Mindfulness

Mindfulness: Paying Attention (Part 3 of 6)


In my last post, I explored the importance of setting an intention to pay attention as a crucial part of mindfulness.

Now it’s time to talk about paying attention.

Paying attention is key to mindfulness; if we can’t direct our awareness towards something and then bring it back to that something again and again when it wanders, we will be at the mercy of the distractions of life.

I see this in my daughters all the time; they’re young and their little brains are still learning to pay attention. They can focus fairly well on something that’s new or interesting, but they are also distracted mid-sentence by a squirrel or a plastic gem on the floor or a memory of something that happened earlier that day or even earlier that year.

This a very handy thing when I’m trying to distract my girls out of a tantrum; it’s not so handy when I want them to pay attention to something such as putting their shoes on or eating their dinners or brushing their teeth.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve told my daughters to pay attention, but I’m not sure I can remember ever explicitly telling them what it means to pay attention, or how to do it.

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Mindfulness

Mindfulness: Setting an Intention (Part 2 of 6)


I’m currently sitting in a coffee shop. I have my laptop on the table right in front of me. The screen is bright and glowing. Even so, here are a few of the things distracting me from my writing:

-- The background music.
-- The woman sitting at the table behind me watching the news on her iPad. She has the volume turned up quite high.
-- My phone, which just beeped to alert me about an incoming text message.
-- The activity tracker I wear on my wristband, which just vibrated to let me know that I’ve been sitting for 45 minutes. Whoops.
-- My friend’s super cute necklace that has all of her children’s initials on it.
-- A large water bottle that I feel compelled to sip from every sentence or two, even though I’m not that thirsty.
-- My own brain, which is currently wondering if I remembered to book the hotel rooms for our upcoming family vacation. Also, I have two scarves, which are roughly the same color, but not exactly the same, and I can’t quite decide which one I like better and if I should keep both, because it does seem a bit indulgent to have two scarves that are exactly the same. And the royal baby was named this morning, and her name is Charlotte, which I totally predicted, so I’m feeling quite proud of myself. Did I mention my neck is a bit sore? I wonder if there are some stretches I can do to loosen it up a bit. I’ll just click over to the Internet for a minute, just one minute, to do a little research…

Here is the one thing I actually want to focus on:
- This post.

Sigh.

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Mindfulness

Mindfulness: The Definition (Part 1 of 6)


“Living in the moment.”
“Living with whatever comes your way, without trying to change it.”
“Accepting everything.”
“Being happy / content / joyful all the time.”

These are some of the phrases that I’ve heard people mention when they talk about mindfulness.

While all of them have something to do with mindfulness, none of them are quite accurate. And that’s a problem.

These misconceptions are a big part of the reason why mindfulness gets such a bad rap in the press at times.

They’re...
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Parenting

In Defense of Time-Outs. Sometimes.


I’m in the mud right now with my four year old. She’s been talking back and having tantrums on a daily basis. Between her explosions and this miserable winter and all of the mundane details of life that require my ongoing attention, well, I’m worn a little thin. I suspect we all are.

As a result, my responses to my daughter’s meltdowns have been inconsistent, to say the least. Sometimes I’m funny and sweet with her, but other times I’m just too tired and I snap at her or send her to time-out until we can both calm down.

Time-out. Yikes. That’s a tricky one these days.

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Children

What I Learned From My Daughter’s Drawings


A unicorn standing in a field of butterflies.

A fairy jumping off a dock into a mountain lake.

Two boys and two girls and a monkey playing football.

If you asked me to draw any of these scenes, my reaction would be something along the lines of, “Of course not. I’m terrible at drawing!”

But if you ask my six-year-old daughter to draw any of them, she’ll grab some markers and paper and get right to work.

While I like to think she’s a rather good artist, the reality is that she’s probably just about as good as you might expect a six-year-old who draws a lot to be. And I believe that her drawing skills have little to do with her willingness to draw just about anything.

So how did we get to this point where I judge myself so harshly and shy away from most drawing challenges while my little girl jumps right in?

I can think of three relevant factors:

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General

How My Daughters Are Helping Me Keep My Resolutions


 

In my last post, I offered some ideas for how to set effective New Years Resolutions. Although there are many folks out there who question the value of setting resolutions at all, I couldn’t help myself. I love the idea of a fresh start and a new opportunity to do a little bit better for myself and my family.

I did make some resolutions this year, and much to my great surprise, I’m still committed to them a week later. I know, this may not sound like much, but in the past I haven't lasted much longer than a couple of weeks. (According to unsubstantiated statistics I have read in numerous online articles, only about 8% of Americans keep their resolutions.)

Several things have helped me stay focused on the changes I want to make, including some of the ideas I shared in my previous post. But there is one other thing I'm doing differently this year that helps me stay focused more than anything else: I’m tracking my resolutions with my daughters.

We each created a chart with four practices we want to work on. Each morning we review our charts as a reminder of what we want to try to accomplish during the day, and each night we talk about how the day went and give ourselves stickers and stars as appropriate.

As I think about it, there are several reasons why this seems to be working so well:

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General

How to Really Keep Your Resolutions This Year


Less than two weeks. We have less than two weeks until the new year, and we all know what that means.

New Years Resolutions.

I love resolutions. I love a fresh start, a new opportunity to begin again.

And, like the vast majority of Americans, it’s not long before I lapse into old habits again.

The thing is, change is hard. It’s especially hard when we’re tired and busy and overwhelmed by the demands of work and home and children. We tend to put ourselves at the bottom of the list. When that happens, it can be hard, if not impossible, to summon the energy, self-discipline, and willpower to make meaningful changes.

I’d like this year to be different. I’ve done some research and put together a few ideas about how to make my resolutions stick this year:

Start small. REALLY small. For example, if you want to start a meditation practice, make it a point to sit and breathe for two minutes a day. Yes, I mean two minutes. If you can do that for a few weeks, then try five minutes. But start with two.

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General

My Top Ten Favorite Parenting Resources

I’m back!

Sorry I disappeared for a while, folks. I’ve been busy with book talks for Parenting in the Present Moment, working on my next book about teaching mindfulness to children (New Harbinger, 2015), helping my big girl transition to kindergarten, my little girl transition to not being in the same school as her big sister (The tears! Oh, the tears!), and obsessing about Serial.

Anyway, one of the most common questions I get at...
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Mindfulness

Actually, We Have Lots of Chances to Raise Our Kids Right


I recently came across a Facebook meme that said, “You only get one chance to raise your kids right.”

My gut reaction to this post was, “Ugh. Well, I’ve already screwed that one up. Forget the college fund. I need to start a therapy fund.” The truth is that I get frustrated with my daughters, I snap at them, and yes, I have even been known to hide from them. (Only in the bathroom, and not for long, but yes, I was hiding.) I’m assuming that most of this does not count as raising my kids right.

Fortunately, I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing that crazy monkey who likes to bounce around inside my head, flinging his crap at every opportunity. I took a moment to shut him up, and then I thought about this idea that we only get one shot at this whole parenting thing.

And I decided it’s not true.

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General

Staying Present When the Babysitter Calls Out Sick


The babysitter called in sick yesterday.

Actually, she texted in sick.

(For the record, I have come to dread any texts that come in before 8 AM.)

I had spent my shower planning out the work I was going to get done once she showed up (so much for mindful awareness, which, as it turns out, I really could have used that day); the list included revising two book chapters, outlining two more, writing a blog post, preparing two presentations, and getting ready for a class I’m teaching next week.

Needless to say, I freaked out just a little bit when I found out the babysitter wasn’t coming.

The work just wasn’t going to happen. I came to that conclusion fairly quickly, and I regrouped fairly quickly and set up a play date at the local spray park. We had a good time, but all the while my unfinished (and, to be honest, unstarted) work was rumbling in the back of my mind. By the time we left the park to head to the grocery store before lunch, it was more than rumbling. It was almost exploding.

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