Sit with us 

Mindfulness can have an active and powerful role for investing in all aspects of your health. It is an opportunity to strengthen and heal yourself from within. It is important to remember when performing a mindfulness exercise to not force relaxation. Simply let go of the tendency to want things to be different and allow things to be exactly ‘as is.’

 

Mindfulness can be done anywhere and at any time. Its simplistic approach to being aware is done by just paying attention to thoughts, feelings and emotions without judgement or criticism. You can enact a formal practice of mindfulness by sitting with your eyes closed and having a solid 10 minutes or more of training your mind to continue to pay attention to your breath while turning your attention away from any sensations or ideas that arise. For others, a mindfulness practice can be a more casual experience by remembering throughout the day to not react to emotions, but instead pause before jumping to a response.

 

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Regardless of how you choose to practice mindfulness, the benefits are endless. All you need to remember is that all thoughts and emotions, feelings and ideas should not be pushed away or told to leave. We have the ability to tolerate all challenging emotions, even if in the moment they feel intolerable. The way we handle difficult feelings with a mindfulness perspective is to tell all of our sensations to have a seat, to be present and then gently turn your attention away from them and towards the focus of your breath. Without being mindful, we get in the habit of telling our difficult thoughts and feelings “you can’t sit with us.” The move Mean Girls coined this phrase for a generation of teenagers who felt the need to be included through the use of exclusion. It is human nature to push things away. It is almost a natural response to tell something that we don’t like or that we don’t understand to leave.

 

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When we tell our emotions and ideas that they can’t sit with us because they are challenging, we end up developing an unhealthy relationship to our thoughts and feelings in which we focus on exclusion and develop a system wherein we become reactionary and aggressive with ourselves. In mindfulness we invite all emotions to have a seat, without judgement or criticism. This is what is called “the art of allowing.” To allow is to not grasp and to not control. To allow means we accept what is and we in turn have more time and energy to focus on the things that are in our immediate control.

 

There’s an app for connecting kids during lunchtime for the purpose of inclusion. This resource allows children to have someone to sit with and in turn feel less alone and more connected to their peers. “Sit With Us” allows the more shy and sometimes rejected child, who usually has a hard time finding someone to sit with in the lunchroom, to have a place to be welcomed. The app is a readily available resource that facilitates the joining of children that seek an experience of being included.

 

This “Sit With Us” invitation is a cornerstone concept of mindfulness that provides us with a framework to observe and allow the challenging mental and emotional chaos that inevitably exists in all of our heads. The more we tell a thought it can’t sit with us or that it needs to be cleared away before we can be “OK,” we ultimately lead our feelings into more chaotic direction. Don’t engage with the things that you do not want further engagement with. If we accept that all emotions are part of the human experience, we fight less with ourselves, we become more resilient and we discover a deepening of our character.

 

All challenging ideas and emotions can have a seat at the table by a simple invitation of non-judgment that is then followed up with the act of turning your attention towards those things that promote wellness and trains our brains to entertain thoughts and feelings that feel good. This “Sit With Us” focus sets the stage for more compassion with ourselves and those around us.

Not feeling capable or courageous enough to hold space for the emotions of another is because we lack understanding for what they are experiencing and the same goes for when we are unable to be present with our own ideas and sensations. In direct measure, when we meet ourselves with curiosity and acceptance, our ability to allow and contain others is enhanced. Proportionately, opening our hearts to ourselves correlates to how well we are able to open our own hearts to the experiences of those around us.

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This “we are all one” perspective provides us an initial step into cultivating ways to meet challenging moments with more resilience. Enacting empathy, using gentleness, and practicing compassion is how we become more present and more aware. Being aware provides us with a template for seeing the world with more balance. As we practice being present we view the world with less reactionary impulses and acceptance.

 

The process by which we are able to encounter the world with more resiliency is to cultivate a present mind. When we are in a state of awareness we:

  • listen with more depth
  • see life with less reactivity
  • we view our existence with more spaciousness
  • see symptoms with clarity and patience
  • enact character deepening behaviors
  • stabilize our attention on things that are under our control

 

Finding moments throughout the day to use a focus of awareness is similar to what it feels like when you pause and reflect on the moment to moment details without a need to respond to them. Most of the time we forget how to sit and observe without needing to fill our time with more stimulus. Contemplative practices infuse our senses with a clearer perspective of what is happening around us.

 

Make an effort to establish a habit that slows down the process of life, such as driving without music on, taking extra time to notice tastes and smells of the food you ingest. Make it a priority each day to pause before reaching for your phone or for the remote. And try to really listen with acuteness when a friend or an acquaintance speaks. All of these things is a way to cultivate more mindfulness. The more you practice it the easier it gets. It is an overwhelmingly beneficial practice that infuses life with alertness and more enjoyment for everyday tasks. And more than anything it allows us to turn our attention away from the things we can’t control to shifting our awareness to the priorities that require our full attention.

The many compartments we continuously seek to balance in life are not always balanceable.

 

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Balancing lifes many compartments is a constant struggle, it takes patience and it takes resilience and sometimes it is simply impossible. Everyone becomes challenged with the quandary of balancing various components of life in one way or another.

 

The word “balance” implies the physical containment of various objects that were previously in motion and are properly placed in relation to each other. If we stick with that physical analogy, much like a pile of boxes that are on top of one another that appear stabilized, our mental/emotional/spiritual balance takes much exertion. Not only does balance take time and effort, but it also takes an awareness of the reality of the objects you are trying to coordinate.

 

When we tell ourselves that we can balance every detail of our life, we are lying. The truth is, some compartments can’t be contained easily. Some shifts in schedule, relationships and emotions can’t be balanced. It is important to realize that life doesn’t need to be organized in a way that looks finished. The process of balancing all that sits before us is in essence “enough.” Being present to what exists is sometimes the only way to really find balance.

 

As we acknowledge that most of life is about tolerating the unbalance, we learn to let go of an expectation that doesn’t serve us. Be aware of what components in your life need balancing and then upon taking stock of those items, let yourself be the balance you are seeking.

 

 

 

I often ask my clients the question: “whose job is it to validate you?” Without fail, the answer I always receive is “me.” And it is resoundingly true, it is no one else’s job to validate you but you. Only I can validate who I am, where I’m going and where I’m at.

 

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We often judge ourselves based on the social norms we see around us. We compensate for our weakness by seeking to emulate desirable traits we see around us. Seeking validation is normal, it’s part of being human, however; sometimes we place too much value on the validation of others. By seeking validation we do ourselves more damage than good because we deny ourselves the process of starting from a place of authenticity. Instead, when we desire the validation of others we open ourselves to judgement and criticism that is not valid and that does not promote a healthy sense of self, nor a healthy sense of who others really are.

 

When we see ourselves as worthy, we can then see the worthy parts of others. When we choose to judge ourselves and speak critically of ourselves, we fall into a pattern of being critical of others. The relationship with have with ourselves parallels the types of relationships we are capable of having with others. We create connection with others based on the type of connection we have with ourselves.

 

The world is made up of a series of choices, all of which can be assessed by various levels of introspection. The way we look at ourselves and the way we are critical with ourselves or not, determines the outcome of these unending series of decisions. We show up for ourselves in varying ways, and when we show up for ourselves with the purpose of being “normal” and/or acceptable in the eyes of others, we do ourselves a disservice. When we operate from a place of authenticity, we see the fullness of the human experience and develop a deeper capacity to be intimately connected with those around us.

A very simple concept that most people have heard before is this, “you are not your emotions.” It’s a basic tenet of emotional regulation; you are not your sadness you are simply experiencing your sadness, you are not your anxiety you are only witnessing the anxiety occur. We are observers not victims to our thoughts and feelings.

 

Experience is impermanent, thoughts come and go and they are impermanent. Look at all the sadness and the bliss and the boredom and the frustration. It eventually will all go away. The nature of experience is that all feelings show up and then they eventually fade away. Whatever comes into your life you have already allowed otherwise it wouldn’t be there.

 

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The ability to take note of the distance that exists between you and your emotions is the key to experiencing a peaceful of mind. If we make it a priority to pay attention to our relationship with our thoughts and feelings we can begin to rehearse on a daily basis how to pause in challenging moments. When we highlight for ourselves that we are not all of the emotions happening to us, that we do not embody and represent depression and anger, we can then begin to distance ourselves from uncomfortable moments that might otherwise consume us.

 

Jeff Foster uses a metaphor to explain how to conceptualize our relationship with our thoughts. He invites everyone to picture themselves as the ocean with depth and layers, saying that our consciousness is like the ocean and our thoughts, sensations and emotions are the waves of the ocean. Even the most intense human feelings: anger, frustrations and confusions can be tolerated. These waves of emotions can appear in the ocean that you are and not define you. The waves are not against you, they are not your enemy, they are not imperfections but they are movements of yourself, they belong in you. So, if who you are is consciousness then thoughts and feelings are also movements of consciousness.

 

The ocean accepts all of its waves. The fact that a certain wave is present is proof that you can already contain it and tolerate it. Try to view sensations as waves constantly coming and going, disappearing and appearing all on their own. Notice thoughts appearing, memories, wants, pictures, sensation in this moment and stop to take a look at the distance that exists in the ocean that we are.

 

 

A previous client of mine, who I haven’t seen in several years, recently knocked on my office door. It took me awhile to recognize who he was but his voice saying “hi Wyatt” is what triggered my memory of him. In hopes that I had a free moment he said he showed up to simply say “hi.” I was indeed free and motioned for him to take a seat. Due to confidentiality and ethical standards that I uphold as a therapist, I cannot share too many details about this client’s identity. The one factor that I will mention about him is that he has several years of being on this planet and the only noteworthy thing about him is his constant soundbite on replay saying, “I’ve never ever been happy.”

 

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When I first met this client (let’s call him Eddie) I was taken back by how sad his life story was. Eddie had no family to speak of, no friends and an underwhelming career. He recited a long list of “unlucky” events that happened to him throughout his life. His health problems were always minor yet he seemed plagued by constant psychosomatic stress involving constant ruminating thoughts telling him he’s not good enough, insomnia and daily lethargy which I suspected to be symptoms of his low-grade yet gnawing depression. This client was never suicidal but had ongoing thoughts that if his life ended he and the world would be better off.

 

Back when Eddie was my client, I could only see him for a limited amount of session due to his insurance restrictions. During those sessions I sat and listened to him with infrequent interjections on my part, mostly because anything I tried to suggest, point out and/or propose was dismissed with his certainty that he doesn’t deserve to be happy even if he tried. For hours  we would sit together in sessions and he complained and then he left. I was never more frustrated as a therapist than I was with him. Was he a good person? Yes. Was he enjoyable despite his self-deprecation and uncompromising negativity? Somewhat. Was I slightly disappointed that we had to end therapy? Maybe only slightly.

 

So recently when he walked into my office and sat down I was astounded by his appearance. Something had changed. I asked him how he was and he began recounting how the past six months he had been battling cancer. He spoke of radiation and multiple drugs he had to take, medical appointments, surgeries and an unending amount of physical pain. All the while, as he told me these miserable details, he was smiling. His face was bright, his countenance inviting and the sparkle in his eyes was overwhelming. I sat in awe as he discussed (what to some people would categorize as the worst experience they’ve ever had to go through) the most life changing and inspiring moment of hope and change.

 

This man, so frail looking and weak, now sat across from me showing a thirst for life that I never imagined possible for him. He attributed it to “having a second chance.” This man believed he was going to die of cancer and yet he was thriving, not in health per say but in emotional resilience. This previously negative, dismissive and bitter man had a new-found vision of how important life is. He looked at me with light in his eyes commenting, “when the doctor told me I beat cancer I had never felt such a rush of happiness in my whole life.”

 

See everyday as a second chance. See every moment as a gift. Love yourself enough to give yourself permission to be happy.

 

The world can be seen though many angles. We wake upon the “wrong side of the bed” and perceive the world as a dark rain cloud and in a matter of moments we drink some coffee and then find ourselves feeling more optimistic about what the day will be like.

 

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The striking thing about life that always surprises me is the constant resurgence of being reminded again and again about the value of connecting. There’s a fuel and a driving force that fulfills us more than any experience, and that is an encounter that connects us with someone else.Connection can be a new way to view the world. Connection with others has the possibility of showing us pieces of ourselves that we otherwise might not have found by  isolating.

 

Connection, the present energy with which we connect, the way we look for connection, the way we honor connection and the reasons we connect are questions that should be pondered constantly. We are provided with daily reminders of how important it is to connect with others. What is the quality of connection that you strive for? How can your connection with others be deepened? The quality of your connections with others will show you volumes about yourself and your place in the world.

 

The moment we decide to change our perspective from an internal and selfish view of the world to a playground where the possibility of goodness, of satisfaction and of fulfillment can take place, we then see ourselves as part of a solution.

 

The foundation of your actions dictates future choices and experiences. Knowing your foundation is essential to making healthy choices. The world is so vast in its opinions about what is correct and what is acceptable. The truth is that the only healthy choice is the choice that is authentic to you. No one can tell you how to be or what to do. You alone have to come to a sense of certainty about who you are and what path is correct.

 

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The question: “who are you?” is a deepening question that at first sounds too ominous and too simple to even try and explain. The core of who you are, the essence of what you are has nothing to do with gender, with race, with culture or sexuality.  The answer to the question “who are you?” is a lifelong endeavor that needs to be addressed time and time again before forge an authentic path. No none else can give you the blueprint for how to get there. Only you can do the legwork. Unless you make it your purpose, you’ll be living someone else’s sense of reality. Learning to listen to the core of who you are is the only way to live your truth.

 

Pay attention to what if feels like to make choices that support your authentic-self. What does it feel like to make a healthy choice and to follow through with fighting to make sure those choices take priority? That feeling of empowerment, of knowing you are worth fighting for, that your happiness is worth more than someone else’s opinion of you, is invaluable. Listen to that voice. Do everything you can to constantly practice how to recreate a feeling of self-worth in everything you do.

 

Knowing your value and then operating with a feeling of empowerment is first rooted in the idea that your perception of yourself is worth more than anyone else’s opinion of you. When you can get down to the foundation of what drives you, what inspires you and what provides you with joy; then you have a better picture of where you need to go and what you need to do to get there.

 

Being rooted in self-worth is the only way to make healthy and authentic choices. Distinguishing the difference between the voice of empowerment from a voice of self-doubt helps to avoid  falling back into feelings of discord. Listen to the differing voice and see where they guides your actions.

 

Make a decision to enact choices from a place of empowerment, from a place of knowing your value. The behaviors that are sourced from feeling “good enough” and “whole” are the product of being centered in a place of worth; connected to the essence of who you are.

We’ve all done it, sometimes a lot. Searching the web, being online, going from screen to screen. The world wide web is a necessary component of the current time and place we live in. Our lives revolve around the experience of taking-in and sharing information online.

The trouble with this experience is how much we actually need to be looking at screens vs how much we do not need to be online looking at our co-workers daughter’s Quinceañera. We can easily get submerged in the experience of drifting from screen to screen. Like a bee, we buzz from flower to flower only instead of pollinating; we avoid the present life of convivial human-to-human interaction. We miss out on walks outside, time on the phone with friends, even reading. How many times have you thought “I want to read a book. I want to be immersed in a novel and feel the weight of a book in my hand.” And then you look online for that perfect book that will hold your interest and there it goes; your attention is sucked dry into a vortex of screens. The novel you were searching for turned into a Facebook stalking of your ex-boyfriend’s ex which then leads you to researching the vacation your ex-boyfriend’s ex was recently on and the next thing you know you’re watching that YouTube video (again) of that girl who made an dating profile video referencing her love for cats. And then it’s time to go to bed because you have to wake up and do it all over again – because after all, the day isn’t officially started unless you check your Instagram before you have your first cup of coffee.

I’m here to tell you: THERE’S A BETTER WAY! You know what it feels like to waste time going down rabbit holes of endless screens. Capture that feeling. Let that sensation simmer and the next time it happens you’ll have a plan. What’s the plan? I’m glad you asked. The plan is this: decide now what your throw-cold-water-on-the-face moment will be. Like when in movies that one character who will not wake up from a sleep no matter what you do, so the other people in the movie throw water on that person’s face and instantly the person is up and ready to go. That’s you. You are both the person who throws the water and the person who gets all wet in the process. What is your plan when that screen time is your “can’t wake up” moment?

Let me give you some suggestions:

  • Pick up that book you’re going to buy on your way home from work tonight
  • Make a list of foods you want to try making in the next coming weeks
  • Get your running shoes on and go for a walk even if it’s just around the block.
  • Call your mom
  • Cut your toe nails

And that’s what is going to happen next time you are lost in the sea of broken screen dreams. You’re going to have a plan. And part of that plan is making the connection that life is better when you are living it. There’s a time and place for online rabbit holes, but don’t let the rabbit holes take you away from being productive and living the life you want to live.