Managing Our Expectations (9 minutes)

We often expand a lot of mental energy in the area of expectations. Wanting things to be a certain way, unhappy when they are not, related to someone we interact with or something within ourselves. We may, for example, hold ourselves to a standard of perfection, setting an expectation that may simply not be attainable and may lead to harsh judgment toward ourselves. We may berate ourselves so much for not being perfect that we then ruminate, procrastinate, and expend a lot of energy that could be better applied to something else we have to get done.

When we have expectations, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. We can’t ever know exactly what’s going to happen next.

With mindfulness, we gain an ability to meet our experience exactly where and how it is. We realize that life typically does not play out in the way we expected and that having expectations does not truly help us get what we hope for. Loosening the reigns regarding an expected outcome, we may be more able to go with the flow, and we may develop a surprising degree of comfort and freedom.

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How Gratitude Helps Us (10 minutes)

There are numerous studies demonstrating the benefits of gratitude from deceasing depression to improving sleep quality to increasing the likelihood that we’ll engage in healthful activities like exercise. But the North American culture of advertising tends to keep the focus on always wanting more. Gratitude helps us focus on what we already have, rather than what we don’t. It can help us shift from negative to positive emotions. From a sense of impossibility to possibility. Like meditation, it’s simple but not easy.

With mindfulness, we learn to focus on what’s going on right now. In doing so, our experience is less about what we want to happen and what we want to have, and more about what actually is. As we live more in our direct experience of the present, we develop a natural sense of satisfaction. In addition, as we learn to shift our focus in meditation, we can more intentionally focus on what we appreciate. The good people in our lives. The many ways our bodies are performing well. The tasty meal we’re eating. Something that doesn’t require a purchase. Something that’s here right now.

 

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Cultivating Positivity (9 minutes)

We’ve come to understand that positive emotions, in and of themselves, are critically important. Yet, we’re often pulled to the negative, within ourselves, regarding others, and about our circumstances. Many wise sages proclaim that this negativity bias is due to evolution, the need to always be on the lookout for threat and danger because, that’s what allowed us to survive. In other words, the human mind may be set up to seek and prepare for threats in the environment, things not going well. In modern life, however, this fear-based thinking and its attendant focus on the negative no longer serves us and can really trip us up.

This is not about simply putting on a happy face and covering over challenging emotions and experiences. It is more the awareness of the need for a balance of positive to negative emotion that that can contribute to the optimal functioning of the human being.

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Befriending the Body (11 minutes)

We live in a world that tends to prioritize mind over body. Thinking and doing is what’s prized. We learn to tune out our bodies, ignoring areas of discomfort and pangs of hunger. We tend to power through our days, ignoring whatever physical sensations arise. Assuming that our body will cooperate with whatever we ask of it.

Yet, it may help us though to pay greater attention to bodily sensations. After all, the body is always in the present, even if the mind time travels away.  Being more present with bodily sensations can have a grounding and centering effect. We may, however, be at war with our body, unhappy with how it looks or how it’s behaving. Comparing it to what it might’ve been like in the past or to an idealized societal standard of youth and beauty. The awareness we cultivate with mindfulness can help us become acquainted, familiar, and perhaps even more kind to our body.

 

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Cultivating Compassion (11 minutes)

When we pay greater attention to our thoughts we begin to see just how many judgments we have. And typically these judgments are less than kind. Mindfulness involves developing an open awareness from a nonjudgmental stance toward whatever we’re experiencing. When we do so, we often create space for greater kindness and compassion both to ourselves and to others. This can lessen the tendency to go to blame as our 1st response to whatever we’re experiencing.

As we cultivate greater compassion, we also begin to see that we are all flawed but that we don’t always have to focus on the flaws. We clear the way to seeing the bigger picture, that we’re all more alike than different. As we do this, we can become more accepting of ourselves and of others.

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