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Mindful15: Stress Management | Mindfulness | Meditation

Monica Tomm Meditation Teacher and Stress Managem

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Mindful15: Stress Management | Mindfulness | Meditation
Mindful15: Stress Management | Mindfulness | Meditation

Mindful15: Stress Management | Mindfulness | Meditation

Monica Tomm Meditation Teacher and Stress Managem

3
Followers
4
Plays
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Short, practical, effective lessons in mindfulness for the management of stress and anxiety.

Latest Episodes

M15 Ep057: Acceptance: How to make peace with fear and overwhelm

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released a report recommending an attempt to limit warming to 1.5℃ instead of the previously recommended 2℃. The mainstream media have presented this report in a startling way, reporting that we have only 12 years to limit warming before the effects are too large to manage. My concern with this reporting is I see it generating depression, anxiety, fear and overwhelm and, as a consequence, many are concluding that there’s no hope. Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: I believe it’s worthwhile to apply mindfulness to this issue. Feelings of anxiety and helplessness are valid, natural reactions to the UN’s report. The problem of climate change feels so very large that we cannot fathom how it can be successfully addressed. Our feelings of helplessness are so big that we cannot see past them, and we allow them to paralyze us. But, there is something you can do. In fact, the solution requires every individual person to take action. Every time you choose to walk instead of driving, you’re making a difference. Every time you refrain from buying something that’s over-packaged, you’re making a difference. Every time you email an elected official to express convince them to make positive change, you’re making a difference. Every time you vote for someone who supports positive change, you’re making a difference. You have dozens of opportunities to make a difference every day. If each one of us applies mindfulness to each one of our choices, collectively we can create discernable change. Valerie Masson-Delmotte, the Co-Chair of the UN’s Working Group said, “The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5ºC are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate.” They cannot accelerate if we all give in to helplessness. The first step is to get past the feelings of overwhelm and anxiety, because they are standing in the way of action. Last week, in Part 1 of the Non-judgement Series, you saw how accepting negative situations and emotions helps you let go of the habitual reactions that cause you to suffer more. Once your add-on reactions are cared for, you can turn your attention toward making positive decisions. You could choose to tolerate the situation, or you could choose to change it for the better. Either way, you’re in a less emotional place where it’s easier to make logical decisions. You can apply the same practice to your overwhelming feelings of anxiety, fear, and helplessness. Today’s guided meditation walks you through the steps of putting your attention on your emotions and noticing your reactions to them. There is benefit in doing this meditation more than once. Over time, you’ll strengthen your ability to let go of reactions. Then, you’ll be better able to take positive actions. I’ve been writing specifically about climate change, but there are many other potentially overwhelming situations we’re dealing with right now: negative politics, racism, human rights abuses, and more. The strategy for managing any of them is the same: sit in non-judgemental awareness of the issues and your reactions to them, let go of your reactions, and move forward by taking positive action. To close this episode, I want to express a personal belief. Many feel like we’re living in horrible times, faced with a collection of frightening, intimidating issues. I don’t believe that. It’s true our daily news is filled with scary events, but I think this is happening now, because we’re at a time in history where we’re finally starting to be mindful of the big issues that we’ve marginalized for so long.

14 MIN2018 OCT 24
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M15 Ep057: Acceptance: How to make peace with fear and overwhelm

M15 Ep056: Acceptance: Why it’s beneficial to accept the negative things

Mindfulness is awareness without judgement. It’s the ability to notice whatever comes up, be it positive, negative, or neutral, and accept it for what it is. But, do you really want to accept the negative things in your life? Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: Is acceptance the same thing as agreement? Does accepting something negative mean you must accede to it, just live with it, without trying to change it or get rid of it? Are you supposed to allow things that harm you to persist? In a word, no. Non-judgemental awareness allows you to fully experience what is happening long enough that you can see it with clarity and accuracy. You acknowledge what is currently happening, and you notice how you are responding to it. You’re allowing yourself time and space to notice your own habitual reactions and to see how those reactions might be adding to your suffering. Once you are able to notice these add-on reactions, you can choose to let go of them and this reduces suffering. Now, left with only the original negative experience, you can make better decisions about how to react to it. Your decision might be to ignore the situation or just live with it, or it could be to take action to mitigate or eliminate the situation. Let me give you a couple of examples. Last fall, I burned myself. I accidentally poured hot fat over three fingers on my right hand. Luckily, I was standing next to the sink and was able to put the hand under cold water immediately. I noticed my add-on reactions popping up the moment I realized I’d burned myself. I was saying to myself, “Oh, no, this is serious and it’s really going to be painful,” even though no pain had yet come up. I was thinking, “I’m so stupid, so careless” and “What am I going to do now; I am so totally right-handed I won’t be able to do anything,” and “I don’t want to have to sit in the emergency room for hours,” and so on. The happy part is I noticed these reactions popping up. Every time one of them came up, I coached myself to take a slow breath and let the thought go. Before long, I was calm and able to take care of my burn without adding extra suffering. And, if you’re wondering, yes the pain was eventually much stronger than I’ve ever experienced before or since. The only way I could manage it was to keep my hand in water, which I did for about 16 hours. But, I applied mindfulness to the pain, too. I allowed myself to notice I was in pain without wallowing in self-pity or blame, without worrying about what was going to happen the next day, and without constantly reliving the event. This straightforward acknowledgement without the extra blame, anxiety, and fear reduced my suffering. Here’s another example. You’ll recall that I teach in a post-secondary school. A student was acting up in class. He was acting in a manner that was disruptive and causing his classmates some concern. I asked him to step outside so I could speak with him privately. I was hoping to avoid embarrassing him. To my surprise, he refused. Immediately, I noticed my reactions coming up. I was frustrated, angry, and worried all at the same time. Again, I’m happy that mindfulness kicked in and I was able to let go of my reactions. I then had time to rationally consider my next steps. I stepped close to the student and quietly, calmly explained he was not in trouble, but I needed to speak with him privately. I told him I wanted to avoid embarrassing him in front of the class, but if he chose to, we could have the conversation right there. At that point, he accompanied me outside and we had a productive conversation about the situation. My calmness even allowed him to be forthcoming about his hatred of authority,

15 MIN2018 OCT 17
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M15 Ep056: Acceptance: Why it’s beneficial to accept the negative things

M15 Ep054: Dear Monica: Your Meditation Questions Answered

This week, I’m excited to launch the very first Mindful15 subscriber Q and A episode where I’ll answer a collection of questions submitted by Mindful15 listeners. Let’s get right to it. Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: Question 1: Is it alright to move during meditation, or am I supposed to sit absolutely still, even if my legs are numb or I’m in pain? Answer: The reason you’re taught to sit still in meditation is that sitting still helps you focus your full attention on the breath, but there’s nothing wrong with moving if you feel the need to. Don’t just move, though. Move mindfully. Before moving, take a minute or two to attend to the discomfort that is motivating you to move. Gently take your attention away from your breath and place it on the discomfort. Locate the place in the body that feels uncomfortable or painful, and observe how it feels. Notice whether the discomfort is solid, or whether it ebbs and flows. Pain, for example, is often a collection of moving, changing sensations that sometimes recede and sometimes grow stronger. Don’t try to get rid of the pain or discomfort. Just witness it for a few minutes. Also witness any habitual reactions you may have to the pain or discomfort. Put your focus on those reactions and just notice them without trying to get rid of them. After a while, if you still feel the need to move, go ahead and do so. Put your attention on the movement of the body. Move slowly and deliberately. Once your body is in its new position, sit with your attention on the sensations of the body in this new position. After a few breaths, gently bring your attention back to your breath, again. Question 2: To help myself focus on my breathing, I talk myself through the breath: “Now I am breathing in. And now the breath is paused.” I do this silently, of course. Is this still meditation? Answer: Yes, talking yourself through the phases of the breath is perfectly fine. In fact, some meditation teachers coach beginners to do exactly what you’re doing. Thich Nhat Hanh, for example, uses phrases such as “breathing in, I am aware that I am breathing in.” Once you’re focused on the breath, you can try shortening your phrases. Say just “in,” and “out,” for example. And, once you become very settled, you may let go of them altogether, bringing them back whenever you need them. Question 3: I like to meditate with a group, but one of our group members thinks he’s supposed to be breathing very deeply. His breathing is loud and distracting. Should I tell him his breathing is supposed to be quiet? Answer: I’m not sure that correcting your fellow practitioner’s meditation style is the right choice, here. We do advise meditators not to manipulate their breath and it’s true that, as one settles into meditation, the breath tends to get softer and quieter. Is it up to you, though, to educate your friend? You could, without blaming him or suggesting that he’s doing anything wrong, tell him that you find yourself distracted by even small noises. You could ask him if it is possible for him to breathe more quietly. Alternately, you could sit further away from him. But, have you considered that there’s something for you to learn from this situation? While it’s true that you want to look for a quiet place to meditate, the long-term goal is to learn to bring your mindfulness out of meditation and into daily life where distractions abound. You don’t need absolute quiet to meditate. Furthermore, it’s your responsibility, not your friend’s, to manage the way you react to distractions. Next time you notice your friend’s loud breathing, try putting your attention on it.

15 MIN2018 OCT 10
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M15 Ep054: Dear Monica: Your Meditation Questions Answered

M15 Ep054: Get the antidote to doubts about your meditation practice

Am I doing this right? I don’t think I’m capable of mediating. I can’t calm my mind. Maybe this isn’t worth the effort -- It’s natural for beginners to have some doubts about their meditation practice. Even seasoned meditators can experience periods of self-doubt. Doubt can make meditation practice feel like a struggle, like a fight against yourself, and it can even cause some people to give up altogether. But, doubt can also be a teacher from which you can learn more about your habitual responses to uncertainty and confusion. Let me give you some ideas that can help you get through periods of doubt. Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: When I was a little girl, I wanted to learn to play the piano. My parents, however, couldn’t afford to buy me a piano. Their solution was to buy me a guitar, instead, and send me for lessons. I lasted through three lessons before I quit. You see, I was seven. I expected that I’d sit down with the guitar and play music. I didn’t realize I’d have to play Jingle Bells in the middle of June, over and over again, while regularly having to stop to correct mistakes. This was no fun at all, so I walked away. I’m pretty sure my parents were glad they didn’t try to scrape up the money for a piano. What’s the point of this story? Sometimes, I think meditation students are a little like my seven-year-old self. If they don’t reach their expected outcome in short order, they conclude that they cannot meditate or it doesn’t work for them. The roots of doubt This is the point where doubt first creeps in, and it happens for a few reasons. Sometimes practitioners have overly optimistic ideas about the amount of practice required to build a skill. When the skill doesn’t grow fast enough, they conclude they’re doing something wrong. In other cases, practitioners don’t know what to expect from meditation, so they’re unable to judge whether they’re doing it correctly. And sometimes practitioners do have expectations. When their expectations are not met, they might conclude that meditation is not working. Let’s take a look a more in-depth look at these. How do I know whether I’m practicing enough? Aim for regularity in your practice and don’t fret over the length of your sessions. It’s the regularity that reaps results. I recommend daily meditation, however, if you can manage to meditate four to five days per week, that’s a good start. Don’t get caught up in worrying over whether you’re practicing enough. Just meditate as often as you can. The longer you sit in any given session, the more chance you give the mind to settle, but if you can only commit to five minutes of meditation, then just do that. The benefits you get from a short practice reinforce the habit and will likely lead you to meditate more often for longer. The bottom line: Give yourself permission to let go of the doubt and the concern and just sit as often as you can. How do I know I’m doing it right? Meditation is pretty simple (but not necessarily easy, which is why you need to practice often): Put your attention on your breath. Keep your attention focused on the breath. When you notice your attention has wandered away from the breath, return it to the breath. Repeat. If you’re doing this, you’re doing it right. All other instruction is unnecessary. That’s not to say other instruction won’t make meditation easier, but if you never get that instruction, you still have all you need to meditate successfully. If you think you’re doing it wrong, you’re probably wrong. There is no one perfect posture, no one perfect meditation object, no one perfect place in the body on which to notice your breath, no one way to do anything. And, the best part is mindfulness can teach you what you need to know about meditation.

17 MIN2018 OCT 5
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M15 Ep054: Get the antidote to doubts about your meditation practice

M15 Ep053: Can a warm up ritual help you meditate consistently?

Athletes, musicians, actors and other performers commonly use ritual to prepare themselves for a performance. Prior to lifting, a weightlifter might eat complex carbs, dress in her favourite lifting clothes, and do some cardio exercise to warm up. During the warm up, she might even listen to a playlist designed to energize her. A singer might do some deep breathing, complete some vocal exercises, and eat a green apple prior to a performance. And, you can use a warm up routine to prepare for meditation. Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: Warm up rituals prepare an athlete or performer to achieve optimal results. They set a tone conducive to the upcoming activity, and help the performer detach from the other activities and unrelated thoughts. In this way, warm ups improve focus. A pre-meditation ritual can help you settle into meditation, too. Warm ups provide a little separation between your upcoming mediation and whatever activities you were doing and thinking about prior to meditating. They can help you focus your attention on meditating. Warm up rituals can be particularly helpful on days when you don’t feel like meditating. On these days, perform the ritual. By the time you’re done, you’ll likely feel more like following through with the meditation. The best rituals include activities that are meaningful and directly contribute to a good performance. As meditators, we don’t want to get caught up in judging how well we’re performing, though. After all, meditation is the practice of awareness of the present moment without judging it. But, while we want to avoid setting up expectations and judging outcomes, there’s nothing to say we can’t engage in warm up activities that facilitate our practice. Look for ritual activities that you can perform every time you meditate, regardless of when or where you’re practicing. You can choose one activity, or multiple activities. You’ll notice the following examples include some activities that I routinely include in my guided meditations, because they help meditators settle in: Set an intention for your practice - You might have a general intention (e.g., I intend to put my full attention on my breath), or a specific one for the day (e.g., I intend to practice lovingkindness today). Bow to your cushion or chair - This is a ritual practiced in some Buddhist communities. It is intended to express gratitude for the opportunity to meditate. Settle into your posture by swaying - Sit on your chair or cushion, and sway your body back and forth, gently. Start with a big side-to-side movement and gradually make it smaller and smaller until you become still. Calm the body by shaking your hands - A little physical activity can help your mind settle. Just shake your hands vigorously for about one minute, then place your hands in your lap. Practice one or more yoga poses, qigong moves or stretches - such physical activity can release energy and loosen muscles, making it easier to sit. Take a few slow, deep breaths - as you exhale, consciously relax the body. You might like to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth to facilitate relaxation. Let your breathing return to normal before meditating. Check your posture - Good posture allows you to sit more comfortably for longer. Make your spine erect, but not rigid. Ground yourself (feet or knees on the floor). Close your eyes gently. Keep your head facing straight ahead and tuck your chin in slightly. Use a practice poem to guide the first few breaths - You can learn more about practice poems at mindful15.com/calm Be careful in your choice of warm up activities. It’s possible to become dependent on your ritual. In other words,

11 MIN2018 SEP 26
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M15 Ep053: Can a warm up ritual help you meditate consistently?

M15 Ep052: Don’t feel like meditating? Just sit.

Establishing a steady meditation habit is often the most challenging part of meditation. Until the habit is well established, it’s common to experience days when you just don’t feel like meditating. Today I’m going to give you simple method for getting past this common obstacle. Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: Habits have a simple structure. There’s a trigger that signals it’s time to perform the habit. The trigger is followed by a habitual behaviour. The behaviour is followed by a reinforcing reward. Every time this sequence is performed, the habit grows stronger. If you want to build a habit, you need to be sure this sequence gets enacted regularly. The trigger might be an event or a specific time of day. In episode 16, I taught you how to choose an effective meditation trigger. If you haven’t listened to that episode yet, you’ll find it at mindful15.com/habit. Every time you perform the habitual behaviour in response to the trigger, you strengthen the habit. But, if your trigger to meditate comes up and you don’t follow with meditation, you’ll weaken the habit. So, if you skip meditation whenever you don’t feel like doing it, the habit won’t grow the way you want it to. How do you force yourself to meditate when you don’t want to? I suggest you don’t try to force anything. That feeling you get when you don’t want to meditate is your mind throwing up resistance. If you fight against resistance by forcing yourself to meditate, the resistance is likely to increase. Instead, when your mind resists meditation, say to it, “okay, fine, I won’t meditate, but I am just going to sit here for a minute.” Then, sit down in good meditation posture for just one minute. That’s it. Just sit. When you do this, you are reinforcing the connection between the trigger and the habitual behaviour, even if you don’t do any meditation. The resistance is lowered a bit, because just sitting doesn’t cost you much. It takes just one minute of your time and very little effort is required. Once you sit down, your mind might give in and allow you to meditate for awhile. Maybe it won’t. In that case, get up. But, before you move on to the next activity, don’t forget to complete the habit cycle by rewarding yourself. Do this even if you just sat there for a minute, not meditating. Give yourself a little positive reinforcement. You might say to yourself, “good work,” or “well done.” If you’re tracking your meditation habit, consider this a successful day and add it to your tracker. I’ve shared this simple method with a number of people, and sometimes they’re skeptical. It just sounds too simple. If you’re skeptical, do yourself a favour and just try it. Really, what have you got to lose? If you skip meditation, you’ll definitely lose. You’ll weaken the habit you’re trying to build. But if you try my suggestion, you just might find that you’ve strengthened your meditation habit, even if a tiny bit, and even if you didn’t get any meditation in today. But you do feel like meditating today, right? Join me for a guided meditation The following is a 10-minute guided meditation. Up next week Next week, we’ll explore the power of ritual in helping you establish a meditation habit. If you’d like to be notified when the episode goes online, just subscribe to our newsletter. I’ll let you know when new lessons are online and I’ll also send you a free deep relaxation. Actually, if you subscribe before September 30, 2018, I’ll send you FOUR deep relaxations! Before you go If you enjoyed this lesson, please share it using the social media buttons you see below,

13 MIN2018 SEP 19
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M15 Ep052: Don’t feel like meditating? Just sit.

M15 Ep051: Daily mindfulness: Doing things you hate to do

I’m not really sure how I ended up watching Martha Stewart. I wasn’t a regular viewer. Maybe I was just flipping channels, but what Martha said really struck me, so much so that I clearly remember it a couple of decades later. What did Martha say? She said, “You don’t have to clean your house. You get to clean your house.” Let me tell you why I thought that was profound. Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: Martha was talking about how your attitude affects your experience. If you view house cleaning, or any other task, as something negative, you’re likely to rush through it, feel bad while you’re doing it, and completely disengage from the experience of doing it. So what? After all, you want the task over with as quickly as possible so you can get on with something that you like, something that’s worthwhile. But if you do that, you’re throwing away a little piece of your life. You’re not fully experiencing the present moment. Frankly, I think life’s too short to go throwing it away. You’re also fostering negative feelings, which might range from annoyance to anger. Why subject yourself to that? The more you practice negative feelings, the stronger and more frequent they become. One of my teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh, always advises us to do the dishes to do the dishes. What he means is, while you wash the dishes, you should be fully present with the activity and immerse yourself in the experience of doing the dishes. Don’t let your mind wander to what you’ll do when the dishes are done. Just be there and do nothing but wash dishes. It turns out, I’ve always resented having to wash dishes. I come home from work tired, cook dinner, and then I’d like to relax for a while. The dishes feel like an imposition. But, when I mindfully wash dishes, things are different. I find dishwashing can give me the relaxation I’m craving. And, yes, it can even be pleasant. Have you tried it? Just put all your senses into the activity and do it slowly. Notice what you see – the shiny tap, the bubbly water, the dirty dishes and how they contrast with the clean dishes. Notice what you hear – the bubbles popping, the dishes clinking, and how the clinking sounds different when the dishes are submerged. Notice what you smell – the scent of soap, the smell of the leftover food on the plates, lingering cooking smells. And, notice what you feel – there’s a lot to notice here, because dishwashing is a physical activity. There’s the warmth of water, the contrast between the temperature of your hand in the water and your arm out of the water, the texture of the dishrag in your hand, the muscles moving as you scrub, the feeling of the soap bottle in your hand, etc. Let it all flow through your awareness. Moment, by moment, focus on the things you sense. If you notice thoughts or feelings about doing dishes, or if you find your mind wandering somewhere else, just notice that. Acknowledge what comes up, and gently let go of it, bringing your attention back to the physical sensations of dishwashing. Do this as many times as you need to. If you usually see dishwashing as unpleasant, resistance might come up. You might find yourself rushing, or thinking things like, “This is stupid,” “It doesn’t work,” or “I’ll never enjoy doing dishes.” When resistance arises, just notice it. Recognize it as resistance, but don’t analyze it or let it take you away into thought. Instead, just accept it. Say to yourself, “Looks like my mind is resisting.” Treat resistance as you would treat any other thought or distraction: acknowledge it, refrain from judging yourself for having the thought, and gently, kindly bring your attention back to dish washing.

10 MIN2018 SEP 13
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M15 Ep051: Daily mindfulness: Doing things you hate to do

M15 Ep050: What's wrong with lying down to meditate?

Welcome to the Mindful15 Podcast. This is our 50th episode and I want to thank you for supporting the podcast. I hope you’ve learned as much as I have this year! We always send out a free body scan relaxation to those who sign up for our newsletter, but to celebrate episode 50, we’re giving out four deep relaxations to anyone who subscribes to the Mindful15 newsletter before September 30th, 2018. Today I want to answer a question about meditation posture submitted by one of our biggest supporters, Brendan. Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: Brendan says: I prefer to meditate while laying down. I like to lay flat on my back and spread out my arms and legs on my bed. Then I can put my hand on my belly and feel my breaths in and out, and make sure I am breathing with my belly. I noticed most (if not all) meditations start with your instruction to ensure good posture, sitting in a supportive and grounding position. So I am wondering, am a losing some benefits of meditation by laying down, instead of sitting upright? You’re correct, Brendan, all of the Mindful15 guided meditations start with instructions for sitting with good posture. The only ones that direct you to lie down are the deep relaxations. Meditation requires a balance between alertness and relaxation. You’re advised to sit with a straight, upright posture to facilitate the alertness you need to stay mindful of the present moment. At the same time, you’re coached to relax your shoulders, arms, face, and belly so that you can let go of judgement about what you’re experiencing. Mindfulness itself is required to keep this balance going as you meditate, but good posture sets you up for success. The reason we don’t coach you to lie down to meditate is, for most people, lying down shifts the balance away from alertness toward too much relaxation. Some people, me included, even tend to fall asleep in a lying position. Does that mean you shouldn’t lie down? Not necessarily. If you’re able to maintain alertness, go right ahead. And some people have no choice but to lie down, because pain or physical impediments prevent them from sitting. Some tips for meditating in a lying position Brendan says he places one hand on his belly to facilitate diaphragmatic breathing during meditation. This is one way to foster alertness. If you’d like to learn more about belly breathing, check out episode 3 - A Deep Breath is not the Same Thing as a Big Breath. I also recommend you lie with a straight spine to foster alertness and to help you breathe more fully. Tuck your chin in, gently, to straighten the upper spine. Place your arms by your sides, palms up or down, and extend your legs out fully. You can separate the legs somewhat for comfort and allow the feet to flop to the sides if they want to. Lie on a firm surface to foster spinal alignment. Lying on the floor is best, but you could lie on a firm futon, couch, or mattress. If you lie on the floor, you might want a yoga mat, blanket, or large towel for warmth and comfort. When doing deep relaxation, I recommend covering yourself with a blanket, because the body can cool down when lying for a long period of time, but when meditating, you might stay more alert without the warmth of a blanket. Avoid resting your head on a big, fluffy pillow, because it can wrench your upper spine out of alignment. If you need some support for your neck and head, try using a folded towel. Towels are much firmer than pillows and you can fold and re-fold until you get just the right height,

15 MIN2018 SEP 5
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M15 Ep050: What's wrong with lying down to meditate?

M15 Ep049: Should you meditate today?

So, it’s not like I go around broadcasting to one and all that I’m a meditation teacher, but whenever the topic comes up in conversation, there’s a good chance that someone will say to me, “yeah, I should meditate, but [insert excuse here].” What about you? Do you think you should meditate more? Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: Should is a perfectly useful word, but intonation is everything. Should can be said with a sense of excitement and curiosity, as in “Wow, what a great idea. I should try that!” But often we say it to excuse our lack of action and then lay on overtones of guilt and shame. When people say to me “I should meditate,” I hear them saying “I know it would be good for me, but I don’t do it and I feel bad about not doing it.” The problem is telling yourself what you should do doesn’t motivate you. In fact, it’s just the opposite. If you use should to give yourself unexamined excuses, you rob yourself of opportunity. If you use should to make yourself feel bad, you take away any energy you might have had to engage in positive action. Healthy habits are best built using positive reinforcement. You meditate, it makes you feel good (perhaps relaxed, calm, or happy), so you’re more likely to meditate again. You can start very small with just a couple of minutes of meditation, but, you have to take that first step and meditate. To boost motivation, try making one small change: Replace “should” with “could”. “I could meditate today.” That’s a statement full of possibilities with no recrimination. The words we use have the power to change how we feel, so when talking to yourself, choose your words wisely. Ditch the words that demotivate and choose words that encourage you. You could do this! Let's meditate together The following is a 12-minute guided meditation on balancing alertness with relaxation. You'll learn to play with your breath and use it to help boost energy or to relax tension when you need to. Up next week Next week marks the 50th episode of Mindful15! I’ll be answering a question submitted by Brendan who asks whether it’s okay to lie down to meditate. To be sure you don’t miss an episode, subscribe to our newsletter. To celebrate episode 50, I’ll be sending out not one, but three free deep relaxation recordings to anyone who subscribes before September 30th, 2018. If you’re already subscribed, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you! I’ll send the relaxations out to you, too. Before you go If you enjoyed this lesson, please share it using the social media buttons you see below, or click here to tell your friends. To subscribe to our lessons, use one of these links: Email (you’ll get free extras) | iTunes | Stitcher | YouTube |

14 MIN2018 AUG 29
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M15 Ep049: Should you meditate today?

M15 Ep048: How long can you go without checking your phone?

When was the last time you went a full day without checking email, texts, or social media? Can’t remember such a day? How ‘bout an hour? When was the last time you went a full hour without accessing your digital devices? Is that even possible? Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: Writer Linda Stone claims most of us live in a state of continuous partial attention. She says, To pay continuous partial attention is to pay partial attention — CONTINUOUSLY. It is motivated by a desire to be a LIVE node on the network. Another way of saying this is that we want to connect and be connected. We want to effectively scan for opportunity and optimize for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment. To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognized, and to matter. We pay continuous partial attention in an effort NOT TO MISS ANYTHING. It is an always-on, anywhere, anytime, any place behavior that involves an artificial sense of constant crisis. We are always in high alert when we pay continuous partial attention. Stone, L. (n.d.). Continuous partial attention. In Linda Stone. So, what’s wrong with that? After all, we’re glued to our digital devices because they’re useful and entertaining. Too much use, however, disrupts our ability to pay attention, and this is a big deal. Focused attention is essential to optimal performance at work, at school, and at play. Furthermore, that “artificial sense of constant crisis” generates stress and anxiety. The antidote? No, I’m not going to ask you to give up your phone, but you really should take a break, a little digital device holiday, on a regular basis. How to take a digital device holiday The premise is simple, really: Regularly set aside a significant period of time during which you don’t use your digital devices. Some health experts (e.g., functional medicine specialist Chris Kresser) advocate holidays of 5 to 10 days a couple of times per year. I certainly see the value in that, but it’s not where I’d start. Multi-day holidays can be difficult for some people, and as with meditation, the more often you take a digital device holiday, the greater the benefits. I recommend taking at least one half-day off per week. Ideally, take a full day off every week, plus add a longer holiday of one to two weeks once or twice per year. And yes, the idea is to COMPLETELY avoid the devices. No texts, emails, social media, online shopping, web surfing (no, not even to check the reviews on that new restaurant), etc. And -- gasp -- no podcasts! Personally, I also refrain from watching television during my device holidays, but it’s up to you decide whether to go this extra step. Here are some strategies to help you unplug: Let those close to you know when you’ll be unavailable for texts, emails and calls. You might even challenge them try unplugging, too. Set up an autoresponder to let others know when you’ll be offline and direct them to other sources of help, if that’s applicable. Turn the devices off instead of just letting them sleep. The inconvenience of turning them on may help you avoid using them. At the very least, turn off the ringer on the phone and disable notifications. If it helps, lock that phone/tablet/laptop/watch in a cabinet or drawer! Plan some fun ways to use your time. Get outdoors,

17 MIN2018 AUG 22
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M15 Ep048: How long can you go without checking your phone?

Latest Episodes

M15 Ep057: Acceptance: How to make peace with fear and overwhelm

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released a report recommending an attempt to limit warming to 1.5℃ instead of the previously recommended 2℃. The mainstream media have presented this report in a startling way, reporting that we have only 12 years to limit warming before the effects are too large to manage. My concern with this reporting is I see it generating depression, anxiety, fear and overwhelm and, as a consequence, many are concluding that there’s no hope. Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: I believe it’s worthwhile to apply mindfulness to this issue. Feelings of anxiety and helplessness are valid, natural reactions to the UN’s report. The problem of climate change feels so very large that we cannot fathom how it can be successfully addressed. Our feelings of helplessness are so big that we cannot see past them, and we allow them to paralyze us. But, there is something you can do. In fact, the solution requires every individual person to take action. Every time you choose to walk instead of driving, you’re making a difference. Every time you refrain from buying something that’s over-packaged, you’re making a difference. Every time you email an elected official to express convince them to make positive change, you’re making a difference. Every time you vote for someone who supports positive change, you’re making a difference. You have dozens of opportunities to make a difference every day. If each one of us applies mindfulness to each one of our choices, collectively we can create discernable change. Valerie Masson-Delmotte, the Co-Chair of the UN’s Working Group said, “The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5ºC are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate.” They cannot accelerate if we all give in to helplessness. The first step is to get past the feelings of overwhelm and anxiety, because they are standing in the way of action. Last week, in Part 1 of the Non-judgement Series, you saw how accepting negative situations and emotions helps you let go of the habitual reactions that cause you to suffer more. Once your add-on reactions are cared for, you can turn your attention toward making positive decisions. You could choose to tolerate the situation, or you could choose to change it for the better. Either way, you’re in a less emotional place where it’s easier to make logical decisions. You can apply the same practice to your overwhelming feelings of anxiety, fear, and helplessness. Today’s guided meditation walks you through the steps of putting your attention on your emotions and noticing your reactions to them. There is benefit in doing this meditation more than once. Over time, you’ll strengthen your ability to let go of reactions. Then, you’ll be better able to take positive actions. I’ve been writing specifically about climate change, but there are many other potentially overwhelming situations we’re dealing with right now: negative politics, racism, human rights abuses, and more. The strategy for managing any of them is the same: sit in non-judgemental awareness of the issues and your reactions to them, let go of your reactions, and move forward by taking positive action. To close this episode, I want to express a personal belief. Many feel like we’re living in horrible times, faced with a collection of frightening, intimidating issues. I don’t believe that. It’s true our daily news is filled with scary events, but I think this is happening now, because we’re at a time in history where we’re finally starting to be mindful of the big issues that we’ve marginalized for so long.

14 MIN2018 OCT 24
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M15 Ep057: Acceptance: How to make peace with fear and overwhelm

M15 Ep056: Acceptance: Why it’s beneficial to accept the negative things

Mindfulness is awareness without judgement. It’s the ability to notice whatever comes up, be it positive, negative, or neutral, and accept it for what it is. But, do you really want to accept the negative things in your life? Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: Is acceptance the same thing as agreement? Does accepting something negative mean you must accede to it, just live with it, without trying to change it or get rid of it? Are you supposed to allow things that harm you to persist? In a word, no. Non-judgemental awareness allows you to fully experience what is happening long enough that you can see it with clarity and accuracy. You acknowledge what is currently happening, and you notice how you are responding to it. You’re allowing yourself time and space to notice your own habitual reactions and to see how those reactions might be adding to your suffering. Once you are able to notice these add-on reactions, you can choose to let go of them and this reduces suffering. Now, left with only the original negative experience, you can make better decisions about how to react to it. Your decision might be to ignore the situation or just live with it, or it could be to take action to mitigate or eliminate the situation. Let me give you a couple of examples. Last fall, I burned myself. I accidentally poured hot fat over three fingers on my right hand. Luckily, I was standing next to the sink and was able to put the hand under cold water immediately. I noticed my add-on reactions popping up the moment I realized I’d burned myself. I was saying to myself, “Oh, no, this is serious and it’s really going to be painful,” even though no pain had yet come up. I was thinking, “I’m so stupid, so careless” and “What am I going to do now; I am so totally right-handed I won’t be able to do anything,” and “I don’t want to have to sit in the emergency room for hours,” and so on. The happy part is I noticed these reactions popping up. Every time one of them came up, I coached myself to take a slow breath and let the thought go. Before long, I was calm and able to take care of my burn without adding extra suffering. And, if you’re wondering, yes the pain was eventually much stronger than I’ve ever experienced before or since. The only way I could manage it was to keep my hand in water, which I did for about 16 hours. But, I applied mindfulness to the pain, too. I allowed myself to notice I was in pain without wallowing in self-pity or blame, without worrying about what was going to happen the next day, and without constantly reliving the event. This straightforward acknowledgement without the extra blame, anxiety, and fear reduced my suffering. Here’s another example. You’ll recall that I teach in a post-secondary school. A student was acting up in class. He was acting in a manner that was disruptive and causing his classmates some concern. I asked him to step outside so I could speak with him privately. I was hoping to avoid embarrassing him. To my surprise, he refused. Immediately, I noticed my reactions coming up. I was frustrated, angry, and worried all at the same time. Again, I’m happy that mindfulness kicked in and I was able to let go of my reactions. I then had time to rationally consider my next steps. I stepped close to the student and quietly, calmly explained he was not in trouble, but I needed to speak with him privately. I told him I wanted to avoid embarrassing him in front of the class, but if he chose to, we could have the conversation right there. At that point, he accompanied me outside and we had a productive conversation about the situation. My calmness even allowed him to be forthcoming about his hatred of authority,

15 MIN2018 OCT 17
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M15 Ep056: Acceptance: Why it’s beneficial to accept the negative things

M15 Ep054: Dear Monica: Your Meditation Questions Answered

This week, I’m excited to launch the very first Mindful15 subscriber Q and A episode where I’ll answer a collection of questions submitted by Mindful15 listeners. Let’s get right to it. Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: Question 1: Is it alright to move during meditation, or am I supposed to sit absolutely still, even if my legs are numb or I’m in pain? Answer: The reason you’re taught to sit still in meditation is that sitting still helps you focus your full attention on the breath, but there’s nothing wrong with moving if you feel the need to. Don’t just move, though. Move mindfully. Before moving, take a minute or two to attend to the discomfort that is motivating you to move. Gently take your attention away from your breath and place it on the discomfort. Locate the place in the body that feels uncomfortable or painful, and observe how it feels. Notice whether the discomfort is solid, or whether it ebbs and flows. Pain, for example, is often a collection of moving, changing sensations that sometimes recede and sometimes grow stronger. Don’t try to get rid of the pain or discomfort. Just witness it for a few minutes. Also witness any habitual reactions you may have to the pain or discomfort. Put your focus on those reactions and just notice them without trying to get rid of them. After a while, if you still feel the need to move, go ahead and do so. Put your attention on the movement of the body. Move slowly and deliberately. Once your body is in its new position, sit with your attention on the sensations of the body in this new position. After a few breaths, gently bring your attention back to your breath, again. Question 2: To help myself focus on my breathing, I talk myself through the breath: “Now I am breathing in. And now the breath is paused.” I do this silently, of course. Is this still meditation? Answer: Yes, talking yourself through the phases of the breath is perfectly fine. In fact, some meditation teachers coach beginners to do exactly what you’re doing. Thich Nhat Hanh, for example, uses phrases such as “breathing in, I am aware that I am breathing in.” Once you’re focused on the breath, you can try shortening your phrases. Say just “in,” and “out,” for example. And, once you become very settled, you may let go of them altogether, bringing them back whenever you need them. Question 3: I like to meditate with a group, but one of our group members thinks he’s supposed to be breathing very deeply. His breathing is loud and distracting. Should I tell him his breathing is supposed to be quiet? Answer: I’m not sure that correcting your fellow practitioner’s meditation style is the right choice, here. We do advise meditators not to manipulate their breath and it’s true that, as one settles into meditation, the breath tends to get softer and quieter. Is it up to you, though, to educate your friend? You could, without blaming him or suggesting that he’s doing anything wrong, tell him that you find yourself distracted by even small noises. You could ask him if it is possible for him to breathe more quietly. Alternately, you could sit further away from him. But, have you considered that there’s something for you to learn from this situation? While it’s true that you want to look for a quiet place to meditate, the long-term goal is to learn to bring your mindfulness out of meditation and into daily life where distractions abound. You don’t need absolute quiet to meditate. Furthermore, it’s your responsibility, not your friend’s, to manage the way you react to distractions. Next time you notice your friend’s loud breathing, try putting your attention on it.

15 MIN2018 OCT 10
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M15 Ep054: Dear Monica: Your Meditation Questions Answered

M15 Ep054: Get the antidote to doubts about your meditation practice

Am I doing this right? I don’t think I’m capable of mediating. I can’t calm my mind. Maybe this isn’t worth the effort -- It’s natural for beginners to have some doubts about their meditation practice. Even seasoned meditators can experience periods of self-doubt. Doubt can make meditation practice feel like a struggle, like a fight against yourself, and it can even cause some people to give up altogether. But, doubt can also be a teacher from which you can learn more about your habitual responses to uncertainty and confusion. Let me give you some ideas that can help you get through periods of doubt. Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: When I was a little girl, I wanted to learn to play the piano. My parents, however, couldn’t afford to buy me a piano. Their solution was to buy me a guitar, instead, and send me for lessons. I lasted through three lessons before I quit. You see, I was seven. I expected that I’d sit down with the guitar and play music. I didn’t realize I’d have to play Jingle Bells in the middle of June, over and over again, while regularly having to stop to correct mistakes. This was no fun at all, so I walked away. I’m pretty sure my parents were glad they didn’t try to scrape up the money for a piano. What’s the point of this story? Sometimes, I think meditation students are a little like my seven-year-old self. If they don’t reach their expected outcome in short order, they conclude that they cannot meditate or it doesn’t work for them. The roots of doubt This is the point where doubt first creeps in, and it happens for a few reasons. Sometimes practitioners have overly optimistic ideas about the amount of practice required to build a skill. When the skill doesn’t grow fast enough, they conclude they’re doing something wrong. In other cases, practitioners don’t know what to expect from meditation, so they’re unable to judge whether they’re doing it correctly. And sometimes practitioners do have expectations. When their expectations are not met, they might conclude that meditation is not working. Let’s take a look a more in-depth look at these. How do I know whether I’m practicing enough? Aim for regularity in your practice and don’t fret over the length of your sessions. It’s the regularity that reaps results. I recommend daily meditation, however, if you can manage to meditate four to five days per week, that’s a good start. Don’t get caught up in worrying over whether you’re practicing enough. Just meditate as often as you can. The longer you sit in any given session, the more chance you give the mind to settle, but if you can only commit to five minutes of meditation, then just do that. The benefits you get from a short practice reinforce the habit and will likely lead you to meditate more often for longer. The bottom line: Give yourself permission to let go of the doubt and the concern and just sit as often as you can. How do I know I’m doing it right? Meditation is pretty simple (but not necessarily easy, which is why you need to practice often): Put your attention on your breath. Keep your attention focused on the breath. When you notice your attention has wandered away from the breath, return it to the breath. Repeat. If you’re doing this, you’re doing it right. All other instruction is unnecessary. That’s not to say other instruction won’t make meditation easier, but if you never get that instruction, you still have all you need to meditate successfully. If you think you’re doing it wrong, you’re probably wrong. There is no one perfect posture, no one perfect meditation object, no one perfect place in the body on which to notice your breath, no one way to do anything. And, the best part is mindfulness can teach you what you need to know about meditation.

17 MIN2018 OCT 5
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M15 Ep054: Get the antidote to doubts about your meditation practice

M15 Ep053: Can a warm up ritual help you meditate consistently?

Athletes, musicians, actors and other performers commonly use ritual to prepare themselves for a performance. Prior to lifting, a weightlifter might eat complex carbs, dress in her favourite lifting clothes, and do some cardio exercise to warm up. During the warm up, she might even listen to a playlist designed to energize her. A singer might do some deep breathing, complete some vocal exercises, and eat a green apple prior to a performance. And, you can use a warm up routine to prepare for meditation. Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: Warm up rituals prepare an athlete or performer to achieve optimal results. They set a tone conducive to the upcoming activity, and help the performer detach from the other activities and unrelated thoughts. In this way, warm ups improve focus. A pre-meditation ritual can help you settle into meditation, too. Warm ups provide a little separation between your upcoming mediation and whatever activities you were doing and thinking about prior to meditating. They can help you focus your attention on meditating. Warm up rituals can be particularly helpful on days when you don’t feel like meditating. On these days, perform the ritual. By the time you’re done, you’ll likely feel more like following through with the meditation. The best rituals include activities that are meaningful and directly contribute to a good performance. As meditators, we don’t want to get caught up in judging how well we’re performing, though. After all, meditation is the practice of awareness of the present moment without judging it. But, while we want to avoid setting up expectations and judging outcomes, there’s nothing to say we can’t engage in warm up activities that facilitate our practice. Look for ritual activities that you can perform every time you meditate, regardless of when or where you’re practicing. You can choose one activity, or multiple activities. You’ll notice the following examples include some activities that I routinely include in my guided meditations, because they help meditators settle in: Set an intention for your practice - You might have a general intention (e.g., I intend to put my full attention on my breath), or a specific one for the day (e.g., I intend to practice lovingkindness today). Bow to your cushion or chair - This is a ritual practiced in some Buddhist communities. It is intended to express gratitude for the opportunity to meditate. Settle into your posture by swaying - Sit on your chair or cushion, and sway your body back and forth, gently. Start with a big side-to-side movement and gradually make it smaller and smaller until you become still. Calm the body by shaking your hands - A little physical activity can help your mind settle. Just shake your hands vigorously for about one minute, then place your hands in your lap. Practice one or more yoga poses, qigong moves or stretches - such physical activity can release energy and loosen muscles, making it easier to sit. Take a few slow, deep breaths - as you exhale, consciously relax the body. You might like to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth to facilitate relaxation. Let your breathing return to normal before meditating. Check your posture - Good posture allows you to sit more comfortably for longer. Make your spine erect, but not rigid. Ground yourself (feet or knees on the floor). Close your eyes gently. Keep your head facing straight ahead and tuck your chin in slightly. Use a practice poem to guide the first few breaths - You can learn more about practice poems at mindful15.com/calm Be careful in your choice of warm up activities. It’s possible to become dependent on your ritual. In other words,

11 MIN2018 SEP 26
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M15 Ep053: Can a warm up ritual help you meditate consistently?

M15 Ep052: Don’t feel like meditating? Just sit.

Establishing a steady meditation habit is often the most challenging part of meditation. Until the habit is well established, it’s common to experience days when you just don’t feel like meditating. Today I’m going to give you simple method for getting past this common obstacle. Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: Habits have a simple structure. There’s a trigger that signals it’s time to perform the habit. The trigger is followed by a habitual behaviour. The behaviour is followed by a reinforcing reward. Every time this sequence is performed, the habit grows stronger. If you want to build a habit, you need to be sure this sequence gets enacted regularly. The trigger might be an event or a specific time of day. In episode 16, I taught you how to choose an effective meditation trigger. If you haven’t listened to that episode yet, you’ll find it at mindful15.com/habit. Every time you perform the habitual behaviour in response to the trigger, you strengthen the habit. But, if your trigger to meditate comes up and you don’t follow with meditation, you’ll weaken the habit. So, if you skip meditation whenever you don’t feel like doing it, the habit won’t grow the way you want it to. How do you force yourself to meditate when you don’t want to? I suggest you don’t try to force anything. That feeling you get when you don’t want to meditate is your mind throwing up resistance. If you fight against resistance by forcing yourself to meditate, the resistance is likely to increase. Instead, when your mind resists meditation, say to it, “okay, fine, I won’t meditate, but I am just going to sit here for a minute.” Then, sit down in good meditation posture for just one minute. That’s it. Just sit. When you do this, you are reinforcing the connection between the trigger and the habitual behaviour, even if you don’t do any meditation. The resistance is lowered a bit, because just sitting doesn’t cost you much. It takes just one minute of your time and very little effort is required. Once you sit down, your mind might give in and allow you to meditate for awhile. Maybe it won’t. In that case, get up. But, before you move on to the next activity, don’t forget to complete the habit cycle by rewarding yourself. Do this even if you just sat there for a minute, not meditating. Give yourself a little positive reinforcement. You might say to yourself, “good work,” or “well done.” If you’re tracking your meditation habit, consider this a successful day and add it to your tracker. I’ve shared this simple method with a number of people, and sometimes they’re skeptical. It just sounds too simple. If you’re skeptical, do yourself a favour and just try it. Really, what have you got to lose? If you skip meditation, you’ll definitely lose. You’ll weaken the habit you’re trying to build. But if you try my suggestion, you just might find that you’ve strengthened your meditation habit, even if a tiny bit, and even if you didn’t get any meditation in today. But you do feel like meditating today, right? Join me for a guided meditation The following is a 10-minute guided meditation. Up next week Next week, we’ll explore the power of ritual in helping you establish a meditation habit. If you’d like to be notified when the episode goes online, just subscribe to our newsletter. I’ll let you know when new lessons are online and I’ll also send you a free deep relaxation. Actually, if you subscribe before September 30, 2018, I’ll send you FOUR deep relaxations! Before you go If you enjoyed this lesson, please share it using the social media buttons you see below,

13 MIN2018 SEP 19
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M15 Ep052: Don’t feel like meditating? Just sit.

M15 Ep051: Daily mindfulness: Doing things you hate to do

I’m not really sure how I ended up watching Martha Stewart. I wasn’t a regular viewer. Maybe I was just flipping channels, but what Martha said really struck me, so much so that I clearly remember it a couple of decades later. What did Martha say? She said, “You don’t have to clean your house. You get to clean your house.” Let me tell you why I thought that was profound. Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: Martha was talking about how your attitude affects your experience. If you view house cleaning, or any other task, as something negative, you’re likely to rush through it, feel bad while you’re doing it, and completely disengage from the experience of doing it. So what? After all, you want the task over with as quickly as possible so you can get on with something that you like, something that’s worthwhile. But if you do that, you’re throwing away a little piece of your life. You’re not fully experiencing the present moment. Frankly, I think life’s too short to go throwing it away. You’re also fostering negative feelings, which might range from annoyance to anger. Why subject yourself to that? The more you practice negative feelings, the stronger and more frequent they become. One of my teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh, always advises us to do the dishes to do the dishes. What he means is, while you wash the dishes, you should be fully present with the activity and immerse yourself in the experience of doing the dishes. Don’t let your mind wander to what you’ll do when the dishes are done. Just be there and do nothing but wash dishes. It turns out, I’ve always resented having to wash dishes. I come home from work tired, cook dinner, and then I’d like to relax for a while. The dishes feel like an imposition. But, when I mindfully wash dishes, things are different. I find dishwashing can give me the relaxation I’m craving. And, yes, it can even be pleasant. Have you tried it? Just put all your senses into the activity and do it slowly. Notice what you see – the shiny tap, the bubbly water, the dirty dishes and how they contrast with the clean dishes. Notice what you hear – the bubbles popping, the dishes clinking, and how the clinking sounds different when the dishes are submerged. Notice what you smell – the scent of soap, the smell of the leftover food on the plates, lingering cooking smells. And, notice what you feel – there’s a lot to notice here, because dishwashing is a physical activity. There’s the warmth of water, the contrast between the temperature of your hand in the water and your arm out of the water, the texture of the dishrag in your hand, the muscles moving as you scrub, the feeling of the soap bottle in your hand, etc. Let it all flow through your awareness. Moment, by moment, focus on the things you sense. If you notice thoughts or feelings about doing dishes, or if you find your mind wandering somewhere else, just notice that. Acknowledge what comes up, and gently let go of it, bringing your attention back to the physical sensations of dishwashing. Do this as many times as you need to. If you usually see dishwashing as unpleasant, resistance might come up. You might find yourself rushing, or thinking things like, “This is stupid,” “It doesn’t work,” or “I’ll never enjoy doing dishes.” When resistance arises, just notice it. Recognize it as resistance, but don’t analyze it or let it take you away into thought. Instead, just accept it. Say to yourself, “Looks like my mind is resisting.” Treat resistance as you would treat any other thought or distraction: acknowledge it, refrain from judging yourself for having the thought, and gently, kindly bring your attention back to dish washing.

10 MIN2018 SEP 13
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M15 Ep051: Daily mindfulness: Doing things you hate to do

M15 Ep050: What's wrong with lying down to meditate?

Welcome to the Mindful15 Podcast. This is our 50th episode and I want to thank you for supporting the podcast. I hope you’ve learned as much as I have this year! We always send out a free body scan relaxation to those who sign up for our newsletter, but to celebrate episode 50, we’re giving out four deep relaxations to anyone who subscribes to the Mindful15 newsletter before September 30th, 2018. Today I want to answer a question about meditation posture submitted by one of our biggest supporters, Brendan. Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: Brendan says: I prefer to meditate while laying down. I like to lay flat on my back and spread out my arms and legs on my bed. Then I can put my hand on my belly and feel my breaths in and out, and make sure I am breathing with my belly. I noticed most (if not all) meditations start with your instruction to ensure good posture, sitting in a supportive and grounding position. So I am wondering, am a losing some benefits of meditation by laying down, instead of sitting upright? You’re correct, Brendan, all of the Mindful15 guided meditations start with instructions for sitting with good posture. The only ones that direct you to lie down are the deep relaxations. Meditation requires a balance between alertness and relaxation. You’re advised to sit with a straight, upright posture to facilitate the alertness you need to stay mindful of the present moment. At the same time, you’re coached to relax your shoulders, arms, face, and belly so that you can let go of judgement about what you’re experiencing. Mindfulness itself is required to keep this balance going as you meditate, but good posture sets you up for success. The reason we don’t coach you to lie down to meditate is, for most people, lying down shifts the balance away from alertness toward too much relaxation. Some people, me included, even tend to fall asleep in a lying position. Does that mean you shouldn’t lie down? Not necessarily. If you’re able to maintain alertness, go right ahead. And some people have no choice but to lie down, because pain or physical impediments prevent them from sitting. Some tips for meditating in a lying position Brendan says he places one hand on his belly to facilitate diaphragmatic breathing during meditation. This is one way to foster alertness. If you’d like to learn more about belly breathing, check out episode 3 - A Deep Breath is not the Same Thing as a Big Breath. I also recommend you lie with a straight spine to foster alertness and to help you breathe more fully. Tuck your chin in, gently, to straighten the upper spine. Place your arms by your sides, palms up or down, and extend your legs out fully. You can separate the legs somewhat for comfort and allow the feet to flop to the sides if they want to. Lie on a firm surface to foster spinal alignment. Lying on the floor is best, but you could lie on a firm futon, couch, or mattress. If you lie on the floor, you might want a yoga mat, blanket, or large towel for warmth and comfort. When doing deep relaxation, I recommend covering yourself with a blanket, because the body can cool down when lying for a long period of time, but when meditating, you might stay more alert without the warmth of a blanket. Avoid resting your head on a big, fluffy pillow, because it can wrench your upper spine out of alignment. If you need some support for your neck and head, try using a folded towel. Towels are much firmer than pillows and you can fold and re-fold until you get just the right height,

15 MIN2018 SEP 5
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M15 Ep050: What's wrong with lying down to meditate?

M15 Ep049: Should you meditate today?

So, it’s not like I go around broadcasting to one and all that I’m a meditation teacher, but whenever the topic comes up in conversation, there’s a good chance that someone will say to me, “yeah, I should meditate, but [insert excuse here].” What about you? Do you think you should meditate more? Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: Should is a perfectly useful word, but intonation is everything. Should can be said with a sense of excitement and curiosity, as in “Wow, what a great idea. I should try that!” But often we say it to excuse our lack of action and then lay on overtones of guilt and shame. When people say to me “I should meditate,” I hear them saying “I know it would be good for me, but I don’t do it and I feel bad about not doing it.” The problem is telling yourself what you should do doesn’t motivate you. In fact, it’s just the opposite. If you use should to give yourself unexamined excuses, you rob yourself of opportunity. If you use should to make yourself feel bad, you take away any energy you might have had to engage in positive action. Healthy habits are best built using positive reinforcement. You meditate, it makes you feel good (perhaps relaxed, calm, or happy), so you’re more likely to meditate again. You can start very small with just a couple of minutes of meditation, but, you have to take that first step and meditate. To boost motivation, try making one small change: Replace “should” with “could”. “I could meditate today.” That’s a statement full of possibilities with no recrimination. The words we use have the power to change how we feel, so when talking to yourself, choose your words wisely. Ditch the words that demotivate and choose words that encourage you. You could do this! Let's meditate together The following is a 12-minute guided meditation on balancing alertness with relaxation. You'll learn to play with your breath and use it to help boost energy or to relax tension when you need to. Up next week Next week marks the 50th episode of Mindful15! I’ll be answering a question submitted by Brendan who asks whether it’s okay to lie down to meditate. To be sure you don’t miss an episode, subscribe to our newsletter. To celebrate episode 50, I’ll be sending out not one, but three free deep relaxation recordings to anyone who subscribes before September 30th, 2018. If you’re already subscribed, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you! I’ll send the relaxations out to you, too. Before you go If you enjoyed this lesson, please share it using the social media buttons you see below, or click here to tell your friends. To subscribe to our lessons, use one of these links: Email (you’ll get free extras) | iTunes | Stitcher | YouTube |

14 MIN2018 AUG 29
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M15 Ep049: Should you meditate today?

M15 Ep048: How long can you go without checking your phone?

When was the last time you went a full day without checking email, texts, or social media? Can’t remember such a day? How ‘bout an hour? When was the last time you went a full hour without accessing your digital devices? Is that even possible? Listen to the podcast: Or, read the blog: Writer Linda Stone claims most of us live in a state of continuous partial attention. She says, To pay continuous partial attention is to pay partial attention — CONTINUOUSLY. It is motivated by a desire to be a LIVE node on the network. Another way of saying this is that we want to connect and be connected. We want to effectively scan for opportunity and optimize for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment. To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognized, and to matter. We pay continuous partial attention in an effort NOT TO MISS ANYTHING. It is an always-on, anywhere, anytime, any place behavior that involves an artificial sense of constant crisis. We are always in high alert when we pay continuous partial attention. Stone, L. (n.d.). Continuous partial attention. In Linda Stone. So, what’s wrong with that? After all, we’re glued to our digital devices because they’re useful and entertaining. Too much use, however, disrupts our ability to pay attention, and this is a big deal. Focused attention is essential to optimal performance at work, at school, and at play. Furthermore, that “artificial sense of constant crisis” generates stress and anxiety. The antidote? No, I’m not going to ask you to give up your phone, but you really should take a break, a little digital device holiday, on a regular basis. How to take a digital device holiday The premise is simple, really: Regularly set aside a significant period of time during which you don’t use your digital devices. Some health experts (e.g., functional medicine specialist Chris Kresser) advocate holidays of 5 to 10 days a couple of times per year. I certainly see the value in that, but it’s not where I’d start. Multi-day holidays can be difficult for some people, and as with meditation, the more often you take a digital device holiday, the greater the benefits. I recommend taking at least one half-day off per week. Ideally, take a full day off every week, plus add a longer holiday of one to two weeks once or twice per year. And yes, the idea is to COMPLETELY avoid the devices. No texts, emails, social media, online shopping, web surfing (no, not even to check the reviews on that new restaurant), etc. And -- gasp -- no podcasts! Personally, I also refrain from watching television during my device holidays, but it’s up to you decide whether to go this extra step. Here are some strategies to help you unplug: Let those close to you know when you’ll be unavailable for texts, emails and calls. You might even challenge them try unplugging, too. Set up an autoresponder to let others know when you’ll be offline and direct them to other sources of help, if that’s applicable. Turn the devices off instead of just letting them sleep. The inconvenience of turning them on may help you avoid using them. At the very least, turn off the ringer on the phone and disable notifications. If it helps, lock that phone/tablet/laptop/watch in a cabinet or drawer! Plan some fun ways to use your time. Get outdoors,

17 MIN2018 AUG 22
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M15 Ep048: How long can you go without checking your phone?