Running and Meditation

young fitness woman runner running on trail

young fitness woman runner running on trail

“Life Isn’t a Matter of Milestones but Moments” ~ Rose Kennedy

I began running when I was fourteen after meeting Persian woman who’s son I babysat. We instantly became friends. She and I would have long, intimate conversations. Our nightly runs and strolls through the hilly neighborhood streets gave us the opportunity to become quite close. Her husband and my mother were often away for work. Endorphins and close communications soothed our sorrows as did our friendship.

Even after I moved, I continued to jog through other neighborhoods. Running became my sanctuary. I explored new territory and escaped the pain living at home. I didn’t realize it until many years later that my regime of running was a form of meditation. It was my solace. It was the one place where I had control. I could be with my thoughts and feelings without anyone else telling me I was wrong or stupid. I gave myself the respect to listen while others were too busy to pay attention.

I reaped many health and psychological benefits from running. Running increased my lung capacity, my muscle strength, muscle tone, and my endurance.

For some regular running increases metabolism for weight reduction, promotes good mental health, and overall mind/body/spiritual health. Jogging releases endorphins a natural painkiller and mood enhancer. It increases the capacity to focus, practice perseverance, and dedication. It’s no wonder runner enthusiasts exist everywhere.

Meditation

Meditation offers many of the same advantages as running. Meditation is deliberately paying attention moment by moment. It is being acutely aware of what is happening inside and outside of our body and mind. Meditation is listening to our minds chatter, sensations in our body, and the connections to our surroundings.

Meditation and Running

Although most people run while being plugged-in, stopping to check and respond to our mobile mail, or listening to our iPod, taking a brief break from our digital worlds has tremendous benefits.

Mindful running is unplugging, paying attention, and making the choice to focus internally and externally. It entails suspending any agendas, goals, deadlines for the moment and enjoy the full experience of running free. Running while meditating gives the opportunity to sort through problems, find solutions, and let go of any frustrations of the day.

Mindful running is a practice. It is not a performance, a comparison, nor a pre-determined result. Mindful running is directing our attention. Soak in wisps of the wind as it softly tickles the hair on your skin. Take in the sweet smells of fresh blossoms in the air. Taste the saltiness of the ocean air if you are so fortunate or the sweat that bubbles above your lip. Bask in the warmth of the sun and delightful sights as your body swiftly sweeps through the streets. Each stride is an opportunity to notice all that we see, feel, hear, taste, smell and think without criticism, judgment, or evaluation. The regime for mindful running calls for soothing kindness and curiosity.

Personal Time

There is so much to learn from our thoughts and feelings. Running provides self-reflective time for greater awareness. By paying attention, creative solutions can be discovered. And curiosity while roaming in nature and natural surroundings can create a spiritual connection. The next time you run leave your ear plugs, your mobile, or any other digital device at home. There is a whole world to discover and experience not only outside but in your mind.

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10 Ways to Get Things Done

“An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

“If you think you can, you can.  If you think you think you can’t, you’re right.”  – George Bernard Shaw

“The future belongs to the common man with uncommon determination.” – Baba Amte

“Practice is the best of all instructions.”  – Publilius Syrus

achievementIt’s another year gone by.  Bloggers, editors, and writers are scripting about resolutions, goals, and fresh starts.  Each New Year seems to bring a surge of renewed energy to make this year the best year yet.  Yet come February/ March that enthusiasm fades.  Why?  What is it about the New Year that brings a desire for change but then it quickly dwindles?

Change is hard.  Breaking old habits takes a consistent effort.  Casting your magic wand doesn’t just make it so.  It takes action, accountability, dedication, repeat and do it again.  Research supports it takes at least 21 days, some say 8 weeks to replace a bad habit.  It really depends.  It depends on the new habit, how long you have been doing it, the benefits of continuing, the immediacy of the payoff, and how often and automatically you perform the behavior.

To break the cycle, it is imperative to be conscientious of your thoughts and behaviors around the routine you desire to alter.   It takes consistent modifications every minute, hour and day.  For how long, well depends. Just repeat the desired change.

Wow! That seems overwhelming, huh.  It doesn’t have to be. Write.  Put your desired behavior modification on paper.  Post your desires on a visible spot that you see daily like your refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or front door.

Take some time (as much as you need) and reflect on the past year.  Look at what you achieved, what you learned, gained, and liked.  Review what you didn’t accomplish.  What were the blocks that prevented you from achieving those marks?  What do you need to make them happen in 2014?   Now write this down and keep it in a safe place to review often.

The answers to the questions above help you analyze past behavior, learn from successes and failures, and make fresh intentions.  The best way to accomplish this thorough investigation of your life is to break it down into professional, relational, body, and spiritual goals.  Again, write your thoughts down!

Next set small goals with specific due dates.  Break down those big ideas, dreams, and aspirations into tiny, manageable, and achievable goals.  Ensure they are realistic.  You don’t want to set yourself up for failure before you even start.

Find support.  Join a team or involve friends and family.  Tell them your aspirations, the due date, and ask them to follow-up and inquire upon your progress.  Involving others ensures accountability, support, and friendly reminders.

Here is a list of 10 Ways to Make Ideas Happen:

1. Remove the words “I can’t” from your vocabulary.

2. Focus on the possibilities instead of the limitations.

3. Remember that there is a solution for every problem (some are just harder to find than others).

4. Write it down and set a deadline.

5. Allow yourself to receive help (there is no reward for doing it all yourself).

6. Be open to feedback and suggestions.

7. Learn how to enjoy the process (it may take you a while to get there, so you might as well enjoy it)!

8. Reward yourself often.  Be proud of even the tiniest steps of progress.

9. Hang around with people who make their ideas happens.

10. Start even if you don’t know how you are going to finish.

11. REPEAT.

Principles of Service and Gratitude

12-step program12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The twelfth step of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) recognizes that the practice and principles applied in the entire ladder continue throughout a lifetime.  It is having the awareness to continue to live out the values of AA in our life and our relationships.  Learning and personal growth doesn’t stop once we complete all the steps.  It is a gradual and continual process.  It continues as long as we are open to noticing, observing our inner and outer world, and it’s affect on others and ourselves.  It is continuing responsibility for our actions, attitudes, and assessing our values and goals to ensure we are moving in harmony.

Maintaining sobriety is equivalent to a dieter who lost (fifty) 50 lbs.  To upkeep the recent weight loss; personal habits, choices, and a support system must be maintained.    The new physique is taken care of by consistent exercise, healthy food choices, and constant consciousness of the things they do, don’t do and consume.     The same is true for a member of AA.  Abstinence of alcohol unmasks many of the insecurities, fears, anger, sadness, and hurt covered by the veil of alcohol.  To help continue the change in behavior the recovering alcoholic must find healthy ways to acknowledge and process those surfacing emotions on a daily basis.  The principles of the twelve steps are a roadmap to notice, assess, and make adjustments to personal behavior that was denied while drinking.

Step twelve is based on the principles of service and gratitude.  In service, we are helping others.  In gratitude, we are thankful for the support, guidance, and safe environment to express our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs associated with our continued sobriety.

Since we have awakened from our own misguided beliefs, we have the experience, knowledge and ability to help others who may be struggling.  As a member of AA it is our duty and privilege to pass on our wisdom, our understanding, and our support.  It may be as simple as listening with an open mind and kind heart.  It may be validating for the first time someone’s thoughts and feelings.  It may be sharing from personal experience.  It may be sponsoring a newcomer and providing consistent friendship and support for their sobriety.  It may be any one or more of these deeds of service.  The most important component is to offer compassion, understanding, and an empathic listening ear.

As part of the AA program we provide service to others with humbleness and gratitude.  Having appreciation for a spiritual awakening is being thankful for the people who were there for us when we needed help.  It is reflecting on what we learned, being grateful, and in turn sharing our knowledge.  It is also assessing the approach that was given to us and adjusting it to what we would have liked when we first entered AA.  How has AA helped you and how would you convey that to others in a helpful manner?

AA is about living a clean and sober life with meaningful and honest relationships.  The twelve steps provide a foundation and platform to launch your personal growth and development of healthy relations with yourself and others.  Following the principles one day at a time enhances our lives.  The program when followed correctly ensures when we pass, we are remembered for being present, honest, courageous, humble, responsible, patient, and charitable with faith and hope for the future.

Here is a list of seven questions to help ponder your experience with the Twelfth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous.

1. Have you been able to reach out to another recovering addict? If so, describe the situation and how it feels to you.

2. What kind of approach would you like to have had when you first started the program? How can you implement your desired method in your life to others now?

3. How has the 12 Step program worked for you? 

4.  How do you usually handle conflict? Do you know of any way to be more effective in conflict resolution? If so, how would you become more effective? What would be the steps?

5.  How much time are you willing and able to work with others on their program? How will you go about setting that time aside?

6. What resources other than AA can you call upon when you need help as a sponsor?

7. How and when do you know if you are suited to helping another person on working a 12 Step program?

Contact me to enhance your journey recovering from alcohol or substance abuse addiction.  April Wright, MA., MFT Registered Intern #69624. Under supervision of Kathryn Tull, M.A., LMFT #44809 Kathryn Tull, Inc. 310.502.4944 http://www.therapywithapril.com https://femmevolution.wordpress.com

Step Ten of Alcoholics Anonymous — A Life Journey

Responsibility: No single drop of water thinks it is responsible for the floodStep 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Steps one through nine provide tools to awaken internal realizations and relational manifestations.  They offer help to accept the past and heal what is possible.  The first nine measures give guidance for honesty, faith, hope, courage, and humility for responsible lives.

Step ten is based on the principle of responsibility.  Being responsible is using our authority to make independent decisions for our actions and for our failures to take action.  We are accountable for our actions and their consequences.

The tenth step uses the basis of responsibility and applies it to daily life as an ever evolving journey.  Throughout the stages of life, we are in a in a constant state of transition, emerging, evolving, and becoming.  We are continually discovering and making sense of our existence.  As we repeatedly question ourselves, others and the world, it is important to continue looking within and practice being accountable for our behaviors especially when we are wrong.  Paying attention to our varying degrees of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors helps improve conscientious decisions-making.  Keeping abreast to our internal being and being true to ourselves and others maintains balance and happiness as we progress in our lifespan.

To help encourage awareness make time each day to practice stillness.  Stillness is slowing down from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  Set up a quiet sanctuary for your practice.  Maintain a personal ritual in a quiet place where you can focus internally.  It’s a time to just notice and listen in the moment.  This is not a time for judgment or ridicule.  Just allow thoughts to surface and pay attention to where the feeling is sensed in the body.

The concept is simple, yet can feel difficult to perform.  To assist, you might create a place dedicated solely for the purpose of reflection.  Form a tranquil space with pillows, blankets, and memorabilia that are personally special.  Wear comfortable clothing.

Nature is another sanctuary.  Ensure there are no external distractions such as electronic devices or interruptions.  Take the time to focus internally and scan your body and listen to your inner being.

Begin by taking several slow, deep breaths.  Start your practice remaining silent for five minutes and as your meditation muscles strengthen, add more time.  Increase in one to five minute intervals each week until you reach thirty or forty-five minutes, or as much as feels right for you.

In the beginning taking time for mindfulness may seem like a waste of time. Allow for the process to transpire and you will reap many benefits. You will have more clarity and decisiveness.  With less wandering of the mind, you are able to make quick, precise decisions.   You are more centered, well-balanced and connected with your core and inner being.  Having greater connection to your body and mind provides more awareness.  Being aware supplies consciousness to peace and confidence in your authenticity.

Stillness is your sacred time to connect to your spiritual power and to reflect inward.  It is a valuable time solely for you.  With practice, you will adopt, habituate and notice positive changes in all areas of your life.

Now that you are more aware of your thoughts, emotions, and actions, challenge yourself to experience fearful situations and remain there knowing you can manage your emotions and take responsibility for your behavior.  Each person has unique thoughts, emotions, and urges.  They are a natural part of life.   Distinctive thoughts and feelings are not right or wrong.  Labeling them good or bad/right or wrong is passing judgment.  Acceptance is a state of non judgment.  Reassure yourself, that your thoughts and feelings matter and are of value.  They equate just as much as everyone else’s.

The more in tune you are with your thoughts and feelings, the more you can create a safe place for you to express them in a healthy way.  This means stating your wants and desires.  If you are not getting want you want, it is your responsibility to express your needs.  People are not mind-readers.  The only way to have a healthy discussion is to communicate openly and honestly.  Allow the other person to speak, express their thoughts, desires, and feelings; and then do the same.  Use respectful dialogue.  Establish ground rules such as no name calling, blaming, yelling, or stonewalling. If the conversation elevates to such a level, take a time out with a specific day/ time to reconvene and continue the discussion.  Ensure you return at the established day/ time.  This builds trust.  With practice, responsible responses will habituate and become easier over time.

Having an awakening to your internal psyche creates more options and alternatives. Exposure to communication brings deeper connection and better relationships.  We are our choices.  Thus instead of using alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, gambling, and relationships to restrain what you think and feel, you have the capacity to notice, acknowledge and choose how you manage your internal workings.   Your relationships will show the improvement.

Step 10 encourages you to notice and allow whatever thoughts and emotions you are thinking or feeling to surface.  By observing your interior consciousness you are awakening to a richer life of happiness, joy, and serenity as well as managing your own life for safety and protection.  Having thoughts and emotions are normal and healthy.   Allowing them to surface doesn’t mean you have to act on them.  It’s being in charge, building a relationship with your fears and distress, and strengthening your confidence to know you can handle difficult experiences.

Responsibility Sure Glad the hole isn't at our end.

Are You Paying Attention?

 MindFulness

Attention is important, because whatever you pay attention to grows. If you focus on your job, your relationship, or a favorite hobby, your attention nourishes that feedback loop. (The brain strengthens or weakens in specific areas depending on the input it receives, and paying attention provides concentrated input.) Attention can’t be faked or forced. When a schoolteacher scolds an unruly class with, “Pay attention, people!” he may get results for a few minutes, but the demand loses its effect very quickly. Asking a restless mind to settle down and pay attention is even more futile. The secret is to know how attention really works.

Attention is focused awareness. There are some basic requirements to be met. The first is being centered, the skill we covered to begin this series of posts. Distraction is self-defeating. Second, your awareness focuses naturally when you have a desire. We focus on what we want. Third, attention works best when combined with intention – envisioning a way to fulfill your desire. When the three ingredients come together – you are centered, you have a desire, you intend to fulfill your desire – attention becomes extremely powerful. The tale is told by anyone who has fallen in love at first sight; it’s the definition of laser focus. But for some people the same focused attention applies to ambition, money, and power.

Attention becomes more elevated when you focus on objects of inner desire. Almost everyone has wondered “Who am I?” but the people who actually find out are driven by a desire to know. This desire is as strong as other people’s desire for more money, status, and power. If you ask spiritual questions casually, they amount to very little. God could send you a telegram with the answers and it wouldn’t change your life. The path must be driven by desire. Let’s say that you experience a moment of inner peace that has arrived without expectation. It’s just there, appearing in the midst of an ordinary day.

You might casually notice it, or a train of thought could begin, as follows:

I’m at peace. How unusual. I like this.

I wonder where it came from.

I want to find out, because it would be good to be at peace more often.

I’m going to follow this experience up. It’s too valuable to forget.

This is a natural train of thought, and every self-aware person I know has followed it, not necessarily from a moment of inner peace. Some have experienced sudden joy; others felt protected and looked after; a few sensed a spiritual presence that caught them totally by surprise. What they had in common was that they really paid attention to their experience. The process can be simplified into three steps. The next time you have an inner experience of peace, joy, love, inspiration, or insight, pause for a moment.

Step 1: Notice what is happening. Sit quietly without distraction. Soak up the experience without commenting or interrupting it.

Step 2: As the moment fades, don’t rush away from it. Consider how significant it is. Put the significance into context, reflecting on how different you feel from your ordinary self.

Step 3: Make the experience valuable. Consider how transformed your life would be if you could repeat the experience. Even more, think about a life filled with joy, peace, and love. See it in your mind’s eye; feel how beautiful your life would become.

What Makes Us Human? Rabbit Hole

Courtesy of The Chopra Well

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cj3GaxEM_pw&feature=player_embedded#!

In these three steps you are activating the emotional brain and the cortex, or higher brain, the first by fully feeling your experience, the second by applying thought and reflection. This is how dreams come true. You combine a vision of possibilities with the kind of focused intention that creates new pathways in the brain. The world “in here” is connected always to the world “out there.” You can’t seize an opportunity without being aware of it; you can’t nourish a new possibility without wanting to. When awareness, desire, and intention come together, you are mastering the skill of paying attention.