Freedom To Choose

 

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”   – Victor Frankl

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South Rim of the Grand Canyon, AZ

This has always been my favorite mindfulness quote.  We all need to look for the spaces between the stimulus and the response. That awareness begins with a pause. That self reflecting ability – in the moment noticing. In that pause we begin to notice what’s really happening (worrying about the future… a flash of irritation – a craving for food). With that realization, we allow what’s there – to be there – without reacting. In these moments, we enter a space of freedom – the freedom to choose.

After your meditation – or at a time where you feel relaxed – identify several situations during the day where you become or slip into a moderately reactive mode. Look for signs of anxiety or irritation. For example, for me it’s getting my son up for school. I can catch myself “mindful yelling”.  For you it may be, getting caught in traffic, a deadline for a project, feeling tired, overwhelmed at work, or being criticized by a loved one.

Select ONE area and for the next week have the intention to pause for a few breaths and become aware inwardly when you’re in those situations.

In that moment of pausing – that awareness – take real interest in what’s happening inside you… An uneasy feeling? Tension? Numbness? Pressure? Are you aware of anger, anxiety, or cravings? What are you feeling? Be with whatever sensation or emotion is present.

Then, take a few full breaths relaxing with each of breath and then resume your daily activity.

Notice the difference between being caught reacting all the time and being aware and awake. Honor these moments because it’s a deep awakening inside you.

Let me know how it goes.

-Andy

Breathing Yourself Back To The Moment

“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself?” – Tao Te Ching

 
Whenever I’m creating a new guided meditation, it gives me the opportunity to work with my own experiences with the subject matter. I had plenty of time to explore my experience with impatience last week – with a stomach bug that is going around – that’s for sure.  I was trying to rush things and trying to move a little too fast before my body was ready… until I realized that I could just “breathe myself back

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Impatience

to this moment” and not worry so much about the future.  This helped me relax and get back into the natural flow of my life and let my body heal naturally.  I notice when we’re impatient, we are really just trying to make things different or better than they are.

When we want to change our lives in some way, we tend to focus a lot on the future – how awesome it’s going to be when we reach that goal. We look to that immediate result.  It’s like when we’re riding a bicycle… we’re always pedaling past the present moment.  Say we want to go from Southie to Cape Cod… we’re in Southie, but our attention is really focused on how great it will be when we get to the Cape.  We feel that things will be so much better when we get to the Cape, so we push and try to pedal as fast as we can to get away from Southie.

Our present moment patience is also constantly being hijacked by our smart phones, autopilot choices, and our knee jerk reactions to the speed of our lives.  We constantly react to stressful situations and become way too ridged and inflexible in our choice making ability.  Mindfulness can help us drop down into the actual feelings that are there, so we can reflect and get a sense of what’s really going on.  Using the breath as our anchor, we breathe ourselves back to the moment.  This helps us disconnect from that reactive panic button that we all have, and frees up a little space – allowing more thoughtful and creative choices to bring us back to the moment. Be patient… this takes time.

The next time you feel impatient, check in with your body. What do you feel? Chances are you’ll feel some irritation. Let yourself be with that. You might find that “breathing yourself back to the present moment” helps. Take a moment for yourself to recognize that your life can become your meditation if you choose to approach it with this kind of awareness.

As we move into next week, I put the challenge out there for all of us to meditate for 10 minutes every morning and anytime throughout the day you feel impatient – work on enduring the present moment by “breathing yourself back to the moment”!

I hope this helps!

The Mindful Olympics

Last Morning Mindfulness class of the semester. The Mindful Olympics! 15288686_10154730770488245_8990616644689605828_oThe kids favorite class. We tried to put all together as the students collaborate and combine their efforts to make an important difference in the world – and connect them to the larger community… and let’s be honest, they just really want to beat me in the competition😜.

We worked on our perspective taking these last few weeks. We played “Mirrors” and tried to mindfully consider other viewpoints – besides our own. We discussed how we can’t literally put ourselves in certain peoples shoes because they won’t fit – or we wouldn’t choose to wear them because we are all so different – and that’s great! Amazing group of kids!

Clear Intentions

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Yoga and meditation is about trying to do everything with intention, every breath you take, every move you make (great song), every interaction – is action with meaning.  It’s moving through our yoga class noting every placement, every posture, every modification, and every judgement.  It also reminds us to put things in perspective and gives deeper meaning to those little moments when we’re able to let go of the stress of the day and focus on what we came to do – be in the room and practice.

So setting an intention clearly at the beginning of class is really the key to waking up – and as Will Hunting would say, “let the healing begin”.

I recently had breakfast with a yoga teacher who was telling me that she felt like she hit a plateau in her meditation practice.  Let’s face it, we all get stuck in ruts in different aspects of our life from time to time.  The difference between somebody that has REALLY hit a plateau in their life and somebody who continues to unfold in a real way, is the sincerity of their INTENTIONS.  This yoga teacher is clearly passionate, disciplined, and dedicated to the honesty of her practice.  It takes courage to feel that we can really BE open to our full potentiality and strengthen our attention.  The whole sense of attention is challenging because it’s just so easy to space out on all the things we don’t really need to pay attention to during the day. It requires discipline and constant cultivation in an open, curious way.

This is why I often say that whole path of mindfulness is attention, intention, and attitude. We all have this sincere INTENTION to wake up, to be with what’s here – and then we train ourselves to pay ATTENTION to the little moments – noticing our ATTITUDE in a way that really frees us.

The Attention is: present moment awareness.

The Intention is: why am I paying attention? What is the purpose?

The Attitude is: how am I paying attention? Is my attention open, curious – or is it rigid and judgmental?

Reflecting on these three elements has become integral to my practice, and often forms the beginning or end of the sequence when I’m teaching, and frees me up when I’m giving an assist.

Most importantly, it connects my practice to the other important things in my life and extends into the rest of my day.

I hope this helps!