Living Mindfully with Lizzie Shutt

As we promised each month we would be interviewing and sharing a special guest who embodies mindfulness off the  cushion and it is an honor to share this audio interview with Lizzie Shutt, @livwithliz and Lizzieshutt.com. 

      Lizzie is a senior at UF, majoring in horticulture and has her own holistic health coaching business and consciously connecting blog. She shares her intention to SERVE as a mentor, a guide, and a proud contributor to many like-minded non-profit organizations, such as #unlitter, heARTshow.org, and WISETRIBE.us She is clear about her mission to help foster a connection between oneself and nature and be a guide for others to live a healthy, fulfilling life, while consciously living in harmony with nature. 

     Lizzie shares with us the new chapter she started this month as she co-hosts an online course with yoga instructor Bailey Walick called The Yoga of Living: Alive to Thrive.  Checkout @baileyyoga on youtube for a gentle evening bedtime yoga.

Listen here to full interview:

Living Mindfully with Lizzie

With Love and gratitude,

Patty and The Sacred Treehouse faculty

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.

Beginning a new chapter: January 2021

 I always appreciated new beginnings, especially as a student in school when a new year or semester began and I started a new notebook, it was like a clean slate. There is a sort of freshness to starting new and through the practice of mindfulness I have learned to incorporate beginner’s mind into daily living. A fresh, open, curious mind can lead to feeling fresh, lighter, and more open hearted. 

     The start of a new year lends itself to bringing on the same feelings of a fresh start, even if it is just another day. Perhaps, if we approach this month, the beginning of a new year with beginners mind, we can invite in new ways of perceiving and experiencing the same old things. Maybe nothing changes much at all, except our approach to it and this can change everything. 

     This new year, new you vibe inspired me tc change the look and feel of this blog, while still delivering inspiration for mindful living. Ghandi’s reminder that your life is your message will guide me as I set out this year to live more mindfully, bringing inspiration to our students and readers from the treehouse faculty, our favorite authors, and other people in the world taking mindfulness off the cushion. Each month we will highlight an individual or group who emanates mindfulness in daily life through their work, their passion, and their actions. 

 What is the message you are sending to the world? 

     Would you like to revise this message? If so to what? 

     What actions are needed “to be” this new message?
      

     Remember, new year- new you, so take this opportunity to set your intention on BEING a positive message. Sacred Treehouse is committed to planting seeds of peace, hope, and love. So let go of the past and know that with beginners mind you can begin again, a new chapter. Be sure to let go of perfectionisms, because there is no perfect message, you are allowed to struggle, and you get to begin again, and again, and again. 

     Need support in overcoming obstacles? Just email me us at info@sacredtreehouse.orgto set up individualized mindfulness coaching or keep a look out for group classes (all virtual for now).

With Love and gratitude,

Patty and The Sacred Treehouse faculty

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.

Mindfulness: Make it a Habit!

How can something be so simple and yet so challenging? As Sharon Salzberg states, “mindfulness is not difficult”, right? Or is it? I guess with all things so profound and deep we will discover the presence of a dialectic where it will contain (both/and) both simple and complex, easy and difficult, all at the same time. People often give up before really giving mindfulness a shot because there are so many preconceived notions and narrow views about mindfulness, meditation, and even yoga, often filled with images of monks sitting in a lotus posture or a perfectly sculpted body in tree pose. For most people the practices will be challenging from the start because the mind and the body are often moving at a pace that will generate discomfort, unease, or irritability as you attempt to focus attention and slow down. 

I like to think of mindfulness as a muscle, and as a human being we all come equipped with the capacity to exercise, tone, and build our muscles. For the weak and less conditioned body, it will be difficult to repetitively lift a 45-pound weight, just as it will be difficult for a beginner in mindfulness practices to sit for a 45-minute meditation. What changes over time? If one lifts the weights regularly, they build up muscle strength and the stamina to increase the weight and duration. If one practices mindfulness daily, they too will build up mind strength to stay focused and present for longer durations. Again, as Sharon points out we need to “remember to do it”. The practices are simple and yet hard to discipline the body and mind to engage in the regular practices long enough to become a habit….it is only then that we can remember to be mindful just as we remember to wake up, to sleep, to eat,  to brush our teeth, or to use the restroom. The state of mindfulness will become just like that of a satisfied belly, a good night sleep, or the comfort from a love one’s embrace. As your practice develops and you come to truly know and embody the state of mindfulness, there will eventually be a pang, or a sense in the mind and body when you get lost or caught up that will call you back to cushion, chair, mat, or walking practice. The return can be like coming home from an arduous, freezing mountain climb to find a warm fire and hot meal or for my fellow Floridians, like coming home from a brutally hot summer workday to a cool pool and an ice-cold lemonade. Ahhhhh…..home at last! 

For me having the accountability and a support of a community, our Sacred Treehouse Sangha, motivates and inspires me to continue even during difficult periods of my life. For beginners, the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR, is a great way to get exposed to various practices with the support of a community for a long enough duration to cultivate a daily habit that allows you to feel the pang or sense in some way a calling back to mindfulness when you get caught up in the past or future (8 weeks to be exact). We all have those pangs or callings and sometimes we get fooled into feeding them cookies, or booze, or online shopping. Yet none of those things can satisfy us like the returning back home to mindfulness. When one learns to rest in awareness then one has found the path to where mind, body, and soul can be at peace, even amidst the challenges of life.

Don’t just believe me, try it for yourself and I mean really try it out, meaning make a full 8-week commitment and join us in 2021 to build a mindfulness practice and daily habit. Dr. Nikki Davis and I will be co-teaching a virtual LIVE class on Zoom and we look forward to having you join our community and gain the support you need to build a mindfulness practice that is right for you. If you are an MBSR graduate, look for our advanced offerings of Mindful Self Compassion (MSC) or take your practice off the cushion and into your life with “Live with Lizzie” in The Yoga of Living Course. Check it out HERE….after all- the point of daily practice is to wake up and bring mindfulness to living fully in presence. Stay tuned for a growing Sacred Treehouse community and more opportunities, both virtually and in person as 2021 unfolds. 

May your holiday and new year celebration be safe,
May you be healthy and strong in mind and body,
May you be truly happy and content, 
May you be peaceful and calm,
May you be filled with lovingkindness and compassion, and 
May you live with ease.

With Love and gratitude,

Dr. Patty and The Sacred Treehouse Faculty

Patty Thomas Shutt, is the 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.

Be the present!

Take the NO PHONE pledge: 

I will put down my phone this Holiday for 3 or ___ hrs a day to be fully present with those I love. 

Go ahead take it….Express it out loud, making a commitment to those you are with in person or virtually this season. Consider putting it out of sight or on silence. Then turn toward your friend or family member (s) who are present or afar (on the phone or video). Look them in the eyes; listen with intention; let go of your expectations; be curious and give each and every person your unwavering awareness. 

I know it is difficult and there are real limitations, however I challenge you to take this pledge and see what happens.

Observe what this approach does to your experience moment-by-moment — you may find that it expands and deepens your connections, as well as your sense of the memory after the moment passes. You’ll likely discover that presence is one of the most precious gifts we can give and is needed more than ever. Our presence adds far more value to both our lives and the lives of others than any material object can.

Most of us would like to think that we are present in our daily lives, but the truth is that so many of us live a far distance from ourselves and from our experiences. We often operate on a sort of autopilot of feeling and behavior not just in the midst of our daily lives, but even more in the face of those who matter most to us, our loved ones.

With the simple and repeated practice of awareness, we can give presence to everything the season brings — from warmth and joy, to difficulty and tension — without needing to change or fix anything. We may find that being better connected to the moment in this way, a better connection to our self and to our family and friends begins to grow and flourish.

Mindfulness is not just a gift for us individually, but collectively too. In these challenging and turbulent times of division, discord, and the pandemic, mindfulness has the power to reinforce the shared humanity that holds us all together. The individual is reflected in the collective, and when we bring awareness to the way that we relate to ourselves individually — that is, when we develop deeper understanding  and acceptance, through mindful attention and a more compassionate connection with our self — this becomes mirrored in our interactions with those around us in the collective. It’s contagious. However, just like a virus, some are more immune to spread than others, so practice patience, don’t give up,  and be sure you lead through example not by issuing “orders or demands”. Keep your eye on your behavior and intention to give the gift of MINDFUL attention and let us know what gifts it brings to you and others around you this season. 

Want to learn more about mindfulness? Get more intensive training? Check out the virtual offerings and consider giving yourself the gift of mindfulness in 2021 at the virtual Sacred Treehouse. Just click HERE

May you and all beings be safe, healthy, happy, and loved this season and may you get to taste the sweetness of mindfulness and whatever else it brings.,

With love and gratitude,


Patty and The Sacred Treehouse Faculty

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.

Sense and Savor the Holidays

Mindfulness is all about getting out of our heads and into the present moment and the best way to do that is by connecting with our senses. Why? Because we can’t smell tomorrow,  or feel yesterday! The Holiday’s are such an amazing opportunity to practice mindfulness, even with all the restrictions placed on us this year. We can expand, open awareness, and take in the beauty, the sweet and  savory, and the music. Bringing present moment awareness unlocks the potential to see with beginner’s mind and allow the present to bring what gifts it has to offer. 

Some tips on using your senses:

When you do venture out shopping for gifts or taking a casual stroll, be sure to really tune into the sights, sounds and smells (if you can through your mask) of the season. Feel the winter weather change, perhaps cold and frosty or just a slight change in humidity. Notice how the Christmas songs can take you back and give you a certain feeling inside, take in the smell of pine needles and holiday lights. Be present for these things and truly observe the sensations in the body.


Mindfulness not only helps with truly savoring all the traditional treats the holiday brings, it also helps limit the overconsumption that often accompanies holiday parties and family meals. We tend to end up consuming more food and drinks than feel comfortable.  This holiday season is the perfect time to practice using mindfulness to help us determine when we’ve had enough. By really savoring our food and drinks more slowly, we can naturally notice when we’ve had our fill. We can use mindfulness to check in with our bodies and follow the signals that it sends about fullness. So rather than acting when our mind says: “I want another cookie!” we can listen to what our belly says. If you notice that you are comfortably full or maybe that your belly is already bursting then pause, thank your mind for that thought and try to leave the cookie platter — or simply close your eyes and smell the cookie. Sometimes savoring with the nose is just as amazing as savoring with the tongue. Try it out!

Another big part of mindfulness is acceptance and compassion and this applies not only to others, but also ourselves. Set the intention to be kind to yourself! We spend so much time leading up to the holidays thinking about everyone else and trying to create the perfect atmosphere for everyone. Make a point of just noticing how you might be putting too much pressure on yourself, or beating yourself up when things don’t go as planned, or feeling like you ate too much. In those moments just remember to take a few deep breaths. And like you would tell a good friend: don’t be so harsh with yourself, you are human!

In the frantic race toward the holidays, we might  forget that — as beautiful as Christmas can be, as special as Chanukah may be to you, and even the celebration of Kwanzaa — they are just another day (s) that will come and go. Bring awareness to the expectations you might be holding for the season. Every time you notice your mind racing ahead and creating inflated or unrealistic expectations, just take a few breaths and come back to the present moment. The same intention can be made when thinking about any family gatherings you have planned this year if you are fortunate to live nearby. The mind can anticipate and create an expectation of past drama already being played out in the mind. Ruminating about what could happen won’t help and will only makes you more tense during the days before the event. Let go of any expectations and greet the day when it’s at the door.

Pay attention if the mind starts to “should” on your holiday season and practice acceptance and gratitude for what is present. if your celebration is on video chat this year, make teh best of it! However, if you need time to grieve any losses, especially loved ones, give your self ample time to feel the love still aching in your heart and turn toward it with kindness and warmth. Know that you need extra special care when grieving so really let go of as many demands, expectations, obligations, and let yourself feel what you feel because there is no “right” way.

My heart goes out to those who lost a loved one or suffered greatly this year. May your heart feel the love and compassion that I call around you and may you find some peace and ease in the moment of presence.

With Love and gratitude,

Patty and The Sacred Treehouse faculty

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.

Savoring: especially the small things!

The holidays! Probably my favorite time of year …A time of nostalgia, twinkly lights and hope … also a time of lots of good eats! Even in times such as these, where change is both inevitable and unpredictable, but positivity also feels scarce … SAVORING the things I love is a much needed and powerful reminder of the inherent value of things. 

My mindfulness practice has carried me through challenging times before. And it is mindfulness (and gratitude!) that led me to my love of food and cooking which have also brought me such solace and joy when other parts of my world felt dark. More than 20 years ago I compiled a book of recipes, what I called “my most-requested, most-made or most-yummy,” that had special meaning to me at the time. Some of these recipes remain tried-and-true (like Daddy Knows Good Chicken Soup soup), and other recipes (like the one below) are new additions to my evolving gastronomic repertoire. Through cooking I rediscover again and again a delight of color and taste and sound. I get to use intentional attention of these facets of the present moment to get my mind off of or around things. It is an adventure in creativity and beginner’s mind. Cooking with family and friends brings so much joy and fun to my life, and ranks high among the activities I know I can do to brighten my spirits or bring positivity to my day. 

My needs and likes as a “chef” have changed over time, too — no more a young adult first learning to bake or baste, but now a seasoned pescatarian mama with less time and less energy but more kitchen gadgets and more mouths to feed. But what hasn’t changed is my willingness to try new things and my excitement to share my kitchen creations with others. The taking joy in the journey of a meal, from grocery cart to dining table.  The pleasure I experience when others are savoring my creations. So at some point during the holidays I invite you to make a holiday meal a mindfulness experience— attending to the process, tuning in to the multisensory experiences of preparing and enjoying your meals as they unfold. Sharing what you’ve made with loved ones who are close, and observing what arises for them and you as you break bread together in celebration of the magic of this time of year. And from my table to yours, Happy Happy Holidays, and enjoy.

Simple Winter White Bean Soup

Extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp

1 sweet onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 medium Yukon gold or white potatoes, peeled and diced

2 large carrots, diced

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp salt

6 cups vegetable broth

1 cup water

Salt and pepper to taste

Sprig of fresh rosemary

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil to medium heat, and add the onions and celery until mostly tender, then add garlic until fragrant. Add the beans, potatoes, carrots, thyme and salt, along with the broth and water. Bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer for approximately one hour. Add salt/pepper or more broth/water as needed or to taste. Garnish with fresh rosemary, and serve with crusty bread.

*Much thanks to Lizzie Shutt for sharing a similar version of this recipe with me 🙂

 
I encourage you to take the time to savor in your day-to-day life too, whether you practice mindfulness regularly or not.  Use this mnemonic to help you:

SAVOR 

Slow Down — intentionally move more slowly through your day when you can, allowing for the opportunity to notice more of what you encounter.
 
Attend — bring your awareness and attention to whatever you are doing or observing.  Use your senses to explore the experience fully.
 
Value — acknowledge the extraordinary in the experience and how your being present for it brings value to your life.
 
Open — allow for a sense of openness and willingness to see things from a new perspective or vantage point.
 
Reflect — once the experience has passed or ended, take an opportunity to call to mind what you experienced and see if you notice similar emotions arise.

With love and blessings,

Dr. Nikki and the Sacred Treehouse Faculty

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.

Mindful Communication

“We are dangerous when we are not conscious of our responsibility for how we behave, think, and feel.” 
                                                          ― Marshall B. Rosenberg
 
Mindful communication is paramount in building healthy relationships and it is our responsibility to cultivate this both for ourselves and others, yet it can be difficult if not impossible without the kind of self awareness that is rooted in mindfulness and self compassion.  We all have deeply rooted patterns of communication that formed from our conditioning and the different strategies used to get our needs and wants met in relationships. Unfortunately, these patterns can live almost entirely in the unconscious mind because they are formed very early in life through modeling and survival, and become automatic just like other overlearned behaviors, unless we give time and attention to shine a light of awareness on:
 

  1. What we say  (The words we use to express ) or lack of speech.
  2. How we say it. (The tone, inflection, our body language)
  3. How it is received. (The interpretation and reaction)

 
Bringing mindfulness to how we speak to ourselves is just as important as right speech with others, and many students in MBSR come to discover the inner voice of self criticism, self condemnation, and even how it can reach levels of verbal self abuse. Leaning in with mindfulness toward these habits, meaning observing without judgment and bringing compassionate understanding to this inner speech, can on us to changing patterns and cultivating a kinder, more honest and compassionate voice. Teaching Mindful Self Compassion (MSC ) has become a way that I can serve and help the world change these patterns. Changing my habitual patterns also serves to improve my relationships and recently my focus to do less and say less has currently moved up to the top of my awareness list, and I have made a commitment to my team to target this behavior pattern for the sake of all. So the cue I am using internally is not “Shut Up Patty” it is one that comes from my teacher Tara Brach. I say to myself, “Wait” pausing to take a few breathes as I ask myself:
 
           W hy
            m
            I
            alking
 
As I breath and often down regulate my energy and emotion, I might begin to sense the activation in my nervous system that jumps into action, or often reaction. Doing some inquiry into why am I talking, what am I wanting or needing, is it kind and helpful? An important part for me of bringing mindfulness to communication has been learning and understanding how these patterns grow out of survival mechanisms that are hard wired in our limbic system designed to activate and get us to fight, flee, or freeze. Therefore, in speech we may “fight” with aggressive tactics of tone, choice of words, and even the manipulation of truth through exaggeration, minimization, or flat out denial or lying. We might flee by leaving the conversation and going to others to speak about thoughts and feelings, even gossiping. We might freeze by getting quiet, passive, even silent by withholding speech to avoid feared consequences. These patterns grown out childhood and relational interactions are part of  our survival behavioral repertoire that form to fulfill our basic needs. These patterns will get repeated and replicated as we develop and continue in future relationships, even when they are no longer effective. When we look at the pattern with understanding and compassion we can pause and move toward reassessing our present day situation and respond with awareness of the needs, emotions, and beliefs that are activated and this will even give us a greater chance of speaking from this more aware place. 
 
Paying attention to what we say, how we say it, and how it is received takes a great deal of willingness and discipline, yet remaining caught in our defensive pattern can result in the repetitive cycle of relationship struggles and keep us from getting our higher needs met, like love and connection. Again- it is important to look with the eyes of understanding and compassion because we were all born with the propensity to use defensive mechanisms so we can feel safe and survive. In DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) we emphasize and empathize that although we may not be the cause of our current problems, it is our responsibility to change or heal it. This may seem harsh and often we find the truth is hard to accept. If you have ever tried to change someone else by pointing out or critiquing their communication patterns, then you know it does not work. Each person has to take responsibility of looking within and committing to the hard work of stepping out of autopilot; be it aggressive, rigid, critical, self-centered, passive aggressive, or passive, to move toward more effective communication. A critical trauma sensitive note is to recognize and know that if you are in an unsafe relationship you will find it even harder to change these patterns.  It is best to practice mindful communication in relationships that are safe and capable of meeting new communication patterns with openness, acceptance, honesty, and reciprocity. 
 
 
Want to cultivate more awareness? Join us in cultivating mindfulness skills that will serve as tools to foster mindful communication both internally with yourself and in relationships by taking MBSR or MSC. Our Introduction to Mindfulness is this Wednesday 11/18/20 at 6 pm and Introduction to Mindful Self Compassion is Monday December 7th.  Come learn more and see if it is right for you. 

Already attended MBSR or MSC? Need a reboot you can take the course again at 50% discount or get individualized coaching to reboot or deepen your practice. MBSR graduates can join our Sacred Sangha on Tuesday evening at 6 pm or Friday 11am and continue to foster greater mindfulness and communication in a safe likeminded community. Be sure to look out for advanced MBSR offerings  and offers coming soon to the Sacred Treehouse. 

Please share our blog, our upcoming classes and consider giving a gift of PRESENCE as a present this year by purchasing a gift certificate for family, friends, or employees. 

May you be safe, protected and free from inner and outer harm.

With love and gratitude,

Dr. Patty and The Sacred Treehouse Faculty

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.

Never ever give up!

I live my life in ever widening circles, each superseding all the previous ones. Perhaps I never shall succeed in reaching the final circle, but attempt I will. 

I circle around God, the ancient tower,
and have been circling for a thousand years, and still I do not know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a continuing great song? 

Rainer Maria Rilke

     Tr. Albert Ernest Flemming 

      The path, AKA life, is absolutely steep, winding, and treacherous at times.  I too have experienced periods of overwhelming emotions that led to hopelessness. Fortunately, today I am holding a shining light and shouting loud and long for others to see through the darkness and keep on going until they are grounded and reach a safe landing. Others have been the light and the voice of encouragement for me during difficult times. They have included family, friends, teachers, poets, and mystics who have offered themselves in various ways as a beacon of hope and even shined the light on me and shared their belief in me. 

     In the evolution of the self or the soul, it is to be expected to experience both darkness and light, yet for some, the total collapse of meaning in life can occur from out of nowhere. This is often referred to as the dark night of the soul when a sudden loss of meaning one has ascribed to their achievements, their life, or where they were going in life is lost. It is a sort of death and what is lost is the egoic self and this can be very scary and painful, like a deep terrifying depression. However, it can also give rise to a rebirth-  the egoic self can ultimately be transformed by letting go of the concepts of the mind, most importantly the limited concept of self, and by awakening to something deeper, a new sense of Self emerges that no longer uses the mind to perceive, but rather the person is open to experiencing life fully and freely without the constraints of the culture and conditioning.

     This does not come easy, yet people who experience this ultimate letting go and awaken the egoless-self share, only retrospectively, that they had to go through the pain to reach the other side. Fortunately, they serve as the light to others who are in the dark.  Are you in the dark?  Or are you a shining light for others? Perhaps you have been both at times in your life. There have been plenty of dark times in my life to give me a sense of the dark night of the soul, and in spite of trusting that the other side is far greater than this limited vantage point, I too am scared to let go completely. So, I will continue to place a toe in the water and enter slowly and methodically unless life throws me in without warning and then I can only hope that my practice and my supports will be a light in the darkness.

     These may seem like dark times, but never forget that the light is waiting to emerge. Practice mindfulness with passion and patience. Stay connected to love and kindness- even small amounts can conquer hopelessness and despair. You are not alone. Not connected? Reach out, open your eyes and ears and never ever give up!

With love and gratitude for the light and love of others,

Dr. Patty and The Sacred Treehouse Faculty

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.

Equanimity: Staying Centered Even In Chaos

Equanimity is one of the four sublime, or divine states we cultivate through mindfulness practice, including Lovingkindness, Compassion, and Sympathetic Joy. We cannot will our self to be equanimous, it takes practice, practice, practice in steadying the mind under all conditions. The practice of non-attachment, accepting what is and letting go, all give rise to a steadiness of mind even when exposed to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may lead to others losing balance of mind.We cannot will ourself into this state, it unfolds and arises out of reaching deep insights and an ability to respond from wisdom and compassion. 

 
As a solid rock cannot be moved by the wind, 
the wise are not shaken by praise or blame.

When they listen to the words of the dharma,
their minds become calm and clear like the waters of a still lake.
 
                           -Dhammapada
                            (translated by Eknath Easwaran)
 
 

       Viewing 2020 as a bootcamp for equanimity has helped me turn toward my practice and the teachings as a refugee. Fortunately the ability to access these resources rather than turning to other maladaptive behaviors that serve to numb, avoid, or deny the reality of the pain and chaos of this year has made all the difference in my current state of mind. having the steady practice to focus attention consistently on the present moment, even while recovering from COVID 19 served as a way to maintain clarity and enabled me to see both good and bad, pain and pleasure, loss and gain with greater discernment and to respond to the challenges with wise attention.  Despite many obstacles and detours along the way I managed most days to proceed on the path of mindfulness and when I faltered I got back up and returned to my practices and supports. 

       How did I manage this? I must say it was very simple, yet not easy and most certainly required great supports. I reflected this weekend on what supported me to reach the eight month mark of this pandemic, and all the trials, tribulations, and tragedies of 2020 and still feel strong, grounded, full of love, and hope.I would like to share a few and hopefully illuminate a path for those still struggling with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness to seek refuge. Here is what has helped me….

  1. Maintaining a daily practice of mindfulness meditation, that included training attention and concentration while also opening and inviting the full experience of moment to moment awareness. 
  2. Making life a practice in presence. Seeing, feeling, and awakening to the full spectrum of events and  emotions, without being caught up in one or the other. 
  3. Letting go and accepting the present moment reality with all the changes and challenges and living skillfully with greater compassion, lovingkindness, and gratitude for all of it. 
  4. Recognizing the ways “I” lose balance and presence and what triggers the reactivity that leads to dwelling in the past or the future “what if’s” or wishes that cloud me from the wisdom of the present. 
  5. Meeting challenges and failures with greater self compassion, forgiveness, and humility. 
  6. Most importantly all the love and kindness from the Sacred Treehouse Sangha, my MMTCP mentor and peers, the incredible Oasis consultation team/family, and my friends and family who have all served as beacons of light, love, and inspiration at a time where many are painting a picture of the world as ugly, violent, and therefore hopeless. I can still see light!!!

With deepest gratitude to all….

 May all beings know peace, love,

and never give up hope!

Tashi Deley,

Patty and all the Sacred Treehouse Faculty

       
     P.S. Last chance to sign up for the virtual retreat day this Saturday as a special treat on Halloween to return to center and deepen your practice in a supportive community. SIGN UP HERE!

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.

Create Happiness Right Here, Right Now

If I told you there’s a three-week or three-year plan to achieving lifelong happiness, peace, and fulfillment is your mind tempted to hear this plan and read on? If so, I bet the 3 week one is your preferred option.

The mind loves to operate in terms of the “future” and on a “time-frame”. It is always looking for ways to achieve something better than the current state. The mind can churn with thoughts of  “I am not good enough yet, there is more I should be doing” or “there are more things I need in order to be happy”. 

I know my mind tells me this a lot and there are times I get caught in the trap and the feelings of frustration or discontent take over…. I think I “should” be doing more when in reality I need to just focus on what is going to support me in this moment of my life. At times I often need to do LESS!  The mind lenas into the future, thinking everything will get better than it is right now. The Someday Isle….that Happiness will be achieved because… “I will be retired” “I will be fit” “I will have enough money”. This belief is just an illusion.

I struggle with these same thoughts about the future and when I catch myself I try to reframe to “it will be different”. There is no reason why we can not be at peace and feel fulfilled every day, every moment, starting now, even if it is just a brief moment out of Twenty four hours.

The answer to freeing oneself from thousands of years of human experience and conditioning does not require you to work hard to spend lots of time and energy  bettering yourself. The simple truth is that it requires us to be present. In this moment you can move away from your thoughts of past and future and welcome a sense of presence. You are here to be Here, not There, so I challenge you to practice” Being Here Now”.

Pause.

Stop reading.

Close your eyes.

Take five deep breaths…. sighing all the air out on the exhale.

Take this moment for yourself.

To just be present.

Be Here Now. 

Mindfulness is not the brain’s default mode, yet with practice, we can exercise our Mindfulness Muscles, and change mindfulness from a state to a trait. Over time it becomes a more natural way we move about in the world rather than a state we enter once or twice a week. Perhaps as you hit the pause button and did the above practice you felt a deeper sense of presence or maybe the opposite, perhaps a tug of war in the mind. Just with anything that is worthwhile, it takes practice, patience, and nonjudgment.

Just as you walk your dog, exercise,, eat and drink water, you can practice mindfulness in your daily life. You don’t do it because you “should”, you practice for the good that it brings to your own life and the ripple effect it has on others. 

Mindfulness has brought me a greater sense of patience, compassion, empathy, faith, clarity, and curiosity. My mindfulness practice has strengthened my ability to catch myself in a moment of reaction before I say or do something that is not aligned with my values or truth.

This week I encourage you to dedicate 5 minutes to just being present with yourself, sitting, standing, or walking slowly. Use your breath as a focus point or put on a guided meditation. Set an attainable goal for yourself to practice. If you can do all 7 days this week great, just start where you are and notice the cumulative effect of a daily mindfulness break.

As you practice your mind will inevitably wander, this is natural. Simply bring it back to the breath and observe your thoughts float by without getting caught in the content. 

Most people give up meditation because they “can’t stop thinking” or “can’t stop thoughts from popping up”, but this is part of the practice. This is how you exercise your mindful muscles. You consistently catch the mind wandering and bring your attention back to the present moment, a more neutral object of attention, like the breath, sounds, or scanning the sensations in the body.. It is like you are flexing your muscles in that very moment you catch yourself from going down the rabbit hole of automatic thoughts. 

It helps to practice in community and reinforce your practice with supportive readings and inspiration. I recently attended Piero’s Mindfulness and Happiness workshop that watered the seeds of mindfulness and shined a BRIGHT  light on the here and now (and that is some great feat these days) and how I can take charge of creating a happier, more fulfilled, and meaningful life. 

Go to Sacred Treehouse and sign up for the next Mindfulness and Happiness class.

With love and gratitude,

Lizzie Shutt

IG: @livewliz

Blog: www.lizzieshutt.com

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. Lizzie is a student of life and is dedicated to helping others reach a greater state of wellbeing, both inside and out.