Are You Listening?

Active listening has been a hot topic lately. Research shows, we only capture about 25% of what people are saying. As everyone gets busier and more stressed out, we have a tendency to be less present in conversations or want to react.  Below are some helpful tools to help us all be better listeners and be more present in conversations….even if we may not agree with the information we are hearing.
Five Tips’s for Active Listening:

1. Pay Attention
Give the speaker your undivided attention, and acknowledge the message. Recognize that non-verbal communication also “speaks” loudly. Texting indicates otherwise. 

  • Look at the speaker directly.
  • Put aside distracting thoughts. (Breathe)
  • Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal!
  • Avoid being distracted by environmental factors. For example, side conversations.
  • “Listen” to the speaker’s body language.

2. Show That You’re Listening – Be attentive

Body language and gestures convey your attention, make them feel comfortable. 

  • *Nod occasionally.
  • Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting.
  • Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, and uh huh.
  • Leave your cell phone at your desk or in your bag.
*Some schools of thought feel differently, and suggest not being expressive as a way to be present and nonjudgmental – I tend to think a combination of the two is effective.
3. Provide Feedback

Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions. Breathe through it even if you don’t agree, wait until the person finishes what they are saying. (See #4 and #5)

  • Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is,” and “Sounds like you are saying,” are great ways to reflect back.
  • Ask questions to clarify certain points. “What do you mean when you say.” “Is this what you mean?”
  • Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically.
  • This is a self check to ensure you’ve understood the information as well.

4. Ditch the Judgment

Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message. By not interrupting, you’ll be able to gain more information.

  • Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions.
  • Don’t interrupt with counter arguments, this is distracting for everyone in the room and disrespectful to the presenter.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions.

5. Respond Respectfully

Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. Attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down add’s nothing (it makes the attacker look like a jerk if anything). 

  • Assert your opinions respectfully.
  • Be open, and honest in your response.
  • Treat the other person in a way that you think he or she would want to be treated.
(Source: mindtools.com)

Getting Back into the Meditation Game

I think that “meditation” is having a moment. Kind of like kale and avocado toast had their moments.  The thing with meditating is that it’s been around forever. Millions of people do it daily all over the world. In some places around the globe, I’m sure people meditate more frequently than they have access to bathing (my opinion). You don’t have to be some spiritual guru, yogi or ultra crunchy enlightened being to do it. Any one can do it. You can be liberal, conservative, living in a mansion, living in the projects – you get the point. You really don’t need statues of the Buddha or Ganesh, or an altar, or a special pillow – I think that’s  western consumerism creeping in to the actual practice. Which is fine, but that stuff isn’t needed.

Meditation can be helpful during stressful times. For me it’s been key to navigating through stressful times. I’ve used it during a career change, family illness, stress at work etc.  However, as the stress eases, I’ve noticed the frequency of mediation tapers off. I’ve gone from meditating daily, sometimes twice daily to eventually a few times a week, to once a week to not at all. Sound familiar? The edginess and the stories creep right back in. Yep, we’re human. Meditation is new for a lot of people. It’s not something a lot of us in Western culture were raised with. So we’re learning. We have a beginners mind. Which is one of the core elements to meditating.

Another aspect of meditating is observing without judgement. For me I’ve observed, that I’m coming up with excuses to not meditate — the “oh I’ll do it later,” I’ve started checking social media in the morning, instantly stimulating my mind, rather than waking up, stretching and meditating for 15-20 minutes. Right, we’ve all done this. It’s escapism and distraction. The key is to not judge or beat yourself up. Otherwise, that puts major road blocks in the way of actually get back in the meditation game. Been there done that.

For me, the key has been to find really easy ways to integrate it back into my life. Like using the snooze button as an automatic timer.  My snooze is nine minutes. Those nine minutes are pure uninterrupted deep breaths, noticing the sounds in the morning, my cat purring, dog snoring, checking in with myself, being still — by the time the snooze button goes off, I take a moment to express gratitude for the practice and always know my breath is my anchor. Ironically enough, as much as I want to stay in bed and snuggle with my pets and husband, I feel more awake than hitting the snooze button 3 more times.

So, if you’re trying to get into meditating, have been doing it for a long time and fell off the wagon. Use that phone of yours as a handy tool. Set the timer or use your snooze button when the alarm goes off, sit and breathe for a few minutes. You’ll feel clearer and start to notice you’re becoming more present vs. focusing on other things.

 

Trusting the Process

I’ve been feeling creatively stifled for 2 months.

Earlier in the year, I had a wave of inspiration to write. To capture recipes, stories and insight into living a more balanced, peaceful life.

It stopped – came to a halt. Rather than generating ideas or content, I started to look inward. I started to practice healing techniques, meditation, words of wisdom and recipes on myself. I became less social and savored quiet time. I felt this was right for me and trusted the process – I also felt frustrated. But I asked myself, if that was really my feeling of frustration or someone else’s?

I’ve been programmed to hurry up, to keep generating and I’m being lazy if I stop. I’ve been programmed to not be patient with myself. None of this is true. Yet, as I trust my intuition and inner voice to take some time to embrace life — the outside “noise” pipes up causing me to second guess myself.

I think many others feel this way too.

Part of the process in enjoying life is to stop, absorb it and practice the lessons we learn along the way. It’s important to embrace what we’ve learned and what we’re passionate about. If we’re always doing, moving on to the next best thing, we can’t savor it. So many times, we reach our goal or learn a new thing and we’re on to the next. I really admire people who practice what they’ve learned – there is a sense of calmness and expertise.

If I push myself to be generating content or force myself to learn more, it turns into information overload or a power surge, nothing productive happens and in fact, it becomes counter productive. There is a lack of passion, it’s a half baked idea and it’s obvious. Wheels keep spinning, energy is spent, I exhaust myself and go nowhere.

Looking within helps.

When the feeling of impatience comes up with myself, I note it, pause, start to look with in and unpack the way I feel. I try to identify where that feeling is within my body and visualize it. I’ve learned to be kinder to myself and visualize what being kind to myself looks like. Ironically enough, the kinder I am to myself, and more patient I am – the more creative and productive I become.

The take away is, trust the process, look within and be patient. We all have these moments from time to time. It’s part of life. We are human, not machines. 

Do You Really Like Waking Up Grumpy?

cropped-melissa-cover-e1458245750766.jpgDo you find yourself waking up in a bad mood on a daily basis? Are you making excuses such as  – “I’m a night owl” or “I feel better after I take a shower?” Have your housemates, spouse or family commented commented on this? Do you even like waking up every day in a bad mood? Well you’re not alone. It seems with all the stress in our lives, due to more information, striving, paying bills, getting good grades and a million other things, we can get bummed out pretty easily.

There was awhile I was waking up super bummed, day in and day out, after awhile, I was over it. I noticed waking up depressed or in a bad mood really set the stage for the day and didn’t make it any easier. The outside stressors were controlling my life, I didn’t want that. Not to mention, how could I possibly achieve my dreams by starting off the day with a bad attitude? I was painting a negative picture, projecting and that was keeping me further away from my dreams. So, I decided to take some action and turn it around.

Here’s the thing, you don’t have to wake up grumpy every single day. Plus — if you become more aware of your morning attitude, those who live with you won’t have to work overtime to work around it. You probably didn’t think about how your bad mood affects the people who interact with you in the morning. It does. The energy projects.

What if – instead of waking up wanting to hide under a rock and mope around like Grumplestilskins – you wake up, keep your eyes closed and breathe in some stillness around you? Just allowed yourself to breathe. Breathe. BREATHE. Then what if you allowed yourself to feel that wonderful calm morning air? And experience the cool, still morning light, then listen to the symphony outside your window of birds chirping or if you live in an urban environment, the buzz of the city? That doesn’t sound so bad. It’s calming and very nurtuing. As you really sense it and allow it to be just as it is, start to think about everything you are grateful for, that bed you’re sleeping in, the covers that are covering you, your pillow, your ability to breathe, the fact that you are able to wake up and experience the day and so on. Say some nice things to yourself. Then, set an intention for the day. What ever you do – DON’T LOOK AT YOUR PHONE. Looking at your phone, automatically induces stress hormones. You’re trying to mitigate your stress in this morning routine and stress is the reason you’re waking up in a bad mood.

We’re human and I do not discredit things that come up in life that may cause you to wake up totally bummed out. Especially as we get older, the stressors can get super intense. Trust me — I’m talking from experience here. There are plenty, PLENTY of things that have caused me and cause me to wake up bummed. I sit with it, embrace it, but then I start to focus on gratitude and all the things in my life that are going well.

This is a small way of finding peace and balance in your life. It’s also an opportunity to bring awareness into your life. Think about it, how would you feel if your sig other or housemates were waking up in a foul mood day in and day out? You would dread it. It’s an extra layer no one really wants to deal with in the morning. Spending time with yourself and cultivating a joyful, grateful feeling is a way to minimize the stressful clutter in your life.

 

 

 

Turn Up the Volume – Retrograde’s are Amplified Lessons

MoonsetWhen I first learned about Mercury in retrograde, I would be so anxious leading up to it, getting all thrown off during it and dreading the next one. Truth of the matter is, at some point, every single planet goes into retrograde and it’s part of that amazing Universe we live in.

Long story short, I decided, it’s pointless having all that build up of anxiety and started to look at each major retrograde as an opportunity to learn something about myself and my environment. Each retrograde has a theme or lesson that is amplified. Kind of like, turning up the volume on a favorite song, so you can really feel it. If we look at retrogrades as the Universes way of teaching us awareness, we can create the space and to do a little self reflection.  Start to ask yourself, “How can I apply that lesson into my daily life?”

Some examples of the lessons tied to retrograde include the most recent Mars in retrograde, focused on communication and the value of being mindful or selective with how we communicate with others — why is it only during that timeframe we should focus on that, shouldn’t we focus on that in our day to day lives? When Mercury goes into retrograde, technology issues can come up, often creating agitation — the lesson there is patience and acceptance.

It takes 21 days to form a habit, retrogrades vary depending on planet size, but their retrograde period is often a couple of weeks, which is long enough to reflect, learn, and apply the lessons each retrograde is teaching us into our lives. Cultivating awareness is key to becoming more compassionate and conscious.  When we start to self-reflect we can look at how our actions and non-actions affect others and the environment around us.  So the next time a planet is in retrograde, as tempting as it may be, don’t hide under the covers, turn up the volume and really experience the lesson the Universe is teaching!

 

Easy 7th Chakra Meditation for Letting Go

IMG_6352The Crown Chakra or 7th Chakra is located at the very top of your head – which is the universal connection point. Since energy is everything, we are connected at a basic level rooted in nature. This is the center for peace, joy and happiness. The 7th Chakra is the point at which we give and receive energy. Any tension we want to let go, we let out from the top of our head. According to Chakra Anatomy, it’s the point where the finite (body) and infinite (soul) meet. A deep purple is associated with the Crown Chakra, it’s the place that allows us to connect with our more spiritual side.

The 7th Chakra reminds us to have gratitude for this life, to let the ego go and accept that we are all interconnected. As we move through life and through day to day activities, we sometimes take for granted all this life has to offer. We get caught up in the comparison game and the “should’s”- we forget we’re all connected because the “noise” around us is canceling out who we truly are. We forget we’re here for a bigger purpose, which can get overshadowed by the material and superficial status quo that have somehow defined our “happiness.”

An easy way to re-engage with your Crown Chakra, is to sit quietly for 7 minutes, with your eyes closed, no cell phone or other distractions. Breathe deeply seven times, to calm your mind and settle in. Imagine a calming, nurturing white light coming down from the sky, starting at the crown of your head, and running all through your body. Notice how good this light feels. Allow the calming feeling of the light to flow through your body. Repeat the following mantra to yourself, “I trust my intuition, I allow myself to be present, I love and accept myself, I am at peace.”

When nurturing your 7th Chakra, repeat the mantra to yourself throughout the day. Reminding yourself to release any negative energy that is not yours.

What we need to remember is that we’re all part of the bigger story line. We have to have faith and trust that the Universe will guide us to exactly where we set our intentions. What you have to remember is, we all get there at different times. Life is about ebb and flow, yin and yang, finite and infinite, death and life. Once we liberate ourselves from falling into the trap of the comparison game and the “should’s” we open our life up to infinite possibilities. We are human and are not free from stress, struggle, sadness, emotions – however, once we liberate ourselves, become more present and live our own authentic way of living we can truly experience those emotions, let them sit with us and experience the process of life from a clearer lens.

 

Easy 6th Chakra Meditation for Intuition

IMG_3271Located in between our eyebrows, the 6th Chakra is our intuitive center. It’s often referred to as our 3rd Eye. It represents clarity, imagination, intuition, and the ability to be present. A deep indigo blue characterizes the 6th Chakra, blue is calming and represents a deeper knowing. Indigo blue, is symbolic for the night, connecting us with our inner thoughts and higher self. At night when we sleep and are in a relaxed state, we are able to connect with that deeper part of our self, which during waking hours we are unable to.

Whenever we have an “aha” moment, our 6th Chakra is leading us to transformation, whether it be big or small – we’re realizing something and making a change. The third eye is where we get our “gut feeling.” As we nurture the 6th Chakra, we quiet our mind, settle our bodies so we can truly listen to our intuition and become aware of that “gut feeling.”

From time to time, it can be challenging to listen to our intuition, because stories come up. As I’ve said before, we’re in an information overload, which is essentially cluttering our minds. Often, those stories overshadow our intuition, and we listen to the stories thinking it is our intuition. As you begin to nurture your 6th Chakra, you’ll be able to tell the difference between the stories and your true voice, bringing you clarity. We’re then able to connect with that deeper part of our self, during waking hours. Meditate on the 6th chakra, so you can trust yourself, and put yourself in the drivers seat of your life.

Set your timer for at least 7 minutes, close your eyes, take a six deep breaths, and begin to relax. Focus your attention on the area in between your eyebrows. Imagine a deep blue light, calming and easing any tension in that area. Notice how good the peaceful, tranquil, blue light feels. Repeat the following mantra to yourself, however many times you feel necessary, “I have clarity in my thoughts, I trust my intuition, I am present in every moment, and my imagination is blissful.” When you’re finished with the meditation, spend a few minutes and savor that relaxing feeling.

You can always repeat the mantra throughout the day as a reminder, however many times you feel is necessary – there are no rules.

Easy 5th Chakra Meditation for Communication

IMG_3641Located at our throat, the 5th chakra is our communication center. We communicate all the time, whether it be verbally, via e-mail, text, phone – you name it. Since we are always communicating, we need to nurture the throat chakra. The color associated with the throat chakra is blue – a soothing, cool blue. Blue is associated with heaven and the divine. Blue has a calming, healing, peaceful effect and reminds us to slow down and take a step back.

We’re so busy and constantly being filled with information overload as a result, we’re always doing, communicating, striving– when we think of blue, let it trigger you to slooooooooow down and take a step back. Before we get sick, we feel it in our throat, which is the first sign self-care is needed. We often keep pushing ourselves, because the demands we’ve put on ourselves require us to do so. We end up getting more stressed out, which affects our ability to communicate from a place of love. When we get stressed out we communicate based on the feelings of stress, therefore what we say can come across as rude and offensive. Nurturing your throat chakra allows you to be in tune with your communication center.

Alternately, when we are shy, or feeling insecure, we often hold back from communicating – because that good ol’ story of not being enough, surfaces and gets in the way of full expressing ourselves. What happens is we psych ourselves out from really finding the power within to clearly express ourselves and get that important message out there.

Follow this easy 5th chakra meditation to help you nurture the throat chakra and find your ability to express yourself from a place of love. Set the timer on your phone for at least 7 minutes and settle in:

Close your eyes, breath deeply for 5 breaths, imagine a cool, soothing blue light centered on your throat, notice how good it feels when the blue light cools your vocal chords, continuing to breath, repeat to yourself, “I communicate from a loving place, I allow myself to express myself freely and easily, I allow myself to speak the truth, and I communicate with clarity and ease,” repeat this however times you feel necessary.

Alternately, repeat these affirmations throughout the day, take a deep breath and imagine the blue light at your throat before you communicate.

The throat chakra relates to the throat, esophagus, thyroid gland, neck, cervical spine, mouth, teeth, and jaw. When nurturing the throat chakra, eat foods that are blue in color, such as blueberries. Eat foods that naturally require little effort to harvest when ripe, such as apples, oranges and peaches. Drink herbal teas, such as chamomile, ginger tea and peppermint tea, which are soothing and calming.

Remember, you owe it to yourself to speak the truth from a place of love.

Easy 4th Chakra Meditation for Love

IMG_3636Spend some time today meditating on your fourth chakra (heart). The 4th chakra is all about LOVE.

When you feel love, you can’t feel fear. Fourth chakra is about compassion – starting with being compassionate with yourself and others. When focusing on the heart chakra, visualize a green, the color of leaves, grass and nature. Allow yourself to feel love and compassion. Forgive yourself and create new space to love yourself.

Here is a quick meditation you can do – feel free to set the timer on your phone starting for 7 minutes: Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, relax your shoulders, feel the tightness dissolve. Begin to focus your breath in your chest area, imagine a calming green light in your chest area. Say the following mantra to yourself: “I am free to expand and accept myself. I radiate peace and love. I am open to giving and receiving love.” Repeat as often or as little as you like.

You can also remind yourself of this throughout the day. I repeat mantras while out on walks. The fresh air helps me clear out all that old stuff that gets in the way of allowing love to rule. The steady rhythm of my pace & breath helps the manta flow. Afterwards I feel pretty blissed out.

How do you feel after you do a heart chakra meditation? 

What Happens When You Unplug for 20 Minutes?

IMG_5400 (1)I think the word “meditation” gets mixed reviews –  from sounding like a bigger deal than it really is, to some “crunchy” “new ” thing people do, to being reserved for Buddhists and Hindu’s.  Trust me, I used to think the same thing.

So what is it? There are a million articles, books, blogs, apps out there.

Merriam-Webster defines it as:

meditation

noun med·i·ta·tion \ˌme-də-ˈtā-shən\

Simple Definition of meditation

  • : the act or process of spending time in quiet thought : the act or process of meditating

  • : an expression of a person’s thoughts on something

To simply put it, meditation is all about spending time with yourself and being in the present moment and unplugging. It’s about spending a few minutes away from technology and our ever looming list of things to do. Being in the present moment means being aware. Aware of your body, the way it feels at that very moment.

When you meditate sometimes your mind will be really busy, other times like a lake. We close our eyes in meditation, because it’s easier to look inward when they are closed. We’re less likely to get distracted. Things will come up when you meditate – say hello to it. Think of those things as an old friend.  That old friend can be, anxiety or that familiar story from the day before that stresses you out.

Meditation is about noticing what happens to your body, when your old friend anxiety shows up or that story is told. Often times, we’re so busy we don’t allow ourselves to have 20 minutes of stillness. We’re so busy, the feelings associated with anxiety and stress go unnoticed until we’re sick or just so taxed we have to stop.  As we start to notice the old friend anxiety or the familiar story and say hello to them, they become less painful and less of a burden. Whatever story may come up, I now look at it as a story, it makes it easier to be in my own skin.

The whole point of meditation is to connect with yourself in a non-striving, non-judge mental way.

Why is meditation hard for you? What have you started to notice as you meditate?