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Mindfulness for a Challenging Day

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
― Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter

Let’s Be Real

When I was in my 20’s I thought “being real” meant using the F word emphatically and doing the opposite of what the “mainstream” people did, whatever that might be at any given moment.  So I swore often and quickly turned left when I saw the popular culture turning right.

Mindfulness, and some good old fashioned growing up, showed me that “being real” means clearly seeing what is really in my mind and heart and staying with whatever I notice rather then distracting myself with something (choose your favorite; movies, food, shopping, gossiping).

The road to getting close to your own truth and “being real” is paved by letting yourself care about what you care about, love what you love, hate what you hate and get close to the truth of how you feel, even if it is something you think you “shouldn’t” feel. 

Mindfulness does not tell us that being real is acting out all of these feelings; instead, it invites us to experience and witness them internally.  In contrast to my time of displaying my “realness” out loud for all to hear and see, this kind of realness is a sweet and personal experience. In fact it has little to do with what others see in you at all.  This realness is a felt experience of being more fully yourself.

I met with one of my teachers recently and during our session she reminded me to stay close to what was happening for me in the moment. I became aware of a very deep feeling that surprised me as I uncovered it. I told her that it was so tender that I wanted to keep it to myself. “Then do.” She said, “you don’t need to tell or explain it to anyone if you don’t want to.” As she said, “What is important is that you feel it and know it for yourself,” I began to feel relaxed, open and calm and… really like myself. 

Then I told her about it, because I wanted to not because I “had to.” She understood completely.  It turns out that when we connect to deep truths in ourselves, they are very much the same as the deep truths in others. This became even more evident to me when I had the privilege to sit with one of my students later that week and guide her in much the same way I had been guided.  My own heart warmed as I saw and heard my student coming into contact with her “realness” and when she […]

Back From Summer Break

I had a sweet summer.  Did you?

Picked and ate delicious cherry tomatoes in my garden each day. Juice dripping down my daughters chins.

Watched a few amazing sunsets with my family. The pink clouds floating in the sky looked almost close enough to touch.

Spent some warm late nights laughing with friends.

Glad for all of it.  Also glad to be back into the rhythm of things.

I’ll be posting an essay once a month and a video once a month.

Happy reading and viewing. I look forward to connecting with you!

Warmly,

Rebekkah

A Mindfulness Break you will love

I’ve been exhausted lately, how about you?

We all need to recharge… a short mindfulness break can do wonders.

Take 5 minutes for yourself right now with this guided mindfulness & meditation break.

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Rebekkah Teaches Mindfulness, Meditation and Gentle Yoga – You can buy her classes on CD through iTunes and CDbaby.com – for more information about her join her on Facebook and visit her website enjoymindfulyoga.com

Roads to you

Reading over insurance claims and medical bills, my breath becomes shallow as I review the compounding information of in-network, out-of-network, what they say I owe, and what I expected to owe.  My stomach ties in knots and my shoulders become like earrings, they are so close to my ears.

As I wash my school-aged daughter’s hair, she howls like banshee in pain. I have carefully avoided their being any contact between her eyes and the shampoo, I’m certain there has been none. We move on to conditioner and I remind her “this one does not sting.” She continues this “war cry.” My whole body is tight so I feel like a Grecian statue, frozen in frustration.

Sitting in my unmoving car on the freeway, hot car fumes waft around me. I check the clock, survey all the lanes for possible movement, clench my jaw and repeat the whole cycle again. The entire freeway is stopped but I feel like I am jumping out of my skin, anxious and twitchy all over except for the rock that has formed in my low back. I want to be anywhere but here.

Our body sends us clear signs that can be like a map to returning to our natural well-being, if we learn how to read them.

By mindfully witnessing my experiences, I’ve noticed the series of reactions that follow difficult situations. The first reaction of our body is to produce adrenalin, which brings quick (and hard to “catch”) mental and physical reactions. At this point two reactions tend to happen simultaneously; thoughts form in the foreground of our experience and body sensations in the background. The “foreground” thoughts, driven by adrenalin, focus solely on fixing or coping with the situation. Our instinct then is to get the situation to stop somehow (any “how”) and from there we can begin to plow through mindlessly, leaving damage behind us. What is in the background are the physical and emotional responses to the stress. These further “amp up” our stress reaction and can easily go unnoticed.  Without mindfulness, these sensations and feelings can begin to “run the show” as we move through the stressful situation and onto the daily events in our lives. Attending to our body sensations first can calm our whole being. From this more balanced place we have more access to our good thinking and wise actions.

If I am not mindful while I scan insurance claims, I will let my short breath and “shoulder earrings” send me into a tailspin that might result in my […]

Fear

Fear: we all have it. Mindfulness does not make it go away. It does, however, help us recover from it.

I went to see a children’s story hour with my young daughters.  My older daughter was frightened by one of the stories. When she began to react to even very sweet moments of the story as if they were scary I knew that she was struggling with something inside of her, not outside.  She was struggling with the trance of fear.  I reassured her that it was OK to be scared and it was OK to hear the story. After the whole show was over and we were outside sitting on the grass, she crawled into my lap and said, “I still feel scared”.

I said, “I understand, I get scared sometimes too.  Actually,” I explained, “everyone in the whole wide worlds gets scared sometimes, it’s part of life.”

“But I feel really scared”, she said in reply.

“Can you give that scared feeling a hug?”  I asked her. Giving our feelings “hugs” is something we do often in our family.

“It’s not working,” said my daughter.

“Can you give your feeling a big hug full of tenderness, and then let it fly away on the breeze?”, which was blowing softly as we sat together.

“No I can’t, it wont go away.” She said

So we sat and cuddled and decided just to feel our hearts and feel our (her) fear…

My daughter is still learning the skill of being with and moving through her fear.  She is right where she needs to be—there is no rush, I remind her— and yet I want to help her with this hurdle. Whenever I realize there is something I want to teach my children, I first try to learn, or re-learn it myself.

Sitting on the grass holding my scared child as she recovered reminded me of something one of my teachers once said —Everyone gets frightened, startled, or jarred sometimes, the key to well-being is being able to return from that place of contraction, back to center. —Mindfulness helps us return from our contracted, rejecting state back to our open, receptive state.

By chance, a learning moment about my own fear occurred a week before my trip to the children’s story hour. It always amazes me how life presents lessons before I even realize I’m in need of them. I had put this one in “my pocket” for later use, and here was my opportunity to take it out.  Feeling into my own experiences with fear was one way of helping […]

Saying Yes – How to be Happier

Life has its ups and downs. We all know that. And yet many of us are habituated to saying yes to the “good” days, and no to the “bad”. Listen and watch this video for some simple tools that can help even the bad days feel good.

Take a Great Trip Without Spending a Dime

Remember snow globes? A little shake and the clear water is immediately clouded by a flurry of snow. But when held still, the water clears again and the snowman in the middle smiles at you. Meditation can have this effect on our minds, taking us from a blur of thoughts to a state of settled clarity. Most of us don’t realize how much time we live in a white out, unaware of our mind as it produces new thoughts that come on like blizzards. Sometimes, certainly not always, after meditation my mind feels like the snow storm has ceased and there is quiet—unbelievably delicious quiet. It is as if my thoughts have taken a vacation and gone somewhere else. Instead of the flurries and storms I am happy and settled right where I am, no matter where I am actually.

One of my favorite quotes from teacher and poet, Adyashanti is, “Let your mind swirl itself into blessed exhausted silence.” For most of us this inner stillness is rare and precious. I know for sure that when most of us sit to meditate, set out on a mindful walk or onto the mat for Yoga, our mind is anything but quiet. And that’s fine—minds wander. Returning to the practice is absolutely part of the practice.  I’ll never forget Jack Kornfield, one of the founding teachers of insight meditation in the west saying, “It doesn’t matter what happens while you meditate–it matters that you meditate.” The room of 400+ people laughed, and he replied simply, “I’m serious.”  I smiled and felt deeply relieved, because I am no stranger to a busy mind.  And what I understand Kornfield was saying, and other brain researchers are saying is that meditation benefits us even if we are distracted, bored, or busy thinking as we are practicing.  I suppose that is why it’s called practice, we just keep at it…. Forever. And slowly overtime the snow settles to the bottom and the water is truly clear.

Being a mother, wife, community member and working leaves me with precious little time for meditation. And while I do maintain a regular home practice, I have not attended an extended retreat since my children were born. I am relieved that many of my teachers call this period of a parent’s life an 18-year retreat. However the extended mental vacations of long meditation retreats I once relied on are not on my calendar for the next 15 years. so I’ve had to get creative.  I found that mental mini-vacations are […]

Play it again?

I have a friend who is really thoughtful. She remembers birthdays, wedding anniversaries and that you mentioned you were going to try out bread baking, so she calls to ask how it’s going and if you need any butter. Once when a few of us were discussing our new years resolutions, she said with a sigh, “Mine is always to be more thoughtful.” She was not being sarcastic.

Someone else I know is successful, and respected, but she is always looking for other people’s failures.  She seems to relish them. After seeing this behavior in her for quite a while I’ve surmised that it is fueled by an inner feeling of never measuring up. This kind of behavior is very often the result of an overactive inner critic. In her case, it seems as if she looks for opportunities to criticize others as temporary relief from taking the beating herself.

Like many personal friends of mine as well as mindfulness students I have worked with, I also grew up to have a loud and persistent inner critic. Sometimes I feel bad about it and wish it were otherwise. Sometimes I see it for what it is, a mental habit that can be changed. And sometimes it’s helpful to break a feeling of isolation around it and remember that many people experience this.  In fact it is so widespread that one of my mindfulness teachers referred to it as pandemic. Many of us just don’t seem to see ourselves accurately.

A great businessman I know is leading a thriving business (in this economy, too). Even after all his success he still keeps his business deals a secret from even his closest friends and wife until they come through. He says, for fear of jinxing them. Being afraid of jinxing oneself is the clever work of the inner critic, who is telling us that our accomplishments are not, in fact, due to our skill and experience but are just random luck. In this frame of mind we often don’t recognize our qualifications at all. Fear producing thoughts like, “our luck it probably just about to run out” can come easily and often.

There are so many ways our inner critic can rule us, so many well crafted stories the inner critic weaves into our unconscious.  Fortunately, mindfulness and meditation can weaken the power of our inner critic.  For some, including me, it can take a long time to unseat this tyrannical voice of self-doubt.  But it does happen.

You can think of it this way.  A […]

Who Wins? The good witch or the bad?

We moved here about two years ago.  Many of our neighbors are second or third generation here, others are more recent, but we are definitely the new kids on the block.  You remember what it is like to be the new kid.  When I am going into new situations I often begin with fantasies of hopeful promise that this will be a new haven….I paint pictures in my mind of a place where I’ll feel like I belong, they’ll feel like they (and I)  belong, we will all get along…Then I start to meet people….

So there we were on our new property, which has the outstanding characteristic of a creek running through it. Something else that is unusual about our new place is that there is a road both in front and in back of us.  The house came with a fence in front but not in back where the creek and the second road are. The house has a wall of windows that exposes most of the house to the street.  As we err on the modest, private side, we put a fence up.  But not for long.  The neighbors, these people who were supposed to be my new best friends, were, it turns out very entitled, nincompoops. They protested our fence!  They said it blocked “their” view of the creek (and of our back yard, living room, dining room and kitchen might I add).  The city even came out to inspect and after seeing how exposed our house was to the street Okayed the fence.  But the neighbors, who were obviously not my new best friends, kept pestering and complaining. We were forced to take our fence down.  Now everyone who walks and drives by can see what I am eating for breakfast, oh joy!

I was so mad I could spit.

And I stayed mad for a long time! I dreamt mad things about my neighbors. I told everyone I know how mad I was about it.  I could not stop thinking about it!  I felt exposed and vulnerable.  I felt like my family and I had no privacy and that everyone in our neighborhood might be looking into our yard and house all the time.

Right around Halloween time, as this whole conflict (and my anger) was at its climax, I had visions of hanging a Halloween witch in the tree, by the neck, with a sign that said, “It was the fence that led me to this.”  I know that is just crazy, but that is how […]

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