Mindful Influence ~ Creating conscious moments

Kari Estrada


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Daylight Advantage

On the longest day of the year, I woke up to gray clouds and the wonderful smell of rain.  I am currently visiting family in my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska.  I am enjoying the 19 hours of daylight…yes I did say 19 hours! Growing up in Anchorage allowed me to enjoy the beauty of mother nature, especially the few weeks around the time of the summer solstice.  As a kid and into my adult life, the extended daylight encouraged endless hours of outdoor play with family and friends.

Today I tried a different approach to my mindfulness breathing meditation.  Normally I focus on my belly in relation to my breathing.  Today I practiced the following mantra during my breathing meditation:

BREATHE IN: Sun and Warmth

BREATHE OUT: Light

I did this for about twenty minutes and was really able to feel the warmth while seeing the sun and light.  It was interesting to observe these emotions and to have a slightly different meditation experience.  As I continue to enrich my day to day life with mindfulness, my practices and self-awareness continue to evolve and impact my life with positivity.

For the past ten years I have called Reno, Nevada home.  Reno has over 300 days of sunshine, which is a big contrast from Anchorage.  I am convinced that the sun can affect your moods and boost your happiness. However, I also think that you can change your perceptions of gloomier weather.  Instead of focusing on the negative aspects, focus on the beauty and benefits of our surroundings.  It is important to get outside, enjoy the natural light and outside atmosphere, no matter what city you live in.

Looking through my social media platforms this week, there were many solstice events and publicity, including “A Day of Mindfulness.”  As I read through my Twitter and Facebook feeds, I found the following quote that I found perfectly fitting for the longest day of the year:

“We are the miracle of force and matter making itself over into imagination and will.  Incredible.  The life force experimenting with forms.  You for one.  Me for another.  The universe has shouted itself alive.  We are one of the shouts.” – Ray Bradbury

What do you do with your extra hours of light during this time of year?

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My Mindfulness Story

The video below describes how I started to incorporate mindfulness into my lifestyle.  Not only does it reduce stress and anxiety, it enhances my focus, increases my patience, grants me acceptance, and allows me to let go of control.  Most of all, it has heightened my self-awareness.  Please forgive the editing in my video blog as I am still learning the art of how to be in front of the camera.  I promise I will get better with practice.

How did you find mindfulness?  Please share your comments after watching my video!


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4 Minute Hatha Yoga

Have you ever just needed a few minutes to just be?  The video below is a great mini getaway for a mind-body connection.  This can be done virtually anywhere.  This quick 4 minute exercise is designed to be done anytime during your day.  It is great to do in your office, upon waking up, in a park, or before bed.

Hatha Yoga relaxes me and makes a mind-body connection and to clear my mind of clutter, while reducing anxiety and stress.  Please remember to connect with your breath, and notice your body without expectations or judgments.  Please share any comments below after practicing this mindfulness Hatha Yoga.  I hope you enjoy!


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Live~Work~Create

While in New York City, our class visited The High Line, a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets in the Meatpacking District.  Of all the places we visited, this was by far my favorite due to the creativity and alternative thinking that brought this park to life.  Rather than demolishing the historic railway, Joshua David and Robert Hammond came together to promote and advocate the preservation to create social, community, and economic development.

Creativity to me is really about thinking for yourself and thinking a little bit differently from everyone else.  Many of us today live on auto-pilot, which keeps us doing the norm day in and day out.  Stopping the auto-pilot cycle allows us to be present in each moment to bring awareness to our emotions, thoughts, and body.  Incorporating mindfulness into my lifestyle enhances my productivity, increases my performance, and above all unlocks my creativity.

“Creativity, which is the expression of our originality, helps us stay mindful that what we bring to the world is completely original and cannot be compared.” –The Gifts of Imperfection –Brené Brown, Ph.D.

Creativity can be challenging due to the process of how we individually translate or express the abstract.  Mindfulness is a key component that can help to heighten our creative focus.  It helps to identify and work through the processes that block our access to creative resources.  Paying attention to yourself, your actions, others, and your surroundings in each moment with acceptance and non-judgment leads to letting go of control and discovering all that you are capable of.  This allows us to inspire and shape our creative expressions.

Mindfulness has helped to re-train my brain and creative processes in my personal and professional life by quieting my mind and giving me the ability to look and start projects with a blank canvas.  I notice innovative ideas much more often and am able to transmit them into creative productivity.

How do you stay creative?  Do you believe that mindfulness has an impact on our creative mind?


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Mindful Enhancements in the “City that Never Sleeps”

I recently traveled to New York City for an MBA class to explore how humanities and the arts can influence leadership and business.  I have never traveled to New York City before and was excited about the themes and topics of the class as well as embracing the culture and financial capital of the world.

Most of my life I have lived in smaller suburban cities, with less population than large urban cities.  I usually practice mindfulness early in the morning; I wake up, shower, and then do a 20-40 minute mindfulness meditation with minimal noise, so it is easy to let go of disturbances or distractions.  NYC was noisy with construction and the hustle and bustle of people and traffic most of the day.  I had to learn to adapt to my new surroundings and it took more effort than normal to stay focus on my practice.

Brooklyn BridgeMindfulness helped to expand  my perceptions with an open and non-judgmental mind in the “City that Never Sleeps.”  it allowed me to observe and embrace the atmosphere and ambiance of the city including architecture, environments, culture, history, and most of all the people.  The NYC lifestyle is very different from how I live my day to day life.  Even though the boroughs are filled with disarray and chaos, they embrace their big city and are proud to be citizens of NYC.  One of my observations was how restaurants are  people are integrated.  Even though there is a sense of rushed momentum throughout the city, people stop and connect with each other while grabbing a bite to eat or enjoying a cocktail.

Mindfulness allowed me to consciously take in and absorb my NYC experience, moment by moment and day by day from the inside out.  I was able to look back at our event filled days of culture, arts, history, and business with great appreciation.  Mindfulness gave me the tools to really see and BE in New York City for the first time.  Through this class and my practice, one week made a significant influence in my character, depth, and self-awareness.  The following quote reminded of my encounter with NYC:

“Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake.  The ego falls away.  Time flies.  Every action, moment, and thought follows inevitable from the previous one, like playing jazz.  your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”  – Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

How has mindfulness guided or added to your new experiences?


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Mindfulness Teachings of Gandhi~

Recently I watched the film Gandhi and throughout the film, many of his values and his way of life relate to mindfulness. I knew that Mahatma Gandhi helped India gain their independence and that he influenced societies to be non-violent through Satyagraha which translates into “power of truth”. It was interesting to watch his biography of his life and to see his bravery evolve from the late 1800s. If I had to describe Gandhi in one word, it would be noble. He is open-minded, patient, self-aware, and educated. He is brave in seeking his truth and freedom for himself and for the world.

Gandhi was a wholesome and simple individual who made huge impacts on humanity. The following are leadership principles that I focused on throughout the film.

Lifelong Student – Gandhi learned through reading and life experiences. He did not live in fear of others opinions and always followed his heart. He was an innovator and always created new life law concepts. “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Living in the Now – Gandhi made each moment count and lived in the now rather than worrying about the past or the future. “I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present.”

Everyone is Human – Gandhi treated everyone with respect, compassion, and kindness regardless of their mistakes. He is transparent and non-judgmental to himself and to others. “I look only to the good qualities of men. Not being faultless myself, I won’t presume to probe into the faults of others.”

Active Listener – Gandhi’s speeches throughout the film were usually short with a powerful message. I noticed that he listened to others most of the time without interruption. “The human voice can never reach the distance that is covered by the still small voice of the conscience.”

Positive Change – Gandhi approached change by identifying obstacles and presenting logical solutions. He communicated his vision passionately and in return created followers who believed in his message. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

These are a few of the mindful leadership qualities that we can take away from Gandhi’s biography. He lived consciously and compassionately to project that humans can exist and thrive in a non-violent world. Through listening, respecting, and letting go of control he stayed true to his purpose. Gandhi lived his life in truth and freedom by putting his attention on his experiences and learning from them. He emphasized that the world and humanity can live in harmony. He practiced mindfulness each and everyday.

“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.” -Gandhi

 


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Guided Mindfulness Body Scan

Today I am going to guide you through a mindfulness body scan.  I wrote a previous blog post about the body scan (Falling Awake) and encourage you to read this blog post.  The body scan is a meditation to bring awareness to different areas of the body.  For me it is about a mind-body connection and integrating different areas of my body with my breath.

A body scan can range anywhere from about 10 minutes to about 60 minutes.  I usually do a mindfulness body scan meditation about 2-4 times a week.

I prefer to lay on my back on the floor, but this meditation may also be done seated with good posture.  Please let me know your thought and feelings after you do the body scan meditation.