Yes, It’s Meditation Monday

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Welcome to Meditation Monday!

Here in Massachusetts we changed our clocks last night into Daylight Savings time. What this means today is that it is still light outside and I am a bit disoriented. I don’t really understand why we continue to change our clocks both in the Spring and Fall. I see it as going into jet lag without the vacation or memories! I know that in a few days my body will adjust and I will enjoy more light in the evenings so I can spend more time outdoors.

Now it is time for meditation. This weeks meditation continues with a focus on the breath and adding a visualization of light with the breath. I find adding a mental focus helps me to let go of my thinking mind more easily. This week we’ll also meditate a few minutes longer.

I hope you are enjoying joining me in meditation. There is strength in numbers. I remember how powerful meditations were when living at Kripalu Center and meditating with many people on a daily basis. I found it much easier to dip deeply into my inner experience while feeling supported by the energy of the group meditating together. As you settle into this guided meditation imagine that you are meditating with a group and feel supported on your inner journey.

Of course, passing it along to friends and family who might join you will widen your tribe of weekly meditators. The more ripples of relaxed calm, the more light and peace we can send out into the world.

It’s Meditation Monday

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Welcome to Meditation Monday.

I hope your week has been filled with calm, especially if you were able to begin last week with meditation. If you are a beginner or a sporadic meditator, I encourage you to bring more meditation time into your life — even 2 – 3 times each week for 10 minutes reaps many benefits.

Each week I’ll have a focus to the guided meditation. Todays focus is more on the breath — deepening the breath and adding some control to our inhalations and exhalations.

In every meditation I will include a period of silence (or contemplation). During the silence you can continue your focus on your breath or allow your breath to settle into its own rhythm in silence.

I hope you enjoy the guided meditation and will check in each Meditation Monday for a new guided experience.

Please, pass it along to friends and family. I do believe that the more of us meditating, the more peace and calm we offer the world.

Consider following my blog to remain updated on weekly meditations as well as posts on health and happiness that will, hopefully, enrich your life.

 

Eye Exercises For Health

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Are your eyes healthy? Do they get enough exercise? Exercising the eyes stimulates the muscles and nerves of the optical system. Sounds like a good idea doesn’t it?

In my work, I recommend using the Tibetan Eye Chart for exercising the muscles of the eyes. I even use it myself. Recently, I have recommended using the Tibetan Eye Chart to a woman who was diagnosed with Glaucoma (beginning stages). I suggest its use for any eye issue with promising results.

I remember the first time I recommended using the eye chart. Back in the 1970’s I was teaching a yoga class to a group of women at a local college when Alice came to class one night and let us know she’d been diagnosed with the beginning stages of glaucoma. She asked me if there was anything in yoga that could help her. It was the perfect class to talk about eye health and exercises with yoga to maintain the health of their eyes. The next week, I brought in Tibetan Eye Charts for everyone to have a tangible as well as visible guide for exercising the eyes.

We continued eye exercises for several more classes and then didn’t revisit them until a year later when Alice arrived for class quite excited. She announced that her Glaucoma had improved and she owed the improvement to the eye exercises she continued to do daily for the entire year. She told us her Tibetan Eye Chart hung on a wall so she was reminded every day to exercise her eyes. We celebrated her improved health and her persistence in continuing all year.

Over the years I have recommended eye exercises to many others to maintain eye health.

Fast forward to 2017…  A regular client came in who had just been diagnosed with early onset Glaucoma (a buildup of pressure in the eye that can damage the optic nerve over time). Yup! Out came the Tibetan Eye Chart! I used part of our time together to teach her how to exercise her eyes using the chart. She went home and practiced every day, sometimes several times a day. (I do love those with persistent personalities!)

Earlier this week (only two months later) she called thanking me for teaching her about exercising her eyes – she was ecstatic! Her eye pressure has improved and she attributes the improvement directly to the eye chart. She will continue to exercise her eyes and I am inspired to renewed exercising my own eyes (even though I don’t have glaucoma, I do experience tired eyes) with the Tibetan Eye Chart!

Note: Now it is true that there has been no research to confirm the benefit of exercising the eyes with the Tibetan Eye chart, however, hundreds of years ago there was only testimonial through practice. I certainly recommend that clients get their eyes checked by their eye doctor and not rely solely on an ancient practice.

Instructions for the Tibetan Eye Chart:

Stand facing the chart (hang it at eye level) with your nose aligned with the center spot.
Place your palms on your eyes for a few moments.
By moving only your eyes, follow the arms out to the dots at the end of each one, beginning with the top dot. Follow the dots around the chart clockwise. Repeat following the dots around counterclockwise as well.
Repeat twice again.
Rub your palms together and place them over your eyes for several moments when finished.
For eye health, do this exercise daily.

** You can print your own chart from a simple Google search. **

Oh yes, be sure to check back on Monday for another recorded meditation as part of Meditation Monday!

Meditation for Stress Less Living

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Welcome to Meditation Monday — a new addition to my blog. Each Monday (as much as possible, anyway) I will post a recorded meditation for you. Below is the link to the meditation. I hope you will enjoy it!

Meditation has been my daily practice for most of my life. The benefits of meditation on health and happiness are growing as more research exists (especially on the benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation). Of course, the recent research simply reflects and affirms what I and many have experienced through regular practice.

What is meditation? Meditation is practice of contemplation that can be practiced in many ways — following the breath, focusing on loving kindness, eye gazing on a candle or photo, prayer, or using a mantra or affirmation to focus your mind on peaceful quiet. Meditation is integral within every religious and spiritual approach. Contemplation is an important practice for experiencing inner peace and devotional prayer. Quietly sitting for several minutes or more a day is how to begin meditation.

In my work, I recommend meditation to many of my clients. What I often hear in response to my suggestion is, “I’ve tried and can’t”, “I can’t meditate. I can’t empty my mind.” After several unsuccessful attempts to experience a silent mind, they stop trying. However, the myth of meditation is that we can empty our mind of thoughts.

Consider this. Our mind’s job is to think. Instead of trying to empty your mind from thought, acknowledge the thoughts that continue while sitting. Practicing meditation is learned by sitting in quiet, gently breathing in and out, noticing thoughts that drift by, letting them go, and refocusing on the breath (or whatever you choose to focus on). A quiet mind? That comes with years of dedicated practice and, even then, the mind continues to think, only slower. A mind without thought is momentary.

The benefits of meditation keep me taking the time to meditate daily. Meditation cultivates more happiness and peace in life; increases focus, creativity, memory, and compassion; decreases the experience of stress and anxiety overall; builds self-esteem and intuition; offsets the aging process of the brain; lowers blood pressure; and improves our health.

How to Meditate? Schedule the time to sit, stand, or even walk in order to calm your nervous system, quiet your mind, and experience focused awareness. Use this dedicated time to turn off the tv, radio, or even music so that you can experience a settling of your nervous system even if thoughts continue. I encourage the same time of day so that it becomes a consistent practice.

Initially, it is helpful to listen to a guided meditation. A favorite for many is the app, Headspace. There is a convenience to Headspace because you can listen from your phone anywhere. Search Google for ‘guided meditations’ and you will find many teachers who offer free guided experiences. I suggest listening to several of them to see who’s voice you resonate with most.

I will be posting a weekly meditation here. My intention is “Meditation Monday’s” so that you might use my guided meditations throughout the week. Let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Puppies Are Good For Health & Happiness

Do you smile and melt when someone posts a cute puppy or kitty video on Social Media? I do! If you are like me, you watch them because you want to feel good, laugh, and, for a moment, allow whatever doesn’t feel good fade into the background.

So, this last weekend I decided to rescue one of those cute puppies and bring more love into my world (and have a dog who barks when someone comes to visit). Of course, as you can imagine, I have had several nights of less than restful nights! My days have shifted from my quiet rhythm with an aging deaf dog and an older cat.

I would like to share with you my list of the benefits (as I know them) of a puppy in the house. It is a reminder when I am not so enthralled by the antics of this little being in my home who is a bundle of nonstop motion and energy.

The Benefits of a Puppy at Home:

1. Rescuing a puppy from a shelter expands your heart.
2. A puppy who is in the process of house-training means lots of outdoor time and fresh air.
3. A puppy who is learning how to walk on a leash with another dog means I am improving my flexibility as the leash or puppy gets tangled around my legs (add ice and it is even more exciting).
4. I am practicing my mindfulness (or actively noticing) by learning pee and pooping cues.
5. My carpets are getting an early Spring cleaning even if it is one small spot at a time.
6. I love being appreciated and what better appreciation than a puppy excited to see me when I get home from work or get up in the morning.
7. Exercising my memory to be certain my pockets are full of training treats and poop bags before heading outdoors.
8. I have increased my physical contact through petting and massaging another dog in my household.
9. I am getting to learn what is important and what to let go of. For example, a new puppy explores so books are sent flying off of my coffee table and my gloves and hats are fair game on the table by the door. I may even learn that some furniture is no longer necessary as she wants to taste and chew everything. I don’t really need so much stuff anyway!
10. I get to practice my rapid response skills — getting up & dressed in the morning (including boots, coat, mittens, and a hat) to get outside first thing for puppy pee & pooping.
11. Her playfulness is a delightful refocus from the dire news I might otherwise be checking.
12. My vocabulary has simplified tremendously — ‘Come’; ‘Sit’; and ‘Good girl’ says so much and what fun to see her desire to please (or maybe it’s for the treat I reach for in my pocket).
13. Lots of Oxytocin release (the feel good hormone) when I sit to receive endless kisses and love.
14. A reminder that play is an important part of every day!
15. Research shows that people with pets live longer and enjoy improved health! I’m on board with that!

These are just some of the benefits I’ve experienced this week with a new puppy on board. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the other animals in my house are not so enthralled. My cat has hidden on the top shelf in a closet, coming out only at mealtime and at night when the puppy is safely in her crate or eating her own meal. And, my aging dog (who is getting more exercise trying to escape puppy play) looks up at me with eyes that seem to say, “Really??”

My little bundle of joy, whose name is Willow, is a rescue from Kentucky. I have enormous respect for the many people who take on rescuing, foster caring, and finding homes for dogs and cats — their passion is their love of animals. In the process of having Willow join my household I’ve learned that most of the shelters down south are ‘kill’ shelters. I like that I have just saved a precious life!

 

Bringing My Best Forward

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My best self is who I wish to bring to the table when preparing for my day, project, or success path. In my last post, I spoke about how I wish to show up in 2018. In this post I want to expand showing up into a broader context known as Best Self exploration and practice.

Who am I when I show up as my best self? Who are you at your best?

In every situation I bring myself. Sometimes I am present as my best — mindful, soulful, listening, open, and firmly rooted in my strengths. Other times I am not my best self and I bring my crankiness, judgement, impatience, and less than present self. When I am not at my best, I shortchange my experience and leave others confused and/or empty from our shared experience. At my best, I move in slower motion because full presence requires pausing and settling fully into my most positive self.

In 2001, Laura King, a professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, conducted a study on Best Self practice using writing over a period of several days. Her work showed that when we explore our best self in reference to a future time or goal, we are happier. Best self practice has also been written about in Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book, “The How of Happiness.” Lyubomirsky says that imagining a best possible future helped participants build their best possible self today that can lead to their future vision coming true. Through writing, they were able to recognize what they could transform in themselves in order to work toward their goals. Writing leads to better understanding of “your priorities, your emotions, and your motives, your identity, who you really are and what’s in your heart.” Writing allows us to see a bigger picture of our goals, see what’s possible, and work toward our imagined future with more purpose and well being.

I am sharing this writing exercise for you to begin to identify and explore your best self so you can bring more of you into your year, your project, and your daily life. I, personally, like to write with pen and paper so I involve more of my senses and bring more focus to the practice. You might find that using a computer works just as well for you. Either way, prepare to write for 15 – 20 minutes daily for the next 4 days. By identifying your Best Possible Self in detail, you will be more present with positive results.

Taking the time to imagine your best possible future and who you are at your best allows you to more clearly integrate all of you into your present and your future. You will also increase the likelihood of success. Going for the detail is what stands this apart from New Year’s resolutions or a list of goals & intentions you wish to realize this year. When I write and add to this exercise during each day of writing into my imagined positive future and my best self, I refine and prioritize my lists.

This exercise asks us to imagine our life once our goal is accomplished whether a week from now, a year, or longer. What will you be doing? How would you be living? How will you feel? How will your life change for the better? By writing daily you can move beyond the initial goal – the to do list and on to a positive imagined future (as if it has already happened).

Identifying & imagining how I will feel, do, and be in my life is clarifying who I am at my best. Through my writing I explore and play with how my life could be better by being more of my best self. This practice can be done in all areas of life: professional, romantic, social, physical, spiritual, or any area you wish to focus on. Choose one goal or area for the exercise.

Exercise #1: Best Self Exercise. Choose a goal or intention you have for the next year (or any time line).

1. Sit quietly and imagine that you have already accomplished your goal and that everything has gone as well as possible. For a moment, settle into the feeling of accomplishment. Imagine the details of your life as you stand in your future — look around you. What is different? How do you feel? How are you different? How does your daily life look?

2. Now, spend the next 20 minutes (I like to set a timer so I don’t need to look at the clock) writing about your accomplishment in the future you imagined. Describe in as much detail as possible your completed tasks. Describe who you have been in order to bring this task to fruition. How is your life different? Better? More fulfilling? How do you feel as you look around you? Where do you feel in your body? What did you let go of?

3. For the next four days, repeat the exercise. You can begin again or continue writing & expanding the detail from the day before.

4. Now look back at what you wrote. How did you participate in creating your imagined positive future? What strengths did you exhibit or use? Who did you need to BE in order to accomplish your imagined future?

[Note: I’ve added a second exercise to fill in gaps in our perceptions of ourselves.]

Exercise #2: Reflected Best Self. This exercise asks you to reach out to family, friends, and/or coworkers. It is a different approach called the Reflected Best Self — especially useful because others see us differently than we see ourselves.

1. Ask several people you know (family, friends, coworkers) to tell you or write to you about how they see you accomplishing tasks. Can they provide some detail of strengths they see and who they see when you are at your best? Ask each to provide one or two specific examples of how they see you at your best.

2. Compare what others think with what you think. You may find that you can expand who you are when you are your Best Self.

Have fun with these and let me know who you are at your best!

Note: In a future post I’ll explore how to mine your experience — both past accomplishments and your imagined future — and identify greatness, magnificence, strengths, thoughts, and actions that inform you on who you want and need to be in order to live life more fully at your best, both now and in your imagined future. Stay tuned!

As A Year Ends… A New Year Begins

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Today is the last day of 2017 with 2018 only hours away. Do you celebrate New Year’s Eve? Do you party with friends? Do you do anything to acknowledge one year ending and another beginning?

I have my personal ritual that I do each year beginning with the Solstice — I place two pieces of poster sized paper out in plain sight. One piece is titled, “What I did in 2017”; the other is titled, “What I want to do in 2018”. For the couple of weeks before New Year’s I create a list on each piece of poster paper. For the last year, I reflect on what I did. As I began creating my list this year the image of filling a jar with stones became my metaphor.

At first, I am almost always certain that what I did will be a short list because I only focus on the big things that immediately come to mind — the accomplishments, crises, those events that occupied a lot of emotional and mental real estate and are easy to remember. I am aware that some of these events were unplanned and, yet, important because they required my attention. These big things are the big rocks I place in my jar first. Oh how quickly they fill the jar!

As I walk by the list day after day, however, the list grows (when I thought it wouldn’t). No longer the big rocks, but smaller stones that filled my months — the routines of work, hikes in the woods, day trips to new places, memorable conversations, etc. I am aware that what I thought was full with the big rocks became even more full with smaller stones filling in between the large rocks.

Each day, I continue to add to my list until I am adding what I’ve done day to day — these become sand added to my jar. These are my daily practices that have carried me through. Daily practices fill in the spaces between the stones giving my days substance and meaning, a quiet support for the larger stones.

This image of filling a jar beginning with rocks and continuing to fill the jar with smaller stones and then sand led me to how I want to begin my list for this next year (I don’t do sure to fail or be forgotten resolutions). After the sand is added and it seems that the jar is full once again until… I add water. I can see that full was an illusion. There is plenty of room for water and I watch as the water touches everything and is as important as the big rocks I can barely see. Water to the top of the rim and the jar is now truly full.

What does the water represent? The water, for me, represents how I have shown up in my life that truly shapes what I do and how I do anything. My intention is to always be true to myself, honest, and be (mostly) positive. This last year, I showed up in a variety of ways — some I liked, some I didn’t. Mostly, I was positive, open, kind, hopeful, and loving. I was also frustrated, angry, sad, and (at times) felt hopeless.

Also on my list of what I’ve done are the books I’ve read. Throughout this year I have been inspired by a list of writers such as Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Terry Tempest Williams, Mary Oliver, Amy Cuddy, Robin Wall Kimmerer, John O’Donanhue, Dan Buettner, Adam Grant, and so many more (can you tell I am an avid reader?). From each of them, I’ve learned (especially when reading a book for the second time) and been inspired to show up as my best self — full of integrity, truth, and a willingness to be my Self in strength and resilience. Each of these authors have become my teachers and mentors for living life fully on purpose. They have inspired me to follow my “Yes”. Most importantly, they have laid a foundation for next years list that sits next to my reflections list.

For this next year, at the top of my list is my focus on how I wish to show up each and every day. I know that mindful attention on how I am showing up will shape my year in positive ways no matter where life actually leads. Mindful attention will also set the stage to navigate the challenges that come along — they always do. Then, I also have my bucket list of what I’d like to do and experience. I will finish this year tonight with a meditation — saying good-bye to 2017 and welcoming 2018.

How will you show up next year? How can I support you to be your best self? Let’s plan on supporting one another.

Have a blessed and happy New Year!

‘Tis The Season

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Advent has begun and we are deep into the darkness of the season. Even darker with the tumultuous climate we find ourselves in. The fall has been filled with natural disasters, growing violence and hatred, pandora’s box of sexual scandal filling the news, topped off with a government unhinged and seemingly uncaring of the people they represent. It’s too easy to sink into fear, angst, and hopelessness.

I am attempting to become comfortable in the darkness as I consider ways to bring light into the season. I sit outside in the dark, I meditate in the dark, and I am writing into the darkness. I have candles burning around my house at night and in the early morning — these fill the darkness with a comforting light. I wish to believe that the light will come and, with it, hope.

This year, I have no interest in shopping. I am intensely affected by others — there is more stress in the faces of people I see at work, in shopping stores, and on the highways. Instead, I wish to be present this holiday season in a different way, in the most positive and purposeful way I can. I am turning to practices that I regularly do for myself. I need to nurture hope.

The practices I am committing to are:

1. Find and declare the good. What is going well? I can look for benefit and live into that.

2. Simple giving without spending more than I have. A smile, something handmade, a service, or a heartfelt card with a note handwritten to the person.

3. Kindness is such an easy practice and needed now more than ever. Hold the door for someone, pause to extend sincere greetings (even if I don’t know them), make a meal for someone, or take the time to listen when a story needs to be told.

4. Gratitude, my daily practice, is one I can recommit to with even greater awareness. I make gratitude lists at the end of every day. I will write letters of gratitude to those I love and those I know. There is so much to be grateful for, even in darkness.

5. Mindfulness. Consider my actions toward others (also my thoughts), be aware of my own needs (for food, rest, and exercise), and notice beauty when there seems to be little of it. I was invited to a seven day black and white photo practice on Instagram — I am finding such joy in looking for contrasts and, as a result, beauty in the simplest of images.

6. Planning resolutions? I am reframing my intentions for 2018 as my success path. Resolutions can be so boring and, too often, are left by the wayside by the middle of January. Reframing my intentions as my path to success is refreshing and positive. Keep them simple. Go for Kaizen changes — baby steps of change vs. the lofty resolutions I know I won’t keep.

7. Play music that lifts me up. I played music through my Thanksgiving retreat (I hadn’t played music for a long time) and I noticed that it helped me stay focused, invited me to get up and move throughout the day and even sing along. The result? I felt more joyful and could feel my happiness chemicals flowing — oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. Music is a wonderful happiness booster.

8. Daily meditation practice. Simply sitting in silence with my breath as my guide. Some days it may be only minutes while other times it can be as long as an hour. Meditation calms my nervous system, quiets my mind, eases the stress I feel, and reminds me that I am a part of something wondrously and benevolently bigger.

These are all practices I do and have written about. I like to recommit to them so they stay fresh. It’s too easy to allow our practices to become automatic — losing their shine of new. Recommitment is a way to dust off the automatic and bring the practice into my current awareness. Through recommitting to being positive and purposeful I can bring the light into my heart and then share it with others I pass on the way.

Be Prepared – A Motto for Life

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I seem to remember that the Girl Scouts motto was “Be Prepared”. I like that and, even though I was a Girl Scout for a very brief time, it has stayed with me. I remember collecting badges for completing practical tasks as I learned new skills and found new interests to explore (and let’s not forget the cookies every February). Actually, being prepared is a great motto for living life.

Of course, there are times when all the planning in the world has not prepared for the curve balls that life throws my way. These last several weeks have been an uptick in stress and crisis for me. I’ve had a feeling of being unprepared to navigate a seemingly ongoing storm of urgent requests, crises to manage, and unexpected changes. I keep asking myself if there is some way to be prepared, even for this?

I know that I like preparing – for projects, for travel, for daily meals, and for my regular practices such as meditation, yoga, hiking and writing. I gather materials before starting a project from reading a pattern, testing stitch gauge, to being sure I have the buttons for finishing. For meals, I like to have what I need for making meals ahead because I know I’ll be grazing my kitchen if I haven’t planned and prepared. For my yoga & meditation practices — turn off my phone, lay out my mat with props, choose music, and light candles. My preparations create an ease so that my life is more fulfilling and gratifying.

Most of my preparations have become steadfast habits that guide my day leaving time for spontaneity without my mind obsessing over what to eat or when will I get those stitch markers. Some of my habits have morphed into my personal rituals that are an integral part of my practice or project. Preparing the space, the list, and the plan free my energy for enjoying what I am about to do. I find I can relax more when I have done the preparations. While choosing music, lighting candles and laying out my mat I have already begun my asanas and meditation. After years and years of a daily practice, I no longer need to think about it because the preparing and doing are part of the whole.

So too, when it comes to being happy and healthy — I have practices in place that have created a firm foundation for the rest of my life. Each practice supports those times when plans go awry. The unexpected is not a question of if but the reality of when.

For example, deep yogic breathing is integral to my yoga and meditation practices. After many years, I find myself subconsciously turning to deep breathing when the unexpected happens. The breath helps me relax and clear my mind for addressing what is suddenly present.

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Another example is my practice of making lists — I love my lists. So when I need to make big decisions or head out the door for several days, I begin with a quick list. For big decisions, my lists help me weigh in on pros & cons and gain perspective on the whole picture. For travel, a list assures that I travel with most, if not all, of what I’ll need. I find security in my lists — whether a gratitude list or a shopping list — and, like my breath, I can be in the middle of a list before I realize I’ve been making one.

Being prepared when and where I can in my day-to-day is my preparation for the unexpected that is certain to come along and challenge my resilience and fortitude to handle a crisis. When I become overwhelmed by what life is serving me, I know I’ve got daily practices that become my secure river banks in the storm. These storms are part of life with some storms worse than others. What I do daily or regularly are my safety rafts and life vests when I need them for navigating the emergencies and unexpected in life.

Be Prepared — A Good Motto for Life

A Little Kindness Goes A Long Way

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We are living in such precarious and, even, perilous times. Each day another worry whether from natural disasters from hurricanes to wildfires, north, south, east, and west or another unfortunate expression of chaos in our government. I find myself checking the daily headlines for what new disaster is unfolding, what tweets have been sent from the hands of an immature man-child, what undoing has been done for the safety & health of people everywhere, or how much closer are we to a nuclear war. Emotions seen on everyone’s face — anger, fear, grief, frustration, hopelessness and helplessness — is more and more common.

I find myself between wanting to stay home, hibernate, and stay out of harms way OR being more social, nurturing connections, and reaching out. I cling to my practices that calm my nervous system for my sanity and support my health.

On the day of the shocking Las Vegas shooting disaster, I was driving home from North Carolina. The highways were busy and full of trucks carrying their cargo and nearly everyone in a hurry to get somewhere (yes, I’ve noticed more aggressive driving in this last year). I drove along in silence with my inner conversation my companion and my destination of home my focus. After hearing of the devastating number of people hurt or killed in Las Vegas on the heels of an unprecedented number of people who have lost everything from hurricanes or wildfires, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness, rage, and fear.

In my silence, I considered answers to many questions: Why is there not more gun control in place after so many mass shootings? Why is there diminishing compassion and instead a growing hatred toward fellow human beings through racism, LBGT, women’s rights, our environment, immigration (supported by this man who is president)? How can I help? How can I pull myself up and out of my own anger, sadness, and fear so that I can help others to do the same? What action(s) can I take to move forward in a positive way and help change the trajectory of our country?

I recall that Martin Seligman in his book, Flourish, speaks of kindness as important and powerful to positively affect both myself and those I extend kindness towards. A simple practice of being kind to others. Am I kind enough? Can I extend more kindness to others in the course of my day?

This recollection and my inner dialogue led me to re-committing to kindness as a mindful practice. Kindness, I know, has a rippling effect. How can I do more to be kind? For the rest of my drive, I practiced mindful kindness — allowing truckers into the passing lane by slowing down, moving out of the way of the person in much more of a hurry than I needed to be, and being mindfully courteous as the miles passed by. At rest stops, I made a point to make eye contact, say hello, and wish other travelers a good day. At gas stations or while getting food, I did the same. I began to feel lighter and a smile peeked out from other emotions.

What I noticed. When I extend kindness to someone on the highway by letting them by or pausing for someone to pull into traffic I notice that within a short period they will also extend kindness to another driver. When I open a door for someone or say a kind word with eye contact, a softening happens and that kindness ripples to others. Quite amazing and simple.

I have made kindness a mindfully conscious practice and am encouraging others to do the same by asking them to join me in spreading goodness and connection. The feedback has been incredibly satisfying! Those who have tried it for a week have also noticed a ripple effect in action (of course, not every time or with every person).

Kindness leads to more kindness.

How easy it would be to hibernate, keep my head down, and stay in the busy lane of life. It feels safer, protected, and effortless. However, it also keeps me in my fear and anger. In practicing mindful kindness, I can feel more hope because I see the positive ripple with each kind action. I may not be able to change the larger picture of discontent. However, I can make a difference toward changing my world one person at a time as I meet them on my way – a smile, a moment of eye contact, and a kind gesture goes a long way.