Butte Glenn Medical Society

Good Vibes

The weekly Good Vibes e-newsletter from Dr. Dannielle Harwood, Chief Wellness Officer, is brought to you in a blog format! Enjoy these positive and uplifting messages in blog entries to get you into good spirits. If you would like to sign up for the e-newsletter, please contact Lisa Le, Project Coordinator, at lle@bgmsonline.org.

Monday, August 9, 2022

The Art of Listening

Today I am writing from a beautiful seat outside in the warm humid air of Maryland. I am overlooking a lovely little body of water. The air here literally buzzes with the sound of cicadas and other insects. The amount of green foliage is almost overwhelming for these eyes used to such a dry brown August! As I have spent my time this week connecting and reconnecting with family and friends. I have had time to reflect on the questions we ask each other, the way questions are presented and the answers elicited. When we truly want to know more about a person or a topic we need to practice the art of generous listening. The following excerpt from a blog references not only Krista Tippett, who has written a book called “Becoming Wise” but also a favorite author Rachel Naomi Remen.

Listening is an everyday act, and perhaps art, that many of us neglect."
Listening is more than being quiet while the other person speaks until you can say what you have to say.

Tippett introduces us to generous listening, language she picked up from a conversation with Rachel Naomi Remen, who uses it to describe what doctors should practice. Tippett explains:
Generous listening is powered by curiosity, a virtue we can invite and nurture in ourselves to render it instinctive. It involves a kind of vulnerability— a willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity. The listener wants to understand the humanity behind the words of the other, and patiently summons one’s own best self and one’s own best words and questions.

Of the many reasons we would want to engage and renew our listening skills, asking better questions is near the top.
[W]e trade mostly in answers— competing answers— and in questions that corner, incite, or entertain. In journalism we have a love affair with the “tough” question, which is often an assumption masked as an inquiry and looking for a fight. … My only measure of the strength of a question now is in the honesty and eloquence it elicits.

Questions are the means by which we explore ourselves, each other, and the world.
If I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned this: a question is a powerful thing, a mighty use of words. Questions elicit answers in their likeness. Answers mirror the questions they rise, or fall, to meet. So while a simple question can be precisely what’s needed to drive to the heart of the matter, it’s hard to meet a simplistic question with anything but a simplistic answer. It’s hard to transcend a combative question. But it’s hard to resist a generous question. We all have it in us to formulate questions that invite honesty, dignity, and revelation. There is something redemptive and life-giving about asking a better question.”

So all of this has me thinking about asking better questions but mostly about listening better, with an open curious mind to the people I encounter daily! What thoughts and ideas does this bring up for you? Is there an area of your life or a person in you life where you need to let go of assumptions and listen with curiosity? Maybe that person is even yourself?

Monday, August 1, 2022

Dear Ones!
Lets talk today about choices, decisions, opportunities, and roads not taken.
“What’s an opportunity or pursuit that you passed on earlier in life, but if the opportunity came again, you would reconsider?”
This is in no way to mean that you made the wrong choice at that earlier point in life. You probably made the very best decision given the knowledge available to you at the time. You might have regrets but probably not. Nonetheless, life has many unforeseen twists and turns as well as anticipated seasons and changes. Is there an opportunity or passion that you still think about? Something that has been relegated to the back burner or the hobby drawer? If that opportunity came into your life again would you make a different choice? This can be a great way to consider your current situation at work, in relationships, finances, your location/home or retirement plans.

What is working in your life right now? What gets you fired up with joy and moving in the morning? How is your sense of purpose? Where are you creating meaning?
If you are struggling with these questions it may be time for a reset. If you are burned out then these questions may seem completely overwhelming. This is can be a signal that you need rest and an opportunity to reexamine your current life trajectory and your priorities. Is the life you are living healthy for you physically, mentally, and emotionally? Are you making choices that support your happiness, fulfillment and longevity?
Maybe it's time for a new path or to start a new chapter. What opportunities should be revisited? Would it take going a whole new direction or perhaps just a little detour? Sometimes we can continue toward the same goals but use an alternate route.
Choices, decisions, opportunities and roads not taken...
I know I have shared this poem, by Mary Oliver, before but it often returns to me like a guiding light so I will share it again. The Journey
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice— though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. "Mend my life!" each voice cried. But you didn't stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible. It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones. But little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do— determined to save the only life you could save.

Monday, July 25, 2022
Dear Ones!

One of my favorite things about living in California, especially Chico is all of the wonderful local fresh fruit in the summer months. Although I am a big fan of berries and melons my absolute favorites are the stone fruits! You can find me most weekends at one of our local Farmers Markets selecting peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums. In addition to their beautiful colors of deep reds, blushing oranges and golden glows, they taste like sunshine made edible! Nature's candies! Today I am sharing one of my family's summertime favorites, a recipe for peach crisp. I highly recommend that you enjoy it with a creamy vanilla ice cream, even if you are eating it for breakfast!



Peach Crisp

Filling

  • 5 cups peeled and thinly sliced peaches about 5-6 medium peaches.
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Topping

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
Instructions
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease an 8 or 9-inch baking dish (circle or square). Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine peaches flour, sugar, salt, vanilla. Toss gently to combine, then pour into prepared baking dish, spreading the peaches evenly. Set aside.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together brown sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together. Add the butter and stir with a wooden spoon to break up the butter until the mixture is crumbly. (A fork or pastry cutter will work, too.) Sprinkle the oat topping evenly over the peaches.
  • Bake uncovered for 40-45 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the juices are bubbly around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
Monday, July 18, 2022
Dear Ones,
I follow a writer by the name of Yung Pueblo and honestly I would love to share almost everything of his that I read. It is so good!
I found this bit on happiness to be especially poignant over the last few weeks. I hope it speaks to you as well!
"Happiness is often confused with perfection; it is seen as a smoothness in external events where everything that you like and love about life remains precisely abundant. The problem with perfection is that it is mythical, it is an imaginary pathway that, with enough time, will lead back to sorrow. Being attached to perfection is not only a refusal to accept the ups and downs of reality, but also a manifestation of the craving to control. Life is not a straight and unbreakable line, it is choppy, unpredictable, and is more similar to waves and the movement of tides. And much of it is out of our control. Giving external events a high degree of importance over how you feel inside will lead you far away from happiness.

Happiness is also confused with the sensation of pleasure. Whenever we come in contact with something agreeable, a subtle pleasant sensation will move through the body and we react to it with craving. The problem with pleasure is that it quickly becomes an endless chase, where we keep trying to place ourselves in situations that give us the feelings we are attached to. The unpopular truth is that the unbalanced pursuit of pleasure is a pathway that leads to dissatisfaction and sorrow. Pleasure is so fleeting that it is not reliable enough to have it be the center of our lives.

Solely seeking pleasure or perfection does not make for a fulfilling existence, it actually creates the conditions for superficial interactions, and it functions as a barrier that can stop you from getting to know every part of yourself. If your attachment to pleasure is very high, then you will have a hard time sitting with the hurt/traumatized parts of yourself. Being attached to perfection or pleasure can limit your ability to be vulnerable with yourself and other people, because you'd rather be immersed in something that is pleasant. Anything pleasant is incredibly temporary, which will leave you with an unquenchable thirst for more.

Healing yourself is an opening to true happiness. Letting go of the mental burdens that you carry from the past will help your mind become clearer and more aligned with the natural flow of life. Often the hurt that weighs you down functions as a wall that stops you from fully engaging with the present moment. Unprocessed hurt also limits the flow of compassion because too much of our energy is focused on surviving one day at a time – this directly hinders the ability to deepen interpersonal connections. The happiness that is derived from being able to exist peacefully in the present moment is a quality that needs to be intentionally developed. Happiness does not just happen, you need to tend to your inner garden, remove the weeds and plant the right seeds.

Happiness is a product of equanimity, meaning mental balance and the ability to be calmly objective. From this space of clarity and composure, the real essence of happiness can develop, which is inner peace. A type of peace that is not controlled or defined by external events, one that can move with the waves of life without getting overwhelmed or tossed around. Happiness can multiply and enhance the finer mental qualities that make life beautiful, like being able to love yourself and other people or being able to see more perspectives than just your own. At its core, happiness is accepting reality and appreciating the miracle of the moment without getting lost in craving for more.
Monday, July 11, 2022

Dear Ones,
Deep breath in...hold.....now let your breath slowly out. Take a moment's pause. This year is already at the half way point, flying by with little regard for health, plans, travel or connection. Its up to you to create the moments.

Let July be July by Morgan Harper Nichols

Even here, you are growing. When August is approaching and you feel a little restless thinking about how this month might end and how this year might end and how you are supposed to start again, you are growing, you are growing, in grace courage strength.

And it is okay if it does not feel like it. It is okay if there are moments where you cannot see the way you have grown, because far beneath the surface the seeds have still been sown. The ground beneath your feet is still a bed for new beginnings.

So much is changing around you but you are changing, too.

You are so much more than the brokenness that you were certain would define you.

It has not been easy for you. You have worked so hard to be the positive one. You have given your best in areas of your life where the effort was not returned. And this has made it so hard for you to keep going, and there have been days where you were not sure if it was even possible. But after everything, here you are, just a little stronger, holding on a little longer, and you still found room for hope.

So take heart breathe deep you are still becoming who you were meant to be.

Let July be July. Let August be August. And let yourself

just be even in the uncertainty. You don’t have to fix everything. You don’t have solve everything. And you can still find peace and grow in the wild of changing things.

Monday, July 4, 2022
Dear Ones!

Want to share a little patriotic knowledge with family and friends this Fourth of July? Read on for holiday fun facts:

  • During the Revolutionary War, Congress was forced to move and convene in different cities. Our country’s forgotten capitals include Baltimore, Princeton, N.J., Annapolis, Md., and Lancaster, Penn. (for just one day!).
  • The first Independence Day was celebrated in 1777. However, it was not declared an official federal holiday until 1870 (along with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day).
  • There have been 27 different versions of the U.S. flag. The current design has been in use since 1960.

No matter how you choose to celebrate, I hope you enjoy the holiday.

Monday, June 27, 2022
Dear Ones!

Fresh back from a wonderful vacation and carrying both souvenirs and COVID, I have had a few unexpected extra days at home. There is nothing quite like combining jet-lag and illness to keep one feeling not only malaise and annoyance but a certain degree of disorientation as well. If it were not for the love and care of my family and friends this past week would have been very difficult indeed.

That leads to this great article from Julie Beck about what it takes to sustain friendships over the years. She states that in her many years of studying friendships and interviewing friends that 6 concepts have stood out for her as what it takes to create and maintain relationships over time. Those 6 forces, as she calls them, are accumulation, attention, intention, ritual, imagination and grace. Reading this article helped me take another look at some of my friendships, the strong ones and those that have faltered along the way and see the opportunities to improvement, repair or just plain gain!

Please enjoy!

The Six Forces That Fuel Friendship

Monday, June 20, 2022

Dear Ones!
I am back with more investment advice! Forget about investing in Merck or Aetna and stick with the type of healthcare stock where you can actually make a reliable impact, your own health! The best part is that the gains are very predictable. Furthermore, much of this type of investment is not only free but can provide considerable financial savings down the road. Over 50% of bankruptcies in the USA come from health care costs. This alone should be enough to motivate most of us. Even those who do not end up needing to file bankruptcy may be adversely financially affected by the monetary costs or because of missing work.

What are some of these FREE ways to invest in your health, mental and physical?

1. Exercise. Honestly, this is probably the number one thing you can do for longevity, disease prevention, stress management and mental health. It will also energize you and improve your sex life! Who doesn't want that?

2. Sleep. I know what you are thinking...if you could sleep better, you would! But, are you really following the sleep hygiene techniques we all talk with our patients about? Turning off electronics an hour or more prior to bedtime? Using blackout curtains? Avoiding stimulants? If the answer is really yes then please go see a sleep specialist. Losing sleep equates to years off your life.

3. Spending time with those you love. Cannot say this enough, but connected, loving relationships improve your overall sense of well-being and lower stress hormones.

4. Sex. Sexual activity makes you healthier and happier! Some studies indicate that it lowers blood pressure, reduces risk of prostate cancer and decreases the sensation of pain. It can count towards your exercise quota as well!

5. Meditation. Another free but very effective way to improve your health! This can increase focus, decrease pain, lower cortisol levels and even improve emotional management skills.

6. Get outside. Sunlight and nature are great health helpers. Sunlight helps provide Vit D which an important immunity booster.

7. Gratitude. Not only does practicing gratitude regularly make you feel better, it is associated with lower cellular inflammation levels, better sleep, less fatigue and greater satisfaction with life!

So there we have it! Investment advice that is reliable and safe even when the market is tumultuous! Better yet, its all FREE and will add not only years to your life but happiness and satisfaction as well.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Dear Ones!

This week I'd like us to focus on this quote from an article by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about Health Work Burnout.


Causes of Burnout

Workplace systems cause burnout among health workers, not individuals. There are a range of societal, cultural, structural and organizational factors that contribute to burnout among health workers. Some examples include: excessive workloads, administrative burdens, limited say in scheduling, and lack of organizational support.

Workforce Shortages

Physician demand will continue to grow faster than supply, leading to a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians by 2033. The most alarming gaps are expected in primary care and rural communities. (Source: The Association of American Medical Colleges, 2020)

Differential Impacts on Health Workers

Burnout, resource shortages, and high risk for severe COVID-19 infections have unevenly impacted woman and health workers of color. This is due to pre-existing inequities around social determinants of health, exacerbated by the pandemic.

Health Worker Burnout Harms All of Us

If not addressed, the health worker burnout crisis will make it harder for patients to get care when they need it, cause health costs to rise, and hinder our ability to prepare for the next public health emergency, and worsen health disparities."

To read the rest of this article and delve deeper into these points, please visit https://www.hhs.gov/surgeongeneral/priorities/health-worker-burnout/index.html

Monday, June 6, 2022

Dear Ones!

If you are anything like me the state of the market and my retirement accounts has caused more than a few sighs, stresses and perhaps even an exclamation or two! I know there is a lot of advice out there from qualified financial planners who remind us that you can't time the market, keep putting your money in so that you are buying low, and then next week even lower, change your portfolio ratio etc.

Don't worry, I am not going to play at being a sage financial investor, however, I can tell you about a few very wise ways to invest no matter what the state of the markets! This is a great time to focus on investments that you have some control over like your health and your relationships!

The quality of relationships in your life is more highly correlated with your happiness than any amount of money! That is great news! Your happiness both now and in the future has nothing to do with the size of your retirement accounts. So what are some key (and free) ways to invest in your relationships?

1. Invest time. Create some openings in your schedule to spend time with people that are important to you. Make that lunch date with a friend that you never seem to get the chance to catch up with. Do a date night with your spouse. Plan a family outing like a picnic or a hike.

2. Check in with people more regularly. Text, voice mails and short phone calls go a long way toward relationship building and letting people know that they matter to you. It doesn't take much effort or energy to place that call while driving to work.

3. Work on your communication skills. I highly recommend the book "Crucial Conversations" by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler as well as the book "We Need to Talk" by Celeste Headlee.

4. Work on your listening skills. Arguably even more important than the speaking side of communication. Are you present and attentive? Are you listening to understand and empathize or actually thinking about your response while they are talking?

5. Be curious. Even if or maybe especially if you have known the person for a long time. We are all in a constant state of evolution and you may not know them as well as you think you do. Give your relationship a chance to grow with both of you.

6. Be open to new activities and people. You may deepen a relationship by taking it in a new direction. That cordial work colleague might make a great pickleball partner or you might find out that you enjoy baking as much as your cousin if you are open to making scones together.

7. Be intentional. Know why you investing in the relationship and why this person is important to you. That might seem obvious but slowing down and actually thinking about it and perhaps verbalizing it to yourself can be very helpful. "I want to know this person better because I admire their leadership skills" or "I want my daughter to feel like she is truly loved and supported by me" or "my friend was really there for me during a difficult time and I want to be sure they know that I am there for them".

Every single relationship investment is an investment in your future happiness! This is pure gold!

Next week we will spend time on the other essential investment...your health!

Until then...

Peace & Blessings!

Tuesday, May 31, 2022
Dear Ones!

Today's thoughts are all about perspective.

Some of the definitions from the Webster dictionary include 1) a mental view, 2) a visible scene, 3) the interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed, 4) the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.

So what is your perspective these days? Your perspective on your career, your family, your goals, your life? How is the view? Are you satisfied? Malcontent? Lost?

Probably just as important of a question is how are you arriving at your perspective? Where are you standing to get your view? Do you have a guide? A map? Or are you going at it alone?

How often to you pause to check in with yourself on your perspectives? Is your perspective working for you? Does your perspective bring you joy or unhappiness and fear?

Do you need to challenge or change your current perspective? If yes, then I highly recommend getting outside and into nature as one of the easiest and surest ways to gain a new point of view. Nature, in all of its glory reminds us of the vastness and the infinite smallness of the reality in which we live. Nature has the ability to wake us up and "still" us at the same time. So get outside! Pause and BE in the moment! Pay attention to the sensation of the sun on your skin, the rustle of the breezes, the dapple of sunlight on water (even if its just a puddle) and the horizon with all of its infinite potential. YOU are a part of all of this glory!

By Mirza Ragib

Just ten minutes,

Can the world stay silent for ten minutes?

So that I can gather my thoughts,

My feelings,

And myself,

In all this noise.

Okay, just five,

Just five minutes of bliss,

So that when I close my eyes I hear nothing,

And lose myself in this quiet-

One with universe as I was meant to be.

How about just one minute,

Just one minute for me to be alone with who I want to be,

And not have to listen to opinions that mean nothing,

Of people who feel nothing,

And love myself for everything I am,

And not everything I supposedly ought to be.

Okay, a second,

Just one second?

Just give me a tiny tick where I don't have to look at a watch

And worry about the passing time.

But, rather stay transfixed in the beauty of its stillness,

And in the vastness of it's entirety.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Dear Ones!
This week is another wonderful guest blog from Dr. Jeralyn Brossfield. I hope you enjoy her wisdom as much as I do!
Adaptation:
Often we use the word “balance” to describe the illusive horizon of a happy, healthy life. When our priorities are out of order, or we are feeling drained of energy, we think, “I need more balance,” or “My life is out of balance.” I propose that balance may not be what we are truly seeking. The word balance implies a static achievement of a perfect ratio of all the demands we juggle. The problem is, that as soon as we achieve balance, life throws another curve ball, and we are wobbling trying to again find balance.

In the body we talk about achieving homeostasis, or a state of balance. Many systems drive towards maintaining a very specific balance to support health. The concept of homeostasis implies remaining stable by staying the same. But in attaining not only health, but also peace of mind and management of stress there is another method our body employs to succeed.

The word “allostasis” means “stability through change.” Allostasis is a dynamic response where stability is maintained through constant adaptation. An easy analogy is the difference between a palm tree and a willow tree. When winds are strong a palm tree is more likely to be toppled, but a willow will bend and flow with the windstorm. Adaptation and resilience align closely with integrative wellness…in fact I often define wellness as the state of having the most responses available to adapt to challenges. By consistently prioritizing and expanding the resources we need to build health, we become more adaptable. Or, put another way, if we have many tools in our toolbox of how to respond to stressors, we are able to adjust and accommodate faster and more easily.

Where-ever we are at is exactly where we are capable of being. In other words, our current reality is exactly what we have been able to create in our lives. If we were capable of anything else, we would be experiencing a different reality. The only way to experience a different outcome is to be, or to become, a different person. This work of adaptation is the constant challenge of human life. Personal growth takes a commitment to getting out of our comfort zone and placing new structures or patterns in place.

The structures we set up in our lives will determine our results. If we wish to become stronger for instance, we must set up challenges that cause us to build strength – that could look like hiring a trainer, making a commitment to an exercise buddy, or enrolling in a class…Or if we want to eat less grain in our diet, we may need to buy a grain-free cook-book and make dinner from it for a period of time while we learn a new habit. Setting up a structure that supports your goal is the critical step of making your commitments a reality. Pause and take stick of where you are right now. Then evaluate what you want in the next moment, day, week or year. What structure could you build to increase your adaptability?
Monday, May 16, 2022

Dear Ones!
DETOX
Hold on and give me a minute of your time because I promise this is not about finding the right elixir to drink, new diet fad or perfect body wrap, This is the type of detox we could all use and it has nothing to do with your body but everything to do with your LIFE!



Ways to detox your life
1. Clean out your closet! Donate clothing you never or rarely wear.
2. Unsubscribe to all the services you pay for every month but no longer use.
3. Clean up that inbox! Unsubscribe to to as many emails as possible!
4. Clean out your fridge and your cupboards. Get rid of all expired products.
5. Clean up your computer/file cabinet. Get rid of old documents and files no longer needed.
6. Get rid of social media or at the very least unfollow anyone who has not created value for you in the past 30 days.
7. Organize your finances
8. Spend some time identifying the things in your life that are actually adding to it and what is detracting from either your happiness or your goals and make a plan to eliminate these from being a reoccurring part of your schedule.
Clutter in all forms is distracting! It can get in the way of us having the time or the energy to create what we really want.
What are the possibilities that a LIFE DETOX would create the space for?
Monday, May 9, 2022

Dear Ones!
Today I am sharing some words of clarity and wisdom for your contemplation from the writer Yung Pueblo.
"How we act is greatly impacted by the
subconscious patterns that control our
perception of reality
How we feel is deeply affected by our past emotional history -heavy emotions that do their best to recreate themselves in the present
What we see can only become objective and clear when we observe, accept, and let go of what was silently waiting deep within us
When we rise above the past and use our effort to respond to life intentionally, by having the perseverance to build wiser habits, we open the door wider to living in a new way"
May we all build wiser habits this week!
Peace & Blessings!
Monday, May 2, 2022

Dear Ones!
I had a recent phone call with a group of colleagues who regularly meet to support, challenge and grow with each other and the question was asked "What right now in your life is depleting you and what right now in your life is energizing you?" What a great question! We paused and reflected and then shared. Some of the responses regarding depletion were predictable; jobs, caretaking, paperwork, COVID, relationships. Then we pivoted to talk about how to build our energy reserves back up so that we could continue to work through these more draining activities or even find ways to take on new challenges. We spent awhile discussing extra sleep, baths, exercise, getting out into nature, spending time with friends, etc. For each person there were specific nuances that made if renewing for them as an individual. It really helped to bring into focus where my energy was going and how to refuel. I came away renewed and with a plan!

What is depleting for YOU right now? Identify it. Name it. Write it down.
Where does your energy come from? How can you re-energize? How can you make this a priority in your life? If your energy tank is full you can get through the more difficult tasks faster and easier! It can be hard to start but it will pay off! Focus on finding the time for what you need to fill yourself up. This is the secret to sustaining yourself through the challenging tasks and difficult times. It might seem selfish but it actually completely necessary and in the long term the only way to persevere.
Here, from the lovely and ever optimistic, Kate Bowler, is a blessing! May this blessing encourage you to reach for what you need!
A Blessing To Take What you Need
The feeder is empty again
and no one is claiming that the birds are greedy
for taking what they pleased.
Look at how the fat, pink flowers
are weighing the end of each branch,
sucking nutrients into each velvet petal.
How selfish.
Nature hungers, takes and needs.
God, why can’t I?
Blessed are we, learning to take what we need.
Sleeping past our alarms.
Reaching for another helping.
Staying a little longer when the evening is unwinding.
Blessed are we, ignoring the rising anxiety
that our needs are somehow silly
because we’ve survived this long
without the pleasures of this wanting.
God, let these needs be the good sign
of the greening of my life.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Greetings Dear Ones!
As promised we are going to explore meditation a little more... except that we're not! Although meditation is a fantastic way to let go of stress, tap into your inner self and be more present, meditation as a sit on the floor and close your eyes activity is not for everyone! Maybe it sounds so unappealing that you never tried or maybe you have tried and it has not felt very successful or doable for you. Are there other ways to reap many of the mental, emotional and physical benefits of meditation without the actual seated OM? The good news is YES! Honestly, almost any activity that requires a total focus or oneness of your mind can be a type of meditation. It all about filtering out the chatter and being still (on the inside) but also completely aware on a mental level. Sometimes it can be referred to as being "in the zone". However if you are only ever in the zone during stressful activities, the high adrenaline and cortisol levels will cause more damage to your body over time than the mental rewards.
Here are some alternative activities to slow down and clear the mind:
1. Walking. In walking meditation you pay attention to the physicality of your body and/or to the sensations around you. Pick a place to walk that is fairly flat and free of obstacles. There is not particular distant or goal in mind. The point is merely the activity itself. Start by anchoring your feet to the ground and noticing how you feel just standing present in the moment. Begin walking slowly and swinging the arms slightly in a relaxed fashion. What do you notice in your body? What do you notice in your surroundings? Here is a short video from Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh on Walking Meditation.
Thich Nhat Hanh - Walking Meditation
There is also the practice of walking a labyrinth. This is often consider a spiritual practice and can be found as part of many different faiths. Here is a link to a list of labyrinths all over the world.
World-Wide Labyrinth Locator - Welcome
There are other forms of physical movement that can also be used in a meditative or mindful manner including yoga, rowing, paddle boarding or even juggling! And don't forget about the famous "wax on, wax off" of Karate Kid fame. Find one that works for you!
2. Coloring/Drawing/Painting or any creative outlet done without self critique or judgement. It must be done for the sake of doing and not in order to create a specific item or with any particular goal in mind. The point is to focus on the colors, the patterns, the movements. Let your mind rest! The practice of coloring mandalas is often used for this.
3. Rhythmic music or movements. This is a favorite of mine! Sacred dances such as hula, ecstatic dance or other types. Again the point being to focus on the music, rhythm and the feeling of your own body moving.
Ecstatic DANCE! | 10 Minute Daily Routines
If dancing is just not your style try drumming!
4. Journaling or Morning Pages. Morning Pages is a method made popular by Julia Cameron in her book "The Artist's Way". Morning Pages is the practice of simply writing 3 pages every morning as soon as you get up. The writing is to be free flow of whatever comes to your mind without trying to filter or even have it be about a particular thing. It can be about anything and everything, the birds singing, your neck pain, crazy dreams or all of it. It does not need to makes any particular sense. It is the practice of writing that is the meditation. I write for 20-30 minutes instead of a set number of pages to avoid getting focused on if I have enough time or how large or small the pages of the particular notebook I am using at the time might be. I just set my timer and write! When it rings I am done!
5. Float Tank If you ever have the chance to try one of these out absolutely go for it! These are basically a dark chamber filled with warm salt water in which you float effortlessly for 30-60 minutes. This is a distinct sensory deprivation experience that can be profound for many.
6. Breathwork. Another favorite of mine! Probably because it give me something specific to do which always makes quieting my mind easier. There are actually many different methods of breathwork, each with different emphasis and a wide range of benefits. I really like the ease of Transformational breath. Here is an introduction video.
Nice, easy (maybe your first!) 100-breath Transformational Breath session with Nicole Rager
And there we have it! I hope that there is something on this list that can help you find a meditative space and sense of mindfulness in your day!

Monday, April 18, 2022
Meditation, meditation, meditation! I know you’ve heard this word at least a dozen times in the past five years. Maybe you have dismissed it as woo hoo. Maybe it sounds like a good idea for those other people who have problems. Or maybe you’re interested but just can’t see where you could find the time when you’re already struggling to find time for exercise, and some days, even a shower! Perhaps you’re one of those people who really, truly wants to meditate and has tried repeatedly but just finds that the technique does not really work for them. The good news is that today I have a little tidbit for you no matter which of these categories you fall into.
  1. It turns out that meditation and the mindfulness state that it is designed to create is definitely not woo hoo! At this point, there are plenty of scientific studies that detail the changes meditation causes in our brains. Aside from measurable changes in gray matter, it is also possible to measure the decrease in Beta waves. Beta waves are especially active when we are processing lots of information. During meditation, the processing activities of the reticular formation are decreased which helps to dial back our alert/arousal system. Scientists have also measured changes in brain wave activity in the prefrontal cortex, parietal lobe and thalamus. And similar to exercise the changes last for a period of time after the activity is completed.
  2. Even if you are a person who somehow does not struggle from overwhelm, stress, depression or anxiety a meditation practice can be very helpful. Meditation can give us better focus, increase activity levels and improve empathy. It can improve memory and productivity as well. Much like exercise, it seems to diminish age-related effects on our brain and slow down cognitive decline.
  3. Meditation can actually take a lot less time than you think especially as you get better at it. I would encourage you to start small if you are feeling intimidated or pressed for time. The hardest part of beginning a new practice is simply making it a habit. By starting with something very small even as few as 2 to 5 minutes a day we start to create a habit. Just reserving that time whether or not you felt that the meditation was “successful” or not, starts to build the daily habit. And you do not need to be sitting cross-legged on the floor staring at a lava lamp. I find that my car is a great place to meditate for 5 min prior to or at the end of my workday. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Set a timer, close your eyes, and just focus on the sensation of your breath. All kinds of thoughts may come into your mind. It’s OK to notice them. Then simply return your focus to the sensation of your breath. I find when my monkey brain is on overdrive that I do much better with a guided meditation. Personally, I love the short guided meditation options on the app Buddhify. I am also a huge fan of the app Headspace as well as the app Unplug.
  4. So you have tried meditation numerous times in various settings and none of it seems to work for you? How about some alternatives to achieving mindfulness and zen? There is actually any number of other activities that can get you there….. let's explore those next week!
In the meantime........
One-Moment Meditation: "How to Meditate in a Moment"
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