Thought cascades

I found myself with a little extra time yesterday between commitments. I took advantage of the time to meditate for a bit. It got me wondering about “thought cascades” and the way in which our minds work.

Thoughts appear during meditation, like bubbles. Jon Kabat-Zinn called them in one of his meditations “secretions of the mind.” They just float or bubble up. We don’t need to get rid of them or feel frustrated that they keep coming. We just need to notice them.

One thought leads to another…and another…and another. Really the mind can be quite tedious when we observe it.  “Why can’t it take a damn rest?” I wonder, but this is typically when I am trying to get to sleep. I am a lot more compassionate with myself during my daytime meditations, apparently.

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Thought cascades tend to produce certain emotional states as well. If we find ourselves ruminating on a problem, or a stressful situation, we bring ourselves back to the breath and the sensations in our bodies. I often notice my shoulders have tightened up or my jaw is clenched. I did not used to notice that. It took pairing yoga with meditation for me to understand it. 

On Monday I had an interview for a new contract that excites me. I tried to notice my thought cascades during the interview and afterward. I realized my mind creates a trail of expectations, assumptions and details, making up stories freely as it tumbles along. At least I know from Dr. Brené Brown’s work that this is perfectly normal. In fact, our brains reward us with dopamine as soon as we “tell” an internal story, whether or not it is actually true.

This is why meditation has become such an important daily practice for me. For over two years, I have spent at least 5 minutes a day on this practice. Actually for the past year, it was much more than that, but I started small to make it do-able.

Thought cascades for someone with particular neuro-diverse conditions can be especially problematic. Most people seem to have “brakes” for ruminative thought loops. Not everyone’s neuro-chemistry supports this easy compartmentalization. What is amazing is that focus can be built and nurtured, even for people like me! Meditation is a tool for doing that.

Now the cascades are quiet and flowing. Sometimes they are turbulent and rushing. Every time I bring myself back INTO my body, feel the aliveness in my hands, my feet or my heart, thoughts slow down and the volume descends. There is no greater gift than being able to dial it all down when needed.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Prepared to surrender

As I prepare to teach a 4-week learning circle entitled “Nurturing Your Feminine Leadership Journey” I realize that I have done what I can. Now it is time to surrender the results, and become (and remain) present with the participants.

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I may have just a couple of students, but I am committed to making the course valuable and holding the space for growth. So I will “preach what I practice” and stay present, learn and discover what the students need most, and respond accordingly.

As some point in the process, we have done what we can. We only control how we prepare, how we show up, and our attitude. We do not control the result, so at this point, it is best to surrender it and enjoy the experience.

Have a great week, friends!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Be present and joyful – thanks to a dear friend

A dear friend passed away this week at age 52. Some friends who knew him gathered on Thursday night over dinner to remember the impact he had on our lives. We told stories and laughed about things he had said and the “larger than life” presence he inhabited. I know he would appreciate us coming together, especially because he seemed to create community wherever he went. He was a giving, loving and kind person. He was known to make a ruckus for a cause, and he didn’t shy away from sharing his opinion on politics.

He leaves behind three children in their 20’s and my heart aches for them right now. It also makes me realize I need to be present with my own family, and not to take for granted the time I have with them.

Randy, thanks for teaching us the value of being present and sharing joy with those around us. Your presence and spirit will stay strong among us and we are grateful for the way you walked (and ran) through our lives.

Peace and love,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Dangerously cold

I spent Tuesday at home, with various activities canceled around the area due to the windchill (-24F/-43F windchill, -31C/-41C at the moment). On Wednesday many activities will be canceled as well.

My hubby had to work another 12 hour day, while I got to stay home, warm and secure with the kitties. I felt a mixture of sadness for him, but also tremendous gratitude for my cozy, warm home and the hot tea the accompanied me during my day.

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I am using my time productively at home, tidying and getting some writing and work projects done. Grateful for the forecast that let us know this was coming, so we could prepare in the best way we could (i.e. groceries and necessities).

Sometimes this slowdown in activity can make us more mindful of what we have, of the grace of our situation, a little extra time to contemplate life. I just lost a dear friend to cancer, only in his early 50’s. And everything became a little more precious and more present in that moment.

I called my Mom to connect with her and empathize with the even colder conditions in northern MN. We hunker down, cats on laps. We breathe in, we breathe out. Thursday is supposed to ease up. But for now, those of us warm at home are grateful for shelter and heat.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Breathing out

I spent a lovely afternoon with 14 women who joined us for the workshop “Embody the Leader Within You.” Despite the below-zero temperatures, and a chilly meeting room, this really warmed my heart. The discussions were robust and engaged, and everyone participated actively, which is exactly what I’d hoped.

There was such positive energy in the room, and I believe some fruitful connections were made. I got good feedback after the session, even though 90 minutes can go so fast it is hard to cover everything. We were able to hit the high points. One student who talked with me afterward said we offer a 3-session series on the topic… indeed!

It was so great to know that the topic resonated for this group. I am grateful for how it proceeded, and the opportunity to meet women with such different experiences, to  explore how to empower ourselves and other women further. I shall let this experience “sit” with me for a couple of days to consider the feedback and how it will inform my upcoming 4-week course offering.

For now, I feel really happy with the effort and the participation. I am on the right track  and with practice, I shall iterate and improve what I offer each time. I am breathing out a big sigh of relief and gratitude for a successful first “pilot” of this type of workshop. Onward!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Happy Friday and thank you

*This is an edited post from January 2018. I spent my day being in the flow of what felt right. So this post on gratitude is appropriate.*

I often sit in the morning drinking my coffee while I watch the sunrise, along with my cat (Willy) who watches and seems to love it too. Or maybe he is just watching for the neighborhood dogs, I am not sure.

We have a really well-positioned large window in the living room. This photo does not do it justice, but the flaming orange, red, purple and pink colors make me breathless with wonder.

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It is these intense moments of gratitude when I feel myself losing the need to worry, and coming back to the present, where I have all I need in this moment. Such a simple concept, and yet we are drawn away from the present so often. It can be hard to live right here and now. So many distractions and enticements can take us away from the simplest joys.

Our habits of mind, well-practiced and reinforced, have not placed value on being, just breathing and sensing. But that is okay, it is still possible to learn and practice this new skill. The practice of mindful gratitude, focusing awareness on our breath or just watching the thoughts come and go, is a foundation for joy.

Last night during yin yoga class I noticed my tendency to escape into my mind when I was in a more challenging pose. But I kept bringing myself back, breathing into some slight discomfort but allowing myself to stay with the sensations. This is good practice for sitting with difficult emotions as well.

Life will never be 100% positive, and that is okay. To be fully human is to feel good sometimes and bad other times. The range of emotion is a gift to us as humans, and the less we fight and resist the harder emotions, the more joy we can access. It is okay to feel sad and to grieve losses. It is necessary and good, and allows empathy for others.

Joy comes at moments when we are able to notice all the good within us and around us. It can also be practiced, and cultivated with thoughts of compassion and love. Saying thank you to the universe, to the spirit, to a family member, or to whatever moves us, helps us to access that joy more readily. Thank you, friends. I hope you enjoy your weekend.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com