January 2013

Weekly Wisdom #22

by cheryl on January 28, 2013

in Weekly Wisdom

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”   – Wayne Gretzky

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Don’t Forget to Exercise Your Brain

Don’t Forget to Exercise Your Brain

by cheryl on January 28, 2013

in Healthy Living

Most of us make time each week to workout at the gym, attend a yoga class, or go for a run.  Inspired by the effects of aging on our bodies, we are compelled to work out to stay healthy and fit.  As we age, our metabolism slows down, our energy levels wane, and we notice sagging and wrinkles in areas that shouldn’t sag or wrinkle.  These physical changes inspire us to hit the gym to combat these signs of aging.

Not only do our bodies show the signs of aging, so do our brains.  Although brain aging is not visible, and therefore less apparent, our brains shrink or atrophy as we age, and we lose our memory and our thinking abilities.  But there is hope.  New studies of the brain and aging have shown evidence that we can slow down brain aging and even strengthen our brains with the age-old practice of meditation.

Exciting research now reveals that the way we use our brain and care for it can enhance its neuroplasticity.  Scientists use to believe that the human brain was a relatively static organ.  But emerging studies reveal that we can actually change our brain structure throughout our life.  Changes in behavior, environment and neural processes, can actually alter the neural pathways and synapses in our brain, changing the way our brain functions.   Exciting new scientific studies, such as one conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, use MRI scans to document before and after changes in the brain associated with mindfulness meditation.  After eight weeks, the MRI scans revealed an increased density in areas of the brain associated with memory, self-awareness and compassion, and decreases in the amygdala, which is associated with fear and stress.

I recently attended the first Advances in Meditation Research Conference, where neuroscientists spoke of their recent research in which they studied the neurological effects of meditation on the brain.  The results were inspiring.  Although much of the discussion was highly scientific and too technical for my brain to fully comprehend, their conclusions were quite clear that meditation can have a positive effect on our brains.   At the conference, researchers discussed their recent studies that showed evidence that meditation practices slow down the natural course of aging, effectively treat the onset of neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia and alzheimers, and increase brain function in their test cases.

Mindfulness meditation, which requires focused attention for a prolonged period of time, may sound easy, but it requires tremendous effort and mental discipline.  Anyone who has tried sitting quietly for twenty minutes knows that it is hard work.  Just like going to the gym or running a few miles, meditation is difficult at first.  Over time, however, that hard work pays off.  Just like building biceps, we can strengthen our brain and slow down the effects of aging by committing to meditation and mindfulness excercises that are proving to be incredibly beneficial.  So what are you waiting for?

 

 

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Top Ten Mindfulness Tips for 2013 for Living a More Peaceful Life

Top Ten Mindfulness Tips from 2012

by cheryl on January 10, 2013

in Meditation

In 2012, we explored many ways to bring calm and joy into our lives.  Here is a recap of some of our favorite tools to help us lead a more stress-free, joy-filled and meaningful life.

 1. Breathe Deeply

That’s our story and we are sticking to it – one of the simplest and most effective ways to calm down is through simple mindful breathing exercises.  The simple act of taking a few long, deep breaths can work wonders on your body and your mind. Research has shown that the simple act of breathing deeply and fully can stop the release of stress hormones in the body and allow physical and neurological function to be restored to a normal state.  Breathing deeply and mindfully helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which triggers this relaxation response.  By focusing your attention on your breath, you will also slow down the tornado of thoughts spinning around in your mind.   So, try to stop for a minute or two each day, close your eyes and breathe deeply, inhaling fully through your nose and filling your lungs and belly as you inhale.  Then, empty your chest and abdomen completely as you exhale.  Repeat for a few minutes in the morning or throughout the day to find a bit of space, calm and relaxation wherever you are.  Try it with your children and you will be teaching them a valuable way to calm themselves down in any stressful situation.  It even helps at night to relax and unwind before bedtime, and get a better night sleep. So, in 2013, keep breathing deeply!

2. Do An Act of Kindness

Little acts of kindness not only brighten other people’s days, but can go a long way in increasing your own happiness. The new and emerging science of positive psychology, the study of happiness, shows that we can increase our own sense of wellbeing by making other people happy.  So, share a smile with a stranger, help someone open a door, offer a helping hand to someone in need, and you will feel a wonderful sense of connection and joy.

3. Practice Mindful Listening

Often when we lend an ear to a child or a friend, we are in problem solving mode.  We are analyzing, judging, or trying to fix something most of the time we are listening.  The truth is that people just want to be heard and feel listened to.  So, try some mindful listening by saying little, by looking into the other person’s eyes and  by giving them your full attention  – no texting, e-mailing or other distractions allowed.  We all know that frustrating feeling when we are speaking and we can actually feel that the other person is not really listening to us.  Rather, be a compassionate and fully present listener.  What a wonderful gift to give a child, parent or friend.  In doing so, you are also modeling mindful listening and may reap the benefits of that person learning to give you their full attention in return.

4. Think of Something You Did Well Each Day

At the end of each day, we often go through a list of all that we failed to accomplish and all that we did not do well.  Instead, at the end of each day, make a list of all that you did right.  We need to take the time to recognize and appreciate all that we accomplish each day, big or small.  Whether it is taking some much needed time for ourself, making sure our children are clothed and fed, calling a friend that we haven’t spoken to in a while, or completing a project at work, we need to appreciate our efforts and recognize our worth.   We may feel we are in a “thankless” job or situation, but the truth is there is great value in thanking ourselves on a job well done.  So, each night make sure to think about something you did well each day – you deserve it!

5. Take Time for Yourself

As we mentioned in one of our first blogs, it is so important to put your own oxygen mask on first.  We cannot find peace and calm in the world around us if we are not peaceful and calm ourselves.  We cannot expect our children to be relaxed and joyful if we don’t model that behavior.   So, it is essential to take a time out and make time for yourself.  In the end, it is not only a wonderful opportunity to connect with yourself, but it will pay off many times over in how you interact with the world around you.

6. Keep a Gratitude Journal

We often get stuck in the monotony of our daily schedules and forget to take note of the extraordinary gifts we have in our lives.  One way to get out of this rut, is to buy a small notebook and create a Gratitude Journal.   This can be a personal journal or you can create a family gratitude journal, in which each member of the family can jot done one thing he or she is grateful for each day.  You can also make this a family routine during dinner, with each person reflecting on something good that happened that day.  Research has shown that by simply recalling a positive experience our bodies release pleasure hormones, which can give us an increased overall feeling of wellbeing.

7. Unplug

It is increasingly apparent that we are becoming a society addicted to our electronic devices, unable to go for 60 seconds without checking our e-mails, voicemails or texts.  In 2013, challenge yourself to “unplug” for at least 30 minutes each the day, and during mealtimes.  Make “screen free” time in which you turn off your devices, phones and computers.  Although these are valuable tools in our modern world, they are also a source of distraction, increased stress, and huge energy zappers because they take us away from where we are and who we are with.  Checking our messages while engaged in a conversation with someone sends a strong message to those we are with that they are not important or worthy of our attention.  We must be mindful as well of the example we are setting for our children as we constantly check our devices while we are at a stoplight, while they are talking to us or during mealtime.  We can’t ask them to unplug if we are not willing to do the same.  So, take time each day to power off, so you can tune in and be fully present in the moment, before those moments pass you by.

8. Look into their Eyes

We have all heard that the Eyes are the Windows to the Soul.  Try it out and see for yourself.  Make a point of looking into the eyes of the person you are with.  When saying “Good Morning” or “Thank you” to people throughout the day, look into their eyes and see if you notice a difference in how it feels.  You can establish a much greater connection to the people around you by taking the time to stop and notice them by looking into their eyes.  So often these days we are so busy doing other things, that we don’t take a few seconds to truly acknowledge the people around us.  Try it and you will see that you can enrich your everyday experiences with your children, your colleagues and even total strangers by simply taking a brief moment to truly notice them.

9.  Take a Walk in Nature

Enjoying nature is a great way to take a much-needed break in our busy, hectic lives.  It offers us the opportunity to slow down, breathe deeply and clear our minds.  When taking a walk, running, hiking, or walking the dog, try to be fully present where you are, rather than solve problems, make mental lists or think about your busy schedule, which takes you somewhere else.  Use this time to clear your thoughts, appreciate where you are at that moment, and connect to the beautiful world around you.

10. Practice Acceptance

In 2012, we wrote about Letting Go of Expectations.  The flip side of that lesson is to practice acceptance.  Life is a roller coaster ride, full of ups and downs, great joys and great disappointments.  If we can learn to accept that life is not perfect, we are not perfect, those around us are not perfect and we embrace those imperfections and accept people and situations as they are, life becomes much easier.  We can learn to accept ourselves and the people in our lives for who they are, not who we want them to be.  In doing so we learn to embrace and appreciate ourselves and others with an open heart and mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Are you feeling tired, a lack of focus and concentration and out of patience?   Do you want to learn ways to slow down, clam down and find a greater sense of balance and happiness in your  life?

Join us for Mindful Living: An Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation

We will explore  meditation and mindfulness practices that can be used everyday to help bring calm, clarity, connections and contentment into your daily life.  Each class will consist of a discussion and practice.

Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation include:

  • Increasing your attention, focus and concentration
  • Understanding your own stress reactions and how to minimize them
  • Increasing your sense of balance and equanimity
  • Fostering a greater connection in your relationships
  • Enriched appreciation of the ordinary moments of life
  • Learning to listen with kindness to yourself and those around you
  • Improved sleep

Class Dates & Times:  Tuesday evenings, November 19, 26, December 3  and 10, from 8 to 9:30 pm.

Location:  Westchester Jewish Center, Rockland & Palmer Avenue, Mamaroneck, New York.

Investment:  $140 members and $160 non-members

*This class is a prerequisite for classes we will be offering in 2014 on Meditation and Spirituality.

**Registration opening soon for this class.

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Mindful Parenting Group

Mindful Parenting Group

by cheryl on January 10, 2013

in Classes, Events and Classes

Join the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Community Counseling Center and 2bpresent for a

Mindful Parenting Group

for parents of middle school children

Five Sessions on Wednesday evenings

1/30, 2/6, 2/13, 2/27, and 3/6

7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

at the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Community Counseling Center

234 Stanley Avenue, Mamaroneck, NY

Cost: $250*

What is a Mindful Parenting Group?

The Mindful Parenting Group will combine the benefits of learning to develop a mindfulness practice with parenting support and education.  Led by two experienced meditation and mindfulness practitioners and a psychologist, the goal of this group will be to help you bring calm, clarity, wisdom and joy into your daily life.  It is the practice of using self-awareness to know how to slow down, think, and make decisions that will help both parent and child live with greater ease and happiness.

Benefits of Mindful Parenting:

  • Understanding our own stress reactions
  • Increasing calm and stability in ourselves and our children
  • Fostering a greater connection between parent and child
  • Increasing attention, focus and concentration
  • Enriched appreciation of the ordinary moments of life
  • Learning to listen with kindness to ourselves and our children

 

To register for this group, email us at mindfulparenting123@gmail.com.  Space is limited.

*contact the LMCCC/Dr. Alan Dienstag at (698-7549) to request an adjustment if fee is a barrier to participation

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Mindfulness for High School Students

Being a teenager in today’s fast-paced, technology driven world can be difficult.  School and social pressures can add tremendous stress and anxiety to their lives.  Using mindfulness practices, we teach teens to look inward to find a peaceful, calm place that they can tap into at any time.  Through guided meditations and mindfulness exercises we help teens increase their body awareness, teach tools for stress reduction and increase their overall sense of well-being.

 

Benefits of Mindfulness:

  • Increase concentration, focus and attention
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Increase resilience to change and self-esteem
  • Foster a greater connection to self and to others
  • Enriched appreciation of ordinary moments

 

Future class times to be announced soon.  Private and semi-private sessions are also available.

For more information on this class, please contact us at info@2bpresent.com.

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Weekly Wisdom #21

by cheryl on January 6, 2013

in Uncategorized, Weekly Wisdom

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”  – Oscar Wilde

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Finding the Light in the Midst of Darkness

Finding the Light in the Midst of Darkness

by cheryl on January 3, 2013

in Meditation

In the wake of the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, we entered this holiday season with a heaviness in our hearts.  We struggle to comprehend the incomprehensible and to fill a deep hole in our hearts that seems impossible to fill when thinking of the 26 innocent souls that we lost on December 14, 2012.  Yet, we can emerge from this horrific moment in our history by focusing on the incredible acts of human kindness that we have seen following that terrible day.

We are now aware of the amazing acts of courage and selflessness of the teachers and staff who risked their own lives to save the lives of innocent children.  We have heard numerous accounts of first responders who acted with bravery and compassion in dealing with the horrific scene they found at the elementary school that day.   We have seen images of  people from around the country and the world, people from different backgrounds, with different religious affiliations and different political views, offering their support, sending gifts and sharing their love in any way they can during this time of national mourning.  Through these countless acts of kindness, we can feel a renewed sense of hope, inspiration and faith in the incredible strength of our basic human goodness.  This is the good in all of us that we must recognize and foster that can help us overcome our sadness, anger and grief.

 

When we see the heartbreaking images of those beautiful young children who were killed that day, we see in their smiling faces such joy, innocence and life.  This reminds us all to notice those amazing qualities in our own children, in ourselves and in the people around us.  We have heard the mourning parents speak about how blessed they feel to have had their beautiful children in their lives, even if only for a short time.   Their words remind us all how important it is to stop and take a pause in our busy days to notice the richness of our own lives and the beauty of all that surounds us, and not wait until it is gone to fully appreciate all that we had.  We are reminded to tell those we love how much we love them, to give our children an extra hug and kiss and to take the time each day to be fully present in our lives.   We are reminded that life is too precious to be lived unaware of its beauty each day.

 

So, in response to the tragedy in Newtown, we can find hope and inspiration to move forward toward a better future for ourselves and for our children.   We can take away so much from this tragedy that will help us to rise up, be strong, come together and foster the love and compassion that we all have an endless capactiy to give, which is the perfect tribute to those beautiful souls we lost in Newtown.

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