Hey, Mindfuls! We’re taking a pause! No rhyme or reason, we’re taking a pause because we’re trying to cultivate better rest practices in our own lives. We’ll take a pause from June 2nd until July 12th.
During this time, we won’t accept any speaking or writing requests. We’ll slowly respond to emails after July 12th for future events. No new posts or prompts on our social media pages until July 12th as well. We’ll truly rest during this time.
Here’s some reflection prompts for you during our pause:
What would a pause look like for you right now?
What needs to pause in order for creativity to thrive?
Are you making enough time for rest in your schedule?
In observance of Mental Health Awareness Month, mindfulinlis partnered with renewerslis founder Kaetrena Davis Kendrick to lead For the Good of the Order, a collaborative LIS well-being event. Every Wednesday in May, renewerslis and mindfulinlis joined together for five minutes to take some time in community and slow down for short renewal and awareness practices.
I remind myself that I have the “permission to be human” often these days. Many of us have been challenged in ways that we never anticipated in this pandemic. We have struggled through losses in so many different areas of our lives. It can feel overwhelming as we face each day, not knowing what to expect. We are forced to confront the unknown and need to flex our emotional muscles to navigate a new landscape. As I take each day as it comes, I keep in mind that I do not need to be perfect. I can make mistakes. Most importantly, I give myself the permission to feel my full range of emotions from anger to sadness to joy and everything in between from one moment to the next.
I AM HUMAN
I AM A SPIRITUAL BEING
I AM OK
This idea is often contrary to what we may see, hear or read about, especially in social media. You may have heard of the term, “toxic positivity.” Perhaps you even have some family or friends in your circle that hold this mentality. Essentially, toxic positivity is the belief or mindset that one should maintain a positive outlook when the situation is difficult, challenging, uncomfortable, or just downright toxic. Do you know someone that exhibits continuous positivity without any acknowledgment of just how hard life can be? Or maybe you have individuals in your circle that deny the difficulty in navigating certain circumstances or people that can cause stress. It can show up when someone advises you to just “get over it” or to “look on the bright side.” This toxic mindset can be detrimental to our physical and emotional health and wellbeing.
Did you know that focusing only on positivity while dismissing negative experiences and situations can even backfire? Research shows that “people who try to increase their happiness often end up feeling worse” (Catalino, Algoe, and Fredrickson, 2014). It is not helpful to focus solely on the positive to the exclusion of ignoring and invalidating the negative. This “good vibes” only approach can leave us feeling that our real emotional experience is not valid and that there is something wrong with us. Our acceptance of the full range of emotions, both positive and negative, is the key to navigating this pandemic as well as opening us up to a greater human experience. When we acknowledge our negative emotions and situations, we can then receive support from others, find meaning and purpose in our lives, and experience mindful awareness of the present moment.
Humans were built to have a total emotional world. We are evolutionary powerhouses! Part of our “superpower” is the possession of “negative” and “positive” emotions. Negative emotions are not “bad.” They have their benefits just as positive ones do. Think of emotions as creating spirals. These spirals can go either up or down. Positivity spirals up. Negativity spirals down. Depending on where your emotions land at the moment, you will experience different action tendencies.
Negative emotions are narrowing. Narrowing means that there is a focus on a specific action or result. Their action tendencies are useful in many situations. For example, the feeling of sadness or depression may indicate the thought of losing something important. That may lead to the action of needing to mourn something or someone in your life. The feeling of anger may indicate the thought of a violation of rights (I have been harmed), which may lead to fighting back. A good example of using the power of negative emotions is the Black Lives Matter Movement that responded to the challenges in 2020. BLM is a political and social movement formed to protest police brutality and violence in black communities. Anger is a useful negative emotion to fight against the wrongs and injustices in this world.
When you permit yourself to be as human as you are, you invite a richer experience. This experience will be filled with joy, pain, and sorrow. That is life. As we practice mindfulness in our daily lives, we can learn to embrace and appreciate all of life’s situations. Through our acceptance of ourselves and the rejection of “toxic positivity,” we can grow from the challenges. We are here to learn lessons to reflect on and share, give ourselves to those we care about, support causes, and receive loving-kindness and help from others.
How can we show up for ourselves and others more authentically? The graphic below gives us a place to start. Our goal is to focus on how to respond within ourselves and for others in a way that supports and accepts the complete human experience instead of minimizing, dismissing, or negating parts of ourselves. Rejecting “toxic positivity” allows us to be genuinely seen and heard…permission to be human.
Wendy Vance, M.S. is an educator, mentor, coach, and soon-to-be positive psychology practitioner. She teaches success strategies and professional exploration topics at Montgomery County Community College in PA and the University of Maryland Global Campus. Wendy is passionate about striving to live a flourishing life and sharing positivity in the world. Connect on her website at mypositivecoaching.com (sign up for free workshops) or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/wendyvance
The last year and a half have been exhausting and for those of us who have been fortunate to make it to this point in the global pandemic; that has affected so many lives. It’s important to take some time and reflect. Vaccines have been approved and distributed and with increasing numbers of people vaccinated there’s been this push to “return to normal”. We’ve heard it and if you practice mindfulness then it’s important to be critical of what that actually means. What was “normal” in our pre-pandemic lives? What did we love and appreciate in our lives before and what do we love and value now? Has there been a shift in your way of thinking and how you approach things after living through a horrific and traumatic global pandemic? In some libraries (mostly public, but some academic libraries) have been in-person work only a couple of months into the pandemic. Some of us have been fortunate enough to be able to continue to work remotely throughout the pandemic. At my institution and in the state I live in, we’re returning to pre-pandemic life in the fall. I’m appreciative that our University Libraries department is giving us some leeway, but I also know there’s a staff/faculty divide over who has to be back fully and who’s allowed to continue to work remotely some of the time.
When thinking about this rush to return to pre-pandemic life and how mindfulness can help with the transition, here are my goals in using mindfulness to help with the transition:
Be intentional: My goal is to be patient with myself and others and to communicate that effectively. If something makes me uncomfortable then I will try and communicate how I’m feeling.
Focusing on my awareness: Being in the moment and aware of my surroundings. If something feels out of place, observe and adjust.
Practicing slow-living: While doing my work and doing the daily things in my life, instead of rushing through the tasks to check them off my list, I slow down and enjoy the task and think about what I’m actually doing, what I enjoy about it and what I don’t really like about it.
Taking care of myself: I want to expand the definition of “self-care” and move more towards thinking and communicating what I need in order.
One of the most important things to consider when being rushed is to stop and think critically about why you’re being rushed. Then take a step back to observe your surroundings and then make decisions on what’s best for you. My goal during the “return to normal” is to think about what’s going on around me and how this works for me, my life, and my family.
Mallary Rawls (she/her) is a Humanities Librarian who strives to practice mindfulness in her everyday life.
Hey, Mindfuls! Thank you for exploring mindful practices with us this morning during your conference. Please explore these resources at your own pace and time. This will remain open on the website as long as you need.
I’ve racked my brain about what to share this month. Should I discuss living abundance, reflective practice, or something else? The list goes on and on, until I realized this was the message, the unknown! Sometimes, we just don’t know what to do or where to go, and that’s okay. We cannot expect ourselves to always have the answer. Nor should we. Where’s the joy in that?
We need to explore the unknown with open arms and be open to possibilities. This doesn’t mean that we should throw caution to the wind (always look on both sides of the street before crossing). However, we can start to investigate things that excite us, makes us nervous, or things we’ve been curious about but haven’t thought about in a while. Dig into exploring without judgement and reflect on what comes next.
Some reflective questions on your journey:
What are you still learning about yourself?
What else needs to be explored?
What about your job don’t you know? Are you interested in learning more or need extra development in a particular area?
Did you know that mindfulness can increase positivity? By practicing mindfulness, we can become aware of our emotions in a non-judgmental way. Negative emotions and positive emotions have benefit to our human existence. Did you know that our negative emotions developed to keep us safe? As we have evolved through the centuries, our emotional world has also matured. Negative emotions served to narrow our experience. For instance, when you feel fear, you want to escape. When you feel anger, you want to attack. When you feel shame, you want to disappear or perhaps feeling sadness will cause you to want to withdraw. These emotions and actions have stood the evolutionary test of time. Our ancestors needed these negative emotions to react to threat and to do that quickly. Missing the bad was life threatening…whereas missing the good was not. Fortunately, through mindfulness practice, we can counter this strong negativity bias within our brains.
We are also gifted with positive emotions. Our positive emotions are broadening. They allow us to experience actions that make us want to build, to grow and to expand. The resulting actions from positive emotions are not narrowing. People will experience them in many unique ways. Some actions that may occur from joy could be to feel free or playful. The emotion of interest may lead us to pursue exploration. Experiencing the state of contentment can lead to the action of savoring. Savoring may involve cherishing, delighting and appreciating our positive encounter. Lastly, when experiencing the emotion of love or tenderness, we may act in all the ways I just mentioned and even more.
When you are mindful of your emotions, the key is knowing when you need negative emotions and when you need positive ones. The practice of mindfulness can help you to induce the emotional state that you want to experience in that moment.
For most of us, the goal is to increase our positive emotions and to feel them often. How can you do this? The easiest way is to schedule “positive events.” Remember, the brain quickly habituates to positive occurrences and emotions and holds on to negative events and emotions much stronger and for a longer period. In order to counteract this evolutionary tendency, we need to infuse ourselves with positive events frequently. Two ideas to add or continue in your mindfulness practice are to savor your experience and deepen your gratitude practice.
Incorporate your five senses to generate the act of savoring.
This will help you to infuse the experience with positivity. One of my daily mindfulness practices occurs each morning. In order to start my day with savoring, I enjoy the positive experience of deeply breathing in the delicious roasted scent of my coffee, slowly sipping the warm liquid, and feeling my hands around my favorite mug. Savoring involves slowing down and experiencing every little part of an event.
Increase positive emotions through gratitude.
You can cultivate gratitude further by reflecting on three good things that happened for the day and what you did to contribute to those good things. By taking the extra step to practice reflecting on your personal contribution to the gratitude experience, you will increase the awareness of joy, peace and connection that is other centered.
What are some ways that you prioritize and generate more positivity in your life and mindfulness practice?
Wendy Vance, M.S is an educator, mentor, coach and soon to be positive psychology practitioner. She teaches success strategies and professional exploration topics at Montgomery County Community College in PA and University of Maryland Global Campus. Wendy is passionate about striving to live a flourishing life and sharing positivity in the world. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
Hello Mindfuls! Ingrid here. Let’s talk about how to nourish ourselves and how to develop a mindful nourishment plan for when times are easy, difficult, or just are.
nour·ish·ment /ˈnəriSHmənt/ the food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition.
mind·ful·ness/ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/ a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations
Nourishment is necessary for good bodily function, health and development. Mindfulness in short calls us to the present moments of life without judgement and is a constant process of reflection. Both mindful practice and nourishing yourself are deeply personal processes that can change over time due to any number of life milestones and phases.
In order to develop a well-balanced plan you have to have an awareness of how you are at your best and how you are when things aren’t going as well as you’d like. Remembering to hold both versions of yourself without judgement. This can be challenging because we are taught that things are good or bad and then project that judgement onto ourselves. You as you are, are neither good nor bad, you just are. With that understanding recognize that sometimes life can go well or awry (and that both can happen at the same time). Mindfulness asks us to notice, reflect, and if warranted hold or release. Having a plan to nourish yourself through the eventual ups, downs, and turnarounds of life helps to keep us balanced and engaged with life.
For me having a plan to fall back on or to return to when things are not going well or even to keep centered when things are going well helps keep me present in my body and inhabiting my own mind. A mindful nourishment plan can help rebalance your life. A well-developed plan is one that not only includes the thing that you need, but is also flexible and agile with room for growth and change. The ways in which you nourish yourself can help you to return to yourself. Self-awareness allows us to recognize when you are not okay. The willingness to speak that truth to yourself and to others gives you the ability to return to or adjust to your plan.
Here are some questions to consider as you develop your own personal nourishment plan:
Who am I?
Now imagine or remember the last time you were appropriately nourished …
When did you feel the most satisfied? Describe that feeling.
What are the key elements of a nourished you.
Here are some examples of mindful actions/elements for a well-balanced life.
Develop the plan
What are some “staples” you can keep on hand?
Remember that everything you do is in service to the life that you want to live.
At different times you need different things. i.e. hormonal shifts, illness, busy times at work, deadlines on projects, travel … How can you honor the phases within your plan?
As you make a nourishment plan that works for you increase in awareness of yourself and how you function. As you grow in thatawareness of yourself, hold an non-judgemental view of that self. Life changes…honor yourself and others as you go through the inevitable ebbs and flows. Create and have a plan that can grow and change as you grow and change. Reflect and release.
Before 2020 I enjoyed planning my days, weeks, and months so that I could incorporate self-care, professional development, family, and friends time but once the pandemic occurred I had to put a lot of my plans on hold. Honestly, after the second week of March, I found it hard to practice mindfulness because home and work became one busy place. So it took me some time to get back to mindful practices. Since my worlds collided due to quarantining I had to take many breaks and be present for my family when they needed me. In addition, I had to be gracious with myself when I needed more rest than normal or when I felt like I was not being productive. I had to keep combating these negative thoughts. Following the Nap Ministry and mindfulinlis during this time has helped me tremendously. Reflective journaling and affirmations have helped me through this weird and difficult time. I had to be intentional with my time and truly stay in the moment and to allow myself to work through my emotions. I had to be okay with the rage that I felt and I took the time to process those feelings. Lastly, I am grateful to be on this journey of self-awareness, self-love, and community building.
Mindfulness in 2020 is a constant struggle to be present, knowing what I can control, and taking ownership of my time. It is stripping away all of the unnecessary noise and expectations (internal and external). Working towards a life where I am always conscious of who I am, what I do, and how I progress towards my future goals are part of mindfulness goals. It is learning that ‘less isn’t more,’ that it is damaging. Creating and maintaining a mindfulness practice involves my communities and me. It includes boundary setting, being disciplined, active listening, employing empathy, and being open to others aiding me. I am engaging in thoughtful decision making. Being considerate in situations, doing what is necessary and right, and using my voice.
In 2020 centering myself and what I bring to the table has become more critical than ever before though it takes great diligence and labor to do so. What has changed is a shift from the hustle and grind culture. I learned about the Nap Ministry earlier this year; I follow them on Twitter; it has been a balm, reminder, and guide in this world where everything seems to be unraveling quicker than one can understand. Mindfulness is challenging or seems nigh impossible when dealing with all of the demands-personal, work, service, emotional, psychological, physical, and more. Protecting my time, guarding my different capacities, and managing my commitments are necessary to improve my practice further. It is getting rid of decades of indoctrination about worth being tied to productivity, that one’s value depends on one’s deliverables, output, or what eone can do for others.
What has stayed the same is accepting who I am and being open to the process. I am cultivating spaces that honor whom I am becoming—knowing that I am a work-in-progress. Mindfulness is an act of love for myself and others.
Hello Mindfuls! This is Ingrid. As I approach my birthday this month I reflect on one of my milestone birthdays where I was able to bring my mindfulness practice into focus. Moment by moment thinking is an integral part of living mindfully. When you are in the moment life becomes a meditation. Engaging in life with a mindful state of presence allows the mundane to become a growth opportunity.
My 40th birthday was one such moment, I was pretty insistent that I wanted to celebrate it in a fun way. It felt appropriate to return to a fun childhood pastime to usher in what I hope would be the next best decade of my life. So after dinner my friends and I headed off to the local rink.
Even though it was all my idea I was pretty hesitant about lacing up those skates. I hadn’t skated in over two years, but I firmly believe in doing things that I don’t do well with enthusiasm and an openness to have fun. As I finally got my skates on, took the all important Instagram photos and slowly made my way to the rink I heard a little voice say, “You want me to teach you how to skate.” Her name was Demi and she then informed me that she was looking for a friend. As in literally looking for someone to be her friend in that quite busy skating rink.
And I said, yes. I am not one to turn down a good lesson or a new friend. A little timidity came through in my mind concerned that I wouldn’t be able to hold myself up or that I’d fall down. I was scared that I’d hurt myself or make a fool of myself. I was afraid that I would get into everyone else’s way. I was afraid that I wouldn’t make it all around. On those wheels I felt disembodied from myself.
Demi’s instruction became my meditation, bringing me out of fear into a moment of contemplation and reflection. Demi’s mantras brought me back into my own body and eased my mind. She taught me that:
It is okay if you fall, ‘cause you can get back up; It is okay if you go at your own pace and look at you you just went the whole way round. You don’t have to take big steps if you don’t want to. You can take small steps, too.
My focus moved from how well I was doing to the doing itself. I had control of the pace of things in that moment. As more skilled skaters of all age-ranges zoomed and moved around me I was allowed to slow down and change my rhythm to match my comfort level and sense of safety.
Whatever you do, don’t look down! Keep your head up. Making sure to align your body with your skates.
Her coaching showed me that my body would go where my mind went. If I looked down that is where I would go. I worked to align my body and mind with where I wanted to go and how I wanted to move.
At one point my shins were aching and she informed me that I was supposed to feel it there and that I was working the right muscles.
In the military, there is a saying that “pain is weakness leaving the body…”It is important to note that we should listen to our bodies because pain can be a key indicator that something is wrong and that we should address the issue rather than pushing through. This was not such an instance because sometimes pain is the beginning of a breakthrough. For the first time in a long time, I felt present in my body and the ache soon subsided as I became accustomed to the rhythm of the skating.
As she coached me through skating I thought of how my life wasn’t quite what I’d thought it’d be by now. It’s good, but not quite there yet. Demi reminded me of the power of presence, bringing an awareness to my own body and journey. That while I don’t always know the destination it is important to take in where I am and notice myself. Spoiler alert: it was never about skating.
Being in the moment and meditating on the words of my pint-sized coach redirected me from the despair of thinking that I had yet to live up to my potential into rejoicing because I am still here. That my journey is my own and that I can go at my own pace. Other people can rush around me and may even be ahead of where I want to be, but what is mine is mine. And more importantly what is meant for me is for me.
I could dwell on all the desires of my heart that have not been fulfilled or on focus my desire to be more fully present in all areas of the life that I have in hand. I can also be somewhere in between, but most importantly I can address and be with myself. Ultimately, I learned mindfulness can return us to ourselves.
How will you return to yourself? How and with whom will you be present?
Hello, Mindfuls! It’s been a while, but I’ve rested intentionally and ready to slowly come back to this mindful work. The path hasn’t been easy, but it is worthwhile. On this journey, after asking many of you to rest, I realized I hadn’t rested in quite a long time. Nor had I made much time for reflection as I had prior to the panini (pandemic). This time actually gave me a moment to make more time for myself, but also actively participate in the reflection process.
Here’s a few reflections from the pause:
Observe more, react less
Any mindfulness based course will focus on how you react to situations and conflictions in your life. Whether we notice it or not, our reactions do affect our daily lives. I opted to observe more and speak less in meetings, social interactions (all Zoom sessions), and workshops. Observing more helped me step back from projects that no longer serve me and focus on what really matters. We don’t need to react to everything because someone else wants us too. Sometimes, just observing provides much needed clarity and awareness.
No excuses needed
We don’t need excuses to make time for ourselves. We just need to take a step back and pause. Of course, we all have responsibilities however, we don’t need to make up grand reasons why we can’t do something or be someplace. Simply saying, I’m not available at this time will suffice. No need to go into detail is required (unless you choose to do so).
Intuition or bust
My intuition has never steered me wrong, ever. My reflection question this last month was: “what would happen if I actively listened to my intuition more?” Leaning into trusting myself has provided healing and grounding. I trust myself to make the best choice for myself at the time. I’m allowing myself to say no to things I have no interest in, while saying yes to things that excite me. Trust is a process, it’s not perfect, but I’m allowing myself room to grow.
Adding more pauses
Setting aside more time to pause, whether planned or impromptu is important. None of us can be everything to everyone. I’m going to take more steps back, in order to be more intentional and grounded in this work. That means taking more time away. Expect more pauses from us and we encourage you to do the same.
What do you notice about yourselves when you take a pause? What are you hoping to learn about yourselves? Whatever arises during your pauses, welcome it gently. Explore with openness and remember to rest.
After a few busy months filled with talks, conferences, webinars, and countless prompts we’re taking a much needed month long hiatus this February. We haven’t been away from our social media pages and now website for more than a few days at time. The time for a break is long overdue, and we’re taking it. We’ll take a pause from February 2nd until March 8th.
During this time, we won’t accept any speaking or writing requests. We’ll slowly respond to emails after March 8th for future events. No new posts or prompts on our social media pages until March 8th as well. We’ll be truly unplugged and resting.
Practice pausing in your own lives. What would it mean for you to take a pause? What do you notice after you’ve paused for 10, 15, or 20 minutes? How would a longer pause shift your awareness or focus?
To me, mindfulness is continuous and intentional check-in with myself and loved ones. During the 2020 pandemic, it has been tough to check-in with me mostly because I have avoided my mental health. Early in the shelter-in-place, I began to feel depressed and unmotivated to do anything. Since this was not sustainable for me, in April of 2020, I began to go to therapy, and it has been one of the best decisions I have made. I talk to someone twice a month that helps me make goals to work on my own physical and mental health.
As the pandemic lockdowns began, I lost the physical interactions with loved ones outside of my immediate household. At first, I organized Zoom calls and game nights, but that began to be exhausting and feel dreadful. The Zoom fatigue is real, and even fun family moments began to feel like just another Zoom meeting. What works for me now is sending texts/memes to my loved ones and occasionally doing phone calls or Facetime. I miss physically interacting with others, but I’m so grateful for the time I have with my partner, Liliana, and my dog, Monita.
During this pandemic, I picked up hiking and walking again with my partner and dog. We are lucky enough to live within walking distance to the Fort Ord National Monument, and we have taken the opportunity to be around the trees and watch nature change. I have also begun to do solo Yoga classes online, using the Down Dog application or taking lessons with my friend, Joey. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I take a Zoom Zumba class with my cousin Lizbeth who lives in El Paso, Texas. The Zumba is a fun and great workout, but my favorite part is connecting with my cousin, who I don’t see very often, and hearing about how she is doing.
My productivity has not been the same since this working from home situation began. Although I am so grateful that I can work from home, it has made it increasingly harder to concentrate, and it is hard to separate my worth from my productivity. Some weeks, I catch myself working too much and not having the work/life balance. I have learned that I have to set myself realistic goals and set boundaries. The work/life balance is something that I am continuously trying to work on, and I will be doing it for the foreseeable future. I am also grateful for the BIPOC writing group I am in, where we talk about what we’re working on, cheering each other, and being real about our work.
There are some weeks where I feel better than others, but I am grateful for the loved ones that remind me of the joy, even when everything feels like too much.
New Year, new you? This sounds great, but what about the present you? The “you” you’ve ignored in order to usher in progress without dealing with the issues and traumas of the past? That person deserves to come into the new year as well. How do we welcome our old selves in conjunction with this ideal person?
First, we must let go of the ideal! There is no perfect version of ourselves around the corner. Perhaps there’s a more rested or mindful self, however, we remain imperfect beings. Our imperfections allow us to grow in healthy ways and find balance within our lives. As we explore our needs, through mindful practice, therapy, or a mixture of the two, we must allow ourselves to remain present rooted in our needs and feelings while gently reflecting on what truly matters to us. Reflect on the following, do you need a new you or a more rested and boundary setting you?
Perfection doesn’t exist. Nor does a perfect version of ourselves in a new year (see 2020 as an example). We remain, we grow, and we learn from our mistakes. Aim for personal growth, balance, and release the need for anything else. We see you, and you matter this year and every year.
My mindfulness practice in 2020 has prioritized giving myself time and space to process feelings, thoughts, and emotions rather than compartmentalizing or repressing them. Pre-pandemic I felt an intense pressure to be “on” for 9+ hours a day. As a middle manager, I often didn’t feel like I had a right to emotional responses during the workday and would address my emotional wellbeing only before or after working hours. However, the transition to working from home following the outbreak of the pandemic blurred the line between “at work” and “at home” and, further, meant that I was visible to colleagues only via email, chat, and video conference. I had suddenly much more flexibility and opportunity to engage in mindfulness practices and address emotional upsets in or much closer to the moment in which they occurred.
In 2020 I have experimented with different mindfulness practices throughout the day, rather than restricting them to hours outside the standard operating hours of 9 to 5 or the weekends. My morning practice, which can now be longer due to the lack of a commute, currently includes prayer, tai chi, and meditation. I use a part of my lunch hour to either meditate or catch a 20-minute restorative nap that leaves me ready to face my afternoon revitalized. My evenings, which used to feel at times like a check list of stress-abatement techniques, still include some guided visualization meditation and quiet time, but it feels like less of an obligation or chore. To some degree, I simply don’t need to decompress quite as much when I’m mindful of and, more importantly, actively responsive to, my emotional and mental wellbeing throughout the day.
Similarly, I have had the time and flexibility to monitor and track my energy levels in 2020 in a way I have not previously either been able to or inspired to do. I have used this information to restructure my days, pushing meetings to the morning (when I am most easily able to engage in attentive listening) and my dedicated project time to the afternoons and evenings (when I find it easier to write and think for long, unbroken periods). While my working hours now greatly exceed 9-5, the pacing and space between projects and meetings is less frenetic and better suits both my own energy fluctuations and a work/life balance that regularly incorporates proactive wellness efforts throughout the day.
Some of my new mindfulness practices are unlikely to survive the return to on-site library work, whenever that time comes for me, but I hope many will remain. I still believe individuals in leadership capacities have an obligation to be “on” at work, both for the good of themselves and those that follow them, but I no longer view the “always” in such black and white terms. I hope one of my mindfulness takeaways from 2020 is to build space throughout my day to engage in true mindfulness, rather than using it primarily as an end or start of day stress reduction.
In 2019, Jenny Odell published her book, “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy”* and I heard her interviewed on several podcasts, including “Call Your Girlfriend” to promote the book. In one interview, Odell mentioned that she goes to a rose garden and just stares at flowers. In 2019, I kept thinking, “who has the time for that?!” It felt incomprehensible to me that year.
Well, here we are in 2020, and I’ve found deep mindfulness, peace, and awareness in staring at nature. Trees, flowers, squirrels, birds, and clouds. I’ve spent a lot of time outside this year trying to trick my brain into thinking I went somewhere different that’s not my house, get a break from the eye strain from my laptop, and just have moments of stillness. I want to share a story about how I’ve practiced mindfulness with the crepe myrtle tree in my backyard.
I moved into my house in the summer of 2018 and immediately fell in love with this fuchsia flowering crepe myrtle. Summer 2019, it flowered again. Summer 2020…I kept waiting for the crepe myrtle to flower. I started to realize that allllll the other crepe myrtles in my neighborhood were flowering. And I kept thinking, “why is my tree not flowering!”
I started researching why a crepe myrtle wouldn’t flower and came to realize this tree had not cared for or lovingly pruned for years, maybe decades. It was so overgrown with multiple other weeds and trees growing out of the base. All of a sudden, I had so much grace for this tree. This tree hadn’t been taken care of and honestly looked like it was being choked out by other plants. I changed from feeling resentful towards my tree for not flowering and instead stopped expecting the tree to do anything other than just be.
Later in the summer, I was under the tree reading for almost an hour. While taking a break from my book, I just stared up through the branches for quite some time. After a LONG TIME OF STARING, at the very top of the tree, I saw a single fuchsia bloom. I can’t fully describe the joy this brought me. It was such a special moment, just my tree and me.
My crepe myrtle has taught me so much about mindfulness this year. I’m working toward having fewer and more realistic expectations, and to have grace towards myself and others when that doesn’t work. 2020 has had its share of frustrations. From internet issues to car problems to medical scares, I am carrying with me the lessons from my tree to be present, to work towards understanding when things don’t go the way I want, and to celebrate small (and big) wins.
*I am now reading this book and it is amazing! Absolutely recommend.
Life has been challenging for me and everyone I know during this pandemic. To me, mindfulness means to be aware of and cope with changing situations. What has changed is that I have been more intentional about creating a workable “work” space at home. I finally cleared out my desk filled with books and papers and started decluttering during this time. It felt a bit liberating, to be honest. As they say in the movie Fight Club, “the things you own end up owning you.” I sense that having an organized “at-home” workplace can make work and life more manageable.
I have been thinking a lot how I spend my time. Unfortunately, I keep packing the schedule up with things (or new work-related things) to do. Sometimes I feel like I am productive and sometimes I am not. I started a morning ritual: I go for a walk around the block and then make sure I get at least 15-20 minutes running time with my elliptical at home and take breaks in between meetings. I have to intentionally schedule breaks and manage my energy more than my time. I try to avoid reading emails during the weekend but it’s very difficult too. I actually try not to do any work-related emails during the weekend. My workplace has fostered this culture, so it has made me more conscious about doing work during a break time.
I am mentally prepared that this pandemic can go on for another year or so. I started listening to news podcast in other languages (Cantonese/Mandarin and Spanish) just so I get to hear other voices in other languages and what is going on outside of my own mind. I have also started attending zoom meetings with fellow library friends to talk about everything from work to Netflix shows to tarot cards! It’s been nice to use virtual meetings for social activities at times. Like everyone I know, it’s been very difficult to concentrate on reading for leisure. At times I try to read what I can and skip what I find to be uninteresting. Lately I’ve been reading Happiness: A Very Short Introduction. I received this book back in 2015 at a conference and never even cracked it open until now. Here’s hoping I learn a bit more about the psychological and emotional theories of happiness during this time!
Thank you for coming into this space as we create something lasting and unique onto the interwebs! Throughout the pandemic, we thought about ways not only to sustain ourselves and our content. What would be the best way to content our ideas and share in a helpful, yet mindful way? Cue the website music [blast horns].
We’re excited about content including mindful perspectives and profiles from leaders in the profession in this space. Printable materials focusing on useful practices to deepen your connection within, while strengthening your roots in your community. One doesn’t thrive alone. As such, we’ve provided a resource page to connect you with others involved in communities of practice. This mindful space will remind us to pause and generate new reflective questions on our journeys in this world. We hope you enjoy reading it, as much as we have creating it.
Big thank you to Ingrid J. Ruffin, Mindful Manager for all her work to make this website possible!
Explore the website at your own pace, and remember to rest.