My daughter and I often joke about people (usually men) telling women to “smile more.” We make sarcastic jabs about this slimy suggestion camouflaged as sage advice. It’s our way of trying to laugh off the subtle sexism – of trying to feel tough. I’m not feeling so tough today.

What do we tell our young adult daughters?

Here’s something that my mindfulness practice has taught me: When you most feel like curling up in the fetal position, don’t. The bully wants you isolated, the bully wants you feeling helpless. You are not.  Do the opposite of curling of up, and defending.  Reach out with compassion.  It cuts the fear in half.

This morning I reached out to my dear sister-in-law, someone whose spiritual practice and way of being in the world I deeply admire.

“Anne,” I said, “My poor children…. A pussy-grabber for president.”

You see, there I go again, trying to look smart and unafraid by being sarcastic. Not what you’re average Buddha would do. But I’m just a householder, trying to stay calm, doing the exact wrong thing, and forgetting about mindfulness.

Anne’s response, “Not for long if we can do anything about it. Elizabeth Warren, Michelle Obama.”

“I’ve been thinking about Warren a lot this morning,” I replied.  Anne cut my fear in half.

Inhale, take a longer exhale, repeat a few times.

There’s a subtle, positive internal shift that I must pay attention to “Go to Elizabeth Warren’s website,” I tell myself, “and focus on the grace and compassion of the Obamas, particularly Michelle, on this day.”

Now I know what I can say to my daughter, and it’s something constructive, compassionate if maybe a little vulnerable.  I can tell her to look to the compassionate people with pull (that would make a great website dear twenty-somethings!)  They’re still out there.

The snarky teenager inside me may still show up over the next few weeks.  There will be some eye rolling and some fake smiles – I guess it’s the girl version of locker room talk. But the snarky one needs some guidance from the older, wiser one.

Inhale, longer exhale, repeat a few times.  Take compassionate action.  

Don’t model locker room talk, model compassionate action. Now….what is Elizabeth Warren up to today? What are Michelle’s plans for 2017?

Donna Torney is a mind-body psychotherapist based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the founder of mindfulhub.com, and author of the upcoming book, Center Points for Emerging Adults:  Finding balance, belonging, focus, and meaning in the digital age.  Contact Donna

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness, even today.

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Asian Lady Writing Notebook Diary Concept

Plan.  Come back to now.  Plan.  Come back to now.

focus on something pleasant.  One small, likable thing,

Before you once again plan, and again come back to now.

Why bother coming back to now?  Now, full of imperfection, distraction, uncertainty, worry?

Because now is the only place to heal.  The only place.

Plan, remember, come back to now.

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We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

Having trouble with the here and now?  Try Mindfulness Daily with Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield.
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Unknown-1Let things be unfinished.  Stop folding the laundry and go to bed.  Leave the dishes and take a walk with a friend.

One of the central tenets of the Japanese art of Wabi Sabi is that nothing is ever finished.    Think about this idea for a second or two….Isn’t that freeing?  It is a great act of kindness toward yourself, and to those you care about, to take a break to be mindful.  Leave it unfinished – walk away and return refreshed.

Try this:  This week leave something half-done.  Take school work, for instance.   Yes, you read that right.  It’s only school work.   Trust me – I work as a psychotherapist in Harvard Square where stress and burn-out are an epidemic.   It’s just homework.  Take a break.  Leave the homework undone for now.  Rest.  Move your body.  Laugh.  The irony is that you will get more done if you take a self-care break and let things be unfinished.  This post is now finished….. or is it?

Yoga flow of the day:  Moon salutation.  Salute the harvest moon and stretch your body in several directions with this version of Chandra Namasakar:

 

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

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Gentle Fall Transition: Day Eight – Change your mind

by Donna Torney on September 14, 2016 · 0 comments

imagesYou have the right to change your mind.

Summer is about to end.  Schedules are filling up.  Did you over-commit yourself?  Did you sign up for a class you don’t like?  Join a committee that is cutting into family time?  Say yes to a second date you aren’t sure about?  You have the right to change your mind.  You don’t even have to explain yourself.  But if you feel like you do, here are some tips:

Try this:

1.  Resist the urge to belittle yourself by saying something like, “I’m sorry but I’m just not good at _____ (fill in the blank).”

2.  Instead, with respect and firm resolve say something like, “I’ve realized I won’t have the time to continue with_____ (fill in the blank).”

3.  If you are getting a negative response, a guilt trip, or peer pressure, take a mindful breath or two, and repeat your response with kind resolve.

If backing out completely is not an option, is there a way you can cut back on your commitment and still feel good about staying involved?

Make sure you are not backing out of something you really want to do because you are afraid you might fail.  If this is the case, talk to someone who has experience in your new endeavor to get some ideas of how to calm your nerves.  It’s normal and human to be nervous when you try something new.

Changing your mind takes a certain amount of assertiveness.  True assertiveness is a stress management skill that shows respect for you as well as others involved in the situation.

Do you have a good story about how your mindfulness practice helped you make a difficult decision?  Please share.

Still having trouble changing your mind?  Contact us.

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!
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imagesA friend of mine says she makes a habit of surrounding herself with good people.  By “good” she means people who support her,  bring out the best in her, and wish her well, people who in turn appreciate and respect her opinions and friendship.    It seems like a simple idea but when she told me this I was struck by how many times in life I didn’t adopt the same habit.

We could learn a lot from the seasons if we just take the time to be observant.  Each autumn, the trees and other flora and fauna shed what is no longer needed in service of rest, renewal, and to make room for what is to come.

Try this:  Surround yourself with good people

  1. As part of your gentle fall transition, take stalk of the people with whom you spend your time and energy.
  2. Remember  that just like seasons, relationships go through phases.
  3. Is there a relationship you are in that could benefit from a rest?  Perhaps one that requires pruning all together?
  4. Keep compassion in mind as you take stock.  In most cases, there is no need for big pronouncements or hard and fast separation.  (If so, see mindfulness for a broken heart).
  5. Create clarity around what it is you need from your friends and your community.  A daily mindfulness practice can help build this clarity.

Take a look at Mindfulness Daily for more practices that help with clarity and self-compassion.

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!
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Young woman tourist sit pier looking sunset on the islandNew seasons, new schedules, and too many details can very easily take us out of the here and now and into the unknown “there and someday.”  You know you are there if you are overusing these sentence stems:   “What if I can’t… What if we don’t…. and then what… how will we afford, what if she…????”…   and on and on the monkey mind goes.

Dwelling too much on the future, trying to nail down every detail, is a surefire recipe for stress.  We need to plan, we need to forecast, we need to choose from a number of options, but we don’t have to have it all nailed down today.

Try this – Focus on the middle distance.  We know that mindfulness, present moment awareness combined with self-compassion, is the best option for or nervous system.  If you have been in planning mode too much lately, gently pull yourself back for few moments.  You’ll come back refreshed and better able to make the next big decision.  This exercise works best if you are outside or near a window where you can see at least 50 to 100 yards in front of you, even better if you can see the horizon.

  1.  Close your eyes – 3 cleansing breaths.
  2.  Drop all planning or remembering, knowing that the choices will still be there when you are through with this practice.
  3.  Open your eyes.
  4. Gaze gently in front of you and slowly lift your eyes to the middle distance or the horizon.
  5. Take in what is right in front of you.  It sometimes  helps to label what you see, noticing details.
  6. Keep lengthening  your gaze, keep thoughts on what you can see, gently naming, and reminding yourself that you can take a break from decision-making.

Just as we can adjust the length of our gaze, so too can we adjust the scope of our planning.  We can plan to be friendly just for today, loving just for today, compassionate just for today, joyful just for today.   When the future feels overwhelming, give yourself a break and enjoy the middle distance.

Yoga pose of the day – Eye Palming:  Check out this great set of yoga poses for tired eyes.

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We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

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Active-Brain-Activity2 There’s no way around it.  It’s difficult to be in the present moment if you don’t pay attention to your physical needs – including movement.  You and your child need not be a part of an organized team to enjoy moving your body.

Studies show that physical exercise increases cognitive functioning, including improving memory and attention – and not necessarily the kind of exercise we get by playing a team sport, which may only be available to a certain kind of child.  Worried about your child’s P.E. program?  Take a look at the BOKS program sponsored by Reebok, and the Spark Research-Based PE Program to learn more about getting more physical education in your child’s school.

Try this mindful movement routine with your family:

  • Take advantage of school year weekends to get outside and move.
  • Create family rules around screen time during daylight hours.
  • Model physical exercise without any serious goals – in other words, have fun.  Show your child that you don’t have to be on a varsity sports team to move your body.  Climb a hill, sit on a swing, crawl through a tunnel.
  • Remember that if you take your kids to a park for an hour,  your brain activity will improve too!  Take a look at this image of the brain before and after a twenty-minute walk:

Follow this link for tips to get your middle-schooler moving, stretching and making mindfulness part of everyday life:  Middle school mindfulness

You don’t have to be a teenager to get fidgety.  Shaking out your nervous energy is one of the best ways to calm an anxious mind – and it’s fun.  We may have forgotten that simple fact.  It may take some practice for you to remember fun movement.  But it’s well worth it, for your mental well-being as well as your muscle well-being.

Looking for more instruction to increase the occurrence of pleasant moments in your day? Join Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield in Mindfulness Daily.

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We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

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While you go about your Saturday chores, try scheduling in pleasant events.  We don’t think twice about putting the upcoming dentist appointment or routine car repair in our calendar, but we often leave pleasant events up to chance.

Try this:  Today, go through your calendar and schedule in a pleasant event every day through the end of the year.  If this seems overwhelming, start with scheduling short pleasant events for the upcoming week.  These should be everyday events, not special occasions, and ideally will be quick and easy to implement, like a walk around the block, an ice cream sundae, or doodling in a journal.  Make it playful, light, and easy to accomplish.

Click here to learn more about the benefits of keeping a record of pleasant events.

Yoga pose of the day – shoulder openers to reduce stress:  muscle tension, especially in the upper body sends a signal to the brain that danger is present.  If you notice that your shoulders habitually sneak up by your ears try one or more of these poses presented by Lexi Yoga to help reverse the tension:

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

Looking for more instruction to increase the occurrence of pleasant moments in your day? Join Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield in Mindfulness Daily.

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It goes like this, you miss your family all day while you’re at work, a long day, that includes an hour commute.  You come home, hungry, and wanting to get into something more comfy.  You enter, and one boy is watching video games, and another is grumpy about homework.  Hubby is trying his best but he’s a teacher and it’s a new school year.  The counters are sticky, there is evidence of junk food consumption, there is laundry to do.  Suddenly you are being short with the ones you missed all day.  You’re not happy with your attitude yet it seems to be in control.  The word/phrase you may be quietly reciting to yourself:  Impatient, discouraged, weary, stupid, and your favorite: “what is wrong with you?”

Let’s change this up a bit, shall we?

Try this:  It’s a fact that our thoughts affect our stress level, mood, and even behavior.  Try steering your mood in a better direction today by repeating a two-work mantra.   How do you want to go about your day?  Choose two words, just for today.  Here are some ideas:

Gentle, relaxed

calm, clear

content, strong

peaceful, loving

kind, friendlyimages

happy, generous

easeful, grateful
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Slow, focused

Now that you have the idea, come up with your own two-word mantra.  Let us know what two words work for you.

Yoga Pose of the day – Half-Sun salutation.  The goal of the Half-sun salutation is to gently warm stiff joints.  Practice in the morning as you repeat your two-word mantra, and two other times during the day.

images-1Standing, start with your hands in prayer at your heart.  Inhale, lift arms overhead, stretch through the ribs,  reaching for the sky, slightly bend knees as you bend at the waist, lowering head to feet.  Hang loosely as in rag doll.  Keep knees bent as you roll the spine up to standing, bringing the hands overhead, then ending as you began, in prayer pose.

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day

And now, a poem that Tara Brach shares in Mindfulness Daily by Wu Men Hu-k’ai:

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn

cool breeze in spring, snow in winter

If your mind isn’t clouded with unnecessary things

This is the best season of your life.

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