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How to Reduce Post-Election Stress

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  1. Minimize your exposure. Stay informed, but limit your exposure to media and social media. Don’t allow the current political climate to dominate your thoughts or consume you.
  2. Practice Awareness of Breathing Meditation. Rest your attention on the breath. When you notice that your mind has wandered, bring the attention back to the breath.
  1. Take in the good. Notice what is good and right in your life and in the world. Do what brings you joy. For every moment that you spend feeling angry, sad or scared, spend an equal amount of time cultivating joy.
  1. Spend time in nature. Go for a walk. Sit in your yard or in a local park and listen to the birds. Go for a walk on the beach or in the woods. Feel the wind on your face and the warmth of the sun on your skin.
  1. Allow yourself to feel your feelings. It’s ok to feel confused, sad, afraid, angry or whatever you are feeling. Let yourself feel. Write about your feelings in your journal. Connect with people who are kind, compassionate and inclusive and talk about your feelings.
  1. If you are feeling hopeless, reach out and connect. Ask for help. Talk with a friend or loved one. If you need professional help, reach out for support. If you are having suicidal thoughts, reach out for help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
  1. Cultivate compassion. Cultivate compassion for people who are different from you and become an ally to someone from the LGBTQ, African-American, Muslim, Mexican, or Jewish communities. Speak up against harassment or intimidation of any kind.
  1. Manage your anger responsibly. A lot of anger and hate is being expressed out there right now. If it gets directed toward you, take a deep breath and walk away. Choose to not engage. Find a healthy outlet for your own anger, like talking with a trusted friend or therapist, engaging in exercise for some physical release, writing about it, or channeling it into constructive action.
  1. Channel your stress into constructive action. Join local, state and national organizations that encourage compassion and inclusiveness.
  1. Remember that everything is impermanent. Everything is impermanent, including the current state of political affairs. This, too, shall pass.

Jen Johnson is a meditation teacher, coach and Licensed Professional Counselor. www.jenjohnson.com

Healing Our Invisible Wounds

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We all have invisible wounds as a byproduct of being human. The depth of our pain often comes as a result of the things we do to turn away from our pain. When we turn toward ourselves with kindness and care, we not only nurture the possibility for healing our invisible wounds, we also open to the possibility of learning the value of skilled self-care that includes deep listening. When we become still and quiet enough to listen to the wisdom of the body and the whispers of our inner voice, we connect with an infinite source of energy and grace. When we settle the chaos and busyness of our lives, quiet our minds with meditation, and make time and space to listen—a deep spiritual listening—we come to understand what our soul needs in order to heal.  And we pave the way for setting clear intentions for our lives and creating a life based on what matters most. Then we have the freedom in so many regards to choose how our life unfolds.

The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind. –Carolyn Myss

A Heartfelt Personal Message from Jen: Thanks for your patience as I took some much needed time away from writing these weekly Mindful Moments postcards that go out to my email list. I started sending out these weekly postcards in 2011. At the time I was terrified to send them out, and I seriously doubted my ability to commit to writing them every week. Committing to write weekly Mindful Moments for my email list and social media communities has been an important aspect of my mindfulness and creativity practices. Writing them for the past 5 years has provided an opportunity to practice keeping a commitment even during the weeks when my mind believed that I had nothing else to write about.

After 5 years of commitment to this weekly offering (I believe I may have skipped 5 or so weeks during that 5 years), I officially took some time off from writing it in order to reassess. My heart and soul were longing for a deeper and more personal expression of my most authentic self. I appreciate the emails and calls from those of you who have written me during the past 5 years to let me know how much this offering means to you. I plan to continue it but on a less frequent basis.

I’ve also started blogging again in a more traditional blog style, offering a more personal voice regarding things that matter most to me in this world. For those of you who used to read my Meditate Create blog on blogspot, this blog will be similar to that and will offer a more personal exploration of the intersection of spirituality, creativity and healing. Writing in this way allows me to have a more full creative expression of what feeds my heart and soul. You won’t get those posts in an email, because, after all, you didn’t sign up for that.

You can visit the blog whenever you like at jenjohnson.com/blog or you can create a free account on Feedly or Bloglovin and follow my posts there. I’ve got follow buttons for each of those services in the sidebar on the blog now to make it easier for you. I’ll also be posting these blogs on my social media sites, so please connect with me there if you haven’t already (see social media buttons in the  right sidebar of this postcard).

For those of you who have asked what I’m working on these days, I’m working on a book proposal about how we can all heal from invisible wounds that is a culmination of my life’s work and practices that have been most healing for me and my coaching and therapy clients. I’m creating a  photographic body of work on the bald cypress trees of the Cape Fear River.

I’ve also been awarded another grant for 2017 from the North Carolina Humanities Council to offer writing and photography workshops for veterans for my Invisible Wounds of War project. The Arts Council of Wilmington & New Hanover County will play a more prominent role in the 2017 programming and will host the exhibit of the writing and photographs in their ACES gallery in October and November 2017.

I’m opening up 5 spots for new meditation students and coaching clients outside of Wilmington who want to work with me by phone or Skype.  Mindfulness coaching is a great way to reduce stress and to live more intentionally, commit to your self care, and finally commit to the goals pertaining to your wellbeing that you’ve been thinking about getting around to.  Drop me an email if you want to chat about working with me.

I hope you’re enjoying autumn as much as I am.

Warmly,
Jen

Monday’s Inspiration

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A few things that are inspiring me this week:

Hojicha green tea

The sound of rain

Pastel colors of sunset over the ocean

My favorite Retro51 fountain pen (discontinued but plenty others to choose from)

My Mamiya 645AF camera

Fuji 400H color negative film

Mary Oliver’s Felicity

Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Weekend additions to my native plant garden—anise hyssop, threadleaf coreopsis, cardinal flower and wild indigo.

Vegan black bean and sweet potato salad

Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliot Smith on Spotify

 

Hope you all have a great week. What’s inspiring you this week?

Love,
Jen

 

 

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Being with Difficult Emotions

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Learn how to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days.    –Kris Carr

Feeling states tend to come and go. When we learn to meet difficult emotional states skillfully, we may minimize their tendency to overshadow everything. It’s not the events in our lives that cause our suffering but our reaction to those events. The way to begin skillfully relating with emotions is to practice bringing awareness to emotional states. Try checking in several times each day and noticing the state of the heart or emotional body. Inquire within, “What am I feeling?” and see if you can name the feeling. Naming the feeling activates an area of the brain that begins to calm you. Then inquire, “Where am I feeling it in the body?” Scan the body to try and identify where this feeling state is expressing in the body. Next inquire, “What is the quality of the sensations?” Is there tightness? Throbbing? Heat? Coolness? Now try to rest the attention on the sensations in the body and notice whether they increase in intensity, decrease or remain the same. When the mind wanders to evaluative thinking about the feeling or situation, see if you can gently bring the attention back to being with the sensations. Feelings are like waves—they rise, swell, crest and fall. Try to ride the waves of emotions rather than becoming entangled in them, and notice what happens.

Warmly,
Jen

UPCOMING EVENTS

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 8-week class will be offered on Thursday mornings from 9am – 11am. There will be a free orientation/information session on Thursday September 1, 2016 from 9 – 11am, and the class will be offered Thursdays September 8 – October 27, 2016 9-11am with a day of mindfulness on Saturday October 22 from 9am – 3pm. Participating in an MBSR class has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and pain and to increase a sense of peace, happiness and well-being.
Cost is $425. Payment plans are available. Registration is limited and required. Email Jen to register. 

Nourishing the Soul

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If we fail to nourish our souls, they wither, and without soul, life ceases to have meaning. –Marion Woodman

When was the last time you did something to nourish your soul? Sometimes the soul needs a long walk along the shore, through the woods, by a river, or through a park. Sometimes it needs to see blue sky, clouds and trees and to hear birds sing. Sometimes it needs to create—to paint, write, make photographs, create pottery, make something with yarn or fabric, cook or arrange space. Take a few moments today to check in on the state of your soul. Ask what it needs in order to feel replenished. Commit to doing that thing, and notice what happens.

Warmly,
Jen

UPCOMING EVENTS

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 8-week class will be offered on Thursday mornings from 9am – 11am. There will be a free orientation/information session on Thursday September 1, 2016 from 9 – 11am, and the class will be offered Thursdays September 8 – October 27, 2016 9-11am with a day of mindfulness on Saturday October 22 from 9am – 3pm. Participating in an MBSR class has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and pain and to increase a sense of peace, happiness and well-being. 

Cost is $425. Registration is limited and required. Email Jen to register. 

Developing a Regular Mindfulness Practice

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Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you’re doing. –Jon Kabat-Zinn

Perhaps the biggest struggle that brings meditation students to study with me is their struggle to commit to a regular mindfulness practice. Engaging in regular practice is at the heart of creating an intentional life, because we need to know what we’re doing in order to intentionally act in ways that bring us closer to the life we desire. Formal meditation practice is a training ground that allows us to see our habitual patterns more clearly without the distractions of everyday life. When we see ourselves clearly, we have the freedom to change. Try setting clear intentions for your practice, and try to focus more attention on the benefits of the practice rather than on the costs. Start small. Choose a frequency and duration of practice that you feel certain you can attain, and increase the frequency and duration as you move forward. Try to develop an attitude of interest and curiosity toward whatever arises in the practice, including anxiety, peace, boredom, happiness or restlessness, and notice what happens next.

Balancing Grief with Hope

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If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom. –Rumi

During these times of turmoil and unrest, it is becoming progressively more difficult to remain balanced and hopeful. Violence continues to erupt around the world, and the news fills TV, print media and social media. The U.S. political situation becomes increasingly frightening as the Republican presidential candidate encourages hatred, individualism, further conflict and abuse of power over those who are already oppressed. How can we remain connected to a sense of hope? Consider limiting your exposure to news. Sure, remain informed, but once you’re informed, decide not to view the visual images over and over. And limit the time you spend getting informed to 15-30 minutes per day. Consider limiting your time on social media to 15 minutes per day. Most importantly, remember that whatever we rest our attention on grows. So if you rest your attention on what leaves you feeling hopeless, your sense of hopelessness will likely grow. Consider resting your attention on what gives you hope. Some of us are activists and will direct attention toward joining local, regional or national groups or committees who are attempting to do good things in the world. Or we’ll use our voices as speakers, writers or artist activists to create change in our local neighborhoods. Others of us may be more introverted and feel more hopeless if we don’t feel called to activism. If so, consider ways in which you can create change through your mindfulness practice, knowing that healing starts with each of us individually and grows outwardly. Take good care of yourselves. For every moment that you spend feeling anger, sadness or hopelessness, spend an equal amount connecting with those things that bring you joy—a swim in cool water, listening to birdsong, walking in the woods. Notice what is good and right with the world, however small. And cultivate within yourselves through your practice a sense of balance that allows you to hold the grief and the hope. Cultivate compassion toward yourselves and others, and then challenge yourself to try to find compassion toward everyone, even those who are perpetrating violence or spreading hatred. See if you can have compassion for their woundedness. May all beings be healed. May all beings be free from suffering. May all beings be happy. May all beings be at peace.

Warmly,

Jen

UPCOMING EVENTS:

Keep an eye out for upcoming dates for the fall MBSR 8-week class in Wilmington, NC. Drop me a note if you’re interested in signing up, and let me know if you prefer a daytime or evening class.

 

Making Intentional Choices

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This is the age of the opening of the heart in a more collective way, for only through the forces of the heart can humanity become aware of the travails Earth undergoes, to actually feel Earth as a living Being, and consciously join our being with hers. –Robert Sardello

When we cultivate mindfulness, our self-awareness grows. When we open our hearts and cultivate self-compassion, our compassion for other beings and for the Earth increases. We can either walk through this life on auto-pilot, making choices based on what feels good or easy in the moment and spend our energy dealing with the impact of those choices on our bodies, hearts, minds and the Earth; or we can begin to wake up, open our hearts, cultivate a daily mindfulness practice, and make intentional choices that reflect a deep commitment to our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of the Earth. When we make intentional choices, we reap the benefit of those choices. What choices can you make in this moment and the next that reflect a commitment to take 100% responsibility for your own wellbeing and for the wellbeing of the Earth? Live intentionally. Choose how your life unfolds.

Warmly,
Jen

UPCOMING EVENTS

The Heart of Self-Compassion half-day retreat. Saturday July 16, 2016  9am – 12pm in Wilmington, NC. **This retreat is now full with a wait list.**
Self-compassion is an attitude that anyone can learn to cultivate. Many of us struggle with negative self-talk, perfectionism, and a relentless cycle of beating up on ourselves for our struggles, which can lead to low self-esteem, increased anxiety, and even depression. Isn’t it time you let go of the old ways of relating with yourself that aren’t really working and embrace relating to yourself with kindness and compassion? Research shows that those who cultivate compassion have increased willpower and an easier time with life changes in general. In this half-day retreat, we’ll explore practices from mindfulness meditation, writing, and modern neuroscience for working with the body, breath, and mind to cultivate loving-kindness and self-compassion. Please bring a journal or notebook and a pen.
Location McKay Healing Arts.  Cost: $50  Registration is limited and required.
THIS RETREAT IS NOW FULL. TO BE ADDED TO THE WAITLISTemail Jen 

 

Valuing Your Wellbeing

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Those who value their own wellbeing equally with the world can be trusted with the world. –Lao Tzu

How many of us have truly learned to take 100% responsibility for our own wellbeing? Many of us are taught to take care of everyone else and often do so at the expense of ourselves. Learning to value and care for our own wellbeing creates a solid foundation from which we grow to recognize that we are interconnected with all beings. We can begin with a few minutes of mindfulness practice each morning. The more we practice, the more our awareness grows. Studies show that regular practice of mindfulness increases both awareness and compassion. Imagine what the world would be like if each of us began practicing mindfulness for even a few minutes each day. Close your eyes. Turn the attention to the breath. Notice the rise and fall of the chest and belly with the inhale and the exhale. As soon as you become aware that the attention has wandered, let it go, and begin again by turning the attention once again to the breath.

Warmly,
Jen

Are You Afraid to Be Happy?

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“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” –Marianne Williamson

So many of us are in touch with our fear of failure or fear of never being really happy. But what I see far more frequently in people is a fear of their own personal power, success and happiness. Some people stay for years in jobs that they hate, relationships that feel unfulfilling at best or abusive at worst, geographies in which they feel disconnected or habits that keep them feeling unwell. In what ways are you holding yourself back, holding yourself down, settling for less than you deserve? If you truly owned how powerful you are to create change in your own life and in the world, how would your life be? Who do you want to be in the world, and what are you willing to do to become that?

Warmly,
Jen