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Posts tagged ‘mindfulness’

The Benefits of Aquarium Therapy

okinawa-aquarium-photograph

Have you ever wondered why many doctors’ office waiting rooms display fish tanks? Well, turns out, fish tanks can have a calming and therapeutic effect for many individuals. Fish tanks can have a dramatic positive effect on mental and physical health. Research has shown that as little as 5 minutes contact with nature features, like an aquarium, can significantly decrease stress, reduce anger and fear, and increase pleasant feelings. Much like a day at the beach, or a walk in the woods, spending time around aquariums can have the same calming, effect. It’s almost as if the calmness of the tank provides a meditation like focus and serenity. Read more

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It Doesn’t Matter How Fast You Get There, If You’re Headed In The Wrong Direction.

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 24 and 25: It Doesn’t Matter How Fast You Get There…If You’re Headed In The Wrong Direction.

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going to fast-you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”


-Eddie Cantor

Life Lesson 24: It Doesn’t Matter How Fast You Get There…If You’re Headed In The Wrong Direction.

We’ve all done it. We’ve put ourselves on autopilot and headed in the direction of our dreams. Day in and day out, we work. We create lists, we’re ambitious, and we focus all of our attention on completing the tasks that will get us to our dreams. However, when we finally arrive at “our dreams”, we realize it isn’t a dream at all. We look back and ask, “What was I thinking?” Then we realize, we weren’t thinking at all. We were simply going.

One common example of this is the career-focused person who thinks they’ll be happy at the top of the company. They work like crazy for years. They sacrifice friends, family, and leisure time. They tell themselves things will be different and easier at the top and then they’ll have time for x, y, and z. But when they get to the top they realize the hours are still long, they’re disconnected from friends and family and they missed out far too many experiences to count. Reality sets in and they realize everything they lost along the way wasn’t worth the gain.

Granted, not everyone feels this way when they get to the top. And many people feel this way without ever getting to “The Top”; whatever place that may be for you. What’s important is that you’re headed in the right direction for you. YOU are the only one who can decide what direction is the right direction.

rat race

Don’t get caught up in the speed at which you accomplish your goals. Don’t get caught up in societies expectations of where you “should be” in life. Albeit, this is incredibly difficult in today’s world. Here’s an interested story on the topic: Read more

The Yin and Yang of Life

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 22 and 23: The Yin and Yang of Life  

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”
-Gilda Radner 

Life Lesson 22: There is Still Fortune in Misfortune…If You Open Your Eyes! 

You’ve heard this metaphor before: You can’t control the storm, but you can learn to surf! That’s exactly what life is all about. It’s about enjoying the ride, -even the bumps. Take every obstacle in stride, and learn from every experience, -good or bad. You must remember, YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE THAT HAS TO FACE PAIN, OBSTACLES, FRUSTRATIONS, SADDNESS AND ANGER. Not a single one of us is immune to the ups-and-downs of life.

Yin yang

You might think that certain people have had made. That certain people have everything handed to them, or that they just lucky and don’t know the meaning of hard work or hardship. This may be true for a very small percentage of people walking this planet, but I know it is not for the majority. For most people, work was a very real part of their success. For most people, adversity, let downs, screw ups, and set backs, existed often on their life journey. There are more than a few people that even found themselves at a total loss and moving forward required completely starting over. It sucks, but life must go on, and so, it’s the only real option.

Karen Salmansohn, author of How to be Happy Dammit uses “The Fortune  500 Club” and “The Misfortune 500 Club” to help explain the Read more

The Joy of a Warm Summer Day

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 21: The Joy of a Warm Summer Day  

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.
― Thich Nhat Hanh

 

All I Want To Do Is Sit In The Sun 

I don’t know about you, but here in Minnesota, we’re really getting the start of spring and summer these days. Sure it’s been raining quite a bit this week, but when it’s not, and the sun is shining, there is nothing I want to do more than to be outside. I don’t always find the time to write these posts prior to Monday’s, so sometimes I find myself feeling very conflicted without my time. Today, I spent some time this morning putting together the patio table and chairs for the deck just so I could type outside. Right now it’s sunny and beautiful but come this afternoon, storms will be back in the sky.

What’s the point of me telling you this you ask? Every chance you get to do something that brings you peace, happiness, and joy, you should take it. A moment outside might seem insignificant, especially if you live somewhere where the seasons don’t change, but for me it’s incredibly important. I NEED the sun. My body, mind, and spirit instantly feel reconnected and exuberated when I’m outside and the sun is shinning. The warmth on my skin brings me soo much comfort. It’s almost hard for me to explain the affinity I have for hot summer days; there is just something about it that overwhelms me with happiness. I’m especially grateful today as I know rain will soon be upon me.

Life's beautiful notice it

Every one of us will have Read more

How Buddhists’ Use Rain to Help Increase Mindfulness

mindfulness

Some years ago, a group of Buddhist teachers developed the mindfulness tool ‘RAIN’ (an acronym for the four steps of the process) to help heal difficult emotions. In todays world, feeling our feelings has become somewhat of a “no-no”. People are constantly looking for quick fixes, the next pharmaceutical, -a way out. But in truth, the only way to heal, is to feel. If you never learn this truth, you will continue to experience the same pain, feelings, and frustrations over and over again. You must heal, process, learn, and let go. You cannot store away your past. You must accept it, and learn from it.

True,  sometimes it’s hard to sit in our emotions. Being aware of our feelings and accepting them, is critical to our physical health as well as mental. Physiologically, mind, body, and spirit, are all intertwined.  

Tara Brach of Yoga Journal puts it like this:
Yes, there are times when being present feels out of reach or too much to bear. There are times when false refuges can relieve stress, give us a breather, help lift our mood. But when we’re not connected to the clarity and kindness of presence, we’re all too likely to fall into more misunderstanding, more conflict, and more distance from others and our own heart.

As a means to help others heal from emotional difficulty, RAIN was developed. The beauty of RAIN is that it can be accessed at any moment, no matter where you are. It simply asks you to direct your attention to clearing your mind, and the process is simple, and stress free.

I love how Brach describes the beauty in this method: The steps give us somewhere to turn in a painful moment, and as we call on them more regularly, they strengthen our capacity to come home to our deepest truth. Like the clear sky and clean air after a cooling rain, this mindfulness practice brings a new openness and calm to our daily lives.

Here are the four steps of RAIN:

R – recognize what is happening.
A – allow life to be just as it is.
I – investigate inner experience with kindness.
N – non-identification.

RAIN directly deconditions the habitual ways in which you resist your moment-to-moment experience. RAIN begins to undo these unconscious patterns that cause you to cut off your feelings, and in turn your mind and heart to the world around you, as soon as we take the first step.

the_girl_in_the_rain_by_best10photos

Recognize What is Happening

Recognition, quite simply is seeing what is true in your inner life. This means recognizing and focusing on your present thoughts, emotions, feelings, and sensations in the present moment. And when you begin to be mindful of these, your heart and mind will gradually open allowing you to connect with your experiences more fully; you will discover that some parts of your experience are easier to connect with than others. According to Brach, one way to think of it is like this: You might recognize anxiety right away, but if you focus on your worried thoughts, you might not notice the actual sensations of squeezing, pressure, or tightness arising in the body. If your body is gripped by jittery nervousness, you might not recognize that this physical response is being triggered by your underlying belief that you are about to fail.

Work on this by asking yourself this simple question: “What is happening inside me right now?” Focus inward. Listen to your heart, mind, body and spirit with compassion and patiences.

Allow Life to Be Just as It Is

This means, letting what is be just that, and accepting it that way. That is, accepting your thoughts, emotions, feelings, or sensations. Sometimes sitting in our feelings is difficult and uncomfortable so we look for a way out, -and quickly! But don’t. Be present with “what is”, and when you do, your awareness of your inward motion will increase which will in turn give you a different quality of attention for “what is”.  Allowing and accepting is important because it aids in the healing process.

Investigate with Kindness

Investigation means  to follow your natural instinct to know and understand the hows and whys of where you are currently. It’s important to recognize what is going on inside yourself, but it’s also important to ask, “What does this feeling want from me?” It is not until the “why’s” are understood that truly dealing and healing with emotions can happen. Avoiding investigating these reasons will only allow them to control you passively each day. They will present themselves in a disguised manner, but will nevertheless, run-a-muc in your head, heart, and life. .

An important aspect of  investigation is that it needs to be done with kindness. It is the kindness that provides healing and freeing. Whatever surfaces in this process, welcome it with kindness.

Nonidentification: Rest in Natural Awareness

Nonidentification means that your sense of self or identity is not defined or limited by your emotions, feelings, and life experiences. It is thought that when identification with the “ego self” is loosened, -that which does identify with emotions, feelings and life experiences, we begin to live and love more openly and embrace natural awareness.

Although the first three steps of RAIN require some intentional activity, the N does not. You are asked to simply rest in natural awareness and liberate yourself through mindfulness.

This post was adapted from the article “Let it Rain” via Yoga Journal. 

Letting Your Worries Go

This post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 19: Letting Your Worries Go

“I keep the telephone of my mind open to peace, harmony, health, love and abundance.  Then, whenever doubt, anxiety or fear try to call me, they keep getting a busy signal – and soon they’ll forget my number.”

 – Edith Armstrong

Letting Your Worries Go

Worry is unfortunately a very real part of most of our minds. This pattern of thinking has perhaps increased in the last 300 years as well. As humans, our worries are no longer simple or basic; that is, surviving. We’re now worried about the mortgage, college, how we look, the home we have, how others perceive us, are our children popular, or did I marry the right person? Am I in the right career? Should I have gone on vacation? Do I have enough saved? Are my parents proud of me? The list can go on forever and ever; I’m not going to bother.

Despite the plethora of things we have to worry about these days, it is possible to get back to basics; -at least cut the list dramatically! Before we get into the how, I want to share a little story with you.

“THE TROUBLE TREE”

The carpenter I hired to help me restore an old farmhouse had just finished a rough first day on the job. A flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and now his ancient pickup truck refused to start.

While I drove him home, he sat in stone silence. On arriving, he invited me in to meet the family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands.

After opening the door, he Read more

With a Hardened Heart, Your Life Will Always Be Empty

This post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 11: With a Hardened Heart, Your Life Will Always Be Empty   

We could never have guessed

We were already blessed

Where we are…

 -James Taylor

Your Week of Reprieve

The past few weeks the posts have been long, and the material somewhat “heavy”. This week, I’m giving you a bit of a reprieve. This week I will leave you with a story I hope you will reflect upon throughout the next seven days. It will help you prepare for the next chapter of The Awakened Heart Project. Although the material this week is lighter, take 20 minutes to answer the reflection questions, as they will help you prepare for the coming weeks as well.

I hope everyone has been enjoying the “Life Lessons” thus far. I’m looking forward to this next chapter with you beginning next week. And with that, a story…

Between Peace and Joy

With an Open Heart

One day, a woman who found a folded sponge all dried and compressed, and tucked inside the hardened fold was a message she’d been seeking. She carried the hardened sponge to the sea and, up to her waist in the deep, she watched it unfold and come to life in the water. Magically, the secret of Read more

Some Things Are Not Meant To Be. Some People Are Not Meant To Be. Sometimes, What Once Was, -Is No Longer

This post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 4: Some Things Are Not Meant To Be. Some People Are Not Meant To Be. Sometimes, What Once Was, -Is No Longer. to Respond

“Do not bring people in your life who weigh you down. And trust your instincts … good relationships feel good. They feel right. They don’t hurt. They’re not painful. That’s not just with somebody you want to marry, but it’s with the friends that you choose. It’s with the people you surround yourselves with.”

-Michelle Obama

Life and Opportunity 

You have so many countless opportunities throughout your lifetime, and you’ll meet so many different people throughout your lifetime as well. Some of these people will come into you life and stay forever. Others will barely leave an impression. Some will stay awhile and leave you behind, leaving you feeling saddened and empty. Others’ you will have to make the same decision about. Opportunities too, have a way of coming and going. Sometimes, the things we want (and people) aren’t meant to be. We try desperately to make some of these relationships and opportunities work out, but sometimes it’s just not mean to be. The sooner you realize that everything in this life has a phase, -some longer than others, the sooner you will find peace with the present, and Read more

Happiness Has Little to Do With What Happens to You. It Has Everything to Do With How You Choose to Respond


This post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 3: Happiness Has Little to do With What Happens to You. It Has Everything to do With How You Choose to Respond

 “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”

-Wayne Dyer

Emotional Responses and Life Decisions

It’s inevitable: Life will throw you some curve balls. But YOU and YOU ALONE choose the emotional response you will have to these situations.  No one makes you feel a certain way, or makes you react a certain way. That is all up to you.

For instance, Read more

When Disappointment Turns to Resentment and How You Can Change It.

It’s the time of year when gift giving is all around us. Most of us are participating in these festivities one way or another. Some of us like the element of surprise when we receive a gift, while others find it easier to provide friends and family with a list of items they wish to receive. Either way, there’s an open window for disappointment during this season….that is, if you let there be.

The following post discusses how our expectations have the power to leave us feeling disappointed and resentful if we do not feel the gifts we receive are  “special enough”. This post does not specifically discuss gift during this holiday season, but it seems just as important. Remember, gifts aren’t always material either. So, spend a minute reflecting on different types of gifts others Read more

Cultivating Your Garden of Happiness

Have you ever thought about how complex and detailed your brain is? Or how many processes your brain go through on a given day, or hour, or millisecond? It’s infinite. The brain is much like a computer that never sleeps. It seems simple on the outside, but inside it makes up our bodies largest organ consisting of some 100 billion nerve cells that control every aspect of our conscious and unconscious body processes. But, if you think all of this happens without any conscious help on your side, you’re mistaken.

with an open heart blog

Think of your brain like a garden. It needs to be tended to. It takes work, commitment and maintenance. If you want it to flourish, you need to water it, to feed it some sunshine, some fresh wonderful air, and even some healthy nutrients too. Not to mention, you need to get rid of those weeds! And not just on the surface; rip those weeds up from the root! Or what? They’ll grow back and they’ll spread (damn you weeds). Yes, your mind is a bit more complicated than just a garden, but it still needs the same kind of tender love and care. Read more

Be Inspired With Change and Let Go

A little bit of inspiration to move you in the direction of change and growth: )

Read more

The Battle Between Good and Evil

We all have both negative and positive attributes. We have good and evil sides. Most of us would readily admit that those negative aspects of ourselves, and our lives, are ones in which we wish we no longer befriended. Despite this truth, we often struggle to escape from the evil which resides so close to our hearts and our minds. It is no easy task to escape it, I know. It becomes apart of us. It’s so easy lose sight of the good at times, especially during times of grief and sorrow. But remember, that we can only breathe life into the things we feed. Read more