Mindfulness on the Farm

At the end of June, a group gathered with Minded at Waverly Farms just outside of Richmond, VA for a day of mindfulness and farm adventures. We toured the farm and gathered our vegetables and eggs for our lunch. The day included a mindful cooking class with all of the food from the farm. It was a day for adventure, relaxation, self-care, and learning all about mindfulness! Enjoy the pictures from the day. We hope to plan many more mindfulness of the farm days in the future. 

 Mindful Cooking Class

Mindful Cooking Class

 Carrots ready to be roasted.

Carrots ready to be roasted.

 The tables is set for mindful eating at Waverly Farms

The tables is set for mindful eating at Waverly Farms

 Gathering eggs

Gathering eggs

 Harvesting vegetables for lunch and the mindful cooking class

Harvesting vegetables for lunch and the mindful cooking class

What We've Been Up To

Here is an update on what and where minded has been in the community during 2016. 

At the start of the year, we started teaching mindfulness at Phoenix Academy in Chapel Hill. Our last day is next week, and we cannot believe our time at Phoenix is almost over. It is an incredibly fun and meaningful experiences to spend an hour each week at the school.

In January, we started our first family classes!

In February, we did an all day mindfulness workshop for the Blue Ribbon Mentors in Chapel Hill.

In March, we presented to the students of Culbreth Middle School. 

In March and April, we were warmly welcomed to Families Moving Forward in Durham to teach a class for some of the residents.

In April, the social workers of Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools invited us to do a workshop on self-care.

In April, we gave teachers some stress-reduction tips as part of health and wellness week at Morris Grove Elementary. 

In April, we started teaching at Y.E. Smith Elementary School in Durham as one of their Friday Clubs!

In May, we taught our first mindful cooking class. Contact us if you would like to do this with your family or friends.

Tips for Keeping a Practice

 

I get asked all the time: "How do I keep up my mindfulness practice." People know it is important to practice mindfulness on (hopefully) a daily basis, but are often unsure of how to do this. Often, the prospect of having to practice this every day seems intimidating. First, I encourage you to write a list of all the ways you can practice mindfulness. It is not just meditation! Meditation is a great way to keep up your practice, but it is not the only way we can practice on a daily basis. Some other ways to practice during the day: take three mindful breaths, mindful walking, relaxing breathing exercises, gratitude practice...the list goes on. 

For a meditation practice, here are some resources I use to inspire me and take those three minutes, ten minutes, or twenty minutes to meditation. I find guided meditations help me take the time to meditation. 

  • The good folks at the Mindful Awareness Research Center provide guided meditations on the Itunes app and on their website
  • Of course, the wonderful Tara Brach offers all sorts of meditations on her website and her podcast.
  • Download one of the many mindfulness apps. Headspace and Calm are two of my favorites. 
  • Get a book on mindfulness. I love Calm by Angela and Dennis Buttimer. 

Save the Date

Marny, Amy, and Lucie are planning a mindful parenting workshop this summer! The workshop is open to parents and their children who want to learn more about mindfulness. The workshop will be in the Chapel Hill/ Durham area. More information to come, but, in the meantime, SAVE THE DATE!

Mindfulness, Stress, and Poverty

Mindfulness is a way to provide support to at-risk and marginalized populations to help them handle stress and build resilience. In a few weeks, I will be doing two presentations on mindfulness to formerly homeless families in Downtown Durham. I started Minded because I wanted to help bring mindfulness practice to at-risk populations. I believe that mindfulness can be a powerful tool for social justice. 

A growing body of research shows that children growing up in poverty are exposed to what researchers call "toxic stress." This is when stress is so chronic and constant in early childhood and adolescence that it causes changes to the brain and body physiology. You can look at this article for more information. One of the more important victims of the brain is the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the CEO of the brain, and among other things, is in charge of delayed gratification, focus, attention, impulse-control, and emotion regulation. As it turns out, recent studies show that emotional regulation, or the ability to be resilient in the face of adversity, is one of the best predictors of positive outcomes in adulthood. That means that over and above income, schools, drug use (all the old stand bys), it is emotion regulation that determines a kids success in life. But, the good news is: Stress-induced changes to the adolescent brain ARE reversible (Eiland and Romeo, 2013). WHY ARE WE NOT DOING MORE TO BUILD CHILDREN'S RESILIENCE AND EMOTIONAL REGULATION? Mindfulness can helps reverse the changes to the adolescent brain. Schools are starting to take notice in the form of social emotional learning. But, the communities of Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh need to be doing more. Let's make sure that mindfulness is accessible to all people who want and need it. Regardless of income or status in life. 

 

21 Days of Minded: Day 4

We are on day 4 of the Minded meditation challenge. If you've been following along, this means you should be meditating for four minutes today. 

Here are some guided meditations I like to help you as our time lengthens. I also like the App "Calm" available on itunes for free guided meditations (you can also pay for a subscription to get more guided meditations).

I highly recommend guided meditations to help you stay consistent with your meditation. Guided meditations walk you through the meditation and get you centered and in the present moment as you sit focusing your attention.

 

21 Days of Minded: Day 3

Is there room for "should" in mindful meditations?

My answer is no. The folks writing at Quiet would agree with me. 

Often, I meditate and find that my brain is more like this:

 

If you find your brain in a state of chaos, this does not mean your meditation was "bad." Your meditation is not good or bad. You should not expect to sit still or have a completely quiet mind or feel relaxed and calm. These are all good goals, but you will find them to be elusive at times. Having these expectations is the quickest way to derail your meditation practice. Sometimes (and maybe more often than not) you will find that the thoughts just keep coming or you feel anxious, frustrated, or sad. I often reflect on my meditation and think, "wow, my mind was very busy today." BUT, instead of labeling that experience as bad, I just reflect on how it went and move on, begin again.  You can apply this lesson to your experience during your meditation as well. Try to avoid getting frustrated with yourself if your mind is jumping from place to place during your meditation. Simply notice the quality of the mind, notice the experience in that moment, notice your thoughts. The great lesson of mindfulness and meditation is that we can always begin again, from breath to breath, moment to moment, and day to day. You have the power to find the space to notice what is happening in the present moment and choose to begin again. 

21 Days of Minded: Day 2

It's Day 2! How did Day 1 go? Did you find the time to sit for one minute? If yes, that is great! If no, you are still great! Just try again today. 

For Day 2, try to sit for TWO minutes counting your breaths. You can either designate a time to meditate--literally put it on your calendar--or choose to sit when things start to get hectic and you need a quick time out. 

Now, for some motivation. Do you find your mind wandering during the day? Mind wandering--or the chatter of thoughts we hear in our minds--is VERY common. In fact, it is so common because our brains default to mind wandering. It is called our default network and this is the network that goes to work whenever the mind is at rest. Mind wandering, or thinking in the default network, is associated with more negative emotions and tends to be more active for individuals suffering from depression.

If you have been reading this long, you probably are guessing there must be some connection between meditation and mind wandering (or lack thereof), and, dear reader, you guessed correctly. Studies show that meditation reduces mind wandering and takes the brain out of the default network highway. One of the reasons for this is that meditation strengthens the prefrontal cortex, which, we'll just say for simplicity sake, is responsible for good things like emotional regulation, intelligence, goal-setting, and positive emotions!

The short story: meditate for more positive thoughts and emotions!  

21 Days of Minded

Day 1 of the 21 day meditation challenge is here! Are you ready?

The challenge is to meditate every day for 21 days (it takes 21 days to make a habit, right?). We are going to start Day 1 with 1 minute of meditation, adding 1 minute every day. By the 21st day, we will be meditating...21 minutes!

Need a reason to meditate? See here, here, and also, here

I will be checking in daily on the blog and instagram with instructions and tips for starting your meditation practice!

For today, just commit to at least trying to meditate. You may (and I think you will) find you not only like it, but that you see the benefits materialize in your own life.