DAILY STRESS RELIEF

Looking for peace in your life and relief from the daily stress we all encounter? Try this short list of changes in your routine. It may not be comfortable at first but the more you do it the more comfortable it will become.

Add to your daily routine the following: If you miss a day or one of the steps don’t worry its OK, get back in stride the next day.

• Set aside 5-10 minutes each night before sleep to meditate, no digital devices and not TV. Let your mind unwind and be at peace before you fall asleep.
1) Sit comfortably, finding a stable position you can maintain for a while, either on the floor or in a chair. Close your eyes if you like or leave them open and gaze downward toward the floor.
2) Draw attention to the physical sensation of breathing, perhaps noticing the always-present rising and falling of your abdomen or chest, or perhaps the air moving in and out through your nose or mouth. With each breath, bring attention to these sensations. If you like, mentally note, “Breathing in… Breathing out.”
3) Many times, over, thoughts or feelings will distract you. You may feel distracted more often than not. That’s normal. There’s no need to block or eliminate thinking or anything else. Without giving yourself a hard time or expecting anything different, when you discover that your attention has wandered, notice whatever has distracted you and then come back to the breath.
4) Practice pausing before making any physical adjustments, such as moving your body or scratching an itch. With intention, shift at a moment you choose, allowing space between what you experience and what you choose to do.
5) You may find your mind wandering constantly, caught up in a whirlwind—that’s normal, too. Instead of wrestling with or engaging with those thoughts as much, practice observing, noting wherever your attention has been, and then returning to the physical sensation of breathing.
6) Let go of any sense of trying to make something happen. For these few minutes, create an opportunity to not plan or fix or whatever else is your habit. Exert enough effort to sustain this practice, but without causing yourself mental strain. Seek balance in this way; if you find yourself mostly daydreaming and off in fantasy, devote a little extra effort to maintaining your focus.
7) Breathing in and breathing out, return your attention to the breath each time it wanders elsewhere.
8) Continue to practice observing without needing to react. Just sit and pay attention as best as you are able. As hard as it is to maintain, that’s all that there is. Come back over and over again, without judgment or expectation.
9) When you’re ready, gently open your eyes. Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions. Pausing for a moment, decide how you’d like to continue on with your day.
• Avoid red and processed meats and sugar. Chew your food deliberately and completely before you swallow, take your time. Meals are to be enjoyed not hurried like a race. Eat as much fruit and vegetables as possible.
• Do 15-30 minutes of exercise each day, even if it’s just a walk.
• Chew gum it stimulates the frontal cortex in a calming way, without creating craving, and relaxes the body. Make sure it is sugar free.

You can expand the timeframe, as you get more comfortable with your routine. Make time for your mind and body to grow in a healthy way.

Imperfection of Sprituality

The one who is humble brings God’s presence close to earth to dwell among us. Yitro

Moses first instructs Betzalel to build the vessels of the Tabernacle, and then to build the Tabernacle itself. Betzalel, a much younger man, replies that it more makes sense to build the structure first. He continues in his contradiction of Moses, “Who makes furniture before they have a house in which to put it?”

In the ancient world, to disagree on a public matter with someone such as Moses was not done. The repercussions normally would be tragic. However, Moses admitted he had made a mistake and publicly bowed to Betzalel’s opinion.

It takes tremendous strength of character to be able to admit, especially in so public a forum, that you made a mistake. All too often, the burning desire of our egos to be the one who is right overtakes our desire for truth. It’s so easy to defend an opinion, only because it is ours, long beyond the time we know it to be incorrect.

It’s sad that one of the greatest phrases in the English language, “I was wrong,” is so rarely used. In admitting our imperfection; we gain a sense of personal integrity a hugely empowering and uplifting gratefulness. And far from undermining our credibility in the eyes of others, it actually helps establish it.

“I was wrong” is always a fantastic phrase to use (and nowhere more so, by the way, than in a marriage). In a certain way, it’s better for the relationship to be wrong than to be right. When you are right, you have proven a point and made someone else feel less than. When, however, you accept that you are wrong, you have not only learned something new, but you also experience the uplifting trait of humility.

If we are arrogant, there is nor room for our Higher Power, or for spiritual renewal. If we are humble and accept the fact that we are not in control, we can build a tabernacle that is a place to have the Sunlight of The Spirit in our midst.

Life is far too short for us to try to prove that we are perfect. If we learn to be happy recognizing our imperfections, it will save us a great deal of energy battling our imperfections simply to defend our pride.

 If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?  Hillel – Pirke Avot 1:14

The Lost Art of Conversation

by Janice Marturano
Institute For Mindful Leadership

Last week we had an unusually warm winter day and I decided to go out and enjoy the lunch hour at a favorite local restaurant. As I walked toward the door, I was reminded of the power our senses have over our experiences. Smells of spices wafted through the air and made my stomach gurgle long before I crossed the threshold. I was ushered to a table by the head of the family that has owned the place for generations. It all felt welcoming and warm…until new guests arrived at the next table.

The new guests were a well-dressed mother and daughter, the child was about 9 years old, and clearly looked happy to be at the restaurant. As they sat down and were handed the menus, the girl started chatting about her choices for lunch while the parent immediately pulled out her phone and began to text. At some point, the girl stopped talking and reached in her backpack for her own phone. They never put them down again until the food arrived, and even then, would occasionally pick them up between bites.

This is not an unusual situation these days, but it left me feeling sad. The connection that could have been made that day was lost and the modeled behavior gave preference to texts over family. Texts do not substitute for human connection. Communication is multi-faceted, and mere letters on a screen do not convey warmth, sorrow, joy, the pure connection felt from a human being’s presence. The art of conversation is not a ‘nice to have’, it is critically important to our growth as human beings.

We learn to listen, we feel compassion, we learn that words can heal, and words can harm. When we converse, we do not get to hide behind a screen, we need to own our words…and their impact, for better or worse. As leaders, this should not be viewed as a “soft skill” but as a job requirement- how many times might we miss the opportunity to lead with inspiration, with compassion and with clarity because we are driven to distraction by our phones, laptops and the noise around us.

So, in the face of the habitual nature of technology, can we return to recognizing and practicing real conversation? Here are a few external and internal tips to increase your chances of having a conscious conversation.

1.      Turn off or put away all screens-you cannot have a conscious conversation with one eye on the phone or laptop. If the person is important, show them. Give them your full attention.

2.      Before you begin, check in on your intention for the conversation. Can you bring an intention to be open to whatever will unfold?

3.      It can also be important to bring kindness to the conversation. you can remind yourself that we are all in this together, that we all aspire to be happy and healthy. Remembering these truths can help you listen more deeply.

4.      When your mind wanders, bring it back. Your presence will be felt, and so will your absence.

Be patient with this practice. It takes time and commitment. But the opportunity to re-connect to those we love and those we work with is well worth the effort.

Self Compassion-Heal Yourself

by Kristin Meekhof* EDITED
After a loss in your life because of death, a breakup or even giving up your addiction there is pain. Your level, including anxiety, may actually increase as time passes because you are coming to terms with all that is broken. Unfortunately, a reboot isn’t available. The life you once had no longer exists. It is important to feel self compassion – heal yourself.
In understanding grief or loss, it is important to understand that healing doesn’t occur in one fell swoop. For some, there is much that waits to be healed. In addition, it is not unusual to feel anxiety, fear, doubt, anger and frustration. When working with these feelings associated with loss, practicing self compassion can assuage some of the emotional pain. For the purpose of this piece, I am defining self compassion as this: the act of practicing loving kindness both in words and actions with the intent to heal one’s pain.
Five Ways To Practice Self Compassion After Loss:
1. Journal Writing: This technique allows you to become transparent with yourself and show your deepest fears. It is difficult to heal that which you hide from yourself. Keeping a journal allows you to write the unspeakable. When you look over your journal entries, see the words you use to describe yourself. Take notice if you are overly critical with yourself.
2. Soften The Critical Inner Voice: Speaking to yourself with a harsh and cruel tone shapes the way you think and feel. Your grief can be overwhelming at times, so be gentle with your words. You don’t heal any faster with negative thinking.
3. Forgive Yourself: Mistakes both big and small happen. Beating yourself up isn’t going to change the past or help you cope better. And if you can’t forgive yourself for everything, then try with a small piece and forgive yourself for this.
4. Make Modifications: After a loss, you are not 100 percent. Instead of trying to do everything as you did before, go ahead and make small changes to your daily tasks and schedule. For example, you may still go to a work event, but instead of being the last one to leave you decide to leave early. It is okay to make other adjustments as well. You may not have the energy to clean your entire home at once, so you decide to break it down into small tasks and do it over a period.
5. Reach out: Grief is not a D.I.Y (do-it-yourself) situation. This means that you may need to swallow your pride and ask for help with plumbing, childcare. While you might think others should be at your doorstep volunteering to pitch in, this may not happen. Asking for help can save you a great deal of extra stress and frustration. You may also need to seek professional mental health treatment to help you cope with your bereavement.
Remember that practicing self compassion isn’t natural post loss. Unfortunately, there is not a set time frame for recovery. Your life sustained a severe complex fracture. Give yourself permission to be sympathetic to your own pain. Give yourself grace.

Mindful Meditation

This practice of Mindful Meditation is a breathing meditation. We focus on breathing not because there’s anything special about it but because that physical sensation of breathing is always there. Throughout the practice, you may find yourself caught up in thoughts, emotions, and sounds—wherever your mind goes, simply come back again to the next breath. If you’re distracted the entire time and come back just once, that’s perfect.

1) Sit comfortably, finding a stable place you can support for a while, either on the floor or in a chair. Close your eyes if you like, or leave them open and gaze down toward the floor.

2) Draw attention to the physical sensation of breathing, perhaps noticing the always-present rising and falling of your abdomen or chest, or perhaps the air moving in and out through your nose or mouth. With each breath, bring attention to these sensations. If you like, mentally note, “Breathing in… Breathing out”, or any mantra that suits you.

3) Many times over, you’ll get distracted by thoughts or feelings. You may feel distracted more often than not. That’s normal. There’s no need to block or end thinking or anything else. Without giving yourself a hard time or expecting anything different, when you discover that your attention has wandered, notice whatever has distracted you and then come back to the breath.

4) Practice pausing before making any physical adjustments, such as moving your body or scratching an itch. With intention, shift at a moment you choose, allowing space between what you experience and what you choose to do.

5) You may find your mind wandering constantly, caught up in a whirlwind—that’s normal, too. Instead of wrestling with or engaging with those thoughts as much, practice observing, noting wherever your attention has been, and then returning to the physical sensation of breathing.

6) Let go of any sense of trying to make something happen. For these few minutes, create an opportunity to not plan or fix or whatever else is your habit. Exert enough effort to sustain this practice, but without causing yourself mental strain. Seek balance in this way; if you find yourself mostly daydreaming and off in fantasy, devote a little extra effort to maintaining your focus.

7) Breathing in and breathing out, return your attention to the breath each time it wanders elsewhere.

8) Continue to practice observing without needing to react. Just sit and pay attention as best you are able. As hard as it is to keep up, that’s all that there is to it. Come back over and over, without judgement or expectation.

9) When you’re ready, gently open your eyes. Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels now. Notice your thoughts and emotions. Pausing for a moment, decide how you’d like to continue on with your day.

Meditation – Mind, Body, Health And Mindfulness

By Dr. Scott Alpert
Clinical Director at The Clearing Residential Treatment Center

Do you categorize meditation as one of those tasks you really should get around to, but never actually do? Do you see it as something that only “ultra-spiritual” people pursue? If so, you’re not alone.Mindfulness meditation is a western, non-sectarian, research-based form of meditation derived from a 2500-year-old Buddhist practice called Vipassana or Insight Meditation. It is a form of meditation designed to develop the skill of paying attention to our inner and outer experiences with acceptance, patience, and compassion.
Many people have heard about the tremendous mind,body, health and wellness benefits of meditation, but they don’t take the plunge and practice. Why? Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation.
For some, it’s simply difficult to slow down. Our hurry-up culture trains us to be more and more “productive,” and thus, some feel that things like rest and meditation are wasting time.
Additionally, many people give up before realizing the benefits of meditation, which build with time and practice. For others, the silence requires getting deep with their thoughts and feelings… and that can feel threatening.
When you give yourself the opportunity to meditate, internal struggles can give way to a profound peace. However, when you first slow down and tune in to yourself, you may experience a lot of chaotic chatter. That’s completely normal; so don’t let it deter you.
With time and practice, you can learn to calm your mind and emotions. In fact, getting into the rhythm of your breathing can bring you back to Source. If you return to meditation and silence often enough, you will learn some profound truths about your own life. Mindfulness
In meditation, you often come face-to-face with yourself, and what happens next is telling. Do you like yourself? Do you know who you really are? Do you have a sense of purpose?
Are you able to simply be and appreciate the life you were given? Do your thoughts wander to projects left undone? Are you focused on the past or future? As thoughts emerge, you receive valuable information about yourself.
If you haven’t worked through your day-to-day issues, partially processed thoughts will bubble up from your subconscious. This is an invitation to clear up your own “unfinished business” and free your mind from clutter.
You may have difficulty making the decision to “do nothing” and meditate in the first place. Cultural conditioning tells you that hard work is the only way to succeed, and as such, you resist the idea of sitting still.
Even devoting 15 minutes or 5 minutes to start} a day to meditation may seem overwhelming for you.
If it helps, you can reframe meditation as a personal development challenge.Mindfulness meditation is a western, non-sectarian, research-based form of meditation derived from a 2500-year-old Buddhist practice called Vipassana or Insight Meditation. It is a form of meditation designed to develop the skill of paying attention to our inner and outer experiences with acceptance, patience, and compassion
Silence is a powerful healing tool. When you meditate, material from your past will present itself and give you an opportunity to heal.
Whether the thoughts are based on regrets, people who have harmed you, or people whom you’ve harmed, working through the turmoil take commitment.
Fortunately, in the silence we are safe. Mindfulness

There is no past and no future; it is simply a slice of the present. The past is history, the future a mystery, but now is the gift and that is why it is called ‘the present.’

Try This: Mindfulness 
• For the next few minutes, take an opportunity to sit in silence and focus on everything that brings you joy.
• To start, turn off any electronics, sit in a comfortable seat, and simply focus on your breath.
• Once you have calmed yourself, bring to mind people, experiences, or things that make you happy one by one. You might think about a child, a pet, a flower, or hiking in the woods.
• Surround yourself with feelings of joy and allow them to build within.
• If you continually face turmoil while sitting in the silence, free-form writing can help. Free-form writing is simply putting pen to paper and writing whatever comes to mind.
• When you do this, stay with the flow. Don’t judge what is coming out. Just write whatever you want and purge it out.
• When you’re done, shred and / or burn what you’ve written.
• Do not re-read or evaluate your words.
• Instead, appreciate the way that writing helps you to release that which is just beneath the level of your conscious awareness.
• In silence, time seems to slow down.

With no distractions, you can hear your breath, your heartbeat, and even guidance. When you allow yourself to slow down, you connect with who you are; you return home.
If you have a hectic schedule and juggle the demands of work and family, silence can be a key to sanity and a balm for relationships. After all, how you are with yourself is how you are with others too!
You are at peace, your body is healthier, and you find happiness. And as you share that energy with others, you give them permission to do the same. Mindfulness