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mindful minute

We are freed and imprisoned by our thoughts

Tag Archives: mindfulness



How do we create more happiness?  Is the key to happiness found in letting go? Are you willing to give up the following 5 things?

1. The habit of blaming. Blaming others does not absolve you of taking responsibility for your own well being. It takes away energy from you moving forward and finding a solution.

2.  The need to impress. Accept who you are. Embrace your flaws, skills and vulnerability. Get comfortable in your own skin.

3. Being a victim.  Bad things happen to good people. Life can be unfair. If you identify as a victim rather than a victor you can not nurture your ability to move beyond unhappiness.

4. Feeling entitled.  If you live your life with the feeling that you are owed things, you will be disappointed. Be grateful for what you have. See positive things as bonuses rather than owed expectations.

5. Pretending. Are you trying to show the world that you are flawless in hopes that you will be liked? There is beauty in our vulnerability. If we are authentic, we open ourselves for a true connection with others.

Deciding what not to do may be more important than deciding what to do. In an age of excess everything, can we add value to our lives by subtracting? If you find yourself already overburdened, stressed and miserable, loosen those white knuckles and let go. You have a lot to lose. And, that may be a good thing.  


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Mark Fontaine

Are you overfed and undernourished? Most people in North America are nutritionally deficient.

It is a mistake is to think that if you eat a lot of calories, your diet delivers the nutrients your body needs.  The average diet is too energy dense (too many calories) but nutrient poor (not enough vitamins and minerals).  These “empty calories” confuse the metabolism and pack on pounds.

Processed food is less nutritious. It is stuffed with high fructose corn syrup, refined flours and trans fats. These foods are inexpensive and convenient. Our grandparents wouldn’t recognize most of the foods filling the aisles of our grocery stores today. Most store bought foods today are laced with chemicals, such as nitrates, used to process and preserve.

Soil is being depleted. Industrial farming is depleting the nutrients in farmland. Most vegetables harvested today have fewer nutrients than those just two generations ago. Because foods contain fewer nutrients, the servings we do eat don’t deliver as much nutrition as before. Fewer nutrients lowers immunity and increases vulnerability to chronic disease and obesity. If your body doesn’t get the right nutrition, it asks for more food. This creates a cycle of craving, eating more, getting fatter, but still not feeling satisfied and craving more.

Refining kills nutrients. Foods are stripped of their nutrients during the refining process. A primary example is wheat.  Refining whole wheat flour into white reduces the fiber by 80 percent and reduces essential minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients. Food manufacturers sometimes add synthetic versions of the most important vitamins and minerals back into food and call the food “enriched.” Beware of “enriched foods” because theses products have been stripped in the first place.

How can I get more nutrient-rich calories?

  • Eat more organic plant-based foods: Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains They are high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, fiber, and essential fatty acids. These foods eliminate many triggers of chronic illness, such as saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and toxic food additives.
  • Use healthy plant-based fats: extra-virgin olive oil, flax, nuts, and seeds.
  • Eat modest amounts of lean animal protein: fish, turkey, chicken or wild game.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
  • Food is your best medicine. Whole foods have nutrients that work synergistically to optimize your health. They reduce inflammation, boost detoxification, balance hormones, and provide powerful antioxidant protection.  If you choose to eat mindfully, you can repair the underlying causes of disease.


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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.

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Written by Mark Fontaine

Begin with the end in mind.  Visualize the outcome.  Create a clear mental picture.  Resist the temptation to fall into the popular multi-tasking mentality that confuses frenetic activity with accomplishment.

Your life is a work of art.  The key is to start with an empty canvas.  It is important to approach goal setting with a beginners mind.

When you choose to improve your life, you also improve the lives of those around you.  

There is a price for greatness and that is control over your thinking—each and every thought.  Be mindful that you can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought. 

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Attainable

R = Realistic

T = Timely


What are you going to do?  Why is this important to do at this time? How are you going to do it?  Be sure the goals you set are very specific, clear and easy to understand. Instead of setting a goal to lose weight or be healthier, set a specific goal to lose 2 inches off your waist or to walk 5 miles in an hour.


If you can measure it, you can manage it.  You can see the change occur.

Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement. This will spur you forward.


If your goals are too far out of reach, you probably won’t commit to pursuing them. You may start with the best of intentions, but the knowledge that it’s too much for you will undermine your efforts.

A goal needs to stretch you and it will need a real commitment from you. If you aim to learn how to speak French in one week, you know that isn’t achievable. Set a goal to master 500 words that first week.  When you’ve achieved that, aim to learn a further 500.  Your first success will motivate a second.

 Fix your gaze on the journey.  If you focus on the destination, it will slip through your grasp.


A realistic goal may push your skills, knowledge and resources, but it shouldn’t break you.  Focusing on process goals as opposed to outcome goals can break the task into “do-able” pieces.  For instance, it may be more realistic to set a sub-goal of eating a salad for lunch each day for two weeks, rather than losing 2 inches off your waist over the next 90 days.  You can then choose to work towards reducing the amount of poor food choices gradually in the most realistic manner for you.

Be sure to set goals that you can attain with some effort. Too difficult and you set the stage for failure, but too low sends the message that you aren’t very competent.


Are you going to be finished this week, month or in 90 days?  An end point gives you a clear target to work toward.  Without a set time, the commitment is too vague.  Nothing happens because there’s no urgency.

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Mindful Fitness

 Written by Mark Fontaine

 Exercise does more than just tone your body, it boosts self-esteem, improves mood and revs up metabolism. So suck it up and get moving! 

 Set a goal. Working towards something helps motivation.  Make your goal realistic.  If you have been a couch potato for over a decade, don’t set yourself up for failure by having a goal of running a marathon by Easter.

 Record your progress. Write down what you have achieved regularly. Seeing how far you have come is a great motivator.

 Start small. Don’t over do it. You may want to consult your doctor. Stay at around 70 percent of your maximum heart rate at first. As the weeks progress and you become stronger and more fit, begin to up your intensity for best results.

Accommodate your body clock and schedule.  Are you a morning person? Do you have childcare obligations in the morning or after work?

Be consistent.  Say to yourself, “I eat every day so I need to burn calories every day.”

Make physical activity fun. Listen to music.  Run on a scenic trail.  Watch a favorite television program while you ride an exercise bicycle or walk on a tread mill.

If you find yourself tired of the same old exercise routine, chances are your body is too. It’s time to switch things up if you want to see results.  Do you need to enlist a friend to push you to workout when you really don’t want to and vice versa? Is it time to invest in a workout video game, or purchase a martial arts, yoga or pilates DVD?  Don’t be afraid to mix things up.

Work around the weather. You may need to run before sunrise or sunset to beat heat.  You may need to walk in a mall to avoid cold or rain. Do not let unfavorable weather sideline your program.

Eat mindfully.  It takes about 30 minutes on a treadmill to burn off the calories in a donut. Eat a couple donuts and you could be running for a very long time. Regular workouts will increase your metabolism and help you burn off even more calories between workouts. Do not exercise without proper nutrition.  If you workout on an empty stomach, you will burn muscle as opposed to fat.

Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. Work toward 85 percent of your maximum heart rate for optimal results.

Throw in some circuit training. This is an exercise technique that uses a series of moves in rapid succession without any rest in between. For example: push-ups into squats followed by jumping jacks. This method allows your workouts to attack several muscle groups as well as strengthen and burn fat at the same time.

Another way to intensify is to try incorporating high intensity interval training. This simply means working short 30 to 60 second bouts of cardio into your strength training routine.

It is very important to be mindful of your form when exercising.  This will not only help prevent injuries, it is the key to getting the results you want quickly. Think quality over quantity. Take the time to perfect your form.

Remember, six pack abs are not about crunches. You cannot spot reduce fat. The best way to get washboard abs is by burning the fat off on top of the muscle through nutrition, cardio, and total body resistance training.

Are you pressed for time?  Each little thing helps.  Can you squeeze in 3-10 minute blocks into at least 5 days a week?  Be creative. 

Choose a nutrition plan that fits your body type.  It should be adjustable to your lifestyle so that you won’t get off track with your goals.  Be mindful that nutrition and fitness go hand in hand.  If you are not eating right you will not achieve the best results.

Buy clothing and shoes that are comfortable.  Good shoes may be expensive but are essential.  You may want to extend the life of your expensive shoes by limiting their use to indoor workouts. 

Never get down on yourself if you suffer a setback. We all skip a workout here or there.  The key is to not fall into a pattern of avoidance.  If you are feeling particularly tired, sore or sick, could you at least manage a 15 minute stretch routine?  If so, do it.  At least you will have done something and will have some momentum going forward.

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