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Paige

Paige Baggett-Riggins, a self-proclaimed "Information Junkie," is addicted to the exploration of all modalities that improve our mind, body and spirit. She relies on a daily mindfulness practice to control her "speed eating" habit and the constant urge to add more to her ever increasing book "situation."

Can listening be a radical act?

Listening be a radical act

When we think we already know what there is to hear, we are simply moving a little too fast to really listen That’s where meditation comes in.

Pain and suffering may often seem to be calling us to jump in and fix things, but perhaps they are asking us first to be still enough to hear what can really help, what can truly get to the cause of this suffering, and what will not only eliminate it now but prevent it from returning. So, before we act, we need to listen. When we do become quiet enough and “listen up,” the way opens, and we see the possibilities for action.

We give very little attention to learning to listen, learning to really hear another person or situation. Yet think back to the moments with other people when our hearts were engaged and we felt fed by being together. In those moments, weren’t we hearing one another? In times like those, when we have listened to and heard one another, we have felt life arising from a shared perspective.

Why do we miss new opportunities?

Each situation, each moment of life, is new. We and this other person or group of people have never been here before. Oh, we’ve been in moments like it, but the present moment is new even if we have performed the same action with the same person hundreds of times before. Of course, it’s easy to think, “Well, it’s just like the last time, so I’ll do what I did last time,” and then not have to listen to the new moment. But if we do that, our lives become boring replications of what we have always done before, and we miss the possibilities of surprise, of new and more creative solutions, of mystery.

For our often humdrum lives to retain the taste of living truth, we have to listen freshly again and again.

For our often humdrum lives to retain the taste of living truth, we have to listen freshly again and again. A human interaction includes both the uniqueness of each being and the unity of the two, which transcends separateness. For our minds to take such a subtle process and trivialize it to “just this again” or “nothing but that” is to reduce us to automatons, to objects for one another. And for action to be compassionate, we need to eliminate the idea of an object, we need to be here together doing exactly what needs to be done in the simplest way we can. We need to listen.

How mindful listening leads to real change

When we begin to act by listening, the rest follows naturally. It’s not so easy, of course, it requires us to give up preconceived ideas, judgments, and desires in order to allow space to hear what is being said. True listening requires deep respect and a genuine curiosity about situations as well as a willingness just to be there and share stories. Listening opens the space and allows us to hear what needs to be done at that moment. It also allows us to hear when it is better not to act, which is sometimes a hard message to receive.

Listening to others clearly opens the way to understanding the helping situation. But listening to others requires quieting some of the voices that already exist within us.

There are many people and organizations teaching techniques for clear active listening and appreciating the role of listening in the process of change. One such group is Rural Southern Voice for Peace, which has developed The Listening Project, a process by which members of grass-roots groups go door to door or too familiar gathering places as they are beginning a project. They ask “open-ended questions in a non-judgmental but challenging way that encourages people to share their deepest thoughts” about the area of the group’s concern. They report that “remarkable things happen as this process unfolds: Activists empathize with former ‘opponents,’ replacing negative stereotypes with understanding and concern; barriers are overcome as both sides experience common ground and see each other as human beings with deeply held hopes and fears. People being surveyed feel affirmed, sensing that what the listeners really want is to know their opinions; some start to change their opinions as they explore, often for the first time, their deeper feelings about social problems.”

Listening to others clearly opens the way to understanding the helping situation. But listening to others requires quieting some of the voices that already exist within us. When this happens, there is space not only for the voices of others but for our own truest voice. And, as Alice Walker has said, “The inner voice can be very scary sometimes. You listen, and then you go ‘Do what?’ I don’t wanna do that! But you still have to pay attention to it.”

How meditation helps us listen to others

We need to take time to quiet down and listen to ourselves with attention not only in the midst of action but when we are alone, walking in the woods, making tea, praying in church, fishing in a stream, or sitting in meditation. A simple breath meditation can be helpful because it returns us to a basic connection with the world. As we breathe in and out and bring our awareness gently to our breath, we are experiencing the world coming into us and ourselves going back out into the world. We are reminded, in a simple physical way, that we are not separate from the world but continually interacting with it in the very makeup of our being.

When we listen for the truth of a moment, we know better what to do and what not to do, when to act and when not to act.

We need to listen fully. It’s the basis of all compassionate action. Such full listening helps us hear who is calling and what we can do in response. When we listen for the truth of a moment, we know better what to do and what not to do, when to act and when not to act. We hear that we are all here together, and we are all we’ve got.

This article was adapted from Compassion in Action: Setting Out on the Path of Service by Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush

Source: Why Listening is the Most Radical Act – Mindful

How Do I Find the Right Yoga Teacher?

Right Yoga Teacher

How to find the right Yoga Teacher?

Beginners often ask me about how to evaluate a Yoga Teacher.
The following is the “CALM checklist.” These factors are essential criteria that your Yoga Instructor should meet before you continue on to a second class.

CALM gets it to name after four main factors: Communication, Assist, Listening, and Modification. For the right Yoga teacher, you should be answering with a “yes” to all questions.

Communication:

  • Does your teacher talk to you, and other students, in a manner of mutual respect? Can you ask a question during class time?
  • Does your teacher show compassion for you and other students? Does your teacher take the time to lead you through a guided meditation or relaxation? Meditation and relaxation are major aspects of practice.
  • There are teachers who just want to get “their workout” done. Beware of teachers, who are so important, that they don’t have time for you.
  • Some students love this air of superiority and, unfortunately, some people love abuse. If you want to learn, you need an open line of communication with your Yoga instructor.

Assist:

  • Does your teacher care about your form? Will your teacher give you a verbal or physical assist during your class? Are props encouraged in your Yoga classes?
  • Some students never have major problems with alignment and some do, but if your teacher doesn’t give verbal cues, what does that tell you?

Listen:

  • Does your Yoga teacher take the time to listen to your feedback? Is your teacher “in the moment” with the class?
  • Once in a while, there is a Yoga instructor who runs, the “The-it’s-all-about-me-show.” You are not going to learn anything from this type of teaching. Beginners will be put at risk, trying to keep up with a seasoned Yoga teacher who doesn’t explain anything.

Modification:

  • Does your Yoga instructor allow modifications and props? If your teacher discourages props, you are in the wrong place.
  • Some students will need props for life depending upon their range of motion. Just because a teacher can do a posture without braces, doesn’t mean every student can.

Summary:

Stay away from abusive teachers, and if you are attracted to abuse, there is always professional help. Some students crave “the stern, but loving parent” types. They will push you harder, but how much pushing do you really need?

Respect is a two-way street, and you deserve as much respect as your Yoga teacher does. Let common sense be your guide. You should feel good after a class, and you might even feel muscle soreness days after a vigorous class.

Make sure your teacher meets the above criteria before making a commitment.

By Dr. Paul Jerard E-RYT 500

How to Make Your Work Breaks Mindful

There is a compelling reason big companies like Google and Ford have institutionalized mindfulness. Above all, mindfulness keeps people focused on their tasks and helps them treat problems with an open mind. Mindful also plays a central role in team dynamics, as it fosters a more conflict-averse mindset that encourages “present-focused attention, non-judgmental processing, and respectful communication.” 

In addition, mindfulness can make you more productive and less prone to being in disagreements with the people around you. You don’t have to do anything special to practice mindfulness, neither will you need to invest lots of time for it. In fact, you can be mindful even when you take breaks from work.

5 tips to help conquer burnout during the workday:

1. Leave your workstation

There are plenty of reasons to step away from your workstation, whether at work or at home. A Pain-Free Working article on the benefits of not eating at your desk details how your attention is divided between eating and working when you don’t step away for your midday meal. This can result in a decrease both in the quality of your work and in your productivity. You’ll stress yourself out more, too, as you’re not giving yourself some much-deserved me-time to shut-off – even for just a little while. When you’re stressed and distracted, being mindful becomes near-impossible.

2. Eat clean

For your breaks, make it a point to keep eating clean — a tip we discussed in detail in our ‘Eat Clean, 8 Simple Rules’ post. As much as possible, eat “real” food that is organic and has less to no sugar. Aside from being good for your health, eating clean also requires mindful eating. A HelpGuide feature on mindful eating notes that this practice requires you to have an “in-the-moment awareness of the food and drink you put into your body,” thus giving you a deeper appreciation of them and how they impact you.

3. Meditate!

Meditation is a component of mindfulness, with Mindful Work author David Gelles describing it as a way to train the mind. This practice allows you to be “at the moment” while keeping your mind from drifting aimlessly and thinking about the past, your worries, and all sorts of negative thoughts. Fortunately, you can do this during your breaks, as it takes only a few minutes to focus on the present and shut off from the stresses of work and of life. A way to do this, says Gelles, is to zone in on your physical sensations, feelings, and thoughts so you can understand and appreciate them better.

4. Go for a walk

Walking alone is a great way to meditate, as you’re left on your own and away from work. While walking, make sure to feel every step, focusing on how your feet touch the ground, as well as the pressure points of each step – how the balls of your feet push off the ground, and how your heels land. Subsequently, you can use these walks to take stock of your feelings, regardless if they are positive or negative.

5. Stretch

MobileMonkey CEO Larry Kim explains that mindfulness necessitates an awareness of the physical, too, apart from the mental. An easy and effective way to do this is by stretching during breaks, or as often as necessary. While doing so, make sure to feel every stretch and focus on aching or tight body parts. In this way, you get to meditate at work and know which body parts need more of your care later on.

In conclusion, it pays to be mindful, as it can help you in ways that grow your business – through improved problem solving, better team dynamics, and respectful communication. The best part is that being mindful doesn’t need drastic changes in the way you approach other work. Just do the above tips and you will soon be reaping the rewards of mindfulness.

 Image credit: Pexels

Can journaling help my mindfulness practice?

Practice Meditation Journal

journaling can be a powerful tool to help you stay present to this moment. It can help you push through the chatter in your head to instead get the words onto the page.  Read More