Mindful Influence ~ Creating conscious moments

Kari Estrada


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Guided Mindfulness Breathing

Today I am going to guide you through a short mindfulness breathing exercise. I take time each day to stop and pause to focus on my breath. This reminds us to be in the present moment and to experience the now. Mindfulness breathing meditation encourages positivity both physically and mentally.

Breathing is something that we all do and this meditation exercise can be done almost anywhere. By intentionally focusing on our breath, we ground ourselves in that moment.

I started out with about 3-5 minutes a day and have gradually worked my way up to 20-40 minutes a day. Focus on your breath from your belly, chest or nose. Really notice and engage with your breath while you observe yourself. If you happen to drift off into thoughts, gently bring your attention back to the breath.

I hope you enjoy this exercise and please let me know your thoughts at the end.

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The Mindfulness Movie Review

Yesterday I watch the movie, The Mindfulness Movie that was produced and directed by Paul Harrison, AIA.  It gives an educational view point of what mindfulness is and is not.  It has over 35 of the world’s leading medical and mental health experts from Richard Burnett to Ellen Langer, Ph.D to Jeffrey M. Schwarts, M.D. to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.  Harrison takes you on a journey about how mindfulness can help individuals to shift their perspective.  The movie is broken into four parts; Neuroscience, Journey, Stories, and Schools.

Neuroscience:  Mindfulness was quoted as a “natural state of being.”  We have neurons that send rapid fire signals through synapses that recognize patterns with our constantly chaining environments.  In a sense, we tend to perform our day to day tasks on auto-pilot because our we create reaction loops.  With mindfulness we can actually change the physiology of the brain and change our reaction loops.  I have personally experienced this through re-training of the brain.

Journey:  Reflection is a huge part of mindfulness.  We need to be able to understand ourselves and how we choose to relate to things and people.  This section of the movie discusses being in the state of flow and being aware.  Mindfulness helps us to be curious, receptive and aware of our emotional state.  Mark Twain quoted, “I have had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”  This spoke to me with great detail.  Before cultivating mindfulness in my life, I worried about everything and my thoughts tended to ruminate and create elaborate stories.  Today, I try and focus on the positives in situations and in return I experience much less stress.

Stories:  The next section of the movie discusses how mindfulness is being used in the military for both veterans and active duty members.  They discuss that the first thing they are taught is that the mission comes first.  They have developed programs to help individuals in the military with PTSD.  In the military it is considered weak to admit you may need help.  Creating a virtual world has enabled some to feel more comfortable in doing an MBSR course.  It was interesting to hear how the experts explained the program and then to hear from the individuals who have taken the course.

Schools:  The last part of the movie highlights Richard Burnett’s Mindfulness in Schools Project and interviews a group of teens where mindfulness has been beneficial.  During this part of the movie, I thought about how I can help pass mindfulness onto my children to help them develop higher social and emotional learning.

If you are curious about mindfulness or just want to educate yourself a little more, I would recommend this film.  The Mindfulness Movie touches the surface of what mindfulness and defines it at its core.  I would love to see a second movie that educates us how we can cultivate mindfulness into our daily lives.  Below is the trailer for the movie.  Please let me know your thoughts if you have seen the film or after you have watched the film.


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Nobility of Spirit

Recently I read Nobility of Spirit – A Forgotten Ideal by Rob Riemen for one of my MBA classes at the University of Nevada Reno.  Our class is based on humanities and culture and how it can relate to leadership.  I wanted to share my essay about how his book and theory of Nobility of Spirit is tied to mindfulness.

Nobility of Spirit by Rob Riemen is described as the essence of human dignity. When I first read the title of the book, the words that came to mind were, ‘aspiration of conscious being.’ Throughout the essays the quote that I resonated with the most was by Thomas Mann, “Grab hold of time! Use it! Be mindful of every day, every hour! If you are not careful, time can slip away far too easily and quickly.”

I identified deeply with Nobility of Spirit and the stories and analogies that promote and protect culture. Riemen wrote, “Truth is the absolute standard by which the level of human dignity is to be measured.” Truth leads individuals to reflect on who we are right now, where we have been, and where we are going. In this lies what we know and what we want. Knowledge and education will always guide us to pay attention in the now and to follow our truths.

The following is Rob Riemen’s answer from bigthink.com to, what is Nobility of Spirit?

“Without cultivation of the human soul through liberal education; through knowing big ideas, the real values; it’s this protest of homecoming to our better self.”

DSC01314For me this related to mindful leadership. Mindfulness embodies moment-to-moment awareness. As leaders we can promote positivity and consciously choose to put truth and freedom above power and violence. Other mindful qualities that connect with nobility of spirit are:

  • Being Present – aware of what you are experiencing in the present moment
  • Open-Minded – allow yourself to experience new ideas other than your own experiences and beliefs
  • Non-Judging – accept what arises with a non-judging attitude to people and surroundings
  • Acceptance – do not force or try and change reality
  • Non- Attachment – do not hold onto experiences and let life happen
  • Equanimity – be emotionally stable with good and bad situations
  • Compassion – be gentle, patient, and kind with yourself and others

Ultimately it comes down to truth within ourselves. I agree with Riemen that you must have truth to have freedom. With knowledge and insights we can face reality and live the way we believe to be appropriate. However, each and every person within our civilization has different expectations and values as to the definition of truth and freedom. This can create conflict within cultures.

My definition of truth is knowing who I am , knowing who I am becoming, and being transparent in the process. This takes being honest with yourself, learning from your mistakes, and letting go of past situations. I continually educate myself on facing my fears and engaging in a hopeful vision of human rights.

The nobility of spirit principle that Riemen discusses can be applied individually, but could lead to hostility if you try and influence a country’s culture. The American culture is a society made up of an individualistic people where power is at the forefront. I believe that the human experience is each person’s individual approach to life. We all have different morals, values, and beliefs that shape us. The American culture allows all of us to be different and to define our own truths and freedoms not only from humanities, but many other disciplines.

This is a great book that gets you thinking.  If you have read Nobility of Spirit what were your thoughts on the book and how it might relate back to mindfulness?

 


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My Mindfulness Pulse

One of the things I enjoy about mindfulness is that is balances my body/mind connection.  Mindfulness has provided my life calmness, peacefulness, and happiness.  I enjoy practicing various mindfulness meditations and applying the benefits to different moments throughout my day.

Now that we are approaching the summer months with warmer weather, I find myself doing less of a formal sit down or body scan meditation.  However, I am doing more moving meditations (Hatha Yoga)  and taking a lot of mindful walks.  I notice my body/mind connection and the environment with a heightened awareness of my surroundings.

When I was first introduced to mindfulness, I felt as though I was only truly “being” during my meditations.  Over the past nine months, my cultivation of mindfulness has evolved into a lifestyle.  It allows me to live with honesty, integrity, dignity, and respect for myself and for others.

I read the following quote by Louis L’Amour for the first time the other day.  This was a true reality in my life not so long ago:

“Few of us ever live in the present.  We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone.”

My curiosity for mindfulness started after I was involved in an unfortunate car accident that left me unable to walk for about four months.  Prior to and after the accident, I had been introduced to Qi-Gong through my sister.  When doing some research on Qi-Gong, I came across many articles on mindfulness.  I started integrating simple breathing meditations each morning along with some of the healing sounds my sister had taught me.  It truly helped change my mindset from a negative to a positive.  About a year after the accident, I had my second child and life got busy and I took a left turn off of my mindfulness journey.  It wasn’t until several years later, last fall, that I was re-introduced to mindfulness through a mindful leadership class through the MBA program at the University of Nevada Reno.  I am so thankful that this time around, it has become part of my pulse.

Now that I have shared a little bit about how mindfulness aligned into my life, I would like to hear how mindfulness was introduced into your daily life.  Also, what type of mindfulness practices do you utilize?  What changes or benefits have taken place?

Thank you for sharing your comments below.  I can also be followed on Twitter.


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Consciously Plan with Less Worry

Since starting the practice of mindfulness and sharing some of my experiences through my blog, I have many friends and acquaintances ask me about mindfulness.  Once the general concept of mindfulness is explained, the most common question I am asked is; if we are always aware of the present moment, how can you plan ahead for your future?  The following is a quote I came across a couple of years ago that I believe to be very accurate on awareness and attention in the present moment.

 

“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” Marcus Aurelius 

Mindfulness does not convey that you can not have future goals or ambitions.  For me and other articles I have read, it really comes down to the difference between worrying or creating anxiety versus planning and preparing.  The key is to plan or prepare for the future by being fully present in the moment when the developing is taking place.  Don’t let your thoughts ruminate or create stories or situations that allow you to become worried or anxious.

With this ability to make up scenarios and ruminate our thoughts, negative or unrealistic thoughts can lead to unnecessary stress.  Applying mindfulness attitudes and keeping your awareness and attention in the present moment when we are making future plans or goals leads to intelligent decisions.   The following is an excerpt that I found from Weber State University that explains this concept very well:

Planning future events and creating goals is the process of bringing future moments into the present so appropriate control can be made toward achieving them. It is a visionary process that constructively focuses on the future in this present moment. This is a very worthwhile and appropriate activity. Worrying about a future event, putting our focus on the potentially painful outcomes of a future event is not. When we plan something we use our imagination constructively to create a future reality. When we worry about something, we use it destructively. Worry happens when we think of a future event and then imagine possible outcomes of the events that include the potential for some kind of pain or discomfort that we would prefer avoiding.

I believe it is all about balance.  Utilizing mindfulness attitudes while consciously planning for the future events and goals leads to enhanced calmness and gratitude and decreases worry and anxiety.  How do you balance living in the present moment and  planning for your future?  Please share your comments below.


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What Makes You Happy?

Happiness is something different for all of us.  We all have different situations and circumstances that drive our happiness.  It can range from family, friends, love, work, leisure, or material things.  When I Googled books on happiness, my search returned hundreds if not thousands of books on happiness.

In this blog post, I am going to focus on how including mindfulness in my life has lead me to be a happier individual.  In essence, mindfulness has enabled me to deepen my relationship with myself.  I understand my emotions better and pause much more often in life.  By living in the present moment with my body and mind, I don’t miss out on the things that ultimately make me happy.  Instead, I embrace them.

Please watch this Ted Talk by Matt Killingsworth that discusses his data on happiness and that we are often happiest when we are lost in the moment. His data suggests that mind-wandering can lead individuals to being unhappy.  He starts his talk with the following quote by Aristotle:

“Happiness is the chief good…that which all things aim”

Mindfulness gives me the tools to be more mindful in my day-to-day life.  I am significantly less stressed, more engaged, and more resilient.  My positive emotions definitely outweigh my negative emotions.  Most importantly, I have developed a relationship with myself creating self-awareness and increasing my empathy.  This all leads me down a path that is filled with happiness.  Cultivating mindfulness increases my self-regulation through focus and intensifies my emotional intelligence.  It helps to guide me in accepting my experiences, good or bad, and to respond rather than to react. Happiness for me evolves from being able to deal with adverse events, engage in the present moment, and to enjoy the pleasures (small or big) in life.

The following quote chooses exceptional wording, linking mindfulness and happiness:

“By breaking down our sense of self-importance, all we lose is a parasite that has long infected our minds. What we gain in return is freedom, openness of mind, spontaneity, simplicity, altruism: all qualities inherent in happiness.” – Matthieu Ricard 

What is happiness to you?  How do you think mindfulness has contributed what makes you happy?

 


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The Strength of Patience

Patience is defined by the dictionary as:

pa·tience

noun

1.the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.  2. an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay  3.quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence

A quote that I heard earlier in the week that really stuck with me inspired this blog post:

“Patience with family is love, patience with others is respect, patience with self is confidence, patience with God is faith.”

Many of us, including myself become impatient very easily and in many situations.  In today’s world we always seem to be rushing to the next thing.  Impatience may be caused by being stuck in traffic, sitting in a long meeting or class, standing in a long line at the grocery store, or not getting our way.  Being impatient show up as irritation, anger, disappointment, or frustration.

I have been strengthening my patience through the following steps:

  • Recognizing my impatience – Noticing situations that drive me to be impatient and having realistic expectations of my environment and the people around me.
  • Observing my impatient feelings – Noticing what I am feeling and observing my behaviors and actions when being impatient.
  • Change my impatience into patience – Making the choice to find positives in situations that usually lead to impatience.

The following video is an excellent explanation of patience, one of the mindfulness attitudes. Jon Kabatt-Zinn, Ph.D. explains that being patient with ourself will allow us to inhabit the present moment.

Practicing patience drives calmness and give us strength to face things in life.  It leads to stability and self harmony.  Patience lets us make the conscious choice to respond differently, accept the now, and focus on the positive.  Patience ultimately leads us to having greater attention and awareness while increasing our innovation and creativity.

What actions do you take to improve your patience?  Can you share an example of how you find the positives in situations that can lead to impatience?  Please share your comments below and thank you for reading!