Be You, Bravely!

If you want to embody your true YOU, start paying attention to what may be holding you back.

If you don’t notice what makes you you — your talents, beliefs, and values — and start conforming to what others may or may not think, you’ll harm yourself.
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🙄 You’ll start playing it safe because you’re afraid of what will happen on the other side of the critique.
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😣 You’ll fear being ridiculed or rejected.
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😔 When challenged, you’ll surrender your viewpoint.
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😖 You won’t raise your hand when you can’t control the outcome.
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😐 You won’t go for what you want because you won’t think you’ll get it.
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This year try something new: Embrace the good and the bad in you.

💥 Stop Trying To Be Nice & Dare To Be Authentic.
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Start at home. Tell that person you love them. Dance at a wedding. Take risks. Be respectfully weird. (IT MEANS BE YOU).
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Then try it at work. Give a presentation. Go for that promotion. Or change to something that makes you soul happy.
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When you feel you’re holding back, simply acknowledge it, and reconnect to yourself.
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Most of all, remember that growth comes from outside your comfort zone!

Take good care of you,

Manuela

16 Self-care strategies you can adapt to your life

16 Self-care strategies you can adapt to your life:

🥰  Sleep: sleep has a big effect on how you feel physically and emotionally.

🥰 Eat right: What you eat has an impact. Fill your body with nourishing food.

🥰 Move your body. Try to walk, bike, try yoga, join a dance class. Get out of your comfort zone and discover what resonates with you.

🥰 Learn to say No. Saying no to others can mean saying yes to yourself. Don’t feel obliged to say yes when someone asks for your time, especially if it’s going to drain your energy. You will start to have more time for the things you actually enjoy doing and you will feel empowered.

🥰 Get out: Nature is still the best medicine!

🥰 Take a self-care break: identify when you need a pause, get away from your normal schedule and take time to do something just for yourself.

🥰 Get organized: declutter your house, your working space, your closets. It will bring you space and freedom.

🥰 Start journaling: journaling is a powerful way to meet yourself.

🥰 Start a gratitude practice: start a gratitude journal, find a gratitude partner to change emails every week on what you are thankful for (email me!), or just say “thank you for another day” when you open your eyes in the morning.

🥰 Make a list of things that give you joy and repeat them. Joy raises our vibration.

🥰 Cook at home: cooking is an act of love.

🥰 Put your phone down. Read a book.

🥰 Accept total and full responsibility for your life. Be honest with yourself.

🥰 Control your habits: habits create your life.

🥰 Create space for silence. Silence allows you to connect with yourself. Start a meditation practice.

🥰 Make self-care a priority: schedule your self-care practice and guard that time.

You do have time for yourself today!

Now tell me, can you adapt any of these strategies to your life?

Exploring Our Self-Critic

Most of us are familiar with thoughts that tell us we are not good enough.

These thoughts might be there at work: “Your work is not good”, “You’ll never be as good, why do you bother?”, “No one notices you”, “You are not doing enough”.

This inner critic might meet you when you look at the mirror: “You’re fat.” “Horrible hair, there’s no hope”. “You look bad and sloppy”.

It’s even there to critique your closest relationships. “He doesn’t really love you. No one could care about you.” “You’re not a good mother”, “Just don’t be vulnerable.”

There’s always this sense of never being enough. Of falling short at work, as a partner, and worse sometimes as a parent. This leads to feeling insecure with others. and we can feel guilty, resentful, or controlling.

Being kind to ourselves is one of the central components of mindfulness—but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.

If we can calm our inner critic and cultivate self-acceptance, we can rewire our brain for deeper connections.

It all starts with the awareness to pay attention to your thoughts.

Reflect for a moment:

What’s your typical attitude towards yourself especially in those moments when you’re feeling anxious, angry, or off balance?

For many of us, our attitudes are far from friendly. We have deep habits of judging ourselves as lacking, deficient, inadequate, in pretty much everything.
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You can start observing your thoughts towarrds yourself with this simple exercise in your everyday life:
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✨ Notice when you are caught in thoughts of self-judgmet and come back to your senses, using your breath.
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Sometimes our thoughts are relentless voices in our heads.
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By observing them, we realize they are just thoughts…
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We don’t have to believe in them.

 

Take good care of you,

Manuela

 

PS-  If you want to discover how mindfulness can help you to overcome decades of self-judgment book here a free discovery session and let’s talk. And you can also listen here to a short guided meditation to help you start exploring your self-critic.

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Self-Acceptance

compassion

How close is the person you are to the person you want to be?

Don’t answer quickly.

I want you to take a deep breath and analyse where you are in your life. Analyse who you are in your life.

Is this easy to answer?

The road for self-acceptance is also a road of discovery.

Self-acceptance isn’t going to happen overnight. It takes extensive work and considerable dedication.

But learning how to love yourself right and treat yourself well can impact the way you live your life and the things you’re able to accomplish.

Here are 9 ways to start your journey to self-acceptance:

✔Practice self-care. Take time to yourself.

✔Connect with yourself: meditate

✔Accept imperfection.

✔Be kind to yourself (how’s your inner critic? Loud?)

✔Do things that feed your soul.

✔ Practice mindfullness. Be here and now.

✔Move your body. Go for a walk.

✔Be grateful for the things you do for yourself.

✔Don’t take things personally.

 

Tell me how close is the person you are to the person you want to be? Do you feel you show up as yourself in life?

Send me a message if you want to share something about this subject 💛

 

Intention

intention, mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness is an intentional practice. The same for meditation.

I know when you look at pictures of people meditating on social media, you see this blissful expression on their faces and a text underneath telling you all about the benefits.

I also do the same. And I get worried that I can mislead people in thinking this is a magical cure for stress and general unhappiness.

These images of happiness or bliss, only attainable by a few, are illusory. In fact, we feel the effects of a mindfulness practice if we do just that: practice.

Practice is part of learning anything new: piano, guitar, a new language, tennis. If you thought you could start out performing at a high level without practicing, you’d likely be disappointed. It takes people hours of intentional practice to reach a point of expertise and high performance. Like the skills listed above, the capacity to be mindful is something that you learn and grow into.

Don’t let the sitting and the silence fool you. These practices are participatory, not passive.

Those interested in mindfulness will often tell me that they want to get into the habit of practicing daily.

For example, when you download a meditation app. The app will remind you when to meditate, but when the reminder pops up on your phone, you will guiltily ignore it. Now, it’s a source of frustration, just one more thing that you fail to accomplish each day. Not quite what you were hoping for.

Other people, as they begin practicing mindfulness, will say things like, “I think I’m doing something wrong.” They don’t feel anything special.

I try to assure them that there is no “right” experience. Whatever you experience is what you experience. That is the point.

Most mindfulness practices are simply about becoming aware and observing the thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations that arise within you, without being overtaken by them.

It’s perfectly normal to feel bored, anxious, or frustrated—you may be tapping into feelings that you experience unconsciously all the time. It may not be entirely pleasant. And it’s in moments like these that people new to these practices might find it too difficult to continue on a daily basis or stop altogether.

How to engage people in the practice of mindfulness always was an interest of mine. I’ve been putting together action plan strategies that have been shown to help people put personal commitments into practice.

Here are two of those strategies:

  1. One way to boost mindfulness practice is to develop a simple, strategic plan of where and when you will practice each day. This is most helpful for those deeply committed to developing a regular mindfulness practice. And that’s why I created a practical workshop “Find Your Time to Meditate”, where I show you in a simple and efficient way how to find YOUR time to practice. Because It is going to be different for everyone, and what works for me, might not work for you. I also teach you how to have fun, how to turn it into something joyful that you look forward to, rather than a chore.
  2. What is your WHY? This is probably one of the most important things to consider when you are developing anything you want to do consistently, especially when establishing a meditation practice. Your why is going to be unique to you, but connecting to this will help you show up, as this is the thing that will get you out of bed each day, that will help you move beyond the excuses and all the reasons that will come into your head not to (and there are always plenty of them), it will help you stay connected to your practice and get you on the chair. To help you with this you can listen to my guided meditation “Intention” here. This will help you to set or remember your motivation for meditation.
  3. Support and Guidance: I’ll be there during your journey,  giving you the tools to develop your practice. Encouraging you to go deeper in your practice and to not ignore discomfort. Opening the door to deeper inquiry and insight. Celebrating the little vitories.
  4. Be Your Own Anchor Facebook Group: A free safe space where I share real life practice (the boring and not so pretty part), and where we get together once a month in an interactive Zoom group meeting for mindfulness and meditation, to share struggles and victories, and practice together.

 

Regardless of how you enter into these practices, it’s important to know that cultivating awareness and higher states of well-being follow from hard, intentional practice and don’t come easy.

This may not be what you want to hear, but by understanding this reality from the beginning and using smart practice strategies, you stand a better chance of sticking with the practice and experiencing the benefits that it can unlock along the way.

Take good care of you,

Manuela

 

PS.- You already tried to begin a mindfulness practice but you somehow give up? Send me an email or book a discovery session. I can help. Let’s talk!

Meditation For Sleep

eyes-close-during-meditationIf you’ve ever went to bed worrying about a problem or a long to-do list, you know those racing thoughts may rob you of a good night’s sleep.

Sleep disturbances, like having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, affect millions of people.

The daytime sleepiness that follows can leave you feeling lousy and boicote your productivity, and it may even harm your health.

Mindfulness meditation — a mind-calming practice that focuses on breathing and awareness of the present moment — can help.

Here’s a simple exercise for you to do when you go to bed:
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❇️ Choose a calming focus.
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It can be your your breath, a sound (“Om”), a short prayer, a positive word (such as “calm” or “ease”), or a phrase (“breathing in calm, breathing out tension”; “I am relaxed”). If you choose a sound, repeat it in your mind as you inhale or exhale.
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❇️ Let go and relax.
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Don’t worry about how you’re doing. When you notice your mind has wandered, simply take a deep breath or say to yourself “thinking, thinking” and gently return your attention to your chosen focus.
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Or you can listen to my guided meditation “Relaxation Into Sleep” here or in Insight Timer.

Take good care of you!

Manuela

How Mindfulness Helps You to Focus Your Attention (and enhance concentration)

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By practicing mindfulness you can improve mental focus and increase concentration.

This has been proved by many scientific studies that explain it by the neuroplasticity principle: through mindfulness meditation we create new neuronal pathways in the brain.

“Where your attention goes energy flows” James Redfield

“What you practice goes stronger” Shauna Shapiro

I’m sure you already heard these two powerful quotes.

Here how mindfulness meditation trains your brain to be better at concentrating: each time you notice that your mind wanders off from whatever you’re focusing on, you intentionally bring your attention back to the object of your attention.

Now, attention doesn’t mean that you need to put an enormous amount of effort into achieving focus.

The idea is to make a balanced effort.

The neuroscience of mindfulness suggests lasting change requires a gradual training through time.

Experiment by trying quite hard, not trying hard at all and then find the sweet spot in the middle. Sometimes, you can almost let go of effort altogether and your mind stays focused quite happily, although this may never happen to you.

As always with mindfulness, no rules exist, so experiment and see what works for you.

Here is a  five-minute meditation for improving your focus:

  1. Sit, every day, for five minutes.
  2. Practice just looking ahead and observing what is in front of you. If you are inside and alone observe the objects, the colours, the shape. If you are outside observe the people walking.
  3. Do this daily for a couple of weeks and see what effect it has on the rest of your life.

Here are some other tips for improving your focus:

  1. When at work, help yourself to be focused by turning off your email and, if possible, your phone, even for short periods of time. The lack of distraction boosts your productivity, focus and sense of satisfaction immensely.
  2. The next time you find yourself multi-tasking, stop. Take a deep breath. Multi-tasking reduces productivity and increases stress — avoid it when you can.
  3. Every day, look out for one thing that you find beautiful, such as your child or partner, a flower, a piece of architecture or the sky, and see whether you can watch and be with that beauty for a few minutes, without distraction. Your mind wanders off as usual of course, but just gently and kindly bring your attention back.

If you’re new to meditation, you may think that your attention seems to be getting worse as you practice. This isn’t true — you’re just discovering how easily your mind can get distracted! Persevere even if you feel you aren’t focusing well at all.

Trust in the process 😉

Take good care of you!

Manuela

 

PS – Listen here to a short guided meditation to focus your attention.

 

How to Sit (comfortably) for Meditation

The first thing I ask in my guided meditation practices is for you to sit in a comfortable sitting posture.

Comfortable can mean all kinds of positions and in case you are wondering if you are doing it right you can learn about it here.

“A good meditation posture is very still, balance and comfortable”

The 3 main qualities on a meditation posture are:

  • Alignment of the back, neck, and head in a comfortable upright natural way, with your chin slightly lowered.
  • Relaxation of muscles, particularly the neck, shoulders, and face. The posture should be comfortable. The arms should hang effortlessly, with the hands resting in the lap or lightly on the knees. The legs should be comfortable and relaxed and if your knees do not touch the ground you can support them with extra cushions to ease any pain in the hips.
  • Stillness of body means stability, not easily moved, with a sense of balance. To find your centre of balance you can gently rock side to side and forward and backward until you find a sense of the middle of your posture. For the duration of the meditation it is important to sit still.

In Mindfulness meditation formal practice, the postures have some basic elements that are employed around the world in order to calm the mind and align the body (that’s why when you see a picture of someone meditating they all are in the same position).

These elements are sitting, elongate the spine, resting your hands, relaxing the shoulders, tucking in the chin, opening the jaw and resting your gaze.

I’ll explain each one briefly.

 

  1. Sitting: You can sit on a chair or on a firm pillow on the ground. If you sit on a chair be sure to sit away from the back of the chair and place your feet firmly on the floor, aligned with your hips and knees.

If you sit on the ground cross-legged it helps if you have a good firm cushion. Nowadays you can find meditation cushions everywhere at reasonable prices.

Depending on your flexibility and yoga practice you can sit Quarter Lotus (cross-legged with your legs loosely crossed and your feet resting bellow the opposite thigh or knee), the Full Lotus ( legs crossed with both feet resting on top of your opposite thighs), or if you cannot sit with your legs crossed, that is fine, you can sit with both feet laying on the Floor in a relaxed position (aka sukhasana or easy pose).

Instead of sitting with your legs crossed you can also kneel and place a cushion or a wood bench between your legs.

Note: You can also meditate lying down, try to bend your knees with your feet on the ground to maintain some sense of wakefulness.

 

  1. Elongate the spine: Sitting gives you a firm foundation and it is important to lift yourself up through your spine. You want to feel uplifted when you meditate. Your back should be straight and aligned with neck and head.
  2. Resting your hands: The simplest thing to do with your hands is to rest them on your lap. You can rest them with the palms down on your thighs. Or you can place your right hand on top of your left with the thumbs lightly touching, resting them on your lap.
  3. Relaxing the shoulders: Your shoulders should be relaxed and away from your neck. You can push them slightly back. This establishes a strong back while opening the front body.
  4. Tucking in the chin: Slightly tuck in your chin, this allows your head not to be upwards and gives you rest.
  5. Opening the jaw: To open the jaw gives a sense of relaxation to the face muscles.
  6. Resting the gaze: You can meditate either with your eyes closed or open. With open eyes you should relax your eyes two or three feet ahead on the ground.

 

If you take some time before practice to settle into a comfortable posture, following these simple elements you will find it much easier to rest your mind and concentrate and you will start your practice relaxed.

Personally, to achieve my posture, I use the mountain visualization. After I develop alignment and relaxation in my posture, I imagine I am like a mountain to help me be deeply rooted into the earth, grounded and stable. The key here is to remain unmoved and extremely still with the magnificence of a mountain.

As you can see there are many postures (or positions) you could try, most of them easy to achieve. You shouldn’t force your body to execute any posture. Fundamentally, although it does take time to get used to sitting still, mind and body should be at ease, dignified and alert.

It’s important to say that these are postures used on formal practice of meditation. But you don’t have to be dependent on the right position or the right pillow or space to meditate. You can meditate on your desk at work between appointments, on the train, on the bench in the park, home when the kids are busy with homework.

Choose and practice what works for you. There is no right or wrong when it comes to meditation practice. Meditation is not about the right posture, it is a state of mind, the state of awareness.

No matter what, you will struggle with focusing and staying present. We all do. Know that and be kind to yourself!

Take good care of you.

Manuela

Eyes Open or Closed For Meditation?

 

meditation-insight

I was writing a meditation on awareness of emotions and my mind pointed me to this question, as I remembered a friend telling me he didn’t like to meditate because he didn’t feel comfortable closing his eyes.

Why do we close our eyes during meditation, and can we meditate with our eyes open?

For me it all comes down to more focus and concentration. If your eyes are closed there are less chances of you being distracted by, well, everything you see and it’s easier to focus on your body sensations.

As anyone that meditates or tried to meditate knows, you can get high jacked by thoughts and get distracted for long minutes before you realize you are lost in the virtual reality of the mind. You don’t need more distraction.

Closing our eyes helps us bring into focus these other parts of our experience – like our body sensations, our breath, or the awareness of what we are actually thinking about. Meditation opens us up to the understanding that our thoughts are only one part of our experience.

Closing our eyes also allows us to pause in a more efficient way. It’s like, if by closing our eyes we are hitting that stop button of the world outside, you are disconnecting from it and you are looking inside, connecting with yourself.

If you don’t feel comfortable, you don’t have to close your eyes during the formal sitting meditation practice, nothing should be forced.

Keep your eyes open.

You can even integrate what you see on your meditation, it can be a part of your experience.

 

  • When your eyes are open, point them down and pick a single point to look and stay there.
  • As your focus improves, also bring into awareness your body and to your breath.
  • The more you practice, the easier it gets to focus.

If the eyes are open, we are less likely to feel drowsy or sleepy.

With your eyes open you can always practice an informal meditation, for example when walking, feeling every breath, feeling every step on the ground, feeling the breeze on your skin, feeling your heartbeat. You can experience to be here and now.

Choose and practice what works for you. There is no right or wrong when it comes to meditation practice.

No matter what, you will struggle with focusing and staying present. We all do. Know that and be kind to yourself!

Take good care of you,

Manuela

Mindfulness and meditation

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Nowadays mindfulness and meditation are everywhere. They became mainstream, and both terms are often used together in the same context and referred to has having the same benefits.
However, are they the same?

 


 

The confusion is understandable: they both give us skills to live a happier and more balanced life, and they both give us the tools to enhance our ability to focus on the present moment.
Spoiler alert: we cannot be happy if we keep on regretting the past and worrying about the future.

We should not think of mindfulness and meditation as being the same, even if they have similarities, they are different practices.
Let’s take a better look:

Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the simple act of paying attention and noticing and being present in what we are doing.
Mindfulness is all about awareness. The development of awareness in the present moment, in the here and now.
You practice being mindful by being fully engaged with the present moment, by being fully present: body and mind.
You can practice mindfulness anywhere, with anyone, at any time. You just have to show up and be fully engaged in the here and now.
When you are being actively mindful, you are noticing and paying attention to your thoughts, emotions, feelings, body sensations, movements and behaviours. That’s how you engage with the present moment.
This seems like a simple and easy practice but it is not. Our attention is being constantly hacked, and we usually get distracted. Most people don’t even notice the fact that their minds wander from the actual activity they are participating in, to other thoughts and sensations. By practicing mindfulness, you are actively involved in the activity with all your senses instead of allowing your mind to wander.
This mind-wandering leads us to live on auto-pilot mode: body and mind are completely disconnected. And leads to unhappiness.

According to a Harvard study, people spend 46,9% of their time while walking, eating, shopping or watching tv, thinking about something other than what they are doing. “A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” Killingsworth and Gilbert write. “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”

This kind of mindless behaviour is common, usually our mind is lost in the virtual reality of the past (regretting) or future (worrying) and our brain is running on auto-pilot with our head full of “I should have” or “what ifs”.
This is where living a mindful life can help.

Meditation
Meditation is an intentional practice and usually refers to formal, seated practice.
There are many types of meditation, according to their different focus.
Some examples of seated meditation: Vipassana meditation, Breath awareness meditation, Loving kindness meditation (Metta), Zen meditation, Mantra based meditation, Visualisation meditation, Mindfulness meditation (you are right, the focus here is to train the mind to remain aware and present in the moment).

Regardless the type, meditation offers time to turn inward to increase concentration, calm and balance. It offers relaxation and heightened awareness.
For someone who meditates, the practice offers a chance to improve physical wellbeing, as well as emotional health. However, there is no “right way” to meditate, meaning people can explore the different types until they find one that works for them.
Seated meditation usually begins with deep breathing in a comfortable position, bringing all your awareness to your breath—inhales and exhales—consciously guiding the mind toward an anchor, or a single point of focus. In meditation, you typically spend a focused piece of time—anywhere from a minute to an hour or more—in which you are tuned inward.
In case you are wondering you should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day… Unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for one hour 🙂 Old zen saying.

As you can see, mindfulness and meditation are not the same: mindfulness is the ability of being present in your daily life, meditation is how you train to achieve that presence.
Mindfulness is awareness in life, meditation is training the mind to develop the awareness (it’s the gym).
They are both skills that you can develop. You develop them through practice. Becoming aware requires practice, disconnecting the auto-pilot requires practice, being fully present with the ones we love requires practice, engaging fully in the here and now requires practice, sitting and developing a solid meditation practice requires.. practice.

Mindfulness practice, being fully engaged with the present moment, checking in on yourself and noticing and paying attention to your thoughts, emotions, feelings, body sensations, movements and behaviours, and meditation practice (in this case mindfulness meditation) training your mind to remain in the present moment.
Happiness is also a skill. Mindfulness and meditation make you better at it.

One last note to say what mindfulness and meditation are not:
Mindfulness is not forcing yourself to give attention to just one thing.
Meditation is not stopping your thoughts or not thinking about anything.

I hope this was helpful to you.
Take good care of you,
Manuela

 


 

P.S. For those interested, here are 3 “official” definitions of Mindfulness:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”~Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Mindfulness in its most general sense is about waking up from a life on automatic and being sensitive to novelty in our everyday experiences. With mindful awareness the flow of energy and information that is our mind enters our conscious attention and we can both appreciate its contents and come to regulate its flow in a new way.
Mindful awareness, as we will see, involves more than just simply being aware: It involves being aware of aspects of the mind itself. Instead of being on automatic and mindless, mindfulness helps us awaken, and by reflecting on the mind we are enabled to make choices and thus change becomes possible.” ~Daniel J. Siegel

“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” ~Sylvia Boorstein