Mindful Habit Change: Sustainable Change

Mindful Habit Change: Sustainable Change

When a new year arrives, we often set new goals or resolutions in order to improve or stabilize our life. As it turns out, goals aren’t always the most helpful tool of self-improvement. It is too easy to get off track and abandon a well-thought out goal. If instead, we build systems of self-care, we are more likely to reap the benefits of routines that nurture and support us. This is the key to sustainable change.


Cntr4SC_Logo_Name.pngIn the fall of 2018, Center For Self-Care and Your Mindful Coach offered The Well-Worn Path: Meditation and Mindfulness for Positive Habit Change, at the Tredyffrin Library. Through deep exploration and intentional practice, we can let go of habits we know longer need and cultivate new, supportive habits. You can enjoy a full recording of the fourth workshop below as well as the guided meditations on iTunes and Soundcloud.


aa-dad-hand-on-sons-shoulderWe began our fourth session with a Lovingkindness practice. As we set out to make new habits and break old ones, the gift of kindness is critical. As we discussed in Patience and Self-Compassion, we need tools of resilience for when our plans don’t go quite right. In this practice, we use a different set of Lovingkindness phrases that really resonate for me:

  • May you be seen
  • May you be comforted
  • May you be loved

Try it out below,


The word “identity” comes from the latin word Identidem which literally means “repeated being-ness.” What we do becomes who we are. We even create neural connections that reinforce our habits. Bringing intention to our thoughts, behaviors and words allows us to forge habits that are meaningful and healthy for us. But we need reminders,

Grant yourself a moment of peace,
and you will understand
how foolishly you have scurried about.

Learn to be silent, 
and you will notice that
you have talked too much

Be kind,
and you will realize that
your judgment of others was too severe.

-The Tao of Wealth

healthy-habits

Our habits have several stages where we can intervene, either reducing or increasing their likelihood. These are the pieces of the habit loop. Starting with a cue and a craving (problem phase) and ending with a response and reward (solution phase).

Cue (ex. drive by a Wawa) – Make it invisible by changing your driving route
Craving (ex. crave a treat) – Make it unattractive by remembering your healthy eating plan
Response (ex. buy a treat) – Make it difficult by not carrying cash
Reward (ex. eat a treat) – Make it unsatisfying by keeping track of frivolous spending

To build a positive habit, flip it around! Make the cue obvious, make the craving attractive, make the response easy and make the reward satisfying. This might include   writing intentions, connecting cues to other routines you already do, or even rearranging your pantry to make healthier foods easier to reach.

As you explore identity and habits, try the guided practice below and let me know how it goes.

 

Looking for more? Check out our previous posts on Identifying Habit Patterns and Accountability and Reminders and Patience & Self-Compassion.

Visit www.center4selfcare.com to see our upcoming offerings.


Sunday, April 28 – Save The Date

A Mindful Pause:
Finding Refuge And Peace In A Busy Life
at Bryn Mawr College

Sunday, April 28
Bryn Mawr College
Half-Day and Full-Day retreat options
Join us for our for a retreat suitable for both first-time and longtime meditators. In our morning sessions, we will explore simplicity, patience, gratitude and joy with guided meditations, teachings and discussion. Then stay with us in the afternoon as we bring these teachings into practice through sensory activities, movement, partner work and real-life application.

Register here

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Mindful Habit Change: Patience & Self-Compassion

Mindful Habit Change: Patience & Self-Compassion

In The Art of Self-Compassion, I wrote about the positive impact beginning a meditation practice had on my reactivity with others. But I still had a bad habit. As I wrote at the time,

I had a bypass. I would spend my day in kindness and curiosity and then return home to deliver a toxic dose of judgment and criticism to myself. I would unleash the build-up of frustration, anger and sadness through a typical day on myself. My specialty was shame messages. I heard the voice in my head declare “Who do you think you are? You are a failure. Just give up, your time to shine is over.”

My self-critic was still running the show. And when it comes to building new habits and breaking old ones, much of the story is taking place in our heads! The work of Kristin Neff, described below, was instrumental in moving to a more compassionate approach to my own experience and unleashed me to chance habits and feel content.


This fall, Center For Self-Care and Your Mindful Coach are offering The Well-Worn Path: Meditation and Mindfulness for Positive Habit Change, at the Tredyffrin Library, including Tuesday, December 11. Through deep exploration and intentional practice, we can let go of habits we know longer need and cultivate new, supportive habits. You can enjoy a full recording of the third workshop below as well as the guided meditations on iTunes and Soundcloud.


self-compassion-hugWe began our third session with an exploration of the body. When we tense our body, we come in to fight or flight mode, feeling tightness and discomfort. By experimenting with soothing touches, for example, stroking our arm, cupping our face or even giving ourselves a nice hug brings us back in to our bodies “rest and digest” mode. When we are in this state, our mind, body and heart communicate with each other. We have access to our intuition, our wisdom and our morality. Try it out below,


We have a well-worn path that solidifies our existing habits and can make forming new habits a real challenge. Bringing self-compassion to this effort is critical. As James Clear describes, habit building is about identity building.

images-2
http://www.jamesclear.com

By seeing ourselves as a reader or a runner or a healthy eater, we can overcome the ups and downs of our normal impulse patterns. By creating an identity as someone who “never skips two days” of a habit, we can be more gentle with ourselves when we don’t meet our own expectations every time. Additionally, it fosters a patience critical to sustainable habit change. Thomas Edison has been said to have described the process of inventing the lightbulb as 1,000 ways not to make a lightbulb before he settled on the one path that worked for him.

Neff’s work on the distinction between self-esteem and self-compassion is instructive. The downside of the self-esteem movement, which did help to reduce some of the most damaging consequences of low self-esteem, is that self-esteem is conditional. When everything is going well, self-esteem supports and sustains. But it has a tendency to abandon us right when we need it (not to mention make us arrogant when we don’t!). As we struggle more, self-esteem drops. Self-compassion, on the other hand, offers a balancing effect, reminding us to recognize our worthiness of love regardless of the outcome.

In order to practice self-compassion, Neff identifies three elements,

  • Mindfulness – We need to know when we are being self-critical or judgmental so we know when to apply self-compassion.
  • Common Humanity – It is helpful to understand that you are not alone in feeling and thinking this way.
  • Self-Kindness – This is the ‘medicine.’ Offering soothing and care for whatever arises.

Have something that you are giving yourself a hard time about? Try the guided practice below and let me know how it goes.

Looking for more? Check out our previous posts on Identifying Habit PatternsAccountability and Reminders, and Sustainable Change.

Visit www.center4selfcare.com to see what events we have coming up.


Save The Date

A Mindful Pause:

Finding Refuge And Peace In A Busy Life

at Bryn Mawr College

Sunday, April 28
Bryn Mawr College
Half-Day and Full-Day retreat options
Join us for our for a retreat suitable for both first-time and longtime meditators. In our morning sessions, we will explore simplicity, patience, gratitude and joy with guided meditations, teachings and discussion. Then stay with us in the afternoon as we bring these teachings into practice through sensory activities, movement, partner work and real-life application.

Register here

Mindful Habit Change: Accountability and Reminders

Mindful Habit Change: Accountability and Reminders

Believe it or not, mindfulness meditation is failure practice! We bring our attention to an anchor of breath, the body, sensations or other mental formations. And then we get distracted. Over and over. The secret is returning our focus to the anchor as many times as we are distracted. The same is true in life. As we work to build and break habits, we will inevitably miss a day. How we respond to this situation is what helps us hardwire new habits by getting back on track.

This fall, Center For Self-Care and Your Mindful Coach are offering The Well-Worn Path: Meditation and Mindfulness for Positive Habit Change, at the Tredyffrin Library on select Tuesdays. Through deep exploration and intentional practice, we can let go of habits we know longer need and cultivate new, supportive habits. You can enjoy a full recording of the second workshop below as well as the guided meditations on iTunes and Soundcloud. Finally, here is a short video outlining the well-worn path we all travel.

We began our second session with two simple guided meditations. The first brought us to the present moment by moving our awareness from the process of thought to actual sensation, feeling into our body and experiencing our emotions. The second invited us to to bring to mind a habit, problem or situation that has been a challenge for us.

We imagine ourselves experiencing this challenge through bodily sensations, emotions and thoughts. Then, we ask the following questions:

What am I doing?
Is it right?
What will I do next? 

These questions aren’t meant to be moral judgment but instead to create a mindful pause that invites our natural wisdom, intuition and compassion to our decision-making process. Instead of reacting out of habit, we respond thoughtfully.


Walk Slowly

By Danna Faulds

It only takes a reminder to breathe,

a moment to be still, and just like that,

something in me settles, softens, makes

space for imperfection. The harsh voice

 of judgment drops to a whisper and I

remember again that life isn’t a relay

 race; that we will all cross the finish

line; that waking up to life is what we

were born for. As many times as I

 forget, catch myself charging forward

 without even knowing where I’m going,

that many times I can make the choice

 to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk

 slowly into the mystery.


As humans, we rely on willpower as our primary self-control strategy. But there are days when our willpower and motivation don’t quite match our goals and expectations for ourselves. And that is normal. James Clear offers the following chart to show how our motivation ebbs and flows. Some days it is easy for me to lace up my running shoes and get moving. Other times, this expectation weighs on me throughout the day until I find myself lying in bed and criticizing myself for my laziness.

start small habits to get motivated to work out

Two conclusions can be drawn from this. First, as we seek to develop habits, it is important to start small, to start easy. That way, even a minimal level of motivation may be enough to complete a habit. Think about the concept of “Minimum Effective Dose.” In medicine, this refers to the smallest amount of meditation that will still have a desired effect. Too often, we aim our sights impossibly high. An example in meditation could be to pledge to meditate for three minutes each day. Its easy to argue that one can’t find twenty minutes a day to meditate, but three minutes is available to us when we are waiting for the coffee to brew, the gas tank to fill or the bus to arrive. The second conclusion is that we will need other tools and people to sustain us when our motivation is low. This could include situation selection and modification (packing lunch instead of eating out) or reframing (exploring why we engage in a habit instead of how we should). But even more critically, having reminders and accountability partners makes our efforts more likely to be successful.

4878-Woman_drinking_a_glass_of_water-1200x628-Facebook.jpg (1200×628)One of the best ways to build a habit is to connect it with something we already do. I find that placing items on top of my electric toothbrush (notes, running shoes, medicine, dustrag, etc.) reminds me to do something that I might otherwise have forgotten. Sure, we can use our phone to set reminders but I find that after a while, I just ignore them all. Try out the Movie of Your Day meditation and then check out this resource guide inspired by James Clear to record possibilities for connecting your habit to something you already do.

Screen Shot 2018-10-30 at 12.11.03 PMJonathan Foust offers two engaging ways to build a habit. One is the “Seinfeld Method,” simply identify one thing you’d like to do each day and one thing you’d like to restrain yourself from. Using a calendar, simply give yourself a check for each day you succeed in your efforts. You can download his resource here to build your own calendar to monitor your progress and perhaps recruit an accountability partner.

As we closed our time together, participants were encouraged to build an action plan with a partner to build and break a specific habit. Contact information was exchanged and resources including an email support group were shared. In future groups, we’ll explore self-compassion as well as dig deeper into the “Habit Loop,” which can be harnessed to meet our goals.

Visit www.center4selfcare.com to see what events we have coming up.

September 18: Identifying Habit Patterns
October 9: Accountability and Reminders
November 20: Patience and Self-Compassion
December 11: Sustainable Change

 

Mindful Habit Change: Identifying Habit Patterns

Mindful Habit Change: Identifying Habit Patterns

The way out is through. Many of our bad habits have evolved from protective responses to situations over which we had no control into unhelpful or unhealthy behaviors that no longer serve us. So it is quite normal to have this challenge. And the great news is that we can always change. The burgeoning science of neuroplasticity tells us that an “old dog” can learn new tricks. We just have to practice. That is where mindfulness comes in!

This fall, Center For Self-Care and Your Mindful Coach are offering The Well-Worn Path: Meditation and Mindfulness for Positive Habit Change, at the Tredyffrin Library on select Tuesdays. Through deep exploration and intentional practice, we can let go of habits we know longer need and cultivate new, supportive habits. You can enjoy a full recording of the workshop below as well as the guided meditations on iTunes and Soundcloud. Finally, here is a short video outlining the well-worn path we all travel.


Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

I.
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

II.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I still don’t see it. I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place. It isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

III.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there, I still fall in.
It’s habit. It’s my fault. I know where I am.
I get out immediately.

IV.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V.
I walk down a different street.

© 1977 Portia Nelson, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery


We began our first session with a guided meditation to support transition and remind ourselves that though our bodies are engineered for habit and distraction, we can always return to our intention. 

rain-06
http://weknowyourdreams.com/rain/rain-06.html

When we bring a curiosity to what is happening before, during and after we engage in a habit, we can build a knowledge base that helps us respond and adjust as needed. One way to do this is through the meditative practice called RAIN. Instead of trying to eliminate a thought, feeling or sensation from our mind, we are called to recognize it, acknowledge it, investigate it, and then non-identify (that is recognizing that we are just the observer of this habit or stressor, we are not the habit itself).

As we closed our time together, participants were encouraged to study their habits, especially the bad ones over the next several weeks. Take your time. You may have heard that it takes 21 days to build a habit, but the creator of this system suggested it takes at least 21 days. So you have some time. Ask yourself,

  • What triggers or cues your good and bad habits?
  • What prevents you from building consistency in a good habit?
  • What do you say to yourself when things don’t turn out right?
  • What habits do you want to break or make?

Visit www.center4selfcare.com to see what events we have coming up.

September 18: Identifying Habit Patterns
October 9: Accountability and Reminders
November 20: Patience and Self-Compassion
December 11: Sustainable Change

 

Your Life is a Poem: Beauty

Your Life is a Poem: Beauty
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
from Ode on a Grecian Urn, John Keats

We concluded our month-long look at poetry for our MLUC Meditation Group I with the theme of beauty with an interview of John O’Donohue. You can also read about our sessions on IntimacyVulnerability and Pain & Suffering.

Finding beauty inside and out

In the introduction to his interview, O’Donohue observes, “beauty . . . is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.” When we recognize beauty, it helps us pause. To reflect on gifts we receive as well as wishes and dreams we carry.

Participants shared the beauty they’d experienced in the past week, including listening to music, observing animals, and being connected with others.

Listed below are some of the poems and readings that were shared:

“Whatever happens.
Whatever what is is is what I want.
Only that.
But that.”
Galway Kinnell, A New Selected Poems


Mindfulness & Meditation for Positive Habit Change
Choose one or all: 9/18, 10/9, 11/20, 12/11

https---cdn.evbuc.com-images-47580747-2385400733-1-original-2

Learn to train your brain to break old habits and adopt new ones!

September 18: Identifying Habit Patterns
October 9: Accountability and Reminders
November 20: Patience and Self-Compassion
December 11: Sustainable Change

Examples of habits to be addressed include technology use, self-
compassion & self-care, physical fitness, and procrastination.

7 – 8:15pm. No cost to attend.
Tredyffrin Library, 582 Upper Gulph Road, Strafford


Men Meditating in the Mountains – October 12-14

We are proud to offer a weekend retreat. Wholehearted: A Men’s Meditation Retreat takes place in Wilkes-Barre at a beautiful rural property full of opportunity for reflection, connection, hiking, fishing and learning. The fee of $230 includes meals, lodging and a guided meditative experience accessible to beginners and experienced practitioners. Visit our event listing to sign up and learn more.

An offering of: Cntr4SC_Letterhead

Your Life is a Poem: Pain & Suffering

To love is human. To feel pain is human.
Yet to still love despite the pain is pure angel.
– Rumi

We continued our month-long look at poetry for our MLUC Meditation Group I on the theme of pain and suffering with an interview of Joanna Macy including several Rilke Poems. You can also read about our sessions on Intimacy, Vulnerability and Beauty.

Suffering = Pain * Resistance

The formula above reminds us that we can feel pain, unpleasant and negative emotions, but still experience joy and contentment. It is only when we resist and react that the pain is literally multiplied into suffering. We can incline ourselves towards joy by allowing for our emotions, holding them lightly and letting them come and go on their own time.

One fierce way to work with suffering is called Tonglen. Pema Chodron is a leading advocate of this practice in the United States. You can try it out below:

Listed below are some of the poems and readings that were shared:

The sweetness and delights of the resting-place are in proportion to
the pain endured on the Journey. Only when you suffer the pangs and
tribulations of exile will you truly enjoy your homecoming
.
– Rumi


0a56b8fecb83dfaf375fdef4ae677ca9--the-circle-circle-of-lifeWe will continue on Sunday, September 2 at 8:30 a.m. as we work with the poetry of beauty featuring John O’Donohue. Click here to join us and bring your favorite poem on the topic. Each week will include a short talk and will invite participants to bring and share their own favorite poems on the week’s topic.

August 12 – Intimacy
August 19 – Vulnerability
August 26 – Pain & Suffering
September 2 – Beauty

If you can’t make it, please visit www.center4selfcare.com/coming-events to see what else we are up to including Meditate4SelfCare online meditation every Sunday at 9pm.

 

 

Your Life is a Poem: Vulnerability

Your Life is a Poem: Vulnerability

Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but the first thing I look for in you.”
– Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

We continued our month-long look at poetry for our MLUC Meditation Group I with the theme of vulnerability. As we went around the room sharing our own experiences of vulnerability, it was ironic to note how that act alone was a way of sharing our vulnerability. In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown writes,

“If we’re going to find our way out of shame and back to each other, vulnerability is the path and courage is the light. To set down those lists of what we’re supposed to be is brave. To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is the greatest single act of daring greatly.

As a participant asked, “What if we envisioned vulnerability as a lovely soft landing?” We began with a mindfulness practice that cultivates a balance in our body, heart and mind that can open us to vulnerability:

Listed below are some of the poems and readings that were shared:

  • Weathering by Fleur Adcock – “now that I am in love with a place which doesn’t care how I look, or if I’m happy, happy is how I look, and that’s all”
  • At A Safe Distance by John Mark Green – “They say that love is blind, but I just can’t take the chance
  • What We Need by our own Mary Stromquist – “We need to fall in love with the warm pain of closeness
  • Tell Me by Sandra Belfiore – “You will not drown. You were born swimming
  • What If I Knock by Danna Faulds – “What if the door has been open the whole time?
  • Vulnerability by David Whyte – “To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature
  • Unconditional by Jennifer Wellwood – “Willing to experience aloness, I discover connection everywhere

0a56b8fecb83dfaf375fdef4ae677ca9--the-circle-circle-of-lifeWe will continue on Sunday, August 26 at 8:30 a.m. as we work with the poetry of pain and suffering. Click here to join us and bring your favorite poem on the topic. Each week will include a short talk and will invite participants to bring and share their own favorite poems on the week’s topic.

August 12 – Intimacy
August 19 – Vulnerability
August 26 – Pain & Suffering
September 2 – Beauty

If you can’t make it, please visit www.center4selfcare.com/coming-events to see what else we are up to including Meditate4SelfCare online meditation every Sunday at 9pm.