Tag Archives: mindfulness

A couple of nights ago we faced a life-threatening health emergency with one of our children. Our middle son has Type 1 Diabetes. It’s well controlled and even though it’s a big part of our lives, it mostly now feels like a background fact. It’s been almost 4 years and, except for his initial diagnosis, he hasn’t faced a single emergency or hospitalization…until the other night.

One of the most upsetting things about what happened is that it was a simple mistake – picking up the wrong insulin and injecting him with fast-acting instead of short-acting insulin. He was fine in the end, but the whole thing was really scary. I won't mince words here - it was potentially fatal.

I hesitate in some ways to make this statement - it seems so cliché - but mindfulness totally saves me in moments like this. In looking back, I can see how having spent years practicing more mindful responses to stress (as opposed to my old way which was full-freak-out) has helped me even in the most critical of moments.

When things like this happen, the definition of mindfulness comes into vivid focus. And I'm reminded that this is why we practice, practice, practice at tuning in...even when we don't always feel like we're "succeeding."

I'm in no way different from anyone else. Next time I might lose it. But the practice comes to you when you need it. It's like running a marathon. Even if you haven't trained, you'll probably be more prepared if you're running a few miles every day than if you're sitting on the couch watching movies.

Everyday mindfulness is about seeing life as it is. It is about paying attention to what is really happening, taking in what we witness there and moving through that experience to the next place. It helps us to live more in tune with ourselves and with those around us. It helps us move closer to being the people we really want to be in the world and it supports us in getting back on track when we've lost our way.

It does not mean avoiding stress. It is not about pretending everything is okay when it’s not. It’s not about making yourself feel calm or relaxed all the time. It's not about being perfectly happy with every moment. It's about living fully aware of the way things really are and responding from that place so that we live more fully.

Mindfulness also helps me to recognize that my natural tendency is to chase worst-case scenarios, to imagine endless what-ifs. It helps me get up close and personal with that fact of my personality. There were certainly moments the other night when I thought - "What if...!". I know I'll mess up and fail and feel overwhelmed a million times in my life. Sometimes I worry that the next big "catastrophe" will be the final straw to stability. We all do...right...just me? When I'm mindful, I'm freed to see that that's only one part of the story.

When things are well, mindfulness helps me notice and be grateful. When things are tough, it provides the little bits of light in the woods.

The good news is, none of this is rocket science. We can all practice becoming more mindful. These are skills we all have – listening to what our bodies are telling us, naming and honoring all of the emotions we feel, seeing the ways in which our assumptions get in the way of more creative solutions to the problems we face each day.

Often, we’ve simply unlearned these abilities. Moments like this really remind me of why it’s important to keep relearning. It’s like going from black and white to full color again and again and again.

What if you could face all sorts of challenges and still hold yourself together enough to come out the other side wiser, stronger and still laughing? Maybe not every time, but at least some times...or even just a bit more than you are now.

It sounds impossible and yet these skills exist. Mindfulness is not the cure-all for all of the things that we face in life and certainly, many life events are so painful we can’t even bear to consider them. Trust me, my brain has gone there.

But what if you have an entire toolbox of abilities that you’re not accessing? What if you could rediscover those tools, learn when and how to access them and put into place the habit of using them every day?

You know, it might even be simpler than you think.

Want to learn how you can bring more mindfulness into your life?

Join me for my upcoming Mindfulness Skills for Parenting Workshop. We’ll be using the very practical and totally accessible methods outlined in the Personal Leadership program. Read more about PL here and check out my reflections on becoming a PL facilitator here.

Or, check out these resources below. Note - this list is far from exhaustive. These are some of my favorites.

Websites/Apps

Headspace (website and app)

Insight Timer (app)

Soundstrue.com

UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center

University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness

Mindfulness/Meditation Teachers to trust:

Tara Brach

Jon Kabat-Zinn (Google him for more info)

Jonathan Froust

Jack Kornfield

Sharon Salzberg

Pema Chodron

Books

Making a World of Difference: Personal Leadership a Methodology of Two Principles and Six Practices - Schaetti, Ramsey and Watanabe

Wherever You Go There You Are and Full Catastrophe Living – both by Jon Kabat-Zinn

10% Happier – Dan Harris (This is a great, easy to read book for people who find themselves somewhat skeptical about how to go about living more mindfully.)

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin (not specifically mindfulness, but still a good resource)

Let's face it - you love your kids, but you might...just might...be happy they're all back at school. Right now it’s possible you look like the lady in that photo…right?

If there's one thing I hear from friends, clients and colleagues alike right now it's that a return to the school year means a return to regular schedules, normal bedtimes and a better sense that you can come out from under everyone else's stuff. It's heavy under there!

And that means it's the perfect time for you to turn the focus back in your direction for a bit.

I want you to do that! I love more than anything supporting people in reaching their goals, finding their sense of self and moving forward one step at a time in connecting with what matters most in their lives.

Join me in celebrating this newest transition by taking advantage of my latest coaching program offer.

From now until the end of September 2017, take 20% off your coaching program fees. Click here to see if you’re eligible for additional discounts. Installment plans are available for my 8- and 12-week programs.

If you're ready to get started - simply email me at jodi at worldtreecoaching dot com.

Have you been thinking about coaching, but you're still not sure if it's right for you? Never considered coaching, but now you're kinda' curious?

Read what past clients have said here. Or click here to schedule a time to chat with a FREE, 45-minute consult session!

This 12-Week Workshop - Finding Your Way: Everyday Mindfulness for Critical Moments - is designed to give you a starting point for using everyday mindfulness. The skills you'll learn can help you gain clarity in times of difficulty, deepen your interpersonal relationships, adjust better to change and weather transition with a renewed sense of vision and purpose.

So what is everyday mindfulness? 

Everyday mindfulness is about taking the concepts behind the spiritual tradition of mindfulness (in the moment awareness) and applying them to real life situations. It's not about avoiding stress, painful emotions or difficulties, but about learning how to deal with them in a way that fosters compassion, resilience and thoughtfulness.

People who work with me aren't necessarily interested in learning to meditate (although meditation is a great tool for learning mindfulness).

They're not going to become monks (although they may be religious).

They sometimes get really pissed off, but they want to recover from their mistakes and learn how to do better next time.

They have a pretty clear sense of how they're "supposed" to feel, but they'd prefer to better understand how they "actually" feel and work from that place.

With this in mind, I offer a straight-forward, real-world, supportive environment for you to learn practical ways to apply remarkable tools, every day.

In this workshop you'll learn how to take mindfulness down from the clouds and into the places you really live each day.

Each meeting will be interactive and will include a presentation of the week's topic, plus short activities and opportunities for discussion. The content from this program comes the Personal Leadership (PL) Model. Read more about my PL training here.

Over the course of 12 weeks, we will:

  • Explore the link between mindfulness and creativity.
  • Create a vision for how you want to live when you’re at your highest and best.
  • Learn 6 simple mindfulness practices for in-the-moment awareness.
  • Practice an easily accessible tool (The Critical Moment Dialogue) for connecting to your vision and choosing the best action for you when you're facing difficult situations.

After completing the workshop you will:

  • Be able to adapt your personal vision to fit your life now and as it changes.
  • Be able to recognize "something's up" moments.
  • Have 6 simple mindfulness practices at your fingertips to use any time.
  • Apply the Critical Moment Dialogue to an array of life situations from challenging work environment, to parenting, from international transition to health issues.
  • Better understand your own ingrained judgments and assumptions and  how they relate to your decision making, state-of-mind and individual perspective.
  • Be able to find new and creative solutions to everyday challenges.

Program Details

Dates/Time: Stay tuned for upcoming dates or email me at jodi at worldtreecoaching dot com to arrange a time that works for your group. Interested in doing this program one-on-one with me? Schedule a consult session here to talk with me about it.

Where: All sessions will be conducted via Zoom.

Who: Space is limited and is open to anyone who is interested in learning mindfulness skills through the Personal Leadership model.

Program Fee:  $750

Thinking about joining my upcoming Mindfulness Skills for Parenting Workshop in Tokyo? Wondering how you might put the skills you gain to use?

Here are a few highlights of how becoming more mindful has made a difference in my life with kids.

Top 10 Mindfulness-Saved-Me Moments in Parenting

  1. When shopping for 2 hours in the same store while trying to breast feed, change diapers and keep my 3 month old from crying.
  2. While straddling my kicking and screaming toddler so that I could brush his teeth.
  3. When sitting in a chair rocking and rocking and rocking for hours hoping the baby would fall asleep.
  4. When they have a really bad day. When I have a really bad day.
  5. When my child says, “Let’s run!” “Let’s race!” “Let’s play cars!” for the one hundredth time that day.
  6. When my child says, “You’re my favorite person in the world mommy. Will you be with me forever?”
  7. When my son almost died in a foreign country.
  8. When my husband doesn’t do it the “right” way…or when I don’t.
  9. When they say, “I wish we just stayed in one place,” and when they say, “I hope we do this forever.”
  10. When the Internet tells me something I do (or do not) need to know about raising children…always.

Click on the link at top to register today! Also be sure to check out this free download of my chapter on mindfulness and parenting from Raising Kids in the Foreign Service.

* Please note: If you're coming to this post from the Tokyo Mother's Group Newsletter link - the information contained in the newsletter is not fully accurate. This event is a workshop (not a summit) and it is NOT being held at the US Embassy, but rather the Embassy compound in Roppongi. Please see below for full details. Thank you! Hope to see you there.

It’s such a cliché, but every parent knows it’s true – time goes too fast.

Author of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin, published the video above a few years ago and it brings me to tears every time I watch it. As adults, we often lose the ability to see that living is now, that the moment we need to pay attention to is happening right in front of us, that the answers lie, not in tomorrow or the next day, but in what’s in our hearts at this very moment.

When we become more mindful, we wake up to what is happening around us. We can put a child’s eye to the moment – not to forsake all the things we’ve learned in life thus far, but to open up to new levels of creativity to solve challenges we face each day.

Most people know this, but it can be difficult to know where to begin.

My Mindful Parenting Workshop is designed to give you that starting point.

In this workshop we will:

  • Explore the link between mindfulness and creativity
  • Create a vision for how you hope to parent when you’re at your highest and best
  • Learn 6 simple mindfulness techniques for in-the-moment awareness
  • Practice an easily accessible tool (The Critical Moment Dialogue) for connecting to your vision and choosing the best action for you when you're facing difficult situations.

This workshop is about:

  • Brushing up on skills you were born with
  • Developing new skills to see possibility when you’re feeling stuck
  • Reminding yourself that you have everything you need to be exactly the parent you want to be
  • Connecting more deeply with life as it happens
  • Sharing with others and creating community around a common goal - becoming a more mindful parent

This workshop is NOT about:

  • Telling you how to parent
  • Making you feel alone
  • Pointing out mistakes you’ve made
  • Giving “expert” advice on what to do with your kids
  • Creating a problem-free existence

The spirit of this workshop is one of learning. I take the approach that we are all in this together. I have children, but I am not a parenting "expert." I’ve been fortunate to have developed my mindfulness practice personally and professionally (as a clinical social worker and certified life coach) over many years, beginning right after my oldest son was born almost 12 years ago. It is a daily journey.

Moreover, I am committed to offering an open, supportive and thoughtful small group experience. It's not always easy to decide to learn new things, to stretch yourself or to admit that some days it all just seems like too much. My intention that this space is supportive and open to all.

I know you will like what you learn here and I'm certain you’ll find it 100% applicable to your daily life.

The content for this program comes from the Personal Leadership framework for intercultural communication. PL is used throughout the world in schools, universities, international corporations and community programs. You can read more about it here. Read my recent blog post on the PL facilitator's training here.

Mindful Parenting Workshop Details

Date:

Thursday, May 11 & Thursday, May 18 from 9:00-11:00 AM

Where:

US Embassy Compound – Roppongi

Workshop Fee:

$60 USD (¥6,000 if paying cash at the door)

Register here.

NOTE ABOUT PAYMENT:

If you'd like to pay online now using credit/debit card or PayPal, you may do so by clicking the Buy Now button below (no PayPal account is needed). Please note that if you use a non-US based card, the fee will be converted to your card's currency and additional fees may be added.

Alternatively, follow the link to the registration form (above) for information on other payment options.




We’re all watching the world go by. We absentmindedly read the news, scroll through Facebook, eat lunch with one eye on our laptops and drive home without even remembering how we got there.

To be fair, it’s a little bit harder to become fully zoned out when you’re living outside of your home culture. Not paying attention could land you eating some bizarre, new food or telling the cashier, “I don’t need a bath,” instead of “I don’t need a bag” (true story). So naturally expats tend to be a bit more observant.

But, no matter where we are, we get into habits in our daily routines. We take our feelings, our thoughts and our actions for granted. Much of the time we don’t even notice that the strain in our neck came after the disagreement with our spouse or that the third cup of coffee fuels the sloppy emails or late night media binge.

I believe there’s an additional layer to this for people who are living away from home. Our thoughts, feelings and actions are complicated by the unpredictable and unusual way in which we live. There are more distractions...and simultaneously more ways in which to pay attention.

Often, people who thrive in this lifestyle do so by learning to pay better attention and by adopting a level of intentionality in their daily lives despite all of the spinning around them.

When I talk with people about this, no one ever disagrees. Yes, of course, we should pay attention to what we’re feeling and thinking. But, how? Should I journal? Talk with a friend? What about going for long walks…listening to woodwind instruments over the sounds of the sea…drinking one less gin and tonic?

Sure. But really, it doesn’t have to be that complicated.

There are surprisingly easy ways to adopt a higher degree of intentionality in the things we do. And, contrary to what you might think, it can start in small and specific ways at any point in the day.

When we’re able to pick a couple of things to do on purpose, we’re strengthening the part of our brain that pays attention. At first we simply pay attention to a couple of seemingly innocuous events, but before we know it, that heightened sense of awareness has come to support us in noticing the more significant ups and downs of our daily experience.

But pay attention to what?

I like to say, "Think of yourself as a scientist."

In that vein, paying attention can be anything from really noticing the sensations of washing your hands to making a head-to-toe scan of your body when you sit down at your desk each day. It can include actually observing yourself making your coffee or sitting on the train, noticing the world around you (not reading your phone).

Brainstorming a list of ideas is a great way to start. And there’s nothing that says you have to choose everything you write down. Maybe just one to start and then add two or three as the weeks progress.

What you’ll notice is that the noticing, instead of the brushing-aside, becomes the habit. The paying attention starts to feel normal. It’s an exceptional way to tune in to your daily experience. And that, in turn, creates greater insight and can improve decision-making and relationship building.

None of this happens over night. It’s like doing push-ups. You get stronger and more skilled, little by little, until (before you know it) you’re aware of things you never noticed before.

If you’re stuck - this exercise might give you some insight into how to try out paying attention.

I also love this TED talk about developing habits. I watched it as part of a Personal Leadership program I’m participating in. While he’s not exactly talking about paying attention, the presenter's ideas for micro-practice could help you establish a regular routine for paying attention.

And, if you want to get a better sense of how to observe your thought and emotional patterns, check out this activity from my book, The Expat Activity Book, here.

In 2015, I had the honor and privilege to write a chapter in the Foreign Service parents’ support guide – Raising Kids in the Foreign Service.

Written by FS parents for FS parents, the book is a must-have and includes tons of great ideas, along with first-hand knowledge and information. You can purchase a copy here.

I am pleased to share that I now have my chapter – The Oxygen Mask: Mindfulness for Expat Parents – available here for download.

This chapter offers my insights and experiences as a typical parent attempting to not lose my mind with three kids and 8 moves in under 10 years. Thank you for reading! And be sure to check out the additional bonus offer mentioned at the end of the chapter.

curiosity

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about curiosity.

We're born to explore and question and discover. In fact, it's through curiosity, along with a healthy dose of trial and error, that we become the people we are.

Unfortunately, we all get a bit freaked out by the trial and error part. Curiosity is awesome until we realize it can get us in trouble. Curiosity killed the cat.

And so, with time and the ups and downs of life we start to silence our curiosity. We fear what we will find on the other side if we question what we see before us. Who are we if we really examine how we feel about ourselves, if we analyze the judgments we make about others and if we peel away the layers of the world around us to reveal what’s underneath? We don’t like it. It scares us.

True curiosity requires the ability to be shocked, saddened, found wrong, and dismayed. It also means you’re ready to be forgiving, dedicated, thoughtful and kind.

Curiosity settles once and for all that life is not this or that, but rather that…and maybe that too…and also that. Curiosity says – I’ll take all that! Sign me up! Join me?

It shows us the awe-inspiring nature of the given moment.

It reminds us we're one of many, while providing the gift of bringing us together.

Curiosity means more reading, more talking, more connecting, more watching, more thinking, more feeling, more wandering. More growing.

Curiosity takes guts, but you’ve got them. I just know it.

upcoming-workshops-from-world-tree-coaching

As I mentioned in my last post, I am super excited to finally be getting moved in and into a permanent home after what feels like three long, international years of transition. It doesn't even seem possible that we've lived in 5 places (overlapping 3 countries, 2 Japanese cities and 2 US states) since we first found out we were moving to Japan 3 years ago. NOT. NORMAL.

This makes it all the more exciting to announce my workshop line-up for October!

I will be offering the following two workshops/programs:

UNDERSTANDING THE HABITS OF HEART AND MIND - A WORKSHOP ON EVERYDAY MINDFULNESS TECHNIQUES 
TUES, OCT. 4, 10-11:30
Learn basic mindfulness skills to reduce stress and improve decision-making in a supportive, interactive and fun workshop. LIMIT 15 PARTICIPANTS. Read more and register here.

3-SESSION MANTRA BUILDER GROUP
NOTE DATE/TIME CHANGE FOR FIRST MEETING!

#1 - FRI. OCT. 7 11:00- 12:30; #2 - THURS. OCT. 13 10:00-11:30; #3 - THURS. OCT. 20; 10-11:30
Learn more about what makes you tick, focus in on your priorities, develop strategies to maintain stability even in the face of change and create a personal mantra to take with you wherever you go. LIMIT 5 PARTICIPANTS. Read more and register here.

Thank you for your interest! I look forward to seeing you there!

IMG_8286

Today I saw mindfulness in action in a way I never could have imagined!

I met a girlfriend (pictured above) in Tokyo for brunch. We hadn’t seen each other in several weeks and we were so happy to catch up. We grabbed a cup of coffee and then ate…and had another cup of coffee. We were talking a mile a minute – around and about and over each other. It was a delightful early morning buzz of caffeine and friendship.

After our brunch we decided to walk over to the Mori Art Museum and look out over the city from the 6o-something floor. We were surprised to find a technology exhibit going on. It wasn’t really what we’d come for, so we sat and talked on the benches for a bit, looking out with a birds-eye view of the urban blanket below and marveling at what it’s like to be living in the biggest city in the world.

Eventually, my friend suggested we check out the exhibit. The first one we came upon was a giant box with a seat in the middle facing the windows that look out below to the city. Surrounding the window on all four sides were triangle-shaped mirrors that could close in, thus blocking the view out the window.

The docent explained that we could sit in the chair and wear a headset that reads brain waves (this probably has some technical name, but I don’t know what it is). When we were “relaxed” and not focusing on our thoughts, the mirrors would remain open and our view would be of the city below. However, if we focused on something – a particular thought or image – the mirrors would close.

The most interesting thing to me initially was my own thought process in approaching this experiment. I felt genuinely “relaxed” and happy to be with my friend, but I knew I had a lot on my mind. I found myself really “wanting” the window to stay open. I wanted to be calm and at peace and meditative. I recognized myself setting this up as some sort of mindfulness challenge. Would I be able to be present? Could I allow my thoughts to pass without grasping on to them, over analyzing them or making them into a friend or enemy?

You can guess where this is going.

Once my headset was on and I was into position, the mirrors immediately started closing. My mind was racing around saying, “Be calm! Just breathe! Meditate!”

It makes me laugh now because it was so hilariously NOT what was going to make the mirrors remain open.

I was annoyed at myself a bit, but also completely fascinated to see this whole thing working in this way. And it was so consistent with what I’ve come to know about my mind already – it’s almost always whirring away. Usually the first ten minutes of my meditation practice are a blur thinking and bouncing all over the place. I come to a quieter mind after much, much mental movement.

So after a minute or so, I closed my eyes and focused on my breath. Within seconds I could tell that the mirror was opening. I cracked my eyes, stayed focused on the breath coming in and out and I could see the mirror stop, open, close a bit. It was as if this experiment was the visual of my meditation practice. I even at one point found that I was really still mentally, but as soon as I began to strive to stay there – the mirror began to close.

Honestly, I could have stayed in this experiment for so much longer – observing the ins and outs of my thought patterns and my awareness of the world around me.

I found the visual imagery of the closed mirror (of the racing mind) versus the world below through the window (of the soft, open mind) incredibly beautiful.

And even home now, hours later, I feel so many emotions about this - excited, thoughtful, reflective, giddy at the cool science-ness of it and also so at peace with the ins and outs of cultivating a more mindful existence. Doing this experiment was an incredible reminder that the journey’s always going on inside whether we see it or not. We’re a little bit mindful here, a little less there, a little more there – but we’re mindful when we can be and how we can be. The key, as always, remains simply remembering to pay attention.