Meditation for Kids

I’ve seen a few articles that discuss the benefits of replacing things like time out or detention with meditation whether in school or at home. Even since hearing about this idea, I’ve been a huge fan. It seems like a lot of the time parents and teachers can become so frustrated in the moment that they resort reflexively to age old punishments. Most people have used and/or been subjected to spanking or time outs. But how many of us have actually checked into the data behind whether or not these things are actually effective? Not only that, a lot of the time it seems like the intention behind these punishments seems to get lost somewhere along the way.

I would hope that most parents and teachers enact punishments in an attempt to correct and change negative, disruptive, or dangerous behaviors. While I’m not sure if the data supports the time out strategy in this regard, I know for a fact that spanking has been proven to be not only ineffective, but harmful to the child. Among other things, it leads to even more negative behaviors rather than preventing them. Unfortunately I’ve seen many parents dig their heels in on corporal punishment even after being confronted with this information.

Another thing that I’ve noticed while watching the way parents and other adults interact with children is that not many people seem to place any value in finding the time to actually explain things to kids. I don’t know why that is. I’m sure it could be many things from demanding unquestioning submission to their authority, to impatience, to modeling their parents’ behavior, to thinking the child wouldn’t be able to comprehend anyway.

One of the things I’ll never stop giving my mom credit for is always being willing to explain things to me. The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve realized just how incredible the amount of patience that woman has. She never seemed to get frustrated by my endless questions, even about the reasons why I wasn’t allowed to do something or had to do something else. She was even patient with me when after discovering the reason, I continued to debate with her and push the issue. This level of openness and respect allowed me to become the intelligent, thoughtful person I am today. It taught me to value knowledge and the importance of good communication and mutual understanding. Not only that, I feel it helped my mom as well. I think people underestimate kids. They seem to forget that they are just little humans with wills, wants, and desires of their own. Wouldn’t you be more likely to follow a rule if you understood why it was a rule in the first place? Isn’t it frustrating to be forced to do something just because you are told to?

With all of this in mind, I want to come back to the idea of meditation as a punishment replacement. When you think about it, a time out is already somewhat of the same thing. However, meditation gives this period of quite and stillness an important, clear intention. To me it seems like swapping out meditation for time out has almost unlimited potential for parents, families, teachers, and children alike. I can only image what a different world we would all live in if we started raising our kids this way. Think how much more receptive a child would be to this form of “punishment.”

When a kid is acting out, especially a little one, it doesn’t really make sense to expect a reprimand such as time out, taking something away, or especially striking them to make them calm down. So in the end you need to step back and remind yourself what the goal of these things is supposed to be. If it is simply to get revenge on the child for what they’ve done, then by all means, go ahead. You’re sure to upset them at the very least. But if the goal is to help the child find new, more appropriate behaviors and understand why their current behavior is unacceptable, then it seems like a pretty lousy strategy.

I think it would be a much more helpful and pleasant experience for everyone involved if in response to a negative behavior, someone would explain to the child: 1. Why this is unacceptable behavior. (How it negatively effects, not only others, but the child themselves.) 2. Why meditation is the response to this behavior. (How it can help the child not only behave, but feel better.) No one wants to feel like they are being punished for what they’ve done, even if they know it was wrong. However, we are all hardwired to act with our own self-interest in mind. Wouldn’t you be more likely to participate in something (even if you didn’t necessarily like it) if you thought it would ultimately benefit you?

I only wish someone had been around to teach me meditation as a child. For the most part when a child acts out, it is because they are upset or dealing with emotions they aren’t able to handle appropriately. And it really isn’t their fault, they’ve yet to develop the skills and areas of their brains necessary to properly regulate and process different emotions. Even so, kids know that it doesn’t feel good to be upset or to let your emotions overwhelm you. The majority of my life was spent thinking that these things were just out of my control. What a relief it was to me to discover that I actually have the power to regulate my own emotions and to strengthen this skill like a muscle. I’m sure I’d be much better at doing so if I’d started when I was younger too.

I believe children would really respond well to being taught these new, useful tools. It could simply be explained to them that the purpose behind these “time-outs” is for their benefit. It isn’t just to be mean or make them unhappy because they acted in a way we didn’t like. It is just a time for them to practice using these new tools so that they can have a happier, more peaceful life now and in the future. From what I’ve seen, kids are usually eager to please. Many may be quick to comply if they were told all of these things. It all comes down to treating kids with the patience and respect they deserve and remembering what we want the purpose of punishment to be.

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The Focused Mind

It is interesting to me that when I sit down to write, the ideas that usually come to mind are so negative. I think about problems I see in my own life or in the world around me. I can think of some pretty interesting topics, but that isn’t the issue. I didn’t start writing everyday to be interesting. I am doing this because I like to write and it makes me happy. Depending on what I’m writing about. It always comes down to focus.

I genuinely fear for these younger generations. Even my own has suffered and continues to suffer from the influence of technology. The internet and social media have drastically damaged our mental abilities. The saddest thing is that there isn’t really anyone to blame or a clear solution other than purging our lives of these technologies entirely. We have reached the point in history where “robots are taking over.” It just doesn’t look like what we thought it would look like. It is much subtler. Robot humans aren’t so much moving into our neighborhoods and taking out jobs, as they are tinkering behind the scenes shaping our own personalized virtual worlds for us. There is no evil intention behind this threat to humanity. The algorithms we’ve created are only doing their best, trying to help us as they’ve been designed to do. We just couldn’t have imagined the implications of this progress.

Among the myriad reasons that this new reality we’ve unleashed upon the world is harmful, the most significant to me is its effect on attention span. This has definitely made an impact on all of us who use the internet and specifically social media, but it is particularly easy to see in children. It really breaks my heart to imagine what childhood must look like now-a-days compared to what I was lucky enough to have. Just the other day a coworker and I were reminiscing in front of a 10 or 11 year old girl about before we had internet or even a computer. She seemed stunned and horrified as she listened. I felt like my grandmother when she would tell me about before they had cars and electricity.

It is interesting to me that alongside this rise in social media, there has also been an increase in interest in spiritual practices such as yoga. It is almost as if we are naturally seeking out a balance to the damaging effects we’ve been exposed to. Something inside of us is looking for help. While it can’t solve the problems we face, I do feel that yoga and meditation are instrumental in combating the negative effects of technology in my own life. No matter how long I practice yoga, it continues to blossom and evolve. As I peel back layer after layer, I find new pearls of truth, new perspectives. I’ll think I know what yoga is all about, then have that idea utterly overthrown by a new one.

Once I thought yoga was just about exercise and flexibility. I thought meditation was an effort to keep the mind still. Now I’ve learned that both of these practices are complementary to one another and that ultimately they are both about focus. It doesn’t matter if you can do the splits and hold a handstand if your mind is somewhere else the whole time. You can sit in meditation for hours, but if your mind is running laps it won’t do you much good. The point of both of these practices is to train and harness our ability to focus.

We often hear that we are in control of our own happiness. We can choose the way we want to feel and respond to the world around us. And while this is true, it doesn’t exactly explain how we are able to do this. The answer to that is (yep, you guessed it) focus. Concentration, attention, focus, whatever you want to call it, it is a muscle that we must exercise and train to serve us. Sadly, the internet and social media are actively working against this training, teaching our minds to do just the opposite of focus.

That is why having a regular yoga and meditation practice is more important than ever before. Yoga and meditation are sneaky. They give us things to focus on, and we assign different meaning to why we are focusing on them. We want to be healthy, we want to be flexible, we want to have more peace and calm in our lives. It is only later that many of us realize what we are focusing on has little to do with it. The mere act of mindful awareness and concentration are what produce the positive mental health effects. That’s why eventually we can learn to take our practice with us off the mat. We don’t have to be in impressive postures to be practicing yoga. Don’t forget tadasana (mountain pose) is just as valuable as bakasana (crow pose). Pranayama isn’t necessarily beneficial simply because of the techniques we are using for the breath, but because of the intense focus we put on the breath.

As you go about the rest of your day, try to notice how you feel when the mind is focused, when it’s scattered. It seems silly or even simply, but when you notice yourself becoming agitated or anxious, find something to focus on. It’s harder than it sounds. Watch your mind as it squirms and tries to escape this stillness, the mindful attention. What you decide to focus your attention on doesn’t really matter. The breath is always a good choice because it is always there with us. But you could also focus on a blade of grass, the veins in your hands, the backs of your eyelids, the way your clothes feel against your skin. As long as you’re concentrating, it will help. This is why the flow state is so intoxicating. It isn’t even necessarily because we are often engaged in an activity we love doing, it is because we are intensely focused. So I hope that you are able to practice focus as you move through your day today. Just take it one step at a time. Allow yourself be enjoy each moment as it comes, giving it your full attention.

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Coming Back Home

This life is so beautiful. It’s amazing how easily I am able to forget that. I always get caught up in the little things. For me it’s always been easier to worry endlessly than to pause and enjoy the present moment. But of all the suffering I’ve experienced in my life, I’ve been the source of the vast majority of it. It is hard to accept that and not condemn myself for it. It’s actually a great gift to realize that strange fact. Because it means that I can also be the end of all of this suffering. I just have to keep reminding myself, especially when it’s hard.

I just have to remember that this life is so much bigger than all of my petty little problems. What an insane, incredible, amazing thing it is that I exist at all! That there is so much right in front of me to enjoy, to be grateful for. This miraculous body that I inhabit, this home that shelters me, safe and warm with my loved ones, the ability to breathe the air, to feel soft pleasant textures against my skin. I am happy. I am free. I am alive. Right here, right now. Life is good.

Under all of my anxiety lies the fear that one day I won’t be able to take it anymore. I’m afraid that all of these tiny worries will pile up around me until I can no longer bear it, that I will somehow be consumed. But I don’t give myself enough credit. I am far more powerful than I realize most days. Sometimes I am tempted to allow my worst fears to become reality, just so that I can show myself that I will still be okay. When the darkest moments come, it is the smallest things that save me. Everything that I truly need is within me, it is me.

This breath, this deep, intangible, limitless love that I hold inside, nothing can take that away from me. It is forever mine. These things are always here for me. There is an immense power that emanates from my soul. A power that I can connect with whenever I need to. A power that I don’t use often enough. But nevertheless it doesn’t leave me, even when it remains dormant.

On days like today, when I stop and really contemplate existence, I want to laugh hysterically at the beautiful absurdity of it all. I want to cry from sheer, inexpressible joy. I want to shout thank you, thank you to whatever it is that has allowed this all to be possible. I want to take my anxious mind into my arms and coo to it softly, “don’t be so silly, there is no need to be afraid, I love you, I am here for you, everything is alright, it has always been alright, it will always be alright, trust me, dear one, shush now, I’ve got you.”

What more could I possibly want? What else could I even have asked for? This life, this world, it is all so beautiful. It is absolutely perfect. Even the messy parts, even the scary parts, they are all gorgeous and necessary to create the fullness that is this existence. I am so lucky. I am so grateful that I get to be a part of this. My heart feels so full. It is overflowing. I want to fill every empty space with warmth and love and light. I want to give and give until there is nothing left of me but pure glistening bliss.

When I begin to feel like I am fraying at the edges, like I won’t be able to hold myself together, I want to read this and remember that I never have to fear coming apart, because I am already a part of all that there is. I am forever whole and complete and at one with everything. I don’t need to cut out the bits of me that feel afraid or anxious or upset, those parts of me are fine just the way they are. There is nothing wrong with them. There is nothing to fix. When they start to feel too heavy, all I need to do is put them down for a while. All I need to do is image whatever it is I’d like to be feeling instead. “Not anxious” isn’t something that my heart can understand clearly enough to provide for me. Rather I should ask it for joy or love or comfort or peace. These are things that the heart remembers well. I am always capable of returning to these emotions. Because they are my natural state.

It is no wonder that I get tired, that I feel exhausted with living sometimes. It takes a lot of energy to keep myself so far away from my very essence, to deny myself so often. It’s as if I am using all my strength to hold a door closed inside of me. Behind that door lies this unending love and happiness that is my true nature. That beautiful, bubbling light that we are made of. An energy that is beyond logic, beyond reason, beyond definition, beyond even consciousness. I don’t need to understand it. I don’t need to search for it. I am it. It is me. I am the answer. I am the joy and the love and the safety that I seek. And it’s okay if in an hour I’ve forgotten once again. Because this is where I will always inevitably return. I can come back again and again, as many times as I need to. This light within me will always be here waiting.

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The Monotony of Life

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Some days I start to feel really overwhelmed by the way it seems like I am living nearly the same day over and over again. I wake up, I let my dog out, I feed my cat, I make coffee, I pick up clumps of white cat fur from every room, I collect up several lady bugs from the windowsills, etc. I start to feel weighed down by these mundane maintenance activities. The idea of doing something you’ll just have to do again tomorrow or at the end of the day or even an hour from now has always frustrated me.

Maybe it’s just that same idea of feeling forced to do something over and over that I don’t want to do. It’s hard to accept in the moment, but in reality I do want to do those things. Maybe not directly, but I want the results. I want my pets to be comfortable and happy. I want my house to look clean and orderly. I definitely want to drink that morning coffee. Focusing on the giving myself the result rather than being burdened by the process might be helpful. Instead of thinking: Ugh, here I am filling this dog bowl for the hundredth time, I can think about the love I have for my sweet dog daughter and how grateful I am to have her in my life to care for. But even that takes mindful awareness and lots of practice.

I’ve been experiencing mild physical pain the last few days. Although it’s quite aggravating, it has also been helping me understand something bigger. I’m very fortunate in the sense that I don’t experience pain or illness very frequently. However, in the times I do, especially thinking back to being sick more often as a child, it almost feels like my whole body is in a panicked revolt against the area that is experiencing distress. I so desperately want to isolate and separate from that area of my body, to numb it, to detach it. I’ve even heard other people express this idea by wishing they could just remove their head when they have a migraine or head cold. It seems counterintuitive to actually embrace that troubled part of our bodies instead. Yet that is exactly what we need to do.

It only increases our suffering to try to avoid pain, physical or otherwise. Last night as I was trying to fall asleep, I remembered this tidbit of yogic wisdom. I allowed my awareness to caress that painful place. I sent my breath there. I sent loving kindness there. It must have worked well because the next thing I knew I was waking up to a bright new morning. I think this principle can also work in the other difficult parts of life.

Instead of resisting my monotonous morning routine, I’ll practice embracing it. Sure, maybe I’ve done these things a million times before and will probably do them another million in the future, but what does it feel like to do them today? And I don’t have to lie to myself and pretend it’s fun. Maybe it does feel frustrating. What does frustration feel like? Can I allow myself to experience that?What does my body feel like? Can I move mindfully? Can I find something new even in these repetitive tasks, just like I do in my yoga practice? Does my body feel stiff and achy from hours of sleep? Am I feeling sleepy or awake? What does it feel like to be experiencing these things? Can I practice gratitude and mindfulness even in the dullest moments? Can I remember to breathe deeply in discomfort? Can I experiment and find new ways to be kind to myself with my thoughts and movements?

All of these things are obviously easier said than done. Usually when we are feeling tired and irritated, the last thing we want to do is pause and be mindful or grateful. But I think just taking a few moments now and then to set these intentions for my everyday life helps me to remember to at least try. Even though I may not “succeed” I’ll know that today I can at least give myself some credit for trying. And those small moments of practice add up.

Another Day

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My mind is only rarely actually in the present. To be honest, something scares me about surrendering to the moment. My brain is always working overtime, trying to predict, prioritize, and protect. If feels like if I’m not always checking off lists in my head, planning what to do next, or policing my own thoughts that everything will fall apart. I guess it’s just my ego’s desperate endeavor to maintain control.

But no matter how frantically I struggle against myself and this world, the fact is, it is not within my control. I don’t know why that seems so scary to admit. In most of my life, I prefer not to be in control. I’ve never wanted to be in a position of power at work or within my family or friend group. I was the last to take a leadership role in school even in group projects that would have probably turned out much better if I had. Yet when it comes to my own personal life and inner landscape, I am so rigid and domineering.

What am I so afraid of? There is nothing in this present moment for me to fear. Here I am, in my pretty, cozy bedroom, at my cute little desk. There is a slick, frigid February morning outside of my window. My dog is perched at my feet, licking my socks like a precious little weirdo. I am still allowed to work from home. Not only that, my boss texted everyone last night asking us to stay home today because of the weather. How many people can say they work for a place so caring? It truly warms my heart.

Despite all these things, my mind veered off once again. The mere mention of work led me to swirling through panicked predictions of how it could all go wrong. I find myself constantly having to talk myself down, to reassure myself that everything is fine detail by detail. It is actually quite funny when I stop to think about it. If I spend all the peaceful times in my life focused on the fear of losing them someday, what am I even afraid of losing? I’ve not been allowing myself to enjoy all that I have to be grateful for anyway. What sense does it make to agonize over what could change in the future when by doing so I am sacrificing any peace and pleasure I currently have in front of me?

Maybe today, I’ll designate something small to place around my house as a reminder, a reminder that I am happy, a reminder to pause and be grateful. Perhaps the raw crystals I have in every room. Whenever I see one I could take a moment to feel its rough edges in my fingers, to take a few long, deep, mindful breaths, and be present. That might be a nice way to stay grounded. I could also design a small symbol to put up in the corner of my windows or somewhere that will catch my eye. These things will be my anchor. My guide back to the present moment.

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Social Awareness about Mental Illness

As you grow older it is interesting to watch the world change around you. The social climate is so vastly different than it was when I was a little girl. It is refreshing to see that a lot of the things that used to be controversial or taboo are now commonplace and widely accepted in the majority of society. Even though I have always been a liberal and progressive person, even I have come a long way in my ideas and beliefs.

One of the areas where progress has been made in regards to visibility and social acceptance/understanding is in the field of psychology, particularly when it comes to mental illness. When I was an anxious, socially awkward, probably autistic little girl, there wasn’t much support out there for me or my family. No one seemed to understand what was wrong with me or my sister. My mother, who is also likely on the spectrum and who has been shy and anxious all her life, was forced to accept these issues with no explanation or even understanding from her peers or colleagues. She has lived the majority of her life simply believing she was strange and that was that.

Thankfully, as I’ve grown up, there has been a major shift in social awareness and understanding of mental illness. From a very early age, I came to understand that I had an anxiety disorder. Even though knowing that didn’t fix the problems I faced because of it, there is something very comforting in at least having an explanation. It has also been a great help knowing that other people around me understand anxiety disorders and what it means to have one. In the past, I’m sure you were just considered rude for not always making eye contact or smiling and greeting others on the street. I doubt it was given much more thought than that. This perception, I’m sure, caused a lot of people that were already struggling socially to be even further ostracized by their communities. Now I am easily able to explain my odd behaviors to others and, more often than not, receive compassion and understanding in return. Strange habits and behaviors can now be discussed openly, with far less fear of judgement.

As with most things though, there is a potential negative to this social progress. The other day, a thought occurred to me after explaining to a new friend why I am so inconsistent with my texts (sometimes I’ll reply right away, other times I’ll be MIA for hours or even days.) In some ways, knowing that other people will understand and be accepting of these social issues enables me to continue engaging in otherwise frowned upon behavior. I started to wonder if being enabled to continue these behaviors in this way actually serves to exacerbate the problem.

In the past, a lot of people like me just had to “suck it up” and make phone calls, keep appointments, and participate in other common social interactions. There was no excusing yourself from normal expectations by saying, “I’m sorry, I’m just too anxious.” And while I’m sure it was often unpleasant, it may have actually been therapeutic in some ways to be forced to face your anxiety regularly in these ways, instead of being able to so easily avoid any situation that makes you uncomfortable. With so much social and technological progress, isolating oneself has never been more simple. Perhaps this is partially why despite significantly improved living conditions in a lot of the world, rates of mental illness continue to rise.

I am very grateful that more and more people are becoming educated in regards to mental illness and psychology in general. I’m sure overall it is extremely positive. With more knowledge and less stigma, people will more easily be able to reach out for treatment and support. The more we learn about these disorders will also lead to more effective forms of treatment as well. Yet it is still important to consider the possible drawbacks of this crucial shift in global consciousness. I would be very interested to see what solutions we will come up with to address this issue and when we will somehow draw a line between acceptance/understanding and enabling.

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Who Am I Really?

Years ago I stumbled upon the title of a book called The Untethered Soul. I don’t remember when I heard about it or why it interested me, but the other day as I was going through some of my old notes, I found it again. Even though I’m currently reading three different books, I decided to go ahead and look it up anyway. I’m so glad that I did.

This book wastes no time. It gets right down to the important questions. Who am I? I’m sure most of us are familiar with the quote by Walt Whitman, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” We all understand that feeling of have multiple sides of ourselves constantly fluctuating and shifting position and perspective. But which one of these various personalities is really us? Is it the first voice that makes a statement or the second voice that contradicts it?

Sometimes it’s nice to imagine that we are the culmination of the best of these voices. We are the voice that says loving, compassionate things. The voice that guides us to make “the right” decision. Yet the voice that says hateful, hurtful, ugly things, well that one isn’t us at all. For me however, I’ve felt the opposite for a lot of my life. I’ve felt that the negative voice is truly me, that the kinder voice is just a lie I tell myself, something I wish I was. It would be interesting to see how many other people identify with their internal voices in this way and how your perception of what voices are “really you” effects your life and relationships.

Regardless, The Untethered Soul, points out that we are missing something as we struggle to identify with one voice over the other. Who is listening to these voices? Who is it that is trying to decide which one is “really me”? That is us! We are the one who listens, the one who watches, the spectator, the witness, the awareness.

Even though I’ve heard this sentiment multiple times, the way it is explained and talked about in The Untethered Soul, has really reached me in a profound way. Even though it’s hard to even hold this idea in your head for very long before getting swept up in your internal monologue again, it is quite a relief to realize. I don’t have to feel so deeply attached to the things my mind is constantly babbling on about. I don’t have to get upset by what it says. I don’t have to feel guilty for a cruel thought, or self-righteous for a lofty one. I can just watch, an impartial, curious observer. These voices are not a reflection of who I am. I am something else entirely.

Keeping in mind that I had gained all of this from merely the first three chapters of the book, I am so excited to see what the rest of the pages contain. Even though I’ve just started reading, I can confidently say I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in these types of philosophical questions, or anyone looking for some respite from that pesky cacophony of voices.

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Sleepwalking

Everyday I follow the same pattern. And the more days that go buy that way, the harder it is to deviate from that pattern. I tell myself I just like doing things this way and I can stop whenever I decide to. But then there is a softer voice in my head that wonders can I? I have been sleepwalking through life for so long now, years actually. I haven’t even tried to stop. Now I’m afraid I may not be able to.

One of the things I’ve always been grateful for is my ability to kick addictions. I’ve stopped smoking cigarettes for years at a time quite easily, cold turkey. I’ve abruptly been able to halt a rapid descent into alcoholism. No desire to drink lingering for even a moment. No hesitation. I’m one of the few able to successfully and easily become vegan. It’s been nearly a decade without animal products now. I have been able to stop smoking weed at times when I felt it was no longer serving me. No hassle at all.

I don’t know how other people end addictions, but for me I just start to get sick of it. I guess it’s like hitting rock bottom. The fear of continuing on this way becomes greater than the fear of changing. I’ve also heard that some people are just genetically predisposed to struggle more with addiction. I’m not sure how true that is scientifically, but it does seem to be a lot harder for some people, impossible even.

But maybe it’s not the chemicals or substances that I can’t let go of. Maybe it is harder for me to sacrifice my routine. If I am able to replace a component, whether it be an addictive substance or not, I am easily able to carry on. I’m less confident about being able to change my routine in general. To break away from even having a rigid routine. I am getting tired of it though. Being a prisoner of my own habits. I’m tired of sleepwalking through my days. Not thinking, mindlessly going through the motions, mimicking the day before. Even when it wasn’t a good day.

I can hardly remember what it was like to be a kid, waking up to endless possibilities, no structure, perfect summer days, doing exactly as I pleased. I’ve all but forgotten how to exist in that way. I don’t know how to listen to my own desires anymore. I’ve boxed myself in. And I’ve become afraid to leave that box. But I want to learn how to be mindful in each moment again. To really live again. Or at least try to. And even though here I am again, just planning to make plans, I still have faith in myself. At least it’s something.

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You Are Not Your Thoughts

Since I was in high school or maybe even younger, I developed a somewhat strange way of thinking that was comforting. A duality seemed to exist in me at will, and I would imagine my physical body as a cute helpless animal that my mind had to care for. It allowed me to feel compassion for myself. I had the tendency to be quite critical and cruel to myself, but thinking in this way helped me to be kinder and more loving when I was feeling devastated or overwhelmed.

More recently, however, a third part of me has begun to emerge in this strange mental play as well. The seed of this idea was planted by something I read once. I have no idea where, but I’m certain I did not come up with it. As you may have already guessed by the title of this post, the idea was you are not your thoughts. Even while we are thinking, there is somehow also a separate awareness of those thoughts. We aren’t those thoughts, we are the observers of our thoughts. I like to image this is what in yoga is often referred to as the higher self.

This realization has completely transformed the way I see myself. I see my consciousness as something almost apart from and deeper than both my mind and body. This view gives me space from my experiences. It’s as if my consciousness exists outside of my physical body. This physical body also affects the way my conscious is able to manifest mentally. The chemicals that control the way my brain is able to function are affected by so many different factors from my genetics to the things I do and experience each day. But I am not my anxiety. I am not my anger or my doubt or my shame. I am able to observe my body and mind’s experience of these things now from a distance with curiosity and compassion. This space keeps me from getting caught in a torrent of negative thoughts and overwhelming emotions. I just observe in stillness and let it settle. And it will always settle if you don’t keep stirring it up.

Maybe this idea is new to some of you. If so, I hope that you play with it in your own lives. I am still learning to utilize this mindfulness every day, but it has helped me more than I could have imagined. My wish is that by sharing what I’ve learned in a new way, it may also help others.

Observe in stillness. 

 

Breathing Through Discomfort

As my yoga practice continues to grow deeper, it is slowly saturating every corner of my life. It is amazing to be able to integrate this knowledge into my day. One of the invaluable things that yoga has brought to my life is an awareness and connection with the breath. There is so much power in the breath.

At first I began to concentrate on my breathing during my daily workout. Just like in yoga postures, I am often able to find a beautiful balance of effort and ease (sthira and sukha) as I am doing vigorous exercises. The connection to my breath assures that my muscles receive all the oxygen they need. Instead of focusing on how difficult my workout is, I am able to focus on full, deep, and steady breaths. I experience less discomfort (often even finding pleasure) as I push my body to its limits. In addition, time seems to fly by as I find a flow-like state. I find excitement and gratitude for what my body is capable of.

After seeing the benefits mindful breathing could have in my physical experiences, I began to utilize it to benefit my mental state throughout my day as well. I started to notice my breath in moments when I was experiencing something emotionally difficult. I realized that when I am feeling extremely stressed my breath is very shallow. Sometimes it even feels as if I am holding my breath! Once my mind has shifted to my breathing and I begin to breathe slowly and fully, I immediately feel much calmer and less overwhelmed. It’s incredible how much this has helped me cope with challenging emotions. Even my experience of mundane daily tasks, like vacuuming and doing the dishes, has become more pleasant.

I am still struggling with and improving my awareness of my breath every day. I am so grateful that my yoga journey continues to give me new perspectives and new things to focus on in each moment. I am so excited to be able to share the things I learn and give my future students the life changing gifts that yoga has given me. I am so lucky that in a few months I will be certified to teach this ancient, beautiful, and profound practice. Until then I am going to continue learning and growing and enjoying this beautiful journey.

Just breathe. ♥