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!

Feeling up to digging a bit deeper into mindfulness? Don't miss our guided Mindfulness Sessions!

 

At Thanksgiving, our attention naturally turns toward gratitude.  The holiday lends itself to the practice of acknowledging what we are most grateful for in our lives.  
Feeling and expressing gratitude is something that can be done year-round to inspire a richer, more meaningful life.  When you giving thanks this Thanksgiving, let it be the start of a daily gratitude practice.  Each morning going forward, before you get out of bed, say thanks for anything that comes to mind.  Start each day with the joy and contentment that flows from a grateful heart.

 

I recently had the privilege to attend a full-day wellness retreat where I was challenged to flex and stretch my mental muscles!  The following is an exercise I picked-up from a lecture: “The Wellness Lifestyle Defined,” by Dr. Paul Bizjak. 
Sit and take a few deep breaths to begin.  When you feel settled, think about your life as it is playing out day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year.  Then, rate your current life status on a scale of 1-10 (one is terrible, ten is amazing).  
If you chose a low number: WHY?  What are the things that need to change in your life to bring that number up?  Note that there are small things you can do right now to start working toward a higher number.
If you choose a high number: WHY?  What are you thankful for?  What makes your world go ‘round?  Meditate on all the good that is in your life, and let it abound.
If you chose a 6 or 7: It’s time to realize your fullest potential.  Don’t strive to maintain space in a life that’s not bad enough to make significant changes and good enough to bring you real bliss.  Challenge yourself: How great can you feel?  What would that feel like?  How do you create that feeling through the choices you make and the actions you take on a daily basis?

 

It’s up to Us
Breathe out: Frustration | Breathe in: Acceptance
Breathe out: Nervous Energy | Breathe in: Constructive Energy
Breathe out: Anger | Breathe in: Delight
Breathe out: Sadness | Breathe in: Joy
Breathe out: Jealousy | Breathe in: Contentment
Breathe out: Anxiety | Breathe in: Peace
Breathe out: Struggle | Breathe in: Strength
Breathe out: Negativity | Breathe in: Open-mindedness
Breathe out: Confusion | Breathe in: Clarity
Breathe out: Barriers | Breathe in: Inclusivity 
Keep going: insert your own words/feelings… and keep breathing.  You and I are responsible for creating the world we want to live in.

 

We all have things from the past that consciously or sub-consciously weigh us down. Sometimes we cling to the "good old days," and we long to go back to the way things were. Some of us have drifted apart from, or had a falling out with, an important person in our lives, and not a day goes by that we don't think of him/her. Others of us put old conversations on replay inside our minds, analyzing every detail of what was said and the undertones that stirred up our thoughts and emotions.

All of these scenarios keep us from showing up fully for the present moment -- and that's when we start to miss out on the richness of life.

Today, take a moment to acknowledge something from your past that pulls your mind out of the present. Think through the scenario or journal about it. Let all of your thoughts and emotions on the issue come forward into the light, so that you can see them and better understand them. You may have to do this exercise for a few minutes everyday until you start to gain some mental clarity, but actively working through this stuff is the only way to let it go.

 

We all have a uniqueness, which we radiate.  It’s like a light that we give off.  When we are feeling good, our light shines brightly.  
We also have an innate ability to reflect the light of others.  Like the moon reflects the sun’s light, we can absorb and re-emit the brilliance, beauty, strength, and love of the people around us.  
Take this moment to think of someone in your life who radiates light — someone who makes you feel brighter just by being around him/her.  Allow the feelings which that person elicits in you to elevate your emotions now.  Channel the light into your heart and envision beaming light rays reflecting back out, in the direction of others.  In your mind’s eye, see how you can be a conduit for glowing goodness. 

 

This Mindfulness Monday is provided by Guest Writer, Karen Potter, with appreciation of the Mental Health & Recovery Board for all their support and care.

 
Joys in the Midst of Pain
 
We all know that life is full of joys and challenges. Sometimes the challenges last for a season, not just a day. It’s those times when challenges start stacking up or weeks go into months or even years, that it is difficult to stay hopeful that better days are ahead especially if those challenges involve physical or emotional pain.  
 
That is exactly what I felt, as I recently have gone through 3 surgeries and recoveries as well as other painful conditions in my body over a 2 year period.  I wondered, and still wonder, if there is an end to the pain.  Yet, I still dare to hope and believe that better days are ahead.  I had been a person who was so driven to accomplish as much as possible in a day, and now feel like a snail in a marathon.  What I didn’t expect was all I would learn through this time, as life slowed down and there was time to reflect. 
 
I learned that life and time continue on, whether you are in pain or not.  If you wait for everything to be perfect and for all the pain to be gone in order to enjoy life, you will miss out on the joys that are hidden in each day in the midst of pain.  I learned patience, endurance, perseverance, humility in asking for a lot of help, and to listen to my body for ques on what it needs.  
 
I also learned the importance of being grateful for all the blessings in my life and that are all around me.  I have reached out to others for support and to offer support, as I realize how much we need each other in this world. I can hear the birds, see the trees swaying like they are waving to me, and appreciate the sweetness of fruit on my tongue and the pleasure it brings.  I notice people’s facial expressions more and wonder what life is like for them.  
 
I encourage you to slow down the pace and notice the beauty around you…in nature, in wholesome foods, in music, in smiles, and in the acts of kindness received and given.

Goals III
[This is part three of a three-part exercise.  Check out the last two posts, if you missed them, before completing this exercise.] 
Part 3: Grab the work that you did for the last two Mindfulness Mondays - your goals sheet and your most current to-do list.  Sit with them side-by-side for a moment and compare the tasks that are consuming your time today with the visions that you have for the future.  
Goals are important.  Setting goals means that we believe in our own, personal power to make the most out of our lives and contribute in a meaningful way to the world around us.  But, goals are focused on the future, and when we fix our minds on the future, without an unwavering connection to the present moment, we start to surrender our very own power and potential.  What we do with the here-and-now means everything when it comes to making long-term goals a reality.  
How is your to-do list supporting your long-term goals?  How is it hindering them?  Your mindfulness practice this week is bring your attention, awareness and action to the present moment - and make each moment more congruent with how you see your future unfolding.

 

Goals II
[This is part two of a three-part exercise.  Check out last week’s post, if you missed it, before tackling this exercise.] 
Part 2: Do you keep a daily to-do list?  What’s on it today?  Do you have a full schedule?  Where are your obligations taking you today?  Look closely at how you are spending your time.  Be honest with yourself.  Try to quantify how much time you are spending on various aspects of your life: work, personal, spiritual, service, family, friends, hobbies, habits, new ventures, past successes.  Where is your focus?  What are you putting effort toward each day? 
Think it through, and maybe even draw a pie chart - the things you send the most time on today get assigned the biggest slice of the pie.  Make sure you have this and your long-term goal list on-hand next Monday for the final part of this exercise!

 

Goals
[This is a three-part exercise that we will move through over the next three weeks.] 
Part 1: Make a list of your long-term goals. What is important to you to accomplish in the next 5-10-20 years?  Try not to censor your writing.  Build your list with whatever comes to mind. Consider all aspects of your life: work, personal, spiritual, service, family, friends, hobbies, habits, new ventures, past successes that you'd like to repeat. Let your stream of thoughts flow. Don't second guess or tell yourself that something isn't practical or reasonable - this is the time to think big!  Transcend any boundaries that your mind sets by allowing yourself to entertain any and all ideas that come to mind.  You've got one minute…
When you’re done, keep the list somewhere that you can see it and re-read it several times over the next week.  Make sure you have it on-hand next Monday for Part 2 of this exercise!
 

Downward Facing Dog is a popular and widely-practiced yoga pose.  It has a long list of benefits, including: soothing headaches, easing anxiety and mild depression, clearing the sinuses, and energizing the mind and body.  Plus, in this pose, you’ll gain new perspective from an upside-down vantage point!  It’s the perfect way to mentally reset in the middle of the day.

Start on the ground, on all fours.  Knees should be directly under your hips and hands should be shoulder width apart, but slightly in front of the shoulders.  Spread your fingers widely and press through the pad and base of each finger to anchor your hands.  Curl your toes under.  Keeping your knees bent, slowly start to lift the knees off of the floor and press your floating hips back over your heels.  Gradually begin to straighten the legs any amount that is comfortable for you, but hyper-extend or lock-out your knees.  You should end up in a shape that resembles an upside-down letter “V.”

Breathe calmly through your nose.  Continue to hold the pose and refine your alignment for 10 breaths, but be sure to come back down to hands and knees if you feel any pain or discomfort.  

From your inverted letter “V” shape, scan your body with your mind and notice anywhere you feel sensation - that can be a stretch, or a release, or heightened awareness.  Engage every muscle in your body, so that you fully support yourself with your own strength.  You may notice this helps you feel lighter in the pose.  With your muscles squeezing, start to reach your hips up and back even more, then balance that by hugging in your low belly.  Take the tops of your thighs back and heels more toward the floor, without locking out your knees - a small bend in the knees will really help here!  Let your ears line-up with your upper arms, so your neck is long and relaxed.  For your final few breaths, keep everything you’ve created in the pose to this point, and actively press your hands and feet back down into the floor.  

When you come out of the pose, rest in a comfortable seated position for a few breaths.