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

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-lifeEach 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 we are offering in the coming weeks.

 

Your Life Is A Poem: Intimacy

Your Life Is A Poem: Intimacy

Haiku

Front yard garden box
Your hands deep in darkened soil
Planting life in me

-Woody Sheetz-Willard, MLUC Meditation Group Participant and Poet

A recent episode of On Being featuring Naomi Shihab Nye struck me and inspired me to facilitate a month-long look at poetry for our MLUC Meditation Group I. Nye shared the concept that we are all “living in a poem,” and reminds us how poetry can tell a story that elevates. She writes, “you’re not battered by thought in a poem, but you are sort of as if you’re riding the wave of thought, as if you’re allowing thought to enter. You’re shifting. You’re changing. You’re looking. You are in a sensibility that allows you that sort of mental, emotional, spiritual interaction with everything around you.” Listen on below:

Poetry invites an intimacy that is akin to the intimacy one can cultivate in meditation or mindfulness. It is not about changing things or making them a certain way but instead helping us see what is happening and how we might be with it.

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

  • The Cure For All Of It by Julia Fehrenbacher – “Go gently today, don’t hurry
  • Intimacy Issues by our own Greg Gaul – “sometimes it starts with a glance
  • A Moment Of Happiness by Rumi – “You and I unselfed, will be together
  • The Sound of Silence by Paul Simon – “Hello darkness, my old friend
  • To You by Walt Whitman – “now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem
  • Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye – “like a shadow or a friend

0a56b8fecb83dfaf375fdef4ae677ca9--the-circle-circle-of-lifeWe will continue on Sunday, August 19 at 8:30 a.m. as we work with the poetry of vulnerability. 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


During suffering, everyone prays to the Lord, but when experiencing happiness, we forget to thank God. If one were to pray to God even during the good times, can the bad times ever trouble one?” – Kabir

 

Here-ness

Here-ness

9780517543054Be Here Now, declares the title of Ram Dass’ seminal work. But what does Be Here Now mean? It seems wherever one looks, they will find the mindfulness trend encouraging one to be present, to be in the here and the now. I think it is more than that. The goal isn’t to just be present but to use that presence to bring a wiser, more discerning set of choices to our experience.

David Foster Wallace describes this choice to move away from our habitual set of reactive patterns in This Is Water, embedded below. I also highly recommend the 22-minute version which doesn’t have the video accompaniment but builds on the themes of the edited clip below:

I can be present while try to ignore or compartmentalize my regrets of the past or my fear of the future. That will only get me so far. But to be fully present, we must include the past, the present and the future in conversation. We must include the pleasant, the unpleasant and the neutral. In meditation, we can do this by allowing our experience to unfold with a curiosity. You might try it out below or find this and other meditations on the Your Mindful Coach Podcast on iTunes..

 

Mary Oliver’s poem, Messenger, begins, “My work is loving the world.” This work, she writes, “which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.” Seeing the world with fresh eyes instead of our natural default setting where we are the center of the universe and any roadblock in the way is a global conspiracy primed to keep us from getting what we want.

We can only really do that in the present.


Cntr4SC_Letterhead

Join Center For Self-Care for any of our numerous upcoming offerings by clicking here. We have programs for everyone and programs specifically aimed at men & dads.

 

The Tragedy of Speed

6087023127_3e0d61c40a_b.jpgThe other day, I tried to be in two places at once. And I found myself nowhere. Literally sprinting with a thermos of hot water to a tea meditation I was supposed to be hosting and which had “started” five minutes earlier. “I must hurry so I can slow down,” I thought to myself.

The great tragedy of speed, writes David Whyte, “is that very soon we cannot recognize anything or anyone who is not traveling at the same velocity as we are. We start to lose sight of any colleagues who are moving at a slower pace, and we start to lose sight of the bigger, slower cycles that underlie our work.”

And this has been happening for centuries. James Joyce wrote of middle class Ireland in the early 1900s, offering the famous line, “Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.” The practice of meditation brings us back to a single place. The here and the now. We might not stay there very long but it is a practice. We catch ourselves and return. Beginning again.


When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius

Join Center for Self-Care this summer to explore together. We make time to come to stillness and silence in order to tap our intuition and wisdom, then share it with each other. Visit www.center4selfcare.com/comingevents to learn more and register.


Whyte speaks of the inevitable times in our lives when we are “waking everyday into the great to-do list of life. And the first thing that crossed your mind are all of the things that you have to accomplish throughout the day. But the accomplishments are all logistical, there all strategic and there is very little in the way of imagination. And you don’t who is going to be there when you clear away that list and so you simply create another list for the following day.” I recently found a fabulous morning meditation from David Gandelman on Insight Timer that short-circuits that impulse to do and first asks: what does the world want from me today and what do I want from it? ”

Our culture pulls us into this orbit of speed. That said, we can pause most any time. Or slow down. Do less better. In an interview with Krista Tippet, poet and author Naomi Shihab Nye describes the concept of Yutori. Its something worth checking out. An example of Yutori is “leaving early enough to get somewhere so that you know you’re going to arrive early, so when you get there, you have time to look around.”

clock.jpgBut we have no time for this! Or do we? There’s an old tale of the student who asked a teacher how longer she should meditate each day. “20 minutes,” declared the wise teacher. The woman replied, “but I don’t have time for that.” The teacher sat quickly then responded, “then sit for 40 minutes each day.” It is exactly in the moments when it feels like we don’t have time that it is imperative to slow down. It could mean stopping to say hello to a stranger, taking the dog for a casual walk without our phone, or writing a note to a friend you haven’t seen for awhile. It is up to you. The world can speed along without you for awhile.

 

Building a Practice

Building a Practice

As I sat in the chair opposite the therapist, I realized that I would be doing this for the rest of my life. In the midst of suffering after my father’s passing, I found that not much worked to ease my pain. Exasperated with my narrative, she gently guided me to the chair and told me to close my eyes. It took 38 years but now I was meditating for the first time. The practice was as simple as the one below but I experienced a complex peace that was unfamiliar. So I set out to build a practice. Sometimes it goes great, at other times, I have to “start over”, returning to the basics of a simple discipline. So I return today.

weight.jpegI am pleased to introduce Center For Self-Care’s 28-day Meditation Challenge. Beginning May 1, Your Mindful Coach and C4SC will offer several supports to build your own meditation practice. Through guided meditations from our podcast as well as Sharon Salzburg’s 28-day challenge, electronic discussions and virtual and in-person events, you’ll have the opportunity to explore and be curious while committing no more than 10 minutes a day to meditation.

To participate, simply visit this link daily and select the date. You will be taken to a site that offers a daily meditation. Click “Read More” and then press play to meditate. Then share with us – email to receive a daily reflection and learn together.


4be87162-6ce5-42c5-bdd1-cffa321868a6Every Sunday (9pm) and Tuesday (8:30pm) evening, we offer a live virtual guided meditation that can be accessed online through your computer or cellphone or by calling in on your phone. We also have workshops on May 6 and May 24 as well as our men-specific regular offerings. Learn more or register at our website.


Our first meditation focuses on the breath. The breath serves as an anchor to our attention. We become distracted and gently return our attention back to this anchor. Our only task is to pay attention, noticing the rhythm, the movement and the quality of each breath.