Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tune Your Instrument

I saw an interview with Goldie Hawn in which she was asked about being happy and she replied that we are all instruments and hers just happened to play a happy tune. What is most interesting to me about this analogy is that instruments can be tuned. We may be different instruments, one person may be an upright bass while another may be a flute, an electric guitar may be more suited for rock music whereas a sax may play jazz but all instruments can get out of tune or play sour notes and with little effort can be brought back in tune. This is what mindful awareness does, it tunes our instruments and not only to our individual beat but puts us in rhythm with the rest of the band. Can you imagine a world that is playing in tune with one another. It does not require changing which instrument you are or even what type of music you play, but just keeping yourself in tune. This can be achieved simply through meditation and mindfulness. Meditation comes in many forms and is not just sitting like a monk in a monastery in solitude and silence for hours. You can do a walking meditation or other mindful exercises such as tai chi and yoga. Even everyday activities such as raking or sweeping can be meditative just by mindfully focusing on the activity. There are more ways to meditate and they can be done for long periods or a few minutes. Some good resources I have used are books by Jon Kabat-Zinn or Dan Millman. You should also be able to find local groups and mentors if that is more motivating for you or CD's and DVD's that can help you at home with different guided meditations. So here is to us playing some happy tunes together.

Kids Awareness Program will give children the tools to stay in tune with themselves and the world around them.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Just Move

I have found no better way to awaken and refresh my mind than to get up, or better yet, to get outside and move. Step away from whatever you are doing, physically and mentally, and just move. Go for a walk while focusing on your breath or your steps. Feel the sensations beneath your feet, pay attention to the muscles that are moving you, this will not only clear you mind but by mindfully focusing on your body parts while they are working you attain more physical fitness with less effort. Also, by moving and exercising in a mindful way you are less prone to injury and always focus on your breath, do not hold your breath or pant erratically but breathe naturally, in and out through the movement. Some other forms of exercise that bring the mind fully into the movement are yoga, tai chi and Dan Millman's Peaceful Warrior workout. These exercises not only clear the mind and reduce stress, they build strength and develop balance and coordination among other benefits. They give you a great start to your day and can be incorporated into the day by doing it for a few minutes or a full workout. When you return to what you were doing, or as you go through your day, you will feel renewed and able to accomplish much more. By taking time for mindfulness and movement you are not losing time but gaining more quality of time and quality of life.

In the Kids Awareness Program, mindful movement will be incorporated into the day to teach the children focus and to clear their mind for better learning and retention.

A Day at the Beach

Harmony, on any given day, can be found at the beach. The water and sand belong to no one and yet to everyone and there you can find such a mixture of life coinciding peacefully together. Interspersed among people are birds searching the surf for crabs or the water for fish while dragonfly's dance in the wind among the sea oats. People of all ages can be seen alone, in couples or as groups of friends and families of all types, throwing Frisbee, playing volleyball, walking dogs, riding surfboards as others play in the surf and jump the waves or build castles in the sand. The beach is dotted with umbrellas, chairs, towels and coolers. You can find people from every race, creed, religion and culture sitting and playing side by side in total peace and harmony. As they leave, each person waits respecfully for their turn at the hose to wash away the salt and sand. If we could only bottle this peace, harmony and respect and take it with us as we return to our lives away from the beach what a great world it would be.

One of the goals of the Kids Awareness Program is to teach children to carry this peace, harmony and respect for all with them throughout their lives.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mindful Eating / The Wine Diet

No, this post is not about drinking your way to health, but about viewing food much like a wine connoisseur views a bottle of wine. What and how we eat is one of the most integral parts of living, yet it is one of the most mindless things we do. Studies have shown that people who kept a food journal lost more weight than those that did not. Keeping a food journal requires you to pay attention to what you are eating, it makes you fully aware of your choices and the quantities you consume. Paying attention also signals your mind and body that you have eaten, rather than mindlessly over stuffing yourself. You can also achieve this awareness by eating your food much the same way as a wine connoisseur partakes of a glass of fine wine. When choosing think carefully of the qualities of your choice, how are we designed, what does it take to run this machine we call our body. A wine connoisseur puts thought into their choice for the exact wine to compliment the meal, put thought in your choice of food for your body, ask what would your body choose. When the food is before you, give it your attention, truly see it just as the wine is given full attention as it is swirled in the glass. Take small bites, much like a small sip, and before it enters your mouth look closer, smell the aroma, pay full attention as it enters your mouth. Once in your mouth, chew slowly and feel each sensation, notice the texture and taste as it hits different parts of your mouth. As you are eating, don't forget that you can put your utensil down and just pause or take a deep mindful breath between bites or to reply to a comment, then go to the next bite giving it your full attention. Also, as you take each bite, think of what it took to get to you, be thankful for all the hands it passed by, every ray of sunshine or drop of rain, from it's beginning of life to sustaining your life.

In the Kids Awareness Program there will be activities to awaken the children to use all their senses when eating, to eat mindfully and to then have them journal or blog their descriptions. They will also be taught some basic nutrition, the "whys" of eating certain foods not just do it because and how to, as well as importance of, reading labels and to be fully aware what it is they are eating.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Picking Up Sticks

I would like to share an example from my own life on how mindfulness has helped me. Hanna, the tropical storm, blew through this past weekend and thankfully she didn't pack much of a punch but when you live on five acres the amount of debris can add up. When I went out that morning, as the wind was slowing down, I walked around and looked over the array of branches, limbs, leaves, and a few small trees that had been strewn around the yard and instead of grumbling and seeing a wasted Saturday afternoon my first thought was, "Well I know what my exercise routine will be today". It took my husband and I about three hours together in muggy weather to pick up, rake, and sweep but it seemed like no time. Here is how mindfulness helped, besides enabling me to start the morning with a upbeat attitude, it helped get me out there instead of dragging around and building up a mental image of an unending job. More importantly it enabled me to not see it as an overwhelming job but that I just had that one stick right there in front of me to pick up, once it was taken care of, I could see I had that next one stick to pick up .... Periodically I would look back and see a clean patch and feel a since of accomplishment. Also, as we were clearing away the yard, I noticed that it was the dead, weak and overburdened limbs and trees that were toppled over and could see that nature was just spring cleaning and making room for all the new growth to come and how the solid growth remained to show the way. In order to stay strong and keep growing we too need to clear out all old habits and attachments that many of us aren't even aware we are clinging to. Travel lightly and you'll get further with less effort. It is also a reminder to make sure the top of our tree (see Grow Your Roots Deep) is not heavier than the trunk and roots can hold up.

Kids, especially, are overburdened with expectations, schedules and stress. We try to cram more and more into their developing minds and bodies, don't want them to miss out or get behind. One lesson from Kids Awareness Program will be to help them know that they just have that one thing to do at this moment and how to practice living moment by moment. The best way for them to succeed at whatever they choose is to learn to be there as they are doing it.