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  • 14 Feb 2019 7:55 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Teresa Johnson

    As Valentine’s Day (a holiday projected to generate $19.6 billion in related spending) arrives, I’m reminded that the practices of mindfulness and compassion can make all the difference in how we approach this holiday or any other.

    Noticing the hidden A’s in Holiday - Assumption, Automatic Action, and Aversion

    Because we grow up in families and social/cultural circles, humans are deeply conditioned from birth regarding the celebration (or not) of holidays and special events. The associations patterned in our neurology through childhood can set us up to expect ourselves or others to behave, feel, and think about a holiday in ways that may be unnecessary, incongruent with the rest of our values, or even hurtful to others.

    Assumption

    The assumption that others celebrate the holidays we do, stems from the blind spot of our conditioned world view.  When we assume that everyone is celebrating a holiday, we can lack sensitivity to the suffering that may also be present on that day. True we celebrate friendship, love, and romance on Valentine’s Day,  but for someone who has just experienced a break up or loss of a loved one, this day is a stark reminder of their loneliness or heartache.

    Mindfulness reminds us to take off the blinders of insensitivity, helps us to tune in, paying attention to clues of body language, facial expression, and voice tone. It cues us to listen as well, to our own gut, with its 40,000 neurons of intelligence offering a hunch…sometimes to keep silence and others to ask with compassion, the question that  frees  someone to share and release their suffering. 

    All of these ways of turning toward others suggest the open, kind, and discerning qualities of mindfulness as defined by researchers Linda Carlson and Shauna Shapiro, and serve as a counterweight to assuming we know anything about another person’s internal experience.

    Automatic Action

    The 2nd A of Automatic Action is often fueled by two other A’s, anticipation and anxiety. As a holiday approaches, deeply rooted habits compel us to do and buy without a conscious thought of whether  the stockpile of decorations, gifts, and cards are within our budget or even essential to the receivers.  We act automatically because a life of mental, emotional, and physical conditioning is a force propelling us onward until, as Newton taught, an equal and opposite force intervenes.

    Mindfulness is that force—causing us to stop, to check in and ask, “What’s happening with me right now?” We may notice tightness in the abdomen or chest, tension in the jaw, anxiety coiling up the emotions, critical commentary about not doing enough. Sometimes just a moment of noticing begins to open the door to see a bigger picture, to view ourselves with some understanding and compassion and say, “Well of course. This is all you ever knew.”

    After which we may decide that the best way to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year will be to sit down for a long conversation with someone we love and listen to them deeply.

    Aversion

    Not everyone is compelled to rush headlong into holidays though. Some of us have the exact opposite way of reacting. It might begin with a feeling of general irritation, undergirded with judgement about all the “fuss”, “silly sentimentality” or “waste”attributed to holidays of which we want no part. We may think we’re just being practical and unfettered by sentimentalism. However, like Automatic Action, Aversion also keeps us from making a well considered, unbiased choice to participate or 

    not.

    Mindfulness invites us to notice first the reactivity, to see where it takes root in the body, what emotions arise from the center of it, and what thoughts may be swirling in the midst of it. We can turn toward the habit of averse reactiveness with compassion to say, “This part of me that judges and pushes away…we all have it.” We might then ask ourselves “What suffering might be hidden underneath the reactiveness?” When we can offer ourselves compassion, we’re more likely to offer it to others.

    As we open the heart, we can see our common humanity, that we too, have causes or events to which we devote time, energy, and money. And while they may be different from those around you, the value and joy we derive from them is similar. From this vantage point, we may still choose not to participate in a holiday, but can maintain a respect for and connection with others who choose to celebrate, leaving the door open and remaining curious.

    So this Valentine’s Day, whether we celebrate the holiday is not most important thing. As the beloved Buddhist Teacher, Suzuki Roshi, has said: "The most important thing is to remember the most important thing.” Perhaps we can all move more mindfully through this day, more aware of ourselves in relationship to this cultural phenomenon we call a holiday,  acknowledging assumptions and letting them go, acting with purpose, being less hurried and driven, opening our hearts to others, practicing tolerance and openness toward each other, and to ourselves. And maybe then, we’ll be celebrating, really, what it means to love.


  • 14 Feb 2019 7:00 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    In a new 40-minute video (link below), Mindfulness Northwest director Tim Burnett continues his exploration of the Buddhist roots of our mindfulness practices. The Sanskrit word "shamatha" referred to in the essay and guided meditation he offers here means "to pacify," "to cool down," or "to slow down." This is an important aspect of our mindfulness practices. Mindfulness also includes active engagement with the patterns in our minds and hearts, but slowing down enough to stabilize and clarify is an essential ingredient in that process.

    Click HERE to watch the video

    Click HERE for the article

    To learn more about the Buddhist roots of mindfulness we recommend our longer residential retreats:

    Roots of Compassion  August 25-30, 2019

    Roots of Mindfulness  October 6-13, 2019


  • 8 Feb 2019 6:38 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Tim Burnett

    Dear Friends,

    Mindfulness researchers agree that mindfulness training has three key major components: attention, intention, and attitude.

    The attitude mindfulness practice invites us to bring forward, and helps us to strengthen over time, is described in various ways by mindfulness researchers and also by Buddhist teachers.

    Jon Kabat-Zinn in this common definition of mindfulness talks about an attitude of attending "non-judgmentally" to experience.

    Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally. (Kabat-Zinn 1994).

    And Shauna Shapiro and Linda Carlson go with "open, accepting, and discerning."

    [Mindfulness is] the awareness that arises through intentionally attending in an open, accepting, and discerning way to whatever is arising in the present moment (Shapiro & Carlson, 2009).

    It's easy for us to scoff a little I think. "So I'm just supposedto accept everything?" Aren't there plenty of things are not acceptable happening in our world?

    Indeed there are. But remember that mindfulness is a process of zooming in more closely and carefully examining how our minds and hearts meet each moment of experience. And at that point of contact, mindfulness movement suggests that negative reactivity just doesn't serve us.

    In a really fascinating (and pretty readable for our us lay people) 2011 paper (see link at end), emotions researchers Eric Garland, Susan Gaylord and Barbara Fredrickson from the University of North Carolina suggest that the way mindfulness training can help is that it can set us up for a helpful "upward spiral" of positive reappraisal of what's challenging or stressing us out.

    They suggest that there is a different way of looking at the aspects of our life and world that seem unacceptable to us. It's a 6-step model that I think is worth examining.


    Steps 1 & 2  - Stress Appraisal & Decentering. 

    In this model, when we encounter a stress, rather than freezing up or being inflamed with our resistance and unhappiness with the situation, we mindfully take an inner step back. We find a little space just like in the famous quotation that's attributed to Victor Frankl:

    Between stimulus and response there's a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

    Doing otherwise risks destructive anxiety, rumination and/or depression.

    Garland and his colleagues use the psychological term "decentering" for this. Getting the anxious "me" out of the center of the situation. Being able to label the emotion is helpful here. Decentering is a process of perspective-taking that allows states of mindfulness to arise. We are more able to feel non-judgmental, open and accepting if we don't feel overwhelmed and internally "too close" to the problem. We need a little space. Decentering is the mental ninja move that helps make that possible.

    Steps 3 & 4 - Mindfulness & Attentional Broadening. It's well known - by all of us as well as the field of psychology - that when we're stressed, our perception narrows. We get a kind of tunnel vision. It's hard to think straight. Fewer options occur to us. That's a visceral feeling of being trapped in our head and our fears. Paralyzed. Do you know this feeling?

    The neat thing is the opposite is also true. With the support of decentering and mindfulness we can broaden our attention even under stress and that's the next step in this model. Attentional Broadening opens us up to more options and possibilities in how we relate to the situation and gives us access to our inner resources and opens us up. 

    Steps 5 & 6 - Positive Reappraisal, Positive Emotions & Decreased Stress. With this broader, more open perspective we can see, not just good options for coping, but that there may actually be something essentially good here, something of value. We may realize there's an opportunity here for growth and learning. We may be thankful - gratitude can arise - that an issue we'd been previously blind to has come to our attention so we can do something about it.

    The paper makes a compelling case both theoretically and from the research data that mindfulness helps us not just get better at coping with difficulty but that mindfulness supports the mind to find ways to turn difficulty into benefit. That mindfulness training strengthens this dynamic attitude that can turn disasters into opportunities, at least some of the time -- an amazing kind of inner alchemy that the judgmental side of us may well scoff at, at first.

    A Life of Appreciation. My own experience over years of practice is that over time these kinds of processes don't just lead to wiser coping skills under stress. It isn't just a kind of mechanical process. Gradually we cultivate an attitude of appreciation that pervades everything.

    Of course, we’ll still have problems and concerns and bad days, but our foundational orientation really can shift from suspicion and concern to appreciation. And it's not a dumb appreciation, at least I hope not! Our faculties are keen and alert. And in fact, we have more resources available, as a raft of research and personal experience attests, when we aren't worried about things all the time. We can meet even difficult situations more intelligently from a standpoint of appreciation.

    I think the Buddhist teacher Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche expresses this beautifully. Here he uses the Buddhist term "buddhanature" to describe the same skillful approach to challenge.

    It might seem that appreciation has no place in a world with so many challenges. These days we are constantly reminded of our problems. Depression and anxiety are on the rise, climate change is creating disasters all over the world, and big changes in society are bringing to light so many things that have been in the shadows for many generations.

    How could we possibly talk about appreciation when we are confronted with such massive challenges?

    Appreciation isn’t positive thinking. It’s not wishing things to be better than they really are. Appreciation is taking the time to notice what’s already here, what we have right now in this very moment. This capacity gives us the inner strength to work with our suffering in a skillful way, and to stay connected to each other as we do.

    There are so many qualities that we don’t give ourselves credit for. As the Buddha discovered, our minds are naturally clear and aware. Our hearts are naturally open and compassionate. Each of us has tremendous wisdom. Although we don’t always recognize it, this buddhanature is always with us.

    Every single day we do countless things that express this buddhanature—small acts of compassion, moments of insight and understanding. These things are so common that we don’t even notice them.

    Recognizing these qualities is like discovering a treasure that’s been buried right beneath our feet. What we discover might feel new and fresh, but it’s our discovery that is new, not the qualities themselves.

    This discovery of our own buddhanature is the solution to the problems we face. It gives us the confidence, the compassion, and the wisdom to deal with our own challenges and the suffering of the world with an open heart and a clear mind. 

    When we make appreciation the foundation of our practice, every moment is filled with possibility.

    Excerpted from "You Already Have What You’re Looking For" by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Lion's Roar Magazine, January 30, 2019. 

    I urge you to consider this: on a moment by moment basis is it possible, when difficulty arises, to take a little step back, breathe a moment, invite your awareness to broaden in some way, and see what possibilities are available? There might be some real value in even the most difficult situation.

    And then zoom out and look at the patterns in your life. Is it possible to cultivate an attitude of appreciation and gratitude that pervades everything? So much has been given to us. Doesn't the world need us to appreciate those gifts and reflect that appreciation right back to a world that, as Martha Postlewaite says, "is so worth of rescue?"*

    Tim

    *Read the full poem Clearing by Martha Postlewaite

    Download the Garland et. al. article HERE.


  • 8 Feb 2019 6:37 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    The wonderful poet of mindfulness, Mary Oliver passed away a few weeks ago. The moving tribute in the New York Times includes video of her conversing with Rumi translator Coleman Barks (whom we have to thank for "The Guest House" and many others). Two big influences on MBSR having a conversation: well worth 7 minutes. Thank you Mary Oliver.

    Here's a link to the video on our website: Mary Oliver Interview

    And here's a poem from her that captures mindfulness beautifully:

    The Summer Day

    Who made the world?

    Who made the swan, and the black bear?

    Who made the grasshopper?

    This grasshopper, I mean-- the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

    the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

    who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-‐

    who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

    Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

    Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.


    I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

    I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

    into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

    how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

    which is what I have been doing all day.

    Tell me, what else should l have done?

    Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

    Tell me, what is it you plan to do

    with your one wild and precious life?



  • 15 Jan 2019 9:34 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    Joining a regular meditation group can do wonders for your mindfulness practice. Camaraderie. Exposure to new ideas. Peer support. Accountability.

    One option is our weekly online practice group. They are led by Mindfulness Northwest teachers and are a great way to tune up, re-connect with, and enhance your regular practice. 

    Typical format is:

    1. Opening meditation
    2. Short teaching with discussion
    3. Longer closing meditation

    There's no fee to register and try it out (You do need to register to get the instructions for logging onto the online event - easy to use vidoe conferencing software). If you find it valuable and plan to attend regularly, we ask that you join the group for a modest monthly fee. 

    Monday nights, 7-8:30pm. 

    Upcoming topics:

    • January 21st; Freedom from self-created suffering
    • January 28th: Embracing change
    • February 4th: Kindliness

    Hope to see you soon!

  • 15 Jan 2019 9:32 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Oori Silberstein

    Many of us are drawn to mindfulness practice initially out of a desire to overcome some challenge or difficulty in our lives. While some of us are drawn to mindfulness when we’re feeling OK, and we want to sustain or increase our sense of well-being, I have observed that the majority of us turn to mindfulness from a place of struggle. For me it was anxiety, but there are lots of other examples: Stress, depression, grief, anger, physical pain, impatience or a general sense of discontent with our lives to name just a few. (These are all common and good reasons to learn and practice mindfulness, and mindfulness can be helpful for all of these.) In all these cases we want to move from the place where the challenge is overwhelming, burdensome or bothersome, to a place where the challenge does not exist, or at least where it does not bother or debilitate us. In other words, we want to get somewhere other than where we are.

    We may think that getting to this desired place requires getting rid of the challenges we are facing. And we may think that getting to this place requires physically going somewhere else – a new city, or simply a retreat or training. Certainly, if the challenge is a physical danger or emotional abuse, then this instinct to get away may be essential and wise. But in many cases, working with and getting through the difficulties that lead us to mindfulness practice do not require that we go anywhere or get rid of anything. It requires that we learn to settle in more deeply exactly where we are, with curiosity that invites a fresh perspective. We learn that what is most helpful is to practice being exactly where we are, however we are, in a new way. 
     
    One of my teachers likes to say that the best way to get from point A to point B is to be at point A as fully as possible, and let point B take care of itself. This may sound ridiculous at first. We may think, “If I am looking to get rid of this challenge, why would I want to do something that requires that I see, feel and be with it more? This mindfulness thing is really missing the point”. This idea of being where we are more fully is not always easy, and it probably turns away a fair number of beginners. So why do we emphasize it?
     
    Before I offer some answer to this question, I want to clearly say that with certain types of traumatic and challenging experiences it is actually not helpful to turn fully towards the difficulty. So if trauma or very challenging experiences is what brought you to mindfulness and it does not seem to be helpful, which is fairly common, it is best to seek out the support of a professional therapist specializing in trauma resiliency or a trained mindfulness teacher with extensive trauma resiliency training. 
     
    There are lots of reasons why being more present for our actual experience helps free us from the suffering that often accompanies life’s inevitable difficulties and challenges.  I offer just a few of them here:

    Our hearts and minds want to be happy and unburdened. Think of a young child in a playground. They want to play and laugh and run around freely, and so do we. Luckily, our system is wired to allow and encourage this. But this wiring is often corroded through conditioning, in which case it sends signals too weak for us to perceive. We are also self-regulating beings when the proper conditions are present. So one way to look at our role in working with difficulty is that we are setting the conditions that will encourage our minds and hearts to self-regulate into a place of OK-ness, or even of happiness. And the only place we can do this is in the present moment, right where we are, using tools that allow us to meet our experience in a new way. 
     
    All of our emotions and most of our physical sensations are extremely fluid and ever changing. We think they are fixed because we look at them for just a second and the mind tells us it's always like that. The reason we only look or feel for a second is because the experience is unpleasant and we turn away quickly to avoid or reduce the unpleasantness in the moment. But when we learn to be still, and to look more closely for more than a second, we see that there is movement within each experience, and experiences shift, and they arise and pass and then arise anew. We learn to see that things are not always how we think they are. We learn that what is unpleasant for a second sometimes becomes more workable if we meet it with open-ness and curiosity. And this increased attention to the actual experience of what is difficult leads to a weakening or even a complete falling away of the difficulty itself. Perhaps like the way attending to a crying baby with kind attention is sometimes all they need to settle down and feel OK. And paying attention can only happen in the moment, where we are right now. 
     
    We generally do not control our inner experience, but we can learn to control how we relate to our experience. As we practice being present, we see that thoughts and feelings and sensations come on their own, without us doing anything. This may be discouraging at first, but with continued practice we also learn that we can change how we relate to our experience, and that this in turn actually diminishes the suffering and difficulty that arises when things we don't like happen, including thoughts and feelings we don't like. So by learning to see and relate to our experiences in new ways, we alter the impact of our experiences on our sense of well-being, and we may experience more joy, happiness or OK-ness. And the only way to see all this, and to practice relating to ourselves and our experience in a new and liberating way, is in the present moment, here, where we are right now. Even if we don't like it. 
     
    Practicing being in the present is definitely not easy at times, it takes time and patience, and sometimes it is wisest to proceed very slowly. So practice being where you are, even in your practice itself. An extremely beneficial condition for mindfulness practice to take root and grow is cultivating and feeling a base level of safety and ease. Many of the tools of practice help us establish this sense of safety. For example, breath meditation, practicing guided body scans and doing self-kindness and self-compassion practices are all ways we might encourage some safety and kindness in our practice. We are all unique, and so we can each try and play with these practices and find the ones that resonate best for us, that feel safest and most kind. And with some safety or kindness as a base, we can then slowly begin to lean a little more into the present moment, and to be more fully at point A and allow and trust what unfolds from there.


    Here is a link to lots of mindfulness practices you can explore.

    Link to Practices.

    Feel free to reach out with any questions about practice.

  • 4 Jan 2019 9:31 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Naomi Shihab Nye

    Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning
    my flight had been delayed for four hours, I heard an announcement:
    “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please
    come to the gate immediately.”

    Well--one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there. An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly. “Help," said the flight service person. “Talk to her. What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

    I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke to her haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just later, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”

    We called her son and I spoke with him in English. I told him I would
    stay with his mother till we got on the plane and would ride next to
    her--Southwest. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up about two hours.

    She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life, patting my knee, answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies--little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts--out of her bag--and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo--we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

    And then the airline broke out free beverages from huge coolers and two little girls from our flight ran around serving us all apple juice and they were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend-- by now we were holding hands--had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

    And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that gate--once the crying of confusion stopped--seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

    This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

  • 4 Jan 2019 9:30 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    By Tim Burnett

    Dear Friends,

    I'm happy to write this New Year's morning to wish you well and thank you for your interest in mindfulness. I deeply believe that this oddly simple and deeply profound practice and sensibility around how we meet our moments is critical. I deeply believe that taking up this practice of mindfulness to whatever level we each can is helping our society and our world. And I have a lot of faith that with our shared efforts this benefit will continue. It matters.

    Why our mindfulness matters

    Gandhi famously wrote:

    Your beliefs become your thoughts,
    Your thoughts become your words.
    Your words become your actions,
    Your actions become your habits,
    Your habits become your values,
    Your values become your destiny.

    What a wonderful reminder that unlike the assumption that thoughts are just a private thing and that form and matter are completely separate, the way we think and what we believe critically matter. The mind creates the world in deep and important ways. The world isn't all "out there" and beyond our influence: we are co-creating it with everyone else all the time starting with the way we think about it, the way we look at it, the way we talk about it.

    And it all starts with a meeting between mind and moment. Mind and moment. That meeting is profoundly important. Our practice helps us to show up for that meeting with awareness, with curiosity, with perhaps a little more kindness.

    It's easy to look at that "out there" world and be very discouraged. There were many problems in 2018 and the daily news is as much of a horror show as it's been in a very long time. This is true. And it's challenging.

    See the good, too

    And yet there are also billions of kind, caring people doing their best - doing our best - to make this world a better place. I strongly encourage you to review this article on overall trends in the environment, education, health care, and economic justice. You might be surprised that there's a lot of good news out there: Ways the World Improved in 2018

    I had the honor of presiding over a turning-of-the-year ceremony last night at our Zen Center here in Bellingham and as we practiced meditation before we began the ceremony I was thinking about time and our place in it. So many have come before us and so many are yet to come. We hold the space for a brief moment. May we all be even better stewards of these years we're here as we honor those who came before and prepare for those yet to come.

    And see below for a wonderful example from the poet Naomi Shihab Nye of how it can be. All is not lost.

    Happy New Year,
    Tim

  • 18 Dec 2018 9:28 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    This being human is like a guest house,
    Every morning a new arrival.   


    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out  for some new delight.

    The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
    meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

    Be grateful for whatever comes.
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond

  • 18 Dec 2018 9:28 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Michael Kelberer

    For many, the experience of the holiday season can be an intense mixture of the pleasant and unpleasant. Competing for our attention are the near constant jingle jangle of consumerism and the joy of gift-giving, the warmth and the complexity of family connection, the demands and the blessings of spiritual practices – it can be easy to feel disconnected and adrift. The practices of mindfulness and gratitude can reconnect us to what’s firm and real and enduring. They can bring us home.

    With Mindfulness

    With mindfulness, we can ground ourselves in our home in the moment. This moment. The only place where things are in fact real. And our present home is available anytime: two feet on the ground and a slow breath will bring us there. This is not to “escape from” the swirl of activity and emotions, but rather to not get carried too far away by them.

    With mindfulness, we can avoid making the unpleasant things worse. We remember that while the noise and the demands are real, we can choose to not add additional suffering with stories about them. In the wisdom of our own home, we can choose not to throw the second (and third) dart.

    With mindfulness, we can choose where to place our attention, we can return home to what nourishes us. Our breath. The friends and family members who support and love us. The things we are grateful for.

    With gratitude

    Gratitude helps us remember what's truly important to us and it turns out one of the most important things to humans is to connect. To connect with our best selves and to connect with others. Research has shown it helps with our mental health in ways similar to mindfulness but also helps us to relate to others with empathy, overcome our own past challenges and traumas, engage in self care more consistently, and even sleep better. An apt set of benefits for the holiday season!

    Here are two ways to practice gratitude. One is creating a gratitude list and then referring to it whenever you need a nourishment break from the overwhelm. A second involves cultivating an attitude of gratitude. A willingness to meet and greet whatever shows up in our lives knowing, as Rumi puts it, that “each has been sent as a gift from beyond.” (See Mindful Poetry, below)

    Gratitude advocate Br. David Steindl-Rast suggests that we can cultivate a deep attitude of gratefulness for everything in our lives. We've posted our favorite teaching of Br. David's put to music and images by the film maker Louie Schwartzberg HERE and Br. David's Gratefulness.org website is a cornucopia of resources. 

    The Greater Good Science Foundation has a wonderful section on gratitude science and practice, which they call a "key to well-being" and don't miss their wonderful lab of practices "Greater Good in Action"

    Have a mindful, grateful holiday season everyone!  

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