How To Begin

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If you don’t have a mindfulness practice, you may be overwhelmed with how to start. I know I was in the beginning. I think fear kept me away from practicing for a long time. Fear of what I really don’t know. I was introduced to meditation a long time ago but I just didn’t “get it”. When I was introduced to mindfulness, I “got it” almost immediately. For me, this is the distinction: Meditation is something I would practice once a day and then be done. Mindfulness is something I practice (formally) each day then try to practice it in little ways through out my day.

Making a commitment to set aside time is the biggest challenge, I think. Just starting is super hard. Making the decision to do it then telling someone you’re going to do it, can help. That way you feel accountable to another person. Maybe there’s someone who you think would like to try it with you. Here’s how I did it:

I took one minute (you got it, ONE MINUTE) every day to sit, close my eyes, and pay attention the the up and down of my belly as I breathed. Set a timer. One minute. I promise you, even after one minute you will see a difference. Try to do this every day for a week.

Once you’ve done one minute every day for a week, double it!! Do 2 minutes. You can do “mindful brushing of teeth” or “mindful showering”. The idea is to be in that moment (or two) and focus on what’s happening. Mindful breathing is paying attention to the breath coming in and going out. Mindful brushing of teeth would be to feel the brush in your mouth, on your gums, cheek, tongue. Feeling the brush moving around your mouth. Mindful showering would be to feel the drops of water falling on your head, your face, your feet. Feeling the shampoo turn to bubbles as your hands rub it into your hair. And so on. When thoughts come into your head, know that it’s ok and normal and will happen. If you can, just imagine that you’re putting that thought on a cloud and it’s floating away. Then return to what you were focusing on.

For me, I reached a point when I felt differently if I didn’t practice. I felt a little less patient. I felt a little more tired. I felt a little more anxious. When I realized that I hadn’t practiced that day, I would quickly find the time to do so.

Try it. Baby steps. I’ll come back with some other steps to take so you can build a practice. If you care to, share how you feel in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you.

Take a Second to Think Before We Speak

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I was with my son the other day and we were talking about friends. He was going on a school trip and they got to write down five friends who they’d like to bunk with. So I started naming names, friends who I thought he would write on his list. I came to one name, who as far as I knew, was a great friend. My son said, “Oh no! Not him. He’s mean.” “Really?” I said. “Yes. I threw a pylon and accidentally hit him and he called me a retard.” “Oh,” I said.

As the conversation went on, I learned that one of his best friends for seven years made a mistake in the heat of the moment. And my son made a mistake too. My son threw something and accidentally hit a friend. I’m guessing he was embarrassed and didn’t say, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry” right away. Then his friend reacted to being hit and said the first thing that came into his mind. Then my son probably felt so bad that he didn’t say he was sorry. Yikes. It is so hard to take a breath and think before we speak!

I tried to tell my son that if he was able to be mindful in that moment, and it’s easy for me to say since I wasn’t there, but if he realized what he had done and went over to his friend, even after he called him a name, and said, “Oh man, I don’t know what happened there but I’m sorry I hit you with that pylon.” Who knows what his friend would have said but I would hope that my son would be feeling better about the way he handled it instead of feeling crappy about the way he handled it.

If his friend had been mindful about the situation, after he got hit, he could have taken a breath, realized it was a good friend who did it, so it was probably an accident, and he could respond in a way that wasn’t so harsh. Maybe say something like, “Hey, what the heck happened there?” or “Dude! Take it easy!” I don’t know what boys say to each other in situations like this but this is what I imagine. Then maybe my son wouldn’t be feeling the way he is. Maybe his friend doesn’t even remember what happened but I find a lot of this stuff sticks in kids’ minds. Not just my son’s. Then it builds and comes out in unexpected times and ways.

I really want to walk my son through this experience because I know this will happen again with someone else. But this is a good friend and I don’t want their friendship to be over just because they’re still learning what to do in situations like this. Maybe it will just blow over, he’ll cool down but I still think it’s an important tool to have.

My son is sensitive, just like me. We feel things very deeply and sometimes that’s good and sometimes it’s really hard. I hope I can teach him to take a breath, evaluate the situation, remember he is loved, remember that his friends are not out to get him (although at 11 it probably feels like that, with all the hormones flying around) and try to respond in a way that is not mean, harsh, or violent.

Mindfulness is great for exactly this situation. It helps us take a breath so we can respond instead of react. When I think about how many situations and bad feelings I could have avoided had I been able to do this when I was young, well I might have saved myself a lot of pain. I know my son is going to feel pain. But there will be plenty of that. Let’s try to avoid the unnecessary pain!

Being mindful in situations like this definitely takes practice…practice being in the moment and being mindful. It can start with as little as 5 minutes a day. A great way to start is just try to focus on one of your senses. You can sit and listen to the sounds around you. Or pay attention to the way your body changes when air goes into and out of your lungs. Feel how your feet feel on the ground. Smell the smells that are around you.

There are little changes I have made in my day to incorporate mindfulness and I try to share them with my son. We literally stop and smell the roses! When we start to have an awareness to bring our attention to the moment, even in situations like waiting in line, we will begin to see the world and our fellow humans in a different, kinder and more compassionate way.

I’m Still Here

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I went on a mindfulness retreat last month and came home in a state of bliss. Seriously. Having spent 2 ½ days not speaking, not writing and only reading a few pages of Call of the Wild before bed, I entered this new place inside me. Honestly, I was not prepared for the feelings of lightness, calm, peace, whatever you’d like to call it.

Before heading up north, I had given little thought to what I was about to experience. I knew there would be some days of silence and I was excited about the lessons, the teachers and the people I’d meet but I didn’t think ahead (hey! I think that might be called living in the moment!).

There were 90 people on the retreat and the silence was a big topic of conversation before we went silent. It was very difficult for some. For me, it was not difficult. The difficult part for me was practicing mindfulness all day! We did sitting practice then walking practice, then sitting practice then walking practice then a meal. Repeat. When I learned the schedule was practicing mindfulness all day, I got nervous. But in the moment-to-moment of it all, I was fine. I sat in a chair so I didn’t have those “my body is killing me from sitting on the floor” feelings and I figured out the walking practice pretty quickly (hint: go somewhere that you don’t have to worry about walking into someone!) and I just took it all a minute at a time. I think it was easier being surrounded by people who were also taking it a minute at a time.
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I enjoyed the silence, the not having to come up with small talk with people I had just met. The surroundings were beautiful and peaceful. Animals came around and hung out. I took the time to notice all that! But by the time we were talking again, we had common experiences to share and the small talk came very naturally.
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Most of us missed talking at meals and discussing how wonderful the food was. I missed sharing sightings of deer and other little animals, fires on the horizon and a beautiful moon. But we all had a chance to catch up in the following days. Plus we were getting into our lessons so there was even more to talk about. We could share our inspirations and our passions.

This group of people is amazing. They’re mostly classroom teachers but there are other teachers (art, yoga, dance), there are mental health professionals, administrators, and people like me who fall into none of the above but hope to become “Outside Providers” and bring mindfulness to children either in schools or other settings. I kept looking around at the teachers and thinking “I hope my son gets teachers like this at some point in his education. Teachers who are excited about life and teaching and sharing and inspiring.”

I was struck by what a friendly, smart, kind, group of people this is. In the beginning, I felt “less than” since I am not a trained teacher but felt supported and respected for bringing something to the party. I made a number of friends who I look forward to walking this road with and am excited to meet more. They all share the same desire to try to make the world just a little better and we’re all sharing ideas and ways to do that. I was inspired by many of the people and continue to be inspired now through our weekly lessons. I feel so incredibly lucky to have found this path.

Is it Mindful to Run Into a Parked Car on Your Bicycle? – By Donald English

Dad Blog
The author before he smashed himself into a car.

I regularly ride a road bike for exercise. It has dropped handlebars that keep me flexed at the hips, craning my neck to see ahead. I always wear a bike helmet – mine has a short visor. It has a small mirror attached to it.

Over the years I’ve figured out a four-mile loop and a six-mile loop that I ride regularly for training. What am I training for? I’m trying to get my speed and endurance back up so that I can comfortably ride on my bike club’s rides. Their rides are 25-30 miles at speeds around 17 mph. Two weeks ago I did a 22 mile training ride at 15.7 mph, so I’m getting there, but not quite.

Last week I was out on one of my neighborhood training rides. I was on the third loop, and I spotted a car in my mirror. I expected the driver to pass me soon. Then I smacked into the back of a parked Geek-Squad VW and was thrown through the back window.

This was not the most mindful thing I’ve ever done. I was dazed and bloody but did not lose consciousness. I had no broken bones, and I had feeling throughout my body. I knew the essentials were all right, but I did need to go to the ER.

Although my mindfulness practice didn’t keep me from hitting the car, it certainly came in handy during the 8 hours I spent in the ER being evaluated, scanned and stitched up.

If you’ve ever spent time in an emergency room, you know that it’s an experience to try your patience. For the amount of actual contact time with the medical staff, there is a lot of time spent waiting for the next thing to happen. It’s an easy time to focus on one’s self as the most important being in the universe – to expect, even to demand, immediate attention.

I reminded myself that I was getting the attention I needed. To that end, I focused on my breathing, on relaxing my muscles that wanted to go into shock as I lay there in the neck brace staring at the ceiling. I called it “hibernation-mode.”

Staring at the ceiling, I thought about the Taoist story of the farmer whose horse ran away. His neighbors said, “Such bad luck.” He said, “Could be.” The next day the horse came back with three wild horses. His neighbors said, “Such good luck.” He said, “Could be.” The next day his son, trying to tame one of the horses, was thrown and broke his leg. His neighbors said, “Such bad luck.” He said, “Could be.” The following day military officials came to the village to draft young men for the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. His neighbors said, “Such good luck.” He said, “Could be.”

It’s difficult to have an experience like I had – riding a bike at full speed into the back of a parked car – and not ask, “How did this happen?” The truth is that I have no idea how it happened. I’d been on the road hundreds of times, knew that cars park on the street, always watched for cars backing out of driveways, for street traffic, for runners, other cyclists, cars. I know I was mindful of the car behind me, but totally missed the Volkswagen that parked there five minutes earlier.

All I know is that it happened the way it did. Maybe I missed a worse fate down the road. I’m dealing with it as mindfully as I can and extending my gratefulness practice by being thankful that if it had to happen, it happened the way it did. Reminding myself that it is, what it is.

Bad luck, or good luck? Could be. I don’t know.

Life is Good

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My son left for sleep away camp last weekend. It’s his first time away for 2 weeks. He’s been away for sleepovers, two nights to Astro Camp but not two weeks. He showed interest earlier this year, or maybe it was last summer, I’m not sure, but when he asked if he could go, I was fairly confident that he was ready. He’s eleven and, as he’d tell you, almost all of his fellow 5th graders have been away for sleepover camp.

We found a camp from a friend so it came highly recommended. We signed him up in February and then waited. As we were approaching the departure date, we started having conversations about nervousness, homesickness and just being in a new place. He showed healthy signs of nerves and excitement. We pulled everything on his packing list together and packed together so he’d know what he has. I consulted my “village” to see if there was anything special I should be doing (I never went away to camp). I got some very good advice and followed many of the suggestions.

I also asked him if there was anything I could do to help him feel more comfortable. He said he’d like news from home every day so I am writing him every day.

The night before we were to take him to the bus, I lay in bed and tried to do my “before bed mindfulness” and had such a hard time! I found it very hard to stay in the moment and not think about my little boy growing up, going away, being ok, having everything he needs to be comfortable, etc. Phew. It was a little rough but I continued. I countered all my thoughts with my usual anchor (back to breath) and did so over and over. I finally fell asleep. I woke up tired from not enough sleep but excited for him.

On our way to the bus I realized I forgot to pack him a water bottle so we stopped at the store and got him one for the road. I also realized that there is something that is very good for all of us. It’s good to be unprepared. That way we have a chance of figuring out how to fix the problem and there in lies growth. So, maybe I forgot a few things but I have great confidence in my son that he will work it out. He’s good like that.

The first morning without him here was a little weird. My husband and I got up early because he had to go to work. We went downstairs and sat outside and had a few Mindful moments together. What an incredible way to start the day. Doing it with someone. I usually practice in the afternoon and by myself. This was so nice.

All week, my mindfulness practice has been an incredible challenge. Wow. It’s true, when things are good, things are easy and when we have struggles, we struggle. I keep trying to practice. Every day. It has not been great but I keep trying. And in the trying comes the growth. That’s what I think.

I leave for a retreat on Sunday to kick off my yearlong mindfulness certification program. I am beyond excited! It’s for a week. There are no screens of any kind and the first 2½ days are silent. Can you imagine? Not having to make small talk, just soaking everything in, really working on my practice and getting help with it as well. My hopes are simple- that I can be present for it, that I can learn from it and that I can grow from it. I want to be open to all the experiences and absorb all I can. I guess I’m going to camp too! My son and I will have a lot to catch up on when we reunite next weekend!

Life is good. The missing, the heartache, the love that I feel reminds me that I have a good life. And by that I mean I have people in my life with whom I am incredibly connected. Lucky me.

Some Mindfulness Resources

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I love books. I know it’s a little old fashioned at this point but I still love books. I do have a Kindle so I get the convenience of reading on a device but for me nothing replaces that book in my hand.

I have acquired a little library of books on Mindfulness so I thought I would share with you some of my favorites. If you have a favorite that’s not listed, please leave the title in the comments. I’d love to check them out.

I’ve included links to Amazon for any books that are available through their website. There are only two that are not. I hope this makes it easier for you.

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These 3 books are great for visualization meditations. I read these to my son before bed and now make up my own. These are a great inspiration. They’re all by Maureen Garth

STARBRIGHT
MOONBEAM
EARTHLIGHT

This book gives a child appropriate explanation of the brain and how certain sections of the brain work. I’ve found that kids like knowing how their body works:
YOUR FANTASTIC ELASTIC BRAIN, Stretch it, Shape it, by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D.

This book was sent to my son and it’s great. These are meditations written by four siblings. They are so sweet and they really touched my son. The kids also did the illustrations:
MEDITATIONS FOR KIDS BY KIDS, by Jarrah, Tahnaya, Ky & Jessica Wynne

These two are short picture books that are good for young children 4-8:
TAKE THE TIME, Mindfulness for Kids, by Maud Roegiers
YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS, by Brian Despard

The following titles are a little longer but are still good for young children. My eleven year old liked them. We don’t read many picture books anymore but these are beautiful and touch on some great topics: Feelings, Mindful Eating, Mindful Walking and Being Present:
VISITING FEELINGS, by Lauren Rubenstein
NO ORDINARY APPLE, A Story About Mindful Eating, by Sara Marlowe
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE PRESENT, by Rana DiOrio
THE LISTENING WALK, by Paul Showers

These two are Mindful movement books:
MY DADDY IS A PRETZEL, Yoga for Parents and Kids, by Baron Baptiste
MINDFUL MOVEMENTS, Ten Exercise for Well-Being, by Thich Nhat Hanh

This last one is for High School or College kids:
MASTER THE ART OF LEARNING, Dancing With Your Books, The Zen Way of Studying, by J.J. Gibbs

 

ADULTS
Classic:
COMING TO YOUR SENSES, Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

A daily meditation book:
THE BOOK OF AWAKENING, Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, by Mark Nepo

Two titles by Thich Nhat Hanh:
THE MIRACLE OF MINDFULNESS, An Introduction of Mindfulness
TEACHINGS ON LOVE

Two titles by Pema Chodron:
WHEN THINGS FALL APART, Heart Advice for Difficult Times
THE PLACES THAT SCARE YOU, A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

The following are two books that you can use with your children:
PLANTING SEEDS, Practicing Mindfulness With Children, by Thich Nhat Hanh
SITTING STILL LIKE A FROG, Mindfulness Exercise for Kids (And Their Parents), Simple mindfulness practices to help your child deal with anxiety, improve concentration, and handle difficult emotions, by Eline Snel

There is so much good stuff here. Try one book at a time otherwise it can get a little overwhelming. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Let me know what you think if you read one and let me know if you have any you’d love to share. Just leave it in the “comments” section!

Is Mercury in Retrograde?

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I ask because I’ve had a couple of incidents in the last week with my cell phone. First, my son accidentally got my phone jammed in the cup holder of my car. We tried and tried but couldn’t get it out. It was only stuck in there for about 30 hours but I found myself a little stressed out. But I quickly realized that it was a relief. I, like most of us, have become dependent on my phone for a lot of things. While I could make calls in the car through the Bluetooth, I couldn’t do anything else. I finally took it to the dealer who, after an hour and a half and $150, got it out.

Then today I ran out of the house to go to a couple of doctors’ appointments without my phone. It was much too late to go back so I accepted the fact that I was going to be waiting in doctors’ offices without my phone and without anything to read. My first thought was, “What the heck am I going to do while I wait for the doctors!?” And “What if my mother-in-law, who’s watching my son, needs to reach me?”

I continued on and got to the first doctor’s office 10 minutes early. I sat down to wait. I just sat there. Then I decided to clean out my purse cause you know I haven’t done that for a while! When I was done, I was still waiting. So I decided to close my eyes and practice a little mindfulness. I took a few deep breaths. I listened to the sounds around me. I noticed my breathing. I lifted my eyelids just a little and noticed my surroundings. There were three other people in the waiting room and I just observed them, all together and all on a phone or other device. I continued to be in a mindful state until my name was called 15 minutes after my appointment time. And to tell the truth, I didn’t mind. I enjoyed the time that I spent waiting.

Next, I had to drive all the way to the other side of town. I usually try to make phone calls when I drive but not today. I turned on the radio and started listening to NPR. The signal was fuzzy so I turned it off and drove in silence. I observed the other cars around me. I observed the trees. I enjoyed the silence.

At the next doctor’s office I was 15 minutes early (I know, I have a problem with being early!). But I just continued what I had been doing at the first office. I took a few deep breaths, closed my eyes and went to a mindful place. I was alone at first but eventually someone joined me in the waiting room. She sat down and took out her phone and started surfing. Don’t get me wrong, if I had had my phone I would probably be playing Solitaire but I didn’t so I wasn’t. Not having my phone enabled me to observe and really notice the people around me and how it seemed like everyone was on some sort of device even while walking. There are times when I would be that person but today made me realize that I don’t want to be. When I wait for someone, I want to just sit and enjoy my surroundings, observe people, look out the window, connect with the world around me. I feel good when I connect to the people and the world around me. Sometimes I forget and today I was reminded. I felt good. I felt relaxed. I felt connected.

When I got home, I found my phone and noticed that I had not one single text, not one single phone call and about 10 junk emails. What the heck was I missing? Nothing.

I encourage you to try waiting without pulling out your phone. Try it. It will be difficult at first but you may have a nice experience and we all know that those emails and Facebook posts can wait a few minutes, right? Sit and take a few breaths. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable. Listen to the sounds around you. Notice your surroundings. Are there any good smells? Do you feel warm? Cold? If you are so inclined to share, please post a comment. I’d love to hear how it felt for you.

Meditation Research By Donald English

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I recently finished Richard J. Davidson’s book,The Emotional Life of Your Brain. The book follows the brain research career of Davidson as he becomes fascinated with the outliers of his studies, those individuals who fell at the extremes, exceptional at either extreme. He became fascinated with answering the question, what makes these individuals so different.

To try and condense his 40 years as a researcher, let me just say that he began to realize that the emotional components of our minds are as important as the cognitive and analytical aspects. In the process, he came to recognize that we operate with six basic emotional styles: resilience, outlook, attention, self-awareness, social intuitiveness, and sensitivity to context. Individually we fall on a continuum with regard to each. For example, some of us are more tuned in to social contexts than others. Some of us are more resilient, or more positive in our outlook. Where we fall, though, is not written in stone. Neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to enhance the circuits that are most used and cull those that are not, allows us to change where we naturally fall. And, interestingly, mindfulness meditation is being shown as one very good way to accomplish this.

As part of one study Davidson did, he wanted to see if short-term meditators (those who had recently been taught mindfulness meditation) would show more antibodies after a flu shot than non-meditators, an indicator of the roll of stress in disease. The results showed that the short-term meditators did in fact have a better immune system as a result of their meditation.

In the course of his career, Davidson had an opportunity to meet with and speak to the Dalai Lama. He asked for and received permission to scan the brains of meditating monks, those he calls the “Olympians of meditation” to determine whether the enhanced neural structures he saw in short-term participants was present in long-term meditators as well. These long-meditators had between 10,000 and 94,000 hours of meditation practice, and their brains showed the same structures as the novice meditators, only thicker.

Some other of his findings include:
• Mindfulness training even for new meditators enhances the left prefrontal cortex, a marker for a more resilient person, and an improved ability to deal with stress.
• A more intense period of mindfulness training improves selective attention.
• Compassion meditation facilitates social intuition.

I found that 10,000 hour number interesting. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book The Outliers: The Story of Success, says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice in any skill before the practitioner reaches what could be considered a professional level. That’s the equivalent of working 8 hours a day for 5 years.

During my working career as a wallpaper hanger, I remember very well when I had hung wallpaper for 10,000 hours. I had been subcontracted by a friend to hang wallpaper in a number of houses in Buffalo’s inner city as part of a HUD home improvement contract he had. It wasn’t a particularly positive work environment, and I wanted to finish the jobs as quickly as I could. On that particular day, everything clicked. I’d found my groove, and from that point on, I started seeing my work more as a challenge than a drudge.

So, I asked myself, “If I meditate for 20 minutes per day, how long would it take to get in those 10,000 hours?” The answer is a little more than 82 years. If I wanted to be one of those Olympian meditators, I’d have to up my game considerably. Not many of us can spend 8 hours a day for 5 years, or even 2 hours a day for 20 years meditating to achieve the level of the Dalai Lama’s monks. However, we don’t have to in order to get the benefits of meditation.

In January of this year, the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School reported a study which showed that 27 minutes of daily meditation for 8 weeks is enough to produce observable thickening of gray matter in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. The study also showed a decrease in gray matter density in the amygdala, which plays a part in anxiety and stress – more gray matter equals more stress; less gray matter, lress.

Truly great news, but then meditators have long known that good things were happening to them. However, studies like these are welcome news, confirming what many of us have suspected or even recognized in our own minds. In the next several years, the evidence for the benefits of mindfulness meditation will not only be compelling, but overwhelming.

Where Will I Go Today?

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When you sit down and close your eyes, what does your brain do? Where does it go? Go ahead and give it a try. Mine generally goes twirling around. First I might think about why I’m closing my eyes? What’s for lunch? What do I need at the grocery store? Did I feed Charlie? Did I lock the door? I think and have read that this is totally normal or at least it’s what most of our minds do without doing any sort of “training” for our brain. That’s how I see mindfulness-reps for my brain. And as a result, my brain is stronger (so I’ve heard) but definitely more relaxed and focused.

I was in my doctor’s office the other day and decided to close my eyes and take a few minutes to get mindful. My first thought was trying to predict what my doctor would say. When I recognized that I was having a thought, I interjected another thought, which was, “back to breathing”. I went back to focusing on my breath then someone walked through the office door. I acknowledged a thought about that then I thought, “back to breathing”. I continued to do this until my name was called and I went in to see the doctor. As I waited in the next room, I did the same thing. This is how my mindfulness practice goes. I sit, close my eyes, breathe, be in my body and then my brain starts going. So, without judgment, I acknowledge the thoughts passing through and return to my breathing. By the way, the doctor did not say what I predicted he would say. Shocker, I know.

Sometimes I’m able to stay focused on my breath for more than five breaths but some days it’s one breath and then I need to redirect my brain. By doing this on a regular basis though, I have “trained” my brain to get to the quiet, relaxed, focused place a lot quicker. When I’m in that place, I feel patient and loving. When I’m in the rushing, anxious place, I feel uncomfortable. Each day it’s my choice, where do I want to go today?

Testing, Testing 1-2-3

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My son has to take a standardized test this week. He is nervous. He told us that it’s really important that he does really well otherwise he won’t get into a good middle school. Whoa, whoa, what?! I don’t know where he got that from but he certainly didn’t get it from us. Once we knew how he was feeling, we started to deprogram him. We’ve told him that the test doesn’t matter, that it’s a very small part of a big picture, that he’s going to end up exactly where he’s suppose to be. With all that said, I wanted to offer him some firm suggestions on ways to feel better while he’s taking the test:

1) He’s been wearing a bracelet that I had made (pictured above) and when he looks at it, he’s reminded to breathe. (If any of you would like one, send me a note through the contact tab and I’ll send one for you or your child)

2) He takes three deep breaths before starting a test so he can clear his mind and prepare himself to focus.

3) He does a visualization before tests. We started doing visualizations/meditations before bed probably three or four years ago. We got them from a great series of books by Maureen Garth. The first one we got is called Starbright. In the book, she walks you through setting up/ visualizing a garden. My son “constructed” his garden, which has expanded and changed over the years, and each night I lead him through his garden to go on an adventure-meet up with a pal named Panda, an ocelot named Ozzie or some other animal we may encounter on our way. So now, right before my son takes a test, he goes to his garden and drives around in a fancy car while all his animal friends come out of the bushes and say a few encouraging words. He says it really helps him.

4) Finally, just relax and do your best.

I know test taking is nerve-racking, especially when you’re eleven. I just want to try to give him some tools to help calm himself enough to get through those times with relatively little stress.

Deep breaths for everyone!!