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Archive for July, 2015

Day 9: The Inward Journey: How one extraordinary man found the Real Me by practicing Mindfulness in harrowing conditions.

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His name is Dr Viktor Frankl. The first time I read his story in his world acclaimed famous book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ I was moved to tears. There is hope in adversity. This is what I want to talk about today.

Dr Viktor Frankl was born in 1905 in Vienna to Jewish parents. In his early twenties he received the degrees in  Doctorate  of Medicine and Doctorate  of Philosophy from the University of Vienna.

During World War Two he experienced incredible attempts to dehumanize him as he struggled to survive the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Dachau. His personal identity, including his name, became number 119104. He and his sister were the only family members to survive the war. His father, mother, brother and his wife perished.

Stripped to naked existence, exposed to hunger, cold and brutality, hourly expecting extermination, how could this man possibly survive and believe that life can be good?

Surprising enough, not only did Dr Frankl survive but through his suffering he developed a philosophy about human existence, to which he employed the term ‘Logotherapy’– or, as it has been called by some authors, ‘The Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy’.

In essence Logotherapy is about man’s search to find meaning for his existence.  Dr Frankl argues that all life is purposeful and when this is not readily seen, the individual gives up hope and the will to live. While in the concentration camp, he noticed that any attempt to restore an individual’s inner strength required belief in a future goal. When this belief was gone the individual literally gave up and died within days. Dr Frankl also noticed that the inmate’s chances for survival were significantly enhanced when belief in self and in the future were restored.

In the words of the nineteenth century philosopher, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche,

‘He who knows the why to live, can bear with almost any how.’

Dr Frankl’s incredible courage and spirit not only helped him to survive but it also helped others to survive and made possible, the recovery from the terrible atrocities experienced in the camps. He also observed over and over again that the prisoners who managed to stay afloat, despite the persistent ongoing abuse in the camps, were those who helped one another.  His documentation is living proof that altruism works and egotism causes struggle and strife.

Dr Frankl’s story gives us hope, especially if we have also experienced a great deal of pain in our own lives. One way to become well again, despite great adversity, according to Dr Frankl, is to focus on the needs of others. All pain, he argues, is easier to bear if we believe that our existence here on this earth is of worth and of benefit to others in our community.

Note to self.

MOMM

I read Victor Franklin’s story as a teenager and it had a profound effect on my life. I firmly  believe that  his ‘logotherapy’ works and I try to the best on my ability which can be wanting at times, to put it into practice during my days on this Earth.

But hay, who could practice altruism  in a place like Auschwitz?  I even get upset when someone steps in front of me in a queue  for God’s sake! Would I be willing to give my last piece of bread to another inmate if I was starving? I hope so but I am not sure. Thankfully in my life to date, I have not been tested in such an excruciating way.

But I do know this, life can be hard sometimes and yet,  it is these self-same challenges that shape and  mold us into becoming better human beings. As my mother used to say ‘What doesn’t break us, makes us strong’ to which she would add her favorite  quotation from the Bible.  

‘We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed’.(St Paul’s Second 2nd Letter to the Corinthians.4:8)

My darling Irish Mother the inspiration behind this blog on Mindfulness.

Have a great week you guys.

Love and hugs,

M T 

Good morning Ireland. It’s Your Irish Mammy here saying lets be up-beat on another wet Monday!!

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It’s another  awful wet day here in the west of Ireland. And I here I am  telling you to get up and  sing hallelujah.

A sure lads me ‘ol heart’ is  not  in it.

But then again ………

Perhaps if  give ourselves another 5 minutes under the warm covers doing some stretching exercises before we get up, we might feel differently about the day ahead.

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We did last Monday’s wake-up call in bed as well, remember? Yup, it was raining. What can I say we are having a shocking wet summer! Still I felt  a whole lot better after  breathing in and out, right down to my toes and back again. I hope you did as well. It would be fantastic if you continued the practice throughout the week,  as it puts a whole new slant to getting up in the morning.

Today, we are going to  imagine that we are a Big Lazy Cats  as we stretch as much as the bed allows.

So let us begin now,

  • Stretch yourself as much as much as space will allow, your arms, your legs, your fingers and toes. Link your fingers together and turn your arms around upwards and outwards.
  • When you are ready, allow your feet to slide out onto the floor, spread your toes wide. Feel the roots growing out from your feet anchoring you to the rich brown earth.
  • Straighten your body and stretch upward to the sky. Stay there for a few moments breathing gently.
  • Next, roll your body down until your fingers touch the ground. You are touching  Mother Earth which is teeming with life. Allow yourself to bring that life onto yourself with gratitude as you touch the ground and then your forehead for at least 3 times.
  • Then, roll your body upwards until you are standing upright again. Stretch, right up on your toes, arms extended, and fingers splayed, reaching for the heaven above.
    • Allow yourself to reach to the sky with gratitude to the sun that shines on you, even when it is  hidden by dark rain clouds ;sun is needed for daylight.
    • Stretch your arms out to the wind that blows through you, even when it is cold, air is needed for breath
    • And yes, open your hands to the rain, as water is the elixir of life.

So this morning , as we go about our day in the rain, let us  unite in gratitude with all creation and sing hallelujah 🙂

Note to self

Have a great Monday you guys.

See you on Wednesday.

 

Day 8: The Inward Journey: Tackling those jobs you hate with the assistance of your Irish Mammy

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She pranced around the disheveled kitchen with the movement of a graceful panther.  Locked into her domestic world of dirty dishes and smelly bums, a shiver runs through her shattered body as she remembers another time when it was not like this. In the distance she hears the children playing. 

“Mummy, Mummy, Henry hit me”   How could she conceive such a plain child she thought idly as she listened to her daughter’s laments?  In truth, her daughter was not plain but a “hearty” child with plump rosy cheeks and straight brown hair.  Her eyes were of the palest blue. The innocent intensity of the child’s stare upset her mother.

“Don’t stare like that child”, she said too often and then scolded herself for instilling submission into her daughter.

God, she thought if I don’t watch it she will turn out like me.  She pondered about her life and wondered if it could have been different.

Sound familiar?

Note to self

MOMM

Yup I have been there

 In the past I spent hours regretting by inapt mothering skills.

Now that I am wiser, I am much easier on myself.

Usually my negatively was brought on by exhaustion.

All I needed was a break.

The break did not require that I leave the situation I was in. All that was required of me was to become still, take a big deep breath and tackle each task one step at a time. And, as we said on Day 7 any activity – even the most tortuous task like cleaning a filthy kitchen laden with grease and dirt or emptying out that closet of  full junk, requires  far less effort and struggle when  practiced in a Mindful way and the reason for this is so obvious that we often overlook the simple truth that;

  • A focused mind is still
  • A still mind is relaxed
  • Relaxed muscles respond more effectively to than those in a tense state.

The question remains,  how can we transport a focused still mind to help us tackle the jobs we hate?

Cleaning Kitchens is my least preferred task of all time. Give me a bathroom any day at least you can see your results and they stay cleaner for longer! I find that my kitchen can be – if I am not mindful,a  places where my mind wallows in self-pity,  playing  the judgmental blaming  game which absolutely and totally exhausts my body.

So today, I am asking you to join me on a holiday as we tackle the cleaning chores. Notice I did not say ours or your cleaning chores I said the cleaning chores because we do not own them, rather it is just something that requires our attention should we decide to do it.

And the wonderful thing is this, if we give the task our full attention it will be energizing.

OK, let’s get started.

  • Set aside a time for this task, say 30 minutes or so. The time you allocate depends on your own circumstances but from my own personal experience with kitchens little and often, works best for me!
  • Put on the kettle/ pot and boil up the water.
  • Find a basin or bucket and pour the water in
  • Add liquid soap
  • Put the cloth/ mop/sponge into the water
  • Wring out the mop and start to move it over any surface removing grease and dirt as you go.
  • Clean off suds with a dry cloth.
  • Do not allow your mind to wander on the next task at hand, instead keep it focused on the activity of washing and drying an area as you move your hand along.

A Final Note to self

I better get started, my kitchen as I write is a mess so I better practice what I preach!

As my Guru Korko Moses  said to me in India last year, there are no  bad or good tasks. There are just tasks. Work that needs to be done. It is our mind that judges them, not us as we truly are.

So have a great week you guys as we continue our journey discovering the Real Me.

See ya next Monday,

Hugs,

mt

You’re Irish Mammies Monday’s Reminder: In 2 more days I will post next installment of our inner journey. In the meantime forget about the rain, take a few moments to breathe deeply and listen to your heart.

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On this Monday awaken!

Something special which lies deep within, is waiting.

Can you feel it?

Yes? /No?

On this wet Irish Monday Morning let take a big deep breath right down to our toes and back again and lets connect with all our Face Book friends throughout the world.

This is a great way to get out of bed in the morning as it takes no effort whatsoever. Often when we are feeling pressurized, our breathing becomes shallow, rapid and irregular. It is no surprise then, that deep breathing is a major stress-reducing technique, especially when practiced first thing in the morning before getting out of bed.

So let us begin…

With every breath you take in, feel Mother Earth’s life giving energy, being transferred into every cell and tissue of your body, nourishing and healing it.

And with every breath you exhale, imagine you are releasing all the aches,  pains,  worry and  anxieties, that may be residing deep within you, exhausting your body.

Continue this deep breathing  for at least ten times and smile, as your body is becoming energized and alive.

Then when you are ready, gently place both your hands on your heart and let them rest  there quietly, without moving. Allow yourself to totally focus on your heart beating, feel it as it softly pulsates under your hands. Thank you heart for pumping  energy and life around your body and smile.

Next allow your attention to go to your feet.

Place your two feet firmly on the floor. Imagine there are roots growing out from your feet. Therese roots are growing from your feet  through the floor you are standing on right now, growing all the way down  to the rich brown earth,  connecting you to it.

Smile, you and me we are one with all creation.

Note to self

Have a great Monday you guys.

See you on Wednesday.

 

I hope you do not mind if I deviate from our mindfulness programme. Let me tell you a about my experiences in Lough Derg where I sensed connectedness to ‘The Oneness’ in the universe

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It all began on Monday when I arrived fasting to a small lake island four miles north to the village of Pettigo, in the center of the rolling lush green hills and fishing inlets in County Donegal. The place I arrived to is known as Lough Derg or St Patrick’s Purgatory.

The area around Lough Derg breathtakingly beautiful. Unfortunately, the day I arrived with my fellow pilgrims it was cold and wet. I was hungry, cranky and in a bad mood. The sky above me was  dark. The heavy rain relentless. Getting into a boat in a murky lake to travel to a patch of green land with religious edifices jutting up into the ominous skyline was the last thing on my agenda.

But before I wallow in any more self pity lets pause for a moment as I tell you about the history surrounding this island. Lough Derg is one of the oldest pilgrimage in Ireland. It was founded in in the Celtic monastic period around the 6th century A.D.by St Davog and his monks. Legend has it that five centuries earlier around 400 AD Maewyn Succat  the son of Calpurnius-a Christian Roman living in Britain, was kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland,to heard and tend sheep on Slemish mountain in Co Antrim. During his six year captivity he became fluent in Irish and turned to God in prayer. He escaped after having a dream sent from God in which he was told to go to the coast where there would be a boat waiting for him to take him home. Subsequently, he traveled to France to become a priest and later a bishop. Maewyn took the name Patrick, when he became a priest.

When Patrick was a bishop in France, God sent him another dream where the people of Ireland were pleading with him to walk among them once more. So he returned to Ireland and  traveled all over the country, converting the people to Christianity. The date cited when Ireland was  converted to Christianity is 432 A.D.  It is said – but there is no proof of this to date, that he returned to his place of captivity in Co Antrim, after which he traveled to a cave in an isolated island in central Donegal – Lough Derg. Word has it that  he received visions of hell and purgatory while fasting and praying there.

St Patrick  is not the only mystic, saint or visionary to pontificate the horrors of hell .  St Teresa of Avila, St Therese of Lisieuxas well as the American Mystic Marie Rose Ferron all  warn against visiting hell at all costs because once you go you can never leave- apparently. On the other hand, while Purgatory is also associated with suffering, it is also a place of healing and redemption. Hence the name St Patrick Purgatory came into being as a means of redemption from the fires of hell

Returning now to the story of my trip there.Once we arrived on the island we were shown to our dormitories which were bright clean and fresh. I had a ‘double cubicle to myself which was nice and private.  The other pilgrims were in fine form and the feeling of support and encouragement was tangible. We were advised to wear plenty of warm cloths as the body can get cold when you are in bare feet! Yup you have guessed it, this pilgrimage in done in bare feet! Nothing like frozen toes to bring the mind galloping back into the body.

I have done this pilgrimage before so I know the drill. It’s a good idea to get the three stations finished as early as possible. Stations consist of walking over the stones in the penitential beds. The penitential beds  are the remains of the beehive huts used by the early 6th century monks. You walk three times on the outside, three times on the inside stopping at the entrance and the cross in the center. You walk in circles, always moving forward in a clockwise direction, reciting prayers. Each station takes about an hour and you have three to do on the first day.

As I started the first station my body felt heavy. I was weighed down by my own personal concerns and concerns of others who asked me to think of them while on this ancient holy island.Somewhere during the second station the sun filtered out from behind the clouds in the milk blue sky.I felt the soft heat infuse into my tired bones.

By 4 30 pm I was finished and I headed towards the dining room.

The dining room in Lough Derg is  large and  bright. Long tables and benches extend from one end to another.The spacious ceiling to floor windows facilitate spectacular views of the lake . Empty clean tea cups, saucers and plates are placed carefully  on either side of each table. The center is adorned with silver pots of piping  black tea and coffee, dry hot toast, and oatcakes. There is not a milk jug or butter plate in sight! I eat slowly and with gratitude. I am aware of the warm black sweet coffee as it settles in my awaiting stomach. The taste of oats in the cakes more prevalent without butter. We eat with delight the pilgrims and I, savoring  the moment. Our days’work done. Time to talk until 6 30 pm when we will attend another religious catholic service called Mass.

For those who are unfamiliar with this service I will make an attempt to explain what the Mass is all about. First let me say that in Lough Derg there is a lot of singing at mass and the experience of  song is in itself, immensely uplifting.

Briefly, mass is divided into four basic parts or ‘rites’; the introduction,the liturgy of the word,the Eucharist and the concluding rite. The introduction allows  time to reflect on our actions in other words, what we have done or failed to do, that may have hurt others. In  the second  part,the  liturgy of the word, we listen to gospel stories from the Bible and the priest gives us ‘a take’ on his interpretation of these stories in a  homily. In the third rite known as the Eucharist we offer ourselves with the bread and wine to be liberated by Grace so that we become one with God in communion. Finally, the concluding rite is quite short we ask that the Grace we have received, will be transferred into our everyday life.I am not a theologian, this is just my understanding of what happens at Mass.

Returning once again to my story the time is 6.30 om and I am still on day one heading to mass in the large domed Basilica. In your minds eye imagine that you are at The Phantom of the Opera. Can you hear it? Yes? well would you believe me if I told you that the singing at our 6 30 Mass  was like the phantom would believe me? I honestly felt it was and  what’s more we were all encouraged to sing along, which I was delighted to do.I mean who gets to sing at an opera?

At 7 30 pm most of the pilgrims head back to the dormitories for a rest to prepare  for the vigil of sleep deprivation.At 9 20 we return to the Basilica for night prayer and Benediction.

At 10.00 pm the  vigil candle symbolizing our commitment to remain awake for 24 hours by walking and reciting prayers and drinking hot water.It’s a bit like a marathon really, except unlike a marathon we are not running alone, the pilgrims work together as a group.

We  remained in the Basilica during the entire night walking and praying. There was a station at 12 30 am, 2.00 am, 3.30am and 5.00am. Each station lasted for about an hour or so. Some pilgrims were better than others at leading. I preferred the speedy leaders as it allowed more time to relax and get a cup of warm water between stations.

Dawn broke at 4 30 am. I took a sneaky photo (the use of camera’s and phones are not allowed on the island) I just couldn’t resist it. The stillness was so tangible that you could almost taste it. That is why there are only two similar  photos with this post.

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The 6 30 am mass was excruciating, the pull of sleep overpowering.  

8 30 am was time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation followed by the eight station which was performed outside.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation provides the pilgrims with an opportunity to address wrongdoings and give voice to concerns. The priest assured us not to worry as there is no such thing as a bad confession. We are told that once the intention is set we do not have to say anything as some hurts and pain can find no words of expression.  It is a powerful feeling to surrender all to a God of Compassion.

Then from 9 30 am the day stretched out before us like a warm haze. All we had to do was stay alert and awake. We were advised not to stretch out or lie down, even support for the back was discouraged. I kept  myself busy walking and talking Then miraculously,sometime around 12 midday my mind stops working.

I am free

In the moment

Without thoughts, plans or activities.

The world slows down.

I notice small creatures in the earth below and sky above.

I am part of all.

At one with all.

The day continues.

At 2.00 pm and I visit the dining room for a meal of  piping hot sugary coffee and oat cakes.

My mind stimulated by the coffee and food wakes up again. I start to interact with other pilgrims, we talk about our  future and comment about life in general. The sensation  of ‘Oneness with all, starts to submerge into short term memory. The feeling remains and energizes. 

At 6.30 pm we have mass and more exquisite singing.

By 8.00 pm I am absolutely exhausted. I feel a migraine headache  coming on. My mind continues to waken. Old habits die hard. Pilgrims are chatting with each other confirming that the 24 hours are almost over. I am unable to engage so I just surrender to the discomfort and passively listen.

At 9 20 we have night prayer. Once again I am blown away by the music and I join in with abandon and I am free once again.

Then at  10.00 pm sharp the vigil candle is extinguished and we ran with glee  to our dormitories .

At  10.15 pm I am fast asleep. It is a sound contented deep slumber.

I awake totally rested at 5.00 am. 

On the third day we rise at 5 30 for mass at 6.00 am.

We continue to fast but by this stage the hunger has left us.

We leave the island at 9 30 am to the sound of music.

Our fast continues throughout the third day until midnight.  We can drink soft minerals if we choose and  have one  meal of black tea or coffee with dry toast.

I am feeling energized and alive.

At one with all.

It is a good wholesome feeling 

And that my friends is a short rendition of my visit to Lough Derg on this Friday 17th July in 2015.

On our next post on Day 8:  The Inward Journey: Finding the Real Me we will resume again with a reminder on Monday to keep up the mindful exercises outlined in previous posts.

Hugs

Marie Therese

 

 

It’s Monday’s. In 4 more days we will tackle those jobs you hate the mindful way, with the assistance of your Irish Mammy.

Just wondering how you are getting on with you mindful exercises?

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Not started yet?

No worries.

As my upbeat optimistic friend Cathy always says, ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life’

I know it’s a platitude. Most truths often are.

So, on this Monday let’s do something together just for the fun of it.

No one will notice if  you stand on your toes and relax back onto the ball of each foot. Then do again for at least seven times and as you do really focus on the rise and fall of each foot.

Allow yourself to smile deep from within your heart, in salutation to your higher self, who is gradually appearing before your eyes.

Then smile again for the fun of it and enjoy.

Allow this  warm bubbly feeling to pour out to others from your smiling heart.

In the words of the fourteen century English mystic, Julian of Norwich

‘All shall be  well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well’

Note to self

No one will really notice you standing on your  toes, they will however enjoy your smile.

Have a great Monday you guys.

Hugs

Mt

PS. The next post will be in 4 days.

It will be a post on how to mindfully  tackle the jobs you hate, so that such activities will energize rather than drain you.

I will post on Friday instead of the usual Wednesday.

The reason for this is simple.

Today I am fasting as I head to an ancient site and place of pilgrimage known as Lough Derg. 

I started fasting at  12 midnight yesterday  and will remain fasting until Wednesday at 12 midnight. I will also aim  to remain alert and awake for 48 hours! How ‘ cracked’is that!!

The things this daft Irish Mammy will do in search of stillness and her eagerness to share it with you.

Hugs again you guys.

Have a great one! See ya on Friday 

from mt

 

Day 7: The Inward Journey: Finding the Real Me through Mindful Exercise. If you do what your Irish Mammy says, you will always find your way home.

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When the mind is fully engaged in the present, it is usually totally engrossed in what it is doing. Take the reading of an exciting book or the watching of a thriller movie, for example — all thoughts will remain with the activity and you will feel energized by it. This is referred to as focused attention or mindfulness and it is one of the most effective ways to develop and maintain a clear and uncluttered mind.

Many people waste the benefit of any exercise because they cannot rid their minds of idle chatter.

Have you gone for a walk and found that you spent the entire time talking to the person who decided to walk with you?

Note to self

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There are times when I absolutely love going out for a walk and a chat, especially with ‘himself’ as we climb over the ‘mountain’ which is really only a big hill but a mountain sounds impressive nonetheless, so a mountain it is then.

Now where was I ….yes we love to walk and talk……O dear!

Can you see where this is going…yup you have it, my mind is drifting like a rudderless boat in an endless sea of  conversations.

So we walk and talk which it itself is a very pleasant activity and good for marital bliss but bad for mindfulness. 

Sometimes we decide just to go for a walk  for the fun  of it and  ‘ talk the heads of each other’  other times when we are both feeling a bit exhausted we opt for the mindful way.

Happily, we now understand any activity – even the most tortuous exercise requires  far less effort and struggle when  practiced with  focused attention  and the reason for this is so obvious that we often overlook the simple truth that;

  • A focused mind is still
  • A still mind is relaxed
  • Relaxed muscles respond more effectively to than those in a tense state.

Conscious awareness or ‘Mindfulness’ is described by the Encarta Dictionary as a ‘form of being actively attentive or deliberately keeping something in mind’

It is possible to train the mind to focus on anything, both liked and disliked activities. However, when we are unfamiliar with this discipline, the mind, like a naughty child, will go wandering when it has to attend to what it considers it to be a boring, routine task.

So here is the thing, we can trick the mind to becoming still, if we take everyday tasks and do them in a  way that  invites  the mind to become  involved . When we keep the mind busy it has no time to drift all over the place.

I like to call this Mindful Exercise.

Mindful Exercise  as it is all about doing everyday undertakings extraordinary well with focused attention.

OK, so lets look at everyday undertakings.

Everywhere there are the lifts and escalators and  we hop on them mindless right?

Wrong! This is a bad habit that will effect our health and well-being.

Decide  today,

to use the stairs and as you do  

  • count the steps,
  • focus on your feet keep your mind clear
  • when your wanders bring it back. Look and your feet. Count slowly, rhythmically, one step at a time, without any effort what so ever

 More Mindful Exercise

Instead of driving the car or taking the bus, decide to walk mindfully and

  • Look down at your feet.
  • If you are wearing shoes and socks, thank them for keeping your feet warm, comfortable and dry. Better still, if you are barefoot become aware of the earth on which you stand and thank the earth for its gravity as you walk upright upon its soil.
  • Next allow your attention to focus on your legs and thank them, for transporting you and your body from place to place.
  • Then, take a slow deep breath and concentrate on the movement of each foot one step at a time
  • Become aware of the smells, the sights and  the sounds  around you without any effort whatsoever and smile.
  • If you mind wanders, take a slow deep breath and bring your attention back to the movement of each foot, one step at a time, without any effort whatsoever and smile

Continue walking this way as long as time allows.

When you are ready return to the business of the day, energized and refreshed, knowing that you can return to mindful exercise any time you choose.

Smile.

Homework assignment

  • For the next few days promise yourself that you will train your mind to become still through the practice of mindfulness.
  • If your mind is scattered and wandering all over the place, get it involved in any activity you are doing no matter how mundane it is.
  • Practice your smile and let it be a smile from your heart, without mind judgement or comment.

Note to self

MOMM

OK guys, Lets promise ourselves  to do these simple  mindful exercise for 30 minutes every day and observe how you are feeling emotionally, physical and spiritually.

It seems too simple to be true but then again the best things in life often are!

So until our next post on Day 8 I bid you adieu. The Real You is getting close.

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