Are you doing these three things to improve your mind?

 

We all know what it sounds like. We wake up, feel a little tickle in our throat and begin to think, “I’m sick. I’m getting sick. Is that…? Yep. I’m sick.” Or we have a rough night of sleep: “Ugh, I’m so tired. Ugh… how am I going to make it through today? There’s no way. Need. Coffee. Do they realize how tired I am? I can barely open my eyes. So tired.”

Each time we circle around with those thoughts a peculiar thing happens: we intensify our physical experience. Rarely do we repeat in our minds how tired we are, and end up feeling more jazzed. Our body becomes heavier, more sore, more weak with each repetition.

If we’re able to think ourselves more tired or sick, what happens when we think things like, “I am an angry person,” “I’m not attractive enough,” or “I’m so anxious.” So why do we do this to ourselves? Well, because we don’t always realize how much power we have over our minds.

That’s right, our minds.  They belong to us, and not the other way around. You are fully capable of turning your mind from unpleasant ruminations to more positive musings. But how? Here are three (not so easy) ways to improve your thinking:

  1. Vent less. When we feel burdened with thought, we often have the urge to vent (i.e. verbally vomit our frustrations). Under the guise that it’ll make us feel better, we seek out a friend or confidant to hear us out. Unfortunately, venting isn’t what helps us feel better. If we are venting just to vent, we’re actually ruminating out loud. We’ll most likely end up more worked up at the end than we did to start with. What helps us feel better is connection. If we seek out a confidant to hear us out, challenge us to take responsibility, and face our feelings without judgement, we can feel more connected and thus less overwhelmed.
  2. Don’t believe your boogers. We walk around all day assuming the thoughts that pulse through our minds are facts. “This sucks, that is awesome.” We believe what we think, and are even sometimes willing to fight to prove it is true. When we believe our thoughts, we end up with more thoughts, which we believe, which lead to more thoughts. I once heard a monk explain that our mind churns out thoughts like our nose churns out boogers. Thoughts are the mind’s job, but we don’t go through life believing our boogers hold the truth. So why do we believe our thoughts do? Don’t believe everything you think. Here are some tips how:
    1. Start by listening to the things you’re telling yourself all day. Awareness comes first.
    2. Work to label them. Whether they’re judgement, wishing, planning, or reminiscing. You can also just label them “thought.” Or better yet, “booger.”
    3. Start questioning whether they’re helpful or unhelpful. Do they make you feel more positive or more negative? If they don’t make you feel warm and fuzzy, look for a thought that counteracts them. Instead of “I can’t do anything right!” Try, “It’s been a rough day – and, I do a lot of things well. For example…” (hint: there are things you do well!)
  3. Step into your life. To get out of your mind, you have to get into your life. There’s even a workbook with a similar title, I recommend it. What does it mean to step into your life? To me, it comes with a few calls to action.
  • First up is accountability. Stop waiting for the motivation fairy to flit in and give you the desire to do things you don’t want to do. Be accountable to yourself, to your actions, and to your impact.
  • Secondly, to pull from Marie Kondo, do more of what sparks joy in your life. Get yourself organized. Love what you have. Do things that connect you to the earth, to yourself, and to your community.
  • Lastly, give it a rest. You don’t have anything to prove or any worth make up. Hold yourself with warm regard and give yourself a rest. Stop trying to berate yourself into improvement. Stop trying to outperform. Just step into the moment and try to enjoy it. It’s all you really have.

This life is hard. And confusing. And overwhelming. And that’s on the outsides of our bodies. Sometimes life is confusing and hard and overwhelming inside our bodies, outside of our control. Our mind, though, doesn’t have to be. That is the one suffering that we can control. Why not release it? Find rest. Enjoy it.

See you soon,

D

Willingness for Vulnerability

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I’m sitting in a chair, barefoot and holding a warm glass of tea meant to bring some calm into my life. It’s my first time in this place, a mindful community, and the three others there have been kind and welcoming. I’ve needed this, a sangha. It’s been hard to find one that fits. The task before me is a check-in, much like a therapy group, but without feedback or conversation. Just brief attuned listening. Real space to exist for a moment.

I thought perhaps I’d share something mid-level. In grad school, we used to call it a 4 or a 5 on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the trauma you’d share with a therapist and 1 something you’d share with a stranger. After all, I don’t know these people. I haven’t even decided whether this is my place or my community. Why let them know me?

Ready to share something mostly meaningless, it struck me. A question I ask myself perhaps to often: “What would I tell a client do to?”

I’d probably say, “what would happen if you actually shared how you felt? What might you gain? What is there to lose?”

My turn came. I made the brave choice.

I’m feeling grateful to be here tonight. I’ve been spending so much time trying to take care of others that I’ve forgotten myself. I used to rely on my meditation practice to help me be my true self, and when my daughter was born that nearly disappeared. I let it. And now I don’t always recognize myself. I get frustrated for such mundane reasons and then spiral into shame for not being the woman I know how to be. It hurts. I’m ready to find what makes me radiate again. My daughter deserves to grow up with that version of me.

It came easily. And it reminded me of something I so frequently encourage in others. Shame only holds power when you keep it secret. Letting the air and light in sends the shadows scampering.

Not every place or person is safe. And, if you are standing firmly in an open, willing vulnerability, nothing anyone says can hurt you. You are open and willing, so you examine it, integrate what helps you heal and grow, and allow the rest to fall away.

Naming what shames us is freeing. It takes back the power that shame steals from us. The power we sometimes hand over willingly. It says, no I won’t disappear inside. I won’t hide or fight it. I’ll open the door laughing and invite it in. Only then do I have any chance to let it go.

Is there some shame you might be able to bring into the light? Where might you be able or willing to be vulnerable?

Reach out if you need help.

D

Mothering Is My Mindfulness

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It was something I hadn’t planned but immediately realized the need for: Meditation and Mindfulness during Pregnancy. Somehow I knew that it would benefit not only me and my family but also this little human I had decided to grow. So I set up my area in my bedroom, woke up 5 minutes early, and meditated every day of my pregnancy.

What I didn’t realize, is that it was also what would pull me out of Postpartum Anxiety. We go to the doctor’s office and fill out questionnaire after questionnaire to check on our potential for Postpartum Depression, but we’re never asked about our anxiety.

See, anxiety is a healthy, normal thing. Right now in our culture, we are constantly trying to rid ourselves and others of anxiety. Imagine for a moment, though, life without anxiety. Sure, we’d be peaceful. Yeah, we might stress less. But what about those life or harm threatening moments that anxiety saves us from? What about the places anxiety helps us perform better? … Like in mothering?

That’s right. Anxiety helps you be a better mother. Anxiety encourages you to check on your baby, want them near, listen intently to their stories and cries, keep a watchful eye over their playing to keep them safe and to worry over how they’re developing, feeling, and thinking. Anxiety is useful.

Think of anxiety as a person in your car. They’re keeping an extra eye out, helping you navigate and stay safe in treacherous situations. They serve a purpose, so long as you keep them as a passenger and don’t hand over the wheel. Mindfulness can help make that easier.

Meditation and mindfulness is not just for single 20-somethings out on a personal quest. Nor is it just for monks, nuns, or people without kids who have time for that sort of thing. Mindfulness and meditation is for everyone, including moms. Heck, especially moms.

You can read more about mindfulness here.

Meditation is the formal practice of sitting down and becoming fully present. Mindfulness is the awareness you bring to your daily life between formal meditations. You know those moments when you feel a little (or a lot) overwhelmed by the changes, expectations, and daily life workload and your kiddo won’t stop eating the dog food? Yeah. Mindfulness is for those moments so that you can pause making lunches, packing diaper bags, and worrying over being late and kneel down. It allows you the space to check in on what’s really important in those tough moments so you can respond in a way that encourages cooperation and relationship. It keeps us from scolding toddlers who are being toddlers, pleading with babies to just be okay for a minute in their lounger, or power struggling with our school kiddos about whether they should wear jackets.

When you get overwhelmed, pause. Take in a deep breath, breathe it out slower than you took it in. Ask yourself a couple of things:

  1. What is the most important thing? (hint: it’s almost always your relationship with your kiddo)
  2. What do you and/or they need right now? (go realistic- a deep breath? a hug? a 30-second dance/wiggle party?)
  3. What are your options? And which is the most skillful one? (you always have options: you can scream at them, ignore them, power struggle, melt into a puddle of tears, or come to their level, acknowledge their experience, set limits around misbehavior, and steer them in another direction)

I’ve saved the best part for last.

Here’s my favorite part about mindfulness and mothering: it allows me to enjoy it. Not survive it, not simply get through the day. Mindfulness is what makes me love being a mom. It makes me one of those delusionally happy moms we don’t really believe mean it when they say that it’s the best part of each day.

If I’m caught up in thoughts about my house, work, or relationship issues and I have my daughter nearby, I can close my eyes, kiss the top of her head, and breathe in the oatmeal/calendula scent of her conditioner. Suddenly, whatever was happening before that moment is gone. At that moment, I’m home. If I’m worried about her at night, I can sneak into her room, sit by her bed, and listen to her quiet snoring. If I’ve been stressed and disconnected all day, I can use the warmth of the bathwater and the sound of her laughter to melt away stress. I can use snuggle up in the chair story-time to re-connect.

Mothering is my mindfulness.

Could it be yours?

 

Did you know I run The Mom Circle, now at The Family Village? Check out the info on my Services page.

Take care out there,

D