Posts Tagged With: mindfulness exercise

Day 2258: Notice connections

Yesterday, in a therapy group where I notice connections among people, I did a mindfulness exercise using these mindfulness cards:

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Most of the people in the room took their time noticing the different cards and choosing one they felt a connection with.  The two people who were left-handed (including me) randomly chose a mindfulness card without looking.   I noticed that connection and then  noticed the card I had randomly pulled:

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Then, I noticed color connections between that card and my water bottle:

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I notice, here and now, that  I’ve used the word “connections” only twice before in a blog title. If you want to make connections with those older blog posts (both written in my first year of making connections on WordPress), you can connect to them here and here.  I also notice that the first blog post that popped up in my “connections” search was Day 1002: What makes anxiety worse?   Because I notice that  connections often reduce anxiety,  I wonder what connections WordPress noticed there.

I  notice connections between the word “older” (which you may notice I used in my previous paragraph) and negative judgments.  I’m especially noticing that connection two days before I turn 66.

I also notice connections between my reading the news and my anxiety getting worse, so I am careful to notice  news items that help restore and reconnect  my faith in humankind, including this one:

Quincy Police rescue tiny owl from roadside

QUINCY — It appears as if Quincy Police has its very own Dr. Dolittle.

Officer Tim Kaes helped a rescue a small saw-whet owl Tuesday night on Victory Road just before 7 p.m. This is the third owl that Kaes has helped rescue.

A person found the injured owl and flagged down a police cruiser, according to Quincy Police Sgt. Karyn Barkas. With animal control off for the night, the officer called in Kaes who Barkas said loves animals.

The owl was brought to the New England Wildlife Center in Weymouth for treatment.

New England Wildlife Center Executive Director Katrina Bergman said that Kaes had just brought in an injured hawk last week that was trapped in the Quincy Center MBTA station. She called Kaes the “slighted animal hero of the South Shore.”

Bergman said the saw-whet appeared to have been hit by a car and has a severe concussion. The small owl, common to the area, was in a bird head trauma protocol, similar to one for humans. If the animal survives its injuries it will be released back into the wild.

The Audobon Society says the bird gets its name from the call it makes, which is supposed to sound like a saw being sharpened against a whetstone. The bird is one of the smallest owl species.

I notice connections with people like Quincy officer Tim Kaes and phrases like “the slighted animal hero of the South Shore.”  I notice connections between expressed appreciation and being less slighted, so I hope Tim Kaes notices and connects to that news article.

Do you notice connections in any of my other recent photos?

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I notice connections between being near the water and feeling better.

I notice many connections in the song “Connections” by OneRepublic (who notice connections between their music and the BeatlesU2, M83and Prince).

I notice connections between gratitude and positive growth, so thanks to those who helped me notice the connections in this post and — of course! — to YOU, for all the connections you notice.

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Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Day 2204: What the hell happened?

What the hell!  Did anybody else have a week where you asked yourself,

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“What the hell happened?”

When you’re talking to somebody on the phone and they’re suddenly not there, do you ask yourself, “What the hell happened?  Did they hang up on me?  Was it something I said? Are they angry? Did their phone lose power? Is the signal week?  Should I call back? Are they calling me back?”

What the hell happened  in these photos?

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What the hell happened in the first photo above and the last one?  First photo: We did a mindfulness exercise in a therapy group last week where we focused on a piece of paper we crumpled  and then unfolded. Last photo: a group calling themselves “Gym Class” performed Lou Reed’s “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” at an open mic last night.

What the hell happened last night when I debuted my latest original song, “I Left the House Before I Felt Ready” at that same open mic?   See for yourself:

What the hell do you think will happen if you leave a comment?

What the hell happens at the end of my blog posts?

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Categories: original song, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Day 2121: Making noise

Is making noise making things better or worse? Today, I’m making noise about the fact that some news columnists are speculating that how the USA opposition party is making noise might be hurting their chances in the upcoming midterm election.

Lately, I’ve been making noise in my therapy groups, inviting people to be making noise when we do a mindfulness exercise that focuses on listening.  This is the noise I’m making when I introduce that exercise:

In this mindfulness exercise, we’re going to focus on the sense of hearing. After you hear the sound of the chime, do your best to listen to all the noises in the room. Feel free to make noise to make the exercise more interesting for other people.

That’s my attempt at making it safer for people to be making noise, since many of us can be self-conscious about the noises we’re making, especially when other people are listening.

I’ll be making noise soon with these Right & Wrong Buzzers:

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Even though I’m often making noise about letting go of  unhelpful concepts of wrong and right, I’ll be making noise to encourage people to change old habits of thinking (including the cognitive distortions described here).

It’s okay to be making noise or to be silent about the other images I captured yesterday.

Because the wind was making so much noise yesterday, I didn’t go for my usual walk. Instead, I was making noise by making ukulele chords for  my latest original song “I’m Mad About You.”

With that song, I’m making noise about anger (especially towards politicians).

It’s time for me to be making noise about gratitude, so thanks to all who helped me create this “Making noise” post and — of course! — to YOU, for all the noises you’re making.

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Categories: cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, original song, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Day 1922: The temperature

Last night in a therapy group, we did a mindfulness exercise in which we focused on the temperature in the room. After the exercise, people shared that they were

  • cold,
  • hot, and
  • hot and cold at the same time.

This goes to show that different people in the same room at the same time can have very different experiences, even regarding something as measurable as the temperature.

Earlier in the day, I noticed that the temperature outside was the coldest I could ever recall for the Boston Red Sox home opener.

Later in the day, the temperature in the group room went up when people discussed what made them mad.

What makes you mad? How does that affect your temperature?

Here’s the last photo I snapped yesterday in the cold Boston temperature.

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Here‘s a film by David Leaf about the night James Brown saved Boston.

Thanks to all who helped me write this post about the temperature and — of course! — to you, no matter what the temperature is where you are.

Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Day 1874: The Year of the Dog

Three hundred and sixty-nine days ago (but who’s counting?),  I wrote Day 1505: The Year of the ______.  In that post, I hoped that 2017 would be, among other things, The Year of the Water View.

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And it was!  That water view helped me deal with many things in 2017, which was The Year of the Cock/Rooster/Bird.

Yesterday, in honor of the first day of The Year of the Dog, I did a special mindfulness exercise in my therapy group. I asked people to focus on images and memories of dogs.  Even though I’m a cat person, I found that mindfulness exercise very helpful, relaxing, and soothing.

Vivian, the Social Work intern who helps me facilitate that group, texted me this photo afterwards:

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I texted back “Oooh!  It’s the year of that!”

I plan to practice mindfulness and look at  more great photos this year, because 2018 is  going to be

  • The Year of the Shoulder Pain and
  • The Second Year of the Trump Administration.

I doggedly hope The Year of the Dog is also

  • The Year of Personal Power.

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  • The Year of Dignity.

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  • The Year of Beating Heart Disease.

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  • The Year of Love.

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  • The Year of the Changes for the Better.

As is every year here at The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally,  it’s The Year of the Thanks.

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Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Day 1752: The universe

There’s a mindfulness exercise I often do in my therapy groups where I mention the universe, as follows:

When you breathe in, think of something positive you’d like to breathe in —   from this room or from the universe.

Every time I do that  universal mindfulness exercise, I tell the group I expect to breathe in gratitude, and I do.

Here are the pictures I was grateful to take in from the universe yesterday:

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What would you like to take in from the universe, here and now?

Here’s The Universe in 4 Minutes:

If you don’t have time for the universe in four minutes, here’s the universe in less than two minutes:

Finally, thanks to the universe and — of course! — to YOU.

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Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Day 735: Monday matters

Today, on this first Monday of 2015, I am:

All of these actions matter to me, this Monday morning.

This morning, before I leave for the day, I am telling myself:

I matter, as much as anybody else in this world.

That mantra matters to me. It also matters to me to invite you to imagine what phrase might help you, today.

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If you thought of a helpful phrase that matters to you, I invite you to say it to yourself (and to share it here, if you choose).

I’m reminded of a mindfulness exercise I use, in my groups, whenever somebody new is present (which matters a great deal). In this exercise:

  • when we breathe in, we think of something we want to take in from the universe and
  • when we breathe out, we think of something we want to let go of.

Today, I choose to breathe in hope and breathe out fear (which matters and helps).

Yesterday, it mattered to bring along Penny the Pen with me and boyfriend Michael (who matters a lot), as we went walking and then food-shopping at our local supermarket.  Would it matter to you if I showed you some photos?

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This song mattered to me, when I was growing up in the Northeastern USA:

(If it matters to you, you can find “Monday Monday” by The Mamas & The Papas here.)

Many thanks to Michael, to Vahan (previously appearing in this post, which  mattered to me when I wrote it), to Mamas & Papas, to children & adults everywhere, to colorful flowers and other blossoming things, and to you, who matters on Monday and every other day of the week.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Day 683: Safety first

Safety has been uppermost in my thoughts lately, for many reasons:

Last night, at the beginning of a therapy group,  I gave people a few minutes to mindfully focus on a real or imagined place that was safe for them. Since I never ask group members to do anything I am not willing to do, I also got a chance to take a little mind vacation. Usually, when I do that specific mindfulness exercise, I build, in my imagination, a location that includes:

  • the beach,
  • a tent that is open to a warm and soothing breeze,
  • colorful pillows, and
  • a cat, somewhere

… however, last night, in group,  I visited a real place, from my memory:

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(Photo of Garden in the Woods found here).

When I went to Garden in the Woods last night in my mind, I found a bridge over a beautiful brook where, many years ago, I took some time to be mindfully present, in the moment, using all my senses.

If you were to take a few minutes, right now, and go to a safe place in your mind, where might it be?  What might you see, hear, smell, touch, feel, and experience there?

Last night, the people at the therapy group described real places, imagined places, lots of different places, as their “safe place.” Somebody also named “this group” as a safe place, which was wonderful for me to hear.

Here are some photos I took yesterday, on my way to and from work, with safety on my mind:

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Those are all real photos; none of them are imagined places or things. However, for that last picture, I did imagine a Cold-Gear Monster* eating the last of the tuna noodle casserole.

Eeeeek!

What music could safely fit today’s topic?  Here’s something:

If listening to “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats, found safely here on YouTube, isn’t safe enough for you, I have another musical suggestion. Last night, as I felt the first drops of precipitation on my walk back to my car:

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… I heard this song by Pat Metheny (whom I’m seeing in Worcester, Massachusetts, which probably doesn’t have such great drivers either, in two days):

If it feels safe enough to go there now, you can find the YouTube video of  the Pat Metheny Group‘s “Spring Ain’t Here,” here.

And I agree with Pat. Spring ain’t here.

Thanks to everybody everywhere who is doing their best to stay safe enough, today (and I hope hope hope that includes you, too).


* “Cold-Gear Monster” is the best name I can come up with, in the moment, as I am trying to remember the name of that friggin’ thing (which I love, by the way) that goes around your neck to keep out the cold but which is NOT a scarf. Any ideas for a better name?

Categories: inspiration, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Day 305: What November means to me.

As I explained,  way back on Day 105 of this year,  everything makes sense on some level(s).

The main point of that old blog post was this:

You will relate to my (or anybody else’s) experience in some ways, but not in others, because my experience (like yours) has been unique.

But I’m going to let go of the past (that 200-day-old blog post) and be more in the moment, right now.

It’s the first day of November.  I have lots of reactions to the month of November.

And they all make sense, on some level.

You may relate to some of my reactions but not to others, because of where you are.

Some of my reactions to November:

  1. It’s autumn in New England, and I’m a wuss about the coming cold, so I’m still not happy about that.
  2. At this point, though, I’ve let go of denial and am working on acceptance.  That includes embracing the beauty of what is. For example, this past week, all the mindfulness exercises I did in therapy groups focused on leaves I gathered outside of work.autumn20leafJust one leaf01 copy (None of those leaf photos are mine, but those images remind me of the leaves we used, in mindfulness.)
  3. November, to me, means November 22nd.  November 22nd, 1963, was the day President John F. Kennedy was shot.  For people who were conscious and aware on that day, that was a life-changing experience.
  4. I was unconscious, on that day, because I was having my first heart surgery, at age 10, to get my first cardiac pacemaker.

That’s the punchline, for me, people.

This year, I am planning on experiencing November differently.

How?  I’m making one conscious change.

I am taking November 22nd off from work, and spending that day in a way that’s helpful for me.

I haven’t figured out how I’ll be spending that day. I’ll be working on that, this November.

And already, this November is different.

Thanks to Divinipotent Daily and the town of Bedford, Massachusetts (for the leaf photos, from Google Images Roulette) and to you, of course, for reading today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Day 206: Letting Go

When I do my therapy groups, I always start the group with a mindfulness exercise.

When somebody new joins the group, I always acknowledge, honor, and celebrate that by doing a particular mindfulness exercise.

In this mindfulness exercise, I ask people to focus on their breath (a very common focus for a mindfulness exercise).

I invite them to observe, just notice, the breath. They don’t need to change the breath, in any way.

I also invite them to do the following: Breathe in something they would like to take in more of — from the room or from the universe. And breathe out something like they would like to let go of.

Because examples help explain things (especially something new), I always predict how I might do this mindfulness exercise.

I say something like this: “I don’t know what I’m going to breathe in and breathe out, but I’m going to make a prediction. I might breathe in gratitude for all of you being here, and I might breathe out any anxiety about doing something new, because every group is new.” (Other things I’ve predicted  I’m going to breathe in during this mindfulness exercise: hope, connection, and the awareness of each moment. Other things I’ve predicted I’m going to breathe out:  distraction, fear, and anything that gets in the way of my being in the moment.)

I really like this mindfulness exercise.  Even if I’m too distracted to focus very well, even if my mind wanders a lot (because that’s what minds tend to do), it helps to just allow for the possibility of — to make some space for — breathing in something helpful and breathing out something that gets in the way.

Yesterday, when I did one of these groups, there was somebody new there. (And, as I wrote about yesterday, somebody was missing, too, for a very good reason.)

So, because somebody new was joining the group,  I did that mindfulness exercise.

And, as often happens when I do that exercise,  I breathed in gratitude and I let go of …. anxiety.

I had a good reason to be anxious yesterday.

Doing something new is always a “good reason” for increased anxiety.

Here were some of the new things I did yesterday:

  1. I facilitated a therapy group, with a new mix of people
  2. I needed to get my 3-month teeth cleaning and I had to go to a new place to get the Intravenous antibiotics I require whenever I get my teeth cleaned.
  3. I went to a new dental hygienist, to get the teeth cleaning.

Probably some explanation would be helpful, right now, especially regarding #2 and especially for people who don’t know me and/or haven’t read every friggin’ blog post I’ve written this year.

I have a Very Unusual Heart. My VUH is prone to endocarditis (which is an infection of the lining of the heart).  (I wrote about this in detail, on Day 65, when I thought I might have endocarditis again.) Since I’ve gotten endocarditis three times so far in my life, my doctors and I came up with this plan: I will have my teeth cleaned every three months and I will receive an intravenous dose of antibiotics before each cleaning.

This is routine for me, now.

However, many things about this process were new, yesterday.

Some of these things were new because of a change I had chosen –  to go to a new dental hygienist, who works with my wonderful dentist, whom I wrote about here.

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That’s my dentist, Dr. Luis Del Castillo (in a photo I took on April 13). (I didn’t take a picture of my new dental hygienist yesterday. Perhaps that’s because I was too ….. anxious?)

Some of the new things I encountered yesterday were due to changes beyond my control.

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That’s my beloved IV nurse, Kerri. She left her position a couple of months ago — eeeek! — but, thank goodness, moved to another place within the same hospital, so  I could still work with her — Yay! (By the way, that picture was taken four months ago, at the old location. I didn’t take a picture of her at the new location yesterday.  Any guesses why that might be?)

Yesterday, I was breathing out and letting go of anxiety, every step of the way, as I encountered new things during this process of getting my teeth cleaned, this process of not getting endocarditis, this process of staying healthy and alive.

And when I’m doing something new (and when the possibilities of illness — and death — are more in my consciousness), I definitely have more anxiety to breathe out.

My new dental hygienist (not pictured), named Michel, said a lot of things to me yesterday as she was cleaning my teeth. I didn’t say much because, well, she was cleaning my teeth.

Here are some of the things she said to me yesterday that are sticking in my mind, right now:

  1. “I don’t expect you to trust me immediately. You are just meeting me.”
  2. “It’s very important to trust your dental hygienist. It’s a relationship. It’s especially important for YOU to be able to trust your dental hygienist.
  3. “Let me tell you all the reasons why you won’t get endocarditis by getting your teeth cleaned here.” *
  4. “With your history, I would expect that sometimes you might obsess about keeping your teeth perfectly cleaned and other time you wouldn’t want to deal with it, at all.”
  5. “Let me know if you are uncomfortable, for any reason, at any moment.
  6. “A lot of people cry here. “

She said that last thing, when — in response to her understanding and empathy — I let go, in a rush of tears.

I never cried with my old dental hygienist. That might be a reason why I left, and found a new one.

That concludes this blog post for today.

Thanks to Michel, Dr. Del Castillo, and Kerri; to everybody who has ever helped me stay healthy; and to you, too, for reading today.

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* A teeth cleaning at the dentist is the leading cause of endocarditis, for people who are prone to it.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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