Category Archives: Blog/News

Mindfulness tips, news, research and events.

Gratitude: Three Good Things

Three Good Things Each Day

Image result for gratitude

Each day before going to bed take a few minutes for gratitude. Before I made this practice a daily ritual I typically went to sleep focusing on either self-critical thoughts or planning, which both tended to keep my mind overly busy.  That has all changed.  Now by practicing gratitude, I experience my compassionate soothing emotional system blossoming relaxing my mind and body which helps me drift off to sleep. Try it yourself for a week and see what you notice.

HOW TO DO IT – 5-10 minutes/day for one week.

(source Greater Good:

Each day for at least one week, write down three things that went well for you that day, and provide an explanation for why they went well. It is important to create a physical record of your items by writing them down; it is not enough simply to do this exercise in your head. The items can be relatively small in importance (e.g., “my co-worker made the coffee today”) or relatively large (e.g., “I earned a big promotion”). To make this exercise part of your daily routine, some find that writing before bed is helpful.

As you write, follow these instructions:

  1. Give the event a title (e.g., “co-worker complimented my work on a project”)
  2. Write down exactly what happened in as much detail as possible, including what you did or said and, if others were involved, what they did or said.
  3. Include how this event made you feel at the time and how this event made you feel later (including now, as you remember it).
  4. Explain what you think caused this event—why it came to pass.
  5. Use whatever writing style you please, and do not worry about perfect grammar and spelling. Use as much detail as you’d like.
  6. If you find yourself focusing on negative feelings, refocus your mind on the good event and the positive feelings that came with it. This can take effort but gets easier with practice and can make a real difference in how you feel.

Letting Go of Judgment


Self-Observation Without Judgment  

by Danna Faulds

Release the harsh and pointed inner
voice. it’s just a throwback to the past,
and holds no truth about this moment.

Let go of self-judgment, the old,
learned ways of beating yourself up
for each imagined inadequacy.

Allow the dialogue within the mind
to grow friendlier, and quiet. Shift
out of inner criticism and life
suddenly looks very different.

I can say this only because I make
the choice a hundred times a day to release the voice that refuses to
acknowledge the real me.

What’s needed here isn’t more prodding toward perfection, but
intimacy – seeing clearly, and
embracing what I see.


Unconditional ( by Jennifer Paine Welwood)

Willing to experience aloneness,
I discover connection everywhere;
Turning to face my fear,
I meet the warrior who lives within;
Opening to my loss,
I gain the embrace of the universe;
Surrendering into emptiness,
I find fullness without end.

Each condition I flee from pursues me,
Each condition I welcome transforms me
And becomes itself transformed
Into its radiant jewel-like essence.
I bow to the one who has made it so,
Who has crafted this Master Game;
To play it is purest delight –
To honor its form, true devotion.

Little Mind and Big Mind: It’s All ONE

Shunryu Suzuki uses a metaphor of waves and water to talk about “big mind, little mind” excerpt from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind:

(source: Traverse City Sangha: )

waves“That everything is included within your mind is the essence of mind. To experience this is to have a religious feeling. Even though waves arise, the essence of your mind is pure; it is just like clear water with a few waves.  .  .  . To speak of waves as apart from water or water apart from waves is a delusion. Water and waves are one. Big mind and small mind are one.  When you understand your mind in this way, you have some security in your feeling. As your mind does not expect anything from the outside, it is always filled. A mind with waves in it is not a disturbed mind, but actually a simplified one. Whatever you experience is an expression of big mind.”

Take a Moment for Gratitude Each Morning


Gratitude is a simple but essential way of being in the world. Given our media saturated live it is all too easy to become numbed out to the suffering of others. Gratitude can be a powerful antidote to the cynicism or hopelessness we may experience. This simple practice was created by Mayo Clinic professor of medicine Amit Sood M.D.
Dr. Sood states that “gratitude is an acknowledgment and appreciation for things, experiences or people.” When we extend gratitude to those beings most supportive to us it can help reduce our sense of helplessness, anxiety, loneliness, alienation and even depression.
You can use the practice anytime, however doing it upon waking or going to bed can be particularly healing. Begin by taking three deep breaths, feeling into the chest and heart area and invite the body to soften and relax. Now bring into your awareness each being one at a time you wish to extend gratitude to. You can even silently say their name as you send gratitude and appreciation, do this for 5-10 seconds, you can even invite an inner smile into your awareness. Send gratitude one at a time to 5 or more beings and end the practice by sending gratitude yourself. That’s it. Enjoy and pass on the gratitude one appreciation at a time.
I extend gratitude and give thanks to:
loved ones……….
people who have died…………
inspiring people…

Thoughts are Not Facts Practice

thoughts not factsWhen we get caught in strong opinions, preconceptions, memories and expectations, based on past experiences, we filter out a lot of important information that is available and emerging in the present moment. This way of perceiving is a product of our evolution and socialization, helping us to create a world of experience that is somewhat stable and predictable, but it comes at a cost.

When we ONLY perceive the world through the lens of past memory and experience we miss the uniqueness of what is emerging in the present moment. By suspending for just a few moments our judgements, commentary and decision making mind, we create space for novelty and fresh possibilities to be seen.

Practice: Thoughts are Not Fact

When difficult thoughts arise in the mind, about ourselves or others, notice how the thought is influencing your mood and how you are react to yourself and others. Next ask yourself these 4 questions:

  1. Is it true? – often the answer is, Well Yes.  This is the brain initially reacting – the habitual autopilot you live with and believe is you.
  2. Is it absolutely true? – is this thought 100% accurate? Can you see the thought in a different way?
  3. How does this thought make me feel? – Notice any storylines you’re holding onto, and name your feelings: sad, angry, jealous, hurt.
  4. What would things be like if I didn’t hold this belief? – Imagine possible benefits to your relationships, energy levels and motivations.

Adapted from Uncovering Happiness by Elisha Goldstein and Love What Is by Byron Katie.

Mindful Exercising


mindful runningWe all know that exercise done 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week makes a huge difference in your emotional and physical health.  And the same goes for mindfulness practice. So how do we find time to do both? While exercising mindfully is not a complete substitute for formal sitting practice it does augment formal practice and improve your capacity to be mindful throughout your day.

How to Practice Mindful Exercise

Working out is a golden opportunity to practice mindfulness of the body.  Being mindful of the body is the foundational practice taught by all mindfulness programs, so exercise is the perfect opportunity to practice.

When you begin your exercise program we ask that you bring your full attention to every moment of your physical experience. So set aside the distractions like music or screen activities if you are in a gym.  Instead take the opportunity to observe the physical sensations of the body before, during and after your workout.

Begin your exercise with 8-10 full breaths, experience the physical sensation of breathing and you can even invite the body to let go of tension as you exhale, feeling the body soften and relax.

Next as you begin exercising notice your very first intention to move as you begin. Bring you full attention to simply watching the body as it moves from a perspective that is non-judgmental and accepting of whatever arises related to thoughts, emotions or physical sensations.

Just as in formal mindfulness sitting practice when the mind wanders from our object of attention and in this case body sensations, we simply notice the distraction, relate to the distraction with acceptance, non-judgment and kindness and gently return our attention back to the sensations in the body that is most prominent  in each moment i.e., breathing, tightening and relaxing of muscles, physical contact of exercise with hands, feet, buttock etc., noticing sweating, hot parts of the body, cool parts of body, noticing air or water on the skin, etc.  Also notice when you move toward your edge of physical capability and become aware of when to slow down and when to speed up, maintaining a  proper balance.

At the end of your workout do a two-minute mindfulness practice by noticing your thoughts, emotions and body sensations, and spend a minute noticing the physical sensation of the breath in the chest and expand your sense of breathing as though the whole body is breathing, feeling oxygen flowing to every cell.

So, I encourage you to experiment with mindful exercise and notice the impact it has on both your mind and body.

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.