Monday Mindfulness

Cultivating Strength, Joy, Peace & Resilience


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Laugh…and Open New Possibilities

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Laughter is a strong medicine for mind and body.  It is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict.  It also lightens burdens, inspires hopes, connects you with others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.

There are many physiological and psychological benefits to laughter.  

  The Benefits of Laughter  

     Physical Health Benefits:

  • Boosts immunity
  • Lowers stress hormones
  • Decreases pain
  • Relaxes your muscles
  • Prevents heart disease

      Mental Health Benefits:

  • Adds joy and zest to life
  • Eases anxiety and fear
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves mood
  • Enhances resilience

      Social Benefits:

  • Strengthens relationships
  • Attracts others to us
  • Enhances teamwork
  • Helps defuse conflict
  • Promotes group bonding

Laughter is a catalyst for creativity, new discoveries, and enhanced relationships, with oneself and others.  Laugh more and you will find that you become more relaxed, positive, creative, joyful, and balanced.

Try this simple exercise:  Take a full breath in and then draw your shoulders up towards your ears.  Hold your shoulders up close to your ears. Count to two and then as you exhale, move your shoulders down and up quickly as you laugh, “ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha”, for six or eight times in a row.  Repeat several times.  Notice the release of tension in your upper body, notice your renewed energy and freer flow of breath. 

Enjoy the benefits of laughter and know that, with every laugh…you open new possibilities for the Universe. 

Make it a great week!


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Life Lessons

dr. seuss portrait

Life isn’t so simple,

Or, so, some might say.

But, joy, love and kindness

Can brighten anyone’s day.

And, isn’t that really what matters most of all.

To care for ourselves and those around us…no matter how big or small?

(Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss…and thank you for inspiring these and so many of my other words, thoughts, and actions!)


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Keeping Score

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Have you ever watched nine-year-old boys play basketball?  Five little guys get up off the bench and head out onto the floor in union with one another.  They eye each other and perfectly align themselves to support their teammates and play the game together.  Trying so hard to remember everything their coaches taught them, their fingers twitch with anticipation as the referee hoists the ball in the air, the whistle blows, and the game begins.

One boy catches the ball as it descends through the air.  He grabs it in tight.  All the instruction from his coaches, the encouragement from the stands, and the pleas from his teammates go unanswered as he looks around, not for the teammates he moments ago winked at in camaraderie, rather for an open spot through which he will dash.  He will ignore every other player on the court, friend or foe, put his legs in motion, tongue hanging to one corner of his mouth as he concentrates feverishly on dribbling the ball while running.  Striving to outrace everyone, he pushes on towards his opponent’s basket where, with arms flaying, legs lumbering along, he will reach out through his whole body and force the ball from his hands as if propelled from the very center of his being…all in hopes of scoring a basket.

There is no passing in basketball when you are nine years old.  Each player simply runs with the ball, not out of selfishness, but driven to bring back what they believe is the greatest gift for the coach – two or maybe even three points in the game!  It’s not for lack of skill.  Every day, they practice passing, they move through rounds and rounds of defensive and offensive plays, and they work collaboratively with grace and perfection as a team.  But, when it all comes down to the moment, in the heat of the game, the only thing that seems to matter is the race to score.

Perhaps there is a feeling that time will be wasted on passing or the other guy just doesn’t have what it takes, a fear that passing the ball will allow a steal, or perhaps it’s the child’s determination to please his coach, to prove himself.  But, the reality is that with more passing and collaboration, the team stands a better chance at scoring more points, a better chance at winning, than they do with a single, lanky kid running straight down the court to the basket with the swarm of opponents and teammates closing in from behind.

The same goes in life.  How often do we take off in a mad dash on our own, trying to get away from the crowd, ignoring any assistance that may be there for us, wanting to score that basket all on our own?  Sometimes, that swarm can look really scary, resembling more a cluster of serpentine arms randomly reaching out to snag us than the generous hands of our teamates trying to help.  Within that dark cloud buzzing behind us is more often the help we need to not just score one basket, but to win the game.  It is by enlisting the help of others that the true richness and quality of the game begins to emerge, the true talent can be seen, and the winning really happens.

Certainly, the guy who races to make the layup right under the buzzer is impressive — some might say Hall-of-Fame worthy.  But the real champions find a way to tap into the talents of their teammates and to soar to new heights together, bringing even more value to the team.  If all you do is focus on the score and ignore the play within each moment, you may never improve your own game.  You may never really feel your greatness.  Strength is built on collaboration.

Whether on our off the court, success comes through finding your teammates out there, passing to them, receiving from them, making great plays together, and celebrating your successes as one.  When truly played in the moment with all players bringing their best to the game, victory is certain, maybe not always as reflected on the scoreboard above the basketball hoop, but most definitely in the joy and quality you find in life.

So, what about that little nine-year old and his lanky drive to the basket?  He’s got the passion, he may even have the skill, and one day he might just realize that perhaps his biggest asset is his teammates waiting along the three-point line to help him win the game.


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Snowflakes Falling Like Grains of Sand

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As a child, falling snowflakes and snow-covered landscapes meant a break from the routine, a chance to play in a different way, no cars rushing by, no one in a hurry to get anywhere, a chance to sip cocoa and enjoy meals together as a family because no matter who you were surrounded by they became family in a snow storm.

At some point we “grow up”.  Snow becomes a nuisance, a hindrance from work, a blockade to accomplishing life.  The critical plans for what we believe is the great work of our life come to a screeching halt and everything is all messed up, or so it seems at the time.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been drawn to life at the beach – to live someplace warm, where folks saunter around in flip flops or squish their toes in the sand as they stroll the beaches in quiet reflection, where the pace of life is slower, where by nature time pauses so that you can notice simple surroundings, breathe a little deeper, and reflect more on thoughts and actions.

Life seems so much more in the moment at the beach and maybe that is why I am drawn to it — sparkling water lapping up on the shore, warm sand reminding me to press down through the souls of my feet and feel the earth.  Life seems to slow down to a gelatinous bubbling, like the colors floating in a lava lamp.

Oh, how different life at the beach is compared to the hustle and bustle of a big city — that is, until a big snow storm hits.  When the snow comes, it is as if Mother Nature is saying, “Come on folks, slow it down!”   Have you ever noticed how blankets of snow on hillsides are remarkably similar looking to dunes of sand?   The sensation of snow crunching under the boots creates that earthly connection with your feet.   Feel the snowflakes splash on your cheeks, like the surf curling up on your toes.

There is rarely a more peaceful and beautiful time than when snow is softly falling.  Everything slows down.   Branches stand in stillness as snow gathers at their edges.  Animals tuck into nooks in tree bases, napping all snuggled together.  Snow brings quiet reflection, contemplative movement, an invitation from Mother Nature to slow down, notice simple surroundings, breathe a little deeper, and reflect more on thoughts and actions.

So, the next time the snow begins to fall and seems to be getting in the way of the greatness you had planned for your day, perhaps it is simply an invitation to pause, go inside instead of outside, and allow a new greatness, perhaps your true greatness, to surface from within.

So whether it’s snow in your boots or sand in your toes, slowing down to notice it may bring the perfect opportunity to experience life a little more fully.

***

Got my toes in the snow

                Hot cocoa tucked in my hand

                                Mother Nature says “slow down”

                                                Pretend the snow is like sand.

Take a moment…just relax…and get real.


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Play — Is it Really Just the Work of Children?

Yoga Play on Siesta Key

We all remember growing up.  The first time we twirled or rolled so much that laughter, interlaced with a smidgeon of fear, burst from within us as the world spun around uncontrollably and the mind tucked away a note to maybe spin a little less next time.  We sampled the roles of mommy or daddy, worker, leader, follower, and friend as we played dress up together or joined in team games on the playground.  We dropped objects from tables, stairwells, and out car windows with genuine awe as the mysteries of how these things worked unfolded before our very eyes.  We spontaneously erupted in play, as we naturally found new ways to move the body, new ways to see the world, new ways to feel connected with it all.

When children engage in play, they engage in an adventurous journey through the unknown.  Play allows you to take chances, to explore edges, to uncover workings of the physical body, subtleties in social and emotional dynamics, expressions of creativity, and to conduct investigations and form solutions through active problem solving.  Play is the foundation of learning.  Play is critical for growth.  Play is an essential element in the development of a bright, well-rounded, well-adjusted person.

Why then do we limit play to children?  Why, as they grow older, do we discourage children from going to this natural place of curiosity, wonder, and learning?  Why, when we become adults, does play disappear?

While there may be a question about whether you can form new neuron synapses or the brain can improve its functionality after a certain age, there is no question that play, at any age, provides an opportunity for exploration, sensation, and learning.

So, grab your neighbor’s hand and go run through that pile of leaves in the middle of the yard, or roll down that grassy hill, or scoop up some snow or sand and build with it. Dip your fingers in paint and slide them across an empty canvas.  Lie on your back, grab your feet and roll from side to side like a happy baby.  Smile, laugh, and dig deep down into your inner child and let it shine in the wonder, curiosity, and learning of play.

If you’re worried about what other folks may think as you get silly, serious, loud, or creative in your play, invite them to join in.  Free yourself and others from the misperception that there is no room in adulthood for play.  Engaging in play could be the best thing to keep you agile in mind, body, and spirit and ensure a lifetime full of curiosity, wonder, and awe.  Imagine what you might not discover, what you might not feel, what you might not learn, who you might not become if you never played.

Play is the work of children…and of healthy adults too.