Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset

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I just watched an incredible TED talk that spoke to my under-achiever tendency  and gave me hope that I can change. Eduardo Briceno’s “The Power of Belief — Mindset and Success” used social science research to show how a fixed mindset (“I’m smart” or “I’m not good at sports” or “I’m talented at X, Y, or Z”) contributes to lower performance, while a growth mindset (“I can learn” or “I will practice”) can help catapult one toward success.

The good news is that he talks about how to change this mindset in ourselves and others. Focusing on the process rather than the result can help change a fixed mindset, which in turns helps instill traits such as grit or persistence.

This talk really challenged me to look at some of my core beliefs about myself and how those core beliefs actually prevent me from reaching my potential.

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Easier Together: Group Meditation

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Why do I find it so much easier to meditate in a group setting? I recently visited a local branch of Tergar: The Meditation Community of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. This group is from a Tibetan Buddhism tradition, yet is also heavily influenced by mindfulness meditation research.   I’ve only gone twice, but am excited about the teaching and practice I am finding there.

I frequently lapse in my regular meditation practice. Weeks (months?) go by with no ‘formal’ meditation, but merely moments throughout the day when I pause and take a quiet, reflective moment. When I do set actual time to meditate, sometimes even 15 minutes can feel like an eternity. I was using a meditation app for a while, but after a while was feeling constrained by the guidance.

When I joined the group in meditation, it felt like almost no time went by before he range the bell at 20 minutes. I felt so refreshed. This group also has a discussion period focused on different themes. There is so much to learn! I’m looking forward to learning more, meditating more, and experiencing more joy in my life.

Oh No! I’m One of *Those*

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Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, I was a gym rat. While some who know me now might not believe it, I used to be in shape and eat healthy. That was before kids and all those other life things settled in.

I’ve been meaning to join a gym for a couple of years now. My plans always got derailed by things like car accidents, having to move, or admission to the hospital. However, for a few months I was, seriously, going to join a gym. I wanted to join the Y, but then the holidays came. Having been a gym rat, I always hated going to the gym in January because it was full of those New Years Resolution folks who join the gym in January and disappear by February. I did not want to be one, so decided I would wait until at least February.

Then one day, about a week ago, my husband and I were watching TV. A silly, fun commercial came on for Planet Fitness. It was ridiculously affordable, and that gym was actually the closest one to our house.

My husband says, “Hey, let’s go ahead and join… today!”

I groan, stating how I don’t want to join in January of all months!

But he convinced me (it’s better to start in January than not start at all) and signed us up online right then. I’m so glad he did. It’s only been a week, but it does feel so good to be exercising again.

Being healthy is a lifestyle choice. All I have is today, and I can choose to make good choices. I’ll still play Assassin’s Creed on the XBox and eat chocolate, but I can be in better shape at my next birthday than I was at the last.

Not Returning To My Regularly Scheduled Program

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Feels like my life just took a break for a special announcement. When I got home from the hospital, I was thinking about how on TV, when there’s an interruption in programming for a special announcement, when it’s done they have the canned “We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.” I thought, yeah, now I can get back to my routine.” Then I realized that may not be the best idea.

Went in to the hospital for chest and left arm pain. I had also been throwing up, so after G-I tract meds did not relieve the pain, they tried nitro. When that removed the pain, they decided to keep me for more testing. The good news was that all the blood test showed no heart attack. They did a chemical stress test, and the next day a resting stress test. While waiting for those results, they gave me Prilosec to see if the pain was simply referred pain from a G-I issue.

The Prilosec actually helped quite a bit. Everyone expected the stress test would come back completely normal and I would go home and follow-up with my primary. But the stress test had an “irregularity.” They could not definitively say if there was a problem with the heart or not, so we decided to do an angiogram to make sure.

The good news is that, structurally, everything looked really good with the heart and nothing was clogged. As a side note, however, there were indications that I’ve had high blood pressure for a while and should start treating that with my primary doctor.

That all started Monday night, and I came home on Friday. I have started on blood pressure medication, but I’m thinking there needs to be more changes. Making that decision is the easy part, but where to start?

Obviously, I need to up the meditation to reduce stress, as that has lagged quite a bit. We’re also going to join the YMCA. But there’s more I need to do.

My house stresses me out. So, I hired professional to help, and this week she is coming to the house to help me start decluttering . Circumstances (two moves and a car accident that had me sidelined for several months) contributed to my home being out of control. I’ve tried on my own, but I need help.

I have visions of a clutter-free home where I can sew medieval garb, paint with watercolors, and bake fresh bread  at will. I can imagine all the family members helping with the upkeep and care of the home, dishes, and day-to-day cleaning. Then we’ll all be smiling and sitting around a table playing games to all hours of the night and life happily ever after. Right?

Well, one little step at a time. My heart is strong, and I want to keep it that way for many, many years to come. It’s never to late to try something different. Today I’ll make one small step towards a healthier me.

End of the World… or Just Under the Weather?

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It’s never when I’m feeling the worst, but it seems that when I start feeling better after being sick (cold, flu, middle-ear infection with vertigo), I often go through this period of feeling hopeless and helpless. It goes something like, “I haven’t been doing anything. I never do anything. I will never do anything. I’m a terrible person.”

It’s a feeling of impending doom. It’s that middle space between being so sick that I can barely move (and therefore am kind and forgiving of myself) to feeling well and charging ahead. I want to get stuff done, but just don’t quite have the energy to get going and get caught up with all I missed.

Anyway, that’s where I’ve been. Sometimes just acknowledging where I’m at helps. So, I’m getting back to it, all the daily stuff that keeps me going. I may not get caught up today, but at least I can stop myself from falling further behind.

Like a Dry Sponge

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There are days when I feel empty, rudderless, and godless. At moments I can feel so completely sure of a Higher Power working in my life, and other times I feel terror, like I’m fumbling, lost, a child in a grown-up world.

At those uninspired times, I need to break it down real simple. As long as I don’t take a drink or drug, there is hope in my life. When I get confused, I remember that AA is my spiritual path. Part of that spiritual path is to seek through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with Spirit.

I had a profound experience during meditation recently. I had been feeling completely drained, exhausted, like my skin was a collection of raw nerves. I remembered to take quiet time and sit in meditation.

I started off with my usual mindfulness meditation app. But when the app ended, I remained sitting in silence. Then  I felt, with each breath, that I was drawing up energy from the core of the Earth. I was soaking up energy like a dry sponge soaks up water. Immersed in Spirit, I drank until my nerves were calm, my mind was at peace, and I felt renewed.

Just remembering that feeling helps me at this moment feel “OK.” We are still unsure of where we will be living a month from now. There are so many pros and cons of every house we have looked at. I don’t trust my own judgement. I know that if you give me 5 possibilities, on my own I will pick the worst possible situation.

I do not know what will happen next month, next week, or even later today. I have to trust that there is as energy above and throughout that guides me… when I keep my mind open and listen. As I prepare to go about my day, I must remember to stop, pray, and seek guidance in my every step and action.

Meditation Reboot: Mindfulness Apps

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Last year I made a commitment to start meditating regularly. Well, that didn’t work out so well. Soon I was caught up in the daily frustrations and flashes of anger and completely forgot about trying to meditate. Peace of mind can be so elusive.

Then, a couple of months ago, my son asked to go off his ADHD meds. When he takes them, he doesn’t eat all day. By the end of the day, when the meds wear off, he is crazy hungry and out of control. We decided that if he was willing to commit to a regular meditation practice we would be willing to let him stop his medication.

I read a lot about meditation for kids and one idea kept repeating: the best way to help kids develop a meditation practice was for the parents to also practice meditation. I realized there was no way around it. I had to start meditating.

I decided to try a meditation app. Unfortunately, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of them. They range in price from free to almost $100 or more. I started downloading and trying the free ones, but found most of them to be incredibly annoying. You know those syrupy-sweet voices that are almost a whisper? I hate those. Where I live, they call that “airy-fairy.”

I asked people about apps they used and stumbled across an app called Smiling Mind. I downloaded the Smiling Mind app (it’s available for IOS and Android.) The dude is Australian, and I found his voice to be remarkably non-irritating.

This particular app is completely free. There are no parts that you have to pay to unlock. I really like that. None of the dealer’s ‘first taste is free’ thing.

Smiling Mind has a number of different programs. They have programs for kids in different age ranges, programs designed for teachers, and a number of programs designed for adults with different focuses such as sports or for the workplace.

Each program comes in several modules which are designed progressively to help you develop mindfulness and increase the time, gradually, that you spend in meditation. Each module consists of meditation sessions, but they also include activities to enhance your mindfulness.

I’m averaging about 3 times a week, but hope to increase that. You can set daily reminders on your phone or to tell  it to notify you when you haven’t been on the app for a few days.

I’m really enjoying working through the basic adult program. Eventually, I’ll be able to do longer and longer meditation with little to no vocal guidance. Of course, you don’t actually need an app to meditate. Simply following your breath can help you return to calm.

I feel like this app is helping me develop mindfulness to instill a deeper sense of peaceful contentedness. Try it! You might like it.

 

 

Inclusion and Cooperation, Not Division

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I’m a longtime liberal/progressive Democrat. I was born and raised to believe that it is not enough to make sure that I get what I need. Instead, I have the responsibility to look out for those who are less fortunate.

I live in a “blue” state, and am happy about that. I am proud of that. However, I just got an email to get a free bumper sticker that says, “Vote Blue” and I’m not going to do it.

It is this duality, if you are not with me you are against me, that contributes greatly to our divided nation. The venomous hate I hear spewed about people of color, or poor people, or people with special needs… It hurts me. But hating the hater solves absolutely nothing.

If I were to say “Vote Blue,” I am blindly, rabidly following  some abstract thing. Party loyalty says that I don’t have to think. Just walk in this lane and this lane only. Anyone who is not in this lane is bad.

What we need is discussion. What we need is listening. I know that there are people who have been saying this for a while. I am not original or unique. This little blog I write… well, it’s just a small thing. But by writing this, I am reinforcing my belief that we need to come together. We need to look beyond party loyalty. We need to look at our humanity.

I need to be willing to hear a different point of view and be willing to admit that I may be wrong. I don’t have any solution, but what I can do is enter into quiet contemplation. I can be quick to see where others are right. While I will most likely vote straight Democrat, I will not separate myself from my fellow humans by declaring that Blue is the only way to go.

So today, try to spend some time listening. Maybe listen to another point of view and try to understand where that person is ‘coming from.’ Chances are, we all share common values and beliefs. It’s easy to say my way is better, but we can only experience true joy when we realize the connectedness of everyone and everything.

Why Secrets Keep Us Sick

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It’s pretty common around people in 12-step programs to hear, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” Honesty is stressed. Telling our secrets, even if it’s just to one other person, can set us free. But what is it about keeping secrets that keeps us sick?

Humans need connection. Keeping secrets make us feel separate, disconnected. If I’m keeping a secret about something I did or something that happened to me, I’m actually believing that if you knew this you would know how sick and disgusting I am and I would be alone.  Therefore, I will bury this secret so deep that even I will forget about it. Denial can be a life-saving coping skill at times, but eventually, it will kill us.

It makes me wonder if the ’cause’ of many people’s relapse is the secrets they are keeping. See, secrets are usually about shame. As Brene Brown puts it in her TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability,” shame is believing that “something about me, that if other people know it or see it, I won’t be worthy of connection.”

So the key, it seems, is learning that this thing, however bad it is, does not make me unworthy of love and connection. It is letting go of that thing that makes all the difference. Letting go of the shame and accepting this thing as part of me is how I become whole. I accept all parts of me, all of my experiences, all that I am.

If it’s that simple, why do we still keep secrets? For the most part, it’s fear of being vulnerable. When Brene Brown talks about vulnerability, she describes it as doing something even when there are no guarantees.

When we are vulnerable, we feel connected. Doing the 5th step is all about vulnerability.  But sometimes, we need professional help to be vulnerable. Even people with a lot of time in the program often find the need to seek outside help.

If we’re afraid of vulnerability, speaking without knowing what the reaction will be, then often a therapist can help. It is their job to hear you and be accepting. It is their job to help you through it. When you talk to a therapist, it’s like side-stepping vulnerability because you have a guarantee that you will be OK even if you tell this horrible secret.

And that is how we become whole.

So, my message is this: If you are keeping a secret that you swear no one will ever know, please find a way to let it out. You are worthy of connection. You are worthy of love and acceptance. Otherwise, your secret could very well kill you.

Just Because I Can…

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***I came across this post in my ‘Drafts” folder. I’m not sure why I didn’t publish it before. But the lesson means as much today as it did then. I am reminded to be OK with small steps, small progresses. When there is so much to do, doing one simple thing is always better than doing nothing.


Just because I can doesn’t mean that I should. I think that was a car commercial a while back, but it is also so important for me right now.

Discernment: being able to judge well. I love this word because it means not just making a choice, but being able to see nuances and “being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure” (from Merriam Webster Dictionary). It is an active process, weighing probabilities and consequences.

I often have a profound lack of discernment.

Monday, I was ‘released’ by my doctor to shed the boot and put full weight on my left foot. Yeah! When I got home, I was all over the place, wobbling and careening on my foot that hadn’t really been used for three months. It even felt good (emotionally) to stand and do the dishes.

That night I paid for it, having to ice my ankle and keep it elevated. But I did the same thing again the next day. Then my physical therapist came and clipped my wings.

The thing is, the way I was “walking” would lead to eventual injury, and would possibly leave me limping for the rest of my life. I needed to learn to walk properly. It was so frustrating to have to go back to crutches. I mean, without them I could carry things all by myself.

Fortunately, I listened. I’ve been focusing on using correct gait and strengthening my foot and ankle. I had to practice restraint.

Isn’t that so important with everything? Restraint of pen and tongue. Restrain myself from over-spending (and many other over-doing things). As I gain more freedom, discernment becomes more and more important. My choices mean more, to more people.

As I sit and wiggle my toes and flex my foot, I am reminded how important it is to find that spiritual center. I need to weigh my actions, take time to be silent and reflect before making rash decision. Do I want to hurtle and crash through life or calmly build my steps and progress towards an ultimately fulfilling future?