Mindful Leaf Raking

This morning while still at home at my townhouse which is located in the woods, I looked out at my deck & noticed that, yet again, it was covered with leaves.  I felt some irritation since it had only been a couple of days since my husband had removed a large quantity of leaves.

“Okay, okay, this time I’ll do it,” I grudgingly thought.

I slid open the door, and wonder of wonders, walked right smack into the Present Moment!  I was filled with awe as I noticed that the sun was highlighting the brilliant reds and oranges and yellows of leaves that were still clinging to their trees.  How could I have not seen that as I looked out at the pile of leaves to rake?  The air was crisply refreshing.  I was more than glad to take in nice, long breaths of it. I took my trusty broom and began to sweep the leaves into a pile.  The sound of the brittle leaves filled my ears with delight.  I had no idea why, and I sure didn’t care why.  It just did. I gathered the leaves up & tossed them over the edge of the deck.  I was thrilled with their amazing flight patterns as they danced their way down one story to the forest floor below.  “Wheeee!”  Who said that?  Why, it was me!

I suddenly realized why my granddaughters were so eager “to do” the leaves when they used to come over to spend the night during the Fall.  They really know how to be in the Present Moment on a regular basis to see all the beauty and excitement that is available to all of us when we’re not busy being “up in our heads” thinking the same old distracting thoughts that we always think.

I invite you to do some Mindful Leaf Raking.

Setting a Mindful Eating Intention

In the interests of not being a slave to the voice in my head that has always suggested that I do unwise (aka: stupid) things that kept me stuck for years in a pattern of overeating and hating myself for it, I offer this blog. It is an attempt to suggest some ways of bringing mindfulness into your life so that you might begin to  live your life as if you are in charge.  You can’t change what you’re not aware of.  Mindfulness is about being aware.

Every AM I try to set an intention to do what is in my best interests when it comes to food.  Setting an intention has to do with how you would like to be moment by moment in your life.  It differs from setting a goal which is about an outcome.   An intention is ideally aligned with your values, that is, what you think is important in life.

This idea of setting an intention is a pretty simple thing, but I find that it is extremely powerful in helping me to see that I’m doing my best to live a life of integrity and clarity. ( I set intentions about other ways of being in my life beyond food, but this is a big one for me.)

So, in my case, setting an intention to do what is in my best interests when it comes to food means that I am mindful of the voice in my head that tries to convince me that having a candy bar right now would be FUN.  I acknowledge that voice and I might assume that it’s “the little girl in me” who equates fun with candy bars.  I don’t yell at myself for having that thought nor do I ignore it.  I might wonder if I’m being too serious or working too hard and this sudden craving for a candy bar  for fun is really more about needing to bring fun into my life by lightening up and taking an enjoyable break.

Another example would be when I’m eating something that is really delicious, notice that my body is telling me that I’m satisfied and should stop and I hear myself saying, “But this is so good.  I don’t want to stop.”  Remembering my intention (no easy thing at this point), I remember how disrespectful it is to ignore my body to disregard its signals of fullness and I also remember how uncomfortable I will feel if I continue.

I acknowledge the desire to keep eating, the feeling that it’s never enough, but go ahead and do what I believe is in my best interests.

In these examples I’ve tried to show outcomes that would align with my intentions.  However, we all know (well, let’s say I know from years of working with this food issue in my life) what can sometimes happen to the best of intentions.  If I stray from what I intended and get the candy bar and/or eat beyond fullness, I do my best to be kind toward myself, but firmly remind myself of my intentions and get back on track without beating myself up.  I’ve personally discovered, and research supports the idea, that being mean to ourselves at these times serves no useful purpose.  As a matter of fact, it just sets us up for the next over-eating experience.

What is your intention?  Try to set an intention each AM upon waking.  This will help you start to take charge of your life.

For me, setting an intention and doing the best I can to follow it is the underpinning of living a rewarding life.

Mindful Politics

It’s getting to be THAT time of the year, actually THAT time of the 4 year cycle leading up to another presidential election.  Can you feel it in your body?  Maybe it’s just me, but I know that I can.  There is a tightening in my stomach which usually signals stress and/or anxiety for me.

I’m aware of the political ads that my husband and I are trying to dodge by prerecording everything we want to watch, so we can “fast forward x3” through the ads.  There’s always some that somehow get through our filtering attempts.

I’m noticing that my clients are becoming more concerned about the outcome of the upcoming election.  They have plenty to say about each candidate.  Of course, as a psychotherapist,  I need to be neutral & resist the urge to add my 2 cents’ worth.  That comes with a price.  Whenever I stuff down thoughts and feelings I have to pay afterwards.  What does that mean?  For me, it means that unless I am able to clear that energy, I will notice that I have urges to eat food when I’m not hungry.  In my life, food has been my drug of choice.  I no longer allow it to have it’s way with me, but I do still feel the old familiar siren call when I am stressed &/or anxious.

You see, food, or any other addiction can help us “change the channel” on an uncomfortable feeling that we don’t want to experience.  We go on a search for the food, devour it mindlessly and then fall into remorse about having overeaten.  In the process the stress, anxiety, depression, anger or whatever has been forgotten. (Apparently remorse is preferable to the other uncomfortable feelings, perhaps because it is so familiar.)

In order to not have to pay the price, I have to invite myself, mindfully, to experience the original uncomfortable stress or anxiety.  I “let go” of the story line of why I’m feeling that way & just notice the stomach tightening or tightness in my throat or wherever I am feeling it.  I slowly & mindfully breathe while I am doing this.  Eventually the feeling will dissipate.

I have also learned that it is a good idea for me to limit the amount of political pundits I watch on TV or online.  It just gets me stirred up.

Apparently I get stirred up because I believe that my candidates have to win!  Now, I have been around long enough to have many of my candidates not win.  I have always thought that it would be the end of the world.  Obviously I was wrong about that.  Somehow life goes on and things settle down again.

This year my plan is to remind myself that it will all be workable even if the “wrong” folks get into office.  Life is too short to tie myself into knots for months.  I can do my part by voting and even working for a particular candidate if that is what I choose to do.  I can mindfully trust that life will continue to provide wondrous experiences, no matter what,  if I remember to bring myself into the present moment and notice those wondrous experiences.