Clarity Holistic Health

A Mindful Approach to Healthy Living

Daily Clarity and Calm


May 2021


Welcome May!


This month, we will be exploring the many aspects of mindfulness.  Think of this as a mini-course, where each and every day you will take away new pearls of wisdom about mindfulness.  We are excited to share this with our readers!


We encourage you to keep a notebook or journal that you can record your observations and questions in.

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May 1, 2021

Mindfulness Defined


Author Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as "paying attention in a particular way:  on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally."  Others describe it as being "fully present in the current moment".


Reflect a moment on the pattern of your thoughts.  Most of us seem to have countless ideas, lists, worries, and concerns that pop in and out of our mind throughout the day.  As a reflective exercise today, notice the content of your thoughts when you are doing a familiar task like washing the dishes or doing the laundry.  Notice.  Pay close attention.  While you are washing each dish or putting clothes into the machine, is that the only thing you are thinking about?  


Make a quick journal entry at some point in your day to record your observations and what you noticed about your thoughts.  This will set the foundation for our month-long journey into the concept of mindfulness.

May 2, 2021

Origins of Mindfulness


Mindfulness, along with meditation, has been around for thousands of years and connected to Eastern religion, but there are many forms of mindfulness in almost off of the world's religions.


The Four Noble Truths (Tsering 2005) are the key teaching of all Buddhist traditions - Zen, Vajrayan, Theravada.  They address the concept of suffering and the ability to be still.  These ideas are considered "noble" because they help us increase our awareness and better understand habitual, automatic responses.


Only in the last few decades has the nonreligious practice of mindfulness become prevalent in the West.  It is now accepted and studied widely, offering benefits to the mind and body.  Throughout the United States, it is now much more common to see mindfulness meditation being offered in communities, schools, hospitals, senior centers, clinics, and offices.  


In the late 1970's, Jon Kabat-Zinn formally integrated mindfulness into a therapy by developing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).  Research has shown that mindfulness reduces chronic pain (Kabat-Zinn 1982; Kabat-Zinn, Lipworth, and Burney 1985), and also has broad benefits for the troublesome symptoms associated with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and panic disorder with agoraphobia.  Additional studies have confirmed that mindfulness practices help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and can even decrease the odds of experiencing a depression relapse.  Studies have also revealed improved attention in adults with ADHD, and decreased binge eating.



Mindfulness - be here now.

Place your right hand on your heart and your left hand on top of your right hand.

Be fully present in your body.

Focus on your breath and the rise/fall of your chest.

Stay in the present moment.  

If you find your mind drifting - come back to the breath.

Silently say to yourself:  breath in - breath out.

You are bringing full attention to your body, to your breath, and to the present moment in time.

Leaving behind - thoughts of yesterday - thoughts of tomorrow.

Breathing in the beauty of today.



May 3, 2021

Mindfulness Practices


Typically, it isn't easy to adopt new habits.  It takes time.  It takes practice.  Like learning to ride a bike, it takes repeated attempts and sometimes - you fall.  Sometimes - you don't want to get back on the bike.  Old ways of reacting and responding are automatic.  Imagine how hard it would be to retrain your brain and hands to NOT pull away from a hot stove burner.  You get the picture.


As you learn and practice mindfulness, be gentle with yourself.  The art of "noticing" our own behavior takes time.  There will always be some level of "noticing" as you continue to practice mindfulness.  We do this unconsciously hundreds or more times each day.  We turn on the car and quickly notice if it sounds normal or if there is an unusual noise.  What you are doing now, is "adding" a different type of attention to your day.  You are paying closer and closer attention to the automatic "mind chatter" and reactions to everyday life.


Today's Exercise:


Notice what you "notice" as you go through your day.  Journal about what you noticed today and how it felt to pay attention in a new way.

May 4, 2021

Wisdom of the Body and Mind


In mindfulness practice, we watch and attend to only what is present in the here and now.  We expand our attention to all the tiny details of what is currently happening.  We don't leave anything out and we don't add anything.  We notice the thoughts, feelings, and sensation that come and go like an ocean wave.  As you notice what is present in the current moment, you will also notice that things change as well.


Mindfulness can help us get more comfortable with thoughts and feelings that have been overwhelming.  Many people live with an underlying fear of more than they realize.  Fear of aging - unemployment - poor health - family members - finances.  Fear is one emotion that takes a bigger toll on the body and mind than we realize.  The practice of mindfulness can help us "get to know" thoughts and feelings by observing - by noticing. 


Today's Exercise 


Mindfulness Practice:  Taste


Place a mint or other small food item in your mouth and hold it there for two minutes.  Close your eyes and notice the texture and taste during the experience.  Bring close attention to the food item and notice how your experience changes over the two minutes.  Notice the thoughts and feelings that arise - the feelings that come and then gently fade away.  If your mind wanders to other thoughts, just return your attention to the item in your mouth.


Journal about your experience.  What did you notice?  What thoughts and feelings came up for you?  Did your mind wander?  How did it feel to let any intrusive thoughts wash away like an ocean wave?


May 5, 2021


"Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience."


- Jon Kabat-Zinn



The practice of mindfulness is more than following a set of instructions.  It isn't simply about sitting in a certain position for a certain amount of time.  To receive the rich benefits, an open mind is needed.  Bringing a positive and curious mind to your practice will open new doors of understanding your life and the world around you.


Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Touch


Place your hands together and rubs your palms back and forth against each other for twenty seconds.  Notice the sensation and the temperature as you move your hands and then stop the movement.  Notice any new sensations that arise over the next twenty seconds.


Journal about your experience.  What did you notice about today's mindfulness practice?  What questions do you have about mindfulness?


May 6, 2021


"We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.


When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.


It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable."


- Mark Nepo

The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have



Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Reflection


1.  Today's exercise is to read and re-read the above passage.  

2.  Notice what words stand out most to you.  

3.  Notice what the overall message is. 

4.  Journal key thoughts that arise.


May 7, 2021


“Life is a dance. Mindfulness is witnessing that dance.”


- Amit Ray
Mindfulness Living in the Moment - Living in the Breath



Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Witnessing


1.  Find a few minutes today to sit in quiet silence.  If possible, close your eyes and simply take in the sounds and scents around you.  Focus on these sounds - these scents.  Pay close attention.  Be the witness to your surroundings.


2.  At the end of the day, journal about your experience with today's exercise.


3.  Did the exercise increase your awareness only for those few moments or did you notice that you were more aware of sounds and scents throughout your day?


4.  Did any memories arise when you focused in on sounds and scents?  If so, make a few notes about this.



May 8, 2021


“Restore your attention or bring it to a new level
by dramatically slowing down whatever you're doing.”


- Sharon Salzberg
Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation



Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Attention


Find  a few minutes for quiet reflection today.  Read the above quote and the following questions - then, close your eyes and sit in quiet attention.


1.  How does it feel, from the top of your head, to the tips of your toes - to slow down?  


2.  Briefly reflect on what you were busy doing, or not doing, right before you started this exercise.  Did the activity bring you stress or joy?  How does it feel right now, in the current moment, to step away from that activity?


3.  When you are done with today's exercise, spend a few minutes writing in your journal.  You can make a bullet journal where you jot down key words - key thoughts.  Do what feels comfortable to you.  You can even draw.  Write a poem.  Doodle.  You may find yourself very surprised at your notes after the month is over!

May 9, 2021

“YOU HAVE TO BE STRONG ENOUGH TO BE WEAK


"Allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling. Notice any labels you attach to crying or feeling vulnerable. Let go of the labels. Just feel what you are feeling, all the while cultivating moment-to-moment awareness, riding the waves of “up” and “down,” “good” and “bad,” “weak” and “strong,” until you see that they are all inadequate to fully describe your experience. Be with the experience itself. Trust in your deepest strength of all: to be present, to be wakeful.”


- Jon Kabat-Zinn

Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life



Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Allowing


Today you will be practicing the art of "allowing".  Many of us do not realize how much time we spend trying to prevent, stop, avoid, or change what is currently happening.  But how often do we find ourselves caught in an endless cyclical merry-go-round of activity that never really helps us reach our goal?


1.  Find a few minutes to sit in quiet reflection after reading the above passage and the questions below.  We encourage you to try to add at least one minute to each day of your mindfulness practice.  If you find that you are only spending about three minutes a day, set a goal to spend four minutes tomorrow and five minutes the next day, and so forth.  You get to choose the goal.  Perhaps you want to increase your time by two minutes per day.  It is up to you.  Practice getting in touch with your "gut instinct" - what "feels" right for you.


2.  What words especially caught your attention from the passage today?  Pick two key words and spend one minute thinking about each word.  Allow whatever comes up in your mind about this word - to come up.  After the one minute, send those thoughts away and move on towards the second word.  Repeat the exercise for one minute.


3.  How did it feel to allow certain thoughts to come forward and then to send them away?  Was it easy or hard?


4.  Take a few minutes now, or later in the day, and journal about your experience today.  "Notice" what you notice.

May 10, 2021


“We have negative mental habits that come up over and over again. One of the most significant negative habits we should be aware of is that of constantly allowing our mind to run off into the future. Perhaps we got this from our parents. Carried away by our worries, we're unable to live fully and happily in the present. Deep down, we believe we can't really be happy just yet—that we still have a few more boxes to be checked off before we can really enjoy life. We speculate, dream, strategize, and plan for these "conditions of happiness" we want to have in the future; and we continually chase after that future, even while we sleep. We may have fears about the future because we don't know how it's going to turn out, and these worries and anxieties keep us from enjoying being here now.”


- Thich Nhat Hanh
Peace Is Every Breath: A Practice for Our Busy Lives




Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Staying In The Present


How are you doing so far?  By now, you are probably grasping the concept of mindfulness.  Often, we make things harder than they are, but often - simple actions can actually be the hardest.  Today's exercise is a reminder to "Stay In The Present".  


1.  Journal what comes to mind as you re-read the above passage and your thoughts on today's practice.


2.  How does practicing mindfulness challenge your typical patterns of dreaming?  Strategizing?  Planning?


3.  What benefits have you experienced from mindfulness so far this month?

May 11, 2021


“Mindfulness won’t ensure you’ll win an argument with your sister. Mindfulness won’t enable you to bypass your feelings of anger or hurt either. But it may help you see the conflict in a new way, one that allows you to break through old patterns.”


- Sharon Salzberg
Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection



Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Pain or Discomfort


Today, find a place where you can spend some uninterrupted time.  For three minutes, identify an area of pain or discomfort (it could be a headache, muscle stiffness, eye strain or simply tiredness).  Notice any thoughts that arise and any judgmental thoughts that also come up.  Reframe your judgmental thoughts into ones that are free of judgment and simply fact-based.


Example:  


Judgmental:  "I am sick and tired of having this lousy headache again."

Fact-Based:  "I notice that I have a headache today.  I also had a headache yesterday."


Removing the judgment can help you begin to remove the cyclical tornado of negative thinking that goes round and round without stopping.  


Example:


Judgmental:  "I am sick and tired of having this lousy headache again.  I always have headaches.  I am sick of it.  Why does this only happen to me?  I can't do anything about it.  I will probably have headaches forever.  What if I have a brain tumor?  What if?  What if?  What if?


Being mindful doesn't mean you cannot feel.  Being mindful helps you "step off"  merry-go-rounds of spinning negative thoughts that can quickly get out-of-control.  Mindfulness brings you back into steadiness and awareness.  


Journal about your experience with today's exercise and the following questions.


1.  I get stuck on the negative thinking merry-go-round about _________________.


2.  I can make pro-active choices about how to handle any pain or discomfort by ______________.


3.  I love and accept myself by doing kind things for myself like __________________.


4.  I can practice greater self-care by _______________________________.

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