Graduate’s Story: Artist Theresa Girard

February 14th, 2016 by

Theresa Girard headshot (1)

Many of you have seen the beautiful art on display in the Integrative Mindfulness studio in Bonita Springs, FL. These are the words of the artist, Theresa Girard, on her experience upon completing the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program –

“The discovery of this seemingly simple process reaches far beyond anything I had previously considered. Being present for me began a new emotional connection to who I am and what is embodied in my true spirit. At the same time, filling a spiritual void that had crept into my life.
Previous torments, such as anxiety, fear, a barrage of “what ifs” lessened in an acceptance of being where I needed to be in the moment. A certain quieter place comes forward and seeps into much of my decision making and provides a peace focused on awareness. Even when things are not going well, I was able to decrease my self judgement and negativity.

As an artist, with an overly active and creative mind, I became able to self soothe in a forgiving way and found that my work actually raised to a higher level as I learned to slow down and really “look” and be a part of the painting in the present.

My new series of work is not based on comparison to other artists, but a peace at being here and a new self talk to encourage and gently disengage my focus from low self worth. I am lovable in this moment. My work is good, I can be successful for myself, just as a direct expression of my own energy……mindful energy….

Thank you!”

Taking Mindfulness in Stride: Walking Meditation May Be Your Path to Serenity

April 30th, 2014 by

Looking for a way to quiet your mind that doesn’t involve sitting still and following
your breath? Walking meditation may be for you. It is just as beneficial as sitting
meditation, with some differences. Obviously you’re walking instead of sitting, but
the focus of your attention is also a bit different. Rather than attending to each
breath, in walking meditation you gently attend to the experience of each step.
When the mind wanders away from the feeling of walking, the practice is to
patiently bring it back.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare,
and Society at the University of Massachusetts, and the pioneer of Mindfulness-
Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), explains that mindful walking differs from
regular walking in that, “you’re not going anywhere.” It’s an opportunity to bring
awareness to an aspect of life, like so many others, that has become quite
automatic or “mindless.

A Little Background

Walking meditation shares the same 2500-year-old tradition as sitting meditation.
Ancient texts state the Buddha himself taught that meditation should be practiced
in four different “postures” – sitting, standing, walking, and lying down. The idea
seems clear – train the mind to abide in the present moment in a variety of
contexts, and become “present” for the whole of your life.

The practice of mindful or meditative walking can be found in numerous traditions
and cultures. Each year thousands of people worldwide learn the practice of
walking meditation, as well as other mindfulness practices such as sitting
meditation and gentle yoga, as part of the 8-week MBSR program. The health
benefits of mindfulness are well documented. Studies show reductions in stress,
anxiety, blood pressure, back pain, and insomnia, and stronger immune systems,
speedier healing, and longer cell life.

For even more of a beneficial boost, take your walking practice outside.
Research from Japan has shown that walks in nature, compared with urban
walks, produced a 12.4 percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a seven
percent decrease in sympathetic nerve activity (“fight or flight”), a 1.4 percent
decrease in blood pressure, and a 5.8 percent decrease in heart rate.
Participants had better moods and less anxiety.

How Do I Practice Walking Meditation?

In MBSR, walking meditation is done very slowly in a “lane” in which one walks
back and forth. Remember, you’re not going anywhere. Beginners often like to
use the phrase “lifting, moving, placing, landing” to help them focus their attention
on the four components of each step. To try it, find a place where you’ll be
undisturbed and unobserved, as walking meditation can look a bit odd to people
who are unfamiliar with it.

A great way to practice is on a walking labyrinth – a winding, circular pattern of
ancient Greek origin, used throughout the ages for contemplative walking. This is
my preference, as there’s nothing odd about walking slow on a labyrinth.

Walking Meditation: Some Simple Steps

1. Start by Standing: Feel your feet on the ground, noticing the body’s gentle
sway as it balances itself. Place one foot slightly in front of the other, shifting your
weight to one foot, and then the other, staying attentive to the experience. Shift
back and forth a few times.

2. Lifting: Focus on the sensation created as you lift your back foot. If you find it
helpful, silently say the word “lifting”

3. Moving: Stay attentive to the feeling of the foot moving forward through
space. If you like, saying the word “moving” to yourself as you move the foot.

4. Placing: Stay attentive to the moment the heel contacts the ground, as well as
the sensation of the entire sole as it meets the earth. You might mentally say the
word “placing” as you do this, but make sure the word and your action are
simultaneous.

5. Landing: Feel your weight shifting into the front foot, saying the word “landing”
as you experience this shift.

Continue sensing the physical experience of each step, repeating the four-part
“mantra” if you like. Your mind will naturally wander into thinking many times. You
will likely find yourself thinking about walking! When you notice this, you are
instantly “present” again. Simply note when you discover the mind has wandered
into “thinking” and gently escort it back to the sensations of walking.

 

This Morning Under a Tree

February 3rd, 2013 by

By Madeline Ebelini

This morning I sit in a chair, wrapped in a quilt, under a tree.

Eyes closed.

I feel the weight of my body, the gravitational pull of the Earth, connecting me.

I feel the movement of my belly with the breath, gently pulsing in and out, from within.

A wind chime hanging from the tree softly sounds with the breeze.

A bird calls, and when the breath is very soft and easy,

and the mind is immersed in the present,

dozens of  birds can be heard chattering in the distance.

An occasional “dust devil” arises,

pulling my attention into thinking, remembering, re-living.

Ah . . . . “Feel the whirlwind of this dust devil spinning the mind”.

Witness as it settles and comes to rest.

Then  . . . .the faithful pull of gravity connecting body to chair.

The gently pulsing breath within.

The truth . . . Here. Now.

The warmth of the quilt,

the soft sounds of the chime,

To “let go” into just this . . .

To let go of concepts and pre-made ideas, of push and pull, altogether.

To be just this sitting, this breathing, this hearing, this living.

 

I open my eyes.

The sun, shining through the tree

creates a blanket of soft, dappled light everywhere.

The moment beautiful, tender, and alive.

The murmur of a far away plane passes somewhere overhead.

I wrap the quilt around me and breathe in.

Image: Jim Liestman flickr.com/photos/gods-art

The Fastest Way to Happiness

July 1st, 2012 by

The fastest way to happiness is within you, right here and now! It’s the absolute acceptance of WHO YOU ARE in this moment, as Marie Claire Bernards writes in this article. But most of us are not entirely aware of the subconscious ways in which we refuse to accept ourselves as we are. This is where meditation is so powerful. Through meditation we guide ourselves to ourselves – authentically – in the moment. We have a chance to “see” and “befriend” those unseen parts of ourselves that are refusing to accept the real person that we are. With regular practice, these parts begin to soften and relax and reveal the true vulnerable and beautiful Self within. Subconscious behavior patterns, generated and maintained by these parts, begin to drop away. This is the beginning of freedom, healing, and happiness!

Image: Natalia Photos

How to Forgive When You Don’t Really Want To

June 30th, 2012 by

“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.” ~Jean Paul Sartre

Does this article by Kate Swoboda speak to you? She shares this discovery: when you decide to forgive, you get to decide who you are.

Image: crismatos

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