Wednesday, June 30, 2021

FYI Email Subscribers



Since my first It Is What It Is blog post in August, 2010, Google Blogger has been the content management system hosting service I’ve chosen to use. In July, email subscribers will no longer be supported through the web feed management service on Blogger known as Google Feedburner.

What this means to you - you will no longer receive an email notification when I publish new posts. While this has been convenient for my email subscribers, it does not mean the website will cease to exist. For now, email subscribers will need to log into It Is What It Is at http://www.mmclark.com from time to time to see if I have posted.

Currently, I'm looking at the future of It Is What It Is and alternative hosting services. Email subscriptions may be available once again at a later date. Stay tuned...

Take care,
Michelle

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Thinking About What You Are Thinking

Mindfulness is thinking about what you are thinking!

As children we are naturally open to asking questions. But somewhere along the way we got sidetracked and stopped asking. With this exercise, let’s release that inner child and explore questions.

Consider your thoughts, your feelings, and ultimately your actions (behavior) by paying more attention and begin asking questions. A simple way to bring this to mind is anytime you have the thought, I like, or I don’t like, go beyond the thought or feeling and ask yourself WHY? Then keep asking why until you run out of answers. The more you do this, the more you will learn about yourself. This mindfulness practice will guide you to making better decisions. Trust me on this - this is huge!!!

Here are some examples to get the ball rolling and your mind used to the practice of asking questions:
  • You see an outfit on someone you think looks really great. WHY do you think so? Is it the fit, color, fabric, or maybe the person looks really happy or confident? On the flip side of it – you see an outfit on someone and you notice it doesn’t look good at all. WHY? When you do this enough you not only end up with answers that help you make better decisions when you are buying your own clothes, you find yourself asking questions in all sorts of situations.
  • You are thinking the sunset is beautiful. WHY do you think so? Remember our last two exercises when we focused on our five senses? Let’s put them into action. What do you see? What do you hear? Is there a scent you notice? Are you eating or drinking something that invokes a lovely flavor while you focus on the sunset? How do you feel? Do you feel happy or calm? If it’s a good feeling, perhaps you should be watching more sunsets. Being mindful will bring you more than just happy or calm. It will bring you understanding and a deeper peace.
  • You just yelled at your child. WHY, and WHY, and WHY? But ultimately, was it about the child, or about you? Maybe you’re the one who needs the time out! Aha! See how this thinking about what you are thinking works?

I learned to do this exercise many years ago while taking design classes. It helped me see things in a new light. It’s fun and can be a very interesting and revealing. It’s an observational exercise that I continue to do as I explore my thoughts, feelings, and actions at any given time. With this exercise I have learned why I think, feel, and do. I have learned more about me by asking myself WHY. And I found that the why’s were just the beginning of the questions I asked myself.

Allow yourself to be open to the changes that are ahead. Changes? You can’t help but change when the answers reveal patterns and pieces you didn’t even know about. When you ask yourself enough questions you begin to put the puzzle of your life together through mindfulness thinking.

Take care,
Michelle

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Breathing in Nature

A walk in nature walks the soul back home.
Mary Davis

For the past few weeks, we’ve been exploring our five senses to better understand what we see, hear, smell, taste and feel. We checked with ourselves throughout the day and gave thought to these amazing senses in order to expand our mindfulness awareness. Now, let’s take it outside and breathe-in nature the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing - taking in the forest). This is not just a walk in the woods. It’s an immersion of each of our senses - a communion with the natural environment.

Don’t worry if you don’t have an actual forest to walk around in. The idea here is surrounding yourself with the natural environment. I have found the more I am engaged in any form of Mother Nature’s loveliness, the more peace filled I become. Let’s begin...
  • Find your walking rhythm in an outside space of your choosing.
  • Take a few slow and deep breaths to begin, and let go of everything going on in your head.
  • Walk, pause and breathe. Ask yourself what you see. Continue to walk, pause, breathe and see for a bit before moving to another sense.
  • I like to close my eyes when I pause to take in the sounds, smells, flavors and feelings. Each time I repeat my concentration of one sense, I notice a bit more than I did moments ago.
  • After walking and infusing your senses, you may want to find a place to sit and linger. Immerse yourself by breathing deeper into the natural setting.
The more you bring awareness to your senses, you become more in tune with your surroundings. When you have experienced this space, you can recall it anytime by focusing on what your senses remember.

It’s the end of spring, and summer is just around the corner. Find more time and calm space for yourself outdoors to simply be in nature by breathing-in nature. Continue with this practice as often as possible. It will create a space of calm and wonder, and open a space for your mind to rest.

Take care,
Michelle

Photo ©  Dreamstime.com

Monday, May 10, 2021

Mindfulness Senses Spot Check


In January we began the year with the intention of being mindful for the year ahead. Since then, we have explored the practice of breathing fully into ourselves with focused breathing exercises. During the last few months, we’ve brought conscious thought to what we were feeling and opening the doors to awareness. We concentrated on our body as we paused and created a moment of space in the gap between the ebb and flow of our breath. We’ve focused on our heartbeat and learned to push our breathing deeper and slower. Since successful breathing practice opens the door to meaningful mindfulness experiences, we are now ready to explore more fully the practice of mindfulness.

  • Take a few slow and deep breaths to begin and let go of everything going on in your head to be in and of this moment. After months of breathing practice, your mind and body know this as calm space.
  • Now do a 5 senses spot check. What do I see? What do I smell? What do I taste? What do I hear? What do I feel? There's no need to dwell on each answer. 
  • To begin with, you may want to set up reminders to do this exercise a few times throughout the day. Consider it a quick check-in with yours truly. It does not need to take very much time unless you choose to linger in this space. 

When was the last time you thought about your senses? Just like breathing practice, the more you bring awareness to your senses, the more finely tuned they will be. The more overall awareness you can bring to the moment, the better you will be at understanding yourself.

Take care,
Michelle

While we explore mindfulness, continue with your morning and evening breathing practice. For me, it’s a commitment I make to myself in conjunction with meditation. While I’ve shared some of my favorite breathing exercises this year with you, there are so many more to play with should you want to investigate further. Personally, I like to keep it simple. I am more apt to do whatever it is I should be doing by keeping that in mind. Happy breathing!


Mindful photo courtesy of dee and tulah monstah

Friday, March 26, 2021

Breathing Practice 5 Double Exhale




Breathing is automatic; an involuntary process that just happens. But breath is life. So what happens when we actually give this amazing process attention? That’s when the magic happens!

I hope you have enjoyed the last month trying out heart focus breathing and going back over the previous breathing practice posts. I understand many of you have had difficulty with breathing exercises in the past. In my instruction, I’ve purposely slowed down the steps by creating building blocks from post to post. I believe this is a much better way to explore not only breathing practice but mindfulness as well as meditation. You’re probably thinking that it’s about time I get back to mindfulness since it is our focus for the year. But guess what? Breathing practice opens the door to a more meaningful mindfulness experience and it also makes it easier for those who would like to explore meditation. Without a doubt, breathing practice is when the magic happens!

So, without further ado, let’s get back to breathing. As with heart focus, this is another of my favorite breathing techniques and is the first one I connected with many years ago. For those in the know, it is a variation of what is known as 2-1 breathing. It’s my go-to calming method for instant clarity and relaxation. And I often use it to fall asleep when my mind decides to do otherwise. It is also an excellent exercise to increase lung function because we are pushing the limits of our normal shallow breathing.

  • Sit or lie down and relax in your favorite place. If you are sitting, rest your hands in your lap or lightly on your knees. If you are lying down, rest your hands on your stomach. Relax your jaw and allow soft eyes.
  • Inhale slowly through your nose and notice the coolness. Then exhale through your nose and notice the warmth. This technique informs your mind that you are tuning into awareness.  Do this three times then begin exhaling through your mouth.
  • With each breath slow the inhale and the exhale down a bit until you reach a comfortable rhythm (lesson 1). Let your cares and thoughts float away by coming back home to your breath and how it feels to breathe.
  • When you are ready add deeper breaths slowly. Be aware of how you feel as your deeper breaths relax your lungs (lesson 2).
  • On your next inhalation, mentally count slowly to 4 or more until you are unable to inhale, pause your breath for a 4 count (lesson 3), then very slowly release and fully exhale pushing out every-last-breath as you continue to count to 8 or more. Then repeat. Your goal here is to be able to double the count on your exhale. I like to push this by one count on each breath until I achieve my maximum (think 8 inhale, 16 exhale).
  • You will find this to be a much deeper method of breathing. Once you reach a comfortable rhythm, you may listen for your heartbeat (lesson 4) whenever you pause. As you play with this exercise, try counting further on the inhale, then try holding your breath for a few extra counts or skip holding it altogether and go right into exhaling. This is your time so make this exercise your own. Reminder - if you are not breathing slow and deep enough you may find yourself lightheaded.
  • Enjoy this exercise for 15 minutes or longer each morning, throughout your day as often as you would like, and before you drift off to sleep.

When you are finished, sit for a few minutes bringing your breath back to your natural rhythm. Don’t forget to whisper to yourself thank you - insert your name. And go ahead and give yourself a big hug while you’re at it!

Looking for instant calming in any stress filled situation? Double exhaling is the key. In just three breaths you will find a space that will bring clarity to the moment. Why three? You will notice it will take you three breaths to open your lungs fully allowing more oxygen to flow in which acts like a secret superpower. You’ll notice the more you bring this exercise to a particular moment, you will naturally find yourself doing it without considering it. Magic! Superhero pose anyone?

Stay safe and take care,
Michelle