December 2011

Weekly Wisdom #4

by joanna on December 26, 2011

in Weekly Wisdom

“Happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold; the feeling of happiness dwells in the soul.”

-Democritus

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Weekly Wisdom #3

by cheryl on December 21, 2011

in Weekly Wisdom

“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.”

– George Moore

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At a recent seminar entitled “Living Fearlessly,” I was asked to select a partner, another student in the class who I did not know, and sit face to face with him, knees touching, and take five minutes to simply stare into his eyes.  In the scheme of my daily tasks, this did not seem to be a hard request.  However, I soon found that it was almost impossible.   I could not stare into his eyes for an extended period of time without looking away.  I felt like I was intruding on his personal, private space, as if I was creating an uncomfortable intimacy with a total stranger by peering right into his soul, and allowing him to look into mine.  They say that the eyes are the window to the soul and this exercise seemed to have given me powerful evidence of the truth to that popular proverb.

After that class, I was intrigued and began my own personal experiment.  I decided to make a conscious effort to make clear and lasting eye contact with people throughout my day.  The results were quite amazing.  To simply look into my husband’s eyes in the morning and wish him a good day, had a completely different effect than my usual routine of yelling good bye to him while making the children’s lunches as he walks out the door.  Next, I took the time, only a few seconds, to look into my children’s eyes as they went off to school, wishing them a wonderful day.  This was an incredibly loving gesture that warmed my heart, and hopefully warmed theirs as well.

I also noticed that by taking the time to look into my children’s eyes while they were speaking to me made those moment so much more intimate and meaningful.  It allowed me to be present, to truly listen and let them know that they were being heard.  That is an incredible gift that you can give another person, especially your children, just by looking into their eyes.   Of course, this required me to stop texting, to take a break from checking my e-mails or reading the newspaper or cleaning the kitchen.  It required me to be in the moment and truly connect with those around me.  In doing so, I made those daily interactions much less mundane and routine, and much more meaningful and loving.

I didn’t stop there.   I quickly realized that it is quite simple to go through my daily routine without making eye contact with the strangers that I encounter throughout my day.   I could go to the bank, shop at the grocery story, sit through a meeting and never make meaningful eye contact with anyone.  So, I decided to look into the eyes of everyone I came in contact with that day.  The results were amazing.  At my local grocery store, for example, I looked right into the eyes of the cashier and found that she looked right back at me.   That moment was very powerful.  On most days I would help bag the groceries, swipe my card and be on my way.  By taking the time to look into her eyes, I made a brief connection with another human being and saw that she was a loving, caring person with an incredibly rich and complex life.  For that one moment, she saw me and I saw her.   In those few seconds of eye contact, it seemed like everything else stood still.   I can’t accurately describe the feeling I got, but it was quite moving.  When you look into someone’s eye and they look into yours, there seems to be a connection that goes straight to your heart.

We are all moving through life at such a rapid pace that taking a moment to acknowledge the existence of another human being who crosses your path, to truly look at them and acknowledge them, brings greater joy to those seemingly ordinary moments that fill our days, and who wouldn’t want more joy in their lives?

It’s not easy.  I know that I often do not look into other people’s eyes, not because I don’t want to see them, but because I don’t want to be seen.  Allowing someone that access creates a great feeling of vulnerability.  You open yourself up and it can feel scary, intense and awkward.   My meditation teacher asked us to do an exercise that was a little odd, but very telling.  She asked us to go to a mirror, and stare into our own eyes for a while, and tell ourselves, “ I love you.”   It feels very strange and a bit silly, but it is an interesting lesson in learning to love yourself and in really looking inward.  If you cannot do this exercise, then perhaps you should ask yourself why.

So, give it a try and let us know what you find.  I hope it will be a simple step to help you be in the moment, and to truly connect with yourself and all of those amazing people in your life!

This is the first article in a series entitled Simple Steps.  Simple Steps are  little things that we can all do that can really make a difference in our lives.  Check out our complete list of  Simple Steps.

 

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two dogs

Peace Despite the Stick

by joanna on December 12, 2011

in Meditation

For those of you new to our blog here is a little information about my home life. I have two amazing dogs. They are both labradoodles….Chip is 3 years old and has a very old soul…He weighs about 70lbs. Taz is a puppy and still is full of all of that frenetic puppy energy and he weighs about 25lbs. Chip loves to lay on the lawn stretched out with his face resting on the grass. Today I took a look out of the window and saw Chip laying peaceful as he usual does all stretched out. This was not an unusual sight for me or anyone who lives near us to see, but what struck me as so odd was that he wasn’t moving despite the fact that Taz had a long stick half resting on his back and half on the grass that he was stepping on and biting. Each time Taz climbed onto Chips back to bite the stick more I expected Chip to turn around and snarl at him. It never happened, Chip was so at peace even while Taz was climbing and jumping on him. It struck me as so powerful that he could be so peaceful with this annoying young puppy jumping and poking him with this stick. As I think about my day ahead and all of the pokes I will invariable experience with “Sticks,” I will summon my inner Chip to carry me through each of these situations.

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Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First

Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First

by cheryl on December 9, 2011

in 2mindfulmoms

We have all been on an airplane and listened to the flight attendant give safety instructions to parents with small children. In the case of an emergency, those parents traveling with small children should put their own oxygen masks on first before assisting their children in putting on their oxygen masks. This important instruction is essential not only in airplane emergencies, but in life.

I have slowly, over time, learned to apply these instructions to my own life. Although it took many years for me to realize the value of my own oxygen mask, I finally understand that taking care of myself is not a selfish act, but a necessary one. I cannot be the person or the parent that I want to be without giving myself permission to spend some time on me.

I remember the first time I left my son with a babysitter. When he was 6 weeks old, my husband and I decided to take a much-needed break from dirty diapers, feeding schedules, and sleepless nights. We were completely overwhelmed and exhausted by being new parents and we needed a break. So, we went all the way across the street to have a quick dinner together, no interruptions, no babies crying, just the two of us. Or was it? As I sat in the restaurant, feeling anxious and nervous about leaving my newborn baby at home, I realized something profound – it was no longer just the two us. From that time forward, no matter where I would go, no matter where my son’s journey in life would take him, we would always be connected. There was no taking a break from being his mom — not at dinner, not on vacation, not when he goes off to college or when he gets married. Elizabeth Stone described being a parent quite well when she said, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. “

Since there is no “vacation” in sight from the intense love and incredible responsibility of parenthood, it is easy to become overwhelmed by that role and to lose yourself in it. As parents, we become so busy taking care of our children, that we quickly forget about ourselves — who we are and what we need. When we constantly put the needs of our family before our own needs, we begin to feel emotionally, physically and psychologically depleted. We feel exhausted, inpatient and irritable, instead of calm, loving and nurturing. We forget our own oxygen masks, and that crucial instruction that we must take care of ourselves first in order to take care of those around us.

Not only is taking time for ourselves important for us, it is important for our children to see and to learn from. Our children look at us as examples, and our behavior serves as a model to them. We cannot teach our children to be relaxed, to be present in the moment, to be joyful human beings, if we are not relaxed, present and joyful parents. What better lesson can we give our children than to teach them by example to look carefully at their own needs, to pay attention to those needs and to take the time to nurture those needs? We will not always be there to nurture them, they must learn to nurture themselves, just as we must nurture ourselves.

The easiest excuse in the book, one that I used for years, is, “I just don’t have the time.” If it is important, we can always make the time, and it is important. Whether it is a quiet walk alone, making time to meditate, or taking a yoga class, whatever you need to reconnect with you, to relax and to just breathe, you must take that time for yourself. You deserve it and your children deserve it. By taking the time to put your own oxygen mask on, you will be better able to take care of yourself and all of those around you.

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Being Wrong

Being Wrong

by joanna on December 8, 2011

in Healthy Living

I love being wrong. I know that sounds so strange and counter intuitive, but my last post was about the garden being finished for the season and I was wrong. Big time wrong. Let me explain, it was a sunny day on Monday and I looked out at the garden that I had yet to clean up and decided not to delay. The sun was shining, the kids where at school and the moment was mine. I ventured into the garden which looked so sad and wilted. All of the energy and life seemed to have been picked from it. I began my ritual of ripping out all of the plants that I had so tenderly planted with such promise and hope. Some had yielded their full potential of edible gifts while others hadn’t. As I carelessly walked on top of the raised bed ignoring where I was stepping and hastily making my way through the task of bending and pulling out all of the tomato stakes and remnants of tomato plants this huge patch of lush green weeds caught my eye on the other side of the garden. I couldn’t believe I had such a large cluster of weeds that were such a brilliant green color. When I walked over to it to examine it more closely and I was in awe of what I saw. It was a full crop of Broccoli Rabe. One of the crops that I have struggled with the most. Despite the most carefully executed planting, watering and carrying routine time after time I had failed to grow this beloved family favorite. Each year I had experienced another failure from this crop. When I examined it more closely and looked back at my garden notes that I had kept from the start of the season I was even more amazed. It was all completely wrong. It wasn’t supposed to be there, that wasn’t where I had put it or intended for it to grow. This made the discovery even more profound and perplexing to me. As I contemplated how seeds or plants take root and choose to succeed, I pondered on how some times the things we are sure are right for us do not take root, and the others we are convinced are not right for us on our path take root and thrive. It is so often that a different path appears or something grows where it is not supposed to, but being open to being wrong allows you to see that what was once thought of as a weed is now a luscious gift in life.

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Weekly Wisdom #2

by 2bpresent on December 7, 2011

in Weekly Wisdom

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
– Henry David Thoreau

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