When the going gets tough…Take a Self-Compassion Break

When the going gets tough…Take a Self-Compassion Break

We all have moments where we feel we don’t measure up. A friend described a scenario to me that was so relatable. She was describing a low point in her life on a beautiful spring day as she was walking in Central Park. She was looking around and saw people pushing carriages, holding hands, playing Frisbee, and laughing. She groaned. She believed that these seemingly happy people must have received a manual that she somehow missed on how to be happy. She had a veil of darkness that prevented her from plugging into the Well-Being that is there for the taking, the Universal Flow of Life. This was one of her darkest moments but also one of her brightest moments, as it was the moment that she realized she needed help.

All of us have moments that are dark. AND we all need each other. It is in connection that the light can enter our darkness. Being connected to our own inner self is vital for our Well-Being. When I am struggling with any negative emotion, I connect to myself by taking a self-compassion break. I learned about self-compassion from Dr. Kristin Neff. To learn more about the research behind practicing self-compassion: http://self-compassion.org.

Practicing self-compassion is similar to treating yourself like you would your best friend. I use it in my parenting a lot. Parenting is not for wimps. It can be really tough especially when adolescence hits. When I am feeling frustrated, angry, disappointed, or any negative emotion, this is what taking a “Self-Compassion Break” looks like for me.

  • I take a deep breath.
  • I acknowledge that whatever it is I am going through is tough. I say to myself “This is difficult.” Once I acknowledge the difficulty and accept that what is happening in the moment is what it is, I tap into a immediate sense of relief. I can feel my shoulders drop. I relax a little.
  • I then say to myself,  “I am not alone. There are millions of other parents who go through these difficulties.” This is a real switch from former beliefs that other people have the answers and I am the only person in the dark. This forms CONNECTION. This lifts the veil of isolation.
  • I then place a hand on a part of my body in a gesture of love to myself. If no one is around I may place my hand over my heart. If I am doing this out in the open, I may place my hand on my arm and stroke my arm in a reassuring way. I am sending love and kindness to myself. I say “May I be kind to myself as I go through this difficulty. May I send myself love.” I tell myself that I am doing the best I can. Then, when I am able I say a couple of affirming statements, such as “I am brave. I am facing my challenges wholeheartedly.”
  • I usually end my self-compassion break with a mantra that I find helpful such as “This too shall pass.” “The Universe is always conspiring for my benefit.”

By the time, this process ends, often just a couple of minutes, I have shifted. The great news is that I can do it at any time and it helps me become connected even when I am alone. It is also a great process to model for your children. Children start to become critical of themselves in grade school. We tend to think it is motivational to be critical of ourselves, but research has shown this is not true. Self-criticism can induce anxiety and depression. Cultivating self-compassion is protective against anxiety and depression.

Spring is here! I wish you renewed hope, peace and joy. The next time your inner joy is muted by grief, anger, frustration or sadness, try a self-compassion break. Send me your comments about your experiences. Would love to hear from you!

To join the movement of Mindful and Compassionate Communities and to learn more about our programs, click on these links:

https://westchestercenterformindfulnessandwellbeing.com

https://www.facebook.com/mindfulcompassionatecommunities/

Reflections of 2016/Intentions for 2017

It has been quite a year,  this 2016 year, to say the least. In my immediate family there has been a death, a wedding, a graduation, a new school,  a new business venture, a thriving business and a cancer diagnosis. And in between these life-changing events, there has been food shopping, laundry, mild sicknesses, extreme joy, little pleasures, deadlines, bills to pay, birthday celebrations, gratifying service and brainless work. That is life. But is it random? Oh, NO! I do not believe that it is random at all. I believe there is a time and season for everything and each day is a gift AND I am the creator of my reality.

During these last few hours of 2016, I cannot help but reflect on what I have co-created during this year. Here are my REFLECTIONS: I have loved. I have laughed, loudly. I have lost. I have cried, a lot. I have feared. I have been righteous, especially in November. I have hated. I have grieved. I have loved. I have practiced mindfulness. I have practiced gratitude. I have forgotten to practice mindfulness. I have forgotten to practice gratitude. I walked a long aisle in a huge cathedral and graduated. I watched my father take his last breath. I wept. I witnessed my son and his lovely wife take their vows in the majesty of the mountains. I wept. I have waited outside recovery rooms and prayed. I voted. I watched our next President get elected. I wept. I have listened to others’ suffering with compassion. I have been sick. I spent too many hours on Facebook. I have been joyous. I have judged. I have worked on not judging. I have lost my temper. I belonged to a gym and did not go. I have served others. I sat in the ICU next to my daughter hoping breathing would not be so difficult. I have started a new business. I wrote a book. I have loved. I have created and co-created.

What is it that I want to create in 2017? Here are my 17 INTENTIONS for 2017:

  1. Love always–see everyone as the divine beings they are.
  2. Laugh daily—loudly and belly-aching.
  3. Create a Mindful and Compassionate Community of People–starting with parents!
  4. Sit every day on a cushion paying attention to inhaling and exhaling.
  5. Go to the gym three times a week.
  6. Be humble….remembering I am no better and no less than anyone else.
  7. Practice self-compassion.
  8. Continue to eliminate “things” from my life.
  9. Publish my book.
  10. Cook more often (4 times per week.)
  11. Volunteer at least monthly.
  12. Go on daily mindful walks with my pup.
  13. Grow a vegetable garden this summer.
  14. Compost.
  15. Write in my gratitude journal daily.
  16. Go away on a sisters’ and mom weekend.
  17. Stay in the precious present moment.

When I keep the focus on what I can do to create the life I want and do not focus on external circumstances that are not within my control, I am filled with hope for the New Year. My mantra that keeps me going when I am filled with fear is  “The Universe is always conspiring for my benefit”.  No matter what happens, I keep the faith. Expect miracles…..you never know! Happy New Year! xoxo

 

Being the Change you wish to see in the World: The Vision and Mission of Mindful and Compassionate Communities.

I started this blog years ago to write about Law of Attraction which is the basis for my life coaching.  I love studying Universal Laws, watching how things play out in this time-space reality we call Life. Basically, everything we see around us is a manifestation that started with thought. This post is about a thought that a colleague, Jan Fielder, and I have been discussing: how to bring about positive change: one person at a time, one family at a time and one community at a time.  I do believe that we are the creators of our own reality. I believe that our life is a result of what we focus on. I believe meaning comes from living authentically. I believe that each person that walks this earth has a purpose that only they can fill. I believe that radical acceptance is what relieves suffering. I have a vision where diversity is not just tolerated, but embraced, individuals are supported to live meaningful and purpose-driven lives, the basic human rights of  people are respected: freedom, honor and dignity is accessible to all, suffering is met with compassion and the earth is nurtured and cared for. That is some vision, huh?  When I wrote down my vision, my first thought was that it may be too grand! But hey, we are not meant to live quietly and small; we are meant to live OUR unique greatness. As Marianne Williamson reminds us,  Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?…We are all meant to shine, as children do.”

If Marianne Williamson is right, why are so many people not “shining” in this life?  Why are they hurting others, dumping on the environment, being racist, and just plain cruel? Humans live based on their conditioning, unless they choose to be deliberate. We are all conditioned by our parents, teachers, society, neighbors, workplace, etc. If we are functioning on auto-pilot, the thoughts and actions are going to be the ones that we were conditioned with and not ones we are deliberately choosing. Each of us have an inner light that we can live from instead of living from our conditioned selves and it is the mission of Mindful and Compassionate Communities to help individuals connect with their inner light. This in turn affects the families and communities that the individuals live in. When we live from a mindful, compassionate and deliberate place, we have more choices, choices about the kind of life we want to live, and choices about the kind of world we want to live in.

Every day that I see a news clip or snippet of the most current political decision, I could cry. There is much going on currently that seems broken. I believe we need a Mindful and Compassionate Movement. The movement I am referring to does not include protests. It is first and foremost an inner movement. From this inner work, outer change is manifested. Personally, I do not participate in protests. I do not focus my energy fighting things I do NOT want. As a Law of Attraction practitioner, I believe I create by focusing on what I WANT to manifest, not by focusing on what I DO NOT WANT. So how can I achieve the vision of a Mindful and Compassionate Communities? I have started by being Mindful and Compassionate myself. This change ripples out to my family and my community. The more individuals that participate in the “Mindful and Compassionate Communities” movement, the more of a ripple it will make out into the world. If you are interested in this movement and in learning more, please like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mindfulcompassionatecommunities/.  “BE the change you want to see.”  Help us to deliberately create a Mindful and Compassionate world.

Thoughts about gratitude

Gratitude has become one of those buzzwords we hear a lot.  If we wait for it to come over us like happiness or sadness, we may wait a long time. But if we practice gratitude daily, not just on Thanksgiving, it will be more readily available to us. I like to think of gratitude like savoring. We all get what it feels like to savor a delicious piece of pie. If we take the time to really savor it, to take those moments to let the pie linger in our mouth, to chew our bites slowly, that is the experience of gratitude. It is NOTICING all the aspects of the pie we like…the smell, the taste, the texture. Last night I sat with my children (almost all my children) and savored each of them as they spoke. I gave silent thanks that they were smiling, present, enjoying, and thriving. I gave additional thanks for their health, for the contribution each of them makes to the family, for their humor and for their beauty. As we ate, I noticed that we had a begging dog under the table, who was not only begging but was passing gas (all traits so not welcome during meals), and then the thought occurred to me how much we will miss having her there when she is gone. I looked at her pathetic but adorable face….begging….hoping for one of us to drop a ravioli or some meat sauce her way and I smiled, smiled with gratitude for our loyal dog who shows us so much unconditional love.

We always have a choice about how we look at the events and people in our lives and we can ALWAYS find something to be grateful for, even amidst painful and unwanted situations. My sister has been undergoing chemotherapy. She lives in Washington DC but came up  to New York to be around her 4 sisters and mother while she receives treatment for lung cancer. Cancer sucks but having my sister here in New York is a gift! I have been grateful for the opportunity to spend more time with her and have a different relationship than I have had in the past. We have become closer as a result of cancer and we are both grateful!

Today, on this national holiday set aside to celebrate gratitude and family and friends, I hope you can find something to be grateful for. I wish for each and every person reading this that they will NOTICE the gifts that show up, even those disguised as hardships! Happy Thanksgiving!

Parenting

Parenting has been called a rewarding job, a thankless job, the worst-paid job, and the most challenging job on the planet. This job of parenting has no special training, yet we are so motivated to succeed. Sometimes, we feel at a loss. Instead of a boss giving a review of our job performance, we parents judge our own performance and we do so quite harshly. Our children can also give us some bad reviews. Spouses can point the finger at us as well. We compare ourselves to others, others who appear to have it all under control. THEIR kid is captain of the team, on the honor roll and never disobeys. Sound familiar?

I have been a mom for almost 33 years to 4 amazing human beings. I say that with the utmost humility. I do not take credit for their amazingness. I took my hits as a parent. I have had rough patches for sure. I made huge mistakes. I beat myself up for those mistakes. That has all brought me on a path to finding a better way, a way of acceptance, compassion and truth.The truth is that our children are human beings that we have the honor to share a life with for a short period of time and much of what happens during that period of time is not within our control. I have become passionate about helping other parents with the challenges of parenting. It can be isolating, scary, and daunting. But once you find acceptance and self-compassion, and let go of comparisons, the joy that accompanies parenting will return. This is a form of awakening, becoming a more conscious parent. It takes new habits, new skills and practice. But it can be done. If you want to learn a different way of parenting, parenting from the inside out in a demanding world, please check out the workshops I am offering:Parenting from the Inside Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intentions for 2016

This is my first post in 2015 and I figured I would get it in at the 11th hour, typical of my life’s patterns. That is something I am looking at, that pattern of the last minute, the 11th hour, but I will look at it later….I have other things to do right now, like write my thoughts down for 2016.

Christmas is always a time for me to look at the past year and think about life, think about the people who are no longer in our life. Christmas Eve was spent with all 4 of my children and some of my favorite people in the world. I cherished each moment at the table, watching my sons banter about what order to watch the first 6 Star Wars movies. As I sat there adoring the faces of my children, I thought of my husband’s old friend who lost a son this year. I thought of her and her pain this Christmas missing the face of her son. Life is precious. We know it but we walk around forgetting it all the time. We are busy with our to-do lists and stressed to find the perfect gift; we forget the loaf of Italian bread that we wanted to serve with dinner, we are annoyed that the manicure we spent an hour  out of our busy day was ruined while we were making meatballs. We worry that we hadn’t bought enough for everyone. Really? But then I notice the negative emotion and I take a breath, and I re-focus. That is what it is all about….FOCUS. What am I focusing on? The good? The bad? The beautiful or the ugly? The blessings or the challenges? It is our choice….always. That is where our power is….in that choice. Let me not forget this simple fact.

Christmas day at my sisters’ house was a blessed day spent with all my siblings and my parents. (When I say that I am blessed, it is not because it is all Norman Rockwell worthy! We have our moments that are ugly. I just don’t post them on Facebook or write about them in my blog. But, it goes without saying. All families have their blemishes and mine is no different. But I have learned to take the good with the bad and embrace it all.) However, I am keenly aware how blessed I am to have reached this age with my family totally intact. I have high hopes that I, too, will live to see grandchildren and possibly great- grandchildren, like my parents have. But, tomorrow is not promised to me. So, there are some things I want to say just in case.  I truly believe that our life force is fueled by desires. I have some strong desires but try to live without strong expectations. That is where the balancing act comes in. I manage that balancing act by my faith that the Universe is always conspiring for my benefit. So that no matter what happens, and however blind I may be to the possible benefits an event could have, I manage to trust that the Universe (or God) knows better than me and that this event will serve my highest good and the evolution of humankind as a whole. For example, my youngest daughter recently went through something that rocked her world somewhat. I was in pain because she was in pain. However, since I believe that the Universe is always conspiring for our benefit, I trusted that what my daughter was going through, that one day we would look back at this circumstance and be grateful for it. So, I decided after meditating this morning, why not be grateful for it now. Why wait to understand it?  This thought was my main inspiration  for my intentions for the New Year……

My top five Intentions for 2016:

  1. Be Grateful for everything! I intend to trust the Universe with everything that comes my way. The gratitude may not be immediate. Let’s face it, I am human…..but gratitude is the goal. When we appreciate, we stay in the vibration that allows the manifestation of all our desires.
  2. Practice Kindness! Yes, like the Dalai Lama, Kindness is my religion.  It is not easy to practice this 100% of the time but when I keep it at the forefront of my mind daily, it is easier. It is a habit, like any other and with practice, gets easier and easier. One method that keeps me on the right track is the practice of Loving-kindness meditation which I do regularly.  I have learned that it is better to be kind than to be right. (And I love being right!) I am sharing a link to the meditation that helps me be kinder, in case anyone is interested the link to the meditation is on my Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/WellBeingLifeCoach/
  3. Practice Mindfulness each day and all day long! I have become a Mindfulness practitioner. Mindfulness, according to one definition by Jon Kabat-Zinn, “It’s about living your life as if it really mattered, moment by moment by moment by moment.” I used to live my life pondering the past with regret or worrying about the future with anxiety. I can still go to those two places, but mindfulness directs me back to paying attention to the here and now and noticing that without judgment. It is the game-changer. It is the stress-buster. It is my life’s work.
  4. Look at the world through the filter of LOVE! I can see any situation  through one of 2 filters, the LOVE filter or the FEAR filter.  I was conditioned to look through the fear filter which tells us that there are only so many pieces of the pie, that you can’t trust people, and that money doesn’t grow on trees.  I was raised by Murphy’s Law:  “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Now I am a practitioner of a different Law, the Law of Attraction which basically says “I am the Creator of my own reality.” and “The more I love, the more love is returned to me.” If you are feeling unloved, start choosing the LOVE filter and start with yourself. You can’t give what you don’t have. My goal is that each and every person I encounter will feel the LOVE. That is what I want to be remembered for on this earth. That will be enough.
  5. STOP! Whenever a negative emotion has me in its grip, I intend to practice the mini-meditation of STOP: Stop, Take a breath, or two or three, Observe what is going on in my thoughts and in the present moment, and Proceed. Proceed with the above four intentions: gratitude, kindness, mindfulness and LOVE. There will be multiple opportunities each and every day for the rest of my life to practice this mini-meditation called STOP! This is the pause button when the Panic button is activated. This is where our power is….the power to pause and choose something other than our default mode which is driven by FEAR.

I am wishing each and every one of you a healthy, happy new year! May your desires be fueled with belief  that the outcome will always be in your favor. May you be happy, joyous and free! May there be Peace on Earth and let it begin with me!

What are your intentions, dreams and goals for 2016?  Please share with us in the comment section below.

 

 

Heaven on Earth

The Holidays are in full swing. The dead of winter is upon us. The Holiday season tends to contain all that life has to offer…. celebration, family, friends, hope, joy and stress. For some, it is a time that highlights what we feel is missing in our life. We used to look at celebrities in magazines and thought they had it all. Now, we have social media and think our neighbors seem to have it all. But, in truth, life carries with it the good, the bad and the ugly, for EVERYONE! I try to live an authentic life, but I don’t post my darkest moments on Facebook! You all get to see the happy ones and yes, there are plenty of happy ones. But, the dark ones exist as well; they are just not eligible for publishing. LOL!

Looking back at the year that has gone by, this is what is true for me. I started out 2014 sadly mourning a cousin who died. We joyfully welcomed Conor Patrick into our family this summer. I started school which has been inspiring and literally has breathed new life into me. My sister Eileen and I held our first retreat…and felt the sweetness of success. I celebrated plenty of milestones: my husband and I are married 15 years. My children turned 10, 25, 27 and 31. My mother and father turned 80 and 81, respectively. I am somewhere in between… not telling! My age does not matter though; what matters is how awakened I am.

This was a year of great awakening for me. I am realizing that this life on earth that I am living right now is the BIG EVENT. It is not a test to show our worthiness for a happy everlasting life. I believe we are eternal beings, but I also believe Heaven is on Earth. The only hell I believe in is the one we create in our own minds. It’s called judgment and it is driven by fear. We are either judging ourselves or judging others. This prevents us from living an awakened life. Let this be the season of love, not judgment.

Here are some tips for creating Heaven on Earth during this Holiday Season:
• The most precious gift any day of the year is your presence, not your presents. Don’t go into debt just so that you look good! But if your budget can handle it, be as generous as the spirit inspires you to be!
• If you didn’t get around to your Holiday cards, send kind thoughts, beginning with yourself! Give someone you are thinking about a call. It may be just what they need and it will lift you up as well.
• Be Mindful of excessive eating and drinking. These are ways to numb out for some of us, not necessarily means of celebrating. Take notice when you are crossing that line!
• If you are alone: VOLUNTEER! There are so many opportunities to help those who are hungry, alone or sick and suffering. When we do for others, we remain connected to the ALL.
• Suit up and show up! When you isolate, you deprive others of your uniqueness, that space only you can fill.
• Connect with Mother Earth. Bundle up and go for a walk. Look at the naked trees, the winter sky, and the occasional squirrel scampering around with last minute treasures to hide away for the long winter ahead.
• Practice gratitude. Every moment appreciated is an awakened moment.
• Breathe! Breathe! Breathe! Take time to breathe. This may seem foolish, or obvious, or downright unnecessary. We all breathe until the time we die. Duh! But I am talking about taking time each day, even if it’s only 5 minutes at a time to just focus on your breathing. Let the thoughts go by like the clouds in the sky. Give your mind a vacation!
• Forgive yourself and others for not making the mark. Everyone is doing the best they can do, given the resources at their disposal.
• Love, LOVE, LOVE! All you need is Love. The Beatles had it right almost half a century ago!

Happy Holidays and May you experience Heaven on Earth in the New Year!