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    • Spring 2021 PART Programs

      How would more positivity and resilience be of benefit to you in the coming year? Make an investment to learn the science, practice and health benefits of meditation and self care. Our participants leave feeling more positive, empowered, resilient and ready to meet life's challenges in the moment with creating burnout. Success Requires Daily Practice Beyond attending each weekly class, the PART program involves making a 9 week commitment to practice and self care yield profound results. You should be willing to: ➢ Expand or begin a daily meditation practice, building from 3 to 20 minutes ➢ Write/capture 3-5 daily appreciations ➢ Reinforce the four pillars of health: nutrition, exercise, sleep, social connection By supporting your efforts to expand these practices, the PART Program enables you to build a self-care practice you will crave and view as vital to optimal balance and wellness. What age(s) are appropriate for this program? Classes are currently being offered for 18 and over. How large is a typical class? Online class size is 10 - 12 participants. We keep class size small to give you individualized teaching. Who benefits most from this class? Those who are: ● Able/committed to joining each 90 minute class during the 9-week program ● Able to participate from a private, quiet space without interruption ● Committed to a daily, short practice regimen that helps to vastly improve their relaxation ability/ meditation practice, appreciations, pursuit of Wellness/Social goals, and more. Why participate in a pandemic?? This is about the BEST time to study & learn these techniques! Why? 1. More Time. Abrupt shifts in home/work/school/social lives have found many with more time on our hands (no commute, fewer carpools, etc.). 2. More Stress. We are all being pushed to our max -- be it economic, family, health, geopolitics and beyond. And yet these complex times make it vital that we have a wide array of techniques and tools to remain calm, focused and resilient. 3. Isolation is not good for our health and is the enemy of connection and contentment. Luckily, we live in an age when virtual connection can make a real difference!

    • Amazing Benefits of Nature Connection

      A new science-based frontier of stress reduction and well-being! Join us to learn the new science on mindful nature connection, what the extreme benefits are, and the myriad of ways you can access those benefits. Nature connection on the trail, the sidewalk, in your home, in your office, in schools - all can have a great impact on well-being. Learn some of the why, what how and when!

    • BreatheIN2IT Living R&R

      Starts Monday Jan. 25th. Nourish and sustain your commitment to your practice goals for well-being. Join us once a month, 60 minutes per class, to do an RR practice, reinforce concepts from the nine week course and discuss ways to further seat the concepts and seed growth based on your PART experience. Extrapolations and further ways to integrate and connect. Will be live and recorded. You will also receive texts or e-mails twice weekly to encourage and guide your practice. Pre-requisite - PART Recommended - HeartMath and Nature Connection

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    Blog Posts (21)
    • Everybody's Doing It! - Followed by Some Actually Really Good Reasons to Learn to Meditate

      What's the big deal with meditation? For sooo many years meditation was thought, by most, this writer included, to be an exclusively Eastern religious practice. Western popular culture, in many ways, set meditation in the same box as chanting religious sects in the airport. So why then, in a relatively sudden way, do we have mindful meditation practices breaking into the mainstream from many directions? books - if you type "meditation books" into Amazon you will get 60,000 results articles in everything from The Washington Post to Sports Illustrated to Nature to Business Times research from too many private and higher learning institutions to name apps galore - Headspace, Luminosity, et al. appearances in movies celebrities from Hollywood to the English Premier League to the NBA discussing the practice and how it has helped them In a 2018 Report, the CDC cited that the number of people who experienced meditation between 2012 and 2017 had more than tripled. For children, the number went up by a factor of 9. Meditation has entered our discourse big time. Why? WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL? What shifted to allow our Western culture to embrace the practice? Let's go back to the beginnings, briefly. If you are not interested in the history, skip to the next section on benefits;). The exact geographic origin and attribution for meditation is a gray area. The oldest documented images of meditation are from India and date back to 5000 to 3500 BCE. Wall art drawings depicting people sitting in meditative-like seated postures with their eyes half closed, is thought to be pictorializing meditation. Researchers such as Wynne, 2007, and Davenger, 2008, note that nailing down a specific person, group or even geographic area that spawned meditation has not been done. With speculation dating as far back as the Neanderthals, there is also mention of Buddhism, Daoism (Laozi) and Islam. From Chinese Laozi, to Japanese Dosho to Buddha, we do not know who invented it. Buddhism certainly played a great role in spreading the practice, but Confucianism, Taoism and Jaismim also had major integrations. Judaism, Christianity and Sufism all have practices of contemplation, deep thought and connection, via prayer, breathing or mantras, or a combination. The following timeline, from Positive Psychology 1-9-2020, is worth the space as it shows the movement of meditation into to the West and gives us great clues and answers as to why we are now embracing what can be, and often now is here in the US, a secular, albeit oft times spiritual, wellness practice. 5,000 BC – 3,500 BC Early development - The oldest documented evidence of the practice of meditation is wall art in India. India 1500 BC - Hindu Meditation - The Vedas, a large body of religious texts, contains the oldest written mention of meditation. India 6th – 5th century BC Early development - Development of other forms of meditation in Taoist China and Buddhist India. China, India 6th century BC Buddhist Meditations - Siddhartha Gautama sets out to reach Enlightenment, learning meditation in the process. India 8th century BC Buddhist Meditation - The expansion of Japanese Buddhism meditation practices spreads into Japan. Japan 10th – 14th century Christian Meditation - Hesychasm, a tradition of contemplative prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church and involves the repetition of the Jesus prayer. Greece 11th – 12th century AD Islamic Meditation - The Islamic concept of Dhikr is interpreted by various meditative techniques and becomes one of the essential elements of Sufism. 18th century Buddhist Meditation - The study of Buddhism in the West remains a topic mainly focused upon by intellectuals. Europe, America 1936 Western Research - An early piece of scientific research on meditation is published. America 1950s Buddhist Meditation - The Vipassana movement, or insight meditation, start in Burma. Burma 1950s Transcendental Meditation - Maharishi Mahesh Yogi promotes transcendental meditation. America 1955 Western Research - The first piece of scientific research on meditation using EEGs is published. 1960s Transcendental Meditation - Swami Rama becomes one of the first yogis to be studied by Western scientists. America 1970s Western Research - Jon Kabat-Zinn begins developing a mindfulness program for adults in clinical settings. He calls it mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).America 1970s Western Research - Herbert Benson shows the effectiveness of meditation through his research. America 1977 Western Research - James Funderburk publishes an early collection of scientific studies on meditation. America 1979 Medical Application - Jon Kabat-Zinn opens the Center for Mindfulness and teaches mindfulness-based stress reduction to treat chronic conditions. America 1981 Vipassana Meditation - The first Vipassana meditation centers outside India and Myanmar are established in Massachusetts and Australia. America, Australia 1996 Modern Meditation - The Chopra Center for Wellbeing is founded by Deepak Chopra and David Simon. America 2000 Medical Application - The first major clinical trial of mindfulness with cancer patients is conducted, with results indicating beneficial outcomes for the mindfulness-based stress reduction programs. America From this timeline you can see that, in not unusual fashion, the West was led by the science. And once many Westerners are backed by science, they can concur by practice. Certainly there were those practicing meditation before 1936 and many testimonies as to the benefits, but not popularly. Thoreau and Emerson had meditation type practices back in the mid-1800s. Only very recently, however, has meditation been embraced and sought by so many. Most speculate that science backed studies have led the way. And after that, " The growing popularity of meditation creates a virtuous cycle, raising its profile in the culture and prompting more people to check it out," said Richard Davidson, director of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Aimee and I love the science that supports the mind/body practices of meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, nature connection, and yoga. What these practices do for our minds and bodies, even at the cellular level, is utterly amazing. So what IS the big deal? Following are 7 science backed benefits complied by Forbes, from some of our most respected institutions: Helps preserve the aging brain - UCLA Reduces activity in the brains "me" center. In other words, meditation helps to get us out of the stress response and into relaxation, where we access higher pre-frontal cortex centers that control empathy, connection, and higher thinking. - Yale Effects similar to anti-depressants for stress and anxiety-Johns Hopkins Can lead to volume changes in key areas of the brain - yes - added gray matter!! In a good way! -Harvard Just a few days of training improves concentration and attention Reduces Social anxiety - Jon Kabat Zinn (Harvard Professor) - Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Can help with addiction - American Lung Association, among others Short meditation breaks can help kids in school - multiple, multiple studies show the benefits for developing brains These are just a very few of MANY studies that have and are being conducted. Interestingly, it was Dr. Herbert Benson from Harvard, underlined in the timeline above, who really got the research ball rolling when he studied meditators at Harvard back in the 70s. Aimee studied Benson while becoming certified to teach his research based PART Program. She is well versed in his academic and research history. Dr. Benson came from a Cardiology medical background and was curious as to why meditators had better blood pressure. Due to the academic stigma at the time, he actually studied them at night. Now meditation is much more broadly accepted as a legitimate wellness tool, studied and practiced across the globe. But back then, Benson was the meditation vanguard. Dr. Benson named the physiological ease that occurs during mindful meditation “The Relaxation Response.” With this name, Benson avoided the meditation moniker stigma of the times and was able to describe what is, in fact, the opposite of the stress response. The RR is defined as your personal ability to encourage your body to release chemicals and brain signals that make your muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to the brain. From Psychology Today, “Benson can be largely credited for demystifying meditation and helping to bring it into the mainstream, by renaming meditation the “Relaxation Response.” His studies in the 1960s and 1970s were able to show that meditation promotes better health, especially in individuals with hypertension. People who meditate regularly enjoy lower stress levels, increased wellbeing, and even were able to reduce their blood pressure levels and resting heart rate.” There are many methods to elicit the Relaxation Response including visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, massage, breathing techniques, prayer, meditation as discussed here, tai chi, qi gong, and yoga. Many are relating our current global mental health crises, that existed well before COVID, to the fact that we are experiencing a level of repeated stress response in the body that is causing dis-seas and disease. We are breaking down our own systems prematurely. Mindful Meditation, on the other hand, when we leave the train of thought that brings errant stress responses and point inner awareness to breathing by slowing, evening, elongating our breath, can turn on a relaxation mode in the body. We can then avoid, mitigate or recover from the stress response (aka fight or flight) or even better, up level the stress response threshold so we prevent inappropriate stress response in the body. Our PART Program, derived from the work done by Dr. Benson at Harvard and the curriculum created at the Benson Henry Institute, accesses the Relaxation Response via meditation to make other wellness tools more accessible. When we are relaxed and focused, not in the stress response, we are more apt to connect, help, be grateful, exercise, eat healthy, sleep better, access more positivity AND develop more self-awareness in order to better enable all. Meditation benefits are fascinating, compelling and extremely accessible. The race for more research continues. Meditation is not a mystery. Science has now qualified meditation. But meditation does take practice! The more you meditate, well, the more your meditate! as you experience the positive changes in your day. In the end, it took the US a relatively long time to “full on embrace” what is perhaps a life altering practice that can be done from you own home, car, on the beach or in the office. Now that we know what we know, however, some, like Dr. Benson, speculate the Relaxation Response that can be achieved during meditation (and help control common errant stress reactions that are detrimental to health) could be one of the biggest wellness keys now and in the future. Our PART program is a great way to learn meditation and have a platform for practice and guidance, a supported learning experience. PART Winter courses are under way. Look for Spring PART programs soon on the website. In February, if you want to seat your practice and feel what mediation daily can do for you, join our ½ hour, 7 AM , 28 days of Mindful Movement and Meditation.

    • Claim More Lightness in Your Life - 6 Steps

      Small Tweaks in Thinking and Focus can Lift Weight and Heaviness in Life How often does living feel heavy, your heart feel burdened, your steps slow, your joy dimmed? Many are feeling this way now and were before 2020. Stress is not new, nor are feelings of weights on our shoulders. We yearn for more lightness in our lives, a sense of ease. And, importantly, we are not talking about "easy." Life can have lightness and still have many challenges. "Ease" and "easy" are not mutually exclusive. Following find a few ideas of how to bring some lightness and inner light back into your life. 1. Choose the time that is right to take something on. I have a problem with New Year's Resolutions. I actually don't make them anymore. Some set growth and betterment goals at this time of year....and stick with them! I feel a weight and a load going into a new year with vigorous resolutions and what I feel as a burden as opposed to lightness and new beginning once released through the gate of the previous year. On the other hand, a vision and intention for life going forward can be extremely empowering and valuable for attaining goals and enacting change for the better on the path to breaking through to a being of true self and happiness, giving hope and energy possibly. Several forces are at work this time of year. As we discussed in our program last month about being more at ease in winter, the season of less light, more cold, and often less energy, this is often not an ideal time to set fervent and active goals. In tune with the natural world of which we are a part, albeit removed, the winter is post-harvest, post activity, a time of proverbial dormancy, perhaps hibernation, introspection, peace, more sleep, more gathering of warmth, coziness, contemplation. Aligning with the clock and sun our bodies are more efficient in winter when we go to bed earlier and wake with the sun, or just before. With more light as we pass the winter solstice, and more warmth as we turn the corner to Spring in a couple months, we regain energy. Our bodies and neurotransmitters react. Thus the term "Spring cleaning." That surge of initiative to organize, refresh, turn out the old and make room for the new. Ideally, this is the time for resolutions, intentions, and a better chance for success perhaps. Heaviness of winter, dark and cold and aligning with it instead of working against it is one example of how to bring lightness into your life. Recognizing seasonal alterations and how we change with seasons can truly lighten the load and release us from striving against an unmovable structure, in this case, a season. Paying attention to what works for you and how your body responds seasonally is key. There are certainly some personal differences! 2. Know that your true self is one of lightness. Work to peel away the layers. Let's examine the idea of "lightness" further. Light has two meanings of value to us here. There is the light within us, the glow, the purpose, the joy or contacting what is truly meaningful and valuable. Secondly, there is a lightness of being, or a feeling of release from weight and burden, worry, regret. The two concepts can merge and offer, well, illumination;). From the Huffington Post, Dec. 23rd, 2014: Each one of us is born with light. We are the light at our core that's our essence. Our light is always there, and it's available to us to access at any time. What covers up that light is all the fears, negative thoughts and past baggage. Our energy becomes dense and heavy as we walk around carrying the weight of the world. We have convinced ourselves that this is who we are and we are meant to live in this way. This is not the case. The truth is we need to let go of everything that is weighing us down, holding us back and limiting us in life. ... When we let go of who we think we are based on the ego keeping us captive, with its insistence that we are our thoughts, fears, personalities and dramas, we give space in the present time to find out who we really are. Who you are is a radiant soul that has come here, in this time and space, to shine your light and share your gifts with the world. This short excerpt is dense with meaning. In our PART Program, Aimee teaches techniques and a new way of living that enables us to begin stripping away the fear, tension, stress, lingering and reliving the past and worrying about the future, so that we can start to come back to who we really are at the core. A recent PART participant noted how, at the end of the course, they were "starting to feel like themselves again," after quite a long time. The vision is one of peeling off layers, of removing what holds us back from feeling more ease, more lightness in life. The start is believing that inside you dwells a spirit at peace. 3. Listen to what your body is telling you. Tune in to intuition. A good decision that resonates and comes from a place of love is often the one that just feels lighter, does not make the shoulders sag, or the stomach twist. Paty Mariposa gives us some more insight and a way of gaining lightness through intuition and a love mindset: 1: Release the blame and compassionately forgive yourself. 2: Begin listening to your body and the subtle ways it speaks to you. When faced with a choice, ... ask yourself: “Does this feel light or heavy?“ “Does this tire me or inspire me?” “Is this a whole body YES, or heck NO?” Ultimately, these questions are directed to your intuition and your response leads to trusting your it so you can start choosing love over fear. When you choose LOVE you feel light, expanded, inspired, and it sets you free and it creates more of what you want. Fear, on the other hand, causes you to shut down, drains your life force, your energy, your sparkle, and your body responds. 4. Be flexible and accept, even take positive advantage of, changes that you cannot control. Don't fear a personal paradigm shift. Flexibility and adaptivity are keys to feeling unweighted in life. The shackles of being adverse to change and set in our ways is heavy, a true burden, keeps us form moving forward with ease. This is not to be confused with having standards or a code of personal conduct. We all have tenets that we try to live by/love by. In HeartMath, we learn that to feel "in the zone" or "coherent" with life, activities, interactions, challenges, the most constant attribute, among several, for achieving this state is flexibility. My mental image here is a pine tree, bending in the wind but not breaking, living to 500 years old as a result of resilience and the ability to adapt. Barbara Voesdisch lends some meaningful words: Like nature, you are subject to constant phases of change. Your children are born, grow up, leave home, the relationship with your parents, siblings or grandchildren are sometimes closer, sometimes more distant or break off completely. You will experience emotional, mental, physical, private and professional changes. Whether you experience these changes light-heartedly and in freedom or feel forced to your knees and burdened, depends entirely upon how much you let go of people, ideas and expectations and how flexibly you can adapt to the circumstances of your life, reshape them and reinvent yourself again and again. 5. Meditation and relaxation breathing techniques bring and create light and lightness. My mother is a world class meditator. She started a few years ago and honed her craft through working with Aimee, but she can set herself into a meditative state as soon as she hears "now close your eyes and tune in to your breath." She describes the feeling as floating, as many who meditate do. It is well documented that when we are able to bring our mind to one pointedness, focus inwardly on the breath or a mantra, we can evoke a parasympathetic state of ease (opposite of stressed state, sympathetic) that brings a feeling of lightness. We also talk about the light and space inside often when meditating and relaxation breathing. Both applicable definitions of "light" are at work here. Feeling light and spacious inside, while being able to stop the everyday train of swirling twirling thoughts is a direct path to lightness in life, and to setting a tone of lightness, ease and more resilience for the day. Religious belief, faith and prayer are certainly ways to find lightness. As is meditation. Meditation and faith can be mingled. Or kept separate. Meditation is a secular endeavor that can be enhanced by the user in many ways, depending on their belief system. We teach secular meditation to fit all students. A meditation mantra, or repeated phrase that helps to quiet the mind: Om Laghu Bhavam Laghu means “lightness,” or “having the quality of space.” Bhavam is our state of consciousness. This mantra affirms that, “My essential nature is lightness itself. ” Mantras, or repeated phrases or words, are powerful tools to support your meditation practice. As you silently repeat the mantra during meditation, a few things happen: You quiet your mind – Repetition of the mantra helps you move beyond your thoughts and access the stillness within. You experience deeper awareness – The mental vibration created by the mantra allows your mind to access pure awareness. You discover your true nature – With daily use during meditation, the mantra helps your body, mind, and spirit relax into their true essence – pure potentiality and happiness. 6. Being in each moment, mindful, is a release of stress that can lighten your experience of life. Meditation is a mindful state. Mindfulness can be defined as just being aware of present moment activities, connections, thoughts feeling, sensations, without judgement, and with compassion. Mindfulness is absolutely a route to being "lighter" in life. To understand more fully, it is often helpful to look at the opposite state from mindfulness. You wake up and look towards a day of work, chores, possibly some stressful interactions, or any such combination and manifestation. You also wake up to reliving a past mistake or a feeling of loss, longing. You start the day with your mind in the past and future, perseverating back and worrying forward. This is heavy and can bring us to our knees before we even eat breakfast. On the other hand, imagine waking up and stretching and when you stretch you feel and are attuned to every muscle and the delight of the movement. You smile and open the window for fresh air that you note the feel, smell and temperature of. No judgement. Paying attention to every movement you go about your morning tasks with MIND TO THE MOMENT. Looking into the eyes of a loved one and listening, checking your calendar then letting it go and taking each task one at a time. Living each moment as it comes. Knowing that adaptation, recovery and flexibility are in your toolbox of skills. Which feels lighter? The picture is not one of floating through the air whipped hither and thither by the wind of our fast track minds. The picture is one of being grounded in the present moment. Steady but light. Light in spirit and light in being. When I am in the woods calling in my senses to all that is around me, having what is called an MOE, or Mindful Outdoor Experience, I am light, I am joyous even. I am utterly present and alert, energized. You may have different activities that bring on this state or where you can call it in. If so, then you know the feeling we are shooting for. 7. Be light, with humor and compassion for yourself as you go about your business of being human. When Aimee and I are working with students, who are trying new skills and practicing for the first time, we often remind to bring a lightness to the endeavor through humor and self compassion. The Practices of meditation, mindfulness and relaxation breathing, gratitude integration, HeartMath, adaptive positive thinking, connection and pro-social behavior take practice, integration and self-awareness. Along the journey an ability to be light and easy with oneself is key and brings a lightness to the endeavor that keeps you going, AS WITH ANY LEAENRING SCENARIO. Humor brings energy and resilience to go forward. Self-compassion means we are ok with mistakes and we go easy on ourselves to allow time to learn without judging. The Mayo Clinic reminds us that humor can be learned, as can self-compassion: Humor can be learned. In fact, developing or refining your sense of humor may be easier than you think. Laugh and the world laughs with you. Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away. Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good. Go ahead and give it a try. Turn the corners of your mouth up into a smile and then give a laugh, even if it feels a little forced. Once you've had your chuckle, take stock of how you're feeling. Are your muscles a little less tense? Do you feel more relaxed or buoyant? That's the natural wonder of laughing at work. To wrap up, let's put all 7 lightness strategies together in one scenario. 28 YEARS AGO I was the assistant soccer coach at a college. It was mid-season and the team was heavy, burdened, lacking energy and joy in the game. Before Mindfulness was a term or concept that we all knew, I asked the head coach if I could talk to the team. We gathered in the weight room and I talked to them about finding joy again by setting goals, knowing you want to win but then being in the moment with every play. Finding the joy in each good pass, settled ball, positive run, good decision. I was hitting on our #6 above, Mindfulness. With the other six points in mind now, I might have added: a discussion of choose your time to bring energy, to bring decisions, to slow the pace, to put the burners (from coaching perspective, mid-season was a fit time to introduce a slightly new pattern of thinking). a talk about peeling away ego and expectation, to reveal just the athlete, the learner a reminder to listen to your body and intuition - what does it need? what is instinctual? a cue to be flexible and adapt to what you see on the field. If something does not go your way during the game, take a moment to note, then move on and change it for next time. Adapt to the game. relaxation breathing and meditation visualization for clarity a reminder to add some humor and lightness to the view of your game and the enjoyment of the game Put yourself in the place of that group of mid-season athletes or students or parents, or caretakers, or employees. How would that talk make you feel? How would it release you to allow for "in the zone" growth, energy, lightness, and adaptivity? I am no expert or perfectionist in practicing the above 7 techniques/perspectives. I am and always will be a student, a practitioner. But, experience has made me aware of heaviness and, in contrast, how more lightness in life can enhance the experience of living. Love, believe it or not, can really lead the way. As can starting the day in a mindful and meditative way. When Aimee and I remind ourselves to go forward with love first in our teaching, caring for our students, the ego calms, the striving settles, the sense of having to be perfect and prove oneself all the time drifts away and opens a space for bringing forward our true selves and genuine integrity for teaching. We can work to and push our potential in a way that is lighter because love is leading the way, humor is abundant, and when we are making a decision we often tap into intuition and the heart/brain connection and ask ourselves, "how does that feel?" We have up and down days like anyone. But the lightness, ... the lightness comes more often! As with so much, the move to lightness is a choice point. How heavy should a challenge, a moment, a task, an interaction, a life, be? "Lightness and weightiness...are both choices in life." - Erik Pevernague If you like our blogs, please share with those you care about and on your social media! We are looking to spread these care wings far:). It's our purpose! PART classes are filling now for January. Tuesdays Am and Sunday PM still have spots available. HeartMath for PART grads is being offered in February as is 28 days of Mindful Movement and Meditation. Benefits of Nature Connection is closed and will be offered again in March. www.breathein2it.com/courses

    • To Keep, To Consider, To Dumpster

      Time to Muse on What You Want in 2021 With a Little Help From 2020 It is soooooo tempting to throw the 2020 baby out with the bathwater. We may, however, be doing ourselves a disservice with a self-preservative move toward adding it all to the "dumpster fire." For me, if I turn my face away too quickly, I will will forget perhaps all that may shine light on and help me to move forward in a healthy way, in a way that serves my highest purposes in life, for me and those around me. I will pull up a chair to 2020 and reflect briefly on the the past 12 months then look forward and live presently. First and foremost I want to acknowledge that we have all had vastly different experiences during 2020, depending on many many factors, too numerous to list. For some the year was greatly inconvenient. For others, devastating. With this variability considered, we can generally speak of what we perhaps share. In our recent December evening program, we discussed steps to enable a sense of ease and lightness, even advantage during the dark and cold winter months. The last session wonderfully fell on the day after the winter solstice, the day when we start to gain more light. Winter is a time of year when more rest, more contemplation, more warm foods and soups, more times of being "hygged" (pronounced 'Hue-gah') are called for and align with the clock of winter and our animal instinct to hibernate and be more dormant. The time of contemplation and looking back to see what you want to bring forward is our helpful task perhaps, and the subject of this blog. Bottom line - winter is a very fitting time to move inside a bit, reflect on the past year without making any big decisions or bold moves. We are resting and regaining strength and perspective for the Spring when activity returns and the sun and light bolster our energy. The timing is perfect for our purposes here. 2020 was unprecedented yet unwanted, unique yet also with historical precedent in some ways, a time of great loss yet we can also find gain, frightening and divisive yet we all shared in the experience of this virus - ALL across world. In retrospect, and if we could detach and float in the clouds looking down, 2020 was utterly fascinating from a 40,000 foot view. I anticipate the documentaries and books that will pull apart and examine the year from economic, sociological, medical, developmental, race for the vaccine, educational, viewpoints. What from 2020 changed for you that you want to keep? What from 2020 still needs some rumination? What can be tossed wholeheartedly into the shared conflagration? Here a just a few items from my list to get us all started: Keep More time with family - Lest you get a picture of the four of us playing board games, reading classics and making art every day, I don't mean to infer that this was all quality time. Life in the modest house with two sizable teenage boys, where we are all working or schooling, eating, making food, cleaning, gaming, trying to find common ground was not a walk in the park. The teens are not in to spending a lot of time with us old folks right now as they try to stretch the independent wings but keep getting blocked by the flour walls. However, I will always view this time with gratitude for togetherness, even though it was often painful. Without quarantine, I would have seen very little of my family, known them less, missed them more. Gracious I hope they can venture out soon BUT I will treasure this time and feel I know them better having gone through this time literally, in close quarters. Living presently as the future is unknown. Always the case but this year stood out in stark relief. I want to keep enjoying even the little moments. Be present in each and every task and interaction. Gratitude for the sentence above in which I mention that we still had jobs, schools, a house and food. Plus, a habit of Outreach that we started this year that a hope to continue. Outreach was an unhabituated occurrence previously. Reaching out to family - the check ins with older family that I cannot see is a habit I want to keep. So easy to get lost in my day and not keep in touch with my elders, my treasured elders who watched over me for so long. Nature - don't get me started here but nature saved my day, almost every day. I was all in before but now I am addicted. All addictions considered, I will take this life preserving, now deep rooted bond. And nature gave us the show of shows this year. It was one of the most beautiful Spring and Fall seasons here in Western PA that I can remember. From a COVID safety standpoint, nature was hugely accessible and safe. And a light, beautiful snow for the holidays? Nature - your message was hard loud and clear. We need you. I need you. My family needs you. I appreciate you. A true, unparalleled appreciation for what we could not do fully - gather, teach, school, celebrate, spectate, participate. And a much greater appreciation for those who had to work smack in the middle of the red zone - educators, medical workers, service workers. Eyes wide open to the suffering of others. Consider Technology - I have spent the last 10 years railing against the tech that garners so much of my kid's attention, and my own. I may not be video gaming until the wee hours of the AM, but I am quite attached to my phone and the little sounds it makes to grab my attention. I fully agree that gaming and social media can be addictive, brought to us care of our brain chemical "dopamine and serotonin gifts we receive with a game won or a post liked. I have, however, witnessed how tech has enabled myself and my husband to stay in business. Tech has enabled my kids to remote learn, and through something I don't yet fully understand called "The Discord" to stay very social. I do know that The Discord has downsides. I am accepting it for now! Gaming has kept them occupied, even though I would much prefer they read or create, correspond or learn, I choose to choose battles. Going forward I am not sure about tech. I have a deep seeded instinct to remove myself from all social media, find an old fashioned phone and voice message machine, to stop the constant interruption and need. I wish I could take gaming fully off the board for my kids. But this is all still up for discernment. A balance is most likely best. How to do that I am as yet unsure. News - how much do I need? News is right at our fingertips. If I could go back and view a pile of the news I read that was actually enlightening and important to well-being and awareness vs the pile that served no helpful purpose whatsoever, how would these stacks "stack up" against each other? Where I live - I love my community. Do I a need to live in a place that is more natural and less crowded/commercial? Or is the close community aspect something that I need? Dumpster The huge physical, psychological, economic, life and overall well-being toll that this virus and unrest in 2020 has wrought on so many - on all of us to some extent. The term "dumpster fire" Not being able to see someone smile - waiting for less masks to be possible The divisiveness of 2020 So tomorrow at dinner I will surreptitiously guide the discussion towards a glance back at the year. What from this year was good, bad, not sure? In order to accomplish this "touchy feely" discussion with three guys, I will make use of the much lauded coaching "sandwich" tactic. If you are not familiar, the sandwich technique is a way to positively give constructive feedback to a young athlete without sinking their confidence ship. You "sandwich" the growth bit in between two positives. So my plot is as follows: "Looking back, you guys really handled 2020 with a lot of resilience and adaptivity." "So - let's talk about 2020 a little more. It's kind of fascinating. How did you do it?" "Did I mention there is cake for dessert?" Ask me later how it went;). May make for a great discussion at your household though or a great idea for Journaling. Until recently, many naturalists and forestry experts believed that clearing a natural space of downed trees and debris was important for the health of the forest. Now, we are learning that downed trees can be of great import for rich soil, seeding further growth, housing ecosystems, and bolstering continued health. Likewise, if we remove ourselves completely and too quickly from the past year we may miss the seeds of growth, the lessons and perspectives that can be gained and nurtured. We do not have to linger in this place of looking back. We just may want to glance over the shoulder long enough to bring forward a 2021 that has more insight into what we need to be calmer, more appreciative, happier, more connected, more resilient, more ourselves at the core. Once contemplated, once learned, we can be present now, knowing we have staked our claim for some benefits moving forward. "It's OK to look back at the past, just don't stare." - unknown (epidemiologists excluded;) For courses starting in January www.breathein2it.com/courses _________________________________________________________ **I blog not as a guru of ANY KIND but as a student of many practices. My "guruship" with natural world connection is a work in progress that I passionately study. I love to tell stories that describe or symbolize some aspect of the joyful, invaluable, challenging work of making the practices of mindfulness, mindful meditation, nature connection, yoga, gratitude, and positivity an integral part of life. I hope you find value also. Aimee, my business partner, is, in my estimation, a guru of much, although she would also say she is merely a teacher/student on the forever journey.

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brienne@breatheIN2IT.com       412-719-5033

Pittsburgh, PA

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