"Don't underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering." - Winne the Pooh
Announcing 2bpresent's All New You Tube Channel!
We are thrilled to announce our new You Tube Channel! In the coming months, we will continue to add new videos explaining the science of mindfulness, the “How To’s” of integrating mindfulness into your life, Mindfulness for Children, and lots of new Guided Meditations and Videos to help you lower stress, improve your focus and concentration, overcome test anxiety, get a better night’s sleep, prepare for that big game, and so much more! Be sure to sign on to our newsletter to get updates on what’s new and subscribe to 2bp TV.
What if you could be more peaceful with yourself, those around you and your world? Join us on a journey to finding real happiness as we explore meditation and mindfulness, and learn how to incorporate them into our everyday lives. Mindfulness can help you lower your levels of stress, stay focused and calm, and live your life with a greater sense of ease and happiness.
This course is an introduction to the fundamentals of mindfulness and meditation, and will help you gain a deeper understanding of these practices.
Join us for contemplation, meditation and action-based exercises. This is a five week class. We will meet for one hour each week.
Evening Class Dates & Time: 10/8, 10/15, 10/22, 10/29 and 11/5 from 7 pm to 8 pm.
Location: Groove, 108 Chatsworth Avenue, Larchmont, New York.
THIS CLASS IS NO LONGER ACCEPTING REGISTRATIONS
About the Instructor . . .
Cheryl Brause is the Co-Founder of 2bpresent. She has practiced meditation and mindfulness for many years, and has worked in the field of teaching mindfulness meditation for the past four years to adults, teens and children. Cheryl has studied meditation and mindfulness under with many leaders in the field. She has completed her Level I and II Meditation Teacher Training from Om Yoga. She is trained in Learning to BREATHE - a mindfulness curriculum for adolescents, and completed her K-12 Mindful Schools Curriculum Training. Cheryl teaches mindfulness and meditation privately to children, teens and adults. She has also created and taught programs in our community to train teachers and students in stress reduction techniques and mindfulness tools to help them thrive.
What people are saying about 2bpresent classes and workshops. . .
"Every now and then you come across a class or a person who helps you to be a better person. Cheryl offers just that. I am a better person because of all the things that I have learned- I am a better spouse, a better mother, a better friend, a better co-worker, and actually even more compassionate with myself. And what’s the best part? That I got all this by simply learning how to slow down and calm down. I will be forever grateful!
Taking the beginning meditation class is the single most important thing I have done for myself in the last decade. I can honestly say that my family and I are all happier because of my taking this one step to learn how to be calmer and more mindful." - Psychologist, mother and participant in Real Happiness and Mindful Living
"Cheryl's class taught me not only how to meditate, but how to incorporate mindfulness into everything that I do. Cheryl is extremely knowledgable about the practice of mindfulness and has a teaching style that is very easy to understand and accessible. It was a truly life changing experience. I can't wait for my next class!" - MBA, mother, participant in Mindful Living
"I took Cheryl’s mindfulness class last spring and the effects have stayed with me. The tools and techniques she showed the class were fun and easy to use and the discussion really brought everything down to a real level that can be applied. Cheryl has a unique way of speaking about mindfulness that is very insightful and practical. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and would highly recommend it!" - Organizational Development Consultant, mother, participant in Mindful Living
We are thrilled to welcome back Sharon Salzberg to our mindful community for a fall evening exploring Lovingkindness in the Face of Adversity
Wednesday November 13th from 7:00-9:00pm
Mamaroneck, NY (location to be sent upon confirmation)
Sharon is one of America’s leading spiritual teachers and authors. She is cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts. She has played a crucial role in bringing Asian meditation practices to the West. The ancient Buddhist practices of vipassana (mindfulness) and metta (lovingkindness) are the foundations of her work.
During this evening we will explore the power of lovingkindness when we face our own physical challenge or illness, emotional upheaval, negativity from others, or unfairness in how we are being treated. We will look at lovingkindness and compassion as strengths rather than as submissive states, and talk about joining them with discerning action, wisdom, and our often untapped capacity for resilience. We'll practice meditation along with dialogue and discourse. Suitable for both beginning and more experienced meditators.
To Register Click Here
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.
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.
Why is it that during this joyful, festive time of year so many people are feeling anxious, depressed or depleted? All that gift giving and holiday cheer can be exhausting. There is pressure to be happy and full of joy. So when we don’t feel like being in the holiday spirit (or we may feel downright depressed), we become upset with ourselves and ask, “What is wrong with me?” First, there is nothing wrong with you. Throw away any judgment or feeling of disappointment in yourself. You feel the way you feel, and that is OK. It is an exhausting time of year. There is cooking to do, presents to wrap, gifts to give, roads to travel. You may also feel lonely or sad. In addition, there are always those complicated family dynamics to contend with, which are often even more intense this time of year. So, remind yourself that it is OK to feel whatever you feel.
Second, whether you are a regular meditator or have never tried meditation before, try this simple holiday meditation. It doesn’t take long and I know you will feel a little better after giving it a try. The great part about this meditation is that you can use it over and over again throughout the holiday season, as needed (no prescription required).
Find a quiet spot. Allow yourself to escape for a short time from the commotion. Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor, with your back straight OR lie down comfortably on your back in a resting position. Gently close your eyes.
Breathe deeply, in through your nose, then release that air back out through your nose. Simply follow your breath in through your nose, filling up your lungs and abdomen, allowing your belly and chest to expand. As you exhale, follow your breath back out through your lungs, your abdomen contracting, as the air flows out your nose. As you inhale, think of letting in a sense of calm, quiet, and stillness. As you exhale, release all of the tension in your body, and any anxiety or sadness you are feeling. With each exhale, simply let go. As you continue your breathing, exhale for a slightly longer time than you inhale. For example, inhale for two counts, then exhale for four counts. You can use any number you want, just try to make your exhales longer than your inhales. Fully release all of the air you are holding on to. After doing this several times, you will begin to feel more relaxed, calm and peaceful.
After you have done some breathing and are in a nice rhythm, continue your slow, steady breathing while you think about five things you are grateful for. These can be almost anything. Just take the time to remind yourself of a few incredible gifts, big or small, that you have in your life. For example, you may be grateful for allowing yourself to take this much needed time out from the holiday madness. I will give you the first five things that pop into my head.
#1 - I am grateful for my breath. As I breathe in and breathe out, I am so thankful that I can breathe freely, that my body works in a miraculous rhythm, naturally and rhythmically. I am grateful for my breath.
#2 - I am grateful for my children. I am incredibly lucky to have three beautiful, healthy, loving children who bring great joy to my life. I am grateful for my children.
#3 – I am grateful for my husband. I am so thankful to have a supportive husband who loves me unconditionally every day. I am grateful for my husband.
#4 – I am grateful for my own wellness warrior, my mother. My mother spent all of last year fighting lymphoma. Every day she faced very difficult physical and emotional challenges with incredible strength, optimism and courage. Through the most difficult circumstances, she was an example of the importance of being present in each moment, taking each day as it came, one moment at a time, and, sometimes, one breath at a time. I am grateful for my mother.
#5 – I am grateful for my friends. I have so many people in my life that love and care about me. I am truly blessed to have them in life. I am grateful for my friends.
Smile and continue to breathe. After taking the time to think about a few things you are grateful for, return to your breath. Try smiling by simply turning the very ends of your mouth upwards, to allow some happiness in. “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” (Thich Nhat Hanh) Focus on your breath, on that feeling of gratitude and on letting go. Take this time for yourself. Be present, let go and simply breathe this holiday season!
We came across this great video that we thought that you might find interesting. Take a look and let us know what you think.
As we come to the close of Sharon Salzberg's Real Happiness 28 Day Meditation Challenge, we have been thinking about all of the lessons that we have learned from Real Happiness, and there are many. Here are a few of the things we learned . . . (1) Meditation, like life, is challenging. Some days are easier than others, some days are very difficult. There are moments of bliss and pure joy, and there are moments of pain and sadness. Each day is full of new challenges. You can always begin again. And, in the end, it is all worth it.
(2) We are all in this together with the common goal of finding our own happiness. It is wonderful to look around at people during the day, people we know intimately, acquaintances and total strangers, and recognize that we all experience the ups and downs of life, each one of us incredibly special and unique, yet each part of a much larger, intricately connected whole.
(3) Compassion and kindness are the keys to happiness. Anger, resentment, hostility, and judgment will not lead us down the path to happiness. It is through compassion and lovingkindness that we can find our own true happiness and beauty in the world around us.
(4) The magic is in each breath we take, each individual moment we have. The goal is to find the time and discipline to be present in each moment and to cherish those moments as they come.
It has been a pleasure learning from all of those who participated in this 28 day meditation challenge. While the meditation challenge is over, we will continue to learn through our daily meditation practices. Thank you Sharon for guiding us so beautifully through this experience. We wish you all real happiness today and everyday!
Yesterday, my computer stopped working. I was sitting with many different screens open all at one time -- writing, researching, and communicating. Suddenly, the computer screen completely froze. The mouse wouId not budge and my heart slowly sank. I began to panic. Would I lose all of my work? Were all of my documents, pictures and what feels like the archives of my life gone forever? I was desperate to save it all, and with no other ideas in mind to resolve the problem, I did what I try not to do at all costs – I called the computer help line. I usually try to steer clear of calling for help because I so often get even more frustrated by the long waiting times before I can actually speak to a human being on the other end of the line, and because I fear that after a long ordeal on the phone they will conclude that they cannot help me. I decided that I had no other option. So, I picked up the phone, dialed and was pleasantly surprised to find a very kind and helpful voice on the other end of the line after a not so terribly long wait. He so gently assured me that he would do his best to help me figure this out. I thought about how wonderful it was that there was some stranger out there who patiently and happily was willing to help me with my problem. After going through a myriad of exercises to get my computer out of this frozen mess with no success, the kind gentleman on the other end of the line had one last suggestion. He asked me to simply unplug my machine and let it rest quietly for a few minutes. After all that we had tried, and the potentially devastating possibility that my computer was unfixable, was he really serious that the solution could be so simple? I then remembered a few months back when my cell phone was doing very strange things and I was also told to simply turn the power off for a few minutes – let is rest. In that case, and I soon found out in this case as well, that five minutes of quiet for my incredibly overloaded and overworked machine did just the trick. It revved back up after a much needed respite and started up again, good as new.
Just like our laptops, desktops, cell phones, and smartphones, sometimes we just need to reset. We get overloaded with information, overcome by the demands on our time, confused by the conflicting feelings and emotions running through our brains and overrun by exhaustion and the physical toll that all of this takes on our bodies. We need to unplug, to reset, to spend a few minutes in quiet and stillness. Sometimes just focusing on our breath, on how the simple, natural breath feels in our bodies, is just the reset we need to recalibrate. In doing simple breathing meditations, we find our calm center and peace of mind and body that will help us restart and continue on our path.
It is so important to pay attention to our physical clues as well, which are often less obvious than the complete shut down of a frozen computer screen. Our bodies have a way of telling us that we need a reset. Whether it is tension, muscle ache, pain, stomach upset or fatigue, often our bodies are telling us that we are overloaded and that we need a break in our circuitry, a reset.
It amazed me how my computer, which is so complex and has so much power in helping me to create, to communicate and to learn, could benefit from a simple reset. Just like our bodies and our minds, which are so incredibly complex, and which hold the ultimate power in creativity, learning and love, we all need a little reset once in while to reconnect with ourselves and that inner calmness that we all have inside. We just need to unplug from the external stimuli for a bit, take a break from the internal chatter of our minds, and reconnect to that calm, peaceful stillness that is deep inside us all.
The man on the other end of the line suggested that I turn my computer off periodically to prevent this overload from happening again. I am taking his advice. Great advice for my computer and myself. So, just turn it all off for a minute or two, or twenty each day. Avoid the frozen screen and reset. Simply breathe. It is amazing what this can do for us all.
Have you ever noticed how many choices we make everyday? Most of us are incredibly fortunate to live in a world full of choices. We choose everything from what to eat for breakfast each morning or what clothes we want to wear each day, to what we want to do when we grow up or who we want to marry. On the flip side, we cannot always choose our circumstances. Whether we are faced with great tragedy or the more mundane happenstances of our daily lives, we often feel like we are the unfortunate victims of life’s unfairness.
An important lesson that I often remind myself, especially when my children complain that something is just not fair, is the unwavering truth that life is not always fair. I would love to look into their innocent little eyes and tell them that whatever wrong they have felt will somehow magically be made right. As we all know, this is simply not true and is a lesson that would not serve them well in coping with life’s ups and downs. I always feel like the bearer of bad news, the one who must deflate that balloon of childhood optimism, when I tell my children that life is not always fair. Once they accept this to be true, however, things may get a little easier.
It is so important for us to recognize that when life’s unexpected, less than desirable situations come our way, we have a choice. We can recognize that we may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can control how we choose to react to them. Our choice is to either look at those bumps in the road as devastating blows that underscore the unfairness of life OR view them as unique opportunities to choose how we want to see the world.
I am not suggesting that we can avoid the pain (physically or emotionally) that may accompany our bumps in the road (or mountains as the case may be). What I am suggesting is that we must be very careful not to add to that pain by struggling against what is. Sylvia Boorstein explains this concept beautifully in her book, It’s Easier Than you Think, in which she explains the Buddhist notion that suffering comes from clinging. She writes, “ [S]uffering is what happens when we struggle with whatever our life experience is rather than accepting and opening to our experience with a wise and compassionate response.”
How often do we say to ourselves or do we hear someone else say, “that’s just my luck” or “my life is just one disappointment after another” or “no one ever listens to me” or “that’s just not fair” or some other similar complaint? If we convince ourselves that this is our tragic reality, then it becomes our reality through our own ever-narrowing perspective. This conditioned response can make us feel powerless. We begin to identify ourselves as the repeated victim of life’s unfairness, but we don’t have to. We have a choice. There is tremendous freedom in realizing that we do not have to react as we have become so accustomed to reacting. We can take a step back and try a new perspective on for size. Once we recognize that we may not be able to change the situation, we can choose to accept with grace and wisdom what we cannot change and react in a way that will make our lives easier and more joyful.
One very personal example of an incredibly challenging situation in my life is my mother’s recent illness. The circumstances are what they are. Life is not always fair. So, I am faced with a choice. I can look at her illness and it’s effect on all of us with regret, anger and resentment OR I can choose to take what is, what I cannot change, and look at the opportunities that I have been given. I choose to let my troubles be my teachers. As a result, I have learned so much. I have learned to appreciate the incredible gift of good health, the importance of cherishing each moment that I have with those who are special to me, the value in really listening to others, and the joy in simply being fully present for those I love so dearly.
When some days are filled with great challenges and sadness, I choose to focus on those little moments that I have learned to appreciate so much, in which I have found such joy even in the face of very trying circumstances. I have never enjoyed having a quiet breakfast with my mother more than over the past few months, something we rarely get to do, even if we share those meals in a hospital room. I have never felt the importance of holding her hand more, as she so often held mine when I needed it. I have never fully appreciated the power of being able to breathe fully and deeply more than when I watch someone struggling to do just that. I have never appreciated the sound of my parents’ voices more than when I make that first phone call each morning to find out how they are and am delighted to hear a cheerful, happy voice on the other end of the line wishing me a good morning. All is right in the world when I hear happiness, optimism and the start of a good day on the other end of the phone.
Would I trade all of these lessons to make her illness go away? Absolutely! But I do not have that choice. I still feel the pain of the situation – the sadness. However, I try not to add suffering on to that pain by clinging to what I cannot change. I also feel the incredible power of love, hope and optimism, the feeling that anything is possible. I choose this perspective – it is the space in which I want to live and hope to share with those around me. It is a work in progress and a challenging journey, but that’s what life is all about.
So, think for a moment, as you take a deep breath, and consider how you want to act and react to your life’s circumstances – the big and the small situations that you find yourself in everyday. Embrace the incredible freedom we all have to choose how we want to see the world. I choose to see my glass as overflowing. How full is your glass?
The fun really was listening to their insights and leading them on a Guided "mini vacation" meditation to their most favorite place in the world. The meditation we used was a blend of Real Happiness Concentration (Sharon Salzberg) and also included the work of Linda Lantieri (http://www.lindalantieri.org/) from her Inner Resilience Program geared towards children. The kids where guided to visualize being in their most favorite place and feeling what it was like to be there, smelling what it was like to be there and then spending time in stillness in that very special and safe place.
What was amazing for the 2mindfulmom's was how receptive to this entire experience the kids where. Whether we asked them to share their feelings or locations they went to they where all eager to share and tell us how good it felt to close their eyes and just breath. Many of the kids took themselves to places in nature disconnected from the modern world and their very fast paced lives.
We stole a few minutes of mini meditations during these sessions for ourselves and absorbed the energy of these fabulous kids.
My daughter provided feedback from the informal lunch room survey that took place over sandwiches and the kids thought the session was really cool. We encouraged the kids to try taking their parents on a mini vacation.
We hope everyone is having a good week with their sitting practices.
This post was included as part of our 28 Day Meditation Challenge with Sharon Salzberg for Real Happiness
It always amazes me how the smallest of gestures can come to mean so much. It is those moments that I pull myself back to when my day spins out of control. As a busy parent, sometimes we are caught running between so many things and those small gestures or moments between things can be as anchoring as the breath. Today, after giving a group of kids a lift somewhere on a very cold day, my daughter turned back to me after she had already left the car and looked me in the eyes and simply said "Thanks so much." It was three short words, but the eye contact and the fact that she turned away from her group of friends and turned towards me meant the world to me. Since I have been working on being more mindful and present, this moment energized me with the beauty that it contained. How many moments do we miss because we are not mindful and present? Take notice of the small gestures and moments with your kids and see if you can use them to anchor you when you feel your day or your energy spinning away from you.
What if you could be more peaceful with yourself, those around you and your world? What would that life hold for you?
Join us on a journey to "Real Happiness" as we learn about the work of Sharon Salzberg and other leaders in the field of meditation, and design an action based plan to incorporate mindfulness meditation and lovingkindness more fully into our everyday lives.
What is meditation?
Meditation is the practice of quieting the mind, of focusing our attention, to eliminate the many thoughts that are constantly bombarding us. By clearing those thoughts through meditation, we have the ability to achieve an inner calm and stillness, and the ability to experience a profound sense of ease in our everyday lives.
The emotional, psychological and physical benefits of meditation include improved sleep, stress reduction, increased concentration, and increased ability to manage difficult emotions. Scientific studies also suggest that meditation may reduce high blood pressure, increase the immune system, reduce chronic pain and help the body fight a number of diseases.
Join us for contemplation, meditation, group discussions, and action-based exercises. This course will run for five weeks and will meet for an hour and a half on Tuesday mornings. Course dates are: 2/28, 3/6, 3/13, 3/20, 3/27 (please save 4/3 as a snow make up day)
We will meet at Applause, 114 West Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck, second floor, from 9:30 am to 11:00 am.
The discussions will be facilitated by Joanna Wolff and Cheryl Brause of 2bpresent.
Investment: $195 per person. A minimum of 8 people are needed to run the course.
Click Here to Register as space is limited
“Slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make this moment last.” Simon and Garfunkel, Feeling Groovy. After a very special celebration that took months and months of busy preparation, a good friend of mine complained, “I can’t believe it is over so fast! How do I make time stand still so I can enjoy these important moments?” I can’t make time stand still, but I do think that the key to making those moments last is to slow down.
In our modern world, we often equate being busy with being important. If our days are not loaded with constant demands on our time, then we feel we are doing something wrong. There is a subtle, unspoken pride, a bragging right, in discussing how incredibly busy we are. We often pack our days and our children’s days with activities, meetings, playdates, after school clubs, tutoring, sports, dinner plans, book clubs, and more. No time to relax, take a walk, or even talk to each other without being distracted by doing at least one other activity (or more). We try to jam as much as we can into our daily lives to live a fuller, more meaningful life. But what if we have it all wrong? What if the most meaningful moments, the connections, the important stuff is found in those quiet moments, the ones we don’t schedule into our day, the ones that we too often don’t have time for?
I think that the best way to slow down time is to simply slow down. Clear your busy schedule a bit. Are you or your children really benefiting from so much activity? We want to have balanced, joyful, well-adjusted children, yet we don’t give them time to be balanced, joyful or well-adjusted. We want to be calm, peaceful parents, but we are too busy to be calm or peaceful.
Ask your children what their favorite memories are and they will often mention some little, quiet moment they had that meant the most to them, not the jam packed days filled with endless activities, not the days spent rushing around. Ask yourself the same question. What are your most precious moments? A recent, treasured moment for me was a hike in the woods that I took with my husband and children. We enjoyed being outside in nature, talking and listening, and not rushing to go anywhere – just finding great pleasure in being where we were.
So, turn off your TVs, cell phones, video games and MP3 players. Cancel some of those after school activities and meetings. Make time in your schedule for more time to just be – no plans, nowhere to go. Instead, go for a walk, read a book, tell your children a story or listen to theirs. Even in the midst of a hectic, busy day or a special, joyful occasion, take the time to be present in the moment. Don’t think about what was or what is to come next. In fact, don’t think at all. Just feel the energy of right now in your whole body. Take a pause, a breath, a moment or two. Slow down and make those moments last. Those will be the moments that will mean the most.
The most common response I get when I ask someone to join me in a meditation class is, “I could never sit still for 20 minutes to meditate. My mind never stops racing!” I completely understand that feeling because I used to feel the same way. Not long ago, before I began on this journey 2bpresent, I would often complain that I just needed a few minutes of peace and quiet. But I realized one day that even sitting in a quiet room did not do the trick because much of that “noise” was in my head, not in the room. Why is it that our minds are constantly racing and what is all that chatter up there? I like to refer to this “chatter” as our inner dialogue. It is that voice you hear over and over again in your head. What is your inner voice saying? Are you planning for the future, organizing your day, worrying about someone or something, judging yourself or someone else, feeling guilty about what you did or did not do, fearing something that might happen, feeling anxious or annoyed? I would guess that these thoughts take up a majority of space in our heads every day.
Now, ask yourself, “What benefit am I getting from all of these thoughts?” Often these thoughts are taking us out of the present moment, and causing us to feel stressed and anxious, but those thoughts are not actually helping us at all. I was sitting in a course recently when the group leader said that she usually wakes up and immediately begins to plan her day, “First, I need to get the kids dressed and ready for school, get myself ready for work, get everyone fed and where they need to go, get my work done, pick everyone up from school, get them dinner, help them with their homework, and then it is off to bed we go. I can’t wait until tonight when the day is done. ” This was all being thought out as she woke up and was getting out of bed. She explained that she was essentially missing out on the opportunity to enjoy her day because she was so busy planning for it to be over. There is nothing wrong with planning, but you can lose sight of your journey through your day, if you are more focused on how to arrive at its end. How often do we all do this – we focus on the goal or the destination in the future so much that we lose the opportunity to enjoy the present moment?
If you become aware of your thoughts, you will find that the majority of those thoughts have to do with some past event or some possible future event (one that may never actually happen at all), not what is happening right now. If we don’t learn to clear those thoughts, we miss the joy of being truly present in the moment.
Another question you may ask yourself is, “Why do we continue to have these thoughts if they are unpleasant and unproductive?” If we see a really bad movie, and we are annoyed that we have wasted our time, we don’t go back to the movie theater and watch it over and over again. Yet, when we have an unpleasant experience (we fight with a friend, get annoyed with someone’s behavior, or miss a business opportunity), we tend to relive that experience over and over again in our heads, each time bringing up the same unpleasant emotions. Why do we do this? I think the answer is twofold.
First, it is habit. We are so used to thinking this way, that we have a hard time just letting go of those thoughts. Second, we get a bit of a rush, a shot of adrenaline from being upset and this can be addicting. I think that in this country many of us are adrenaline addicts. If we are not moving at a rapid pace, worrying, anxious, moving quickly, then we feel we are not really living. But is this frenetic pace really making us happy, or healthy for that matter? How do we feel at the end of the day – fulfilled, happy and peaceful OR exhausted and depleted?
Take some quiet moments to look into your own thoughts. What is going on in your head? Are you ready for a change?
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.
When I told some friends that the secret to inner peace and calm is to just breathe, my great discovery was met with skepticism and disbelief, and even a few chuckles here and there. But I am sticking to my guns and promise that it is all about the breath. We all breathe every day, all day, from the moment we are born until the moment we die. We think that we are pretty good at it given the fact that we don’t even need to think about it 99% of the time, it just happens. So, how can breathing be the magical key to calm?
To understand how profound the link is between breathing and finding our inner peace, we must first understand a little more about the breath. In many cultures, the process of breathing is considered to be the essence of being. In yoga, the breath is known as the prana or the universal energy that balances the body and mind, the conscious with the unconscious, and the sympathetic with the parasympathetic nervous system. The breath is rather unique, because unlike other bodily functions, we can control it. It is both voluntary and involuntary. The breath offers us the ability to influence the sympathetic nervous system, which regulates digestion, blood pressure, heart rate and other bodily functions. Therefore, controlling our breath offers us an incredible tool to help regulate our bodies in ways that otherwise are much more difficult to control.
Getting the most out of each breath
So we know that the breath is incredibly important, but are we making the most of each breath we take?
Have you ever watched a baby sleep or a dog stretched out, lying on the floor? If so, notice their breath, notice what is moving? When the baby or the dog (any animal will do) is breathing, it is not their chest or their shoulders that are in motion. Rather their belly, just below the rib cage and above the pelvis region, moves out with each inhale and in with each exhale. Now think about when the doctor asks you or your child to take a deep breath, what do you do? Most of the time, when asked to breathe deeply, we puff up our chests, raise our shoulders and suck in our stomachs, as we gasp in and then lower our chests and shoulders, and release our abdomen as we force our breath out.
This type of chest breathing is not our deepest or most natural breath. It is not our best breath. It is not the breath that we were born with. It is not the breath that allows us to fill our whole lungs with that much needed oxygen. Instead, it is our conditioned breath. It is our response to years (and sadly only a few short years in children and teenagers) of teaching ourselves how to breathe incorrectly. It is the result of stress, anxiety, worry and fear. It is the result of losing that amazing ability that babies and animals have to not stress out. They don’t sit around stewing about something someone just said to them, or fearing failing at a new endeavor, or worrying about a child. They are divinely connected to their inner calm.
So why do we resort to chest breathing so often, particularly in stressful situations?
Think caveman times. In caveman days, an important part of human survival was the fight or flight response, when we needed to sense fear and respond to it, so as not to be eaten by a lion. It was a vital survival mechanism. But in 21st century living, we are almost always far removed from an actual life or death situation, yet this fight or flight response is often triggered in our daily lives. Once the fight or fight response is activated by a stress trigger, we may experience increased heart rate, rapid and shallow breathing, tensing of muscles (abdominal, chest, shoulders, etc.), perspiration, tingling in our fingers and toes, and digestive problems (just to name a few). We may experience these when we can’t find our keys, when we are running late, when we are worried about a child, when we make a mistake at work, or when we have to speak in front of a large crowd. This physiological response to a perceived danger may have helped the caveman fight off a lion or run away from a charging tiger, but in modern times it usually does not save our life, but rather causes us great discomfort and dis-ease. (Yes – disease, much more on that later.)
Chronic stress and the continual trigger of the physiological responses associated with the fight or flight response can lead to a restriction in the muscles surrounding the lungs, limiting the range of motion in the chest wall. When the chest can no longer fully expand, the breath becomes shallow. This chest breathing is much less efficient than belly breathing because it limits the amount of blood flowing in the lower lobes of the lungs, less oxygen transfers into the blood and poor nutrients go to the tissues.
Just by initiating good belly breathing -- slow, steady abdominal breathing -- you can greatly influence your body during stressful situations causing a stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system resulting in a reversal of those negative physiological responses that can be so harmful to our health and well being. Proper breathing helps to relax the muscles in the abdomen, chest, back, and all over the body. Creating a greater passage for air to fill the lungs, allowing the diaphragm to fully expand and contract.
What we all experience each day, and have accumulated countless moments of throughout our lives, is the negative effects of the fight or flight response. The good news is – you can relearn to breathe properly! You can practice taking slow, deep, abdominal breaths and regain that amazing ability to reconnect with your calm, peaceful self, much like that sleeping baby. (And by the way, sound sleep is an important byproduct of learning to breath properly)
Meditation and mindfulness are intricately related to the breath. If you can sit still, and simply follow your breath as it moves in your nostrils, down into your lungs and abdomen, and back up and out your nose, guess what – you are meditating! Simply by sitting still and paying attention to your breath (and only your breath), you are automatically clearing your mind. That’s all you need to do! So, the first step to finding your inner peace and calm is to simply practice breathing. I promise, if done correctly, you will feel better almost instantly. The great news is that you can practice breathing anywhere, at a stop light, in a carpool pick up line, in the subway, in a movie theater, on an airplane, anywhere! You have all of the tools you need with you at all times. Pretty cool!
Many people pull breathing out of their bag of relaxation tricks when they are faced with a stressful situation. I would encourage you not to save these breathing techniques for moments of stress and anxiety, but practice this breathing every day. Just as we need to train our muscles to run a race, we need to train our muscles to breath correctly. The amazing thing is, if you practice your breathing regularly, the benefits are incredible! Not only can you avoid those nasty physical effects of the fight or flight response, you are actually creating a new, calmer and more peaceful you. The new you will have a greater capacity to shrug off many of those slightly annoying or even highly anxiety producing triggers of the fight or flight response. You may even find that the trigger that normally sets you off, may no longer bother you at all. You can breath right through it!