Many people ask me what mindfulness is. With the rise in popularity, I have made it my passion to try and explain what it is and why we should practice it. Using some examples of my own life experiences, I plan to dive in and share what mindfulness is and how you can incorporate into your daily life. Mindfulness is a way of looking at things differently and allows a way for you to relate to all of the experiences in your life which may be causing you to suffer.  This, in turn, will allow you to personally transform yourself. When journeying through the highs and lows of life, I have had time to think back and reflect what has got me through, it has been mindfulness.  

We as humans are constantly looking for ways to solve the causes of our suffering and then discover how we can alleviate it. I’ve started introducing mindfulness as a way of finding clarity in moments of chaos. Chaos can be something minor (ie. a traffic jam) or major (ie. the sudden loss of a loved one). 

Sooner or later you end up asking yourself questions such as:  “Why don’t I feel better?”  or “Is there something I can do or something that is prescribed so it makes the pain go away.” No one wants to be on pills for the rest of their life. Though I believe that medication does have a time and place in some cases. As we age (and sometimes throughout your whole life) you can suffer from illness.  Sickness, old age and death usually expose us to pain. Through my research, I have found that pain is the surface tension for the body to alarm our whole self that something is off balance. I have suffered from back pain every year due to softball, yet I know these issues are from the deep subconscious. Even this past week I had a minor spasm, as the week unfolded I knew this was quilt related grief that was surfacing in a weak spot of the body. I hit my own “reset” button which includes deep breathing, meditation, stretching etc. Mindfulness is about hitting the ‘re-set” button. You can hit it as many times as you need in order for you to see the clarity through whatever chaos is unfolding along your path. 

Throughout your life, you can struggle emotionally when you are confronted with adverse circumstances.  When you don’t get what you want in life, if you suffer from great loss or have to deal with things you don’t want to deal with you are constantly seeking ways to feel better. Mindfulness is a 2500-year-old tradition of Buddhist psychology.  Mindfulness has to be experienced directly. Especially if you are teaching or sharing content to others (like myself). I try my best to practice it as part of my daily routine. My partner has even helped me when I suffer in low mental moments on how to begin my day with gratitude. I’m not perfect by any means, I’m human just like everyone else. Sometimes I’m mindful of when I’m the teacher, and when I am a student myself.   Mindfulness comes from within because it is intuitive and pre-conceptual. This is why I always say, mindfulness doesn’t prevent you from facing trials and tribulations in life. Mindfulness is about finding clarity in the midst of chaos. 

With practice over time, you can figure out how to become more and more mindful in your everyday life.  Mindfulness can help even if you are in the middle of significant suffering.  Mindfulness has been compared to a deeply personal journey of discovery. What I love is creating different ways we can be mindful. Yoga or meditation may not be for everyone. That is okay. 

Mindfulness is meant to bring about awareness, attention, and remembering.  Awareness means becoming aware and fully enjoying and appreciating the things around you no matter how small it is.  From enjoy a lovely cup of coffee (one of my favourite things to do) or a wonderful drive along a dirt road. You can find your ways to become mindful at the moment. 

When you are attentive, it means that you are participating in focused awareness.  That means that you are aware of what is occurring within and around you.  When you participate in this “awareness” you can begin to free yourself from mental preoccupation and difficult emotions. Being aware that this may or may not be positive is okay. 

The true purpose of mindfulness is to rid yourself of needless suffering. It’s unfortunately how our minds, sometimes, are our own worst enemies. How do you do this?  You do this by becoming aware and cultivating insights into how your mind works and the meaning of everything in the material world we live in.  You are looking for ways to calm your mind and bring peace to your world. 

Through Mindfulness you are re-training your mind in order to manage it.  Mindfulness allows you to develop other mental qualities including concentration, loving/kindness, effort and becoming more alert. It took me years of practice so that I may understand how I could step back away from the hospital bed, and understand the greater perspective. In that moment of “chaos”, I was able to remember my breathing techniques while waiting for the doctors to come in. I was then able to listen to my intuition and know that my husband was needed in other places other than this realm. 

Mindfulness is not an end-all or doorway to happiness but it can provide you with the foundation you need to build those skills. Which is why I said, it’s not about eliminating the trials and tribulations but finding clarity. I’m not here to pretend, things happen in life. 

By allowing yourself to get rid of habits in your mind that can cause you unhappiness the result will be letting go of anger, envy, greed or other harmful behaviours that serve no purpose. It may take some time. But a constant practice of mindfulness will help you along your path. 

Mindfulness brings about self-acceptance and self-understanding.  We bring upon ourselves unwanted emotional and behavioural problems simply by trying to avoid discomfort and throwing ourselves into some other sort of change-seeking activity. I always consider this kind of training as a guide in helping people find their centre or compassion and self-healing. 

 

It’s never an easy thing to think about. The moment you wake up and realize you and your husband will never share these special moments again.  He died suddlenly over Thanksgiving weekend in 2016, so my first major celebration without him was our anniversary (Dec. 06). Regardless of the date or celebration, the holiday season can be hard for some people who have experienced loss. I dedicate this blog to all of those reading it who have lost someone close this year. From my heart to yours, I hope these words are helpful in those dark moments, and gentle for your souls’ comfort.

There were a few people who I got to know during the first 6 weeks after his death, where their advice came in handy during the year of “firsts”. I kept thinking about my feelings and emotions as the days were building up to the month of December. Some of those included the following: (any of them sound familiar to you?)

  • How can I make it through Christmas? I can barely function! 
  • Where am I to go for the holidays? I just want to be alone. 
  • Who do I shop for? I can’t even make decisions right now for myself, let alone for other people too.

One of my very dear friends had asked me to fly down south to spend time with them in early December of that year. When I got the offer, I couldn’t think of a better time to go then over my anniversary. This gave me time to reflect on those moments and what I would do for the holiday season. A nice little getaway to a familar place, South Carolina. I had attended school there, and this small trip allowed me to be in a safe space to think, reflect, and move forward at the speed I felt comfortable with. These were the ideas I came up with, tried, and succeeded during my first experience of being widowed and surviving the holidays. Even though all grief experiences are entirely different, and I fully respect and believe this, maybe these ideas will help you reflect on the things that will help you get through this Christmas.  

Below are some little gems that served me well when I was going through the month of December. 

  1. Allow yourself to be GENTLE with yourself. This is the most important piece of advice I was given. Emotions are gonna be high and low and you can feel happy and sad all at the same time. I remember sitting in the car, unable to decide  where to go out for dinner when asked my opinion. Life was too foggy for me at that moment and I got anxious very quickly, even to make a simple decision like that. I simple said I wanted a salad, “so you pick the restaurant that would offer a salad for me and I’m okay with whatever”. 
  2.  Listen to yourself and give yourself some space if you need it. Even if you are with loved ones, you maybe needing to leave and have a quiet moment all to yourself. And thats okay! I know many who just want to “tough it out”. I encourage you to acknowledge those moments, because those moments will surface and they will pass. One of the things I shared, even to the children: I was going to give myself a “TIME OUT”. In most families, these two words are known to kids, which made it easier for them to understand. I never really got into any other explanation because that seemed to be okay with everyone. We all need a “time out” every now and then. Pay attention to what your body needs. 
  3.  Look for ways you can be mindful in the moment. As the days led up to Christmas, I began to see Christmas, not as ONE BIG EVENT, but a series of small things. When thinking big, I was getting overwhelmed thinking I cant make it through. Looking at it one moment at a time, helped me focus. Help out with baking cookies, or set the table. These little things are keeping your hands busy. 

For me I focused on Christmas Eve, and a visit with a girlfriend. I came home and watched a holiday movie… Christmas morning came and I poured myself a cup of coffee, then I went for a walk with the pups.  I came home and helped my mom set the table, and did a bit of journal writing. I really started to focus on the little things which helped me get through my first Christmas without my husband. Tears came yes, but in the moment, I minimized additional emotions like anxiety or frustration within the rawness of grief because I kept focusing on the smaller moments of time. 

Know that your loved one is there within you. I remember walking my pups on Christmas day. The sun was shining so bright that morning. I could feel him looking down on me. I remember feeling that I was going to be okay, that I would eventually heal. It would take time yes, but the most important part is to allow yourself to be honest with yourself and others: what you need etc.

Two years later, I am in a new relationship and moving forward with life! I am happy, yet I continue to have moments of grief and think of my late husband daily. I managed to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Making it through the weekend was an accomplishment. I didn’t have to leave – like I did the first year, I couldn’t handle it and ran from the situation. By remembering the mindfulness tactics I have stated, I am able to work through my grief emotions and become present.

Being mindful in the moment helps a great deal moving forward. Creating the new normal and making new memories around the holiday season is part of the process. I wish you a wonderful holiday season.

 

Blessings along your path and with much love – JenCB

 

I am rooted in the stillness of the deep soul…

This past weekend I allowed myself to embark on a nature retreat opportunity. While co-facilitating this experience, I was also able to work on my own self-healing. From fairy lights and candlelit labyrinth walk to a sweat sauna experience, my deep soul was nourished in self-recognition. The trees around helped me see my own roots.

These past two years I have spent time creating my new normal. I have walked the path of grief, accepted it with open arms, and moved slowly to heal my broken heart. This weekend helped me realize that I am now stepping into ‘BEING” my new normal; my new self. I have cracked open the egg and emerging as my new being. I have spent many hours working on myself and I am ready, with an open heart and open arms, to see what the future will bring. As someone just reminded me, we are not human doings, we are human beings!

Being rooted with the trees helped me unplug from the day to day busy-ness of life and to go deep within my own being. How can this happen? How can I feel my deep soul for self reflection and an opportunity for growth?

I encourage you to do the following meditation exercise:

  • Schedule a light walk along the path (leaving the cell phone home or in the car).
  • Allow yourself to focus on your breath, inhaling for 4 counts and exhaling for 4 counts, Each time picture your breath touching your deep soul. Allow yourself to feel the nourishment. 
  • Find a tree. Allow yourself to stand up against it, lean into the tree, feel it’s bark, or (as another option) casually sit up against the tree with your back against its trunk. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Feel that energy coming from the tree and picture your own roots projecting down deep into mother earth. 

This is one exercise you can do as a mindfulness technique. Spending time with yourself can help you nourish your deep soul, which will allow you the opportunity for self-reflection. These moments are important as they help strengthen your inner core so you can be your best self moving forward. 

Blessings along your path.