Grief Counseling

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 all 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 more widely accepted and studied, offering benefits to the mind and body.  Throughout the United States, it is more common to see mindfulness meditation 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). 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 _______________________________.

May 12, 2021


“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”


- Thich Nhat Hanh
The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation



Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Finding Your Breath


Breath work is a foundational practice of mindfulness.  It is a powerful tool to help you stay grounded.  Focusing on your breath helps you slow down your thinking and automatic reactions so that you don't over-react.


Today, find a quiet place and  sit in a comfortable position.  If you are unable to sit, you may lie down.  This practice is about counting your breaths.  Count your inhalation and exhalation as "one".  The next inhalation and exhalation will be counted as "two".  Count your breaths for two minutes. Don't worry if your breathing is uneven.  This exercise is about focusing on the breath.  If your mind begins to wander off into other thoughts, simply come back to the breath.  If you lose count, simply begin again.


After the exercise, journal about your experience.  Was it easy or hard to focus?  Did your mind begin to wander?  Did you find yourself relaxing into the present moment?


May 13, 2021



"The things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand.
They are moments when we touch one another."


- Jack Kornfield



Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Gratitude


Find a special relaxing place to do your mindfulness practice today.  If possible, try a new location if that feels good to you.  You might want to go to a neighborhood park or lake. Remember that this is your time for quiet reflection and while we offer suggestions, we encourage you to get in touch with your feelings.  If something does not resonate with you on a particular day, allow yourself time to truly listen to your heart and mind.  Some individuals get caught up in doing only what is asked of them, and over time - they lose their individuality.  Listen to what your body is telling you.  


1.  Reflect on the word gratitude and what comes to mind.  Allow the thoughts and emotions to roll like gentle waves.  Positive memories bring us closer to the person we have grown to be.


2.  At the conclusion of your practice today, spend some time journaling about your experience.




May 14 - 16, 2021

“Mindful living is a conscious way of living – noticing the beauty of life in every moment.”


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



Mindfulness Practice:  Conscious Living


Reflect upon the above quote over the next few days.  You are encouraged to free-journal or use the following questions.


1.  I am mindful in my daily life by ______________.


2.  I notice that I daydream about _______________.


3.  Today I noticed the beauty of ________________.


4.  My greatest joy is ________________________.


5.  My greatest concern is ____________________.



May 17, 2021


“In today’s rush, we all think too much
 — seek too much
— want too much
— and forget about the joy of just being.” 


- Eckhart Tolle



Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Sight


Spend two to three minutes today and focus on your right or left hand.  Look at the front, the back and the sides of your hand.  Notice each finger and any lines, colors, or scars that are present.  We use our hands for so much, but typically do not pay much attention to them unless they are sore or painful.  Perhaps we get a bump, bite, or cut and then we spend extra time looking and wondering.


When I was young, I broke my right wrist playing volleyball.  The doctor said it was just a tiny bone, but it played a crucial function in helping a person turn the wrist side to side.  I was immobilized in a cast for three months!  It was hard in so many ways.  After the cast came off, I had to do physical therapy to get my wrist back in shape.  At first, it was painful to turn my wrist even a little bit, but over time, I regained full function.  Needless to say,  I remain in true gratitude for my hands and wrists and realize how quickly things can change.


Journal about your exercise today - even if only a few words or phrases.

May 18, 2021

“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived. The odors of fruits waft me to my southern home, to my childhood frolics in the peach orchard. Other odors, instantaneous and fleeting, cause my heart to dilate joyously or contract with remembered grief. Even as I think of smells, my nose is full of scents that start awake sweet memories of summers gone and ripening fields far away.”


― Hellen Keller



Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Smell


Today we will be practicing mindfulness by bringing our attention and focus to aromas.  Take a flower, an herb, or essential oil and move the item close to you and then away from you.  Notice what you are noticing.  Pay attention to any thoughts that arise in your mind.  It is not uncommon for scents to bring back memories.


Take time to journal about your experience.  Remember, it is okay to do bullet journaling where you simply write key words or phrases that come to mind.

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May 19, 2021


Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Sound


Today we focus our mindfulness practice on sound.  Find some time to sit outside, if you can, and dedicate twenty minutes to spending time in nature.  Close your eyes and notice the sounds without trying to figure out exactly what they are.  Let the sounds come and then go.  Notice the differences of the sounds.  Are they loud or soft?  What is the pitch?



May 20, 2021


Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  What Is Important To You?


Using your mindfulness skills, today you will practice noticing in a new way.  Deciding what is important to you is truly a process that evolves over time.  What is important to you may change over time.  Find a quiet place to do your reflection today.  Begin with a few minutes devoted to noticing your surroundings and then close your eyes to focus in on your breathing.  When you feel you are at a place of comfortable relaxation, spend some time in quiet reflection on each of the following questions.


1.  How do I want to treat people in my life?


2.  What impact do I want to have on others?


Spend a few minutes journaling about your experience and the questions above.


May 21, 2021

Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Who Is Important To You


Today, bring together all that you have learned so far this month into quiet reflection.  Beginning with the breath and peaceful surroundings, allow any thoughts to arise of a person who has been important to you.  Be present - in this current moment in time, to feel the emotions and sensations that come up.  

May 22, 2021

In Loving Memory of LAGA

1929 - 1985


Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Metta (Loving Kindness)


The practice of metta is done by reciting a series of meaningful phrases.  The metta practice typically consists of repeating four phrases that have the following themes:  freedom from danger, mental happiness, physical happiness, and ease of living and wellbeing.  Author Sharon Salzberg offers the following template (Salzberg 2008, 37):


- May I be free from danger.


- May I have mental happiness.


- May I have physical happiness.


- May I have ease of well-being.


Practice with these phrases and then adjust them to your own liking.  Find a quiet place to sit or lie down if that is more comfortable or if you have back or other physical concerns.  Begin by taking a few mindful breaths, and set an intention to allow feelings of kindness to arise.  After a few breaths, begin to recite the phrases to yourself with gentle tone and volume.  


Journal about your experience today.  To learn more about metta and loving-kindness, we suggest the book:  Lovingkindness:  The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg 2008, Shambhala Publications.

May 23, 2021

“When practicing mindfulness, we’re not trying to control, suppress, or stop our thoughts. We don’t want to push our thoughts away (it’s not even possible to do so). Rather, mindfulness helps us pay attention to our experiences as they arise, without judging or evaluating them in any way.”


- Jennifer Wolkin
Quick Calm: Easy Meditations to Short-Circuit Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroscience



Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Experiencing


Reflect upon the above quote.  Take some quiet moments to let the words take form in your mind.  What words and/or concepts "jump" to the forefront when you read this quote?  Journal your reflections today.  


A friendly reminder that journaling can be powerful.  It is like a record in time of our thoughts and how they change over time.  So many people, including myself, comment about the process of writing and then reading what they have written later on.  

May 24, 2021

Keeping Quiet

by Pablo Neruda


Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still.


For once on the face of the earth,

let's not speak in any language;

let's stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.


It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines;

we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.


Fishermen in the cold sea

would not harm whales

and the man gathering salt

would look at his hurt hands.


Those who prepare green wars, 

wars with gas, wars with fire, 

victories with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes

and walk about with their brothers

in the shade, doing nothing.


What I want should not be confused with total inactivity.

Life is what is is about;

I want no truck with death.


If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.


Now I'll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go.




Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Awareness


1.  Try to be mindful for at least one minute or more each hour of the day.

2.  Check in with your breathing at the same time.

3.  Bring increased awareness to your physical and emotional needs.


May 25, 2021


“In those 84,600 seconds we call Today, how many of them we can fill with thanks?  The more we train our brains toward 'grateful,' the more grateful there is to see.”


- Kelly Corbet

BIG: The Practice of Joy



Today's Exercise


Mindfulness Practice:  Thanks


Our mini-practice today is on being thankful - grateful.  Refocusing our attention to the positive and away from the negative is one that can take practice if we have slipped into noticing and reacting strongly to things that don't go our way.  Mindfulness is not about ignoring the reality of what is problematic, but it is about making conscious choices about how much time, attention, and energy we give to that which is not perfect in our world.  Most people get angry now and then, but how you deal with our anger is also an issue to examine.  Do you yell, hit things, stomp around or do you take a long walk or run to work out the high emotions?


Do you get caught up in strong, angry reactions?  What are other options?  It takes practices to re-train the brain if you have been doing something one way for a long time.  


Reflect on the quote and the above questions.  Ponder how gratitude, thankfulness, and reactions to negative events impact your life.  Be honest with yourself.  Look deep.  Spend time in quiet reflection with time for journaling.  


We are nearing the end of our one month journey!  How are you doing?  Drop us an email.  We would love to hear from more of you on how your daily practice is going and thanks to all who have sent emails!  It has been a joy to hear from you!!