Week 40/Discovering Inner Fitness

Is there anyone who doesn’t have a bucket-load of information about what being “fit” means?  It’s everywhere! We are given “fitness guru” suggestions on billboards, TV, radio, magazines, the web and anywhere information is being streamed.  Fitness has become such an American obsession that it has begun to do real damage. It is painfully evident that many in this country are struggling to achieve and maintain what I’ll call “inner fitness.”  When stripped of the toxic body-perfection messaging, and considered in a balanced way, what really are the core areas for outer/physical fitness?  Mostly they are: strength, capability, flexibility and stamina. 
 
What if the culture were to value these same core areas when it comes to Inner Fitness?  Imagine the positive impact if every student actively learned inner skills for creating and maintaining inner strength, increased capability, flexibility and, stamina.  The good news is that this can be achieved no matter one’s age, circumstances, or state of affairs. 
 
Taken into a different framework and redefined into the language of mental/emotional or spiritual dimension, these areas can also be described as:

  • Strength as the ability to manage, to not buckle under stress, to believe in one’s ability to do, of seeing one’s growth where before there was weakness, faith in self or God/Higher Power, trust in self/others, and an “I can” inner voice.
  • Capability as the having the skills to accomplish something, increasing knowledge, growth and confidence, having all you need inside yourself, trust in self/skills, and an “I am able” inner voice.
  • Flexibility as being able to think and react creatively, able to work with others and see their point of view, finding solutions that weren’t obvious, letting go of disappointment or control when needed, and an “I’ll find a way” inner voice.
  • Stamina as endurance, not giving up even when you want to, forbearance, deferring rewards and rest until later, finding inner grit to finish and do something really well, and an “I’m not going to give up” inner voice.

Take time each day to practice one of these areas or model them for children and others.  Promote learning and developing these traits through books, classes, trainings, and/or counseling as something you are doing to be a well rounded, highly able person. In this high-paced, demanding, and stressful world Inner Fitness will bring you to a higher level– inside and out.

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 39/Self-Compassion to Combat Work Stress

Most of us are no strangers to work-related stress.  No matter your industry, position within your organization, or your job requirements, stress in the workplace leaves almost no one immune to it’s effects.  So whether your work stressors are large or small, stem from office politics or dynamics, or are as a result of high-risk or even traumatic events that occur within your work duties, we can easily conclude that job stress is an occupational hazard for us all.

Frequently reported work stressors include fear of losing one’s job; unsafe working conditions or tasks; not enough time to complete responsibilities effectively; and interpersonal conflict with colleagues or a superior.  In all of these cases, a person’s self-talk and their feelings of control and value, both at work and beyond, are impacted.  A harsh inner monologue and associated feelings of hopelessness, frustration, or anxiety can affect our physical functioning (including headaches and gastrointestinal issues), our decision-making (often leading to poor coping strategies like substance use or impulsive behaviors), and our relationships with others.  This is where cultivating a simple self-compassion practice can mitigate difficult experiences, offering some relief from difficult thoughts and feelings about oneself, and ultimately allow for a little bit of peace and ease in an otherwise stressful environment, like the calm in the center of the storm. 

Based upon Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion practices, try this simple exercise when you notice yourself becoming self-critical at work:

https://gallery.mailchimp.com/dc75cf4ea70f750aa303a53fa/files/4587a43b-5b80-4249-8cfe-2f6740111e0d/20190925_135645_1_.m4a

Nicole Davis is a licensed clinical psychologist at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches  Dr. Davis has received extensive training in mindfulness, meditation, and yoga, and maintains her own personal practice in these as well.  At Sacred Treehouse, she facilitates group mindfulness courses, including Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention, and other mindfulness-based seminars and workshops. She also offers meditation & yoga classes at Sacred Treehouse.

Week 38/Walking Towards the Light

Seeing is not limited to the eyes. When I truly ”see” another person, it requires the act of seeing with the entire body, mind, and spirit. There is nothing more moving than to catch a glimpse of a person’s inner being of light; it is probably the closest thing to seeing God. For the past 20 years, mindfulness training and practice has been a path to strengthening this gift of “seeing”.
 
At first, it was my heart that awakened, allowing me to detect the light and true self of each being. This awakening isn’t permanent and we often fall back into the trance of our conditioning, awaiting the next opening to the light or truth of another being. Once we have witnessed enough times the true self of another, we begin to trust that it is always there – even when it exists in the dark. This is where the magic happens. As the underlying truth and being of another is held in loving-connected presence, it appears right before our very own eyes, ears, heart, and mind.
 
You may be wondering how a daily mindfulness practice moves you toward seeing the light in others.  Consider the following:

  1. It cultivates the habit of coming home to present moment awareness.
  2. It breaks us free from conditioned automatic thinking.
  3. It creates a momentary space between thoughts and allows us to experience now.
  4. We gain greater insight into the way our mind and body perceive the world.
  5. We find there is a way out of conditioned thoughts, feelings, and reactions and begin to walk the path….

 
May you walk towards the light!

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 37/Kiss the Earth With Your Feet

Walking can be both a formal and informal mindfulness practice.  During walking meditation, we bring present moment awareness to the movement and sensation of the body as the feet rhythmically alternate between lifting and making contact with the earth. As a fast walker, I found it difficult to practice walking meditation.  I am conditioned to rushing throughout the day.   My colleagues often admonish me for being too loud in the hall or tease me by saying, “We heard you coming.”  I feel bad about disturbing others and even a little bit of shame for being so loud.
 
It was difficult to train myself to slow down and I often found myself resisting with thoughts of “I hate walking”, or “When will the bells ring to end practice?”   As I started to settle and my practice took root, I found it less irritating when then the bells rang to initiate walking meditation.  Inevitably I would fall back into my hurried hustle down the hall, caught in the cycle of noticing and slowing down.  The cycle continued day after day, year after year.
 
Then last year I encountered a problem with my feet that was causing constant discomfort.  It gradually increased over time until it was painful to walk. Pain was a great reminder to my pace and pressure, encouraging me to slow down with each step. I was deeply immersed in the study and practice of self-compassion, which allowed me to tend to the pain in my feet with great kindness and care. I was able to embrace the discomfort with loving-attention, using this circumstance to slow down and become intimate with my feet.
 
This experience opened the door to a greater appreciation for my body and its unique needs.  Through mindfulness, I was able to attend to the problem that caused pain, bringing attention to my feet and my stride.  Today I feel gratitude for the absence of pain.  The discomfort I experienced is replaced by a feeling of joy as I have now discovered a deepening awareness of walking meditation and self-compassion.
 
Some simple steps (no pun intended) for walking meditation practice:
 

  • Choose a clear, open space to walk  (approximately 5-8 feet in distance).
  • Stand still in mountain pose and bring all your attention to the sensations in your feet.
  • Slowly begin to lift your right foot and silently whisper, “lifting”.
  • Then moving the right foot slowly through space, whisper, “moving”.
  • Then gently place the heel of the right foot down and whisper, “placing”.
  • Continuing with full intention and awareness, begin to lift the left foot, following the same steps as before.
  • Continue with this pattern until you reach the end of the path. Pause to re-center your body into mountain pose and slowly turn in a new direction to repeat the path.

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 36/Mindful Media Consumption: Tools to Hone Our Inner Wisdom

Melting Arctic ice, hurricanes, bailouts, unemployment, presidential elections, inflation, deflation, recession, depression! We are surrounded by an endless stream of anxiety inducing information – through TV, the Internet, newspapers, radio, and conversation. It is important to be aware and informed citizens, but what is “news” really, and when does another story become something other than news? We turn to various sources for insight to help us deal with uncertainty, and to calm our fears, but rather than clarifying or keeping us well informed, is this media information instead cultivating fear and anxiety? Is our habitual looking or reading simply making us more anxious rather than keeping us informed or educated?

As yoga practitioners and citizens of our society, what can we do about fears that arise in our lives and how can we use the many ideas and tools of yoga to help us cope in these stressful times? Below are some suggestions, both through action and with thought. Choose one or two to begin, but eventually you might find them all slowly working their way into your life. If you benefit, we ALL benefit.

  • Be clear about why you are listening to/reading the news. What are you trying to gain from it? What is your intention and are you achieving this intention? The yogis say that what you put in your field of awareness is food for the senses.
  • Consider limiting your access to the deluge of information. Perhaps even consider taking a “fast” from the news. This will give your nervous system time to settle down.
  • If your life has been affected by difficulty, try to use it, as much as possible, for positive growth and as an opportunity for change.
  • To transform your fear, be present with your feelings, shine the light of awareness on them and have self-compassion for your challenging feelings. Know you are experiencing fear, but you are not your fear.
  • Be mindful of your choices of actions and thoughts, and how each choice affects your state of mind.
  • What nourishes you? Do more of it.
  • Restore yourself through rest or relaxation.
  • Think thoughts and do actions that help you feel connectedness, both inside and outside yourself.
  • Meditate and/or breathe every day. Allow this to be a time to simultaneously connect and to let go.
  • Volunteer your time to those who have less – called Seva (a form of karma yoga, self-less service).
  • How much is enough? Perhaps you really have everything you need?
  • Every day, list three things for which you a grateful.

Yours, in service,

K.O.

Kathy Ornish, c-IAYT

Kathy Ornish is a practicing and certified yoga therapist (c-IAYT) and a certified yoga teacher (E-RYT-500). She serves as Senior Faculty at Gary Kraftsow’s American Viniyoga Institute where she is Faculty Specialist in the Viniyoga Foundations Program for Teaching and Yoga Therapy. Kathy’s yoga therapy practice involves addressing individual’s structural, physiological, and emotional conditions. Her primary emphasis in all her teaching is the breadth of the yoga tradition using the appropriate application of the many tools of yoga in hopes that she can help people realize their highest potential.  For more information, please visit her website at www.goodspaceyoga.com

Week 35/Hurricane Edition: Calm in the Storm

Dorothy Hunt’s quote brings me great solace and comfort as I sit down to prepare this week’s mindfulness post, which will reach many readers that are busy preparing for Hurricane Dorian. The ability to receive warnings and track major storms brings both the ability to prepare in advance, as well as many days of potential angst and panic. It is in times like this that I draw upon mindfulness practices to help me weather the internal storm brewing in both my mind and body, as worry thoughts of the potential storm impact start creeping in. The most effective tools for me all start with AWARENESS of my thoughts, followed by a willingness to accept the thought as just a thought, and then a great big deep breath, followed by a slow steady exhale.

The pre-storm hysteria can bring out the worst in people. We see a lot of irritability and anxious energy released through the fight response and this is often projected onto those in close proximity, like our loved ones. The anxiety brought on by a storm warming or any other warning functions as an adaptive mechanism in humans to energize and activate us for preparation (the flight response). In these moments, it is important to recognize the common humanity of people your encounter – rushing through stores, getting gas, and trying to secure their homes. At times the intensity of the anxiety in an individual is excessive (because of multiple stressors and/ or a preexisting anxiety disorder) and may lead to immobilization, best known as the freeze response. The fight, flight, freeze responses are all responses to signals of danger and it is helpful to recognize the presence of these states.  If you are anything like me you may find yourself moving through all of these states over the next week. Ideally, with the use of tools we are able to move through them and restore some equanimity.

The fight/flight responses both respond to similar tools; they are both responses to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system that releases adrenaline and noradrenaline, preparing the body for action. The amount of these neurochemicals are in excess of what is needed and can fuel some serious aggressive behaviors, such as road rage or vulnerability of losing your temper. If you feel yourself loosing control, try out the DBT skills that follow.  And don’t forget to bring awareness to your actions and BREATHE.

STOP Skills

Stop, literally stop what you are doing or saying (if driving slow down)

Take a deep breath, inhaling slowly through the nose, hold 1-2 seconds, release slowly through the mouth…repeat several times.

Observe what you ae sensing in the body (heart racing, tension, stomach churning, etc), observe your thoughts and look for all or nothing, catastrophic, or overgeneralization in your thinking. Catch the exaggeration and name it without judgment or invalidating the feelings. Name the emotions and notice the thoughts that are feeding the emotions. Continue to use your breathe until it is regulated.

Make a list of things needed and then take action steps one at a. time

Freeze Mode

If you find yourself in a freeze mode, running in circles, clouded thoughts or even immobilized you can employ the 5,4,3,2,1 technique

Name 5 things you see: A tree, dog, grass, cars, a sign

Name 4 things you hear: cars buzzing by, bids, phone ringing, clock ticking

Name 3 things you feel: softness of your shirt, a/c blowing on you, feet on the ground (if they are not on the ground place them on the ground and gently press to sense your feet grounded).

Name 2 things you smell: the grass, perfume/oil

Name 1 thing you can taste: Perhaps keeping candy, gum, flavored water nearby to sip

After the STOP and 5,4,3,2,1 skills you can take a moment to bring awareness back to the present moment. Assess do I feel calmer, clearer, and more emotionally regulated? If so, proceed with your preparations or engage in an activity that is soothing or distracting. Look for more ideas and tips on Sacred Treehouse and Therapeutic Oasis Facebook pages.

For our local readers, we will be cancelling Tuesday evening meditation. However, I will be practicing at 6 pm so join me from your homes and will be sending Metta to all!

Proceed mindfully with greater perspective, wisdom, and self-control….and please be safe! Peace in this moment….even in the storm…look toward your center.

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 34/Workplace Mindfulness

All throughout my teenage and young adult years I remember my Dad offering words of wisdom about my career path. I recall him often saying “Do what you love and the money will come.” I heeded his sage advice, and followed my heart into a career in psychology. Not too long thereafter, though, I found out that even though I loved working with people, I was often drained after each work day. My motivation and zest for my job was waning. Even though I knew I’d chosen a livelihood that I was passionate about, the workplace stress I felt made me question if I was wrong about this path. The more I pushed through, the less I wanted to. And then, burnout settled in.

Statistics show that workplace stress affects many of us. In fact, a 2018 study indicated that 2/3 of professionals feel that their jobs are more stressful today than they were five years ago, and over 3/4 of the study’s respondents reported that workplace stress affects their personal relationships. Feelings of powerlessness over an imbalance between responsibility and authority; lack of clarity in job responsibilities; inadequate goodness of fit between a person’s skills/values and their job; and an unsafe or uncomfortable work setting that can even include traumatic events on the job can all be sources of stress for professionals.  Burnout often sets in when these stressors are ongoing AND when professionals are vulnerable to emotional reactivity when their resilience to stress has been compromised.

Mindfulness practices in the workplace are frequently prescribed to help increase motivation and job satisfaction, and I believe this is because of their powerful effect on stress. Practicing the following mindfulness strategies daily can significantly mitigate the effects of workplace stress:

  • single-tasking (versus multi-tasking)
  • mindful communication
  • intentionally slowing down during the workday
  • a daily formal mindfulness practice (even 10 minutes of sitting meditation works!)

I know from personal experience that my increased awareness of the early warning signs of work stress have helped me to nip a recurrence of burnout in the bud. And my practicing of non-judgment and self-compassion frees me up from feeling guilty about setting the limits I need to in order to also keep burnout at bay.

For additional reading, I encourage you to check out this article:

https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/be-more-mindful-at-work

Nicole Davis is a licensed clinical psychologist at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches  Dr. Davis has received extensive training in mindfulness, meditation, and yoga, and maintains her own personal practice in these as well.  At Sacred Treehouse, she facilitates group mindfulness courses, including Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention, and other mindfulness-based seminars and workshops. She also offers meditation & yoga classes at Sacred Treehouse.

Week 33/Make Room For Love

“Love, then, is letting go of fear.”  
Gerald Jampolsky, MD
 

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
Winnie the Pooh

 
What is taking up the most room in your heart?  According to Gerald Jampolsky, anger, jealousy, resentment, and/or depression are all forms of fear.  So how to do you let go of fear?  How do you increase love in your heart?
 
Step One: It starts with a decision, a choice to identify, feel, and let go holding on to familiar (or even “justified”) experiences that close the heart.  These are the things that we can spend hours getting the people in our life to join us in believing – that we deserve to feel the various forms of fear.  It’s buying into the unfairness of it all; the unbelievable action of the other.  This is not to say we don’t cry our tears or express our pain, but then what? Do we hold on and cycle through more justification? At some point, the choice is between being right or being at peace.
 

Piglet: How do you spell love?
Pooh: You don’t spell it, you feel it.

 
Step Two: Find some way to feel love.  It can start with gratitude, appreciation, or remembering a moment that touched you.  For fear to grow, there needs to be an absence of love. For love to grow, there only needs to be a desire to open the heart. In our essence, we want to give and receive love. Have you ever noticed that doing an act of kindness for another actually swells your own heart?  It’s because giving generates the feeling of love within ourselves.  Watch a small child or puppy and their readiness to give love and affection, it can make the crankiest person smile unknowingly.  That’s because love, giving, and sharing are their own gifts—to you and those around you.  Practice what Pooh suggests…. Let small things help you to feel the love….. 

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 32/The Most Important Thing…

In a recent mindfulness coaching session, a client shared with me her new awareness of what is most important in her life. She expressed finding fulfillment each day and a greater sense of purpose, especially when spending her money in meaningful ways.  She uses her dollars toward something that matters, and the very idea of attending to what matters most to her has started to be the idea that matters the most.

This client shared with me her latest purchase from a website called “Who Gives A Crap”, which sells environmentally-friendly toilet paper and other paper products, and even uses recyclable packaging.  This company gives 40% of their profits to help provide toilets for people around the world.  It may seem like a minor detail, but the idea of being a conscious consumer is one way in which this client remembers what is most important.  And as for providing toilets for other people?  It may sound like a “crappy” job to some, but when you do any task with the intention of improving the lives of other people, it feels like a bonus.

As a psychologist treating complex trauma, I work daily with people who are suffering.  Other people often wonder how I can do this type of difficult work.  In fact, some people see it as a terrible occupation. It doesn’t feel this way to me.  I get to wake up every day and live my purpose – which is to reduce suffering and emotional pain.  It feels like a labor of love.  My second love is to teach mindfulness.  By sharing mindfulness with others, I teach someone “to fish rather than simply feeding them a fish”.  In teaching mindfulness through MBSR and MSC, I help other learn the tools to reduce their own discomfort.  This is what matters most to me.

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 31/Body Awareness is an Anchor

What exactly is body awareness?  Tolle discusses body awareness as a way to the “inner body” or our life energy.  Yogis call this life energy “Prana”; Buddhists use the word “Chi.” Our minds are often so busy we confuse thinking about and judging our bodies and as being “body aware,” but this is the antithesis of body attunement and awareness. 

Right now take a moment to sense your fingers from the inside out. You can do this with eyes open or closed– it’s not looking at your fingers, but sensing the energy or aliveness that is within each finger and giving your focus to that. If you quiet yourself enough you can actually feel your own essential energy–starting with one small body part and eventually, if the mind doesn’t get in the way, connecting to it throughout your entire body.  
The purpose of this is to connect with a more peaceful, aware state.  If you are agitated with a current circumstance, taking a few breaths and practicing some inner bodyawareness will help you get grounded and clear. This can prevent reactions with others and/or a way to catch negative impulses going on in your own mind; because IT IS beyond the mind. It also helps you be more in tune with your body’s natural desires for food, water, exercise, sleep, play, rest, etc. 

It is amazing how much people push and punish their bodies, demanding  from them more and more, and then become surprised when they crash- physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.  Accessing body awareness is not just a way to become more present for the bodies’ needs, it’s a way to simply become more aware.  As a practice in itself it creates an inner atmosphere of increased tolerance, kindness, patience, and calm—a surefire way to enhance every circumstance.

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.