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mindful minute

We are freed and imprisoned by our thoughts

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Mark Fontaine

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A weird dual form of waking consciousness has emerged in our modern world. Many of us struggle nightly with poor sleep and we become chronically tired. At the same time, the excessive stimulation the wired world drives us to feel wired ourselves.

 This is rapidly becoming the new normal. We see wired people everywhere– friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. Insomnia is becoming endemic.

 Many people with insomnia report feeling energized during the day. Yet, they also complain of exhaustion.

 Insomnia is associated with hyperarousal. Do you lead an excessive, turbo-charged life? Racing brain? Rapid heart rate? Feeling flushed or hot? The result is dysfunctional hormonal rhythms which serve to impair sleep and hide daytime sleepiness.

 Hyperarousal pulls us one direction and sleepiness and fatigue pull us in the other. We are stretched by equal forces and going nowhere. Depressing, isn’t it?  We are stuck.

 Modern life overwhelms us with information and entertainment options. It is easy to become addicted to activity and productivity. Walking fast? Talking fast? Speeding?

 We live in a world of neverending motion. Slowing and stopping is discouraged. Has your world world lost its sense of rhythm? The natural world is rhythmic, it is tempered by rest. Things come and they go. Seasons change. Tides rise and fall. The sun rises and sets.

 Have you forgotten how to rest? Have you lost your brakes?  The solution may not be a grand vacation and certainly not inebriation or tranquilizers. As ordinary or boring as it may seem, the prescription for managing the hyperarousal epidemic is learning and regularly practicing true rest.

 Slow down and then stop. Come to a complete stop. True rest is not simply the absence of activity. Cultive a state of serenity. Meditation? Yoga? Deep breathing exercises? Long slow walks in the woods?

 Slow the body and mind. Learn to modulate the velocity of your waking life. Build a bridge to quality sleep and dreams.

 In a world gone crazy with motion, seek to step out of the herd mentality. March to a different drum. Find peace in the rhythms of nature and rediscover your own true nature.

 

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 Written By: Mark Fontaine

You know who they are. They surround you. People who drain all the positive energy out of you. They have an insatiable hunger for negativity. They leave drained, exhausted, and unhappy people in their wake. They can make our lives miserable if we don’t have strategies to deal with them.

How can you spot these people?

They are intrusive.

They don’t respect personal boundaries.

They are overly critical of everyone and everything.

They are chronic whiners and complainers.

They are argumentative.

They are demanding.

They have a sense of entitlement.

They are unable to accept personal responsibility.

Don’t allow their problems to become yours. Here are 3 strategies to slay Energy Vampires.

 1. Identify them early. Their quirkiness may intrigue you. Their gossip, hard luck stories and dramatics may entertain you. Pay close attention to your instincts and your physical reactions after your encounters. Are you experiencing muscle tension, loss of energy, headaches, irritability, sadness, or negativity?

2. Limit your contact.  Now that you’ve identified them, limit the amount of time you allow them. Set firm limits. You should start off conversations with, “I only have a few minutes before I have to [fill in the blank].”  Once the time has expired, disengage.

3. Don’t get pulled in.  You may be tempted to fix their problems. You won’t. Negative people will resist your help or create new crises in their lives. Resist offering solutions. You may choose to say, ” I’m confident that you’ll be able to find the solution on your own”.  Excuse yourself and walk away. Be firm in a gentle and empathic way.

Positive energy is a precious commodity. It’s not something you should willingly give up. You can choose to keep a positive attitude by surrounding yourself with positive people who leave you feeling upbeat and energized.

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No matter how much we want to be different, wherever we go, there we are. You can’t get away from yourself. Go on vacation — there you are.  Wherever we are, we are looking out of the same pair of eyes. Whatever we do, it’s still the same person doing it.

In the attempt to get away from being with ourselves, we search for something or someone to make us happy. We’re looking for greener grass. But in every relationship and every situation, there we are again.

Our mind is like a drunken monkey jumping from fear to drama. We are trapped in endless rounds of worries and concerns. “What if this happens… what if I fail..?

We believe happiness is somewhere other than here, and spend too much time looking for it, without realizing it is already with us. Look back and there is pain and regret. Look forward and there is uncertainty.

Just stop. Nothing else is going on. Nothing else is happening. There’s nowhere to go.

What a relief to realize that nothing more is required of us than to just be fully here now without expectations or longings.

Step into sanity and greater connectedness. Being in the moment means having the courage to know we will never be someone other than who we are and who we are is absolutely wonderful. The grass is vividly green exactly where we are.

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Written by Mark Fontaine

We’ve all felt anger.  It can range from a minor annoyance to full-fledged rage.  Anger is a normal human emotion.  When it spirals out of control,  it can lead to problems at work and with personal relationships. Uncontrolled anger can leave you at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.

Are You Too Angry?

If you have a problem with anger, you probably already know it.  Do you find yourself acting in ways that seem out of control and frightening?

Some People Are More Angry Than Others

Not everyone shows their anger in a loud spectacular manner.  Sometimes they are just chronically irritable and grumpy. They don’t curse and throw things.  They sulk, or get physically ill.

Those who are easily angered have a low tolerance for frustration.  They feel that they should not have to be subjected to inconvenience or annoyance.

Is It Good To “Blow Off Steam?”

People have used this myth as a license to hurt others. Blowing off steam actually escalates anger and aggression.  It is preferable to find out what it is that triggers your anger and then to develop strategies to keep those triggers from pushing you to an outburst.

Anger shows us something vital about our emotional life.  It is an indicator: something needs attention and investigation.

The Nature of Anger

Like other emotions, anger is accompanied by physiological and biological changes.  When you are angry, your heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline levels rise.

Anger can be caused by external and internal events. You could be angry at a specific person or event.  Or, your anger could be caused by worrying about personal problems and bad memories.

Expressing Anger

It is instinctive to express anger aggressively. Anger is an adaptive response to threats.  It inspires us to fight and to defend ourselves. It is part of our survival instinct.

Should I Suppress My Anger? 

Should I hold it in?  If you choose to do this, anger will eat away at your insides. Your ability to express finer emotions will be compromised and you will suffer with ill health. Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. The danger of not allowing outward expression is that your anger can turn inward upon yourself.

Unexpressed anger can lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behaviour.  The passive-aggressive individual gets back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on.  These people seem cynical and hostile. They put others down and criticize everything. They aren’t likely to have successful relationships.

Expressing Your Anger

Say what you are feeling. Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive—not aggressive manner can be a healthy way to express anger.  Be mindful to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met.  Act assertively without being pushy or demanding.

Relaxation Techniques

Calm your anger using relaxation and meditation techniques. These methods can work wonders if you commit to learning them and practice them regularly. These techniques can teach you a lot about yourself. They can help to eliminate the source of your anger.  You can calm down from within. This means not just controlling your outward behavior, but also controlling your internal responses, taking steps to lower your heart rate, calm yourself down, and let the feelings subside.

Some simple steps you can try:

1. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm.

2. Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as “relax,” “take it easy.”

3. Visualize a relaxing experience from your imagination.

Transform your anger.  Use the power of anger to fuel positive change. Ask the question: “why am I angry?”.  Explore the question  until you arrive at a deeper understanding.

Cognitive Restructuring

Change the way you think.

Be careful of words like “never” or “always” when talking about yourself or someone else.  These words alienate and humiliate people who might otherwise be willing to work with you on a solution.

Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything and it won’t make you feel better.  It may make you feel worse.

Anger, even when it’s justified, can become irrational.  Use logic on yourself. The world is “not out to get you”.  Why do you feel a need to demand fairness, appreciation, agreement and a willingness of others to do things your way?

Problem Solving

There is a western cultural belief that every problem has a solution.  This isn’t always the case. Be patient if an answer doesn’t come right away.

Better Communication

When we are angry we tend to  jump to and act on inaccurate assumptions.  One should be mindful to slow down and think through their responses. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying and take your time before answering.

It’s natural to get defensive when you’re criticized. Seek to understand the message that’s underlying the words.  Question the speaker to get clarification.

Changing Your Environment

Sometimes it’s our surroundings that give us cause for irritation. Give yourself a break. Make sure you have some personal time scheduled throughout the day.

In The End

You can’t eliminate anger. Life is filled with frustration, pain, loss, and the unpredictable actions of others. That you can not change, but you can change the way you let events affect you. If you have an understanding of the pitfalls of anger, you will be on the road to happiness.

 

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Breathing Meditations

Written by Mark Fontaine

The purpose of breathing meditation is to calm the mind and develop inner peace.

A Simple Breathing Meditation

First, stop distractions and make your mind clearer and more lucid.  Choose a quiet place to sit in a comfortable position. You can sit in the traditional cross-legged posture or in any other comfortable position.  You can even sit in a chair.  Keep your back straight and this will prevent your mind from becoming sleepy.

Sit with your eyes partially closed and turn your attention to breathing.  Breathe naturally, through the nose.  Become aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and exits the lungs and nose. Try to concentrate on that sensation to the exclusion of everything else.

Your mind may be very busy.  You may even feel that the meditation is making it busier.  Remember, you are simply becoming more aware of how busy your mind usually is.  Resist the temptation to follow different thoughts as they appear.  Remain focused only upon the sensation of breathing.  When your mind wanders, immediately return it to breathing.  Repeat this cycle as many times as needed until you have settled on breathing.

Benefits of Meditation

If you are patient, your distracting thoughts will subside.   You will experience inner peace and relaxation.  Your mind will feel lucid and spacious.  You will feel refreshed.  You will likely stay with this state of mental calm for a while.

Although breathing meditation is only a beginning stage of meditation, it can be powerful.  You will be excited to experience inner peace and contentment just by controlling your mind.  You will learn that you don’t have to depend upon external conditions or medications.

Much of our ill health is caused by stress.  Ten or fifteen minutes of breathing meditation each day will reduce this stress.  You will be better equipped to deal with difficult situations.  You will feel warm towards other people.  Your relationships and general health will improve.

http://howtomeditateblog.wordpress.com/

http://qflf.wordpress.com/2010/06/22/a-brief-hit-bit-of-meditation/

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Mindful Nutrition

Written by Mark Fontaine

What’s is healthy eating? It’s hard to know these days, isn’t it? Regardless of the types of foods you eat, most all nutritionists agree on three basic concepts: balance, moderation and variation.

Balance: Most professionals suggest a balance of Carbohydrate at 55-65%, Protein at 10-15% and Fats at no higher than 30% of total calories.  Also, balance refers to choosing healthier foods more often than foods that are less healthy.

Moderation: Obesity is at epidemic rates.  A huge concern for the eater is portion control. How much food is enough and how much is too much?  Be mindful to plan food portion sizes.  Remember, the feeling of fullness in the stomach takes as long as twenty minutes to hit the brain.  It is important to eat slowly and stop at the first sign of a full feeling. Moderation involves learning the distinct difference between true fullness and eating as recreation.

Variation: It is best to include several food-types. A wide-variety of foods increases the likelihood of acquiring the required amounts of essential nutrients. Vitamin and mineral composition is food-specific. Variation also helps to avoid food boredom.  Try new foods.  Expand your pantry with healthy, exciting foods.  An excellent way of making sure that you really start to burn away some fat, control blood sugars and artery clogging plaque is to include the following foods in your diet: fat free dairy, lean protein, whole grain carbs and healthy fats.

Fat free dairy products are high in calcuim. Calcuim has been shown to aid in weight loss. Switching to fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese will play a critical role in preventing osteoporosis.   Low fat sources of calcium may be better absorbed than the calcium found in supplements, because lactose, which is also found in dairy, but not in supplements, appears to aid its absorption.  Studies show that low fat dairy products help people lose weight from the stomach area than those taking calcium supplements or eating a low-calcium diet.  Dairy’s calcium is also essential in protecting from colon cancer and helping normalize blood pressure. 

Lean protein helps build lean muscle mass and boosts your metabolism. Stick to lean protein and limit the rest.  Good quality lean proteins include beans, fish, poultry and tofu. Protein is an energizer-physically and mentally. It builds muscle. Muscle cells produce energy. Protein releases energizing neurotransmitters in the brain, creating a positive, confident state. Contrarily, high quantities of simple carbohydrates, particularly sugars and processed grain products, release seratonin, which induces sleepiness and lethargy. 

Whole grain carbs keep you fuller for longer.  If you are fuller for longer, you burn more calories and eat less. Good carb choices includes whole-grain wheat, whole-grain oats, sweet potatoes, brown rice and quinoa. If you stick to healthy, low glycemic index carbs, you will weigh less. For centuries, we ate whole grains straight from the plant stalk. It gave us a rich package high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, enzymes and phytonutrients.  Modern milling strips away the bran, germ, and healthy oils that need refrigeration to keep from spoiling. This makes grains easier to store and gives them a much longer shelf life.  Processed grains lose fiber, oils, 90% of vitamin E and half of B vitamins. Eaters pay a high physical price for these high glycemic index foods. Whole grains and other unprocessed carbs can prevent constipation, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, offer protection against many forms of cancer and help protect from developing type 2 diabetes.

Healthy fats, like nuts, olives and avocadoes, are good for you. Don’t be afraid of all fats.  Believe it or not, if you eat the right types of fats, you will be fuller and it will help you to eat less, lose weight and fat.  The total amount of fat you eat isn’t really linked with disease. What really matters is the type of fat you eat.  The bad fats—saturated and trans fats—increase the risk for certain diseases. The good fats—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—lower disease risk.  Substitute good fats for bad fats and avoid trans fats.

Next time:  Mindful Fitness

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Written by Mark Fontaine

 Procrastination

Everyone procrastinates from time to time.  It’s a fact of life.

We fall into a trap of overestimating how much we will do later. We overestimate our ability to beat procrastination at a later date.  If we can’t get motivated to do something now, what makes us believe that we can overcome this inertia in the future?  This magical thinking can get us into trouble at home, at work and in relationships.

We procrastinate because we want the path of least resistance through life.  Watching television is easier than working out.  Surfing the internet is more pleasurable than paying bills or balancing a check book.  An ice cream cone is perceived as a treat, while an apple is an obligation.

 We also procrastinate out of fear or dread.  We might be afraid of failure or humiliation.  To act is to venture into the unknown.  Fear may lurk in our subconscious and push us to postpone action or pursue something easier and safer instead.

 Procrastination is easy.  Negative consequences are pushed to the future.  Right now we are O.K.  We may pay for it later, but right now we are fine.

 Stop and think. When we are not mindful, we procrastinate. When we examine our thinking, we can see that we’re wrong. Instant gratification can lead to problems later.  Our fears are overblown.  Negative consequences can’t be put off forever.  A day, week or month from now we won’t be able to do as much as we would like to think.

When tackling projects, become less focused on the result.  Learn to enjoy the process. Put yourself in the moment.  Don’t give a thought of future things you dread.  The activity may become more pleasant or even enjoyable.

 If you feel you need to hold on to procrastination, do it productively.  If you’re not ready to tackle a big task, do another smaller productive thing instead.  In the end, at least something gets done. 

 Lazing around can be wonderful.  I do it all the time.  It isn’t a bad thing provided it is done in balance with productive tasks.  If we are not mindful of this fact, we may be mortgaging our future for short-term pleasure.

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