Practicing Gratitude

Click Here to Listen to a Gratitude Practice Meditation

Want to boost your mood? Try a daily gratitude practice! Studies show that practicing gratitude has significant health benefits, both for mental health and physical health. Thanksgiving time is a perfect time of year to introduce this practice into your life.

To practice, devote a few minutes each day to reflecting upon someone or something for which you’re grateful. Perhaps it’s a family member or a friendly neighbor. A beloved pet. The color of the autumn leaves. Your hands as they help you care for the rest of your body, carefully lifting a warm cup of tea to your lips or washing your hair in a hot shower.

You may want to try a different reflection each day, or alternately use the same one. There’s no right or wrong. Simply notice the feelings of gratitude as you imagine that for which you’re grateful. Focus on how you feel — mind, body and spirit. You may even want to journal about your experience.

If you can, choose the same practice time each day, associating it with something you do regularly, such as brushing your teeth or getting ready for sleep at night. Consider prioritizing your gratitude practice, so you can boost your mood throughout the holiday season and in the years to come.

10th Anniversary of Meditation Illuminated!

Being that my dad graduated MIT with an engineering degree, I learned to be efficient from a young age. 

So it’s no surprise that I like to learn in a way that’s simple, clear and logical. 

But learning how to meditate in the mid-1980s was anything but simple, clear and logical. Every book, every lecture, every program – for that matter, everything having to do with meditation seemed so mysterious. 

Why couldn’t someone just tell me exactly how meditation worked and how to do it?!! So I did a deep dive into learning, exploring meditation piece by piece until a coherent picture emerged. 

I discovered that meditation was not about stopping thoughts, but about becoming aware of them. I learned how to watch these thoughts and allow them to pass. I learned how to focus on my breath and steady my mind. I became less reactive. Less judgmental. Less stressed. More grounded. More accepting. More relaxed.

After decades of learning, I wrote Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind to bring others the simple explanations I longed for years earlier. Published 10 years ago in July 2013, my intent was to share ideas and practices that could transform lives —and help people find some clarity, inspiration, and peace amidst life’s challenges. 

Over the years, I’m been humbled that so many people have shared with me how much they value my book. I’ve received comments such as “Your book has a special place on my nightstand,” “I keep buying new copies, since I keep giving my copy to friends,” “I actually learned to calm my mind”  and “thank you for writing this book!”

Meditation techniques have made such a tremendous difference in my life – and I’m deeply grateful to all the teachers who’ve so generously shared their wisdom. Writing this straightforward primer has been my way of paying it forward.

10 Weeks of Mindfulness at Work

As I exited the lecture hall, I came face-to-face with the presenter, a leading meditation teacher.

Welcome to week ten, the final week of 10 Weeks of Mindfulness at Work, where you’ll discover simple tips and techniques to enrich your day with mindfulness.

– Asking a Question

The teacher smiled warmly as I said, “I loved your talk! But I have a question; would you have a moment to answer?” He graciously agreed.

I continued, “I’ve touched moments of peace and calm — when looking at a sunset, playing with my dog or listening to the ocean waves, but then that feeling disappears. How do I get it back?”

– A Profound Response 

Still smiling, the teacher said softly, “If it was true before, is it not true now?”

His response surprised me. It was so simple, but also so true.

– Inner Calm

Years later, I now offer mindfulness program for the workplace. 

I’ve witnessed people accessing a place of inner calm for a fleeting moment before all the STUFF (Stories, Thoughts, Urges, Frustrations and Feelings) that cycles in the mind obscures any peace of mind. 

But the good news is that if you access that calm place for a few seconds, then you can learn to access it for a minute, and then for a few minutes — and then perhaps, for even longer. After all, if it was true before, is it not true now?

Remember, mindfulness isn’t a state of continual, uninterrupted present moment awareness; but rather, it’s a practice of noticing when your attention wanders and gently — ever so gently, without judgment — returning your attention to the present moment, one breath at a time. 

Reflection: Have you experienced moments of quiet and calm? What techniques do you use to get back to that mindset?

WEEK TEN PRACTICE SUGGESTION: See if you can enjoy a moment of inner calm. Perhaps you can find it by focusing on just one breath, focusing on the sounds of the birds outside your window or focusing on the feeling of your feet touching the ground as you walk.

Thus ends this series, 10 Weeks of Mindfulness at Work. I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts and have found some techniques that you can practice to help you enhance your life, both at work and at home.

I’ve written this 10-week series to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind, a primer for beginning meditators.

Available on Kindle for 99¢ from July 20 – July 25. A perfect summer read for those new to meditation and those more experienced who want a refresher.

Wishing you many mindful moments!

Managing Social Media Distractions

Do social media distractions affect your productivity?

Social media use can drain your productive time — and it can be addictive. Every time you check social media, it reinforces the neural pathways in the brain that crave this distraction. As a result, checking your device for the latest post can become a habitual behavior. If you’d like to break the habit of social media distractions, here are some tips to get you started.

First, realize that urges are part of the human experience. Everyone has STUFF — the Stories, Thoughts, Urges, Frustrations and Feelings that cycle in the mind. But just because you experience an urge, doesn’t mean that you have to immediately answer its call. This is where awareness comes in.

Often people act upon their STUFF unconsciously. So, the second step in breaking this habit is to notice your urge to check social media. Perhaps you could keep a tally in the notes section of your phone, indicating each time you check social media. Or perhaps you could stand up when checking social media, if you’re typically sitting down. Most importantly, try to do something different, so your habitual behavior isn’t automatic.

Next, add space between your urge and your response. Let’s say you check social media every half hour. Try to gradually increase the times you check your device, until you’re checking on a manageable schedule — such as the morning before work, lunchtime and the evening after work.

And finally, notice your experience. Rather than forcefully pushing the urge away, become aware of what it’s like to take charge of your urges. Are you experiencing agitation in your mind? Tightness in your body? Again, awareness is key. As the old saying goes, “If you can name it, you can tame it.”

If you like this post, please consider sharing it — as long as sharing isn’t a social media distraction that affects your productivity!

“Time Traveling” for Clarity

Feeling stuck? Not sure of your next steps? Consider “time traveling” for clarity. Of course, I’m not referring to stepping into a time machine and being deposited at a different point in time. What I am referring to, however, is time traveling with your imagination.

Here’s how this works. Let’s say you’re ready to make a career change, but you’re unable to get clarity on what’s next for you. You’re not sure if you should consider remote or in-person work, a large company or a small one — or even if you should change industries. 

You know from past experience that if you have a clear picture of your goal, you’re more likely to reach it. But try as you might, you can’t get clarity on where you’d like to land. 

Here’s where “time travel” comes in. To get started, sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Take a few breaths to center yourself. Try to keep your body relaxed, but your mind alert.

Next, it’s time to travel with your imagination. Imagine yourself in the future after you’ve made your career transition. You can picture the future in whatever timeframe seems right to you, whether it’s six months from now, a year from now or longer. 

Imagine seeing yourself engaged in fulfilling work. Try to allow details of your work to emerge. What is the work product? What is the work environment? Who are your colleagues? If you can, allow your imagination to have free rein, without judging your vision of what’s next. Once you’ve finished with this process, you can pick and choose which aspects of your time travel you’d like to pursue.

Why this method works: When you’re immersed in a situation it can be difficult to find clarity. This technique allows you to step back, see the whole picture and gain perspective. Additionally, by treating your next steps as if they’ve already taken place, you don’t have to figure anything out. You can just “time travel” to witness the outcome. 

The next time you’re looking for clarity, consider trying this technique to help you discover inspiration and guidance. 

Hello 2021!

On January 1, 2021, I threw out my page-a-day calendar, with the last page, December 31, 2020, still clinging to the adhesive. Unlike years past, this year I felt a sense of relief—a sense of “good riddance 2020!”—as I tossed out the old. A sense of anticipation arose as I cut the plastic wrap from the new calendar.

Viktor Frankl talks about this sense of anticipation in his book,“Man’s Search For Meaning,” one of my pandemic reads. Frankl emphasizes the importance of living by looking to the future in the most difficult moments of existence. He writes about gaining inner strength by focusing on future outcomes, no matter how hard it is to shift your focus from the present. 

I’m a mindfulness trainer, teaching present moment awareness. This awareness doesn’t mean you have to continually focus on the difficulties of the present situation. Certainly, it means to acknowledge the challenges. Pushing them away would create resistance. But looking at challenges as part of a whole—rather than seeing them as if they’re all that exists—can help give you perspective. Part of that whole is looking to the future. As Frankl would say, this looking forward can help fortify you.

Remember, you are at choice about where you focus your attention. Consider focusing on what you want to create in the new year. What are you looking forward to in 2021?

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