Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mindfulness 101

Image and quote By Tania Franco
Mindfulness is being present each moment, acknowledging your thoughts, sensations, feelings, situations and other things as they are right now. 

Practicing Mindfulness taught me how to love and accept myself as I am in each moment.

I am a flawed individual who makes mistakes, just like everyone else. Thinking that I would love myself when I was finally able to be continually kind or act according to what was right was forever elusive. Somehow I would never be this ideal of myself.

I accidentally stumbled onto practicing mindfulness without even knowing I was practicing it. It occurred organically, little by little. When a regular practice of mindfulness allowed me to feel that “I love myself as I am right now” it was the loveliest gift I could ever have given myself. And that is what this practice offers everyone.
I first began by practicing yoga.

The funny thing is that this discipline is not meant to be practiced only for an hour in class, it’s for you to apply it’s teachings in your everyday life.  I would say that through this training I learned foundations for mindfulness.
Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat. Breathing will allow you to focus, relax, be present and get through difficult postures.

What is my body telling me right now? Doing different postures, it’s essential to listen to your body’s cues and to identify when you need to push yourself to do a particular pose and when you need to be gentle and strengthen certain muscles before you can try it.
Be patient with yourself. Am I sweet and gentle with myself or am I pressuring and ordering myself to do this and that? In yoga we are exposed to different stretches, some are easier than others. Some require complete concentration while others will feel more natural. Patience is essential. Noticing how you handle the different situations will allow to progress.

I was introduced to cognitive reframing.
This practice supports you in changing unhealthy thoughts into healthier ones by listening to your inner dialogue. In order to do that it is essential to be present.

If I am thinking about the past (or future) I am missing out on this moment. I lose my power to change things if I am not here in the now. Tuning in to the present is very empowering. I became curious about meditation, bought a couple of books and began my personal practice.

The first year was the most difficult. I had a racing mind and could not find solace drowned in so many thoughts. This is why many people are uncomfortable with meditating. It was really uncomfortable but thankfully my tenacity allowed me to keep at it. After one year of meditating I finally had a moment of peace and silence and I was aware of it! I continued by exploring with teachers, CD’s and trying different types of meditation until I found what truly worked for me.
Along the way I learned that whatever I felt, thought, or occurred in my life was OK. The less I struggled to change things and accepted them, the paradox of change occurred: Things changed.

Accepting things as they are.
The more I try to push or hide feelings, bury thoughts, or experiences that are uncomfortable the more they persist. As I accepted things as they were I began to accept myself as I am. Mindfulness encompasses all of this and more.

As I practice, I continue to learn. The benefits are not in the knowledge but in the practice. If this resonates with you, and want to give these practices a try, begin by asking yourself throughout the day one of the following questions:
  • What sensations are the strongest in my body right now? Where do I feel them and how do they feel?
  • How do I feel right now? Am I sad, mad, scared, happy, or at peace? If you don’t know, it’s alright you are practicing.
  • Am I breathing? If not, take a few breaths.
Know that you are going to make mistakes, and this is ok.

-Tania Franco

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Have You Laughed Today?

About a decade or so ago I noticed that I hardly laughed and somehow that this showed in my face, so I decided that I would make a conscious effort to laugh every day and more often. In the past, there were many times when I found things funny, but I stifled chuckles. Now I would allow and nudge myself to laugh out loud and enjoy the experience as a way of bringing more joy into my life.

It may not sound like much, but laughter has been very therapeutic for me.

Little by little I began to laugh more often. I also coaxed my-self into laughing louder. And as time passed it became one of my best tools for de-stressing. I now laugh many times a day and I am known for my big belly laughs.

It has been very healing.

I make time to watch sitcoms where I laugh out loud and enjoy the jokes as a way of taking care of myself and of releasing whatever stress I’ve had throughout the day. 

The average 4 year old laughs 300 times a day while an average 40 year old laughs about 4 times a day.

Laughter is a wonderful way of releasing uncomfortable emotions such as sadness, anger and fear.
Research has shown that it can elevate your immune system, reduce blood pressure and elevate serotonin levels. It can be profoundly healing.

Identify how you can attract more laughter in your life. The following are some ideas that can inspire you: watching a comedy a sitcom or movie, going to a comedy club, or watching video of a stand-up routine, subscribing to humor blogs, etc. And most importantly, whatever you decide to do allow yourself to enjoy it.

May you laugh much more, maybe even 300 times a day.

-Tania Franco

Monday, January 7, 2013

#26 Acts of Kindness

     Our ability to overcome adversity intrigues me. I love to read books of extremely difficult lives and learn how people find hope, love and inner peace. I am amazed at the strength of the human spirit and find myself being inspired by people over and over again. And I have to say that many times it is my clients who inspire me to grow and become a better version of myself.

     When the mass shooting of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut occurred, and 26 people died, I felt deeply saddened for the families of the victims and for the family of the perpetrator. Actually 28 people died including the young man and his mother.  All I could think was: how will these people go on? How will they heal?
     I cried and hugged my son and husband tighter that day and night. I called my mother and sister feeling grateful for having them in my life. I felt really sad. Sad not just for the families and the town but for the whole world having to be exposed to this kind of hurt.
     I am aware of many of the horrors that occur throughout the world and find myself saddened by injustice and pain. There was something different this time, though. I woke up the next day really early, practiced yoga in my living room and then sat to read some articles. That’s when I read about Ann Curry’s beautiful idea of honoring each person that died that day by doing one act of kindness in their memory. It was brilliant!
     What could be more precious than to turn ones pain and suffering into loving kindness? How empowering. It is important for all of us to realize that even though there’s unkindness in the world there is just as much or maybe even more kindness happening around us whether we are aware of it or not.
     I felt excited and inspired. I took this challenge to give purpose to my grieving and at the same time teaching my son the importance of random acts of kindness and how the world can be changed by the small everyday choices made by each person.
     Our first act of kindness was to give 5 people a card with a loving message and a sunflower.
It was thrilling and very interesting. The first person we gave a card and flower to was a young man that had just gotten to a busy intersection with a folded sign. I was curious what the sign said and drove back giving him just enough time to unfold it.
     It may sound weird, but I had a feeling it had to do with what I was doing. As I approached I read that his sign said: “It is Time to Love”. I drove up to him, rolled down my window and handed him our gift. His face transformed. He seemed so grateful and surprised. I saw it as the universe letting him know that it was an affirmation of his new realization.
     Next we went to our favorite local park and approached an older man sitting outside the recreation room. This was a bit uncomfortable. He pretended not to hear us. My son had the flower in his hand and I had the card. In fact he walked away. We finally reached him and gave it to him. He seemed like a man that was not used to being treated kindly by strangers. In fact he was really guarded and a bit defensive. I was upset that my son would have to experience this, but I guess it is part of life and not everyone knows how to receive.
     The other three women we gave flowers to were grateful, stunned, and excited.
     I hope the people who received the flowers in our humble act of kindness got a fraction of what we did in giving them. In the end we were happier and much more aligned with our deeper self by allowing ourselves to be in such a loving state. We talked about it all the way home and later that evening. Small acts of kindness have touched my heart as a recipient in the past, and as the giver. How have they touched you?
-Tania Franco.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Wish For All of Us This New Year

Image by Tania Franco

May we feed the kind and loving parts of ourselves.
-Tania Franco