Putting meditation to the test

Although this article is from 2010, I recently discovered it and found it to be an informative overview of the benefits of mindfulness training. Happy reading!

Why self-compassion matters

Why self-compassion matters

A valuable overview of why self-compassion is so essential for our optimal well-being. And visit this link to Dr. Christopher Germer’s recorded audio files of self-compassion mindfulness exercises – highly recommended! I had the chance to meet Dr. Germer at several previous mindfulness trainings and he is deeply dedicated to this work.

Separating old “stories” from the rest of our experience

Lately in my clinical practice I’ve been exploring the gap between our habitual “stories” or personal narratives that we carry around with us (sometimes for many decades) and the reality of our present moment  in-the-body experience. This has come up repeatedly in my personal life as well. For example, in this week’s new Hatha yoga class, I found myself thinking “I can’t do this” or “It’s too hard,” as the instructor presented a new pose. Fairly quickly afterward another thought followed – it was a real “golden oldie”: “And I’ll never be able to do this. Why am I even trying?” Immediately I began to feel sad, and then very much alone in the class.  More old story emerged as I lay there on my mat: “I’ll never move beyond these old injuries or pain. This is as good as it gets. I guess I just have a body that can’t do a lot of the things that I would like.”

A few years ago, I would have believed some or all of this old “story.” I would have left the class feeling discouraged, separated from others around me, and I probably wouldn’t have went back for several months (if at all). But as part of my own mindfulness practice, I’ve learned to discern the difference between the story of the mind, and what else is happening – or actually real – in the moment. In this recent yoga class, I noticed the thoughts, and the sadness. And then I reconnected with my deep-felt intention to learn how to be in my body and how to work toward greater strength, flexibility, and ease, one inch…heck, maybe even one centimeter…at a time. I recognized the thought of “I can’t do this” or “I’ll never do this” as just thoughts, not fact; just part of my mind’s mental activity that come and go. And I remembered to gently, compassionately, explore what what was actually possible in that moment, through careful attention to my body. So I called the yoga instructor over and she showed me how to adapt the pose with the help of props, to meet my body as it is right now. I stretched only to the point that felt comfortable and not painful, and  paid attention to what it felt like to move in this way, without pushing too far but also without giving up too easily on the possibility, the hope, of this movement.

Here’s other common examples of how our “stories” can replace or overshadow our actual experiences, which can limit our potential and our ability to skillfully choose desired options. I’ve heard people say: “It’s too scary to feel my emotions right now.” Or: “I can’t possibly share how I feel – it would be too embarrassing.” “Or someone might get mad.” “Or I might start crying.” One’s story often can be heard around food, as well: “I won’t be satisfied with just one bite.” Or, “I know I like this….but not that.”

But often what happens when we begin to courageously investigate the experiential reality of that bite, that emotion,  that interaction, as sensations arise and fall away in the body, we realize that our experience often holds richer (and much more accurate) information than our old one-dimensional story. I invite you to investigate this for yourself, whether it relates to a life activity or some attribute (“I’m boring” or “I’m not good with people” or “people don’t like that part of me”) that is part of an “old story” about yourself. Over time, as we learn to peel back the layers of our own personal stories, we begin to see their limitations and how they might blind us to what is actually unfolding in this moment, in our bodies, in our hearts, and in our lives.

Savoring life and slowing down

Savor: to become acquainted with by experience; to perceive or recognize; to taste or smell with pleasure; to delight in.

In the past year, I’ve closed my Washington practice and said goodbye to some dear colleagues and clients, opened a new Portland office, resumed my mindfulness-based eating groups, and strengthened my connection with an incredible community of mindfulness-based practitioners from around the world. Life feels very full right now, and very fruitful. Yet, I’ve also heard a calling that’s become impossible to ignore…and really, I don’t want to. A call to pause, to allow myself to fully arrive after all of these transitions, and to become more deeply acquainted with everything  and everyone (including myself) that is present in my life.  With all of the ‘doing’ of these past months, I’ve realized that the time has come (in gardener- or farmer-speak) to let the soil of my work rest, to dress it with nourishing teachings, retreats, and practice, without expectation of what it will yield, yet to trust that when it is time, what will naturally emerge will feed me and those that I serve in a more lasting, sustainable way.

As a result, I’ll be temporarily pausing the MB-EAT/EAT program for fall 2012, but look for a return of such offerings as we move into 2013. Meanwhile, I will continue to post on topics related to mindfulness, mindful eating, and on a joyful relationship with food, both in this blog as well as on the Mindful Meal Facebook page. Enjoy the rest of your summer and savor all that it contains. I’ll be doing the same.

Overeating? Maybe you need more sleep!

This topic has been coming up more frequently in my individual and group psychotherapy sessions. Many of us aren’t sleeping nearly as much as our bodies need, and improving our sleep hygiene is a relatively easy thing to do. Read on for an article about the importance of good rest, and the costs (to our weight and health) if we cut corners….

Love After Love

Love After Love

The time will come

when, with elation,

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other’s welcome

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you have ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

 

Derek Walcott, Collected Poems 1948-1984.

Feast on your life – mindfully

Feast on your life – mindfully

The NY times recently wrote an article about the practice of mindful eating and how it has found its way into high-powered work environments such as the Google headquarters in California. As you can see, the practice of attending more closely to our experiences with food holds tremendous possibility, including positive health benefits and greater enjoyment during meal time. What might you discover about your relationship with food and how it is received by your body, if you set the intention to eat one meal a day mindfully for the next week?

An excellent article about “surfing the urge” [to eat]

An excellent article about “surfing the urge” [to eat]

Although this article references the application and research of this technique for use with smokers, it has been applied to binge or emotional eating as well. This specific skill is one of many that are taught in my Eating Awareness Training (E.A.T.) workshops and classes.

A quick and worthwhile read: Michael Pollan’s Food Rules

Some of you might be familiar with his previous books, most notably The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but this short little book is very much worth checking out. Read a brief review – and some of Pollan’s tips – in a Huffington Post article. Advertised, and truthfully so, I believe, as “the perfect guide for anyone who ever wondered, ‘What should I eat?'”

Navigating the holidays with mindfulness

It’s hard to believe, but we’re on the brink of another whirlwind holiday season. We’ve just emerged from Halloween and now there’s no stopping our NW winter weather and the turkey- and tinsel-laden events of the holiday season.  Personally, as I mentioned in a previous post about my own leanings toward eye hunger, I love this time of the year. If I could eat up the orange/gold/rose-colored leaves and autumn-inspired decor, I would – and admittedly, in our food choices, some of us might try.  Eye hunger (or other types of “hunger”) can fool us into believing that we have a bodily or nutritional need that must be filled, and it’s especially easy to be tempted down this path if we’re caught up in frenetic activities of a holiday season.

In the past month, I’ve led several free presentations on Mindful Eating During the Holidays, held at New Seasons stores in the Portland area.  While the holiday season can be joyous, it can also introduce extra stress into our lives or bring up feelings of grief or longing. With the increased prevalence of potlucks, candy dishes, and food-themed celebrations, this season can be the recipe (no pun intended) for “emotional” or out-of-control eating behaviors. But what if there was also a unique opportunity lurking behind all of the busyness and celebration? An invitation to pay attention in an intentional and curious manner to what your experience really is during this holiday season….as it relates to both the food on your plate, and all of those other moments of your life?  Read More