, and her relationship with her colleagues. When she did this, she realized that she had a great deal of love in her life and when she expressed gratitude for this, more love appeared. At the point that I had begun speaking with her, she was engaged in a contentious divorce and child-custody battle with her former husband. As she shifted her focus to love and being grateful, her relationship with him changed and he dropped the suit.

Gratitude shifts your awareness and changes your energy. When your energy changes, so does the energy around you.

Gratitude

Final Word
Gratitude is a powerful energy, bringing you into a conscious relationship with what is right with your life. I encourage you, just as I do my clients, to begin some type of Gratitude Practice as part of your life. This can be a Gratitude Journal where you record your daily gratitudes or, my favorite one, sharing what you are grateful for with your family as you sit down for dinner.

Whatever your choice, know that gratitude will change your life – it has been proven scientifically!

Until next time…

Betty Healey

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Last Wednesday I attended a networking event in Montreal. As I venture out to new networking events I carry two burning questions: will I meet someone and make a heartfelt connection and will I walk away with some new learning or piece of information. Like anything else in life, I believe that networking needs to be intentional.

I was not disappointed. The guest speaker was Bhaskar Goswami of Bodhi Yoga Center in Montreal ( www.bodhiprinciple.com) who delivered an entertaining speech  on a trek he and three cousins completed in the Himalayas. It was not particularly new information to me just a simple reminder of things I know but fail to practice consistently.

As Bhaskar shared his experience I was reminded that I have a tendency, when beginning any journey, to focus on where I am going, the destination. In doing so I often forget about the experience, that is the journey itself.

While this focus serves my need for being purposeful, it is a bit like wearing blinders, prohibiting me from checking my peripheral vision and actually experiencing what is going on in the moment. And so, if you are like me, I suggest that we all pause to smell the roses and to begin being more present with our journey, whether that is simply life, a big project we are managing or an actual trek up a mountainside.

“Perhaps the turtle knows the road better than the hare.”

Take the First Step

Have you ever noticed that when you focus on the destination, the entire picture, that you get a wee bit overwhelmed. Eleven years ago I learned a vital lesson in living the journey when Jim and I built our garden labyrinth. On the morning of June 2nd I stepped into the back yard to survey the project we were about to begin. Three weeks earlier Jim had cut the design for the labyrinth out of the grass. It was 40 feet in diameter and while I understood it was going to be no small feat, I had not fully comprehended the full breadth of the project. My task was to lift the remaining grass in the design, dig up the soil and prepare the area as a garden.

My first response was a few expletives which cannot be shared in this article! You can use your imagination here. Then Jim appeared carrying a yard stick. He set it down in front of me and gave me the following instructions:  Place the stick down, mark off the first three feet, move the stick away, dig up the grass, till the soil. REPEAT. Do not lift your head, simply be in the experience until you have finished. Respond to your task and enjoy each 3 foot segment.

I did as he suggested and despite being tempted I did not look up. I stayed in the moment learning that it was very meditative to do so. Four days later the labyrinth was done and honestly, I could not have completed the task without following Jim’s instructions.

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The lesson, three feet at a time, has stayed with me since. Each time I begin a new project or embark on a new journey, I bring myself into the experience and consider the first three feet. Using this strategy will allow you to be more present and mindful of your surroundings, taking in information that is readily available to you but which can be so easily missed if you keep your focus only on the destination. It also enriches the experience.

I so often meet individuals who are in overwhelm. It is my belief that they have lost a sense of the journey and why they are on the journey. Responding to overwhelm has two possible options: spinning, which is just continuing on the same course and forgetting to get grounded in the moment or pausing, which as described here brings you into the moment and allows you to be clear on your choices and decide on the first three feet.

I can assure you, at least from my own experience, that carving out the first three feet, works wonders. And so I invite you to do the same: be present, mark off the first three feet, and enjoy the journey. You will reach your destination and along the way, enjoy the experience more.

Until Next Time,

Betty

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