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August 29, 2013

Lori Brothers: Choose to embrace ‘mindful living’

NEW CASTLE — A recent “graduate” of the six week Spectrum Program said what she values most about healthy choice making is “mindful living.”

She reviewed how differently she is living now that she has more awareness about how she is in relationship to eating, thinking and how she decides to exercise and take care of herself.

This is the gift of taking information about how to improve the quality of your health and your life and really owning it. It moves you out of the “cookie-cutter” idea of having to follow a diet or live by fads, and into an authentic perspective.

What you choose to care about, and put your attention on, makes a difference and a larger impact on your health and your life.

Jack Kornfield, a well-known mindfulness meditation teacher says, “In the end, just three things matter: How well we have lived, how well we have loved, how well we have learned to let go.”

This is the heart of mindfulness. Teaching yourself by your own experience what matters, one choice, one mistake, one gain at a time.

In “Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living,” Allan Lokos says, “Suffering usually relates to wanting things to be different from the way they are.”

Letting go can feel foreign. But acceptance can bring peace. So you first have to be honest about your habits and challenges. Then set attainable goals. Setting a goal to become more aware can be a powerful step to real improvements in your health and in your life.

There’s an old saying, “Patience has all the time it needs.” I really like this saying as a daily affirmation to live by. It softens the human tendency to want it to be different right now, which causes so much suffering through self-judgment, self-rejection and self-ridicule.

So what does a mindful person look like? He or she is usually calmer, self-assured (even if they haven’t yet met all of their goals) and confident. Self-aware individuals gain confidence through their willingness to pay attention and take ownership through watching their behavior.

Imagine if everyone were willing to watch themselves and begin to pay attention to their strengths and their short-comings. It would be better than the fall television line-up! Just like watching television, your attention is placed on what you are thinking feeling and the choices you are making. This is all done with no judgment — just watching and noting.

Once you gain awareness through watching, you can confidently make decisions about what kind of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors meet your goals and which ones do not.

Mindfulness is developed by intending to put more attention to what you are doing, thinking and feeling. This helps you to see your habits in the moment.

Another well-known mindfulness teacher, Pema Chodren, advises, “Realize that this very body, with its aches and its pleasures … is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.”

It is human to love potato chips, or prefer cake to pie, or to resist exercise. However, when you start to watch how much you love potato chips, crave cake, or resist exercise, you start to form a new relationship with those tendencies.

Then you can celebrate your love of potato chips by eating them occasionally with great pleasure. This is a kindness and a way to love yourself more. Loving yourself is the touchy subject I have been working toward.

It takes a lot of courage to decide you love yourself more than the behaviors that are causing you health issues, or distress in your life. But as one recent Spectrum participant has proved, it is very possible and very rewarding.

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