Mindful Mondays

Mindful Mondays are brought to you by Joie Schmitz of YOGA\VIVRE. These quick one minute exercises are sure to help you start your week off on a positive note! Check back here each week for a new Monday message!

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Try this tonight, right before bed. You can even do it in the comfort of your bed!

Lay on your back. Bend your knees, so they point up to the ceiling. Then, allow the bent knees to gently open outward as the soles of your feet come together. You will have a diamond-shape in the legs. Bring the palm of your right hand to your belly and the palm of your left hand to your heart.Close your eyes, or fix your gaze on one point. Relax your neck, shoulders and facial muscles. Breathe slowly and deeply.

Feel the breath in your belly and your chest, as it makes the hands subtly rise and fall. Melt away tension in your low back and hips. Try to relax a little more with each breath you take.

This restorative yoga posture not only stretches the legs and takes pressure off of the back, but it also stimulates the abdominal organs, aiding digestion and elimination. It can also improve circulation and help to alleviate some symptoms of mild depression and menstruation. It’s a great way to release both mental and physical stress and tension at the end of the day – or any time you’re feeling tightly wound!

If the stretch in the hips or knees is too intense or causes discomfort, place pillows under the outer edges of your knees/thighs, or place a pillow under your head and upper back.

For a moment, forget about multi-tasking, increasing efficiency, and optimizing output. Today’s exercise is about streamlining the mind and exploring real, acute awareness in everything that you do.

Try it: Brush your teeth and be fully aware of the entire experience. How does the water feel in your mouth? What subtle flavors do you detect in the toothpaste? Which hand are you using? Does it change? Brush each tooth individually, front and back. Do you default to certain habits when you are doing a routine task like this? What thoughts come up while you are brushing your teeth? Does brushing your teeth change how your mouth feels? Does it change how you feel in any other way? Does it increase your overall energy? What do you feel like doing after you brush your teeth?

Note that there are no right or wrong answers to the questions above. The exercise is just about noticing what you notice. That is awareness. We can practice awareness during mundane tasks like brushing our teeth, and our minds will start to apply this type of mental focus to other things as well.

Some other times when acute awareness can be particularly beneficial:
During a workout – being in tune with how your body is feeling.
When you are feeling ill – digging deep into what ails you, so that you can unroot the cause, not just treat the symptoms.
While driving – not only for safety, but to be more courteous to other drivers, as well.
Anytime you are with a friend or loved one – Especially as we enter a season of giving, try to give everyone you spend time with the gift of your awareness. Be aware of how they are feeling, the conversation you are sharing, and all of the subtle currents of energy that flow between you. Use that awareness to engage more deeply in each moment and strengthen your inter-personal connections. Everyone will feel more fulfilled.

The practice of picturing perfection is used frequently in sports: athletes visualize themselves in competition, performing at their best and succeeding. Studies have shown that this mental exercise – when done with intense concentration – can actually improve game-time outcomes.

Let’s apply this method to a task or goal you are facing. Before you begin: step away from the computer/phone/TV/all distractions, and sit-up in a chair with a straight back.

For one full minute:
Think of one task or goal you are trying to tackle.
Create a movie in your mind and watch the movie through to the happy ending:
Set the stage, or the location, where this will all pan out.
Include supporting characters, who cooperate to help your land at your goal.
Recruit your senses to fully immerse yourself in the storyline: listen for the sounds, imagine the tastes, detect the smells, and notice the sensations that come up.
Feel the emotions that come up when you visualize yourself working toward the goal, and then conquering the goal.

Try this whenever you are facing a big project, task or issue. Concentrate your mental energy on a positive outcome, then go out and make success your reality.

Recite this meditation either silently or aloud to cultivate feelings of goodness.

May I be happy and content.
May I be free from danger and suffering.
May I be filled with loving-kindness.

May you be happy and content.
May you be free from danger and suffering.
May you be filled with loving-kindness.

May all beings be happy and content.
May all beings be free from danger and suffering.
May all beings be filled with loving-kindness.

When you align your mind with positive thoughts, you create space for goodness to flourish. Similarly, if you choose to dwell on negative thoughts, you create a negative cloud. The thoughts and feelings you harbor internally, also have external effects on others around you. Reciting the Loving-Kindness Meditation can put you in a better mental state, and can influence how you interact with others. Ultimately, this meditation gives you the power to spread goodness to everyone.

Child’s Pose, or “Balasana” in Sanskrit, is a calming yoga pose. Practice it for 1 minute today to relax your body and center your mind. …Then, arise refreshed.

To try it:
Sit on the floor with your shins tucked underneath you. Your hips can rest on your heels.
Lay your belly over your thighs and reach your arms out in front of you, allowing them to rest on the floor.
Let your head hang, so that your forehead can rest on the floor between your arms.
Relax: Let your entire body soften. Close your eyes. Take long, deep breaths.

In this position, the body feels supported, safe and secure – so the mind can find ease. When the head rests, it creates a light pressure point on the space between the eyebrows. By drawing all of your attention to this point, much of the clutter in the mind fades away. Channel all of your mental energy here to center your mind.

Place a blanket or pillow under the ankles, knees, hips or forehead if you experience any discomfort in the pose.
Sit in a chair and rest your forehead and arms on a table or desk in front of you, if it is not possible to get down onto the floor.
If you carry a lot of tension in your neck, stack your fists on the ground and let your forehead rest on top of them. Gently roll the head side to side to loosen the neck and massage the “third eye” space.

Psychological studies have proven that expressing thanks to others can have direct and significant effects on your own well-being. When you acknowledge the things in your life for which you are grateful, you generate a positive attitude, and that can help to improve your self-esteem, foster healthy relationships, lessen your physical aches and pains and so much more!

When we stop to think about it, we all have something to for which to give thanks.
This exercise brings those things to light:

Make 3 lists:
5 things about yourself for which you are grateful. (Examples: your physical strength, your openness with others, your cooking skills.)

5 things about others for which you are grateful. (Examples: your partner’s support, your child’s laughter, your boss’ drive to keep you accelerating at work — yes, we can find gratitude even in tough situations!)

5 things about the world/nature/universe for which you are grateful. (Examples: a dark sky filled with bright stars, the way each new day brings you another chance to grow and succeed.)

Keep the list handy, and see if you can add to it throughout the week. Whenever a thought or feeling of thanks comes up, write it down. …Watch how your blessings accumulate!

September 23rd marked the Autumnal Equinox, or the official start of fall. Transitional periods, like this time, are ideal for reflecting on the past and setting an intention for the future. That right there can seem like a lot to accomplish… but give yourself one minute to do it, and see what comes up!

15 seconds: Replay everything you can remember from the year so far. Notice what comes to mind first!
15 seconds: Pause and feel gratitude for everything you have experienced. It has all contributed to your growth.
29 seconds: Set an intention for the season ahead. What do you want your life to feel like for the next few months? Create a statement that defines that thought.
1 second: Smile.

In actuality, the exercise above could take hours. To really honor the past (without dwelling on it), and to set yourself in the right direction for the future (without putting worry into it), could take a while. But, by dedicating just one minute to this, you’re more likely to try it… right? Bottom line: learn from the past, and take charge of the future.

Fall is in the air. This week’s cooler temperatures feel refreshing! A breath of brisk air or a breeze with a bit of a bite can be invigorating. In fact, it can snap you into a moment of complete presence.

This week’s workout: get outside and activate your senses. Connect with nature and notice what you notice.

Look for leaves changing color.
Listen to the sound of the breeze in the trees.
Feel the crispness of a cool day.

Whether you step outside for 1 minute, or take a long walk around town, being outdoors and among nature activates our senses and draws us close to the present moment.

Take a 60-second time-out from your day to try this: 
Sit comfortably with a tall spine, relaxed shoulders and a slight smile.
Take long, deep inhales and think: I am breathing in good (or peace, or patience, or strength — whatever positivity you need today.)
Release long, slow exhales and think: I am breathing out bad (or anger, or or sadness, or tension — whatever negativity you need to let go.)Every breath is an opportunity to replace negative mental energy that drags you down with positive intentions. Our thoughts influence our energy. And our energy determines our personal actions and interactions with others. When we take time to cultivate good thoughts, we generate goodness in ourselves and all around us!

For 1 minute today, stop everything you are doing and be completely still. You can stand, sit or lie down. You can close your eyes or gaze at a single point in front of you. Try to relax and let everything around you (noises, distractions, your own thoughts, etc.) fade into the background.

Taking a “time out” like this can be like hitting a mental reset button. When we allow ourselves moments of true stillness and separation from the myriad of thoughts and tasks that rule our days, we can often emerge with mental clarity to focus on what is really important.