Finding Balance Outside The Bubble Through The Holidays

Holidays are a funny time. Christmas lights go up, Rudolph songs hum through stores and customers pummel each other for Black Friday sales. Even when life is treating us well, holidays can be a stressful time. With so much uncertainty politically, it adds a bit more tension at family gatherings, doesn’t it?

As a Nurse for many years, I have filtered the news to understanding what interests me most, such as science, healthy living, fitness and self-care related issues. That has shifted for me recently as I investigate my personal actions and the impact they have on the world. It is not enough for me to stay in my little bubble and my happy place. I am attempting to find balance in investigating true news sources, staying open to listen to other viewpoints and taking steps to align my actions with my values.

For example, I value clean water, clean air and equal rights. As Nurses, I think most of us do. Last week, while I celebrated Thanksgiving after working at the hospital, I reflected on the North Dakota Pipeline and the actions by Native Tribes, Americans and Veterans to peacefully protect the land. While it is much easier to stay in my bubble and do my part at the hospital, I needed to question myself. Are my actions aligned with my values. After watching THIS VIDEO I knew they weren’t.  I took action to transfer my money from Wells Fargo to a local credit union because big banks and our President elect are invested in this pipeline. 

Now I’m not saying we can’t have fun. Don’t boycott holiday shopping altogether; That probably wouldn’t go over too well with the kids! I invite you to do it consciously. Give some thought to how much is enough? After watching the documentary TRUE COST. I am more aware of the consequences of shopping at H&M or The Gap verses Patagonia who promotes fair and safe labor practices. This sounds like a political issue and not such a Nursing issue but where do we draw the line? This is absolutely a Nursing issue. I was enlightened by The California Occupational Nurses when I spoke at their Nursing Conference. We as Nurses are responding to the impacts of how politics impacts individual people who show up at our bedside.

After maintaining weekly blogs for nearly three years, I will be shifting the frequency of my posts to monthly and as needed. I still look forward to engaging with you and supporting all of us in self-care. What better way to do that than dial back commitments?

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I will be offering the 8-week MBSR Course in January. SAVE $50 with Early bird registration which ends December 9th. If you live outside SF, stay tuned for an online offering coming in 2017.

 

Home Stretch

courtesy of philly.com

courtesy of philly.com

Regardless of your political views, you have probably felt the turbulence of this election. For some of us, our vote has already been cast and many of us will vote tomorrow. Some may have a hunch of what the final results are, while some of us sit with uncertainty. How can we be with difficult times and stay centered and balanced but still engaged?

courtesy of thenation.com

courtesy of thenation.com

Maybe that is a question for the Chicago Cubs. I grew up as a Yankee fan, back when Bucky Dent was the short stop and there was something called a Reggie Bar. I am now a fair weathered fan and was very happy to see Cleveland and Chicago in The World Series. Could there have been any more drama to go ten innings with a rain delay? Well this election feels even more dramatic with the last minute announcement from Comey that has been completely shut down and a peaceful Republican attacked at a Trump rally.

How do we stay calm, centered and balanced in conversation with others without losing our cool? Naturally we want to stay engaged, attempt to stay open minded but it can be really challenging when we don't see eye to eye or we find the other party fairly ignorant. Using mindfulness to stay connected to our bodies, paying attention to our breath and pausing before we speak will be tools we can use in the home stretch.

I'm Back In Town And Teaching Mindfulness Course

I love so much about traveling. I love exploring different cultures, creating memories with friends, and getting out of the comfort zone of the familiar auto-pilot zone. Changing our routine gives us the wake up call to see our lives with fresh eyes. I'm settling back in after extended travel and I am setting the intention to live the concept of Non-Striving. For those of you that know me, this may bring an eye roll to your face as I've been known to be a bit of a busy bee.

Learning to create a lifestyle that is more peaceful and able to navigate the ups and downs that life throws at us is one of the teachings in the comprehensive 8 week mindfulness course started by Dr. John Kabat-Zinn forty years ago. I am always amazed at the tremendous growth and progress that happens in such a short time period, which is why I am offering this course again.

So if you are afraid your mind will resemble the photo above, come join the 8 week course and I will walk you through the mindfulness course in a step by step fashion with each week building on the previous class.  If you want Anderson Cooper to convince you to do this course, then watch him talk about his experience.

To get more details on the Free Introductory class or the 8 week MBSR course, click here

Remember, Nurses get 28 units of Continuing Education credit by taking this course.

Got 5 Minutes?

When people find out I teach meditation, I often hear responses like this one: “I tried meditating, but I just didn’t have the time and I just wasn’t good at it.”  New flash: Nobody is "good" at meditating, especially in the beginning. 

Meditation is hard.  If you want something easy, go run a marathon.  I know what I’m talking about.  I’ve done four Ironman triathlons.  That means I ran a marathon after I swam 2.4 miles and biked 112 miles (in the same day).  My point is, taking on a meditation practice is no joke and it requires a commitment – and it’s worth it.

Judah meditating at the Doctor's office

Judah meditating at the Doctor's office

Formal sitting meditation is not for everyone. But before you give up on it, put in a little effort and drop your expectations.  Over-achievers need not apply. 

Set a timer for 5 minutes - Turn off your phone - Sit somewhere you can be undisturbed for a bit - Place your hand on your belly - And tune into the rise and fall of the belly as you breathe.

Each time you discover your mind has wandered off, congratulate yourself – you are being mindful!  You are bringing awareness to the present moment. Woo-hoo!

My other suggestion involves using your hearing sense.  Find a place that you can sit for 5 minutes at home, at work (depending on your environment) or outside.  Set a timer for 5 minutes and forget about focusing on breathing, leave that to your autonomic nervous system.  Focus only on sounds.  You can listen to the sounds within your body (heartbeat, grumbling of your stomach, congestion, sneeze, cough, sounds of your breath, creaking of your body if you shift).

Tuning into the sounds in the environment, you may notice a ticking clock, ventilation system, alarms, conversations in the distance, horns or sirens in traffic, birds chirping, cats purring or dogs barking.

For those that can’t tolerate even five minutes alone with your mind sitting still, you may find running is your answer.  Can you leave the music behind and take in the environment or just feel your feet striking the ground? Other activities such as surfing, rock climbing, yoga or a martial art quiet the mind and bring you into the moment.

If you aren’t multi-tasking, painting, crocheting and knitting can be very meditative.  They also offer plenty of opportunities to practice patience. If I had a dollar for every row of knitting I pulled out! 

Nobody ever comes to meditation because they’ve heard its fun. You’ve probably heard it can chill you out, take the edge off your anxiety or stress, decrease your blood pressure, ease your pain…and you are right, it can!    There are plenty of books on mediation but reading will only get you so far.  You didn’t get good at IV insertion by reading about it; it clicked after you got some practical experience.  Meditation takes practice. 

How bout five minutes today?