Nature and Intelligence

chipmunkNature and intelligence. How smart we humans think we are compared to other animals. With our technology, houses, cars, and adornments. And yet we are ignorant with intelligence compared to even the smallest animals. Take this chipmunk. His/her keen intellect warns of a coming storm, bad weather, danger, and safety. This little animal does not need a weather alert system to warn of a tornado, severe rain, or dangerous threat. It simply knows. I did an experiment with this chipmunk. My walking on a path caused it to retreat in a tree. I stood on the path and talked to it  using my regular voice. The chipmunk came out and I kept talking and I saw a man was watching than called out his young son. The dad and son looked on as I talked to the chipmunk. When I said to it, “I’m not going to harm you”…this little chipmunk moved closer, then stopped, then moved closer and was close that I could have pet it. Yes. I am no threat. We humans can learn a lot from even the smallest animal. We humans are a speck in this vast universe and not of highest intelligence. This chipmunk taught me Awareness of possibilities. A re-check of ego. And a lesson to this dad and son who couldn’t believe what they saw.

The next time we think we know so much, consider a chipmunk and nature knows more then us humans.

What do you think?  Share your thoughts below.

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We meet people from all walks of life, with different education, backgrounds, and careers. Recently, Dr. Deb met with a person who is recently divorced after 50 years of marriage. Throughout the years he relied on alcohol to suppress stress. His question, “Why did it take me so long (to decide to make the change)?”
Awareness can be linked to questioning and understanding. Awareness can also be linked to judgement and shame. After reading his question, how many reading this post when to “questioning and understanding?” How many reading this post went to “judgement and shame?”
This man’s question was both. Dr. Deb’s help to him was seeing the value in both and acknowledging the decision. As Dr. Deb said, “Better today then never.” Thumbs-up to this man. He decided and is taking action.
What are your thoughts? Share them…

Mindfulness, Myths, and More!

I will admit that seeing the title of Mindful Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Barry Boyce, recent email blast: 5 things people get wrong about mindfulness, an immediate thought came to mind, “Yeah, I can think of more than 5.”

Noticing my immediate thought, I made the decision to take a mindful pause from my day and read the article. No expectations; just to see what he says.  See, I have a trigger about mindfulness which is: mindfulness in recent years has become so popular, that it’s also become very distorted.  This distortion increased confusion and does harm to the good that mindfulness practice provides. Also, the distortion and perpetuated myths trigger me.

Mindfulness has become perceived as this “practice” this “thing” that we “do,” and schedule time to “do,” where we sit cross-legged on some fluffy cushion in silence for hours, even a full day, and then go brag about it to the rest of the world.  The sitting on the cushion practice especially irritates me.  As a mindfulness and stress consultant, I practice and teach with the value of inclusion; Mindfulness is for everyone and not dependent on form such as sitting on a cushion cross-legged.  And frankly, images of mindful practice sitting on a cushion excludes people with physical disabilities such as neuropathy from diabetes to paralysis, Parkinson’s, and other physical limitations.  Heck, after the birth of my kids, sitting for too long, my hips start barking and I gladly reach for a high-density foam roller. And yet, I “practice” mindfulness every day. Wherever I am.  In any moment. Cushion-free.  🙂

I was a subscriber to Mindful.  But then with each issue, came again an image of a person sitting on a cushion; Which is an image often associated with practicing meditation.  Well, until I saw Vinny Ferraro, from Mindful Schools. I was thrilled to see Vinny’s head-shot on the cover of Mindful.  No cushion.  Just Vinny.  Just being. Taking classes with Mindful Schools and interacting with their educators and fellow mindful peers, I gave Mindful magazine a second chance.  After all, don’t we all deserve a second chance? Yeah. I believe so.

And in the moment of seeing Barry’s email, all of these thoughts that you’ve just read came flooding into my awareness.

So, I took a mindful pause and purposefully read.  And you know what? He’s spot on. Barry brings to our awareness common myths and misconceptions about mindfulness. He details each myth, calls out why it’s a myth, and then adds his (or Mindful Magazine’s) version of truth and reality. My only recommendation is to be mindful when using the terms “meditation” and “mindfulness” with the phrase “mindful meditation.” Clear and concise writing is essential when addressing myths to illustrate the intent because it’s not clear if he intends to use mediation and mindfulness as interchangeable terms. It looks that way, but I am not sure.  Perhaps Barry will address this in his next post.

I applaud Barry and Mindful for their public efforts to bring clarity to a mucky situation. With great wisdom comes great responsibility.  Sometimes that responsibility includes setting things straight.  Bravo! And yeah, I look forward to tomorrow and Myth 3.

A Child’s Wisdom

Kids. We can learn a lot from kids.  Sometimes kids are our teachers.  As adults, if we listen…truly listen, talk, ask questions…we find that yes, indeed they are the ones who are wise.

This pix is a summary of a conversation with my 9 y.o. son.  It happened tonight.  He’s an amazing kid. No bias, of course. When I told him of my plan to post as an unedited blog, he calmly said, “That’s great, Mom. I hope it helps a thousand people.  Yeah, a thousand.  That would be nice.”

So, if reading our conversation helps you, moves you, does something positive for you (and I hope it does)…please leave a comment. I’ll be sure to show him.

All my best, Dr. Deb

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Survivor 2 Warrior: Part 3


Happy 4th of July, Everyone!

I know today is tough for a lot of people and as the day goes on it’ll get tougher. I’m living proof that yes, you can get your life back, start feeling normal and amazing. Relationships can get better, stronger, and the journey can be without being controlled by the triggers, hooks, pain, frustration, and anger (see attached info-graphic below).

Keep your questions and comments coming – I’m totally jazzed at the excitement and outreach of people connecting; completely honored and blessed to serve everyone – post your comments and questions at the end of this video, blog, twitter feed and again, I’ll be answering all questions in the next email and video and sharing with everyone – thanks a bunch!

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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.

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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?

 

Practical Mindfulness Tips for a Happy Thanksgiving!

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The holidays.  Just the thought brings up a lot of feelings and emotions. As I write this post, I’m thinking about the person and people who are getting ready for today’s family gathering.  You know, the big family Thanksgiving feast that offers more than just food.  It’s the “dance” of relationships, interactions, the memories of past that haunt, and even can plague a person’s mind.  Yup. I’m thinking of you.  Maybe you’re already experiencing stress just thinking of today’s family gathering which is hours away.  Will sister Sue tease you about your weight/job/etc., or will Uncle Joe make “that” comment which causes your stomach to cramp because his comments are so incompatible with your values and beliefs…but that’s Uncle Joe, right?

Some people say these types of family dynamics are what makes family – family.  I disagree.  These types of dynamics lack responsibility, accountability, and perpetuate a continuation of inherited patterns of dysfunction all which lead to stress and unhappiness.

So, what can we do?  How can people prepare for today’s family gathering and still have a Happy Thanksgiving?

Some practical mindfulness (that means real-time awareness…stuff you can use/do anywhere, anytime…no need to “schedule” to breathe..btw, you’re breathing right now) tips for a Happy Thanksgiving.

1. Be Mindful – Being mindful begins with being aware; knowing your hooks and triggers (aka buttons pushed – what are they? Who knows them?  Who’s really good at pushing them?). Also, be 100% responsible for you and make the best decisions for yourself. Know that the word “best” varies from person to person and here I’m talking to you, not mom, dad, Sue, Uncle Joe – but you.  Being mindful starts with the self; meaning yourself.  It’s internal and then extended outwardly.  So, be mindful, 100% responsible for your thoughts/actions, and make the best decisions for yourself.

2. Decisions – Decisions, decisions, decisions. How do we make the right decision? What if we make the wrong decision? First, not making a decision is really making a decision; it’s a decision of denial. So, make a decision; any decision…just make one. Secondly, fear is our worst enemy.  Fear causes people to worry and paralyzes people into an infinite loop of “what if” and “should.” Find comfort in realizing that making a decision is a first step in being responsible – which is one of the best gifts to yourself and your family.  Arm yourself with making a commitment to yourself before the family gathering. Yes, a commitment to yourself.  For example, how much time are you willing stay at the event – 3 hours, 4 hours?  Make a commitment, set a limit, and stick to it! The sticking to it is a huge part of the decision of a commitment to yourself. Lastly, prepare for decisions during the event – decide now (not when you get there) how you want to respond to Sister Sue and Uncle Joe. Keep in mind that a response does not necessarily mean a verbal response, what it means is what do you want to do and how do you want to behave in situations that can for example push your buttons.  Know now.  Prepare now. Do then.

3. Choices – Choices come in two basic forms: Negative and Positive. For family gatherings, negative choices would include doing the dance with Uncle Joe and Sister Sue by returning the fuel and pushing their buttons, or participating in gossip and drama.  Engaging in these types of choices is fairly obvious as they’ll often be stressful, draining, and toxic.  On the other hand, positive choices such as hanging out with people who you truly enjoy their company and playing with the kids are uplifting and reduce stress.

4. Happiness – Isn’t this what we are try to achieve, feel, and be when getting together with family; especially during Thanksgiving? While gratitude brings joy and thankfulness brings appreciation, we often need to remind ourselves – to be mindful –  to be aware – and to allow ourselves (yes, allow ourselves) to be happy. We can do this by reflecting on what we are grateful for, who we are thankful for in our lives, and by counting our blessings.  We all have blessings. Be mindful, aware, thankful, and grateful for those blessings.  These will lead to joy and happiness!

Thank you for reading my blog.  Thank you for allowing me to serve you.  I’m humbled to do this work and grateful for the many people who’ve shared what this work had done for them.  Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! Share your comments, postings, let me know how this worked for you!

Mindful Change

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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!

Mindful Parenting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As parents, we are busy.  We are busy working, busy taking care of our families, busy with our kid’s activities, busy caring for our home/cooking/cleaning, busy with the endless to-do list…whew!  Just thinking about all of the things we do and are responsible for is exhausting.

With all the stress and stressors (those things or situations that cause us to become stressed) and our reactions to stressors and work-life demands, how are we being mindful parents?  How can we use practical mindfulness to help us be better parents? Here are a few tips:

First, let’s take a look at mindlessness.  We’ve heard this term and it’s often associated with other terms such as: autopilot, zombie, and zoning out. When have we been in this type of state? When and how are we and have we been mindless?

Mindless ranges from autopilot examples such as not hearing the kids (tuning them out) to over scheduling activities (yeah, keeping up with who again?) to emotionally and physically abandoning our kids (this is an unfortunate reality for many children). So, how do we overcome mindlessness? 

  • Be honest with yourself and identify how often we ignore our kids?  Are there certain triggers or activities that we tend to do this more often?  Less often?
  • How many activities are scheduled?  How do our choices support the well-being of everyone in the family…this includes parents too!
  • How often do I walk away or just leave them alone? Is this to collect my thoughts or is it something more?

Second, let’s take a look at patterns.  As the saying goes, history will repeat itself. Do we treat our kids the way that our parents treated us?  Do we yell?  Do we use criticize?  Did we like being treated “that” way as a kid?  Chances are you didn’t – and yet, we often repeat what we’ve learned and what was done to us. But we are adults, and can pave a new path for us and our kids.

So, how can we overcome these patterns?

  • Use the Golden Rule and identify how we would want to be treated and do that instead of what we “know.”
  • Instead of reacting, take a pause (count to 10) and rethink a reaction into a response.
  • Listen with full attention and talk. Yeah, talk it out. Share with your kids.  Tell them what’s going on. Kids are really smart and you just might be really surprised by the outcome and closeness of what happens when we get real with our kids. For example, share with them that you didn’t like getting yelled at as a kid and that we can do differently. Also, get kids on board with solutions! Ask them what they want, share what you want and have a discussion and come to a joint-decision of how to come to a solution.

Third, be positive!  Turn negative statements and comments around. For example, instead of saying “Johnnie, don’t forget your backpack” replace it with “Johnnie, remember your backpack.” One statement supports “forgetting” and the other statement supports “remembering.” Here are a few Instead Of Phrases (Left Side)…Use Phrases (Right Side):

Don’t run.                                           Please walk.

Don’t use your fingers.                       Please use your table manners.

Stop yelling.                                        Please talk in a calm voice.

Don’t let it fall out.                                I hope it stays in.

Don’t dirty your clothes.                      Keep your clothes clean.

By mindfully turning a negative statement into a positive statement, we are communicating, sharing, and encouraging our kids the behaviors we want and not putting the spotlight on the ones we do not.  Also, focusing on the appreciative and gratitude goes a long way – we all crave and love praise!

Try out these uses of practical mindfulness.  Try out one for a day and notice the changes; no matter how small – a change is a change.  Then continue doing it for another day….and then try adding another practical mindfulness tip to use.

Make using practical mindfulness into something fun (a game) for everyone in the family to participate! Keep track and tally up at the end of the day the number of noticed changes then celebrate…a pizza, ice cream, movie night, a visit to an arcade…

Finally, be kind to yourself. Parenting is joyous and it’s tough.  Remember to be kind to yourself (say positive things to you too!).  By using some (or all) of these practical mindfulness tips, we can make become mindful parents.

Please share a comment!

 

Mindful Eating – You are what you eat

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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.