Mindful Moments

Just Three Breaths
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Just Three Breaths By Audrey Walzer
To slow the headlong rush of our hectic lives and be more present in the now, try this simple mindfulness practice:

Stop what you are doing, and become aware of your body breathing three slow breaths.  They don’t have to be your deepest breaths ever,  just take the time to exhale slowly.  If you are particularly stressed, you might even blow out lightly through gently pursed lips.

For these three breaths, feel your senses come alive.  Notice the colors your eyes see, the sounds your ears hear,  the smells your nose perceives, and the feeling of your body-  perhaps the feeling of your feet on the floor or your sit bones on the chair, the palms of your hands on your legs, the temperature on your skin, or the feeling of your clothing contacting your skin.

Living in our thoughts makes it difficult to remember where we are right now.  Connecting with the gift of your senses and remembering your body for just three breaths, three times per day, takes us out of the stories in our heads and into direct experience of our lives in the now.

Place post-it notes with the number 3 in your workplace, in your car, in your home, or set a gentle alarm as a reminder three times per day.
It’s just three breaths!

The Mindful Smile

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The Mindful Smile By Audrey Walzer

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.

— Thich Nhat Hanh

Life circumstances, daily events and various people may not always please us the way we think they should, but overall, most of our lives are pretty darn good.  Practicing the Mindful Smile, as taught by the Vietnamese monk Thich Nat Hanh, helps us to come back to the simple joy of being alive, and keep our perspective all day long.

Try it right now and see how you feel!

With eyes closed or open, find stillness for just a moment in this hurried world.

Feel your life flowing through you, riding on your breath.

Allow the corners of your mouth to turn upward in a gentle half smile.  What changes?

Take note of your senses, and turn your easy smile toward them.

“Breathing in, I feel my lungs expanding”

“Breathing out, I smile.”   Smiling to your lungs, in gratitude for breathing.

“Breathing in, I see faces of people walking by.”

“Breathing out, I smile.”   Smiling to human beings, just like you, and wishing them well.”

“Breathing in, I hear a bird singing.”

“Breathing out, I smile.”  Smiling to nature all around us, if only we take time to notice.

“Breathing in, I feel my computer keys.”

“Breathing out, I smile.”   Smiling at the work that provides your sustenance.

 You can do this all day long, and make a habit of wishing yourself, everyone you meet, and the whole world around you, well.

The secret is, this practice is not just “for them.”  Mindful Smiling is a health practice, for you.

I’m doing it right now, for us.


Love Your Healthy Body
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Love Your Healthy Body By Audrey Walzer

How many of us look in the mirror and are dissatisfied with what we see?  Whether it’s aging, a weight issue, or an injury or physical challenge, it’s easy to reject our bodies and distance ourselves by living in our heads.  “My bad knee,” “my fat rear end,” “my sagging face” are descriptors so common we don’t even notice the punishing tone we use with ourselves.  Research shows however, that this kind of self-talk does not motivate us to change or take action, in fact, just the opposite.

Instead, try this Loving Kindness practice for good health, which is the most important thing of all.

Take a deliberate three minutes once or twice a day for a month.  Sit in a quiet place, and feel life-giving oxygen being breathed into your body.  As you exhale, feel yourself willing to let go of whatever happened five minutes ago, or five years ago, and just be in the now, with the reality of your body as it is, breathing right now.

As you feel yourself settling into the rhythm of your breath, feel your inhale bringing you energy, and let your exhale become a silent affirmation:

May I be at ease with myself.  May I be healthy. 

Breathe in…

May I be at ease with myself.  May I be healthy.

In this way, plant a seed of perspective-  our good health is the most important thing we have.  And, if we are ill, we need to be at ease and not anxious in order to deal with our challenges effectively.   This positive intention-setting opens our brain’s “approach pathways” so that we begin to make good and loving choices for ourselves all day long.

Reaffirm your intentions each time you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, or whenever you think of it:

May I be at ease with myself.  May I be healthy.

May good health be with you!


A Mindful Moment for Moms-to-Be 
(Photo courtesy of Michael Robinson-Chavez)
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Mindful Moment for Moms-To-Be By Tara Stivers

Pregnancy is a time of anticipation, excitement and wonder. Growing another human being can be an amazing thing!

With pregnancy also come challenges. Adapting to physical and emotional changes can be difficult. Sharing your body is not always easy. You might become frustrated with the need to slow down. You also may be overwhelmed by information, choices and advice. It might be difficult to trust your intuition through all of the noise.

Try this exercise to help you connect with your baby and your beautiful pregnant body. Relaxing together daily is good preparation for labor and helps to nourish a healthy baby.

First, tune in to the breath.

Feel your body breathing both you and your baby, naturally, easily.  Let your awareness feel your breath down into your belly, and to your baby. Allow your exhalations to slow, and feel the space after each exhale as a peaceful, intimate moment with your child.   .

Now, focus on breathing in the positive, and releasing any negatives. 

Repeat the empowering word to yourself and feel the wash of release as you exhale.

Breathe in trust. Breathe away worry.

Breathe in strength. Breathe away doubt.

Breathe in calm. Breathe away tension.

Breathe in confidence. Breathe away uncertainty.

Breathe in patience. Breathe away irritation.

Breathe in surrender. Breathe away resistance.

Breathe in love. Breathe away fear.

Incorporate anything that is helpful in this moment in time, remembering that all feelings become a memory.

Trust that you have everything you need to grow, to birth and to nourish your baby. Learning to let go and surrender is a wonderful skill that will serve you well in birth and parenting.


Breathing into the Dantian–  A Practice for Restlessness
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Breathing into the Dantian-  A Practice for Restlessness By Audrey Walzer

In Tai Chi, Qigong and other martial arts practices, our Qi (Chi) or life energy is considered to be seated in the lower belly, our dantian, rooting us into our legs and earth, and providing energy to the body which grows from the legs.  In some traditions, the dantian is known as the “golden stove.”

Here’s a simple Mindful Moment you can do anywhere, especially when you are standing in line, at the grocery store or anywhere you might become restless.

☯ Stand with feet hip distance apart, knees soft as though on the deck of a boat.  If possible, let the arms hang by your sides, thumbs pointing forward, to open your chest.

☯ Notice any agitation in your thoughts, your breathing… let your eyes rest on one point, and breathe down into your dantien, the lower belly, and feel it gently expand.

☯ As you exhale, feel your feet rooted into the earth, through your shoes and the floor.

☯ Breathe in again, and imagine any thoughts or feelings being breathed into the belly, and sent down through the legs into the earth as you exhale.

☯ Feel yourself standing taller, and feeling lighter as you send thoughts that don’t serve you into the earth, allowing your natural brightness, and positive energy to emerge.

☯ Let your “golden stove” fill you with calm, powerful, positive energy.

☯ See this time of waiting as a time to recharge, and come back to who you are.


A Mindful Moment for Classroom Teachers

(Photo  by Christopher Futcher)
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You entered the teaching profession because you care deeply about making a difference in the lives of children, and by extension, the world.

Now one or many of those very children have tested your patience to the limit.  Is this what you signed on for?   Here’s a strategy for being mindful:

First, in the non-stressful times:  Bring to mind often the fact that these are children, whose home life and pressures you cannot completely know.  Remind yourself that from whatever emotional/social place they have come, they are subconsciously looking to you for guidance.  You might say to yourself:

“It’s his/her/their job to test the limits.  It’s my job to set them.” 

If when we are not stressed, we remind ourselves that these children have no internal agenda to cause us harm, it will help us when we feel triggered by their behavior, and allow us to proceed in harmony with what we deeply believe and know as mature educators.

Then, when a triggering moment occurs:

Stop.  Giving yourself a moment will delay a reactive comment that might be sub-optimal.

Take three slow breaths. 

  •  The first breath is a hug for yourself.  This situation is difficult, and you deserve compassion.
  • The second breath is a wash of tension out of any place you feel it in your body.
  • The third breath sends compassion to that child or children in front of you.  They are doing their job as children and testing you.  It is not personal, no matter how it feels.

Respond clearly and with kindness.   Kindness does not mean being a doormat.  It simply means speaking and acting with respect.

Mindful Moment When You Get Home:    Call this situation to mind again.  Repeat steps 1-3, with great compassion for the difficulties you face on a daily basis.   Reflect on self-compassion and compassion for your students.  Without judging, is there a way to have handled this in a more productive way?  Finish with a slow deep breath, or even go for a walk outside, and be proud of this time you have taken to manage stress and to develop your skills in dealing with difficulty.