My Balancing Act

Receiving the Liebster Award and Paying it Forward

The Liebster Award was created to recognize new blogs in a “pay it forward” manner. The word ‘liebster’ is German for ‘favorite’ or ‘dearest.’

I am grateful to Dorlee M from the Social Work Career Development blog for nominating my blog, My Balancing Act, for this award (http://www.dorleem.com/2014/01/social-work-career-development-receives.html)…


The Greatest Love of All

The greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all

The song, The Greatest Love of All, has a lot of meaning for me. I resonate with its lyrics on a deep level. And I love to sing. Singing is one way I express myself. I have fond memories of belting out the words of this song with great feeling with a close friend. It was a very empowering experience.

Singing can also be a form of meditation for me…


The Many Benefits of Gratitude

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” –Epictetus

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” –Oprah Winfrey

Gratitude is an important practice for optimal well-being. It helps us to appreciate what we have, instead of focusing on what we don’t have. Research studies have demonstrated that people who cultivate a sense of gratitude have lower levels of stress and depression, higher levels of empathy, generosity, and helpfulness, and are generally more satisfied with life…


Balancing Mindfulness of Emotions with Lovingkindness

It is the 17th day of the Real Happiness 28-Day Meditation Challenge. For the past two weeks, I have been working on mindfulness of emotions at night. I have mostly been using a guided meditation by Sharon Salzberg that encourages noticing what emotions arise while initially focusing on the breath, which can be found on the CD in Real Happiness and on the Workman Publishing website: http://www.workman.com/realhappinessebook/.
I have also tried Ron Siegel’s Stepping into Sadness and Stepping into Fear meditations, which can be found in his book, The Mindfulness Solution and on the website for the book: http://www.mindfulness-solution.com/DownloadMeditations.html. These two meditations helped me to fully experience difficult emotions.

Sharon Salzberg, Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach all talk about a four step process of becoming mindful of emotions that can be remembered with the acronym RAIN – recognition, acceptance, investigation and non-identification. Achieving balance involves noticing, accepting and exploring our emotions, while being careful not to identify with them. We strive neither to avoid nor to cling to our emotions, but to be mindful of them in the moment and notice how they come and go, like waves in the ocean…


Seeking the Middle Way

It is the ninth day of the Real Happiness 28-Day Meditation Challenge. I meditated 5-10 minutes every morning and 20 -30 minutes at night on work nights as planned, except for one night when I came home late. My initial intention was to shut off the TV and computer at 11 PM to meditate and I came close to this goal. There were a couple of nights that it was more like 11:30 or 12, but overall, I was still winding down and going to sleep earlier than usual.

At night I was doing the breathing meditation and meditation on emotions from the CD in Sharon Salzberg’s book, Real Happiness. During the 12 minute breathing meditation, I noticed that I was able to maintain concentration without difficulty. I encountered problems with two aspects of breathing: the first was that focusing on the breath led to breathing a little heavier than natural, and the second was that I couldn’t just focus on one aspect of the breath, like the air flowing through the nostrils or the rising and falling of the abdomen. My struggle was to decide when to just be mindful of my breathing exactly as it was without trying to change it and when to try to change my breathing to try to make it lighter and to try to improve my single-minded focus.

In reading Real Happiness at Work, I discovered some wisdom to help guide me in this…


Honest Reflection and a Meditation Challenge

In reflecting on my first month of daily meditation, I realized that the morning is not an ideal time for me to meditate. In some ways it fostered procrastination; it became a way to delay starting my work day…

In the book Real Happiness at Work, Sharon Salzberg describes procrastination as willingly deferring something even though we expect the delay to make things worse… In Real Happiness, Sharon points out that meditation helps us strengthen and direct our attention through the cultivation of concentration, mindfulness and compassion. Our capacity for focused, stable attention can then be harnessed, so we can sustain and shift our concentration as needed, without giving in to distraction and procrastination.

During the month of February, Sharon Salzberg is inviting people to participate in a 28-Day Meditation Challenge based on practices found in her books: Real Happiness, and Real Happiness at Work…


What is an Interoceptive Body Scan Meditation?

I have completed my first month of daily meditation and it is going very well. I have been doing a combination of breath awareness, body awareness and lovingkindness meditation.

The body scan is a form of body awareness meditation that involves shifting attention from one part of the body to another, observing any sensations that you become aware of with an attitude of curiosity about your somatic experience, while systematically covering the entire body. I have been doing a variation of the body scan taught by Dan Siegel, author of the books Mindsight, The Mindful Brain, and The Mindful Therapist.

Dan Siegel incorporates interoception into his body scan… I have created my own version, that also incorporates aspects of HeartMath heart coherence training…


Realistic Optimism is Key to Success

It was more difficult to maintain my meditation practice this week… Only two days’ disruption to my meditation schedule and already I was slipping… the good news is that I got right back on track. The glass is more than half full…

I used to get down on myself when I fell short of a goal and tended to see the glass as half empty, so I doubted my ability to succeed… Now, when I fall short of a goal, I try to give myself credit for the steps I have taken towards the goal and recognize where there is room for improvement. This helps me to be realistic about my accomplishments and obstacles and feel optimistic about my capabilities. Recent research indicates that this type of realistic optimism helps maximize success…


One Good Habit Leads to Another

Last week I wrote about my intention to take my meditation practice to the next level and make it a daily practice. I have now successfully finished my second week of daily meditation and I’ve noticed something. Even though I planned to wait to work on being more consistent about exercise so I could dedicate myself to developing one habit at a time, I ended up going to the gym twice this week anyway. I just felt like doing it.

In last week’s post, I mentioned research that showed that self-control was like a muscle that can get tired and needs rest. However, according to research by Megan Oaten and Ken Cheng, participants who exercised self-discipline on a regular basis in regards to one habit, also showed improved willpower with other habits. So self-control also resembles a muscle in that it strengthens with exercise…


A New Blog for the New Year

The New Year is a time of reflection and rededication to striving to overcome bad habits. In reflecting on my own personal growth journey and the areas that continue to challenge me, I decided it was time to work on it in a more disciplined and structured way. My old way of approaching things has helped me only so far. Now I have decided that I need to shift the balance. Up until now, I emphasized acceptance over change, when it came to personal habits. I accepted my own difficulty maintaining structure and the need to keep starting over and over again.

This new blog is part of the new plan.

Setting my intentions and committing to them publicly is a way of holding myself accountable and receiving support for my efforts. I also plan to be more systematic in my approach…