Retreat Yourself

In late June 2014, I wrote a note in my phone of three simple “I am” statements to set the tone for my summer.  Pushing aside the millions of things to get done and ways to make two months off from the day job count, I set these “I am” statements at the core of my desires for that time.  At the heart of all of the “stuff” I had to do and wanted to do that summer, my true intentions were in these “I am” statements.  I typed:

I am

-reading.

-practicing yoga.

-mindful.

I didn’t even know what mindful meant or why I typed it— it just appeared there on the screen.  I am mindful… ok.  Let that sit.

I found a yoga studio near to where we were living.  I signed up for a month unlimited and then another month unlimited.  I took classes 3-5 times per week for the entire summer.  I am practicing yoga…  finally.  For months before that, I was thinking about it.  And I was telling myself that I “should” be practicing yoga.  But I never seemed to quite get around to it.  I let everything else jump the line and take up my precious time.  All it took was setting that clear intention: I am practicing yoga.  Like magic, I was.

I found two teachers whose style and energy matched what I was seeking in my practice and made darn sure to show up at their classes.  I dove all in, as I’m prone to do.  One of those teachers offered free guided meditation after classes, as the schedule allowed.  I stayed.  She shared about her practices, her studies through UMass. Medical School in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and her “real life” applications of these simple-yet-complex practices.  She had something here.  I hung on every word.

A friendship blossomed.  At the time, I hadn’t consciously revisited my note in my phone with my summer intentions, my “I am” statements.  But I was learning about mindfulness, that word I typed without knowing why.  My new mediation coach and friend recommended books that she was reading.  We started to hang out.  We shared this glorious spark of brilliance.  I knew I found a soul sister in Debbie.  Toward the end of August 2014, while rolling up my yoga mat after one of Debbie’s last yoga classes for the summer, I opened the notes in my phone… and there it was: I am mindful.  I manifested a practice, a coach and a friend with three words.  Don’t question the process.  Be open to being guided.  Set the intentions that are in your heart and take the action steps as they unfold.

This past Thursday, I had the honor of sitting at a full-day retreat of over 100 educators led by my soul sister Debbie and her colleague in mindfulness Cory.  They led us through the practices and applications of this life-saving, life-expanding gift called Mindfulness.  They are the real-deal.  I, who often cannot exhale without checking my phone 17 times, did not even check the time from 7:30 am until 4:35 pm.  That’s the magic that Debbie and Cory shared.

We learned about our relationship to stress, how to be with what is here, how to develop our mental fitness… I could go on and on.  I took 17 pages of notes.  But, if I can share only one take-away with you, it is this: replace resistance with curiosity.  Approach your day with an element of awe and wonder.

Debbie, I bow to you.  I am mindful.

Advertisements

Autopilot

I don’t know if there’s a name for it… that experience where you’re driving but your mind is completely somewhere else and you kind of shake your head and snap back to the present moment, having virtually no recollection of getting where you are, like that total autopilot moment… that’s August for me, every year.  I just realized it last night, as we got into bed and I shook my head fiercely and thought, “Holy stuff, it’s almost over.”   This is my brain on August, autopilot, struggling to get back to the present.

My mindfulness practices are inconsistent—but that’s why they call it a practice and not a perfect, right?  I am routinized and committed to many things so it’s not like I can’t; I just haven’t yet.  But I will.  The struggles are thematic (and I almost blush at calling them struggles because it’s really not so bad in the grand scheme of this whirling world).  I hit speed bumps and roadblocks at similar places and phases, the same way, I imagine, a serial dieter does.  I am aware of my patterns and my inclinations.  I’m here, trying to balance acceptance and growth.

Again, it’s a practice.  I’m finally at a place where I don’t feel like my vacations are too short (those of you who don’t get the number of weeks off that I do can continue cursing at me now—I can’t hear you anyway).  I don’t feel like the days or my life is racing by because I am paying attention on purpose, with purpose.  I’m making it count AND giving myself a giant break that I denied myself in the past.  I’m consciously shutting down the August Autopilot now.  So today, or even just for the next hour, give the autopilot a rest.  Let it recharge—after all, we need it in its highest working order in times of necessity—and be present with yourself.  Take it all in.  Accept your patterns, your habits, your predilections and grow through the elements that could use change.  Be here now.  Much love.

 

The Business of Bonding

Alternate title: Lies My Rabbits Told Me

How do you best admit struggle when you’re the leader?  How do you exhale and admit, “It’s getting tough for us over here!” when you’re the one people turn to when the stuff gets tough for them?

Confession: bonding got tough this week, out of seemingly nowhere (but not actually nowhere when I stopped to think about it).  Quick catch-up for those of you who haven’t tuned in before: lived side-by-side for 5 years, moved to a new home one month ago, started official bonding the day we moved, all was going very well.  Then, I guess middle of this past week, the little bits of circling or chasing that would happen occasionally but diffuse quickly and on their own started to pop off into near-fights or actual fights.  And I couldn’t tell anyone, besides the Bunny-daddy of course.  I’m the one who gives bonding advice or at least connects you to the people who can give you the best advice—how could I admit that the relationship-building took a turn for the tough in my own living room?

Drop the ego.  Get it together.  But in the thick of it all, I wasn’t paying attention fully.  I wasn’t using my “toolbox” of mindfulness and personal development that I teach about!  If I was, I would have realized that Tater stopped grooming Peanut, a loving and lengthy ritual that Peanut began to expect at the beginning of and periodically throughout the exercise time/bonding sessions.  Of late, Peanut had even begun to reciprocate the grooming—it was a freakin’ miracle in this house.  Maybe that milestone distracted me.  I can see clearly now that last Tuesday or Wednesday, whenever this mayhem started, that the lack of the grooming ritual was causing the conflicts.  But I wasn’t fully present.  I was coasting on last Sunday’s amazing 14+ hour bonding session.  I was coasting on the Nothing In The World That I Can’t Do mentality that all too often leaves me with blinders on to the indicators of change or of changing needs.  I was getting ready for bestie to visit, I was getting ready for a holiday that I celebrate for tradition, I was still trying to unpack and settle, all while cruising through bonding.

The realization of the root of the issue came when I finally sat with the bunnies and was fully present.  I sat with the intention to sit there, not with the intention to make sure they were ok then throw in laundry, wash dishes, finish Christmas cards, unpack a box, answer Rescue emails, etc., etc., etc… it was ONLY when I sat there with the intention of being there and there only, that I realized the grooming had stopped, thus the course of their relationship-building shifted.  Duh.  But in running the house, one day job, two small businesses, one non-profit organization and a beautiful family group, I let my true presence be absent.  I really thought they were good, that they were bonded!  Look at how they were behaving!  Yes, I had been pouring on the Stress Away when the fights started—now I knew what else I needed to add.

So, this morning, after bestie left, I dripped Peace & Calming into the diffuser, I sprayed myself and the living room with White Angelica, I put Valor II over my heart and some drops of Surrender and Highest Potential in my hands.  Yes, I know, one drop of one oil would have been enough but in typical B-fashion I had to go over the top to ensure success.  Being fully present, I sat with the boys for 30ish minutes this morning.  There were some scuffles, but I get it now.  And when I’m fully present, the sessions may be shorter but they are more purposeful.  I tell my colleagues in business and Rescue and my learners at the day job that my success comes from my laser-sharp focus.  And here I was, not using it, one of my greatest tools.

Lies my rabbits told me—more like lies I tell myself!  I let their progress delude me.  I let it fuel my tendency to take on too much at once.  Now, my options are clear: I am where I am, fully present or I am shut off.  I cannot ensure their progress (or safety, for that matter) while simultaneously working on three other things.  Or one other thing.  See how even my diction reveals the pressure I put on myself… get it together.

I’ve often toyed with idea of having “Be Here Now” tattooed on my wrist.  I think I’ve hesitated because it rocks my Type-A intense achiever personality to admit that I need such a reminder, especially for something that seems so basic.  Also, I need to donate blood again before I get my text tattoo.  But anyway, the lesson here: Bonding is a business.  And just like one of my mentors-in-my-head Bethenny Frankel (love her or hate her, I don’t care!) says, “Everything is your business” and when you treat every task you take on like it’s your business, the care cultivated and the success sustained is remarkable.

Be here now.  Do one thing at a time.  Pay attention on purpose to what’s going on in front of your face and in your heart.  Much love.

121816

Hop the Hop

I advise everyone, yes everyone, who asks for coaching, mentorship or just plain advice from me to meditate.  And yet, my practice of meditation is less than consistent!  Since I was on vacation from my “day job” this week, I took the opportunity to talk the talk AND walk the walk… or should we say hop the hop!

My meditation coach and treasured friend Debbie describes meditation and mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose in the present moment non-judgmentally” using the body and all sensory systems.  Start as simply as her directive of “Just Sit.”  That’s where the magic happens.  Believe in the potential or not… you know it’s worth a try!

Debbie trained at The University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness under the direct guidance of the incredible Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, so there’s plenty of legit science behind all of this spiritual practice.  Accompanied by fellow Rabbit Rescue volunteer Nicole, I attended a talk Debbie gave this week at Turn of the Corkscrew in Rockville Centre.  Armed with my notebook and my renewed commitment to my own practice, I soaked in all of the goodies from Debbie’s wise words and guided meditations.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and its approach to a mediation practice fits well into my human experience.  It’s not the type of practice where you have to run off into the woods with no shoes on and clear you mind completely for hours to reap benefits—quite the opposite.  Debbie reminded the attendees throughout her talk that mindfulness meditation is an exercise to strengthen our brain.  And just like any other muscle or body system, the brain needs work to see progress or change.  You aren’t going to lose weight by eating differently for one day.  You aren’t going to get sick abs by exercising for one week.  It’s all a practice.  In this case, it’s a practice of “lifting emotional weights.”

And this practice is one that helps us to “respond skillfully rather than react,” which is an invaluable skill for me in both my day job and in Rescue.  I receive emails, many of which seem or are urgent, and calls about cases that are literally life or death situations for abandoned rabbits.  If I react, I’m in an ineffective panic.  When I remember to breathe, then respond skillfully, cases are appropriately prioritized and more lives get saved.

Toward the end of her talk, Debbie said, “It’s not about getting rid of stress—it’s developing a new relationship to it.”  And that’s a refreshing truth that I think will resonate with a lot of you reading this.  No matter what passion and path you are hopping, walking, trotting, whatever, stressors are real.  Obstacles appear and sometimes persist.  A meditation practice, even 2 minutes a day, can be the key to surmounting those stressors.  And since I advocate so heavily for the practice, I will hop the hop with you.  Just sit.  And as Debbie says, “Trust in the wisdom.”

“Like” Debbie’s page on Facebook, please.

12274359_639139309562046_3379032283222817095_n
Tater Tot meditates too!