Jennifer Foster: Making Mindfulness a Way of Life

Jennifer Foster, doing what she does best:   inspiring kids!

Jennifer Foster, doing what she does best:
inspiring kids!

“The best place to practice is a place you don’t want to be, using the time you don’t think you have.”  — Karen Maezen Miller, Buddhist priest

Here at LifeArt Studio, we’re finishing up a summer that has been devoted to the study and practice of a variety of mindfulness practices. Lots of sitting, lots of walking meditation in the garden, lots of experimentation with mindfulness technologies. It’s been intense for all who have participated, and oh-so-satisfying.

As the summer winds down, and we begin to gear up for our new fall session, I am thrilled to share some thoughts from Jennifer Foster, one of our participants who beautifully captures the challenge and the rewards of dedication to practice.  She writes:

I’ve been engaging in a lot of conversations about mindfulness and meditation lately and frequently receive the same responses/feedback that I use to give.

It’s generally starts with “I can’t quiet my mind enough to meditate,” or another favorite “I don’t have time to meditate” or “I have tried different kinds of meditation but don’t really have a structured plan or know how to leverage different types based on what’s going on in my own life.”

My typical response is that most of what you think you know about meditation is likely a great exaggeration. Sure, there are extremes to everything and this is no different. The important thing is to do what feels right to you, and that is likely different for everyone.

How do I know this? Because, I learned the hard way, and it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me. What I realized through creating simple mindfulness habits profoundly changed my own life.

A few months ago, I decided to ramp up my willy-nilly meditation practice (frankly, out of necessity) and started working with a coach to help educate me and open my mind to the science and potential of different types of meditation.

I started with a loving kindness practice and it changes how I approach situations every single day. I find, now, that mindfulness has become much more a way of life than a designated active meditation. My goal is to live it rather than just designate time to practice it. Some days, this works and others…not so much! Can you relate? What I love about having a coach is that she’s opened my mind up to doing other types of meditation that push my mind, sensibilities, etc. and I’m enjoying the exploration.

Lezlie Laws is that coach and from the first day I met her, I knew she was the right person to help me explore my personal goals.

If any of this resonates with you, and you’ve been thinking about wanting to explore your own mindfulness and meditation goals, then I highly recommend Lezlie. At the very least, she’ll help you realize whether you are ready to get serious about this—and that, is a tremendous start.

Jennifer Foster is the Founder of Kids’ Wellness Alliance, LLC – a children’s health and wellness edutainment company and creator Yoga Dog™, an edutainment and activity based program for children. Over the past 23 years, Jennifer has written, produced and directed industrial and broadcast projects for many of the most prestigious corporations in the world. Through her work as owner of Foster Productions, she has produced a wide range of content including Commercial, Documentary, Learning Development, Marketing, Animation, and Broadcast media.

Jennifer’s passion for creating entertaining and purposeful content, coupled with her industry experience and vision for raising the bar on children’s entertainment, are the driving forces behind Yoga Dog™ and KWA!

 

 

 

 

The Divinity Within

41g1RobIEPL._AC_US160_Kate Atkinson’s novel A God in Ruins is a complex story of family, war, faith, and regret taking place in England before, during, and after World War II. Near the end of the book, one of the characters goes to a retreat center in Bali where she hears her son relate this ancient story:

There is a Hindu legend that tells us that there was once a time when all men were gods, but they abused their divinity. Brahma, the god of creation, concluded that people had lost their right to their divinity and decided to take it away from them.  Wanting to hide it somewhere where they wouldn’t be able to find it, he called a council of all the gods to advise him. Some suggested that he bury it deep in the earth, others that they sink it in the ocean, others still suggested it be placed on top of the highest mountain, but Brahma said that mankind was ingenious and would dig down far into the earth, trawl the deepest oceans and climb every mountain in an effort to find it again.

The gods were on the point of giving up when Brahma said, “I know where we will hide man’s divinity, we will hide it inside him.  He will search the whole world but never look inside and find what is already within.”

While I don’t like Brahma’s dim view of man’s capacity to grow, I do like the reminder this story offers us, which appears not just in Hinduism, but in Sufism, Buddhism, and even Christianity too.  All of the great wisdom traditions urge us to look within and hone our innate capacities for wisdom, intelligence, intuition, and creativity.  Find your path, and let it lead you to the highest expression of yourself.

Be Grateful for What Shows Up

imagesOver years of trying to maintain some version of a meditation practice, I’ve learned that, just like everything else in my life, practice is not stable.  It fluctuates, shifts, changes, drops away, comes on strong, or whatever.  I used to get very frustrated with myself over this instability, calling it a “weakness” in my practice.  But these days, I don’t judge my practice so much.  I try to welcome whatever is here, and be grateful about what shows up.

When the practice seems to wander off, I catch myself sooner these days and call it back kindly, and accept yet another fresh start placidly.  No more berating.  No more judging.  No more disappointment.  No more  expectations.  This is what is here with me now, I say as I sit down on my cushion.  Let me welcome it.

But I’ve also learned the warnings that my practice might not be as robust as it could be.   The main signal is a sense of anxiety or general uneasiness that comes first into my body, and eventually takes up residence in my mind.  What causes this I’m not at all sure about.  It is a scratchy feeling of dis-ease that seems to be unattached to story or incident.  Out of the blue there it is, that old sense of general discomfort—tinged with tension, laced with a bit of yearning, and sometimes doused in regret.

What up, girl??  I have no idea.

And last week, all of these uncomfortable feelings descended upon me, a message from the universe.  It was not fun.

But the good news is that I have progressed enough to take this scratchy dis-ease as a directive to ramp up my meditation practice.  And instead of “doing” something to fix the anxiety, I have confidence of the benefits of simply “being” with the anxiety.  You may know the Zen saying, “Meditate every day for one hour.  And if you’re too busy to meditate for one hour, then meditate for two hours.”  The idea being that those who are too busy need the practice most. Got it.

So I re-dedicated.  In addition to my regular morning sitting, I added an afternoon mantra practice.  I’m using the 21-day Immersion in the Power of Sacred Sound that Deval Premal & Miten offered through Sounds True a few months ago.  I highly recommend this program if you are new to mantra practice.  Premal’s voice is stunningly beautiful, and the short meditations they present are relaxing, invigorating, and moving.

Another option is to add a guided meditation to your day.  Yesterday, Deepak Chopra and Oprah began yet another 21-day round of guided meditations, their focus this time around “Getting Unstuck.”  Perfect for those of us facing a challenge in our practice (or a challenge in life.

So how about you?  Are you faltering in your own practice?  It happens.  Take it as a sweet reminder to get still;  a suggestion to release the tension you’re holding; a call to dive deeper into your potential; a nudge to let yourself be more open, more receptive, more at ease—a permission to embrace joy.   Today, add an additional ten minutes to whatever time you’ve been giving to your practice.  Do it for 21 days.  And watch. . .

No more scratchy.