Stop Thinking That You Have to Stop Thinking

When I first came to meditation I had it in my mind that I was supposed to sit down, close my eyes, and stop my thoughts. With somewhere around 60,000 thoughts a day, that would have been no small task! The longer I sat in meditation, the more frustrated I became at my inability to turn off my thoughts. I have a feeling I'm not the only person who has had this frustration and misunderstanding about the "goal" of this meditation practice.

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Giving Thanks!

Giving Thanks!

Gratitude is a fantastic and scientifically proven way to re-route those negative neurons in our brains and actually bring about happier feelings and less negativity. Not only does mindfulness help us to notice when our mind is tight with negativity, it also helps us to notice so much of the richness of life.

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Children + Mindfulness = Good Stuff

A quick post to share an article I saw this past week: Why Children Need Mindfulness Just As Much As Adults Do.

As you probably guessed based on the programs I offer for children, young folks can and DO benefit from mindfulness practice just as much as their grown ups do.

Carolyn Gregoire writes in this Huffington Post piece that research points to mindfulness helping children thrive in school, deal with cancer and other chronic pain, treat autism and ADHD, and even lead towards self-actualization.

As someone who regularly practices and teaches mindfulness, it is heartening to see research findings like this. :-)

Contact me today if you're curious about how mindfulness could help you and your family!   

Maybe NFL Players Can Be Role Models?

NFL Mindfulness Coach and sport's psychologist, Michael Gervais of the Super Bowl winning Seattle Seahawks, spoke at the Wisdom 2.0 conference this weekend in San Francisco. (I'll tell you more about the Conference in the coming days!) I bet that while you were watching the Big Game you weren’t thinking much about mindfulness and compassion, and you probably didn't think the players were either. I get it, watching beefy dudes tackle each another doesn’t conjure images of serene meditators or inspire compassionate communication.

But one of the reasons the Seahawks may have had the upper hand was because they embraced mindfulness practice, yoga, and positive visualization as elements of their training and the team culture. Gervais said that as a team, they worked to have "one heartbeat"--55 players and 22 coaches, hearts beating in unison.

Back in September I read this ESPN article about the Seahawks' unorthodox training and was tickled to see that mindfulness had made it to the NFL. Yesterday Gervais went further to explain their meditation practice and how the Seahawks treated every game of the season as a championship opportunity. Big or small, every moment counted. 

While I know their mindfulness practice wasn’t all that earned the Seahawks their championship rings, it isn’t difficult to imagine how mindfulness contributed to their winning season. Seahawk Russell Okung explained to ESPN, "Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field for practice."

Before this weekend, my students and I came up with three mindfulness related skills that support Okung’s assertion on the importance of meditation:

  • Focus- Through continued meditation practice (the article says they began back in 2010), the players likely honed their abilities to focus and concentrate both on and off of the field. As I often say to my students, practicing in the calm of your bedroom gets you ready to use your mindfulness in more stressful times. And as Gervais described yesterday, the stress dissolves as the players become absorbed in the present moment.
  • Resilience- With their enhanced focus, it would be easier for players to let go of mistakes and triumphs in order to more fully engage with the task at hand. Gervais called this "Failing Fast." Instead of feeling angry towards themselves or a teammate for a botched play, it would be easier to let go and start over. 
  • Visualization- Instead of filling their heads with negative thoughts, “You’re not strong enough,” “You need to play harder,” “You’ll never win playing like that!” the Seahawks and their coaching staff worked to positively visualize the future. In order for visualizations to work, players first had to develop an awareness of their thoughts, because without recognizing and befriending the negative ones, there would be little space for the positive ones to take hold.

Gervais added that the team culture also emphasized compassion and empathy, which were also key elements to the Seahawks’ success. (How did Miami do this year?) When we are aware of our mental landscape, we notice that others experience similar highs and lows. Viewing our personal highs and lows without judgment creates space for our compassion to grow, both for ourselves and for others. By treating their players as people, I think the Seahawks got it right.

Never thought you’d be reading about compassionate football players, right?

Do you use mindfulness in athletics? How has it helped up your game?

From Fantasy to Reality

I wrote this post back in July but have been hesitant to post it until I could commit to blogging regularly. Ok, I suppose this means I've committed now! :-)

Fantasy = Reality!  Smiling students after a mindfulness lesson. :-)

Fantasy = Reality!

Smiling students after a mindfulness lesson. :-)

Shortly after my husband, Greg, and I first got engaged, it seemed that everyone wanted to know all the details about our future wedding. Without having really made any decisions or doing much research, we kept responding the same way to those who asked. “In the Shenandoah Mountains, in the fall of next year.”

The fall of next year seemed far enough away and the Shenandoah Mountains sounded like a nice place to get married. We kept repeating these details, and whenever I imagined our wedding that’s what I saw. I guess it’s no surprise that we got married along the Shenandoah River the next fall. 

But had I asked ‘engaged Leslie and Greg’ how wedded to this plan they were, I think they’d both would have said, “Let’s wait and see how the planning goes.”

I found myself in a similar situation last spring as Greg and I prepared to move across the country from Washington, DC to San Francisco. Everyone wanted to know what I planned to do out there. Without having made any decisions or doing much research, I'd respond, “I’m going to teach kids how to meditate.”

I’d say it over and over without any idea how I’d go about making this happen. It wasn't like this was out of the blue; I had been meditating on it a lot myself, and kept getting a rather vague, yet oddly explicit, directive from within, guiding me to this response.

Just like our adventures in wedding planning meant countless hours of research, decision making, and preparation before we wound up at the Shenandoah River in the fall; this latest journey has required similar efforts to wind up where I am today, ready to launch a kid-friendly online mindfulness meditation program.

Switching careers is hard. Starting a business is challenging. But I’ve kept with it because each time I take steps toward making this dream happen doors seem to open and the universe seems to affirm my decision.

After a curriculum training I started out teaching my nieces via Skype. Even though I’d be drenched with nervous sweat at the conclusion of each 15-minute session with them, I’d also be exhilarated. This felt right.

Last fall Greg and I left DC for a three-month trip to Asia, our return tickets booked for San Francisco.

While we traveled, we also dreamed and plotted about our future in California. Where we’d live in SF, what we’d do on the weekends, who our friends would be, what I’d do for work. On one day of dreaming, Greg suggested I start my own online program to teach kids mindfulness. He reminded me of how much I enjoyed working with my nieces and how it had worked well online. We talked more specifics that day, and have been talking around this idea since then.

On the eve of my online launch, I felt surprisingly similar to how I did in the days leading up to our wedding, in the Shenandoah in the fall. There is a current of terror mixed with joyful excitement as I see far-off fantasy becoming reality.

I teach kids how to meditate.