Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

Connecting with Each Other

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Our family had the most wonderful Sunday afternoon together recently. We headed out in the late afternoon and brought some dinner to one of our favorite parks. We spread out a blanket and some chairs and feasted on some great food. Afterward, we continued one of my favorite family traditions: playing croquet. We started this years ago when the kids were younger, and often we set aside time on a special day  to go to the park and play croquet together.

Instead of worrying about catching the latest show on TV, we focused on each other and, of course, trying to hit a little ball through wire arches, which often results in a lot of laughter. This confirms one of my suspicions: Getting out of the house is one of the best ways to connect with my kids. Gone are the distractions of phones, TV, and computer, enticing us to while away too much time. Instead, we can focus on each other. Being somewhere else just seems to free us up to connect with each other better.

One family we know takes their kids to the beach in the late afternoon every Tuesday night during the summer. They do this without fail, walking on the beach, eating a relaxed meal, jumping in the water, connecting with each other. My friend says that this is her favorite activity, because it is low-key, relaxed, and something they can all do together.

Now if going to the beach or the park won’t work for you because of either time or distance, maybe a walk around the neighborhood would be a better fit for your family. The other night we went for a walk after dinner and ended up finding a wonderful area with lots of purple flowers blooming right under our noses. Had we not ventured down this particular street, we would have missed the beautiful colors and, most importantly, the beauty of our conversations. And what were we missing at home? Absolutely nothing.

Today’s children are losing touch with the natural world. Rarely do they feel free to wander in woods, climb trees, or build forts and tree houses anymore. There are too many safety issues, rules and regulations, and the urban destruction of green and growing places. Children are meeting nature ”virtually” on the Internet and television instead of running outside and encountering the world sensually for themselves. One fourth-grader told the author, ”I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”

When children (and adults) are separated from nature, their health and well-being suffer. So do their souls. Louv offers studies that reveal how much playing in nature can stimulate creativity, imagination, vitality, and joy in our children. Schools that allow outdoor play in natural places find increased learning skills and greater concentration in their students. Parents of attention-deficit children often find time in nature to be as healing and as helpful as any drug. And yet our children are spending most of their time indoors, and when they do venture outside, it is only in controlled settings like team sports — not the same as letting children explore and experience nature for themselves. Louv has written a book that is both a blessing and a challenge. Please, please, read this book, and give it to every parent and teacher you know. It feels profoundly important — essential — for the health and well-being of our children and for the survival of the planet we call home.

Review by Lucinda Herring

The Show Must Go On?

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

‘Never let ‘em see you sweat!’ was something I heard every day when I was in acting school. This phrase was so embedded in my psyche that when a heavy wooden ladder fell on my foot during a premature blackout on stage last year, I stifled a scream and ‘acted’ as if I wasn’t in the searing pain that made it very difficult to scurry offstage for the next scene change. After all, ‘the show must go on!’

Thinking the pain would go away on its own, I lived with an aching foot for months. Instead of getting better, though, the pain progressed to the point where I began developing a slight limp. After finally seeing an M.D., I learned that I had fractured my foot that night on stage, and because I never had it treated, I now have post-traumatic arthritis that will most likely be with me the rest of my life. Hey, I always thought ‘time heals all wounds.’ No?

I have a friend whose father abandoned her when she was 5. In the 25 years I’ve known her, she’s only mentioned it once, and when she brought it up, she acted as if it was no biggee. Nobody ever sees her sweat, by golly. Yet while her ’show’ goes on, I can’t help but visualize the emotional arthritis and stiffness setting in like protective walls around her heart. While the results of my untreated ‘wound’ can be seen in my walk, hers are seen in troubled relationships and compromised health.

When it comes to wounds both physical and emotional, oh, how we want that quick fix, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned this past year, it’s that the ’show’ doesn’t go on just because we stifle our screams and act like everything’s okay. Conversely, it seems that if we don’t grieve and don’t seek help when we’re hurting, we end up carrying around an unhealed wound that can be just as crippling as any fracture in our physical body, oftentimes leading to secondary complications down the road.

My hope is that each of us can identify what we’re truly feeling and express it–that we’ll uncover what needs to be uncovered, grieve what needs to be grieved, heal what needs to be healed, and move on to a new day! While we don’t need to let everybody see us ’sweat,’ may we all be blessed with those certain dear souls with whom we can share our pain. Wishing us all a year of deep healing and better times!

Let someone who needs comforting know how much you care with this lovely heart-shaped pillow designed to bring comfort and healing.

When you’re grieving a great loss, it can be such an isolating time. You’re too exhausted to read, you feel as if you’re too much of a killjoy to be around friends, and even the thought of leaving the house drains you. Still, you crave comfort and long to feel that someone knows what you’re going through.

That’s the beauty of giving or receiving one of these Healing Hearts, which are designed to bring emotional comfort and healing. The weight of the heart when placed on the chest is comforting, like the hand of a loved one placed on the heart to soothe or encourage. Made of sumptuously soft fabric with a delicately lavender-scented stuffing, they’re just as soothing to hold as to look at.

Years ago when we carried these, we heard from so many of you. One was the mother of a young man who died of AIDS who told us that her son kept the Heart with him to the end. His mother now has the Heart with her. Women have carried their hearts into surgery; sisters have mailed the heart back and forth across country whenever one needed it the most. I can’t think of a more comforting or tasteful gift to let a loved one know you care. (Semi-sheer crushed polyester with a lustrous sheen.)

Attack of the Robot Gardeners

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

(Or The Cherry Tomato-nator)

While I’m hoping to be proven spectacularly wrong here, I can’t help but hope a gardening article I recently encountered is not one of those deeply ironic signs of some ridiculously unnecessary science fiction-themed Armageddon heading our way.

I, robot — and gardener: MIT droids tend plants

By MELISSA TRUJILLO, Associated Press Writer - Fri Apr 10, 2009 11:25AM EDT

These gardeners would have green thumbs — if they had thumbs.

A class of undergraduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has created a set of robots that can water, harvest and pollinate cherry tomato plants.

The small, $3,000 robots, which move through the garden on a base similar to a Roomba vacuum, are networked to the plants. When the plants indicate they need water, the robots can sprinkle them from a water pump. When the plants have a ripe tomato, the machines use their arms to pluck the fruit.

Even though robots have made few inroads into agriculture, these robots’ creators hope their technology eventually could be used by farmers to reduce the natural resources and the difficult labor needed to tend crops.

Last spring, Daniela Rus, a professor who runs the Distributed Robotics Lab at MIT, began a two-part course. In the first semester, the students learned the basics of creating and using robots. By the fall, the students were ready to have robots tackle a real-world problem. Rus and Nikolaus Correll, a postdoctoral assistant in Rus’ lab, challenged the students to create a “distributed robotic garden” by the end of the semester.

(more…)

Fully Engaging With Our Children

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Janet's daughter and grandson

When I was recently at the grocery store with my 5-year-old grandson, the clerk asked if I’d like help out to the car. But, umm, all I had bought was a carton of eggs. I laughed and said that while I may be a grandma, I’m not too feeble to carry a dozen eggs to my car! The dour clerk told me they had to ask everyone that question or they’d ‘get in trouble.’ She then smiled and said, ‘Have a nice day!’ (You just know she’d also be in hot water if she didn’t say that!)

As a grandmother who wants her grandson to grow up to be a common-sense kind of guy and an independent thinker, I felt I had been handed one of those ‘teachable moments.’ For the life of me, though, I was at a loss about what to say! I so wanted to instill in him the value of thinking something through rather than just doing what you’re told because somebody said you’d ‘get in trouble’ if you didn’t. Suddenly I felt like a loser grandma because I didn’t have a clue how to get this principle across to a 5-year-old. Yikes. Why do we always put such pressure on ourselves to suddenly transform into Ward Cleaver at times like this? Why do I always feel as if I should have pearls of wisdom dropping from my mouth around my grandson? But mindful parenting (and grandparenting!) isn’t scripted any more than mindful customer service is (take note, big grocery store chain!), and it usually isn’t what we ’say’ to children that makes the lasting impression. It’s all the gloriously messy and rich and colorful stuff in between. It’s about fully engaging with our children on a daily basis, being in the moment rather than going by a script as we explore critters in the backyard, learn a new board game, or try a ‘yucky’ new food.

Years ago, my mother-in-law cautioned me not to parent too much ‘by the book,’ and she was right. In retrospect, when I think of the things I did right as a parent, it was allowing my daughter to explore at her own pace, and many times that meant refraining from pressing for that ‘teachable moment.’ Sometimes in our eagerness to be the ‘best’ parents we can be, we end up overstimulating our children with unduly long lectures and the latest ‘educational’ toys, bombarding them with so many activities and so much stuff that their little brains and souls go on overload.

With this new year, my wish is that we remember the importance of nurturing our child’s natural curiosity and thought processes, and that we cut ourselves some slack regarding the ways we go about doing it. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children (and ourselves) is simply to be there for them with open ears and hearts, lovingly listening, patiently guiding. Call it mindful parenting or just plain common sense; you can’t go wrong with this approach.

Mindful Movements - Thich Nhat Hanh

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) teaches mindfulness, meditation and awareness, gratefulness, and knowing how to live life fully in the present moment. His simple approach works well with both children and adults. This wonderful little book is perfect for families. The illustrations and simple language will appeal to children, yet the movements are profound and deeply effective for all ages, and we can do them the rest of our lives.

In the included DVD (video clip below), the exercises are taught outside beneath a beautiful willow tree by one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s students and then re-led by Thay himself. ”The practice of the Mindful Movements is to bring awareness and enjoyment into our bodies and into the movements we make with our bodies. Mindful Movements are very simple but very deep. They have been taught and practiced in Plum Village (Thay’s retreat center in France) for over two decades.”

I have been doing the Mindful Movements every morning and can feel how much my body, mind, and spirit are benefiting. I especially like the emphasis on breath. ”We often assume breathing is a natural skill. But breathing is a miracle. Being aware of our breath not only helps us manage the difficulties in everyday life, it also helps develop our wisdom and compassion.”

I plan to give this book to all my favorite people. A portion of the proceeds goes to nonprofit projects in Vietnam, and purchasing the book supports Thich Nhat Hanh in continuing to bring his profound gifts to the world.

Enjoy this video clip from Thick Nhat Hanh’s DVD Mindful Movements:

A Worthwhile New Year’s Resolution

Monday, December 29th, 2008
(Click image to purchase these Lead-Free Crystal Champagne Glasses)

(Click image to purchase these Lead-Free Crystal Champagne Glasses)

I’d been standing in line at the grocery store for what felt like longer than a flight to Thailand. The minute another woman got in line behind me, a clerk appeared at the next register saying, “I can take the next person in line!” (You probably know where this is going, right?) Yes, the woman behind me hopped over to that register faster than I could say “Huh??”, and by the time she pulled out of the parking lot with her groceries, I was still waiting in my line, and a line had now formed at the other register as well. When I was finally greeted by the clerk’s “Find everything you need today?” I was imagining that woman already at home knitting in front of the fire. Arrgh.

Whenever I get together with friends these days, our conversation generally includes at least one horror story about a recent brush with rudeness, and I’m not talking about misplaced salad forks. Of course, compared to the growing risk of a human flu pandemic, a national etiquette crisis may seem like pretty small stuff, but I’m obviously not alone in my concern. I read in the “U.S. News & World Report” that nine out of ten Americans think that rudeness is not only a serious problem that’s getting worse, but it is also creating more opportunities for violence. (more…)