Monday, February 8, 2016

Mindful Monday- Being Present In Conversations

Be present, give eye contact, and give your full attention to the person with whom you are talking.

    This month I am trying to do more single-tasking. My daughter has observed that I do not fully give her attention when she wanders through to talk. My husband agrees. It is a criticism I find hard to hear. I like to continue reading, or working on my computer when someone interrupts me to talk. I have been doing more than one thing for a long time.  I am good at it but, I delude myself.

Here is my plan. I will pay better attention. If I am interrupted unfairly I will ask for a later conversation. It sounds so simple. To move from one focus to talking with someone,  I will shut my eyes briefly and inhale,  then open them and really look at the person with whom I am talking.

The truth is, your brain is not designed to do more than one thing at a time. It literally cannot achieve this, except in very rare circumstances. Instead, it toggles back and forth from one task to the next. For example, when you are driving while talking on the phone, your brain can either use its resources to drive or to talk on the phone, but never both. Scans show that when you talk on the phone, there is limited activation of your visual brain – suggesting you are driving without really watching. This explains how we can sometimes end up places without knowing exactly how we got there.
Sandra Bond Chapman-Forbes Magazine "Why Single-Tasking Makes You Smarter"

 More mindfulness Monday posts here.

Friday, February 5, 2016


Focus On Empathy

Do I fully understand empathy? I thought I did,  but now as I am taking an online class called Living Brave I see a little differently. Picking up the lens by which another sees the world is impossible for human beings. We really can't walk in another's shoes. Our interpretation of the walk would be different even if we had their shoes on. So what can we do? There are some attributes that an empathetic response encompasses.

  1. Perspective Taking-Allowing others to share their perspective even if it is not our own
  2. Staying out off Judgement- Refraining from judging their behavior or motivations
  3. Recognizing Emotions- Looking at the emotions the person is displaying
  4. Communicating emotions- Speaking the recognition of those emotions
  5. Staying Mindful and paying Attention- 

    My truth is always right. Correct? Well, if you are trying for empathy you may start by listening to another's truth and allowing that to be correct in their eyes. Too quickly I give advice to set my friend on a better path. Often advise is not what is needed,  just a listening ear and loving heart.

   This focus on the anatomy of empathy is already paying dividends. I am doing a better job at being a wife, mother, and friend. Why, just this morning I was the recipient of generous empathy. I asked my friend to spare some time to talk. We did. She listened with a loving heart. I was blessed.
    You know the only person that can walk in our shoes is our Savior, Jesus Christ. He alone has the capacity to see through our eyes because he has willingly taken our burdens, incapacities, mistakes, and sins upon himself. They are his when we surrender them to him and he knows how they feel. When I focus on being more empathic I also feel myself coming closer to him

I write on Fridays with a large group who inspire me. Only five minutes and without much thought to perfection. I write, prompted by one word that sends my thoughts to the keyboard and hopefully make sense.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mindful Monday- Doing The Dishes

In a life style of always doing more and multitasking, there is no space for self-compassion. What you are saying to yourself is that everything is more important than the experience you are having at this moment.

  While listening to a podcast with Gretchen Rubin I had a breakthrough idea. On her live show from San Francisco she was talking to a guest who was trying to prioritize her time better. A wife, mother, and school teacher, she found herself constantly trying to do two or three things at once. She felt her lifestyle was holding her hostage to the tasks that had the least importance in her life. My ears perked up because I am dedicating the month of February to developing the skill of single tasking. My mind moved to my learning about vulnerability. Connecting these ideas of allowing vulnerability to be present and also living a lifestyle of over tasking I had the thought of how these two ways of being are in conflict. If you are mentally over wrought with doing too many things at the same time, there cannot be room for vulnerability. There is no resilience left for that. Paying attention is part of vulnerability and self-compassion. If we can't pay attention to our feelings and surroundings we are more prone to feeling shame and self-criticism. 

   So this month I will practice doing one thing at a time, starting with the dishes. I don't have a dishwasher right now so I spend some time everyday in the dishwater. Most of the time my mind is elsewhere. After all, dishes are inconsequential, right? Could I pay attentions to the way the warm water feels, or the beauty of my colorful dishes? Could I notice the way soap makes designs, small and large? I could try. I could be alive in the moment of doing this one thing.

"If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, this hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not "washing the dishes." What's more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can't wash the dishes, the chances are we won't be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future-and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life."
                                                 Thich Nhãt Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness

  More mindfulness Monday posts here.

Friday, January 29, 2016


Piano- an adjective meaning subdued, quiet, or soft

This is a week of rehearsals for the piano recital coming up tomorrow. Our venue is a large church chapel made to be acoustically beautiful and responsive. So responsive that I am reminding my young pianists to find the quietest sound possible so that their playing can stay light and bright instead of heavy and bombastic.

                                              There is a pedal for that

Most pianos have a quiet pedal which moves the whole keyboard over a centimeter so that the hammers do not hit all the strings, creating a more subdued sound. We are trying that pedal to see if it will help us keep sounds from becoming harsh.

There is nothing more piercing than a few notes played gently and painfully soft. Our ears strain to hear yet feel each vibration to the very soul. 

God created sounds that play our hearts

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mindful Monday- Progress

Pay Attention to where you eat, how you eat, and why you eat.

   I have made some progress this month on eating mindfully. My memory of the best meals is bright. Those were when I set the table, alone or with my family, and prepared my space to be pleasing and inviting. Prayer started me off to remember Him and thank him for my plenty which I can take for granted.
   I leave this table setting all day long. My eyes scan the bright colors and I look forward to the rest involved with taking time to eat, time for just eating, not reading, and not television. Have I mastered this habit? No, sadly many days I go back to escaping myself. Yes, I meant escaping my present experiences. Somehow along the path of bringing my family of seven to the table together each evening I lost the desire to cherish eating. I no longer elevated the time between my husband and I. He went off with his tray to the computer, in his office, and I hunched over my food while watching TV. Writing these words makes me feel the error of my ways. I'll be working on this for more than just January. When I pick up my theme of doing one thing at a time I will certainly circle back to mindful eating.

                             More about mindfulness here.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Present And Accounted For

        Are you all here, present and accounted for?

Being present is a theme in my life. Instead of enumerating where I am not present I want to make a list of events in my life where I am totally present. The list will be shorter this way.
  1. Meditating is going better . I can stay in my body, fully present for at least five minutes.
  2. I am present when I am learning a new piece on the piano.
  3. I am present when I walk for any amount of time because of my knee and foot problems. I have to stay aware or,,,,,down,,,,,,I go.
  4. I am present when I hug my grandchildren. I have trained myself to really look into their eyes
  5. I am present when I teach piano, most of there time. 

What I find so perplexing about being human is the huge resistance my mind exerts to staying present. I feel it whenever I do anything creative. There is a drag on my will to act which sends my mind to distractions often quite ludicrous. It is a stickiness which I call the Unmaker. I am a daughter of a creative God and his inspiration is uplifting and in the now. There is also the Unmaker who follows close behind, jealous of any move I make towards the light of creating. He lives in the past and catapults my futurizing mind toward fiction. God waits for me in the present. He speaks to me in the now.

"WHAT I KNOW There's a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don't, and the secret is this: It's not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance." from "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield, Shawn Coyne

I write on Fridays with a large group who inspire me. Only five minutes and without much thought to perfection. I write, prompted by one word that sends my thoughts to the keyboard and hopefully make sense.

More about mindfulness here.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mindful Monday- Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence- the ability to accurately perceive emotions, understand their meanings, use them, and manage them in productive ways.

This month of January my one little word is showing up at the table. Being mindful of the sensory experience of eating is one step but I believe I also need to address the emotional smorgasbord I deal with from meal to meal and in-between. 

Too often the business of eating is about calming my stress. Teaching and talking with people all day makes me conform to my goals and intentions. When it is time for a meal I have the desire to rebel. Worse is that often I have the desire to vegetate, the exact opposite of being mindful. What I know is often over-shadowed by what I want. Take for example my decision yesterday to have hot chocolate after dinner. I made a conscious choice to avoid added sugar this month. I have not had candy, pastries, cookies, at all. Except, last night, I decide to rebel. In hindsight I see that the day required much of my emotional intelligence. I played the organ for church, taught a spiritual lesson to 18 people, made dinner for six, and entertained three granddaughters for the rest of the afternoon while their dads watched football. I enjoyed it all but I was emotionally finished. Making wise decisions with an emotional intelligence deficit is impossible. 

"The goal is to take care of the business of the body-to feed it well and negotiate the best deal for your health and well-being"

                              More about mindfulness here.