“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” ~Brene Brown
I recently attended a memorial service for a friend, and her son read a leader that she had written, as the principal of a school, to the administration of the district. In the letter she was standing up for what she believed to be the best thing to do for students. She spoke from the heart and was her authentic self and fought for something she was passionate about even though it went against a directive given to her. The story has a happy ending as she won the battle. We must all choose our battles to win the war.
The story reminded me how important it is to be authentic. It isn’t easy to go against the grain and ruffle feathers. However, it isn’t good for us to silence and stuff our feelings and follow like sheep. I am a person who doesn’t like conflict, and I know that I didn't always stand up to authority and fight for what I knew was best. But, that is what life is all about, we do the best we can and then learn and grow. This was a good reminder that I need to show up and be authentic to make a difference.
In our hearts, we know what is the best thing to do in any situation if we are making conscious choices. The key is to show up, be aware, and put forth our authentic self. Thank you Sue for being an amazing role model for so many, and for reminding us to be more authentic and stand up for the things we are passionate about in life.
Do you stand up for what you believe? Are you authentic?
What can you do to show up and be real more often in your life?
"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." Annie Dillard
Years ago, I learned an important lesson to make each day precious because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I had lunch with a friend who was winning her battle with cancer. I came to work the next day only to learn that she had passed away hours after our lunch from an embolism. We had been planning all sorts of great things we were going to do and she was upbeat and optimistic about the future, and then her life was over. It made me realize that we are all going to die and that we must make the most of each day and each moment. I am so grateful that I made time to have lunch with that friend and that I learned that lesson. It is important to look at how we spend each day, because it is how we spend our lives.
Mindfulness is about being aware in each moment. Many times in our lives, we are worrying about the future and what might happen or we are reliving the past and rehashing old grievances. We only have this moment and we should make the most of it. Whenever you find yourself having thoughts about the past or future, bring your attention and awareness to the present moment. Cherish each moment!
How are you spending your days? Is it how you want to spend your life?
Are there any things you want to focus more energy and time on during each day?
Are there any things you want to let go of to have a better life?
The Chopra Center philosophy is that “we don’t judge our meditations, but we look at the impact meditation has on the other 23 hours of the day.”
I had one of those days that I am sure you have had where you have a zillion things on your To Do list. Every time you scratch one off, you remember three more things to do and your list grows longer. I noticed during my morning meditation practice that I was having lots of thoughts and I was getting antsy. I finished the meditation and didn’t judge it and went about my day.
Prior to developing a daily meditation routine, on a crazy day like this, I would have been a wreck by 10:00 AM. I would have been racing from one thing to the next getting more frantic by the minute. But, on this day, I noticed what I call the “Meditation Effect” and that I was not reacting to the pressure of too many things that needed to get done, but moving from one activity to the next with more presence and peace. When I would become aware that I was getting anxious, I would take a deep breath and come back to the present moment and I would consciously move slower and focus on the task with my full attention. I took a few minutes between tasks to be appreciative for the accomplishment and get centered for the next task. At the end of the day, I had accomplished a lot, but I was not the raving lunatic that I used to be after a harried day.
It is easy to judge a meditation as good or bad, but that is not the point, nor what you should do. As Deepak Chopra says, “the only bad meditation is the one you don’t show up for.” The purpose is to show up daily for the meditation practice and you will see the benefits in how you react to the challenges in life during the rest of your day. After practicing meditation daily, I am a calmer, more reflective and patient person.
Do you have a daily meditation practice?
“If you are aware of what is happening, you are doing it right. It is common for people to wonder whether they are doing it right.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
I spent much of my life as a perfectionist, always wanting to do it right, so I resonate with that quote. I know as I work with many people in my meditation classes, and they want to know if they are doing it right as well. The answer is always awareness.
Most of us rush through our day, checking things off our To Do list and are not aware. We hurry from one activity to the next and we are not fully present in anything we do. At the end of the day, we fall into bed exhausted and we have missed the precious moments in our lives.
The key is to be aware of what is happening, to be conscious in your busy life. Be aware, when you are:
These are just a few of the mundane everyday tasks that many of us drift through unconsciously. But, if you want to work on being more mindful, just start being aware. I am making dinner, I am washing the dishes, I am driving, or be aware of whatever you are doing in each moment.
I am not living in the present moment every minute of the day, but with each day I find that I am more and more mindful and aware of what is happening.
How often are you living in the present moment and aware of what is happening?
Think of a few tasks that you do daily that you could practice being aware of what is happening.
“The challenge of mindfulness is to be present for your experience as it is rather then immediately jumping into change it or try to force it to be different.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
If your city is anything like Tucson, there seems to be road construction everywhere, and I am sure you find it frustrating. You probably had a plan, and this road construction was not part of your plan. Or, you were already running late and this road construction is going to make you later; you feel your blood pressure beginning to rise with your frustration and anger.
Mindfulness is about accepting “what is” as it is. You cannot change the road construction, unless of course that is your job. However, what you can change is your reaction to the road construction, or whatever challenges arise in your life. The more you accept things as they are and go with the flow, the more you will be at peace. You can’t force things to be different then they are, but you can become aware that you are getting frustrated and angry and choose if this is how you want to be in this moment. Maybe anger and road rage will get you through the construction faster, but I am pretty sure that it will not be the case, and you will arrive at your destination even more stressed out. So, choose a different reaction, take a slow deep breath and think of some things in your life to be grateful for than many people in the world don't have like roads and cars.
What challenges arise in your life that you try to change?
How could you accept the situations as they are?
What would be different in your life emotionally and physically if you didn’t try to force things to be different?
“When you bring the dimension of mindfulness into your awareness, life itself becomes the meditation practice.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
Recently I went skiing at Deer Valley in Utah. I am very mindful when I ski because I don’t like to get hurt. If I am not focused in the moment on what I am doing, I can catch an edge and fall, and I really don’t like the after effects of falling. I also love absorbing nature when I am skiing. I stop from time to time and just take in the trees, the snow, how the light glistens off the snowflakes and the views. I use my senses and smell the fragrance of the woods, I listen to the sounds around me and I open my mouth and taste the snowflakes as they fall and I giggle. I am in the moment and being grateful for the beauty of nature. I enter a state of bliss. Skiing becomes my meditation practice for the day.
Where and when do you find it easiest to be mindful?
How can you spend more time in the places that make it easiest to practice mindfulness?
"In the beginners mind, there are many possibilities, but in expert's there are few." Suzuki Roshi -Japanese Zen master
Many authors talk about the importance of the “beginner’s mind.” When you are first learning something, you don’t know anything and you are open to new ideas and you are curious. You have fresh eyes. That is true of mindfulness and meditation. If you are new to a meditation and mindfulness practice, then remember to keep this beginner's mind because things will be fresh and you will gain and grow more deeply. If you have been practicing meditation and mindfulness for a while, then remember to have a beginner's mind so that you are open to the infinite possibilities.
In life, I try to bring a beginner's mind to everything I do; I want to have that childlike amazement and wonder when I do mundane tasks and try new things. I remember when I was a child; I loved to walk around with that push-toy that popped balls as I was pretending to vacuum. I bring that joy to vacuuming and cleaning the house.
I want to bring a beginner's mind to my meditation practice. I understand that when I think I know a lot about a topic or skill, then I am not as open to learn new things. I want to bring fresh eyes to my meditation each time I sit and be open to the wonder. The important goal is to never lose this beginner's mind because it will keep you fresh, curious and creative.
How can you bring a “beginner’s mind” to things you do routinely?
What do you see as the benefits of a “beginner’s mind?”
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
We are spiritual beings having a human experience. As human beings we are going to make mistakes. Hopefully we learn from those mistakes. I practice the ideas and concepts I present in this blog, but I, like everyone else, make mistakes. I will share a recent experience.
I was going on a trip and I had a CD that was maturing on the Friday before I left. So, I called the credit union and after 20 minutes on hold, I decided to go in person on Wednesday. I met with a nice agent and told him that I wanted the money to go into my savings account when it matured. He said he took care of it and everything would be moved to savings. I checked the account online on Friday, but the money was still in the CD. I checked again on Sunday and saw that the money had moved, YAY. But, the money had not moved into my savings, but into a 12 month CD - BOO.
Once again, it is a lesson that I am not in control. My initial reaction was frustration, I was leaving early on Monday morning and couldn't go to the credit union to deal with the situation. I wanted access to my money and didn't want it tied up for another year. After being aware of my initial reaction, because as we know awareness is the key, I decided to surrender and go with the flow. There was nothing I could do on a Sunday, so I took a deep breath and let the frustration and anger go. I continued packing and doing all of the last minute things needed before the trip.
All was fine until I went to bed. I did my nightly practice of giving gratitude for things in the day and settling in for a good night's sleep. Then, that little monkey mind remembered the issue with the credit union and the anger and frustration crept back in. I don't know about you, but once my mind gets going, it goes on the warpath and I was getting madder and madder about the situation. But, then I became aware that I was spinning out of control over something little in life. I practiced present moment awareness and decided that in this moment lying snug in my bed that everything was perfect. I decided I had a choice I could be angry and upset and have a terrible night sleep prior to my vacation or I could let it go. I chose to let it go and took several slow deep breaths and did a body relaxation technique where I started with my feet and relaxed them and moved up up to my ankles and relaxed them, and the up to my calves and relaxed them, and so on. I never made it to my head as I was asleep before I got there. Making the choice to let go afforded me a good night sleep.
When we are aware, we can make conscious choices, sometimes I choose to be angry, but most times these days, I choose to let things go and go with the flow and things usually turn out fine. If it doesn't turn out fine, then I I deal with the issue then, but try not to waste too much energy living in my head before I can actually deal with situation.
I called the credit union at the airport and the new agent found one step the first agent missed and the problem was solved. So all of the anger and frustration I had was wasted energy. I wanted to share that I am human and I wish I would not have let the situation bother me at all. But it did bother me, luckily I was aware and put practices into place that minimized the level of negative energy. Hopefully, I can learn from this experience and let the next little bump in life not impact me at all.
Think of a recent minor situation that made you angry or frustrated
“Right now is a "choice point," a space in time when you can choose to pay attention to your intention and get in touch with the sincerity of your heart and mind.” Elisha Goldstein
Elisha Goldstein is one of my favorite authors about present moment awareness and being mindful. He has a great book called The Now Effect that talks about living in the present moment and includes brain research. He also has a weekly newsletter I learn from that can be found at http://elishagoldstein.com/books/the-now-effect/.
Awareness is the key to living in the present moment and being clear on your intentions is crucial. Elisha has created a simple practice that I use to help me get centered and focuses my attention on my intentions. It is a simple practice called STOP.
I recommend trying this practice several times a day for a week and see if you find yourself becoming more mindful and focused on your intentions.
How has the STOP practice impacted you and your mindfulness?
Have you changed what you are putting your attention on based on the STOP practice?
Now, when I am about to label something as “bad,” I take a step back and ask what lesson am I supposed to learn from this challenge in my life. It isn’t easy, but I realize that everything is a lesson and if I don’t learn the lesson the first time, the universe keeps giving me more opportunities to learn the lesson.
For example, my house was burglarized and I of course was upset and scared. It took a lot of work to live in the present moment. It did me no good to worry about the house being burglarized again. I did learn from the experience and took actions to protect the house better with an alarm system and a new more secure door. But, whenever I would start to worry about being robbed, I would use my anchor and take a long deep breath and tell myself that nothing bad was happening in this moment.
The lesson I needed to learn was detachment. With time, I realized it was just “stuff” that was stolen. When I die, I will not get to take my “stuff.” Who I am at my core is not my “stuff.” I would not want others to be robbed, but I learned a great lesson and I care much less about the possessions in my life.
The present moment is all there is and it is perfect. If I am aware that I am labeling or judging, I stop and look for the lesson to be learned.
Think of something that you labeled as “bad” or “negative” in your life. What lesson was concealed within that situation?
“This is the only moment you have got.”
Osho - 20th Century Mystic
There is only this moment. Live it fully, live it completely.
The past is over and you cannot change what happened or didn’t happen.
The future is yet to come, and all of the worrying in the world will not do anything but raise your blood pressure and cause you stress.
So, stop and be grateful for this moment and everything you have in your life. This may not be how you planned your life; you are not in control. But if you surrender, take a deep breath and enjoy this moment, and then each moment as it arises, you will begin to find a calmer way to live.
Are you living in the past, fretting and regretting, and wishing life were different?
Are you thinking about the future and worrying about what may happen?
What can you do to live in the present moment more often?
An anchor is an object of your attention. It is something that you can use to bring your attention to the present moment. The key is to be aware of times in your life when you are reacting to people or situations. Then use your anchor to come back to the present moment.
What is your present moment awareness anchor?
If you don’t have an anchor, use the breath and see how slowing down and taking deep breaths throughout the day will develop mindfulness.
Awareness is the first key to the definition of mindfulness for me. When we become aware of what we are doing, we are conscious of what we want to nurture in our life and what we want to eliminate. Then, we move beyond awareness to purposefully paying attention in a continual manner of each moment. The final key component of the definition is that we do this non-judgmentally – we don’t label the moment as good or bad or with any other words. It is what it is and it is perfect.
The more times you can pause during your day and be mindful, the more you will grow your mindfulness muscle.
Life is a gift, make each day and each moment precious.
Pay attention to how often you are mindful during the day.
How can you develop more mindfulness into your life?
“You are your deepest driving desire – as is your desire, so is your will, as is your will, so is your deed, as is your deed, so is your destiny” – Upanishads
This is one of my favorite quotes from the ancient Vedic text entitled the Upanishads. As I focus my attention and intentions for the year on my deepest desires, I have narrowed them down to three. Okay, I have about twenty or more that I would really like to focus on, but I know that I will get lost if there are too many and I won’t end up focused on anything. So, my three for this year are Silence, Surrender and Highest Self and I came up with the acronym of SSH, so that if I ever catch myself spinning out of control I can quickly remember SSH.
Surrender – I want to go with the flow. I know that controlling or thinking I have any control, doesn’t work. There is a great book called the Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer that I highly recommend. Singer is a role model for going with the flow and surrendering to life. He will be the archetype that I call into my vision when I see myself struggling.
Silence – I was in silence for a week in 2015 and I was in a state of bliss because I was living in the present moment and aware. I want to remember to pause throughout the day and week and bring more silence into my life to create more peace and a life of bliss.
Highest Self – When I find myself reacting to life instead of responding from an sense of inner calm, I want to stop and ask “how could I respond to this person or situation from my highest self?” I want to make more decisions that will positively impact me and those affected by my actions.
What are your deepest driving desires?
What will be your SSH or short phrase that you will use to guide your life?
“Silence is a source of Great Strength.” ~ Lao Tzu
There is so much noise and so many thoughts in my head, but when I find a quiet place and settle my mind down. I arrive at a place of silence and stillness. My daily meditation practice allows me to go to that place of silence and the great strength that Lao Tzu talks about in this quote. The Universe provides me with direction and answers to my questions during this quieter time because the incessant noise and daily concerns have slipped away and I can hear more clearly.
Do you find time for silence in your life?
The good news is that we have been blessed with rain recently, but with that comes the weeds. As I was hoeing the weeds, I realized that the weeds will continue to grow with sunshine and water as I am not supplying them with fertilizer or anything to help in the process. I began to think, which is a common thing that happens to me, that the weeds in my yard are like the distractions in my life. I don’t do anything to cultivate the distractions in my life; they show up just like the weeds. It is up to me to be conscious of the weeds in my life and choose not to water them.
My main distractions are television and the computer. This is not to say that all television shows or activities on the computer are distracting – I am grateful to you for reading this and hopefully you don’t see it as a distraction. I for one love the television Show Super Soul Sunday on the OWN network that exposes me to new spiritual leaders and ideas. But, I know that I am sucked into too many shows that are not thought-provoking and enhancing my well-being. I also know that the game Bejeweled Blitz is definitely a weed in my life, as I get sucked into playing one more game and before I know it I have wasted 30 minutes.
I am going to focus more on what are the weeds in my life – awareness is the key to breaking any conditioning or pattern. Once I am aware, I will ask myself if I want to water that weed by using my time on that distraction. With time, I will stop watering the weeds in my life that are not serving me.
What are the weeds in your life?
Will you water your weeds or not?
Following this week’s theme of Attention and Intention, lets bring our awareness to our Distractions. We live in an information society and that is great, but I feel like I am on information overload.
I get easily distracted when I hear the beeps or see the notifications on my phone or tablet. I tend to stop what I am doing and get sucked into the time warp of the computer, email, texts or Facebook. So, for me, I have turned off the notifications and only check those devices two or three times a day. I might miss something, but will a few hours make a difference, I think not.
I went 10 days without touching technology devices when I attended Silent Awakenings, a silent retreat, offered through the Chopra Center for Wellbeing. I learned that I was much more at peace when I wasn’t distracted by technology. I love being connected, but I learned that it is important that I determine when I will use technology during the day and not let it run my life with alerts and notifications.
What are your distractions?
How can you minimize your distractions?
I live in Tucson, Arizona, so at this time of year our gardens are not covered in snow. In January each year, I go out and trim back the roses, grasses and Mexican Bird of Paradise and my back yard looks barren. I love the lush greens and reds when the plants are in bloom. Yet, I know that in order to achieve this state of beauty, it is best to prune back and eliminate the parts of the plant that are no longer serving it.
Nature is always my teacher, and I realize that now is a good time to reflect on what I want to prune in my life. What habits are no longer serving me? What can I prune back in my life or eliminate so that I can flourish, advance and grow to my fullest potential?
As I am pruning, I discover one little red flower that has survived the recent freezes in the garden. It is tough and has survived. It is a beacon of hope for the future. I will also look for the hidden parts in me that I want to expand that have lied dormant until now. I will be my authentic self and speak my truth to show my true beauty just like this flower reveals its beauty to the world.
Peggy Steffens is an artist and Chopra Certified Meditation Instructor
My goal is to build a community with like-minded individuals who want to grow, share and learn from one another. Please post comments to enrich the experience for all.