The Messy Meaning of Mindfulness

Mindfulness. The word is getting attention.  The meaning of the word is getting attention.  Take Mindful Magazine’s recent response to New York Times’ “The Muddied Meaning of Mindfulness.” I read both articles.  I will admit that my first learning of the two articles came as an email from Mindful Magazine landing in my inbox; I’m a subscriber.  However, as a stress expert, mindfulness trainer, practical mindfulness research-practitioner and Founder at Mindful Effect, the great debate regarding the word ‘mindfulness’ and its meaning is in the forefront of everything I do at Mindful Effect as the meaning – both formally and socially constructed means are more than the 10,000+ lakes in Minnesota.  Maybe that’s a bit embellished but one cannot argue that too many definitions of one word exists.  And that in itself causes a lot of confusion, misconception, tension, and stress.

TheMessyMeaningofMindfulness-1

Reading both articles, I found myself not siding with one powerful position over the other.  Instead, I found myself siding with both; agreeing on points from Ms. Virginia Heffernan’s as mindfulness has become an “American Brand” and whose cynicism is appreciated as she calls our attention to the shadowed elephant of mindfulness. In as much, Mindful Magazine’s Publisher, James Gimian, and Editor-in-Chief, Barry Boyce, point out the many benefits and social contributions of mindfulness yet, they do not answer their own question: “Does it mean its meaning is muddied?”

I believe the meaning of mindfulness is more than muddied.  I believe it’s gotten messy. Regardless of what I believe, the proof is in the pudding.  Just Google the words “mindful” and “mindfulness” and see the number of hits related to definitions.  Better yet, for folks with access to peer-review journal articles (yes, I know…my doc side had to include this in here) such as any within the American Psychological Association, conduct a search within any academic database and again, many articles appear with authors positioning a crafted definition.

However, is this really the best use of our time – to engage in an infinite loop of definition positioning? Or should our awareness and attention be directed to the field and practice of mindfulness?

Mindfulness as a field, practice, and industry is unregulated.  Anyone can pick up a book and read works from Drs. Kabat-Zinn or Langer, conduct a Google Search, and the next day put out a shingle and claim they are a mindfulness coach, trainer, expert, consultant…you get the idea.

Where I tend to error on the side of caution is linking everything back to the moral obligation and ethics of “do no harm.” Yes.  As with any field of study and practice, moral and ethical practices exist.  However, mindfulness is a young mainstream modern concept. I am not saying that it hasn’t existed for many years.  I am saying that the term and practice is more in the forefront today than in previous years. Which begs me to ask fellow practitioners, researchers, teachers, and the media these questions:

  1. What and who will establish the ground rules of mindfulness to ensure science and practice upholds “do no harm?”
  2. Will mindfulness become muddied, inconsistent, and lack consensus similar to other professions such as Organization Development?
  3. Will the hording and positioning of “who came up with it first” continue to cloud progress?
  4. How will continued studies, formal and informal, maintain sound methodologies and methods standards to make valid claims and call to attention ad hoc?
  5. Will Cosmopolitan-like (sorry, Cosmo) magazine quizzes pose as valid when in reality make false claims which then readers take as truths and factual information; and then show to their primary care physician/psychotherapist (gasp!)?
  6. What, if anything, will be done to prevent preying “practitioner” behavior as this industry is directly linked to people who may be vulnerable due to mental health challenges such as depression, PTSD, ADHD, anxiety, and addiction? What about working with children, the elderly, veterans, and people with special needs?

While I can see both sides of Mindful Magazine and New York Times’ articles, I would like to point out, while the great debate continues, perhaps our awareness needs to focus less on the disparities of what mindfulness is and is not and focus more on how we can create a structure to an industry and practice, develop what the structure would look like along with its components, implement standards of practice housed similarly to the American Medical Association, integrate these standards into education and academic institutional programs such as with UMASS, all the while providing a lot of help to people around the globe.

I believe it’s time to become mindful of where our awareness and attention is targeted, identify and understand our triggers which create an auto-pilot of continued confusion and debate, identify the overall purpose of mindfulness, and continue to let our awareness guide us with an ethical practice of service to others.  I mean…what could be wrong with that?

 

Mindful Dressing…and We’re not Talking about the Turkey

TopFloor411

Photo courtesy of411 Top Floor

When building and running a successful business helping people increase happiness, mindfulness, and reducing stress one thing has become crystal clear:

People want to feel good about themselves and people want others to feel good about them.

We all want to be liked.  We all want people to feel good about us.  And right now people are searching for happiness – how to be happy with ourselves, the people around us, our jobs, and our lives! Think about it.  If I asked you the question, “Are you happy?” what is the immediate response?  What would you say?  What thoughts come to mind?  What are your emotions like –are you happy, sad, have any thoughts of regret? Instead of taking a trip down the rabbit hole, how about discovering practical ways that result in a sense of feeling better – feeling better about you and being happy.

There are many ways people can begin developing a better sense of self and increasing happiness.  One of easiest and most effective ways to begin feeling better about you is through mindfully dressing. What’s mindfully dressing? Mindfulness means awareness.  Dressing includes our clothes, hair, accessories, shoes, makeup, glasses, and grooming.  Mindfully dressing is a process of using awareness when dressing; to dress oneself while being mindful (Do I have time, what am I doing); fully present (Are my thoughts wandering, am I distracted, am I focused), fully aware (what is going on today, how am I feeling) fully accountable and responsible (being 100% responsible and accountable is key.  Regardless of the information or what someone tells me, all decisions are mine and I own them – choices, decisions, consequences – everything – 100%; it’s not about the guy/gal who convinced me to buy – it was my choice. Be all in – 100%). This blog is about helping people feel good about themselves thorough mindfully dressing – to walk out the door and it feels right.  First, to me (this is most important). And second, to others around me. Questions we can ask ourselves when looking in the mirror are: What does my outfit say? What does my outfit say about me?  Does it say what I want it to say? What does my outfit say to others? Again, does it say to others what I want to say?

Note: All of this work begins with the self. First.  It’s not externally and then projected back toward the self.  It’s first with you and then everyone else.  Just like on an airplane – assist yourself first before assisting others.  This is not about narcissism.  It’s about developing you for you; for your happiness.  A commitment to self; to feel good about you and then secondly, how your I-feel-good-about-me happiness is projected outwardly toward others.

Most of us are aware of makeovers, celebrity stylists, and fashion magazines with their client-paid pages of pulled together outfits geared toward a one-outfit-for-all message, and retailers with personal shoppers.  But think about it.  With all this information out there, people still don’t feel good about their clothes, hair, makeup and accessories.  The all too familiar buyer’s remorse, closet filled of clothes you wouldn’t wear (OMGish, what was I thinking purchase)…can’t wear (too big, too small), and don’t want to wear (but I hang on to it anyway because mom/husband/partner bought it or because by golly it cost me a $hit load of money). Yeah, we’ve all been there – I’ve been there, and my clients have been there – which is what sparked the idea for this blog.  With all of the “what” information available and the problem still abound – we need a solution.  Solutions come in the form of understanding the “what” and identifying the “how.”  So, let’s explore some of the “what” and move on to the “how.”

What’s

  1. To feel good about myself
  2. For others to feel good about me
  3. Quick and easy “how” that leads to #1 and #2
  4. What information can I trust, believe, and that’s for “me.”
  5. What solutions are available for me – What do I choose.

While most information shares what to do like to get perfect hair, go to a blow dry bar and have a professional blow out your hair, this solution, unfortunately, is not a long-lasting solution; it’s a temporary fix.  And the work we do at Mindful Effect is not about temporary fixes – it’s about long-lasting, self sufficient, happiness.  Having a professional share and teach you how to do this yourself is what you’re looking for. But if they do that, then you will be creating a blow out look all on your in the convenience of your home, saving money – and you won’t need to revisit their blow dry bar and continue to spend money with them, right? Yup, that’s blunt, real, and true.

So what are our options? Remember, there are always options.  Not all professionals have this business philosophy.  For some, it’s about the education, sharing knowledge, and getting pleasure to see clients become self sufficient.  We do this at Mindful Effect and I had the honor and pleasure to interview 4 fashion and beauty professionals for this blog who hold the same philosophy.  Each of these folks is recognized in their industry for their skill, professionalism, innovation, and continued commitment to helping people look and feel their best. They’ve each shared the how-tos that we crave to look our best and feel good about us.

The Celebrity Stylist

“Everything in life…it all comes back to you,” said celebrity stylist, Grant Whittaker, of Grant Whittaker Style. During our first meeting we talked a lot about me; his questions ranged from “share with me about your business” to “what do you like to do in your spare time.” We talked about books, movies, food, travel, family, hobbies, and at one point I was wondering “where’s all of this going?” Grant knows exactly what he’s doing – his approach starts from getting to know the person.  More than “do you have a special occasion you’re shopping for.” It’s about getting to know a person’s likes, dislikes, feel good moments, “blues” days, and  building a trusting relationship where people are comfortable sharing their story…as Grant calls it “wardrobe therapy.”

“Everyone’s got a story…and I help create a wardrobe that defines who you are, is right for your body, is comfortable, and boosts your self-esteem…and you become educated in the process to feel confident walking into any store and picking out what’s right for you.”

How can we do this?  Here’s Grant’s top how-to-do:

  1. Let go of indoctrinated “rules” of fashion – let them go out the window. Your wardrobe grows with you..everything is changing.  You do and so will your wardrobe.
  2. Use awareness.  Make sure to only shop when you’re ready to shop. Don’t shop when you’re feeling bloated, low self-esteem day, or a bad day. Do go shopping when you have time, are feeling great, and having a rockin’ awesome day.
  3. Create a mental look book in a notebook or smartphone of the List of 5
    1. Fond color (what colors do I love? What colors do I think look great on me?) and Fond fabrics (what fabrics feel wonderful? What fabrics do I like their flow, drape, texture?)
    2. Fit and Feel (How does it fit? How does it flatter you? How does it feel?)
    3. Wants (What do I want? These are things for the near future)
    4. Needs (What do I need – a new winter coat?)
    5. Accessories (Handbags, shoes, jewelry, etc.)

Keep the notebook handy and regardless of an opinion from a store “stylist,” shop in confidence knowing you know what’s right for you.  We’ve all experienced store “stylists” and sales associates that will say, “Oh, that looks fabulous on you!” when you yourself says, “Oh, this is awful.” Yup, it’s happened to me, but not since meeting with Grant.

  1. How-to-Example: Say you need a new pair of black pants.  Grab every kind of black pant.  You may try on 25 different kinds of black pants before finding the one pair you love; you know how that feels on you and goes back to the List of 5:
    1. The right color black – the fabric moves with you
    2. The right fit and feel – it looks great and feels great
    3. Fills a need
    4. Fills a want
    5. Easy to accessorize
    6. Have fun! The more you love it, the more others are going to love it.  The more you shop when you have time and know what you’re shopping for (this is your strategy), then the more you’re going to enjoy the process of shopping.  We stop ourselves from having fun and we need to get back to the enjoyment of dressing ourselves because your wardrobe is a function of you

Grant’s final piece of how-to advice is allowing yourself the service of a teacher, a professional stylist, because you are a VIP.

The Luxury Boutique

“All style is good…if we know how to wear it,” says Patric Richardson, owner of luxury boutique Mona Williams. Patric further shares, “pick what works best, shows off and accentuates the best on you, and don’t conform to the trend.”  Arming ourselves with more how-tos with mindfully dressing, Patric shares his top tips:

  1. The goal is to look fantastic, feel confident, and look at yourself in a mirror and say, “I am pretty!” Who doesn’t want to be pretty? Patric inspires people to go beyond looking and feeling pretty with believing you are pretty.
  2. A must-know how-to is the awareness of your immediate first thought when putting something on; whether it’s a new handbag, dress, skirt, jacket, necklace – if your immediate is “I LOVE THIS!” then keep it, otherwise, get rid of it! It’s that simple.  No matter how much money you spent on it, or if mom bought it – we all have great reasons for keeping things in our wardrobe, but if it doesn’t look good then you’ll be miserable.  So, chose and keep those items that having you screaming, “I LOVE IT!”
  3. Know your comfort zone and understand “why” this is your comfort zone.  Basically, this is all about roots.  Where things were learned, where things come from, who told this to you, and why you believe this zone to be the comfort zone.  For example, did someone once tell you that twin sets should be your go to?  Are over-sized pieces used to really hide your body?  Do you loathe yellow because your mom once told you she hated that yellow t-shirt that you secretly loved and now you never wear yellow? Know what your comfort zone is, the understanding of why this is your zone, identify its roots, and ask yourself these questions: What would be out of my comfort zone?  What within that zone would I try on and have a Green-Eggs-And-Ham moment of “I do! I do! I do like _______(this animal print, those red pumps, this jacket that hugs my curves…)!
  4. Trust.  First, trust yourself. Second, find professionals you trust and build a relationship. Why? As Patric shares, “Because a bad outfit can ruin anyone’s day.” And when we’ve been given advice by people who say they’re a stylist but have no clue or history about fashion, apparel, fabrics, designers – our intent to find pieces to add to our wardrobe to look and feel fabulous can take a turn for well, spending money and not feel great at all. Patric strongly suggests finding boutiques and working with the owners.  Why? “We all want to feel pretty and boutique owners know their apparel, they know their clients, and often times will call when new items arrive before the items are placed on the floor.” Patric further shares, “When you look great and feel great, I know you’ll frequent our boutique. It’s when a person goes to a store, buys an outfit, puts it on at home and says, ‘yuk” those people will never return to that retailer. Never.”
  5. Harmony of an outfit is when nothing in particular stands out.  If something glares out, then the outfit is off balance.  This could be a hem needs to be shorter or to move a button.  The prep of finding an outfit is 80%, ensuring its harmony is the remaining 20%..and that 20% is important but is often overlooked or skipped all together.

Patric’s final piece of how-to advice is when in a fitting room, try on clothes facing away from the mirror.  Once everything is put on, then turn around to face the mirror. The moment you turn your head…that’s when it all happens…you look pretty, feel pretty, your body stands a bit taller…and you say, “I LOVE THIS!” That’s the wardrobe to build.

The Unique Boutique

“Fashion fades, style is eternal” says Diane Pawlik, buyer and stylist at 411 Top Floor a unique boutique above it all. Style is all about knowing who you are and what is it that you want to say – all through your clothes.  Our clothes speak for us before we even say a word. Some call it first impressions. Diane’s how tos on mindfully dressing include these top tips:

  1. Identify your starting point and stick to that starting point when building a wardrobe.  Is it to build a wardrobe around a handbag, a dress that I can wear multiple ways, or tailored fit jacket. Find the starting point, then add and build.
  2. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare!  Before shopping, prepare a few key bullet points about yourself; things you’re willing to share about you and your lifestyle.  Then when shopping and when an associate asks to help you, you can share these key points with them.  These snippets of “getting to know you” will help the associate find pieces compatible with who you are and your lifestyle.
  3. Ways to have your wardrobe scream “success” vs. “regret” is to have great key pieces.  For example, find the denim that fits you well, you feel great in, and absolutely love. It might mean getting the waist taken in or the hem shortened but it will be worth it.  Other key pieces: great denim, a fabulous jacket, well fitted black dress, and a great handbag.
  4. People get into trouble when buying the whole mannequin and then they get home, think “I just spent all of this money but I don’t know what to do with it.” Remember the key pieces: great denim, a fabulous jacket, well fitted black dress, and a great handbag.  Start with those and build out.
  5. Invest in quality. “That’s how I buy for the boutique and how I shop personally,” says Diane. Buy great pieces that your budget allows; these are items that will carry you for 10 years.  Yes, it’s an initial investment and you are your greatest asset.  People need to start believing they are a VIP and invest in themselves. By buying quality, whether it’s at the end of a season to wear next season – it is spending money wisely and investing in you.
  6. Shop small.  By shopping at boutiques you’ll have the opportunity to build a relationship (hopefully, a long term relationship) with the boutique’s buyer, owners, and associates.  The more people get to know you, your lifestyle, likes/dislikes, and you get to know them, the levels of comfort and trust increases.  It’s like the Cheers Effect – you shop where everyone knows your name….and knows you.
  7. Copying fashion magazines. Says Diane, “Fashion magazine outfits don’t work in real life.  Know who you are because it’s all about you.  It’s not about the airbrushed-photo shopped fashion picture. It’s about you.” Be comfortable with who you are, what you want your clothes to say, and everything else will follow.  Your audience will take notice.

Diane’s final piece of how-to advice is get the best bang for your buck by buying one quality piece you can wear with 10 different outfits.

The Custom Color and Style

When it comes to mindfully dressing, “A person’s hair color and style…it’s their permanent accessory,” says Justine Hornick, Wella Color Educator and Hair Stylist at Root Salons. A question she asks all clients is, “What do you want your hair to stand for?” As our hair cut and color speaks for us, portrays an attitude, and is an investment choice – what is it that we want it to say about who we are? Justine shares her top to-dos for pulling mindfully dressing all together with our hair color and cut:

  1. Know who you are: What is your face shape, skin tone, hair type (is it curly, wavy, straight), and be honest about your lifestyle (do you have a lot of time in the morning to style your hair or do you have 5 minutes and you’re done kind of person), do you need a “work” style and then another style that reflects the “off of work” you?  By beginning with knowing who you are you’ll be able to share this information with a professional stylist who can custom create a color and look compatible for you and your lifestyle.
  2. Custom color and style is exactly what it is; a custom color and custom cut – custom created and designed… just for you. Coming to a colorist and stylist armed with a photo of your favorite celeb will help them understand something you like but it might not be the best or most flattering style/color for you. As Justine shares, “People really need to be comfortable and open to professional colorists and stylists that create a custom design. When people are closed off, it’s difficult to help anyone with creating a look that builds confidence…and that’s what I do…I help build people’s confidence through creating a custom color and style specifically designed for them.”
  3. Ask questions.  They’re the professional and let them be creative.  Ask questions about colors that would compliment you and your lifestyle, styles that would be ideal,  heck – go all out and ask which colors and styles wouldn’t be ideal – then you’ll know. And ask why questions – why this would or would not be ideal. Then listen.  Stop talking and listen. Listen to their advice.  Take notes of their education – they’re sharing with you.
  4. Be mindful. Mindfulness means awareness and building trust with a professional while being mindful of yourself will create a style that is representative of your authentic self. Know that everyone struggles with something and there are people who can provide help for us to be our best – to build confidence – to portray our best selves. A custom colorist and stylist can create an experience that is comfortable, without pressure, provide the best advice and education (let me teach you how to style your hair so you can do it at home), and create a look that represents the true you.

Justine’s final pieces of how-to advice is don’t choose a style worn by your favorite star, don’t’ use a style or color as a veil and mask to hide, and most importantly, make a connection with a custom colorist and stylist who can create a custom design just for you that shows off your best features and projects confidence.

Final Thoughts

I hope that you will mindfully dress, that you will find your Grant, Patric, Diane, and Justine, that you will create a wardrobe and wear a hair color and style that you love and that screams confidence, success, and happiness, and that you feel great about you!

The mic and floor is all yours.

What else would you include? What’s the one take away you are going to use? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights.

 

Mindful Listening

ear

Through mindfulness I am a better listener.  I don’t mean some kind of Zen-like hear the sounds of waves, the rumbling of my stomach pre-lunch, or what the air feels like against my ears.  I mean listening as in to pay attention to someone or something and different than before; better than before.  I’d add to this the element of understanding; so, through mindful listening I hear someone or something, am aware of the message, understand the message, and possess the ability to mindfully respond; I experience a new level of listening through mindfulness.

So, what?  Right?  When could this really matter, make a difference, provide value….One practical usage is being caught off guard and asked a question (ever been caught off guard and have someone ask you to volunteer at the kids school that day and you say YES?! – yeah, we’ve all been there and done that!).  Mindful listening helps prepare us with responding…mindfully.  Another practical usage is when someone is trying to sell you something.

Take for example the guy who just called about selling me home improvement services.  I was deep in concentration when the phone rang. I answered the phone and it’s a telemarketer.  Yes, we have caller ID and sometimes when our kids call from school, it’s from an unknown number in a local area code – so, I answer knowing it could be them.   However, this time it was Jim.  Jim was nice and I’ve been there many times myself making cold calls.  I know how difficult this is and figured I’d hear him out.  Jim shared that his company XYZ is doing work in our neighborhood and wondered if we had any projects.  I asked, “Oh, which neighbor?”

Now mind you, before mindfulness it would not even have occurred to me to even think of let alone ask, “which neighbor?”.  I would have thought, “Cool, you’re doing stuff in our neighborhood…yeah, let’s talk.”  But now is different.  I am changed. I am better equipped with tools and skills – that work for me everyday, anywhere, anytime.  I am a better listener because of using my mindfulness techniques; they’ve become a part of me – reflexively.  I don’t even have to think  “Oh, use your mindful listening skills” because I’ve done it so many times it comes naturally.  And I’m fully aware.  Fully present.  Even though I got caught off guard.

Jim’s response though was taken aback.  He stumbled.  He fumbled.  He couldn’t find the words.  And what did come out was his company, XYZ, were not doing work in our neighborhood.

OH SNAP!

Houston, we have a problem.  Yes, a significant problem.  Integrity and trust are gone.  Not only for Jim but also for XYZ Company.  A lost sale – for sure.  It’s too bad and very unfortunate.

Calls like this happen all of the time, however, because of mindfulness I am better listener.  I ask questions that wouldn’t even have occurred to me (autopilot, zombie…distracted/not present) but I do now.

A value of mindfulness is being fully present and aware; beyond hearing someone’s words, thorough mindful listening I was able to uncover a common sales tactic that was dishonest and protect myself, my family, and my home – and my money!

Many telemarketers and scam artists call preying on people.  Some may argue and say, “use common sense.” I’d argue that we don’t know what we don’t know AND we don’t know HOW to do something different unless we’re shown and something changes. For example, saying to people “don’t give personal information over the phone” has no meaning unless we are fully aware and fully present –regardless of distractions.  And con artists are masters at distraction. Now I’m not saying that Jim and XYZ Company are con artists.  I am saying they use a sales tactic that is dishonest – and because of mindful listening – was exposed.

So, invest in mindful listening.  See what does it does for you. We can help; we offer a variety of in person workshops and online classes.

Share your thoughts – let us know what you think of this post and how we can be of service!

Mindful Change

Changebecause-youre1

Change.  Change is constant yet people resist change.  There are many reasons why people resist change; everything from it’s too different from what is ‘normal’ to being forced to change.

Though this is true reality, so are the advantages to change.  I find that many people already know benefits of change.  Heck, I’ve feel the same way myself and can write a laundry list of benefits.  What I’ve found is that in the sea of reasons and benefits, people seek questions to help them with the process of first, deciding on to make the plunge (or not), and second, people are looking for help with knowing what to ask themselves.

I’ve listed a few questions to help with these needs.  These questions are mindful questions; they address surface problems and uncover root causes.  Read them over.  Sit with them for a while.  Write down the first 10 answers that come to mind.  Review the responses later that day, a day later, and then 1 week later; make changes and adjustments to your responses.  After a week has passed ask yourself and answer the question: What do I want to do? Then you’ll have an answer.  For now.  For this moment in time.

  • Mindful Questions to the Advantages to Change
  • What are the advantages? To me, personally?
  • What are the results? What will they be? How would I describe/communicate them to others?  **If the details are unclear, revise to the point where they are clear and you could explain to someone else.
  • How do the advantages fit with my values and beliefs, the stuff I know to be “true” from experience and with my needs?
  • How will this work for me? What is my overall sense or “test” to know that it’s working?

How did this work for you?  Share with me your comments and questions!

Mindfulness, Parenting, and Rewards: What We Can Learn from Young George Washington

In today’s world, it seems like everyone gets a reward.  Kids get rewarded for just showing up.  Heck, attend any kid’s birthday party and even the guests receive a gift.  I’ve done this myself…those outrageous goodie bags – when did that start, anyhow?

Back to rewards. As parents, what do we reward?  Do we reward our kids being honest or for telling a lie?  When asking kids a question, and they tell us the truth, what’s our reaction and response? Do we yell and scold them for telling the truth or encourage kids to lie just so they don’t get into trouble?

When kids are scolded and criticized for telling the truth they are more than likely to tell a lie the next time.  Why?  Because if kids aren’t caught telling a lie, then there’s 50/50 chance of not being scolded and criticized. Not getting caught resulting in not getting scolded, criticized, and “in trouble” is worth the risk.

What are the parental messages to a child?  They are mixed.  Tell the truth and get punished. OR tell a lie and get away with it…that means no punishment.  However, tell a lie and get caught telling a lie, and then get punished.  These last two support a 50/50 chance of not getting punished.

When you were a child, which did you do? What did your parents reward? What did we learn from our parents?  If you were your kid, what would you do…tell  a lie or be honest? (now be  honest).

threetypesofrewards

 

Let’s look at this another way.  A mindful way.  Using practical mindfulness.  What can we learn about rewards and mindful parenting from President George Washington? Plenty!  What would happen if a parent was mindful about rewards….being in the present moment, as things unfold, aware of their reactions, responses, rewards…and yes, what they’re teaching their kids (and future generations too).  What if we were mindful about what to rewarded…and decided to reward a child for telling the truth?  This does not mean accept what was done or what’s being inquired as okay, but rather reward for telling the truth and be mindful of how we communicate and share with our child in that very moment.

Let’s learn from good ole’ George Washington who when asked by his father if he chopped down the cherry tree replied, “Father, I cannot tell a lie. I did cut it with my little hatchet.” Did George’s father yell or scorn at little George?  No, he did not.  Instead, (as legend says) George’s father opened his arms, hugged, and held George saying, “My son, that you should not be afraid to tell the truth is more to me than a thousand trees!” George Washington’s father was angry about his prized tree being chopped down but rewarded George for telling the truth. George told the truth and got rewarded.  George’s dad responded mindfully; he responded to what was important to him and also taught young George a lesson about courage, honesty, bravery, compassion, relationships, and love.

If we were in George’s dad’s shoes….what would we have done?  What have we done?  What do we and have we taught our children about rewards?  About honesty?

Communicating and sharing dissatisfaction of an event can be done using practical mindfulness with our word choices, awareness of tone and inflection, facial expressions, and body language. In as much, at the same time a parent can be mindful and be like George’s father and reward their child for telling the truth, being brave and having courage to tell the truth, and feeling safe to tell the truth.

So, the next time your child does something and you ask them, “Did you do this?” be mindful of what you are supporting to reward: honesty or a lie?  Do you open your arms and praise for honesty or scorn with criticism and punishment?

Be aware that these suggestions will be new for you and your kids to experience.  Give them a try.  See what happens.  Their reaction and response might be very telling, surprising, and open up an entire new way that the family can relate to rewards.

We welcome your comments – share with us your thoughts and if you’ve tried our practical mindfulness tips designed to use anywhere, anytime, anyplace.

Mindful Eating on Fat Tuesday

paczki

It’s just about lunchtime and I’m wondering about how people are fairing on their fare this Fat Tuesday.  Traditionally, Fat Tuesday is the day of feasting before the fast.  Days before Fat Tuesday, food establishments such as restaurants and even grocery stores market to consumers with slogans of indulging in great feasts.  Usually these attempts slide off of me…that is until this year.  Yesterday while perusing my Facebook page, I saw a Fat Tuesday posting from my local Whole Foods; it was a photo of a once familiar Fat Tuesday indulgence…the paczki.

Paczki and Fat Tuesday have special meaning…a special place in my heart…a memory bringing up good feelings.  My father was Polish and every Fat Tuesday he and I would drive to Hamtramck, wait in the long line outside of the Polish Bakery on Joseph Campau, get our box of dozens of paczki with custard, prune, and raspberry fillings, and then eat several at his kitchen table drinking coffee.  We’d talk about which one was our favorite but mostly it was about spending time together…just talking.

Since living in the Twin Cities, I’ve never had a paczki.  I’ve never even seen them here so, to see the Whole Foods picture got me thinking about getting some.  Then the awareness moment occurred.  How was the potential of eating paczki inline with my mindful eating for wellness?  I’ve been eating mindfully for quite some time.  For me, mindful eating includes how I feel while eating, what I’m eating, and why am I eating…I have removed some foods because I don’t feel well after eating them.  I’ve also become aware of eating because of tradition as well as eating a particular food for a few days in a row and then step on the scale and Yowza!  I’m also getting back into running after an injury so, I’m very conscientious about what I eat.

Yet, those round filled delicacies still tugged at me. Buy me, Buy me, just BUY ME! I had an internal dialogue going on, “Deb, you haven’t had one of these in 17 years…come on…just have one!”  But I struggled.  Again, it was all about the why am I wanting to eat one of these?  Did I miss being part of the Fat Tuesday-Everyone-is-Doing-It craze?  No.  Then what was it?  Was it, eating because I’m bored?  No.  Did I want to on some covert level sabotage my fitness program?  No.  Honestly, blowing my eating is inhaling a bag of Finnish or Australian red licorice.  That’s the truth.  Even my kids know this! My awareness…which is being truthful, honest, and accepting in the present moment was all about missing my dad.  True.  So, I decided to buy 2 paczki; one filled with custard, and a second filled with raspberry.  I still wanted to be mindful of my mindful eating and wellness progress, so I cut each into quarters and told myself that if while eating if I didn’t feel well, I’d stop eating and eat no more.

Mindful eating has many components; one is being aware of food immediately after it’s in your mouth.  This paczki had a familiar smell but the texture was off.  As I chewed, the flavors were the same and yes, a flood of memories came to mind.  All happy.  As I ate my second quarter, my stomach started feeling funny.  Whenever I eat something that disagrees with me, my stomach feels strange.  I cannot describe but I recognize the sensation.  So, I stopped eating.  I didn’t finish that last piece.  Another component of mindful eating is being aware of satisfaction; this is the moment of “I’ve had just enough or enough.” It’s the “our amount” that says, I’ve eaten to the point of being satisfied.  Going over this point, people feel “full” or “busting at the seams” when eating. Taking it even further is the awareness moment when a person realizes, “Oh my gosh!  I ate the entire box/bag/thing!” Even further, people can feel physically ill and even have critical thoughts.

It’s been over an hour since I’ve had my pieces of packi and my stomach still feels funny.  I’ve drunk a lot of warm water and in another hour will have lunch.  So, what did I learn from today’s Fat Tuesday mindful eating of a paczki? I learned that tradition, memories, and love have a lot to do with what we eat, why we eat, and how we eat.  It’s the awareness – the authentic awareness of the answers of the what, why and how to ourselves that will keep us on our path of mindful eating and living, or create a detour.  I experienced both.  And what I want to point out is that a detour is temporary.  I know this time next year when seeing paczki, I’ll still think of my dad and those fond memories of Fat Tuesday, but this time I’ll skip eating a paczki as mindful eating is now a way of life.  I’m still exploring what that means but for now, I know it means “no paczki.”  Instead, I’ll stick with what I know makes me feel good – both physically and mentally.

So, on this Fat Tuesday while folks indulge in the feast – give mindful eating a try.  Pay attention and be aware of your what, why, and how.  Authentically answer these questions to yourself.  See what happens.  And remember, you can still enjoy and participate – mindfully!

What do you think about this?  Does mindfully eating make a difference for you – if so, how?  As always, I welcome your comments!

Mindful Eating – You are what you eat

MindfulEating_Aug2013

We know a lot about what to eat (fresh fruits and vegetables) and what not to eat (yeah, the whole bag of potato chips).  But what about the how, what, and why of eating mindfully?

Combining the how we eat, what we eat, why we eat with mindfulness means that we eat with awareness.  It’s not that people don’t already know that eating potato chips or fast and processed foods are not the best sources of nutrition.  People already know these food sources are not good for them.

So, why do we eat this stuff?  Why are we still grabbing the fast, quick, to-go foods?

This is where mindful eating brings “awareness” to what we are eating, why we are eating, and how we can develop a new relationship with food.

For example, when grabbing a handful of candy at the office ask yourself the question “Is this really what I want to eat? Why am I eating this…for a sugar rush because I’m tired?”  People might just find themselves understanding their real reasons and triggers for eating something.  For some, this awareness can be a big “ah ha” moment to make changes with eating habits.

Another example, when eating any meal, become aware of the foods on your plate, how fast you eat, and how the food tastes.  Often, people are in such a rush, eating a pile of food on the plate in record time becomes an automatic way of eating.  Instead, try sitting down at a meal and make the experience different by eating new foods, slowly enjoying a meal and savoring the flavors, or changing the dining environment.  While doing these new things become aware of the changes. You may experience feeling full earlier, notice the food tastes better, decide you no longer like a particular food, or the new surroundings may put you in a better mood.

By becoming aware and practicing mindful eating, people will begin to notice subtle changes emotionally, physically, and energetically; your mood, your body, and overall sense of self.  To further the practice of mindful eating, try keeping notes of your experiences in a journal or electronic tablet.  Review and use your notes of foods that make you feel better as part of foods to include on shopping trips.

Mindful eating is about taking time to enjoy eating, to be aware of what we eat, how we eat, and why we eat that ultimately cares for us in the best way emotionally, physically and energetically.

Please share additional tips in the Comments section or on our twitter feed.

 

Commitment

During this time of flux, commitment is in the forefront. The question to ponder, reflect, and ultimately answer is: Are we willing to do whatever it takes?

This is different than hooking on details, history, past decisions, mistakes, goals, etc. When making this decision, we can no longer hold on to what prevents us from moving forward. It doesn’t mean we forget, it means we keep the memory without being bound and stuck in the emotion.

It is about the present. Right now. This moment.

The choice is the answer. And the answer will manifest the future.

8 Ways to Live Mindfully

Mindful or Mind Full?

As Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. (1990) states, “mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness” (p. 11) where we pay attention to the things of ordinary life giving us new insights to our lives through relaxation, awareness, being present, and through insight.

Perhaps your mind is full with endless to-do lists, resolutions, and other stuff like shown in the drawing.  How would your life be different if you stopped living with a full mind and instead lived mindfully?  Today, make a stand to mindfully live moment-to-moment.  Don’t worry about getting off track.  As Jon Kabat-Zinn (1994) says, “If the mind wanders 1,000 times, you simply bring it back 1,000 times.”

Here are 8 ways to live mindfully:

  1. Be present.  Have you ever driven your car only to not remember actually driving to wherever you were going?  This happens to a lot of people and it’s called living a life on auto-pilot. Our minds are so filled with stuff, the to-do’s and obligations of life that we go through the motions and sometimes zone out.  Living in the present means to be fully aware; mind and thoughts, physical and body – so, how we feel, how we think, and respond – moment-to-moment.  Sure, we will experience distractions and with regular practice, we are aware of living in the presence of each moment, each experience; all experiences one moment at a time.
  2. Wisely choose words.  Living mindfully also involves cultivating an ability to pay attention in the present moment.  What words do we use as a means of communicating? Words are powerful; they have vibrations of positive and negative energies, and combine emotion with information.  So, living mindfully – what words do we choose to use in our daily lives?  Do we tend to lean toward negative or positive words?  For example, do you workout or exercise?  The word “workout” denotes working our bodies and has 3 definitions; one of which is about resolving a problem.  On the other hand, “exercise” has 5 definitions ranging from the act of carrying out an agreement to regular use.  The two words by social definitions mean the same; however, they are very different when living mindfully.  So, be mindful of the words you choose and aware of the differences you experience.
  3. Just breathe.  Ah….breathing.  If we don’t breathe, well – we’re not alive.  Yet when we experience stress or in conflict situations, one thing people tend to do is hold their breath.  Holding the breath or breathing in short, shallow breaths only adds to the stress.  Living mindfully means paying attention to our breath, experiencing the air flowing through the nose, filling up our belly and releasing; to sit with the breath, observe it, and stay with it…moment-to-moment.
  4. Unplug.  Moments of non-doing? Yes!  In today’s world we are connected like the Borg.  Think about it.  Our cell phones, computers, social media outlets; we’re connected to the world 24/7.  Our whole lives are driven by doing and doing many things at the same time.  How can a multitasking person be present, aware, and mindful?  Recent studies show that multitasking is a performance hindrance.  In moments when we are aware that we are not being our best, simply unplug.  The act of non-doing restores some balance and perspective; by returning our attention to being present and focusing on the breath, we allow ourselves to return to the familiar place of being mindful.
  5. Stretch and rest.  Exercise the mind, the body, the energetic self.  Examples of stretch and rest come in many forms.  Whether this is through meditation, yoga, or a combination of both. For some, it may mean taking a walk, sitting in a park on a bench, or doing the hokey pokey with kids.  Stretch and rest is a way for your mind, body, and energetic self to switch from the doing to the being mode.  By giving ourselves permission to be, we learn to practice awareness with patience; cultivating a level of gentleness toward oneself.
  6. Consume nourishment.  The old saying “you are what you eat” is taking on a meaning today associated with our relationship to food.  The practice of mindfulness comes naturally when we start paying attention to the domain of food, our preparation of food, and our eating of food.  Great efforts go into buying food, preparing food, serving food, eating food, the environment where we eat, and the cleanup afterward.  Being mindful about food involves being aware of how much we eat, how frequently we eat, the quality of the food we are eating, when, where, and how we feel after we eat.  Do we feel well after a meal or eating certain foods?  How do we feel when eating rushed as compared to a leisurely meal?  What are our eating habits?  What are our family’s eating habits? All of these variables come into focus when bringing mindfulness to the foods we eat. Eating mindfully means being present and being aware of what your food looks like, tastes like, and makes you feel as you are eating it as well as afterward.
  7. Do a do-over.  Practicing mindfulness requires us to be aware of our own experiences, paying attention to the constant stream of reactions and judgments of life.  A wonderful gift mindfulness brings is do-overs as we transform from the habitual categorizing or labeling things  “good” or “bad” or “neutral” and move to acceptance, patience,  non-judging, and letting go.  Living mindfully, we pay attention to our intention, awareness, and our purpose.  For example, living mindfully we may become aware of our reactions to life and through awareness we identify our patience, understanding, and purpose.  Practicing mindfulness allows us to recognize our intention for being and purpose for doing.
  8. Make a commitment.  Living mindfully won’t happen by itself or because a person decides it’s a good idea.  Living mindfully requires a strong commitment to working on self and enough self-discipline to persevere in developing practices.  Through regular practice, the momentum of practice helps a person to live mindfully.

References:

Kabat-Zinn. J. (1994). Sitting mediations. Series 2. [CD]: Louisville, CO: Sounds True Publishing.

Kabat-Zinn. J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Bantam Dell.