Monday, February 29, 2016

Mindful Monday- Building the Muscle Of Attention

"Interestingly but not surprisingly, one of the central benefits of meditation is that it improves attention and concentration."

     February is almost passed and today I am assessing my mindful project for this month. I wanted to stop multi-tasking and develop more ability to be attentive to one thing at a time. I addressed my reading attention, my ability to stay focused on conversations, using mindfulness to notice tasks like washing dishes and even just walking. Things are improving. 

One success is my meditation practice. It started slow with a five minute span feeling so long. Gradually I moved to fifteen minutes. I use an app called "The Mindfulness App". It includes pre-set silent meditations, guided versions, and even allows me to make my own personalized design of any length. When I hear the little bell ring three times I know I am done. I take a deep breath and feel renewed. Below are some interesting facts about quieting the troubled mind.

"One of the most interesting studies in the last few years, carried out at Yale University, found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts – a.k.a., “monkey mind.” The DMN is “on” or active when we’re not thinking about anything in particular, when our minds are just wandering from thought to thought. 
Since mind-wandering is typically associated with being less happy, ruminating, and worrying about the past and future, it’s the goal for many people to dial it down. Several studies have shown that meditation, through its quieting effect on the DMN, appears to do just this. And even when the mind does start to wander, because of the new connections that form, meditators are better at snapping back out of it."
Hence, we meditate!


                         More mindfulness Monday posts here.

Friday, February 26, 2016


Will there really be a morning? Is there such a thing as day? Could I see it from the mountains if I were as tall as they? Morning, morning, where does morning lie?
Emily Dickenson

  I did not begin as a morning person. Two things changed my physical and mental reactions to morning. My husband accepted a job which started at 6:00am and he got up at 4:30am. And, ten years ago I was asked to teach a zero hour high school religion class. Teaching every school day was rough. It meant preparing a new lesson every night. My piano teaching business was in full swing so I also taught 30 students during the afternoons. Preparation at night became too hard, so I would get up with my husband at 4:30 and start the morning fresh. I love the mornings now. Everything is quiet and serene. 
  The religion class is over but my body is wired for early rising. Lately I have been attempting meditation. My phone tells me that in the last 2 weeks I have meditated two hours and fourteen minutes. Wow! Two hours of doing absolutely nothing.  I must say I am feeling calmer and less tense. 

Morning really is my favorite time and I look forward to lighter days with the highpoint of sunrise before 6:00am. I can smell summer all ready.

    Has it feet like waterlilies? Has it feathers like a bird? Is it brought from other countries of which I've never heard? 

   Oh, some scholar, oh some sailor or some wise man from the sky, please to tell a little pilgrim where the place called morning lies?

Morning, morning, where does morning lie?
Emily Dickenson


  I write on Fridays with a large group who inspire me. Only five minutes and without much thought to perfection. I write, prompted by one word that sends my thoughts to the keyboard and hopefully make sense.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Mindful Monday-Walking

"Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet."
Thich Nhat Hanh

I am walking mindfully this week. I have to because I have a stress injury on a tendon over my ankle. It hurts. Each step is deliberate to maintain my stability and walking carefully takes all my attention. Forced mindfulness is not ideal, but, it is a practice. 

            Here are some instructions for walking mindfully which I received from my acupuncturist.

1.Stand up STRAIGHT with your back upright but not stiff. Feel your feet touching the ground and let your weight distribute evenly.

2.Curl the THUMB of your left hand in and wrap your fingers around it. Place it just above your belly button. Wrap your right hand around it, resting your right thumb in the crevice formed between your left thumb and index finger. (This creates some balance for you and keeps your swinging arms from being a distraction.)

3.Drop your GAZE slightly. This helps you maintain focus.

4.Step out with your left FOOT. Feel it swing, feel the heel hit the ground, now the ball, now the toes.

5.FEEL the same as the right foot comes forward.

6.Walk at a STEADY pace, slightly slower than in daily life but not funereal. When your attention wanders, bring it back to the sensations of your feet touching the ground

   I wanted to learn doing one thing at a time and break my habit of multitasking, but I would not have willingly chosen walking.I am grateful to have a needful practice.

More mindfulness Monday posts here.

Friday, February 19, 2016


"Yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One- yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity."
Helaman 12:2

     Years ago, in a college classroom hallway, on a Saturday afternoon, with just a small sun particulating through the higher up window, I knelt in prayer. I was sure of feeling guilt because of my distance to my Heavenly Father. I had forgotten him. With shyness, I petitioned. While I writhed with contrition, He flooded me with love. How did he do that? Tears of regret streamed done my face. All this time, He had been waiting. While I was working things out for myself, He had been waiting. While I was feeling smug with confidence, He had been waiting. Why did I forget?

  I write on Fridays with a large group who inspire me. Only five minutes and without much thought to perfection. I write, prompted by one word that sends my thoughts to the keyboard and hopefully make sense.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mindful Monday- Read With Full Attention

Help your mind engage and concentrate by actively looking for answers to questions


      My reading skills have suffered since I became a consummate multi-tasker. I find myself skimming and barely understanding what I have read. It is quite common that I have to read over the page twice to fully grasp the information. I choose to improve my current reading practice. Looking for questions to answer is one way to keep my mind engaged. 
   Recently I read this passage:

      Ether 3:4
 "And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea."

    The questions I was pondering was how this account could apply to my life. I was looking for  clues that would connect me to these verses. To my delight on a re-read I found that with a few changes I could certainly see how the Lord could work in this same way in my own life.

      "And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch (my life,) O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare (me to see thy handprints) in darkness; and they shall shine forth in my life which thou hast prepared, that I may have light while I shall cross the sea of life."

After each section, stop and think back to your questions. See if you can answer them from memory. If not, take a look back at the text. Do this as often as you need to.

How can this apply to my life is a wonderful question to ask as I read scripture.

When a book is fiction, with a great plot, I can hang onto the story much easier. Still, asking questions helps me see the author's navigational clues. In Susan Meissner's new book, "Stars Over Sunset Boulevard", I continually ask myself how the two main women in the book are like Scarlet and Melanie, characters from "Gone With The Wind". Ms. Meissner is setting her book in Hollywood at the time the block buster movie was made. Audrey and Violet are secretaries on the set. They interact, somewhat, with Rhett Butler and Scarlet O'Hara, as they take notes and memos for the assistants to the director. Keeping track of the parallel story of Audrey and Violet makes my reading more attentive. 
Single-tasking when I read is a goal this week. It is in line with my overall goal of being more mindful.

Stay mindful when you read and never try having a conversation at the same time.

More mindfulness Monday posts here.

Friday, February 12, 2016


“The garden of the world has no limits, except in your mind.” 

― Rumi

What if God created with a palette of two colors only? We might not know the difference, but having experienced a world of endless colors how limited our views would be. Perhaps limits are an earthly thing, not an eternal thing.

    While raising my children I would tell my husband at the end of the day that my energy was gone. Kaputt! Nothing was left inside of me. He would smile and ask if energy had a cap. Was there just so much in one day? I emphatically said yes. I knew he did not believe me and way down deep I wondered if there really was another layer of resilience I could call upon when I felt entirely finished.
  Last year my rhododendron tree bloomed twice, once in January and again in September. That was unheard of by me and I have lived here almost thirty years. I see now, in February, it is trying to bloom. It is supposed to bloom, but what if it gave all it had last year? Will it pull from it's very roots the energy to produce those light pink skirts, like ballet tutus, to please the eye?

"Awake, awake, put on strength, Oh arm of the Lord."
Isaiah 51:9

I write on Fridays with a large group who inspire me. Only five minutes and without much thought to perfection. I write, prompted by one word that sends my thoughts to the keyboard and hopefully make sense.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Mindful Monday- Being Present In Conversations

Be present, give eye contact, and give your full attention to the person with whom you are talking.

    This month I am trying to do more single-tasking. My daughter has observed that I do not fully give her attention when she wanders through to talk. My husband agrees. It is a criticism I find hard to hear. I like to continue reading, or working on my computer when someone interrupts me to talk. I have been doing more than one thing for a long time.  I am good at it but, I delude myself.

Here is my plan. I will pay better attention. If I am interrupted unfairly I will ask for a later conversation. It sounds so simple. To move from one focus to talking with someone,  I will shut my eyes briefly and inhale,  then open them and really look at the person with whom I am talking.

The truth is, your brain is not designed to do more than one thing at a time. It literally cannot achieve this, except in very rare circumstances. Instead, it toggles back and forth from one task to the next. For example, when you are driving while talking on the phone, your brain can either use its resources to drive or to talk on the phone, but never both. Scans show that when you talk on the phone, there is limited activation of your visual brain – suggesting you are driving without really watching. This explains how we can sometimes end up places without knowing exactly how we got there.
Sandra Bond Chapman-Forbes Magazine "Why Single-Tasking Makes You Smarter"

 More mindfulness Monday posts here.

Friday, February 5, 2016


Focus On Empathy

Do I fully understand empathy? I thought I did,  but now as I am taking an online class called Living Brave I see a little differently. Picking up the lens by which another sees the world is impossible for human beings. We really can't walk in another's shoes. Our interpretation of the walk would be different even if we had their shoes on. So what can we do? There are some attributes that an empathetic response encompasses.

  1. Perspective Taking-Allowing others to share their perspective even if it is not our own
  2. Staying out off Judgement- Refraining from judging their behavior or motivations
  3. Recognizing Emotions- Looking at the emotions the person is displaying
  4. Communicating emotions- Speaking the recognition of those emotions
  5. Staying Mindful and paying Attention- 

    My truth is always right. Correct? Well, if you are trying for empathy you may start by listening to another's truth and allowing that to be correct in their eyes. Too quickly I give advice to set my friend on a better path. Often advise is not what is needed,  just a listening ear and loving heart.

   This focus on the anatomy of empathy is already paying dividends. I am doing a better job at being a wife, mother, and friend. Why, just this morning I was the recipient of generous empathy. I asked my friend to spare some time to talk. We did. She listened with a loving heart. I was blessed.
    You know the only person that can walk in our shoes is our Savior, Jesus Christ. He alone has the capacity to see through our eyes because he has willingly taken our burdens, incapacities, mistakes, and sins upon himself. They are his when we surrender them to him and he knows how they feel. When I focus on being more empathic I also feel myself coming closer to him

I write on Fridays with a large group who inspire me. Only five minutes and without much thought to perfection. I write, prompted by one word that sends my thoughts to the keyboard and hopefully make sense.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mindful Monday- Doing The Dishes

In a life style of always doing more and multitasking, there is no space for self-compassion. What you are saying to yourself is that everything is more important than the experience you are having at this moment.

  While listening to a podcast with Gretchen Rubin I had a breakthrough idea. On her live show from San Francisco she was talking to a guest who was trying to prioritize her time better. A wife, mother, and school teacher, she found herself constantly trying to do two or three things at once. She felt her lifestyle was holding her hostage to the tasks that had the least importance in her life. My ears perked up because I am dedicating the month of February to developing the skill of single tasking. My mind moved to my learning about vulnerability. Connecting these ideas of allowing vulnerability to be present and also living a lifestyle of over tasking I had the thought of how these two ways of being are in conflict. If you are mentally over wrought with doing too many things at the same time, there cannot be room for vulnerability. There is no resilience left for that. Paying attention is part of vulnerability and self-compassion. If we can't pay attention to our feelings and surroundings we are more prone to feeling shame and self-criticism. 

   So this month I will practice doing one thing at a time, starting with the dishes. I don't have a dishwasher right now so I spend some time everyday in the dishwater. Most of the time my mind is elsewhere. After all, dishes are inconsequential, right? Could I pay attentions to the way the warm water feels, or the beauty of my colorful dishes? Could I notice the way soap makes designs, small and large? I could try. I could be alive in the moment of doing this one thing.

"If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, this hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not "washing the dishes." What's more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can't wash the dishes, the chances are we won't be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future-and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life."
                                                 Thich Nhãt Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness

  More mindfulness Monday posts here.