You are not currently being chased by tigers (and 6 ways to change your brain)

This is a good thing to remind yourself.  You really aren’t in imminent danger of becoming tiger food.  But try to convince your negatively biased brain!

The little alarm detector in your brain is searching for danger.... Breathing mindfully will help it quiet.

The little alarm detector in your brain is searching for danger…. Breathing mindfully will help it quiet.

I like this article from the NYTimes. The author describes how evolutionarily our brains have adapted to notice what could kill us.  Being able to discern tiger stripes in the bushes meant you could hopefully outrun becoming dinner.  Seeing the snake in the grass meant you could avoid being bitten and dying.  So noticing what could be dangerous, what could go wrong, was an advantage.  But most of us aren’t living in those conditions now.

Now the threats are less discernible, more confusing.  Did your partner’s look mean they are mad at you? Did your boss’s tone of voice mean you are in trouble? Does the weather forecast mean you will have a bad commute and be late (and have your boss mad at you)? So much anxiety…..

How can we change our brains and stop looking for tigers? Well, there a few things that really work great.  1. Breathe, my dear.  Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh calls us to come back to our breath.  Through the miracle of your breath, we can come back to the present moment, and be choosey about what we focus our attention on.

Breathe my dear

Breathe my dear

Having settled ourselves, now we can 2. focus on gratitude as the author in the article described (which is another great way to change your brain).

A practice of focusing on things we are grateful for helps change our thought patterns.  That indeed,  is very helpful.  Once you notice that your amygdala is running the show- that you are caught up in negativity – you can breathe and also use 3. EFT/Tapping to help process negative thoughts and feelings.

You can also use 4. Yoga and 5. Guided Imagery and 6. Meditation…. my goodness– there are many ways to tame the tiger-hunting amygdala! I will keep teaching you about each of these techniques in this blog, as well as in upcoming workshops.

I am going to be teaching about using EFT/Tapping  to help you journey toward health and wellness at an event this Wed night Feb 25, 2015 from 6:15-7:30PM at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park. You can go to this link to learn more and to this one to register.  Come learn about how to tame the amygdala and increase feeling peaceful in the world. I hope to see you there. 🙂

Namaste.

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How to reduce suffering- Show love!

 

Lovingkindness is always a way to act great!

Lovingkindness is always advised

I was so excited to read this quote from Hafez in my Meditations from the Mat book earlier this week. Yay! A way out of suffering! Act great. Act great?  What exactly does that mean?

Well, you can look at it this way. Take a look at your thoughts.  What is bringing you the most suffering right now? Maybe it’s distress about your job, your health, your relationships, your finances? What are you thinking about that causes you upset?

It indeed may be true that things aren’t going great for you in a certain area of your life (or maybe more than one area). If you have difficulty at work, or in a relationship, you might not be sure how best to handle or change things. You might be really worried about the job, the tasks or the person you are involved with. Your health may truly be compromised. What I know is this:  If you spend time fretting about the situation, you will surely feel worse.

Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that if we are struck an arrow, we should avoid stabbing ourselves in the same place twice.  If you fret, worry, protest or get angry about the pain, you make it ten times worse.  So instead, act great. Be kind to yourself. Fear (which comes in the form of worry and distress) makes any situation worse.  If you are fretting, take a breathing break.  Taking full, slow, deep breaths will change your body’s fight or flight response and help you start to think more clearly. You have to intentionally change your thoughts to reduce your suffering.

On the topic of being loving and kind, you might know that in America, we are celebrating Valentine’s day tomorrow. I encourage you to Act Great– and show love to yourself, first, then to others. You don’t have to have a sweetheart to mark the occasion- you can Act Great and Show Love to anyone: smile at the checkout person, hold the door open for someone, buy the person behind you a cup of coffee, bring a flower to a lonely neighbor, make cookies for someone… the ideas are endless.

Here’s what I am doing to celebrate:  My husband and I are having a Family Valentine’s dinner: mom is making cheesy artichoke dip, and we are making veggie chili and cornbread. My sister-in-law is bringing cookies. It should be a fun night, and a happy way to show love to each other. I hope you find a way to celebrate love, even by being kind to yourself and making the choice to breathe slow, and intend blessings for yourself. ❤ Namaste

practicelovebegenerous525

 

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Gratitude

What are you grateful for today?grateful for every event I’m grateful that tomorrow I’m hopping on a plane with my mom.  We are traveling across the country to see my mom’s baby sister who is turning 70! My mom has three sisters and they all will be gathered to celebrate their youngest. It’s going to be a fun time.

I’m grateful to have a job that allows me to take time off for important things like this. It’s pretty cool to know that this is a priority — that I can take the time to travel with my mom, (who can’t get around as easy as she used to) but she can still travel, and for that we are grateful.  And like I mentioned, she has three awesome sisters, and for that we are grateful.

Thinking of these women, and their positive influence in my life, and knowing that I get to bask in their love tomorrow is like a stress-reliever to me. It’s been a hectic week, readying to leave work on a Wednesday, so I have had some stress.  But as I type this and think about what I am grateful for, I can feel my body begin to loosen up and feel more at ease.

What are you grateful for today? What can you spend some time thinking about, in detail, that might also allow your body to ease and your spirit to brighten? Maybe you are in pretty good health? Maybe you have a loved one you care about that you can still talk with and see? Maybe something made you laugh today even during a difficult time? Maybe you have a roof over your head and you can stay warm and cozy in this wintertime?

There’s actually so much to be grateful for if you pay attention.  Be watchful, be aware…. notice what you can…. name the things that bring you joy.  It might be your children, your pet, the sunshine or rain that fell today. Really think about what you are grateful for.  Thank God or the universe for it.  Practice this habit energy single day. Namaste. ❤gratitude attitude

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Why I wake early

I do love the sunrise.  I don’t always get up to watch it, but when I am at the beach, I do. here comes the sun

Later this week I’m taking a few days off to head to the beach.  This annual trip is one I do with an amazing set of girlfriends.  Our group came together nine years ago when we celebrated one woman’s birthday. Not everyone knew each other, but we all loved the woman turning 40 that year.  Since then, our group has become tight-knit, heavily bonded and we eagerly anticipate and appreciate the yearly beach “retreat”.

We have bonded over joys and sorrows, births and deaths,  divorce and cancer. We have laughed and danced, cooked and cared for each other.

This weekend  I suspect we will see more sunrises together and rejoice in the Divine Love that unites us all.  I hope and pray you also cultivate loving friendships. What I have seen is that as we open our hearts, allow ourselves to be vulnerable and work to understand each other, compassionate  deep friendships can flourish.  I am grateful for mine. And I am grateful for the sun.

why i wake early

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Pointing your compass in the right direction

I think I have figured out what I need to do each day to get myself pointed in the right direction. Here’s how I set my compass:

  1. As soon as I awaken, I thank God that I am alive.

    Prayer from the Dalai Lama

    Prayer from the Dalai Lama

  2. I recite the prayer I learned from an elderly priest who our family knew from a little church in the mountains of North Carolina.  It’s a beautiful formal prayer his mother recited daily, expressing love to Jesus and imploring him for guidance.  I was raised Catholic and this prayer gives me comfort and resonates with my Social Worker/servant heart.
  3. I recite the Dalai Lama’s prayer I learned from my yoga teachers’ teacher, Beryl Bender Birch, which expresses gratefulness to be alive and positive intentions on how to live each day to help relieve suffering in the world. Again, this resonates with me deeply.

I can recite these really fast, so  most days I have to purposefully slow myself, to allow myself to FEEL them.  When I do that, I think it helps me have a better start to my morning.

Next, I read from the little Catholic daily prayer booklet my mother has given me. Many days I am awe-struck at how great the little readings are. (Some days I’m not as touched by them.  And that’s ok.)

I have another book I read from next, Meditations from the Mat, a book about using the 8-limbed path of Yoga as a way to navigate life, written by Rolf Gates (a yoga teacher, former Army ranger, in recovery who has written a REALLY awesome daily-reflection book). This book as given to my by my yogi pal Nancy- (Thank  you!).   I used it every day last year and I am in total love with it, using it still.  After practicing yoga for the past 14 years, it has help deepen my study of what yoga is really about. To remember that I am connected to God- that God is within me and all around me. That I am okay.

These are my foundational practices, as my friend Lezlie Laws ( Creative Coach from LifeArt Studio) calls them.  For me it starts with orienting myself to God.  After praying & reading I do some journaling. Sometimes I journal before mediation, sometimes afterward. In my prayer journal, I focus on what I am grateful for. I send my prayers to God with petitions full of gratitude.  Lastly, I meditate- not long (10-15 min actually). Mediation practice has been a really centering experience.  I use Insight Timer app when I meditate and I love it.

I’ll write more about other foundational practices at another time. But it’s been on my heart to share this as we are at the start of the new year. I hope you have some calming way to set your compass each day. Something nurturing to read, to recite, to guide you as you start your day.

The light in me sees and greets the light in you. Namaste!

 

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How to practice Tonglen Meditation

What can you do when you are overwhelmed with upsetting thoughts and feelings? I learned this practice (tonglen) and have used it to transform my feelings of sorrow, grief, anger, impatience, etc.  It is the Buddhist practice of exchanging yourself for others- a “bodhichitta practice for activating loving-kindness and compassion” (from Pema Chondron’s The Places That Scare You). The practice of using breath and intention is very powerful and does work.

The key is to breath and be aware of your intention

The key is to breath and be aware of your intention

I am always relieved when I remember that I can use this practice. I have found I am able to access compassion for myself and for others when I do this.

A short-hand way to think about tonglen could be this:  Say to yourself “I suffer (this feeling/thought), just like others do.” Or another way to cultivate loving-kindness is  say “Just like me.” I have heard other spiritual teachers use this phrase, “Just like me” with the instruction for us to recall that others (in front of us, around us, around the world) are feeling and perhaps suffering just as we are.

But here’s the deal– you have to remember to breathe!! That part is essential.  I know you have heard me preach about breathing in other posts.  That is because I know your breath will save you.  Especially if you take the time to notice you are breathing and purposefully SLOW your breathing, in and out. You will feel immensely calmer.

As you move into the new year, I hope you will consider using tonglen as a way to bring more compassion for yourself and others into your daily thought patterns.  I wish you a beautiful New Year, full of love and joy. Namaste!

 

 

 

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Slow down for the holidays

I hope you all get to take some time to slow down, sleep in, and be with the ones you love over the holidays. playing outside snow angels

For some great tips on how to be in the present moment, check out this article from Mindful magazine. It’s the best magazine I have purchased for my office and I get weekly articles from them that are wonderful.

I am taking some time off to spend with my loved ones. I wish you and yours a blessed time. Namaste!

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Following Joy

This year has been transformative for me. A dream of mine of yearning to be an artist has come true! I’m still sort of stunned and amazed.

IMG_1011-0.JPG

It started with people believing in me. Well, maybe it started with me believing in me. Believing it was worthwhile to go ahead and draw and color flowers and birds. My first cheerleader was my husband Mark, who began to give me positive feedback on my emerging style. That felt nice. 🌺

Then I got courageous enough last winter to take my first art class since 8th grade (when I was shamed by the jr high school teacher for “not being good at art”) . My teacher last January was Lynn Whipple (pictured above with me), a nationally acclaimed mixed media artist. She has the most generous spirit, happy heart and an very encouraging, playful and helpful teaching style.

Making art has made me incredibly happy! I found a part of myself that I had always wanted to be- artful and creative. It’s pretty incredible.

I am sharing this, as a way to say thanks to Lynn and as a way to encourage you to follow your dreams. Just last month, I entered my work into a show and sold 3 pieces of art–I had never even imagined that, but it happened!

My colleague, LifeArt Studio coach, Lezlie Laws, wrote a beautiful post about witnessing my transformation. She asked me how I was able to do this (finally make art) and submit it for a show, and I told her “I followed my joy.” Joy was my guide. Flowers and birds and art have always given me immense joy. I finally found my way to follow what my heart yearned for.

So I want I encourage you to do the same. But first, answer this: what gives you joy? What makes your heart sing? Do you know? If you’re not sure, that’s ok- you can find out. What helps is paying attention to what you’re drawn to that gives you positive energy, to what makes you smile and feel glad in your heart that you are alive.

For me, that is making art and being in nature. So, I’m taking another art class with Lynn Whipple and her pal Carla Sonheim, another fantastic artist and art teacher. They are teaching an online class for 2015 called The Year of The Spark – you can join in if you want! It’s going to be super fun ❗️😃

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Thank you

It’s almost Thanksgiving. But why wait a day to tell you? I’m grateful for you!

For YOU>  my clients, my colleagues, referral sources, readers, friends– I’m grateful for YOU. Thank you for trusting me with your hurts and your hearts.

Thank you for coming to counseling. Thank you for your referrals to my practice. Thank you for reading my blog and sharing it with the world. Namaste!

I have Love for you!

I have Love for you!

 

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Namaste – “I see you”

namaste

“Namaste” by Krista Berman

Last week I was talking with the woman who is helping scan my artwork.  She asked what I would like printed on the back of the art-cards, along with my name.  I said “Oh- I’d like it to say “Namaste” above my name.”  She quickly replied, “I see you too“.

I LOVED THAT!!Her short hand reply made me beam with happiness. Do you know why?Namaste means “The light in me sees the light in you.”

Namaste is a beautiful Sanskrit word which translates essentially to bearing witness that the God/Divine/Love energy in you sees and greets that in another person. You’ve got God (Love) in you and you see it in them too.  You recognize THEM as precious, valuable, enough.  And YOU are recognized as valuable, good, enough.  That’s pretty good stuff, eh?

And that’s why I was smiling with joy. So, Namaste to you all! Thank you for reading my posts.

And here’s more on Namaste, reposted from  Living Words of Wisdom :

The definition of Namaste (pronounced na, ma, stay) is both a physical gesture and a spoken spiritual salutation, which is the recognition of the divine spirit (or soul) in another by the divine spirit in you.

The word Namaste translates simply to “I bow to the divine in you.”<img src=

Namaste Gesture
The acknowledgement of spirit to spirit is represented by placing the hands together in front of your third eye (Third Eye Chakra) and bowing your head then bringing your hands down in front of your heart (Heart Chakra).

Performing both the Namaste gesture and saying the word Namaste at the same time can be done when greeting someone, however, in India the gesture alone means Namaste, so it is not necessary to say the word.

Namaste in Meditation
Namaste can also be used at the beginning of your meditation to help you go deeper into your divine heart center. By bringing the hands together at the heart chakra you access the flow of divine love and by bowing your head and closing your eyes the mind will more easily let go to the divine spirit of your heart.

Seeing Others
Seeing others through the definition of Namaste will help you to see the true divine spirit in everyone. By doing so you are literally meeting them at the soul level. You look beyond the surface into the true nature of every being.

There a many other interpretations of the meaning of Namaste here are a few:

The God/Goddess within me acknowledges the God/Goddess within you.

The Divine in me recognizes and honors, the Divine in you.

The spirit within me bows to the spirit within you.

I greet that place where you and I are one.

I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light and of peace.

No matter which interpretation you choose you should think of it as a divine blessing that honors sacredness and equality in everyone.

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