Monthly Archives: April 2016

May 7, Mindfulness Workshop Fundraiser for Suzuki Music


Stress less and relax!

A Suzuki parent, Eric Nelson, is offering a free stress reduction class as a fundraiser. This class will be held following group lessons on Saturday, May 7th. We suggest a donation of $10, and all proceeds benefit the Suzuki Academy of Kalamazoo.

Come join us and learn simple mindfulness-based practices that research has shown to improve: attention, emotional balance (anxiety, fear, anger) and relationships.

Eric has 25 years experience in the Mind-Body Health field, received his mindfulness training through the University of Massachusetts Medical School and worked at the Fetzer Institute as a program officer for 20 years.

So take a stress break and stop by our class on May 7 at 10-10:50 am, located at the Suzuki Academy of Kalamazoo 3054 South 9th Street, ste B Kalamazoo, MI, 49009

Mindful Listening

mindful listening
Mindful listening will transform your relationships and strengthen your empathy.  When we learn to listen mindfully to others we are able to notice our inner judgements, analysis and commentary, and in that noticing we can pause our inner noise, and simply return to listening through the mindful lens of curiosity and appreciation.  When we listen mindfully we create a welcoming environment for the speaker to relax and fully express themselves.  This supports the speaker to be more reflective, less defensive and results in a conversation of dialogue rather than debate.

This third and final segment of Simple Mindfulness Practices published in Mindful Magazine  and written by Mirabai Bush is included below.   To read the full article by Mirabai Bush click here.

Mindful Listening

When we are listening mindfully, we are fully present with what we’re hearing without trying to control it or judge it. We let go of our inner clamoring and our usual assumptions, and we listen with respect to precisely what is being said. We listen to our own minds and hearts and, as the Quakers say, to the “still, small voice within.” We listen to sounds, to music, to lectures, to conversations, and, in a sense, to the written word.

For all of these kinds of listening to be effective, so we understand and remember what is being heard, we need a mind that is open, fresh, alert, attentive, calm, and receptive. We often do not have a clear concept of listening as an active process that we can control, but, in fact, mindful listening can be cultivated through practice.

Wake Up Listening

Early morning is especially good for listening. Try this: As you wake up, instead of turning on the TV, your iPhone, or your computer, be still and just listen. In a rural setting, the sounds may be birds and animals waking up. In a city, sounds of outside action begin: garbage collection, building construction, traffic. On campus, the sounds of opening doors, feet walking in the hallways, other students talking. Listen for the soft sounds: a cat purring, leaves rustling. Rest your full attention on one sound until it fades away, then let another come to you. As thoughts come into your mind, gently let them go and return to the sound. Then get out of bed and enjoy the sound of the water on your skin in the shower.

In the Groove

Put on some music, maybe classical or slow tempo. Notice the sound and vibration of the notes, the sensations in your body as you listen, and the feelings the music brings up in you. When you notice thoughts arising, gently bring your attention back to the music. Breathe.

In the Shelter of Each Other

Thoreau said, “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought and attended to my answer.” Mindful listening helps us be fully present for another person. It is the gift of our attention. It moves us closer to each other. It allows the speaker to feel less vulnerable and more inclined to open up to the listener. Not listening creates separation and fragmentation, which is always painful.

To listen mindfully to another person, stop doing anything else, breathe naturally, and simply listen, without an agenda, to what is being said. If thoughts about other things arise, gently let them go and return to the speaker’s words. As responses arise in your mind, wait until you’ve heard all that has to be said before replying. Try not to let your story overcome the speaker’s. Be curious; don’t assume that you know. Listen for feelings as well as the words.

And you will want to be listened to also. But when you’re speaking, if the person you’re talking to doesn’t appear to be mindfully listening, be patient. As Winnie the Pooh once said, “It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”

Mindful Writing

Mindful Writing

Most of us text, email, use social media daily.  When you write you have the opportunity to bring a mindful lens to the process.

This is part II of a 3-part series on Simple Mindfulness Practices, published by Mindful Magazine, and written by my dear friend and colleague, Mirabai Bush.  To read the full article click here, below is an excerpt on mindful writing.

Writing benefits from the capacities that mindfulness cultivates: seeing and hearing things just as they are, bearing witness to life; being in the moment, even when remembering the past or imagining the future; not judging others and oneself while still exercising discriminating wisdom; holding multiple perspectives; being open to the new; and practicing kindness, compassion, and patience. Mindful awareness helps us see, in Gerard Manley Hopkins words, “all things…original, spare, strange.”

At the same time, it acknowledges our interconnection. All of us, when we write, are giving something, and we need a reader who will accept our gift. We each write out of our own loneliness to express ourselves to another human being.

What follows are some ways to bring mindfulness to your writing.

Journal Writing

Writing in a journal is one of the oldest methods of self-exploration and expression. Although they’re not written for publication and often don’t last longer than their authors, we have extraordinary examples of journals in the work of Virginia Woolf, Thomas Merton, May Sarton, and Anne Frank, among others. As these illustrate, a journal can help one cultivate the ability to live in the present, to become deeply aware and appreciative of life. There are many journal practices. Here are a few:

Once a Day : Write something new every day. Add a drawing or a photograph to it. Journals, like mindfulness, help us appreciate the simple fact that every moment in our lives brings something new and different. We only need to notice it.

Be Your Own Researcher : Write each day what you are learning from mindfulness practice—or anything else.

Social Media Practice : Write about your experience of using social media. What sensations do you notice in your body before and after you communicate? What sensations do you notice when you receive a comment or tweet?

Being Here Now : Stop in your tracks once a day: take account of the sky, the ground, and yourself, then write what you noticed. Or, while walking down a street or country road, stop, turn in a circle, and write what you remember. Or, sitting with your notebook, write six sentences, beginning each with “Here and now….”

Mindful Emailing

Emailing allows us to get work done quickly with people around the globe. But without the emotional signs and social cues of face-toface or phone interaction, it’s more possible to be misunderstood—particularly if there’s trouble at hand. Also, mindless emailing overstuffs everyone’s inboxes.

Try this with 5 or 10 emails during the week. Or all of them.

  1. COMPOSEan email.
  2. STOPand take one long deep breath. Pay attention to the breath. You can count to five on the inhale and again on the exhale if you like.
  3. THINKof the person to whom the email is going and how you want them to receive your message. Could they misunderstand your words and become angry or offended, or think you’re being more positive than you intend?
  4. LOOKat the draft email again.
  5. CHANGEit if appropriate.
  6. SEND

Free Writing

Free writing is a method of mindful inner inquiry; you never know what you will learn until you start writing. Then you discover truths that you didn’t know existed.

Begin writing and write continuously for a set period of time, say 10 to 15 minutes. If it helps, use a prompt, like “Right now I am feeling….” Or, “I have always been afraid to ….” Keep the pen moving, with no pauses to correct spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Write down whatever is arising in your mind, without judgment. Keep writing. When the time is up, stop and read.

When you write, it’s possible not to judge others or yourself and still exercise discriminating wisdom, to hold multiple perspectives, and to be open to the new.

Mindful Reading

So often even when we are reading for enjoyment we miss the opportunity to fully experience the words and their meaning.  In a recent article in Mindful Magazine, my dear friend and colleague, Mirabai Bush wrote a wonderful article titled: Simple Mindfulness Practices You Can Use Every Day . To read the full article click here, below is an excerpt on mindful reading.

Every minute of our lives serves up something new and gives us an opportunity to learn. But when it comes to the usual ways of learning—reading, writing, and listening to others—we often lose the freshness of direct experience and instead just shovel information into our brains. Mirabai Bush suggests how to learn more deeply and with more enjoyment.

Mindful Reading

Reading these days, whether on a screen or on paper, is more often a race to finish the text than a search for meaning. Woody Allen captured it: “I took a speedreading course and read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It involves Russia.”

Mindful reading is radically different. It slows down the reader and the reading—that alone changes the experience. It is a process of quiet reflection that requires mindful attentiveness, letting go of distracting thoughts and opinions to be fully in the moment with the text. It moves the reader into a calm awareness, allowing for a more profound experience and understanding. Here are some methods for mindful reading:

The Wrap-Around

Before reading, sit quietly for some minutes. Bring your attention to your breath, letting go of thoughts and sensations, returning to the breath again and again. Then read. Notice if you read with more focus and appreciation. When you finish reading, sit again for some minutes, again bringing your mind to your breath. At the end of your practice, notice what you have learned from the reading.

Savoring a Resonant Phrase

Sit quietly and then read a short piece, perhaps a page long. What phrase stands out for you? Return to that phrase and repeat it to yourself, perhaps several times. Just sit with it. What does it evoke? Notice what images or ideas or memories arise. Do any of the words have meaning beyond the obvious? What meaning does this phrase give to the rest of what you’re reading? Hold the phrase in your mind, giving it time to suggest more to you. Now reread the full piece. How is it different? Has your relationship to it changed?

One from Many

Reading doesn’t have to be private. You can do this practice with as few as two people, but the more the merrier. Each person has a copy of the same poem or piece of prose. All sit quietly and focus on the breath. One person reads the entire text aloud. All sit in silence. After a while, one person reads the first line aloud. Out of the silence after that line, the next person who feels moved to read speaks the second line. And so on, until it is finished. Ask yourselves whether hearing the same words in different voices affects the meaning.

Mindful reading is radically different from racing to cram information in. It slows down the reader and the reading—that alone changes the experience.


Mindful Yoga

What Is Mindful Hatha Yoga? (excerpt from Mindful Yoga Academy)

mindful yoga

At its core yoga is a mindfulness practice.  And adding formal mindfulness practice helps us notice the impermanent and always changing nature of  breath, body sensations, feeling tone, thoughts and emotions. This awareness deepen our sensitivity to our mind-body connection and support insight and wisdom to arise in our yoga practice.

“Based on a mix of the ancient wisdom of traditional Hatha Yoga and modern Mindfulness based Stress Reduction (MBSR) practices, with a healthy dose of the latest research in mind-body science and therapies, Mindful Hatha Yoga & MBSR Yoga Therapy invites you to tune into your body and be kind to yourself. It is a path, a journey, not to get somewhere else, but to be where we are, as we are in this very moment, with this very breath, whether the experience is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. The approach is less about performance than about the exploration of experience moment by moment.”

“The first foundation of Mindful Hatha Yoga & MBSR Yoga Therapy is Ahimsa (do no harm) to yourself and your students, and at its heart we practice the 8 attitudinal foundations of mindfulness – non judging, patience, beginners mind, trust, non striving, acceptance, letting go and self compassion. This creative interplay between witnessing (mindfulness) and compassion is emphasised or present as a background theme of our practice and teaching. We would also say that the witness consciousness and the compassionate heart are fundemental features of all integrative forms of yoga. Together they make us whole.”

“Our yoga practice is the perfect time for cultivating the Yama Ahimsa of ‘do no harm’ by stepping out of Automatic Pilot and into each part of our practice with a beginners mind – each breath, each sensations, each thought and emotion offer us an entirely new experience to explore.”

Yoga Sutras II:16 “Heyam Dukham Anagatam – “Suffering that has not yet come can, and should be avoided”  really supports our vision of teaching yoga. We often ask “as you practice yoga can you relinquish the goal of physical accomplishment for the intention of cultivating awareness of well-being, peace, joy and happiness?”

Mindfulness One Bite at a Time

Each moment is an opportunity to be mindful.  When we find ourselves lost in regret or fantasy about the past or hopes and fears about the future we are living in a MIND MADE virtual world of thoughts and emotions.  While it is natural for the mind to wander and be lost in rumination about the past and future, most of us spend way too much time, about 50% of our waking hours lost in rumination.  Research shows that the more time we spend in rumination the more depression and anxiety we experience.

So what can we do to shift our default mode of the wandering mind toward more mindfulness?  The answer is both simple and challenging.

We can learn to bring mindful awareness to many moments during our day by simply noticing routine and typically automatic activities i.e., walking, showering, eating, standing or sitting, cooking, washing dishes etc.

To bring mindful awareness to these activities we simply do one thing at a time.  When eating we just eat, noticing each intention and PHYSICAL SENSATION related to eating i.e. choosing a morsel food to pick up with our fork, the movement of the fork to the mouth, the chewing, tasting, swallowing.  We only need do this for a few minutes to shift our eating experience from distracted eating (daydreaming, reading, watching TV, scanning our table, while eating) and instead actually doing one thing EATING and ENJOYING the fullness of the food.  Research shows people who eat mindfully, eat less and enjoy their food more. Try it and see what your experience is.

So make this a mindful day one bite and one small experience at a time.