Posts tagged ‘gratitude’

August 13, 2019

Just Stop Already!

Just stop already! It sounds like the opposite of Nike’s well-known Just Do It campaign, but is it the opposite or a necessary part of the equation?

When I was 17, I skipped my senior year in high school to attend college. During my second semester, I went to see an on-campus counselor to discuss something with which I was struggling. I vividly remember his response to my question, “What should I do?”. “Just stop!” That was it. Two words: just stop.

A few years ago I worked with a life coach in LA. Subsequently, I interviewed a North Carolina life coach for our Cooking2Thrive interview series. During the work I did with each, there were times at which they identified that I was at a “point of choice”. In other words, I was at the moment in which I had to choose one thing or another.

We all face points of choice over and over and over each and every day. Some choices are trivial. Others are life changing. None can be ignored or avoided. Not making a choice at such a point is, in fact, making a choice.

Mindful exploration can guide us to make choices in line with our aspirations, goals, and intentions. Sometimes, the best choice is to just do it and sometimes it’s better to stop already. Living a physically and emotionally healthy life will require both.

When I look back at that college experience, I still feel angry. The counselor ignored the nuance of my story. His response felt dismissive. He didn’t ask any questions to determine why I was struggling or have me follow a feeling path toward the origins of that struggle. He jumped right to advising action.

That’s where a lot of us get stuck. In order to work past the struggle, we need to feel heard. We need the tools to trust ourselves so we can work through the layers of emotion that insulate us. Until we reconnect with ourselves, we will keep repeating the same actions. We know we should just stop, we simply don’t know how.

The other night, a friend awakened me with a phone call at midnight. His emergency? He believed a fast-food worker had messed with his food. “Why do you think that,” I sleepily asked. “She always leaves the counter after taking my order. I know she’s back there messing with my food,” was his reply. He went on to explain that she does this every time and he has previously complained to her manager. Though he wouldn’t directly answer the question, I ascertained that the food has never made him sick. His question for me, “What would you do?”

Even in my sleepy state, I knew the stated problem wasn’t the real problem, but I wasn’t sufficiently motivated to get out of bed to draw out the conversation until we reached the real problem so I said, “I’d stop going there.” Just stop already.

Was that helpful of me? Yes and no. Yes, I gave him a way to prevent the worker from potentially messing with his food, but I didn’t address the underlying emotional flashback that was triggered by the fast-food worker.

I know his feeling of distrust originates from very real experiences that traumatized him. I also know that he’s following some sort of internal script that most likely recreates experiences he’s internalized, legitimizes some way that he feels, or justifies his anger. While my answer wasn’t responsive to any of that, it did offer him an avenue to disrupt his own pattern.

If you work with a life coach, they may talk about working from the outside in at the same time you are working from the inside out. Deliberately choosing a different action than you would normally choose is a way of working from the outside in. And it can be helpful because it disrupts ingrained patterns allowing you to change your experience. Perhaps that was why the particular counselor I saw in college chose a two-word response.

The problem with his approach was that there was no attempt to build a foundation of trust, connection, or understanding. There was no overall strategy in which just stop played a recurring part. I felt like he may as well have said, “Just stop talking to me.” That’s how I responded. I never spoke to him again.
do it
So how do you get to the point that most healthy lifestyle decisions become as simple as doing or not doing?

Everyone’s specific path will be different but there will be common themes that often include these priorities:
Quiet downtime. When you make time to do nothing, you have to discontinue the activities that keep you from sitting still with yourself. Just stop doing and start sitting.

Self-trust. If you have lived with trauma or in an environment of chaos you may no longer trust yourself. Bodywork like Somatic Experiencing, Tension & Trauma Release Exercises (or TRE®), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Yoga, and Tapping can help you reconnect your body and emotions.

Self-kindness. Everyone deserves kindness. Most of us are more likely to be kind to others than to ourselves. Why? Have you really done anything you wouldn’t forgive in someone else? Which brings us to…

Self-forgiveness. None of us are perfect. We all have the capacity for cruelty, recklessness, and violence. We will do things we wish we could take back. This is the state of being human. If we cannot forgive ourselves, we can never move forward.

Full feeling—being able to fully connect with your emotions, feel them and let them go. It is often the interruption of this process that keeps us stuck.

Being open to receiving. This sounds simple and pleasant. It is in itself simple, but it requires courage and intention to put down defenses, be vulnerable, and surrender if your life experience has taught you the world is not a safe place. For some of us being open feels very risky.

Gratitude. Practicing gratitude shifts your focus. Sometimes that shift is all you need to disrupt a destructive pattern of behavior. It can also be uplifting. Just do it!

Mindfulness. Some might describe this as being fully present in the moment. For me, it begins with breathing then an awareness of my body followed by an inventory of feelings. When I am mindful, all of this awareness can move and shift without judgment or meaning attached. I can simply be let it be. One of the effects is freeing myself from attaching a habitual pattern of feeling to a pain in my tummy or tension in my shoulder.

Intention. Being clear on what you intend can change the way you talk to your children, your spouse, or your mother. It can change the order in which you tackle tasks. It can direct your actions without the pressure of reaching a certain goal.

Flexibility. No matter how well you prepare, how much you plan, how much insurance you purchase, and how much energy you put into controlling your environment, life will throw you some curveballs. There will be floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, accidents, and betrayals. Being able to shift and change in response will help stave off depression.

The ability to reframe. Life is filled with change, loss, and challenge. Challenge can be reframed as opportunity, loss as an opening for something new, change as freedom to do something different. Being able to see the flip side leads to creative solutions, positive momentum, and unlimited situations in which to excel.

If you frequently recount the reasons you can’t make a change you say you want to make, just stop already. Pick one change and just do it. This can be a teeny tiny change. Then pick another one and just do it. Then assess. You may find that all of your priorities have shifted. Everything affects everything.

As for the underlying issues, with courage, commitment, and intention you can heal and move forward. Tiny changes serve to disrupt patterns leaving you an opening to experience things differently. Tiny changes can shift how you experience relationships as well. This will allow you to weed out the two-word counselor in favor of a trauma-informed yoga instructor or a reliable ally with whom you can be vulnerable.

Stopping and starting are not as much opposites as complementary parts of a whole. When you just stop something, it opens the space, time, and energy to just do something else aligned with your current values and priorities. To me, that sounds exciting!

Now, I’ll just stop already!

https://traumahealing.org/

https://traumaprevention.com/

https://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

https://www.amazon.com/Overcoming-Trauma-through-Yoga-Reclaiming/dp/1556439695?creativeASIN=1556439695&linkCode=w61&imprToken=UQiJONnu34ALX5EzrOIndQ&slotNum=1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6316206/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/mindfulness-intentions-new-year/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/page/2/?s=mindfulness

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/preparation-for-healing-managing-expectations-begins-with-setting-clear-intentions/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

June 24, 2019

Flip the Negatives Around and Celebrate the Positives!

Today, I am choosing to celebrate the positives! The method I will use is practicing gratitude. Admittedly, I don’t feel like doing this or feel very grateful so I’m using force of will to get started, but I know the process will shift my focus and I’ll soon embrace the better feelings it will create.

In spite of the amount of body work I’ve done, past trauma leaves me bracing for the worst much of the time. I can feel myself holding feelings back with my steeled posture. If I don’t let negative feelings flow and release them, I can’t feel positive feelings.

The process of practicing gratitude can work for me as a way to slowly and carefully access feelings I’m not sure I want to feel or that I am subconsciously avoiding. I know it’s not touted as a technique designed for that, but I like to use it in this manner because it accomplishes a couple of things simultaneously.

With a structure for getting to the emotions beneath the surface, I don’t feel anxious or frantic. It’s like walking up a gentle slope to the top of the mountain rather than free-soloing the face of a cliff. The other thing that happens is, by the time I reach them, bad feelings are diminished or cushioned by the positive framework of gratitude I’ve created to support me. There’s a real beauty in the way this works.
positives
Here’s today’s process:

I am grateful the rain has stopped. My roof is leaking. I filed an insurance claim two weeks ago, but due to a delay by my agent and then another by the insuring company, an adjuster won’t show up until tomorrow. During those two weeks, wind gusts carried away a whole section of shingles and yesterday it began to rain.

I am grateful that the roof leak is small. The pitch of my roof is very steep so most of the water runs right off. I’ve been able to catch the drips that make it inside in a plastic tub lined with towels.

I am grateful I woke up early. Instead of trying to convince myself to go back to sleep, I made my way downstairs to discover the sound of running water. I followed my ears to the closet that contains my water heater. A pipe is leaking. Water was just beginning to pool. If I had waited until my alarm sounded, I would have had a flooded floor. Instead, I’ll just have a cold shower.

I am grateful I finally found an engineer who may be able to help with the flooding of my office building. The first 12 years I owned that building, the French drain was adequate. Now it floods often. The experts have determined the drain is clear and adding another would not help. What they haven’t determined is what will help. I’m hopeful that this new engineer will have the magic potion.

There seems to be a water theme here. How can that come as a surprise? When it rains, it pours, right? But wait, there’s more! That’s good because I’m not really feeling better yet.

I am grateful I haven’t contracted the stomach virus my son’s family is passing around. Even if I eventually get it, I appreciate the fact that I am not fighting floods while fighting a virus.

I am grateful I have power at my house. Thousands in my state do not because of the storms.

I’m grateful for all of those reusable grocery bags I found cleaning out the water heater closet. I didn’t realize I had so many size options.

I’m grateful I don’t have to do the dishes for a few hours. I tested some recipes and have a few pans that have to be hand washed. I don’t love that task so taking it off the list for awhile makes me happy.

Awww, a glimpse of feeling good!

I’m grateful I tested those recipes because that means there’s food in the refrigerator. I don’t have to think about what I’m going to eat today. All I have to do is reach, reheat, eat!

This makes me feel more secure. Yeah, my association of food availability and a feeling of security is a long story for another day. Suffice it to say I’m painfully aware of the connection.

Now I’ve reached the point where things get real. I still feel sad about the experiences that created that connection. The underlying feeling is grief.

That old grief is not all I feel. I have a load of grief and loss from current events as well. Finding the time and space to process it fully and still meet my obligations is a difficult balancing act. Especially when there are floods to clean up.

So, I’m grateful to understand that I am carrying grief. This is good information because grief often manifests as anxiety which I feel as a pain in my stomach. Knowing the difference allows me to heal my stomach, my spirit, and my psyche.

I’m not alone in experiencing grief as anxiety. Some also experience it as depression or sleep problems. Max Strom has a whole Ted Talk on breathing & healing in which he states that a vast number of us have a grief problem masquerading as anxiety or panic.

When I can reach the feeling of grief that is lurking, I also immediately feel more grounded, centered, and calm. The “bad” brings with it the good. I am no longer willfully focussing on positive. It just appears in my awareness.

That allows me to relax the steeled posture I previously described. I can focus on my breath rather than holding it. This is a great beginning point!

There is much to process. In the moment, grief can feel like slogging in mud with unexpected waves of water suddenly crashing against you. But looking back, I quickly recognize that feeling grief does not crush me. It frees me.

I believe that eventually I will be free enough to revel in joy and I am grateful to be on that path.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Lb5L-VEm34

https://maxstrom.com/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/im-going-let-thanksgiving-kickoff-new-year-filled-gratitude/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/gratitude-is-my-best-defense/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/preparation-for-healing-managing-expectations-begins-with-setting-clear-intentions/


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

February 5, 2019

Preparation for Healing: Managing Expectations Begins With Setting Clear Intentions

It’s important to manage expectations in preparation for healing and that begins with setting clear intentions. Aaaaand, we’re back. I promised you a post about preparation as we begin to draw a map of the healing process. The Super Bowl is over. Most of us have either given up on our resolutions for the year or are quickly forming new habits. It’s a great time to settle down and set some intentions for healing.
quick guide
Some of us are healing from physical injury. Some of us are healing from an acute episode of a chronic disease. Some of us are healing from loss. Some of us are healing from social injustice. Some of us are healing from acute or prolonged trauma.

Others are stuck but want to heal. We can be stuck waiting for someone to rescue us. We can be stuck frozen in fear, fighting the world, running from reality, or brown-nosing for approval. We can be stuck believing we cannot move forward. Many of us believe this because we have tried to move forward before only to end up in the same spot over and over again.

I’m familiar with ending up in the same spot. I am good at setting and achieving goals. In spite of this, I spent many years choosing partners who were different on the surface, but the same underneath. I could see, evaluate, and change visible parameters, but my subconscious kept me stuck choosing the same sort of man.

The first time I managed to get it together enough to choose differently, I got dumped after two years. That was 10 years ago. It took years after that for me to hear the inner voice that had been telling me all along I didn’t deserve this kind, dependable man. That deep-seated subconscious belief crept into my behavior.

That rejection, painful as it was, happened to be the impetus for real change – the kind of change that comes from healing very old, very deep wounds. Healing I had searched for through church, therapy, and marriage without making any real progress.

Like many people, I could successfully meet the benchmarks required by those institutions while feeling defective, unloved, terrified, and depressed. I started and managed a successful business, created lasting friendships, raised two boys, traveled the world, and became a pilot while I was still part of the walking wounded. If you’re struggling, you are not alone. You are surrounded by other people who are struggling whether you can see it or not.

I am also proof positive that healing can happen and change can be lasting. I suppose it begins with awareness. I can’t tell you that in the beginning I was aware of much that I now know, but I knew I needed to sit still. I began with that intention.

Managing expectations for healing begins by setting clear intentions. If you intend to heal the symptoms of diabetes with the least medical intervention possible, you will walk one path. If you choose to follow whatever regimen is recommended by your doctor, you may follow another. Improving your life by getting a more meaningful job will lead you one direction while healing the effects of childhood abuse and neglect may lead you another.
intentions
In order to set clear intentions, I ask myself:

What do I hope to accomplish?
I try to find a goal that’s doable and specific. When I stated my intention to sit still in a room with no stimuli for 30 minutes per day, it seemed to fit the criteria. Then I found out I was wrong. For me at that time, it wasn’t immediately doable.

As it turned out, I had to break that intention into hundreds of smaller pieces over a significant period of time in order to be successful. I was willing to do that, and now I have the ability to comfortably sit still.

That experience taught me that no intention is too small. Sometimes my only intent for a conversation is to stay present, feel my feelings, and end the conversation when I reach the point I feel too much discomfort.

How do I want to treat other people?
You don’t have to ask yourself this, but one of the reasons I choose a healing path is to become my best self. I can’t be that if I am not treating people well.

I’m a pretty nice person generally, but if a conversation triggers an emotional flashback, I can find myself feeling terror or rage so quickly it’s hard to get ahead of the situation. What I need in that moment is to process through the flashback. I do not have the emotional strength to do that while having a civil conversation. I do everyone a favor by ending the conversation at that point and coming back to it later.

How long am I willing to commit to these intentions?
When I decided to go gluten-free, I committed for a year. My agreement with myself was that if I did not see improvement in a year, I’d go back to a regular diet. I saw improvement within weeks and major improvement in months. Long before the year was over, I amended this intention to remain gluten-free forever.

How will I measure success?
When I was preparing to start my first business, my attorney told me most businesses fail because those in charge don’t know where they are. For example, they may know they have money in the bank today, but they may not be aware that they have not sold enough to have money in the bank for the rent next month if they pay their other invoices on time. This piece of common sense for business translates to life in general.

In order for you to remain on course, it is important to have a general, realistic idea of where you are. It’s also important not to become attached to a specific result as a measure of success. If you plan to improve your life by buying a larger house but use the money you saved for a downpayment to pay unexpected medical bills, it isn’t helpful to view yourself as unsuccessful because you’re still in a small house. You adapted to changing life circumstances and made a responsible choice. I view that as a disappointment and a change in timeline, but also a successful adaptation.

If I had been married to the goal of sitting still on the couch without distraction for 30 minutes per day, I would have ruled myself an unmitigated failure at the end of a month. I didn’t even manage to sit down and stay there more than once in that month and not more than three times in the first year!

Instead, I recognized that I was gaining insight each and every time I failed. To me, that meant I was on the right path. I was failing, but I was failing up. That didn’t feel like failure. It felt like success even though I was not close to the particular goal I set. I let that goal morph into an intention to feel whatever feelings bubbled up when I sat still that I believed I needed to do something, anything, to avoid.

For me, there is a natural flow to assessing and reassessing. It’s something I do without much effort like an app constantly running in the background. That’s not true for everyone. If you need scheduled reviews, timing will be a consideration. Setting a scheduled meeting with yourself or with someone else you trust can help you feel accountable to review your progress.

Do I need feedback? If so, how much?
Feedback can be useless, helpful, or detrimental. Choosing the right type from the right sources is important. Sometimes we gravitate toward feedback that reinforces what we already believe. If we are hoping to change, that’s probably not helpful.

Some people will feel like giving feedback that’s not positive is a form of confrontation. Many people avoid confrontation like the plague. These people are not a good source for feedback because they will withhold the information you most need. As you grow, this will create an atmosphere of distrust.

Feedback can be used by others as a tool to retain or regain the status quo. When you change, everyone around you will be forced to adjust to the differences. This can feel threatening and produce resistance. Such resistance can take the form of feedback that is intended to make you stop changing.

The healing process often involves letting some relationships go in favor of others that are more in line with the direction you’re going. It may be that you opt for no feedback for the first few months while you get your sea legs.

Any feedback that causes you to doubt yourself is not productive. It’s okay to question whether your approach is the most efficient, maximizes health, or is consistent with the results you’re hoping for, but anyone whose input undermines your sense of self or trust in your body will be detrimental to the process.

If that is a therapist, feel free to change. If that is a family member, feel free to set different boundaries. If that is a colleague, limit conversations to work topics. If that is your minister, find someone else to confide in. If that is your physician, get a second opinion and/or find one who will work with you instead of against you. This is your process and it is always okay to make choices that best support you whether anyone else agrees with those choices or not. You, whether you like it or not, can be your own best advocate!

How will I celebrate success?
We expect physical healing to tax our bodies. We don’t often anticipate that emotional and spiritual healing will also tax our bodies. I prefer to celebrate success with activities that energize or inspire me, but sometimes I celebrate by taking a nap or mindlessly binge watching.

Am I willing to improve my boundaries?
Most of us will answer yes without a second thought, but the first time we are faced with telling our mother we’ll be missing an implied mandatory family gathering, we may reexamine that answer. Thinking this through in advance while setting intentions will help solidify your determination to improve boundaries that support your intentions.

Will I practice gratitude even when the process is painful?
This could be considered a separate intention, but I incorporate it as part of the primary thought process because committing to a gratitude practice enhances my chances of feeling positive during difficult times. From experience, I know practicing gratitude will automatically shift my focus in a positive direction.

Can I be kind to myself and still make progress?
Healing requires a delicate balance of self-kindness, accountability, patience, gumption, truth-telling, and bravery. Without kindness, you’ll wear yourself out and give up. You can’t white-knuckle yourself through anything forever. None of us are that strong. Factoring in kindness from the beginning will leave you less tempted to chuck accountability in favor of relief.

I am highly motivated and rarely have to push myself even during difficult, painful times. The Universe brought the lesson of self-kindness to me by bombarding me with so much over such an extended period of time that I got worn out from the sheer relentlessness of every day. I literally hit the wall and had to go to bed for a few days.

This kind of exhaustion was new to me. If I meditated, I had to lie down and let the floor hold me. Sitting up was not an option. I could not muster the energy to plan a getaway. I slept 10 – 12 hours per night. I completed every task as it came to me because I knew if I didn’t it would never get done. I was in no position to be strategic. Now I pay attention to a feeling of tiredness long before I reach the point of exhaustion.

If you think of healing as a marathon rather than a sprint, it will be easier to be kind to yourself along the way. Self-kindness includes eating well, sleeping enough, and making time for vigorous activity on a regular basis. It also includes speaking to yourself in a kind manner, pausing to receive and absorb compliments, leaning into hugs, adding beauty to your environment, allowing your feelings to flow, and making time for moments of simple pleasure.

I realize I may have just made setting intentions sound like an arduous task. Once you’ve done it a time or two, you’ll realize it’s not that hard and I believe taking the time to be clear on where you’re going and how you want to get there will give you the best chance of arriving. It certainly works for me!

https://fearlessliving.org/are-you-setting-the-wrong-goal/

https://www.made-magazine.com/made-exclusive-w-iyanla-vanzant-setting-clear-intentions-in-2019/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/3351-2/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/many-paths-healing/
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December 3, 2018

Mindfulness Intentions for the New Year

The frenzy of the holiday season is the perfect time to set some mindfulness intentions for the new year. Sometimes the simple act of giving ourselves permission to be mindful has a calming effect. That provides an immediate benefit. Planning now for mindfulness in the new year ensures the possibility of enjoying positive long-term health effects as well.

While the idea of mindfulness may be calming for some, it can be scary for others. What is it exactly? Is it difficult? How much time does it take? Is it religious? Do I have to chant? Do I need crystals or essential oils or a stay in a yurt? These questions may send you into a tailspin before you even get started.
waterfall
For years, I was intrigued by yoga but afraid to participate. I wasn’t afraid of the postures per se. I just had a subconscious aversion to moving my body in a way that might release the feelings I tightly held in my solar plexus and gut. I knew I had this without knowing it. The ambivalent need to hold myself physically frozen in certain ways is the legacy of trauma and difficult to give words.

It took years of learning to sit still and practicing somatic experiencing therapy before I rolled out a mat. It was another two years before I tried a guided meditation. I’m not sure it could have happened any other way for me, but these practices have so improved my inner life that I wish I had known the benefits much sooner.

What is Mindfulness?

Before I talk about the researched health benefits of mindfulness, let me tell you a little more about the practice itself. First, foremost, and most importantly your practice is YOURS. It can look like whatever you want it to look like.

You do not have to wear a certain type of clothes. You do not have to chant. You do not have to pray. You do not have to attend a class. You can practice a few minutes per week or a few hours. You can choose your instructor and change instructors at will. You can practice in a class or at home alone. You can follow along with the instructor or modify your practice and meet the instructor back at a pose that feels like the right next move. Mindfulness is about being kind to yourself, being aware of your feelings, thoughts, and body sensations without judging them, and breathing.

Yes, there are instructors who approach yoga like a typical gym workout. I do not choose those. That’s not the type of session from which I receive the most benefit. There are yin yoga sessions that are all about letting go of tension and softening into a pose. There are instructors who specialize in yoga for trauma. Video streaming makes finding the perfect fit easier than ever.
yoga
Health Benefits of Mindfulness

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) along with celiac disease, mindfulness can decrease the severity of symptoms according to recent research. That sounds like some welcome relief. Mindfulness has also been shown to improve both physical and psychological quality of life for those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Research also shows that mindfulness is helpful for depression and can actually change the brains of trauma victims. It is increasingly incorporated into the treatment of symptoms resulting from PTSD and childhood trauma.

Practical Tools

A couple of weeks ago I re-injured an old knee injury. Not only was my knee hurting, but my hip and back were very tense and I was coughing like crazy due to a cold. Although I was exhausted, I could not relax. After about 30 minutes of feeling miserable, I put myself in a comfortable recliner and turned on a guided meditation. In less than 15 minutes, I felt relaxed, calm, and ready to crawl in bed and get some sleep. My knee was still sore, but the surrounding tension was gone and I no longer felt restless.

Having that sort of tool available feels like magic! As you know, tension can build upon tension until you feel like you’re spinning and everything hurts. Just knowing there’s a simple way to feel better can prevent ever getting to that point. That’s a powerful benefit!

Perhaps because I only started meditating after years of practicing yoga, I feel confused when I hear people talking about how difficult it is. All you have to do is to breathe and be present. (Okay, admittedly that can bring up unfinished emotional business and maybe that’s why people think meditation is hard. Thing is, that has nothing to do with meditation and everything to do with the emotional business they are trying to avoid.) Like all mindfulness practices, meditation can look like anything that works for you. There’s no pressure to do it “right”. Anything you read or hear that indicates otherwise is misinformation.

While research into the psychological benefits of mindfulness tends to focus on lessening depression or calming the amygdala, it can also change self-talk. I became aware of this when I participated in a Daring Way class earlier this year. As we assessed our self-talk for shame and guilt messages, I realized that I feel no need to shame or guilt myself on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean I never feel shame or guilt, they just aren’t default states for me. I can tell you without hesitation that mindfulness has significantly influenced my self-talk in a positive way.

Intentions for the New Year

My 7-month-old granddaughter has spent four months in the hospital this year. All of those were in CVICU and her condition was critical for over a month. She has had two open chest heart surgeries and several other surgical procedures. She continues to be medically fragile. Three weeks ago, the cardiologist carried her from admitting to CVICU himself because he was concerned that she would code on the elevator.

It has been a challenging year for her parents, her 2-year-old brother, her other grandparents and me. It literally takes all of us to keep the household going and some sense of normalcy for the 2-year-old. While we are hoping to avoid additional surgery next year, there’s no way to predict what will happen. We just know that the risk of hospitalization remains high.

When times are difficult, practicing mindfulness is a way to be kind to myself. With that in mind, I intend to carve out time for yoga every week. My goal is 2 1/2 hours minimum. If that means that the laundry waits unfolded on the couch for a day or two, so be it. If it means I must forego a social activity, it is worth it.

There may be weeks during which I do not make my goal. I could be sick or traveling or otherwise obligated. Don’t worry, I won’t shame or guilt myself and it won’t be hard for me to pick back up where I left off. That’s the thing about finding a practice that makes you feel good – you WANT to come back again and again.

I don’t have any specific intention for meditation other than to incorporate it as needed. That could change as the year progresses.

While it’s possible to practice gratitude through intention without yoga or meditation, it is almost impossible to practice yoga or meditation without gratitude. A feeling of appreciation for the strength, ease, energy, and resilience of your body begins to naturally flow. Observing this opens the door to other feelings of gratitude.

I may not keep a gratitude journal next year. While I like that practice, at this moment I prefer feeling and expressing gratitude in the moment. I intend to verbalize my gratitude to others at every opportunity.

The Challenge for Improvement

You may have noticed that my intentions so far are for things I like and want to do anyway. That won’t necessarily push me toward growth. With the intent of self-improvement, I plan to challenge myself to practice grace: as in a disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency. You’d think this would be easy because I value grace when it’s extended to me, but the truth is, it is difficult for me to practice.

Typically, grace must be extended when someone has wronged you or fallen short of your expectations. Depending on the circumstances, repeated real aggressions or perceived injustice can be a big trigger for me. Clearly, I have not healed all of the wounds I carry from the wrongdoing of others. Practicing grace can be a bottom-up piece of the healing process.

Just thinking about this intention makes me feel angry. That’s good. It means I’m on point. I will have to sit with this for a moment because I do not yet know what I want this grace to look like. I intend to be kind to and honor myself in the process. Right now, it sounds impossible for me to be kind to myself and extend grace to anyone who habitually makes my life more difficult. Experience tells me that the point for healing lies in the middle of this dilemma.

It will take some reflection for me to become clear on how to begin practicing grace. That’s why I have to start setting intentions for the new year early. I know that having a clear picture in my mind to serve as a guide makes it possible for me to accomplish things that seem impossible today.

The specific path will unfold over time in ways I cannot anticipate. When I feel discouraged, I often rely on Rori Raye’s mantra: Trust your boundaries. Feel your feelings. Choose your words. Be surprised.

Mindfulness helps me know where my boundaries should be. It allows me to reconnect with my body so I can feel. It changes my focus so I can choose the best words. It allows me to let go of an anticipated outcome and be surprised by real experience. Since we often anticipate the worst, these surprises can be the best!

I intend to relish every good surprise in the new year! I hope you will too.

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