Your 2-Step Guide To Creating A Mindfulness Gratitude Practice

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This has been a difficult, stressful time for most of us…adults and children. It is easy to understand why the uncertainty and dangers we hear about each day generate feelings like fear, anxiety, frustration, isolation and sadness. And….these are precisely the times when starting a daily practice of gratitude can make a big difference in our quality of life, and the peacefulness with which we meet each day.

Gratitude is not the same as thankfulness. Gratitude does not come as a response to something you have been given or earned. That is “being thankful.” Gratitude is a much deeper way of living that comes from an awareness of being in the moment. For example, think of the millions of moments and people and circumstances that have come together for you to simply be here, right now, alive in this moment. Stop and consider this for a minute. Look back at this last year and recall a memorable moment. If just one event was slightly different, or one person made a different decision, or one storm had a different trajectory, how would that moment have changed?

And, of course, you can go back even further. What if one ancestor made a different choice or an illness or injury occurred?

It really is quite an amazing miracle that we are who we are, where we are, and doing what we are. Gratitude is the deep feeling we get when we acknowledge that things are pretty amazing, and in response, we choose to meet our life with an open-heartedness and presence that comes from that recognition. A formal gratitude practice helps us cultivate those qualities and pay attention to the many sources of joy and peacefulness that are all around us, even when the day is chaotic.

The practice steps below are simple and can be done individually or as a family:
1. Choose a time each day to sit quietly and write down 3 things for which you are grateful. Whatever you notice that day is fine. There is only one rule-you cannot repeat anything. If you notice the beautiful fall leaves or the delicious crunch of a newly-picked apple today, you can not use them again tomorrow. Keep looking…how many days/months can you keep this up? If you are using this practice with your family, create a Family Gratitude Journal and leave it on the table. It may become a treasured keepsake over time!

2. Pay close attention to your body sensations while you are writing. What are you noticing as you bring your moment to mind? Warmth, lightness, tingling, openness, softening etc.
After you have been practicing gratitude for a few weeks, what do you notice about the way you are meeting your life? Has it affected your choices? Thoughts? How might gratitude change the world?

You Can Weather The Storms In Your Mind With Simple Mindfulness Practices

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You awake to the sun streaming through your windows after a good night’s sleep and you begin to get ready for the day. You feel calm and happy. Then, the phone rings with an emergency message from your co-worker that means the likely destruction of the project you have been working on for 6 months. And, your four year old wakes up cranky and slightly feverish which means no preschool and you now need to find alternative care for her. Your heart starts beating louder, and you begin to feel the all-too-familiar panic setting in. Everything seems to switch into hyperdrive with your mind racing for solutions amid the inner critic thoughts that are muddying the waters.

 

Sound familiar? In the blink of an eye, events seem to have the power to flip us from calm to crazy. We lose sight of everything except the immediate, unexpected event. We let ourselves become less of who we are and, as a result, we often don’t make the best decisions at a time when we need to make good decisions. Our mind’s ability to create excessive worry and anxiety hijack our capabilities to be focused, clear and compassionate.

Fortunately, we can begin to interrupt this conditioned behavior with a few simple practices:

  1. Notice that you are beginning to get overwhelmed. Mindfulness training teaches you to pay attention to the way your body experiences stress. Do your neck muscles get tight? Do you clench your jaw? Do you get queasy? These physical sensations are ‘early warning signals’ that tell you that you need to de-escalate so you don’t react badly.
  2. Learn simple mindfulness practices to help you regain a sense of stability. I teach Purposeful Pauses as powerful ways to interrupt the mind’s ability to generate excessive stress, and cloud our ability to see things clearly. Purposeful Pauses can be a simple as feeling the sensations of your breath for a few minutes, or walking down the hall paying attention to the feelings of your feet as you move. Learn more about Purposeful Pauses at the end of this post.
  3. As you begin to feel more centered and calm, take a few moments to challenge some of the thoughts and worries that were arising. How many of them are true? Is the evaluation of ‘disaster’ necessarily true? What is called for now (rather than the reaction you were about to do)?
  4. On an ongoing basis, a good way to meet stress differently is to try to keep things in perspective by ending each day with a journal entry noting 3 things for which you are grateful. Try not to repeat anything and see how many days you can go. I suspect you will be surprised.

Why Should I Meditate? For Starters, Here’s 3 Reasons

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Reason #1 : Resilience

Burning a candle at both ends is not sustainable, and you know it. Your body and mind tell you in clear messages when you need to recharge. Here are some common signs that something has to give: trouble sleeping, headaches, muscle pain, impatience, silly mistakes, zoning out in meetings, struggling to pay attention. Daily meditation is a simple way to cultivate resilience and encourage your body and mind to deeply relax. In the complexity of our lives today, this is not a ‘nice to have’, it is an essential part of living well.

 

Reason#2: Clarity

In this world of continuous distractions, we rarely pay full attention to anything. It is easy to become conditioned to a certain way of living and thinking, especially when we are only partially present for our lives. But to grow and to be creative, we need to see clearly the areas where we, or our organizations, are stuck. We need to see where courageous leadership is needed to break the status quo. And to do so, we need to see with greater clarity and wisdom. Meditation practice teaches us to cultivate the spaciousness we need to tap into those innate abilities of the mind. Little by little, we begin to become adept at noticing our own biases and barriers, and at learning to quiet the busy mind so that our wisdom can be heard.

Reason #3: Compassion

More than at any other time in my life, the ability of meditation to teach us about compassion is sorely needed. Cultivating compassion for ourselves and others reminds us of our shared humanity and our inter-connectivity. During the height of the pandemic, we saw amazing examples of compassion. And, you may have noticed how such acts had the ability to touch your heart. Not just figuratively, but you may have noticed that hearing/seeing such stories created a warmth in the center of your chest. Compassion is powerful. Compassion in meditation is the invitation to deeply understand what is here, and to open yourself up to the pull toward an act of kindness. And you should never underestimate the ripple effect of an act of kindness.

Meditation is training for your mind/heart. It requires the same commitment as training your body, and it has transformative benefits for you and for those around you.

To Learn More Join us in October for the:

One Day eLearning Workshop: Mindful Leadership to Build Resilience©

 

3 Courageous Questions To Eliminate Double-Booking Calendars

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It’s Monday morning and you are starting your day by looking at your calendar. As you scan the days ahead, you notice that, once again, you are double-booked. This has become the norm for you and for your organization. How can you be expected to be in two places at one time? And when you make a choice of one meeting over the other, what is the cost of your decision? How much precious time is wasted with explanations about why you can’t attend a meeting, or with chasing down information from the meeting you missed? And how often do you sit in meetings that are boring or irrelevant to your core responsibilities?

 

Is it time for you to ask some hard questions and take the courageous leadership actions needed to challenge the status quo and eliminate some meetings -for you and for your colleagues? If so, start with these three questions:

When you are the organizer of a meeting:

  1. Do you need a meeting? Is it simply a routine meeting that no longer serves its purpose in its current form? Is there a more efficient way to distribute information or gain consensus? Technology, like polling or video messaging, may be a helpful ally here.
  2. Are the right people in each meeting? Too many people create cluttered confusion and make it less likely that the best decisions will be reached. Do you need more than one person from the same department? Are there people in attendance who have historically been invited but really play no active role? Can you disseminate notes to those not needed for a decision?

When you have been invited to a meeting:

 

  1. Why are you attending? Is ego the only reason? Can attendance be delegated to someone who can benefit from learning something you already know? Can you ask if notes can be distributed? Do you have the courage to ‘decline’ the invitation so you can prioritize what is important over ‘what screams the loudest’?

 

Imagine the gift of giving yourself and your colleagues some space by cancelling meetings, or enhancing a meeting’s effectiveness. Take another look at your calendar for the week. Where is one opportunity to eliminate or modify a meeting? Be courageous!

Five Simple Ways You Can Bring Mindfulness To Work

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Mindfulness training is about learning to be awake for the moments of your life. This sounds easy, but is it? For most of us, our daily lives are so jam-packed with meetings and constant distractions, that we are more often on auto-pilot than awake. We just put our heads down and plow through the day as best as we can.

 

When we begin mindfulness training, we usually learn to practice while sitting quietly. This is an important part of the training but it is not enough. We also need to learn to bring our training right into the midst of our day. And the good news is that you can explore this aspect of the training without adding anything on to your ‘to-do’ list. I call this part of the training Purposeful Pauses and it has been an integral part of the Institute for Mindful Leadership’s training for more than 15 years.

Purposeful Pauses invite you to notice what is here to be noticed when you intentionally bring your attention to a moment in your day. For example, you notice that you are drinking a cup of coffee-the warmth in your hand, the aroma, the taste on your tongue, etc. Your full attention is on the experience of drinking that cup of coffee. And, it is also about redirecting your attention when it takes off into the future or the past while you are taking a Purposeful Pause. For example, while you are paying attention to your coffee, you notice that your mind starts to worry about tomorrow’s presentation. In that moment, you redirect your attention back to the taste of the coffee on your tongue. A Purposeful Pause only takes a couple of minutes but it breaks the autopilot way of living and helps to train your mind to be awake.

These mini-trainings are a continuation of the attention training you experience when you are practicing meditation on your cushion or in your chair. Purposeful Pauses allow you to turn off the autopilot and find some spaciousness in the day to make conscious choices…when you are awake, you are present for your life.

Here are a few other examples to get you started:

 

  1. Choose to start your day rather than letting the day start you-begin each day be noticing the sensations of the breath for a few breaths before jumping out of bed. What is your intention for the day?
  2. Use transitions wisely-choose to drive to and from work without listening to music or phone messages. Just drive-pay attention to what you see, hear, smell and touch. What do you notice about how you arrive?
  3. Nourish yourself-mindfully eat your lunch without looking at your computer screen or phone. How are you taking care of your body’s needs today?
  4. Just walk between meetings-no emails or texts. If you are telecommuting, use the time between meetings to take a few breaths, stand up and stretch or walk down your hallway. In just a few moments, you can let go of the last meeting and feel more centered and ready for the next meeting.
  5. As you turn off your computer for the day, ask yourself What Went Well? We have a tendency to focus on what didn’t go well so we need to be intentional about bringing our attention to what did go well.

What other Purposeful Pauses can you find? Look closely, where would a break in your day serve you?