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.
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.
“Whether you eat alone or with other people, eating is a time to connect with your body and nourish it, especially through regular meals.”
Intuitive Eating Workbook, Evelyn Tribole and & Elyse Resch
Eating is a sacred practice. By incorporating mindfulness and creating time and space, the daily habit of eating can be transformed into a spiritual practice. The benefits of mindful eating are numerous. When we lovingly bring attention to when, what, and how much we eat, we are able to experience true nourishment. Mindful eating leads to a greater enjoyment of food and a deeper connection to the universe.
Here are some tips for how to incorporate mindful eating into your life:
Dine in an uncluttered space. Use a beautiful place setting and sit down to eat.
Before starting your meal, take a few cleansing breathes, intentionally bringing mindfulness to the meal or snack.
You may also pause to bring gratitude for the food, recognizing all of the effort required to grow and prepare the food included in your meal.
Take time to smell, taste, and feel each bite of food. Pause in-between bites by placing utensils or hand held food down, taking a deep breath.
You may note any changes in feelings or energy at the conclusion of the meal.
Clean your space and pause again in gratitude before moving on with your day.
Gandhi demonstrated through his own loving actions that it is possible to BE THE CHANGE, although it requires great effort, sacrifice, dedication and unyielding faith. Last year was filled with constant worry, negativity and complaining. Compounded with global and environmental concerns, it is abundantly clear that we have a collective responsibility to resist negativity and take actions to create positive change – the change which Gandhi himself created and inspired in others through love and peace.
The New Year is a time where we often find ourselves setting goals and resolutions – often outwardly focused, financial or materialistic. The reality is that we live in a world that desperately needs positive change. Use the following mindfulness exercise to initiate change in your own world:
Consider Gandhi’s quote, taking the time to reflect on each word. Notice anything that arises that is deeply important to you.
Write down the things that are important to you, or areas where change is necessary or beneficial. Are these identified areas of in alignment with your own values?
Get clear! If you find yourself motivated to “be the change”, find ways to incorporate your own personal values with the changes you wish to see. It might be helpful to set an intention. Be clear about how you would like the world to look, feel, and function.
How do you live each day? What small steps can you take to initiate change in a mindful and compassionate way?
Change is contagious. Humans experience behaviors as infectious and can rarely resist being infected when consistently exposed to a new belief or action. Spread goodness everywhere you go!
It is natural to find ourselves more compassionate and kind to those that are easy to love. It takes discipline and mindfulness to notice our reactions to individuals who possess different values, temperament or even physical abilities. By bringing awareness to our own judgments and thoughts, we acknowledge the human condition and choose to turn toward positive change in alignment with our own values.
I have included links to help you identify your own values. Remember, setting an intention is like planting a seed: it requires daily attention for it to grow. Through meditation, reflection, and loving action, you will soon “be the change”.
A successful and meaningful life starts with self-awareness, a commitment to living according to your values, and a consistent practice of setting intentions in multiple areas of your life.
Beginning in 2019, Sacred Treehouse will deliver 52 weeks of weekly inspiration –straight to your inbox -every Sunday evening. Each week will include mindful living inspiration in these seven areas of daily life:
We encourage you to reflect on each week’s message, setting an intention that is in alignment with your goals and ultimately deepening self-awareness.
Some general guidelines to follow when using the weekly tips:
Read each quote or passage and pause, allowing the words and images to give rise to any personal meaning.
Consider keeping a companion mindfulness journal. Journal with simple bullet points or a complete journal entry after you take time to pause and reflect.
If a particular quote or prompt is unwise or conflicts with your personal goals, simply note it and return to a previous week for further practice and reflection.
It is also helpful to note that the definition for mindful living means moment to moment awareness without judgment, noting what is wise and supportive of living according to your core values. You may find it helpful to explore some core values to use as guidepost for weekly practice.
We hope you enjoy this mindfulness journey. If you have any comments, suggestions, or feedback, feel free to email us.
We wish you a happy, healthy, and mindful New Year!
Yoga Therapist & Teacher Kathy Ornish, c-IAYTPairs With Sacred Treehouse to Offer Meditation Workshop
Sacred Treehouse is pleased to announce that guest moderator Kathy Ornish, c-IAYT, will host “Introduction to Meditation”, beginning in late November. This workshop is ideal for those curious about meditation or for anyone looking to strengthen their practice. Through this dynamic and interactive workshop, participants will learn how to create a comfortable seated pose; practice systemic relaxation to focus and relax the mind; discover the five basic steps of meditation; learn how to use a mantra; and develop an understanding of our relationship to silence.
Classes will be held on Mondays, 10:00-11:30 a.m., starting November 27th and Wednesdays, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m., beginning November 29th. More information is available at sacredtreehouse.org.
About Kathy Ornish, c-IAYT:
Kathy Ornish is a certified yoga therapist and teacher through the American Viniyoga Institute (AVI), where she is a faculty member for the Viniyoga Foundations Program for Teaching and Yoga Therapy. She is also a certified ParaYoga teacher, as well as a consultant at the Preventative Medicine Research Institute in California. K.O. is Owner and Director at Good Space Yoga in East Lansing, Michigan, where she has a yoga therapy practice and teaches group classes. Her primary emphasis is on teaching the breadth of the yoga tradition using the appropriate application of its many tools to help people realize their highest potential. She is excited to share her passion for mindfulness with the Sacred Treehouse community.
Is Your Yoga Practice SAFE?Alyana Ramirez, E-RYT 200
North America’s yoga industry has grown exponentially in the past 10 years. Over 36 million people practice yoga in the United States – a number that has doubled since 2012. Doctors are recommending yoga for everything from Parkinson’s Disease to PTSD. Even at social gatherings, groups of yoga enthusiasts can be found discussing how amazing they feel after their first month of yoga classes. With this increase in popularity also comes a plethora of new yoga teachers and classes. With so many new teachers and studios popping up on every corner, practitioners have more choice than ever. Yoga is a broad term for a very complex and varied practice. It’s difficult to know what you’re walking into when you walk into your new neighborhood studio, or even a class taught by a different instructor. When presented with so many different choices, it becomes clear how essential it is to offer a yoga program which creates an inclusive and safe environment for every practitioner. SAFE Yoga (Sensitive Approach For Everyone) is a yoga program which honors the heart of yoga practice.
At its heart, the practice of yoga is a practice in meditation – an effort to create more connection between mind, body, and the present moment. In application, the importance our culture places on physical appearance, fitness, and youth has pressured many yoga teachers to modify classes so that the physical benefits of the practice are emphasized. With classes named CorePower Yoga and teachers encouraging students to “push to your edge”, “burn off your Thanksgiving dinner”, or “do more, reach further”, the practice becomes unrecognizable. While there’s nothing wrong with taking care of our bodies, making this the primary focus means that practitioners find themselves walking into yet another self-improvement course. The yoga classroom becomes one more place where we aren’t good enough, strong enough, flexible enough, or young enough, as opposed to the mindful, self-compassionate practice that it was originally intended to be.
When a healthy individual goes into a class described above, it can be frustrating but probably won’t have lasting negative effects. They might still receive some level of benefit from the practice, enjoy the movement and breathing, and receive some inspiration. But what about an individual who comes in with an injury, body dysmorphia, or depression? In these cases, asking them to push harder, do better, or burn more calories can actually be dangerous.
Every person that walks into a yoga class is an individual in the truest sense of the word. We all are coming in with a different body type, background, fitness level, and mental and/or physical health concerns. While it is common for a yoga teacher to make adjustments for visible injuries or limitations, many people will walk into an open class with a concern that is not easily visible. Over 3 million people are diagnosed with a herniated spinal disc every year. 1 in 5 Americans struggles with mental illness annually. At any given time, almost 10% of the U.S. population is dealing with anxiety, major depression, or bipolar disorder, and over 31 million people have struggled with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Additionally, between 10-15% of the U.S. population suffers from an eating disorder.
Even for individuals who aren’t coming into class with an identifiable physical or mental health issue, the Western approach to yoga can have the opposite of its intended effect. Orthopedic surgeons report an increase in the need for hip replacements on younger patients who are also yoga teachers, and also note that it is not uncommon to see devoted yoga practitioners coming in with chronic pain in their shoulders, elbows, and necks. It’s easy to see how hot yoga, an extremely popular style, can be dangerous when practiced in a 104 degree room, possibly leading to dehydration or overstretched ligaments.
This doesn’t mean that the benefits of yoga aren’t real. Many individuals do experience real healing through yoga. But when practitioners are pushed by their teachers to do things that aren’t appropriate for their circumstances, real damage can occur. Making sure a teacher is well informed on the different mental and physical conditions that may require modifications in the practice is one step to reducing this risk. Of course, it isn’t possible for teachers to be aware of the unique needs of every single practitioner in their group class, nor would it be possible for them to modify the class in a way that works for everyone in it. Therefore, it is essential that teachers learn how to encourage their students in a different way, empowering them to do what is most compassionate for themselves in the moment.
If we can make mindful meditation the guiding focus of classes again and recognize the uniqueness of every individual, yoga becomes more accessible for populations that can deeply benefit but may have avoided the practice due to misinformed or insensitive instruction. And isn’t accessibility really the point? Non-harming and compassion for self and others is a core tenet of yoga philosophy. If we want to promote this practice as a source of healing, peace, and strength, we need to do everything possible to make yoga accessible to everyone who wants them.
Alyana Ramirez has been studying the integration of yoga, health, and human behavior for over 10 years. She has trained in trauma sensitive yoga, is certified in yoga for mental health, and has had students of all ages and abilities. She has seen firsthand how thoughtful, intentional movement, when built on a foundation of mindfulness, can be the first step to more positive relationships – with both ourselves and the world around us.
The U.S. presidential election is over, and now we find ourselves reflecting on the process our nation has endured this year. It can be tempting to form judgments about people whose political views are different from ours. Whether our candidate won or lost, we may be feeling disillusioned about our fellow Americans after this contentious ordeal.
I was born and raised in a kind of political bubble, surrounded by people who mostly agreed on a set of accepted views. Then I moved away from my hometown, and I found myself in a place that was culturally different from what I’d known. Eventually, I married a man whose family believed– and voted– in ways that were polar opposites to my own choices.
Yet, my in-laws have accepted, loved, and supported me for two decades. They welcomed me into the family with open arms, even though I am so different from them. Religiously, politically, and personally, it would seem we have nothing in common. But if I were to focus only on these differences, I would miss the deeper similarities we share.
My in-laws and I share an important set of core values. When I look deeply into their reasons for voting and believing as they do, I see these values operating. They care about protecting their families and innocent children. They care about the safety and freedom of our country. They want to see economic prosperity for Americans, and they hope to live in a kinder world. They believe in charity and lending help to those around them.
I may not agree that their voting choices will support the values we share. I have my own opinions about what policies would best serve our common goals. Still, I have respect for the people I’ve come to love so well.
Amid all the name-calling and shaming, it can be nearly impossible to have a productive conversation between people with different views. My relatives are not racists or misogynists, and they are deeply offended when people apply those ugly labels. How can they hear anyone’s opinions when they’re being belittled that way? How can any of us keep an open mind, when we’re being judged and attacked?
If I spend my energy judging others, I create suffering for myself. I choose to focus, instead, on the common values most of us share, deep down. We all want to be free, happy, safe, and prosperous. If we remember this truth, we can disagree respectfully and hear each other more clearly, We can use our power and our voices to make things better.
Because I’ve learned from loving people who think so differently, I choose to trust in the basic goodness of my neighbor. I believe that’s the way forward for all of us.
MBSR is concluding. There are only two weeks left and I feel terribly sad that I won’t share this particular space with these particular people on Wednesday mornings. I also feel slightly nervous about continuing practice without such intensive guidance. What will my practice look like on my own? Can I “drop in” to meditation without Dr. Shutt’s assistance?
Prior to participating in the program, my meditation practice was fledgling. I was very attached to a certain way of meditating and I often fell asleep very quickly. MBSR has taught me one of the key principles of non-attachment. My meditation practice doesn’t have to look a certain way. I am just as capable of controlling my thoughts as I am herding cats. External stimuli will always exist.
Instead of being bothered by what is uncontrollable, I have embraced open awareness. I can allow thoughts and sensations to pass through like clouds in the sky. I can embrace sounds and movements as energy, and even incorporate them into my meditation. The sounds of birds chirping, dogs barking, or even a lawn mower can become anchors in my practice.
Mindfulness and meditation have allowed me to slow down. Instead of reacting, I THINK. Is it True, Helpful, Intelligent, Necessary, or Kind? Developing mindfulness has allowed me to develop compassion for others. I often remind myself that others may be more reactive or stressed. By practicing mindfulness, I can extend patience and compassion to everyone I meet.
MBSR has undoubtedly improved the quality of my life. I no longer feel obligated to make instant decisions, rushing through my life with resentments or regrets. I can choose to make each day intentional. This intentionality is extended to my body, breath, observations, and movements. I can renew myself each day with quiet time for myself, or lift my arms in combination with my breath, feeling life course through me. I reflect on my MBSR experience, and am reminded of a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh in The Art of Power:
“Our society is founded on a very limited definition of power, namely wealth, professional success, fame, physical strength, military might, and political control. My dear friends, I suggest that there is another kind of power, a greater power: the power to be happy right in the present moment, free from addiction, fear, despair, discrimination, anger, and ignorance. This power is the birthright of every human being, whether celebrated or unkown, rich or poor, strong or weak.”
If you are looking for an alternative, MBSR is a great beginning.