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When is Enough Enough?

 

Many of us are plagued by a common condition: we rarely appreciate who we are and what we have.  And so begins our endless pursuit of you-fill-in-the-blank, fueled by a nagging voice incessantly whining that we are not enough.  Sound familiar? You’re not alone, since humans have had this struggle for millennia.

How much was enough in the beginning?

In the story of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve didn’t seem to fully appreciate who they were or what they had – otherwise  they wouldn’t have grasped that which was forbidden.   The idea that they were not enough came from a source outside of themselves.  They believed what they were told, and their quest for enough cost the duo their prime real estate and easy life. [Read more…]

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Mindful Monday Tip #12: What’s so great about the small moments?

Suze ignores the value of small moments….

What might the woman in the cartoon be missing from life?  She may be like a lot us  – easily dismissing small moments that we take for granted.  How often do we drink a cup of coffee, spend a moment with child, pet our dog or cat, or talk to a loved one without being truly attentive to and present with the experience?  It seems so easy to go through everyday activities like a robot and ignore the  small moments. [Read more…]

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Mindful Monday Tip #11: From Monopoly to a Mindful Check-in

Remember the game of Monopoly?  We all started from the same location, with the same amount of money, and a unique game piece.  As play progressed, we found ourselves in different positions on the game board, having different amounts of money in our personal bank accounts, each holding different investment properties.  With each turn, it was import to to know where we were starting from in terms of investment properties, play money, and position on the board.  That kind of play involves focused attention and intentional moves.  It’s how we took care of ourselves in the game world.

Now let’s leave Memory Lane to think about how we take care of ourselves in daily life.  While we may rock at personal hygiene and wardrobe attire, schedule manicures, pedicures, and a day at the spa, a quick observation suggests that many of us lack a daily awareness of where we are physically, emotionally, and mentally.  Dr. Elisha Goldstein describes this kind of awareness as an act of self-care and I believe its is very important.  Imagine what life is like without this kind of physical-emotional-mental awareness.  We may react in anger to a loved one when the real problem is our own physical pain.  We may make mistakes at home, work, or school when we are mentally distracted.  We may become overwhelmed by an uncomfortable emotion.  Without a daily awareness of our mental, physical, and emotional states, we can find it difficult to approach life with focused attention and intentional responses.  Today’s tip helps us to tune in to where we are mentally, physically, and emotionally.  That’s like identifying this moment’s personal starting point.

Mindful Monday Tip #11: The Mindful Check-in from Dr. Elisha Goldstein

  • Take 2 minutes to view the following video
  • Follow the instructions to find out where you are physically, emotionally and mentally.
  • Commit to a daily form of this self-care.

How might your life change when you begin to practice a mindful check-in?

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The Great Perfection Hoax: A Horse’s Exposé

For certain purposes and for limited times, horses wear blinders to reduce the distraction of what is behind and beside them.  Some trainers use blinders keep horses from getting spooked on busy streets or distracted by crowds at a race.  By limiting their field of vision, blinders enable horses to focus on the task at hand.  If worn all the time, however, blinders would get in a horse’s way. He may not spot the cool stream to his left or the tasty mound of hay to his right.  He could run through a wide meadow unable to quench his thirst or satisfy his hunger.

So, what do horses, blinders, and perfection have in common?

Searching for perfection is like wearing blinders: it limits our field of vision.  We become unaware of change and opportunity outside a narrow focus of expectation.  Sure, perfection has its allure – otherwise we wouldn’t be enticed by perpetual media adds tempting us with the perfect car, a way to get flawless skin, or  exercise equipment promising 6-pack abs in a flash.  The problem is that perfectionism defines success in very narrow terms, and like blinders on a horse, it excludes a wide range of possibilities that we may actually find appealing.   Think about how expecting perfection in people can mess up relationships.  Evidence of imperfection in a loved one may blind us to his good points, while imperfection in ourselves motivates us to dismiss our own strength, beauty, and value.

Just as horses don’t always wear blinders, perhaps its time for us to remove the blinders of perfection.  What will happen if we do?

A teenager may discover a gorgeous smile amid acne.  A septuagenarian may recognize sparkly eyes in sea of wrinkles.  A man may appreciate his 10 year old ride.  A wife may discover kindness in her husband.  A woman may realize that her curvy body is sexy.   A student may discover that learning is more important than just getting A’s.   Without blinders, maybe we’ll all get closer to finding satisfaction.

What will you discover when you remove the blinders of perfection?

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Not-So-Magic Mirrors, Identity, and Value

“Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all”, asked the evil queen in the German fairy tale, “Snow White”, and a fantastic course of events followed.  Like the fictional queen, many of us look in mirrors to ask our questions daily: Am I okay? Do I look good enough to step out into the world?  For some of us, mirrors on the wall are just the beginning of the challenge: other people become mirrors into which we gaze to determine our identity and value.

This looking outward process started in infancy when the first way we learned about ourselves was through the reflections we saw in our caregivers.  Their responses to us and our needs communicated whether or not we were consistently valued, loved, accepted, safe, and enough.  But what happens if we grow up without a strong  conviction of our inner value and identity?  We might be stuck looking at others to tell us who we are and whether or not we are okay.  We might be so focused on others that we fail to recognize  our own opinions and thoughts.

So what’s a girl or guy to do?  We’d probably all agree that other people function as unreliable mirrors – they are not magic and they often reflect inaccurate messages about our value and identity.  In my therapy practice and in my personal life, I’m discovering the freedom of exploring one’s own inner world.  It begins with an openness to become aware of my authentic feelings and thoughts.

Where are you looking discover who you are and to determine if you are okay?  Maybe it’s time to turn away from your not-so-magic mirrors.

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Mindful Monday Tip #4: How Do You Use Your Financial Resources?

 

Becoming mindful of money in a plastic age is a worthy goal.  Money is a top cause of stress for about 75% of adult Americans (American Psychological Association).  Clearly too many of us seem to experience stress and anxiety about how much money we lack. Yet how often are we truly aware of how we use  money?  In their Anthem “For the Love of Money”, the O’Jays declared that “money is the root of all evil”, but the Bible says that “love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (1Timothy 6:10, NASB).  While the O’Jays’ declaration resonates with some people, I think the ancient writer was on to something: how we use money can be a source of all kinds of trouble – especially if we use it mindlessly.  So this week’s tip is about becoming aware of how you use your financial resources.

Mindful Monday Tip #4: Mind your Money

  1. For one week, keep a record of each purchase you make: cash, credit/debit card, or check.
  2. Record the date, amount of purchase, and what you bought (without changing your habits).
  3. Do this with curiosity and without judgement.
Becoming mindful of how you use money is a first step to creating financial change and reducing financial stress.
 
What might you discover when you become more aware of your spending habits?
 
If you try this tip and find it helpful, please let me know on my Facebook page or leave a comment here.     

 

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Mindful Monday Tip #2: Tune into Your Body

Remember when we had to adjust the rabbit ears on a TV in order to get a clear picture and undistorted sound?

Mindfulness is basically about eliminating distractions so we can tune in to awareness of the present moment.  Today, dear readers, we  focus on tuning in to the body.  Many of us move through our days on autopilot without awareness of how our bodies move until something doesn’t move or work properly.  When we have a stuffy nose, we miss our ability to smell and taste.  When we sprain an ankle, we miss our ability to run.  When we burn a finger, we miss our manual dexterity.  What might we learn if for a few days we pay attention to how our bodies move?

Tip 2: Mindful Movement

This exercise is about observation and becoming mindful of how your body moves (Albers, 2012).  Don’t change anything, don’t judge, just observe your natural movements in these situations:

Observe how you eat at meals.
o How much food goes in your mouth at one time?
o How fast do you eat?
o Do you mix foods together or eat one thing at a time?

Observe how you sit.
o What’s your posture like?
o Do you shift around or sit still?
o What do your legs do while you sit?
o How long can you comfortably sit in one place?

Observe how you move while talking.
o What do your hands do?
o What do your legs do?
o How close to do you stand to another person?
o Where do you look while talking?
o How loudly do you speak?
o What are your nonverbal expressions communicating?

Observe how your body moves you from one place to another.
o Discover the sensations of walking.
o Become aware of how your legs move – notice their rhythm and pace.

Observe how your body reclines.
o Do you lie down on your back, side, or stomach?
o Do you shift, roll over, or remain motionless?

Observe how you balance.
o How hard does your body work to keep your balance?
o Notice when you shift your balance or lean against something.

Observe your internal sensations.
o How do your joints and muscles feel when they move?
o Notice when they feel sore and when they feel good.

What changes for us as we learn to move mindfully?

Reference:

Albers, S. (2012).  Eating Mindfully.  Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

 

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Mindful Monday Tip #1: Mindfulness on the Tip of Your Tongue

I’ve been reading a lot about mindfulness lately, and realizing just how often we eat, drink, communicate, spend money, or live without awareness, in a mindless manner.   To challenge each of us to live in the present moment, I will post a Mindful Monday Tip each week.

Tip 1: Palm to Tongue

 

I discovered this tip when I worked as a mental health intern:

  • Place a bite-sized  piece of food or candy in the palm of your hand. I used dark chocolate.
  • Observe the food and become aware of what you see.
  • Touch the food and notice what you feel.
  • Bring your hand up to your nose, close your eyes, and observe what you smell.
  • Close your eyes and place the food on your tongue.
  • Become mindful of the texture and taste of the food on your tongue.
  • What bursts of flavor or sensations do you experience as the food sits on your tongue?
  • Now slowly chew and swallow and focus on what you experience.

What did you learn from this mindful experience? I learned that savoring a small bite of dark chocolate is more satisfying than mindlessly consuming a whole bar in mere seconds.

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Abandon Ship! Abandon Self?

We usually cheer at scenes in movies when someone yells, “Abandon Ship!” and crew and passengers safely jump to lifeboats in order to escape a sinking ship.  Understandably, we are shocked and disturbed when someone abandons an adequately safe and secure seaworthy vessel facing no peril.

Sadly, some of us were conditioned to abandon ourselves when we navigated the uncertain seas of childhood.  At some point, we abandoned the ship of Authentic Self, and jumped into the lifeboat of Conditioned Self,   where our awareness was directed away from our authentic identity and inherent value. Below is a little story about how self-abandonment once occurred without any terrible trauma.

 How Beautiful Baby Abandons Ship

Once upon a time, an unwanted baby was conceived in a troubled family.  When her prenatal presence was discovered, a discussion occurred in which Aunt asked to raise the baby.  At birth, however, Mom took one look at Beautiful Baby and loved her enough to keep her.  This heart-warming tale was often repeated to Beautiful Baby as she grew up, but it left her feeling a bit empty.  In a family where her practical needs were provided in spades, Beautiful Baby often felt ignored:  grownups focused on other things or people, not her.  To register on family radar, Beautiful Baby learned to please others, work hard in school, and entertain with humor.  Her focus was all outward.

Focusing all that attention on others still left Beautiful Baby feeling empty inside, so she learned to satisfy inner hunger with lots of yummy food.  This process worked so well that by kindergarten she got a new name: Too Big Girl.  Family talked about Too Big Girl’s weight all through elementary school, often using sarcasm to motivate weight loss.  But it was hard to lose weight when the family eating habits did not change.  In 5th grade, Too Big Girl’s mother came up with a solution to fix her daughter: Mom asked Pediatrician to prescribe diet pills for Too Big Girl.  Alas, the solution failed: Too Big Girl could not sleep and felt jittery all day long. The diet pills stopped, but Too Big Girl learned to reject her big body and denigrate her inner value.

By middle school, Too Big Girl knew that she had to work really hard to be loved and to matter in the world.  By high school, she had slimmed down a lot, but her name was stuck like glue.  Too Big Girl lived in the shadow of thinner girls, and although she was starting to feel kind of smart, she was sure that others were smarter.  She was one of several student speakers on graduation night, but only learned later that she had graduated at the top of her class.  By then, it didn’t mean so much because her rural school was very small and her feeling of emptiness very, very large.

This fairly true tale shows how one Beautiful Baby reached adulthood without exploring her innate value and Authentic Self.  Along the way, she was conditioned to devalue her body and dismiss her awareness of self, so she took on a new name – Too Big Girl – which reflected that she was just not enough.  Decades later, aided by a wise therapist, our heroine discovered that she had been wondering around adult seas in the Conditioned Self.  In therapy, she began the process of reclaiming her Authentic Self.  Her journey began with self-awareness.  Welcome home, Beautiful Baby.

What’s your ride on the high seas: Authentic Self or Conditioned Self?

 

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