Week 11/Mindfulness in Action: Going Green

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day and all the green that will be donned this weekend, it is fitting to consider “going green” for an even greater purpose: the environment. Going green can be a great way to enhance your mindfulness practice. Noticing what you “can do” versus what you are unable to control is not just being a part of the solution, but it is also empowering. 
 
Making a sustainable lifestyle change is not something that occurs overnight.  Just as with mindfulness practice, it is important to practice acceptance of where you are in the present moment.  Incorporate each change gradually and know that it is not about being perfect in every aspect of your life. By putting forth effort and intention, you create new habits of thought while acting as an example to others in your community. The growth is exponential!
 
Here are a few green living tips to practice mindfully:

  • Grocery Shopping: When grocery shopping, bring reusable bags and use refillable jars to shop in the bulk section for grains, nuts, or flour.  Ditch the single use plastics!
  • Dining Out: BYOC – Bring Your Own Containers. Cut down on takeout waste by bringing your own container for leftovers.  Also bring your own reusable utensils and straw. (I always keep these items in my car or backpack.)
  • Kitchen: In the kitchen, use dish clothes or microfiber towels instead of paper towels and disposable wipes.
  • Personal Hygiene: Bamboo toothbrushes, metal razors, and soap bars are great alternatives to plastic and tend to be free of harmful chemicals. LUSH has a variety of great smelling hair and facial products that are zero waste.
  • Composting: If you aren’t composting, have no fear! Drop off your scraps to a neighbor or local garden.  Scraps can be stored in a freezer bag and dropped off when you have the time.
  • Thrifting: Old styles are back in! Check your local vintage and thrift stores for funky clothes.  Stylish threads at reasonable prices that also reduce environmental waste…a winning trio.
  • Consider a plant-based diet: Reduce your consumption of animal products (meat, eggs, dairy).  Let plant-based foods serve as the centerpiece instead of the side dish.  Bountiful health benefits come along with it too! Even one mindful meal makes a huge difference.

We are all in this together! It is important to be gentle with your practice. I do not follow these guidelines 100% of the time, but I do my best and lead by example to make this world a better place. Start your week off with by setting an intention of incorporating one green action from the list above.

May your green routines bring you much happiness and joy!
 
Pure Intentions,
 
Lizzie Shutt

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Shutt is a student at the University of Florida.  She is passionate about all things green and currently participates in many forms of environmental advocacy, including the #Unlitter movement.  When she isn’t hitting the books, she enjoys cooking plant-based cuisine, composting, and surfing.

Week 10/Deep Listening

The most loving and compassionate thing you can do for others is to listen with presence. 

Sounds easy, right?

Often the simple things are the most difficult and I am reminded daily of the inner wisdom, strength, and creativity that lives within each person as I sit with my psychotherapy clients and meditation students.  Listening creates a sense of safety and caring that can allow the inner wisdom to surface. Compassionate listening is extremely difficult because when another person is suffering there is a stirring of empathic resonance that draws up the urge to fix or alleviate the problem.

Many years ago, I was blessed to listen to Tara Brach in a NYC auditorium of 2000 people.  She shared the wisdom I needed at that time in my life of raising small children. I learned that the most important parenting skill (and relationship skill) needed was PRESENCE, a way of being completely with another person in the moment, without judgment and without fixing.  It involves taking in the experience of another to deeply understand and truly “SEE” them. This proves to be an ultimate challenge in balancing all the demands of daily life with small children, work, household responsibilities, personal issues, and other family commitments.

It is important that we do not take this practice to the extreme.  There isn’t the demand to listen with PRESENCE all the time, but rather sometimes…sometimes is good enough to have another person feel what they most need to feel. When I say feel, I really mean feel because it is not an intellectual thing where you can accurately regurgitate what the other person said to demonstrate you are listening.  It is a felt sense where the other person can see and sense that you are totally with them by your nonverbal body language. This is a skill we can continually work to develop and deepen, helping our relationships to blossom over time.

A few tips to cultivate the practice of presence:

Slow down.

Take a few deep breaths before you engage in conversation to interrupt your activity in the mind.

Assess the situation: Read body language to determine if there is urgency, and if so, direct all attention to the other person. If the need is not urgent or you are unable to give full attention, ask for time or explain that you want to give full attention but cannot right do so immediately. The key here is to honor your commitment to get back and listen, as this builds trust. This practice will also help foster a child’s ability to wait.

Use this practice during your daily routines.  Commit to turning off the electronics in the evening and be present with your loved one.

You can practice this with yourself, too…it is called Vipassana, or mindfulness meditation and as you cultivate inner listening, it will promote greater PRESENCE.

Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.

Week 9/A Reflection on Energy and Resources

Although birthdays, anniversaries, religious holidays, and new years are wonderful times to consider where one’s energy and resources have been spent, any moment where the consciousness has time to reflect is also worthy of our consideration.  For in reality, we all have a limited amount of life force to give to our lives and to those around us.  But this reflection is not just about quantity, it also speaks to the quality of our interactions, the intention behind our actions, and the focus of our mind.  

Most of us have demanding lives, yet through simply noticing whatenergy we bring to those demands, we have the ability to create a shift in ourselves and whomever we’re interacting with. Where we spend or apply our resources helps us to make a statement. Our resources are a form of support – consider the power of this reflection. Even the simplest choice of where and how to spend our money, time, charitable giving, and/or attention creates a ripple effect. Every day can be a mindfulness practice on the use of energy and resource- how powerful.

Photography by Ciro Coehlo

Anni Johnston, LMHC-S, BC-D/MT, CEDS, CYT works at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Movement Therapist.  In addition to her therapy work, Anni offers weekly Beginner and Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse.  She also offers book studies and special workshops throughout the year.

Week 8/Discover Your Drishti

I am by no means a yoga enthusiast, but I was admittedly intrigued when I was introduced to the Sanskrit word drishti, which translates to “sight”.  If you attend yoga regularly, you may already be aware of this yogic practice.  Drishti is a gazing practice used to help assist with balancing poses, such as Tree Pose.  Drishti is also used to promote a meditative state.  By choosing our focus, we are better able to go within.
 
This sentence bears repeating: By choosing our focus, we are better able to go within.
 
Humans are on sensory overload.  We have a 24 hours news cycle and multiple avenues of technology that compete for our constant attention.  Add to the mix our family, friends, co-workers – even our pets! Being constantly accessible to the mini-computers we carry around all day means that our focus is divided.  If we don’t make the conscious decision to choose our focus, we live in imbalance.  We lose touch with our most vital energy: our heart space.
 
Drishti is not limited to yoga; it is a mindfulness practice that we use to cultivate our inner wisdom.  How can we apply drishti to our own lives?

  • Take a few moments each day to soften your gaze.  Purposefully pick something within your sight and focus on the object.  It could be a flower or candle flame.  Let your gaze settle on that object.
  • Create technology free space.  Make a commitment to turn your gaze away from social media and other distractions.  Allow yourself to be on “airplane mode”.  Then use this time to open your heart space through meditation, journaling, or a daily reading.
  • Find your tribe.  In this application, we are not using drishti in the literal sense.  Instead, we are connecting with others.  This may mean that you choose to spend time with a dear friend that you haven’t seen in awhile, or participate in a group activity that you have neglected.

As it is written in The Little Prince, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”  To truly see what is essential, we must set an intention to discover our drishti. 

Remove distractions.  Find your focus.  Open your heart space.  

Sara Goldstein works for Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches. She edits and designs “52 Weeks of Mindfulness” for Sacred Treehouse. Sara is a writer, reader, and lover of poodles. Although she practices yoga infrequently, she enjoys meditation and mindfulness practice.

Week 7/Honoring Your Hunger

One of the main tenets of diet culture is that it reveres the absence of hunger.  “You won’t be hungry”, diets so proudly proclaim as part of their marketing tagline, as if this is something to be celebrated. 

Wait.

How is it that this sign – hunger – has become labeled as “bad”, and the lack of it is somehow “good”?  This concept is presented in such a way that we can unknowingly be swept up into the whirlwind of beliefs that have us doubting our instincts, following patterns that end up leading us astray.

We were born with amazing signals.  When we were hungry, we cried until we were fed.  When we were satisfied, we pushed away.  When we were tired, we slept.  We were beautifully and undeniably attuned to what we needed before we could even speak a word.

Hunger is our body’s need for fuel, much like the gas light in our car.  It’s asking us to stop what we are doing momentarily to meet one simple need, allowing us to recenter and move on with the next part of our day.   This basic signal is part of our foundation that, when responded to, helps us do anything else in our life that has value to us.

What if you could practice listening for hunger and begin to embrace it as a gift, as a guide?   
We all have that signal within us.  If you have been an erratic eater, a dieter, a restrained or controlled eater the signals of hunger are most likely muted and disconnected – for now.  Eating on a regular basis throughout the day, however, teaches your body that it can again trust you to feed it.  This simple but powerful act allows your body to begin speaking to you again, whispering hunger signals in subtle or even loud and boisterous ways.  Notice a couple hours after eating if you start to lose focus, begin to think about food, become irritable or tired, or have a shift in body sensations.  Any of these can signal your body is starting to tell you that it’s running low on fuel.  Take this opportunity as a chance to honor your signals, recharge and catch up with yourself. 

What a wonderful time for us to reconnect with this basic, essential signal with which we were gifted. 

Christie Caggiani is a Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Therapist at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches Her mindfulness-based, non-diet approach allows clients to identify, understand and move beyond their eating struggles, as they reconnect with their internal signals of hunger and satiety. She is passionate about teaching clients to eat intuitively and move joyfully.  For Sacred Treehouse, Christie has designed a series of fun and educational nutrition and cooking workshops for both children and teens. She also offers cooking and nutrition workshops for adults.

Week 6/Mindfulness of Deep Listening

Mindful Thought

Oneness is each of you moving in rhythm with one another; yet avoiding the propensity to overlap, block, or trip into each other. We look for the harmony of oneness to belt out of our relationships, wanting it to move us – like a duet in minor key.
 
Oneness, unity, connectedness, cohesion, negotiation, compromise, complementary, community. This “thing” connection is something to work at. You can’t google it. We create it only by digging into each other’s core. This magic takes root when we are curious. When we are quiet. When we are listening to each other.
 

Reflective Journaling

Describe effective and ineffective couples communication. Describe how you tend to communicate when under stress and how it serves (or does not serve) your relationship goals. 

Deep Listening Practice: Listen Lovingly 

This is a guided heart meditation that is great to practice with your partner or a friend. 1. Make a nice, soft space (on a solid surface) with two meditation cushions. Sit comfortably, facing each other. Your distance will be quite near, but without touching each other.

2. To begin to listen lovingly, start centering and settling in.  It is at this point that you may attend to your heart and breath. Your eyes may gaze softly at your partner or remain closed. You may find it helpful to focus on a phrase such as “I am breathing in, I am breathing out” while placing your hands on your heart center. Take as much time as you would like here with your partner.  

3. When ready, open your eyes and look lovingly at your partner. When the both of you have your eyes open, looking lovingly at your partner and ask, “Tell me something that you love?” The respondent will then ask the same question to their partner. An example would be:

Partner 1: Tell me something you love?

Partner 2: Our dog

Partner 2: Tell me something you love?

Partner 1: The beach at sunrise.

Partners will continue a rhythm of communication in this way. 

4. To complete this mediation, you may return attention to your breath and heart. I encourage you to discuss your felt experience with your partner and to share gratitude with your partner for sharing in this experience.

As Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us, “…in deep listening, we listen with the sole purpose of helping the other person feel heard and accepted.”  May you continue to open your hearts and listen deeply to those that you cherish.

Clara Bossie is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches In collaboration with Sacred Treehouse, Clara has developed a series of lectures, book studies and workshops designed to bring harmony to family life, including the popular True Love book study. When she is not busy creating, Clara also practices and teaches yoga.  

Week Five/The Path and Practice That Leads to Freedom

This excerpt from the Dhammapada, a collection of teachings from the Buddha, encourages us to train our minds to be free from likes and dislikes.  Why does the Buddha recommend that we consciously practice non-attachment to personal preferences?
 
By reducing attachments, we set ourselves free.  This path of freedom leads to a deep feeling of peace.  Just like with any training program, there is great effort and sacrifice, along with some pain and discomfort.  This path requires daily practice, often starting with small steps to build confidence and strength. We can start with simple things that bring us pleasure, committing to limiting or eliminating their presence in our daily life.  A few examples are:

  • TV
  • Social Media or other forms of electronic entertainment
  • Alcohol
  • Shopping
  • Ice cream 

Remember to do this with the spirit of training the mind, rather than deprivation or punishment.  When we follow this practice, we begin to reduce the craving/wanting aspect of our minds. Likewise, this can also be done with tasks that are unpleasant and that we choose to avoid. In this case, we move toward those things and bare the discomfort that is often short lived. Again, it is recommended that we start small:

  • Picking up the phone when a difficult person is calling or making a difficult call
  • Doing the dishes before going to bed
  • Folding the laundry
  • Budgeting or paying bills

This practice requires the spirit of care and wisdom.  It is important to choose things that are helpful, not harmful.  By working on transcending our likes and dislikes, we set an intention to build our own inner strength and wisdom. As the Buddha teaches, “all fetters will fade away”, helping to empower and build confidence when we face the unpleasant aspects of life head on.

Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.

Week Four/The Power of Passage Meditation in Cultivating Self-Awareness

All of us want peace of mind, but many of us search outside of ourselves.  We hope that external circumstances, conditions or even other people will bring us that desired feeling of peace. Instead, I invite you to consider the following passage:

This passage gently points us inwards. I find it reassuring that we do not need to rely on another person’s behavior or wait for ideal conditions to attain peace of mind.  By directing our attention inwards and practicing mindfulness, we develop self- awareness.  This self-awareness helps us discern important truths.  When we look inwards, we are able to see more clearly the inner workings of our mind.  Through this process of self-discovery, we may also notice how we contribute to our own pain and suffering.
 
One way to facilitate this inner journey is by participating in passage meditation.  This specific form of meditation can help quiet the mind and build self-awareness.  The practice is straightforward:
 
(1) Pick an inspirational passage and commit it to memory.  Make sure your passage is positive and uplifting.
 
(2) Find a comfortable position to practice the meditation.  You may sit on a cushion, chair or the floor.
 
(3) Recite the passage – focusing on each word.  When the mind wanders (and it will!) gently bring your focus back to the passage.
 
(4) Repeat the passage for the entirety of the meditation.  Try practicing for 10 minutes each day.


Passage meditation has helped me to pause and notice the habit of finding fault with others. Without judgment, I bring a shared awareness of humanity. There is no you and I, there is just we… and we are all the same.
 
This week, try incorporating passage meditation into your daily life. Take notice of what annoys you or times where you are finding fault with others. Pause and note what it is you are believing or saying in your mind. How do your thoughts influence your state of mind? Be honest and gentle – this human experience is fraught with challenges.

May you look at yourself through eyes of love and compassion.

Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches.  Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.

Week Four/The Path and The Practice That Leads to Freedom

This excerpt from the Dhammapada, a collection of teachings from the Buddha, encourages us to train our minds to be free from likes and dislikes.  Why does the Buddha recommend that we consciously practice non-attachment to personal preferences?
 
By reducing attachments, we set ourselves free.  This path of freedom leads to a deep feeling of peace.  Just like with any training program, there is great effort and sacrifice, along with some pain and discomfort.  This path requires daily practice, often starting with small steps to build confidence and strength. We can start with simple things that bring us pleasure, committing to limiting or eliminating their presence in our daily life.  A few examples are:TVSocial Media or other forms of electronic entertainmentAlcoholShoppingIce cream Remember to do this with the spirit of training the mind, rather than deprivation or punishment.  When we follow this practice, we begin to reduce the craving/wanting aspect of our minds. Likewise, this can also be done with tasks that are unpleasant and that we choose to avoid. In this case, we move toward those things and bare the discomfort that is often short lived. Again, it is recommended that we start small:Picking up the phone when a difficult person is calling or making a difficult callDoing the dishes before going to bedFolding the laundryBudgeting or paying billsThis practice requires the spirit of care and wisdom.  It is important to choose things that are helpful, not harmful.  By working on transcending our likes and dislikes, we set an intention to build our own inner strength and wisdom. As the Buddha teaches, “all fetters will fade away”, helping to empower and build confidence when we face the unpleasant aspects of life head on.
 
Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.

Week Three/Inviting Body Awareness Into Your Life

Have you made a resolution yet about your body? 

Most people do at the start of a new year.  We have a picture of what we think our bodies should or should not look like.  We then make a decision to push our bodies in that direction.  This course of action is held for a short time and eventually fades away.  We beat ourselves up and feel defeated for not “meeting our goal.” 
 
What if this year you actually turned towards your body? 
 
Imagine making a decision to treat your body with more respect, care and appreciation. What if you gave up the belief that it works to make negative comments about your body?  Can you see that moving towards the body helps you create a relationship with the body? Our bodies are not the enemy. Each body is unique.  The shape, size and condition are all reflections of a variety of factors: genetics, age, circumstances and care.  No relationship works if one half constantly criticizes the other.  This year, I invite you to try a different resolution:

 I want a positive relationship with my body.
Anni Johnston, LMHC-S, BC-D/MT, CEDS, CYT works at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Movement Therapist.  In addition to her therapy work, Anni offers weekly Beginner and Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse.  She also offers book studies and special workshops throughout the year.