Living in the present moment

Dear Fellow Journalers,

What does living in the present moment really mean? Remember when you were in school and the teacher was calling the roll and you had to answer “I’m here?” Is that the same as being ‘in the moment’? Nope, not really.

Everyday and in every way we are present in our life but maybe our minds aren’t really with us. For example, it’s Sunday and you’re in Church and your pastor is speaking and you try to listen but that grocery list of things to do/buy/go  is rattling around in your head and you drift off. Are you present in Church?

Our minds have been programmed to think we always have to have something to do or somewhere to go even if we had planned to relax. We always have to be in control. Some of us, feel that we have to control others too. Have you ever just stopped and let go? You have to give up the unwillingness to let go of control and everything else that you’re hanging on to be in the present moment.

WOW! If you’re like most of us, giving up the idea of control is scary. You think to yourself ‘if I lose control of the situation what will happen?’ Maybe the outcome will be better than what you’ve been working on for so long. In any case, giving up of the actual control and the illusion of control can be life-affirming. Once you start experiencing freedom the world begins to change in front of you. Everyday is a new canvas. Everyday is a new journey.

There are thousands of relaxing techniques. I discussed some of them in my Mindfulness posts.  Here is a quick guided meditation to help you practice living in the present moment:

Sit in a chair that supports your back.

Put both feet on the floor.

Relax you face and neck.

Let your arms rest comfortably in your lap.

Feel your breath going in and out of your body.

Focus on the silence.

Do this for 5 minutes. ( I use a silent timer to do this.)

Now whatever comes into your mind, brush it aside to deal with it later.

Do this for 5 minutes.

Bring your mind back to stillness and open your eyes.

 

Give yourself some time and then, if you wish, write about your experience of your moment in your journal.

‘Til next time,

~Sallie

 

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The mystery of mindfulness

Dear Fellow Journalers,

Mindfulness has been described as paying attention, non-judgmentally, moment to moment. We observe our perceptions rather than react to them. Sounds radical, doesn’t it? Sir Francis Bacon said:

“We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in one hand, and melting like a snowflake.”

The practice of mindfulness has been around for a long time. Western thought focus on mindfulness came into being in the 19th century. Then along came Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970’s and when he founded the Center for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Massachusetts, people began to realize that the “theory” wasn’t as far-fetched as “they” thought. Mindfulness is now being taught in corporations, hospitals, schools, organizations and churches.

Can all this actually be done? Yes! It sounds radical (oops, said that already!) but stop and think for a moment – what if you could “see” your experiences with clarity that is untouched by judgement? If you could do that you’d be better able to make decisions based on what actually is, rather than what your fantasy might be.

I just came in from clearing out my car in preparation for its annual weatherization maintenance  at our local repair shop. While picking up stray napkins and directions for restaurants’/shops I had a fleeting thought that I should put directions in an envelope for my glove compartment. But before I started to stress out about what color envelope it should be (to stand out in the compartment), I stopped myself. I could only do one thing at a time. Getting an envelope was step 3 or 4 not now. THAT action, my fellow Journalers, is practicing mindfulness. I was actually in the car not at my desk searching for a colored envelope!

Last week I wrote about stress and all the things we react to in our lives that rob us of our joy. We are multi-tasking ourselves to death. We react to events and emotions. We react to fear and regret. I am sure your parents/teachers/mentors all told you that you couldn’t change your past and you had limited abilities to change your future. Why stress about it?

“Listen to your longing, you are your heart.”  Jon Kabat Zinn

The basic elements of mindfulness are our bodies, our breaths and our minds. In mindfulness they work together to keep us from living life on “auto pilot” to living in the moment. Next time you start stressing about something,  notice if your jaw is tensing, your hands are clenching or if your heart is racing.

Your breath, which we never think about, is essential to life itself. If we become aware of it we will realize that the breath is a bridge to our thoughts and emotions.

People think that mediation (a form of mindfulness) means clearing our minds of thought. But if we practice mindfulness we notice our thoughts and emotions – we don’t get caught up in them. (An action, that always leads to stress!)

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll share my experiences of mindfulness meditation, the various types of meditation, how to enhance your journal and some resources.

“Til next time,

~Sallie

Mindfulness journaling

Dear Fellow Journalers,

In the past, I have tried to write posts a month or so in advance so that if needed  to I could edit and share. This month, due to the nature of the topic, I am writing “in real time”. I went on my annual retreat this past weekend, and our theme this year is focusing on simplicity.

It really hits home with a lot of people. We are all stressed. Stressed about the political arena, things going on in our state’s, our communities, our homes. More and more people have forgotten how to communicate face to face. The internet has taken over our lives. While the search abilities are wonderful, we get stressed when we can’t e-mail or Facebook chat because we are driving! Or working! Or walking!  We have to schedule our computer time, and that makes us stressed! More and more people complain about how they have lost their focus. They want their lives to be happier, less stressful, more impactful. But even thinking about this is stressful.

The answer, I have come to believe, is to become more attuned to our bodies and our minds. Mindfulness is the current “fad”, although it is a practice of living that has been around for a long time. This month, we will delve into what mindfulness is and isn’t, what the different types of mindfulness are, how to incorporate our journals, what books are of value and if you want, your comments about trying to live a less stressful life – your hints etc.

So, put on your seat belt! We are off on an adventure!

~Sallie

Do you talk to yourself?

Dear Fellow Journalers,

Do you talk to yourself and do your thoughts control you? Think before you answer!

We have an average of about 6000(!) thoughts a day, most of which we habitually repeat to ourselves. Some of these thoughts we have learned from our parents and teachers. As a side note, is writing in your journal another version of talking to yourself? ( I think that thought is the basis for another post!)

Anyway, have you ever stepped back and examined your “inner thoughts”? We have the ability to choose how we think about ourselves and how we respond to events around us. Our thoughts automatically trigger emotions.

Emotions have been defined as chemical molecules that act as a command center for our body, more specifically our brain. They organize and shape our beliefs, thoughts and behaviors.  “Feel Good” emotions of joy, happiness, confidence tell you that your inner drives are being met and conversely, the “Feel Bad” emotions of anger, shame, guilt cause stress and in some cases criminal activities.

So, how do we develop awareness of our emotions? Several years ago, on that annual retreat I have told you about, I learned about a technique called mindfulness. Before you scoff, just try some of this advice. I don’t pretend to be a scholar in this arena just someone who is trying to figure out the world and my place in it.

  1. Select a trigger situation to work on. Now in the beginning, you may be tempted to tackle them all and be done with it. I urge caution with this approach. In order to become more aware of what drives us to do the things we do and how we feel about them, takes time and energy. Once you have sorted though the situations (work, family, relationship) imagine yourself in a safe place. Remind yourself that you are not your emotions. During this step, you become an observer of your emotions.

  2. Identify and feel your emotions. Ask yourself how do I feel? Become aware of your body – are you tense or getting a headache??

  3. Accept your feelings. Sometimes saying a phrase, like a mantra, such as “I am ok.” helps.

  4. Identify what you are telling yourself and what is triggering your sensations. Remember, your thoughts don’t control you. You control your thoughts. Now, sometimes these thoughts are painful and we want to turn them off and forget them. They have a way of coming back when we least expect them. One of the Retreat Directors, suggested that you imagine that you are in  a car and the toxic emotions are in your rear view mirror. You are safe in your car and driving forward into a new life.

  5. Once you feel safe and secure and sort though your thoughts, you may find that your assumptions (and trigger situations) were muddled. You misinterpreted the sign posts or got caught in a pot hole but the good news is that the road ahead is full of new possibilities.

  6. As writers, we have a distinct advantage over some people. We write in journals and sort through things. I will admit to re-reading old journals, to see if I ever felt the same way before and how I dealt with the emotion and fall out. What I have found is that as I get older, some of those thoughts and consequent actions are not as earth-shattering as they once were. (They have been replaced!) I sense the tune from an old tv show “Twightlight Show.” Anyway, if you want to pursue this adventure, put mindfulness in your browser and get ready for a ride!

~Sallie

Are you happy?

 

 

Are you happy?

Are you happy?

 

Dear Fellow Journalers,

The Pursuit of Happiness this month focuses on Happiness Habits. Please write the following questions/statements on a piece of paper or your journal, think about your answers, and then write them down. The multiple choice answers are the same for questions 1-3, 5-9. The multiple choices are:

Never    once/twice a day    once/twice month     once/twice week,  once a day

  1. How often do you share your feelings with friends or relatives?
  2. How often do you do kind things for others?
  3. How often do you (at least 20 minutes) participate in physical exercise?
  4. I know what my strengths and virtues are and I use them creatively to improve the quality of my life. ( The choice answers are:
  • I don’t know what my strengths and virtues are.
  • I know what they are, but I don’t know use them.
  • I sometimes use them.
  • I use them often
  1. I find a deep sense of fulfilment by using my strengths and skills for a purpose greater than myself.

  2. I engage in activities (sports, writing) that I find challenging.

  3. I have feelings of gratitude towards persons and events from my past.

  4. I am able to focus on the present moment and not get distracted by thoughts of the past or future.

  5. I am optimistic about the future.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

How did your “Quiz” go? Do you feel more optimistic about your life? Are you a happy person?

There are 6 habits of happy people which may help you become happier. They are:

Express your heart. People who have one or more close friendships tend to be happier. I have 2 close friends who literally would “give me the blouse off their back”. They bolster me and lift me up. We’ve solved the world’s problems over lunch!

Relationships

Relationships

Cultivate KindnessCaring for someone else lifts you out of depression. Charitable acts such as visiting the sick, collecting food items or just donating time lifts you and someone else to a higher level.  

Caring

Caring

Exercise RegularlyWorking out or playing sports not only improves your mood but your mental health as well. Taking a walk around your yard or working in your garden counts also.  

Exercising

Exercising

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flow.   When you are writing in your journal or creating your next masterpiece have you ever been so focused that time got away from you? That’s what flow is. You loose self-consciousness when you are totally immersed in an activity that is challenging and uses your skills and talents.

Flow

Flow

Strengths and Virtues.  Using your strengths and virtues for the greater good helps you utilize those skills better!

Positive MindfulnessThe glass is 1/2 full. Winston Churchill is quoted as saying “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimistic sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” If you have ever read or heard his speeches during the Second World War this underlying theme “plays” out in them.  

1/2full glass

1/2full glass

Be happy!

~Sallie

 

 

 

 

 

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