When I first tried meditating several years ago, I remember struggling between trying to still my body and my mind. At first, I found it incredibly difficult and physically uncomfortable to sit still, which was then followed by my many thoughts, “My knee really hurts . . . My back aches . . . I am feeling restless . . . I am uncomfortable,” which only made my physical discomfort more deeply felt. Other days, I would have no problem physically sitting still, but my mind was the source of my discomfort, refusing to be still. Over the years, I have learned that it is best to “make friends” with my discomfort. I try not to struggle against whatever is distracting me, or figure it out or beat myself up for having these distractions. I use them, instead, as an important part of my meditation. I try to approach my discomfort or distraction with a sense of curiosity and interest, no longer trying to do anything with it. I simply observe what I am experiencing with a friendly, loving and gentle attention. I look at my experience, whatever that may be, as an opportunity for self-awareness, rather than an obstacle to it.
It would be nice to report that each time I sit down to meditate I find myself enjoying twenty minutes of sheer bliss. What I have found, instead, is that each meditation is different. Somedays I have an ache or a pain, some days my mind is extremely busy, and other days my mind and my body are peaceful and still. In essence, this is what the practice is all about. Learning to sit and simply get to know myself, to have some sense of control over where I place my attention, and when I feel out of control, to simply let it be and watch without becoming overwhelmed by it.
Just like my meditation practice, my days are not all the same, and certainly not always peaceful – – – people can annoy me, my children don’t always listen to me, my house is not always clean, my back sometimes aches, people close to me get sick, and the evening news continues to report great tragedies around the globe. I find that I can now look at all of these things with a sense of presence, openness and curiosity, just like I practice on my cushion each morning. Instead of getting swept away by what is happening, overwhelmed by it, or trying to figure it out, I can connect to my own inner stillness and allow myself to feel whatever comes up fully (anger, sadness, frustration and, yes, great joy) and just be with it. All this from simply sitting on my cushion for a few minutes a day.
On to Week 2!
This blog is part of Sharon Salzberg's Real Happiness Meditation Challenge. In the month of February, you can join over 12,000 people around the world who have committed to sit each day and give meditation a try! You can learn more about the challenge, join in and read what people are saying by clicking here.
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.
I am truly enjoying watching the 2014 Winter Olympics, as I marvel at the athleticism, mental toughness and bravery of the Olympic athletes. They seem to be able to do things with their bodies that would be impossible to most mere mortals, while facing both physical and mental challenges with such incredible courage and composure. Their secret is out, however, and all evidence points not only to incredibly disciplined physical conditioning, but also to training their brains to conquer their fears and mental roadblocks which could keep them from performing at their highest level. Using techniques such as guided visualizations to imagine themselves achieving their Olympic goals, daily meditation practices to stay calm and focused, and mindfulness exercises to learn to handle their negative thoughts that serve as roadblocks to optimal performance, Olympians are including their brains as a key part of their daily conditioning. Brain-Training Secrets of Olympic Athletes And, how about those Seattle Seahawks? I must admit that I did not have a favorite team going in to this year's Super Bowl, nor did I pick a team to root for once the game began. (I was more interested in selecting the best Superbowl commercial.) I was, however, blown away by the sheer force, focus and seemingly unstoppable performance of the Seahawks, led by quarterback Russell Wilson, on Super Bowl Sunday. It was no surprise that I later learned of the incredible Seahawk training regimen that includes daily yoga, meditation and mindfulness training. (Lotus Pose on Two, ESPN Magazine, August 2013)
What was once the purview of Buddhist monks and yogis, yoga, meditation and mindfulness training is now becoming an important part of melding physical and mental conditioning to optimize an athlete's performance. Trainers, coaches and athletes alike are seeing that one of the most important parts of the body to train is the brain.
Thoughts from Week 2 of the Real Happiness - 28 Day Meditation Challenge . . .
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil – It is anger, fear, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
“The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
This Native American Cherokee story was told to me three times in one week, by three different people, in completely unrelated situations. A message from the Universe, heard loud and clear. I love this story because it relates so beautifully to the practice of meditation and mindfulness. We are motivated either by love or by fear. The amazing part of a meditation practice is that we can begin to observe our patterns of behavior, thoughts and emotions, to see them for what they really are -- fear based acts or acts of unconditional love. Once we become more aware and see ourselves more clearly, we can decide how we choose to act -- an amazingly powerful process. The other incredible benefit from a meditation practice is that we can cultivate a different attitude or lens through which we see the world. We can choose to act from love rather than from fear, and practice creating positive neural pathways (the scientifically researched approach) or practice lovingkindness (the 2500 year-old Buddhist meditation approach). However one chooses to explain the process, we can choose to act from love rather than from fear. In doing so, the world becomes a different place (kinder, gentler, more loving), and we begin to move in it with greater joy and greater ease. So, this week, as I continue Week 2 of my Meditation Challenge, I look deeper at which wolf I feed, and continue to choose love.
Mindfulness is everywhere – in the news, on magazine covers, in our schools and all over the internet – which leaves many wondering, where did it come from and why is it attracting so much attention? Mindfulness has its roots in ancient India. Over 2500 years ago, Vipassana meditation was taught by Buddha as a remedy for life’s ills. Vipassana means insight into the true nature of things, to see things as they really are. It is a non-religious meditation practice that aims to eliminate mental impurities so that one can reach a state of happiness and contentment, free from the burdens of the mind that are said to create human suffering.
Although mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years, it has gained its recent popularity in the West in large part due to the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, and his pioneering work in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. As a medical doctor who studied Buddishm, Kabat-Zinn decided to use mindfulness and meditation practices to treat patients suffering with chronic pain. His work and the research that followed have shown that these ancient practices can bring great improvements in both physical and psychological health, as well as changes in attitude and behavior.
Mindfulness is now commonly defined as the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment. In this busy, fast-paced modern world, the ability to hit the pause button and place your full attention on what you are actually experiencing in your body and in your mind, as you are experiencing it, has proven not only to improve chronic health problems, but has also been linked to human happiness.
The practice of mindfulness continues to evolve and new tools are emerging to incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives. At 2bpresent, we have studied with Buddhist monks, psychologists, leaders in the fields of mindfulness meditation and positive psychology, as well as experimented with mindfulness apps and online meditation groups, to better understand how to integrate these ancient practices into our modern world. Twenty-first century technology is being used to conduct research on the brain and the effects mindfulness practices have on our power to change our brain structure and improve its function. There is also new and emerging research that shows the effects mindfulness practices have on children, improving emotional self-regulation, increasing focus and attention, decreasing stress and improving academic performance. There is good reason that the mindfulness movement is gaining popularity, not just as a fad but as a promising new avenue to improved health and well-being.
In light of the soaring costs of medical care and the increasing use of prescription drugs to treat the symptoms rather than the causes of disease and disorders, mindfulness offers great potential to improved health and wellness. It is also a key focus in our quest for happiness. For all of these reasons, this ancient practice that dates back thousands of years is now experiencing a renaissance in our modern world as the mindfulness revolution.
Mindful Living: An Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation
In this course, we will explore meditation and mindfulness practices that can be used everyday to help reduce stress, increase a sense of calm, clarity, and connection, and create greater contentment in our lives. Each class will consist of a discussion of mindfulness tools and the developing research on the neuroscience of mindfulness, as well as group mindfulness practices.
“Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation include:
- Increased attention, focus and concentration
- Decreased levels of stress
- Increased sense of calm, balance and equanimity
- Improved mood
- Greater ability to regulate emotions
- Improved sleep patterns and overall sense of wellbeing
Class Dates & Times: Four week session begins February 26th. Classes will meet from 8 pm to 9:30 pm on Wednesdays, February 26, March 5, 12 and 19. Snow date will be March 26th.
Location: Groove, 108 Chatsworth Avenue, Larchmont, New York.
To Register click here.
As the holidays approach, our daylight hours shorten, and cool temperatures arrive, we find less opportunity to be outdoors and active, and more opportunity to be indoors, eating. Here are some helpful tips to eat mindfully this holiday season -- to slow down, truly savor your food, and enjoy some, but not too much, of the delicious fare that abounds in the coming months.
1. Are you really hungry?
There are many reasons why we grab a bite, often is it not hunger that is prompting us to eat. For example, we use food to reward ourselves for a job well done, we snack to procrastinate or to delay doing something that we really do not want to do, we eat to relieve stress, we eat to cheer ourselves up when we are having a bad day, and we eat when we feel sleepy and want to re-energize ourselves. It is important to take a moment before you reach for that cookie, and be aware of what you are actually feeling. Ask yourself, "Am I really hungry?" You may need a brisk walk outside, a short nap, a hot cup of tea or a good talk with a friend, instead of a bite to eat. Often food is not the answer to your craving, and although it may cause a temporary pleasure boost, if it isn’t hunger you are really feeling, food will not satisfy your needs.
2. Slow down
Who has time to eat a leisurely meal these days? Eating quickly, however, can lead to overeating. It takes the brain twenty minutes to register that the stomach is full. If we eat quickly, we don’t give our brain time to register that we have filled our stomachs and we continue to eat while this neurotransmission is happening. As a result, we fill our stomachs way past full. There are several ways to help you slow down. One way is to use a fork and knife to eat, and put the fork down in between bites. If you are eating a finger food, simply put the food down and take a pause in between bites. Chew your food slowly and thoroughly, giving yourself the opportunity to savor the experience by being aware of the texture and taste in your mouth with each bite.
3. Pay attention
In today’s world, we pride ourselves in our ability to multitask. Doing many things all at the same time, however, means that we are not doing any of those things with our full attention. When we are eating while reading the paper, watching the news, catching up on our e-mails, or talking on the phone, we are not giving our food or our body's signals our full attention. By paying attention to our food and the sensation of eating, we can gain a much greater appreciation of the taste, smell and texture of our food, as well as its appearance. Taking the time to notice these things will make the experience that much more enjoyable and will become a much more satisfying experience. As we improve the quality of our eating experience by paying attention, we lower our need to eat more because we feel satisfied with less.
4. Have a seat
We must give ourselves the opportunity to truly enjoy our food. We can do this by sitting down to eat. This will minimize that mindless snacking that often leads to overeating. We should get in the habit of only eating when we are sitting down at the table. This also allows us to give our food our full attention. While sitting down, remember to chew your food slowly and savor each mouthful. There is much greater satisfaction derived from our first few bites than from our last few bites, so make sure to sit and enjoy them.
5. Eat food that satisfies both your body and your mind
Everywhere we turn we find new information on what we should or should not be eating. As a result, we may even chose to eat things that we don’t enjoy. Satisfaction comes not just from being full, but also from enjoying the taste of what we are eating. Without feeling satisfied, we tend to eat more. So, enjoy a taste of what you love. Just remember to indulge in moderation, and enjoy it guilt-free. Eating should be a joyous, pleasurable experience - so sit down, relax, take tour time and appreciate that delicious food you have in front of you.
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
A recent New York Times article and YouTube video I Forgot My Phone left me wondering, how much of life are we missing out on when we are constantly turning our attention to that little screen? How often are we truly present where we are? Our minds are usually taking us elsewhere --- wandering back into our past or worrying about the future. It is a challenge for us to reign in our active minds and be fully present where we are. Now, with the help of technology, it has become easier and easier to be where we are not. We don't need the torrent of our thoughts to take us elsewhere, we have the help of our smartphones to whisk us away. How often do we feel a slight moment of boredom and immediately jump on our smartphones to avoid that brief moment of mental stillness? Instead of enjoying a momentary quiet interlude, we immediately look up the latest news stories, check in to see what our friends are doing on Facebook, or reply to our endless stream of emails. How often do we "leave" the people we are with to chat with, Instagram, or email those who are somewhere else? I am all for keeping in touch and social media is a wonderful way to stay connected, but I think it is important to remind ourselves and our children that we need to enjoy where we are and who we are with by resisting that ever present temptation to jump into the electronic cyberworld of being elsewhere.
How often have you been in a restaurant and watched a family eating "together" -- one child watching a DVD, a teenager texting friends and parents checking their email? Are they really enjoying each other's company or merely occupying space next to one another while engaging with someone or something elsewhere? The average teenager writes over 3,000 texts per month. With the soaring popularity of other forms of social media, their options are vast to live in a virtual world of communicating with a screen instead of with the people next to them. I wonder if our children are learning the art of conversation or merely mastering the art of internet slang? Will they learn to use their imagination and creativity in the face of a moment of boredom or merely power on when they want to disengage ? Do they know how to connect through eye contact or just through Instagram? Imagine what they could do with all of the time they spend on their smartphones and all that they are missing right in front of them.
As parents, we spend so much time teaching our children how to be "safe" online, and are so preoccupied with checking in on their internet conversations, that we may be missing the greater lesson of teaching them to simply power off. When they are unplugged and not constantly distracted, perhaps we can teach them the importance of making face to face human connections -- how to make polite conversation, use eye contact, be a good listener. These are the elements of creating real human connections that I hope will not be lost on the next generation. In addition, we all suffer from the affects of our constant multi-tasking -- lack of focus, inability to concentrate, uncontrollable mind wandering. In our distracted and fractured culture, where we are all wired up and constantly interupted by the beeps of our electronic devices, perhaps powering off will be the best lesson of all for our children's mental and emotional well being.
Do people really need to see the dessert I am eating on vacation or an artistic picture of my shoe or one more "selfie"? Will the world end if I don't respond to an email in the middle of a dinner conversation? Am I really enjoying the concert when I am preoccupied with taking a video of it to show everyone afterwards?
So, let's try to be where we are and enjoy who we are with. It is those moments in which we are truly present that are our most precious and most meaningful moments of all.
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?
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.
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.
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
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 email@example.com. Space is limited.
*contact the LMCCC/Dr. Alan Dienstag at (698-7549) to request an adjustment if fee is a barrier to participation
We all know that parenting can be a challenge. Many of us have undergraduate and advanced degrees and have continued our professional training, but it is rare to find a course in what is arguably our most important job - parenting. So, we at 2bpresent, hope to pass on to you any helpful bits of advice that we find along our journey on how to become a better parent. In the book, Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, Myla Kabat-Zinn and Jon Kabat-Zinn offer the following exercises that are wonderful tools to make our jobs as parents a bit easier and, perhaps a bit more rewarding and fulfilling, even at the most difficult moments.
12 Exercises for Mindful Parenting:
- Try to imagine the world from your child's point of view, purposefully letting go of your own. Do this every day for at least a few moments to remind you of who this child is and what he or she faces in the world.
- Imagine how you appear and sound from your child's point of view, i.e., having you as a parent today, in this moment. How might this modify how you carry yourself in your body and in space, how you speak, and what you say? How do you want to relate to your child in this moment?
- Practice seeing your children as perfect just the way they are. See if you can stay mindful of their sovereignty from moment to moment, and work at accepting them as they are when it is hardest for you to do so.
- Be mindful of your expectations of your children and consider whether they are truly in your child's best interest. Also, be aware of how you communicate those expectations and how they affect your children.
- Practice altruism, putting the needs of your children above your own whenever possible. Then see if there isn't some common ground, where your true needs can also be met. You may be surprised at how much overlap is possible, especially if you are patient and strive for balance.
- When you feel lost, or at a loss, remember to stand still and meditate on the whole by bringing your full attention to the situation, to your child, to yourself, to the family. In doing so, you may go beyond thinking, even good thinking, and perceive intuitively, with the whole of your being, what needs to be done. If that is not clear in any moment, maybe the best thing is to not do anything until it becomes clearer. Sometimes it is good to remain silent.
- Try embodying silent presence. This will grow out of both formal and informal mindfulness practice over time if you attend to how you carry yourself and what you project in body, mind, and speech. Listen carefully.
- Learn to live with tension without losing your own balance. In Zen and the Art of Archery, Herrigel describes how he was taught to stand at the point of highest tension effortlessly without shooting the arrow. At the right moment, the arrow mysteriously shoots itself. Practice moving into any moment, however difficult, without trying to change anything and without having to have a particular outcome occur. Simply bring your full awareness and presence to this moment. Practice seeing that whatever comes up is "workable" if you are willing to trust your intuition. Your child needs you to be a center of balance and trustworthiness, a reliable landmark by which he or she can take a bearing within his or her own landscape. Arrow and target need each other. They will find each other best through wise attention and patience.
- Apologize to your child when you have betrayed a trust in even a little way. Apologies are healing. An apology demonstrates that you have thought about a situation and have come to see it more clearly, or perhaps more from your child's point of view. But be mindful of being "sorry" too often. It loses its meaning if you are always saying it, making regret into a habit. Then it can become a way not to take responsibility for your actions. Cooking in remorse on occasion is a good meditation. Don't shut off the stove until the meal is ready.
- Every child is special, and every child has special needs. Each sees in an entirely unique way. Hold an image of each child in your heart. Drink in their being, wishing them well.
- There are important times when we need to be clear and strong and unequivocal with children. Let this come as much as possible out of awareness, generosity, and discernment, rather than out of fear, self-righteousness, or the desire to control. Mindful parenting does not mean being overindulgent, neglectful, or weak; nor does it mean being rigid, domineering, and controlling.
- The greatest gift you can give your child is your self. This means that part of your work as a parent is to keep growing in self-knowledge and awareness. This ongoing work can be furthered by making a time for quiet contemplation in whatever ways feel comfortable to us. We only have right now. Let us use it to its best advantage, for our children's sake, and for our own.
Excerpted from Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla Kabat-Zinn and Jon Kabat-Zinn.
It's been a glorious summer for us at 2bpresent. We took time from the normal school year schedule and lived weeks in a very unstructured unscheduled manner. As we are now in August, we have been struck by the reality of returning to a school and life schedule that is drastically different from the way we have lived for several weeks now. In pondering this shift that is going to have to take place the following lyrics from En Vogue seemed apropos to share with all of you. Back to life, back to reality. Back to the here and now, yeah. Show me how, decide what you want from me. Tell me maybe I could be there for you. However do you want me? However do you need me? How, however do you want me? However do you need me? Back to life, back to the present time. Back from a fantasy, yeah. Tell me now, take the initiative. I'll leave it in your hands until you're ready... Summer is a break from the reality of the hectic schedules that we have during the school year. People asking of us and us pouring ourselves out to those we love and the causes that we support. We are wanted and needed and needed and wanted 24/7. By breaking from that for summer we are able to refuel and come back recharged. The transitions from one to another are not without anxiety for us or for our children. For our children they have shifted from school schedules to summer (camp or unstructured chill time) and now what they focused on so much is coming to a close and the hectic school schedules that they have are approaching them once again. Can we incorporate the best of what they love from the summer into their normal school year schedule? Can we put a little less on all of our plates this year and have more time to just be together as a family? Will they miss something if they aren't as busy? Will we?
September also coincides with a climatic shift as the sweltering warm days start to turn cooler. We go from shedding clothes to adding layers to stay warn. As we look toward this transition, can we add mindfulness and meditation into the layers we wrap ourselves in? Incorporating a mindful practice into the way we interact with those we love the most and those who we just barely touch. Mindfulness can make those shifts be they seasonal or from summer back to school smoother and easier for ourselves and our families.
If you are interested in learning more about beginning a practice of mindfulness and meditation, please join us as we once again journey to find Real Happiness following the work of Sharon Salzberg and other experts in this field. Click here for more information on this upcoming course and on our event hosting Sharon Salzberg in our community.
" . . .the true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life…”-William Morris
Whenever life is getting you down, try looking at things from a different perspective. Here are some examples of how it works. I am thankful for . . .
For the wife who says it’s PB&J tonight for dinner because she is home with me and not out with someone else.
For the husband who is on the sofa being a couch potato because he is home with me and not out at the bars.
For the teenager who is complaining about doing dishes because it means she is at home and not on the streets.
For the crying of my little ones because they are still young enough to believe that I can kiss it and make it feel better.
For the taxes I pay because it means I am employed.
For the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
For the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.
For my shadow that watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine.
For a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.
For all the complaining I hear about the government because it means we have freedom of speech.
For the parking spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking and I have been blessed with transportation.
For my huge heating bill because it means I am warm.
For the lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means I can hear.
For the pile of laundry and ironing because it means I have clothes to wear.
For weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day because it means I have been capable of working hard.
For the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means I am alive.
And finally, for too many e-mails because it means I have friends who are thinking of me.
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." -Ferris Bueller
We love this. It's a great reminder to be more "mindful" and less "mind full". We hope you like it.