Can You Wait For The Glitter To Settle?

 

In my daughter’s girl scout troop, we made “mind jars.” These are plastic bottles filled with water and loads of glitter. The girls loved this project. We saw how when we shake the jar, the glitter clouds the water and we have to wait for the glitter to settle for clarity to return to the water. We talked about when we are activated that our mind and feelings become stirred up and it is very difficult to see clearly and make appropriate decisions. We practiced breathing and allowing the glitter to settle. I am not sure how much they understood but they certainly loved making the jars:)

 

The question to ask ourselves is, “Are we willing to allow the glitter to settle before we can see clearly?” Sometimes we can be so enmeshed with our “glitter” that we don’t even realize that we are seeing things through a clouded lens. I can certainly relate to the confusion many of us face when trying to make decisions- big or little. Should I move? Change my career? Leave a relationship? Go back to school? No matter what the situation is, the answer can never come from a place of reactivity and confusion. When we are not centered and present, our mind will take us off course. We can think our way in and out of any scenario. The excessive thinking (which is a form of reactivity) will leave us feeling more confused, frustrated and lacking trust within ourselves.

 

Having awareness that we are activated or caught up in confusion is the first step. Then turning inward and allowing the experience to be just as it is, without trying to “figure anything out.” Can we have the courage to sit with the uncertainty, to sit with not knowing what to do? We are so used to doing and fixing and reacting. The act of allowing and being with our experience may be foreign but it is the only way that I know to find the true answers to our questions. Never make a life changing decision based on our momentary reactivity. If you are facing a difficult decision, can you be brave enough to wait for the glitter to settle? Patiently wait and allow all of the “what if’s”, “why’s”, “maybes” to quiet down. Watch the emotions shift in the body. This is not passively waiting. In fact, it is the most active thing we can do. While we are waiting for the glitter to settle, we are building a spacious inner container that can watch our experience and not become it. We are strengthening our ability to witness, without judgement, our inner terrain-the thoughts, emotions, body sensations, resistance, confusion and build a space to contain it all as we rise above it.  In this space, we open to our inner guidance and all the fear, confusion and false beliefs can disappear in a moment because they were never real anyway. This space takes time to cultivate (much longer than it takes the glitter to settle in our mind jars). No one can do the work for us. It takes commitment, intention and deep self-love to do the work.

 

If you are interested in learning mindfulness mediation, consider joining my all day retreat on Sunday, June 4th from 9am-4pm at the Middlefield Library. We will be turning our attention inward, witnessing our experience, and cultivating the inner spaciousness needed to live a present, centered and fully awakened life.

One Day Immersion into Mindfulness

 

Date To be Announced- Fall 2017

Levi E. Coe Library, 414 Main St, Middlefield, CT

What does this day entail?

  • Amanda will start the day off with an inspiring talk on of what mindfulness is and how it can be the catalyst to wake you up to the life that is waiting for you.
  • This retreat offers a full day experience of a variety of mindfulness practices, including awareness of breath, body scan, mindful eating, mindful movement, walking meditation, mountain meditation, and loving kindness meditation.
  • There will be a closing discussion and guidance on how to continue incorporating mindfulness into your daily lives going forward.

Who should attend?

This full day retreat is for anyone who is seeking a day to step outside of the hustle and bustle of daily life. Whether this is your first mindfulness experience or you have been practicing for years, this is a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with yourself and remember what is truly important. This day is a wonderful opportunity for those who perhaps cannot commit to a weekly class but want to experience mindful practice led by a qualified and experienced mindfulness facilitator.

Benefits of  this retreat:

  • You will have a clear understanding of what mindfulness is and how it can be applied to everyday living.
  • You will be taught tools to help reduce reactivity and instead be able to skillfully respond.
  • You will reduce stress and allow your body to innately heal.
  • You will build attention and begin to have a new relationship with your mind.
  • You will cultivate stronger mental and emotional resilience.
  • You will learn how to befriend yourself and reconnect with who you truly are.
  • You will be taught how to establish a daily mindfulness practice going forward.

How should I prepare for this retreat:

  • Please wear comfortable clothing so you can easily move (for mindful yoga) and sit (for seated meditations).
  • Please bring a yoga mat and a blanket. Wear layers so you can adjust your clothing if you are warm or cool.
  • Please pack a lunch and a water bottle. There is a kitchen with a refridgerator available. Snacks, drinks and coffee/tea will be provided. We will be practicing mindful eating.
  • We will be doing some practice outside, as weather permits, so please consider sunscreen.
  • You are encouraged to come with an open mind and heart. Leave all expectations behind and immerse yourself in a new experience.

About the retreat instructor:

Amanda Votto is a qualified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) instructor, trained through the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She teaches several mindfulness courses including mindful parenting, MBSR, and Introduction to Mindfulness. Amanda is passionate about sharing mindfulness and helping others awaken to their fullest potential. She is a physician assistant in cardiology at Hartford Hospital and believes whole heartedly in the power of healing from within. Personally, Amanda tries to embody mindfulness in all she does. She has a daily mindfulness practice and deepens her practice with 5-7 day silent retreats.


Please contact Amanda Votto with any questions at amanda@divinewithin.me

Previous All Day Retreats: June 4, 2017,  9am-4pm

Classes and Workshops

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction- 8 week series

Hartford Hospital Integrative Medicine,

305 Western Boulevard, Glastonbury- Educational Conference Room

Orientation is Thursday, October 5th from 7-8:30pm

Class meets on Thursdays from 7-9:30pm starting October 19- December 14th (skipping November 23) with an all day retreat on December 3rd.

https://hartfordhospital.org/health-wellness/classes-events/event-detail?id=498&occ=9445

 

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction- 8 week series

Copper Beech Institute in West Hartford

Orientation is Monday, January 8, 2018 from 9:30am-11am

Class meets on Mondays from 9:30am until 12pm, starting January 22, 2018 (no class on February 12)with an all day retreat on Sunday, March 3th and course ending on March 19 , 2018

https://www.copperbeechinstitute.org/mbsr-daytime-winter18

 

Introduction to Mindful Parenting (Level 1)- Copper Beech Institute, West Hartford, CT

4 week series

Monday nights 7-9pm on October 9, 16, 23, and 30, 2017

https://www.copperbeechinstitute.org/mindful-parenting-1

 

Mindful Parenting (level 2)- Copper Beech Institute, West Hartford, CT

4 week series

Monday nights 7-9pm on January 8, 15, 22, 29, 2018

https://www.copperbeechinstitute.org/mindful-parenting-II

 

 

Flowing With Life

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How often do we find ourselves bypassing or resisting the present moment? Whether we are aware or not, we often miss the moment that is occurring right before our eyes. We may be so fixated on how things “used to be” or how they “should be” that the current moment passes without ever experiencing its fullness. In fact, if we stay unaware of this, our whole life can pass right by us, never truly experiencing it, merely living in our heads the whole time. This, to me, is the devastating truth that can happen when we live unconsciously.  I too was seduced into the unconscious lure of living my life purely through thought until I began practicing mindfulness. Somehow many of us have grown addicted to our own mental movie of “The Way Things Were” or “What Lies Ahead.” It is through intention, the cultivation of mindfulness (present moment living) and conscious teachings that we can wake up from our sleep. Real life unfolds on a moment to moment basis and we can choose to pay attention with awareness, interest, and an attitude of open acceptance to our lives. Our life that can be witnessed and felt through our senses, feelings/emotions, and thoughts.

Last week, my family and I went on a wonderful Caribbean vacation. We were surrounded by magnificent turquoise water, soft sand, warm sun, kind natives, and beauty that could be found everywhere you look. Isn’t it so much easier to stay present and feel awake in moments that are pleasing and full of happiness? However, living life to its fullest, includes being fully present for all its moments- neither preferring the good nor rejecting the bad. It is about staying fully aware, experiencing and accepting whatever presents itself in the moment. Plain and simple- life is as it is and it is purely the way that we interpret it that informs how we see it. Our perception of life mostly comes from our past conditioning (how we were raised, cultural beliefs and past experiences) and it this conditioning that creates our beliefs. When we become fully aware of our limiting beliefs and become curious about our perceptions, there is room to grow and change.

Life is constantly changing and presenting us with moments to grow if we can see them as such. Our Caribbean vacation took an interesting turn when my daughter got food poisoning the first night of our trip. This event had the potential to put a huge damper on our vacation; however, practicing moment-to-moment awareness allowed the vacation to unfold naturally. It was through my daughter’s lead that I learned even more what it means to enter flow. Kids, in general, are in the present moment, fully embracing what they are doing while they are doing it. They aren’t attached to certain expectations and haven’t lived long enough to fully buy into false beliefs/perceptions that we struggle with in adulthood. They are so close to their authentic, natural state. My daughter was sick with food poisoning in a beautiful resort with innumerable activities and fun at every corner. Never once did she question why she was the one who got sick. She wasn’t attached to a certain vision of how she planned her trip to be- lol. She simply accepted the “as-is” of her situation and naturally flowed with it- not resisting it. In doing so, she was able to continue to have fun and allow herself to be nurtured.  By the end of the trip, she was laughing that she knew the location of every bathroom in the whole resort. She handled this situation with ease, joy and an open hearted acceptance. It was through her beautiful example that I too surrendered to the present moment. I could have easily been consumed with fearful thinking about her food poisoning such as “Now the whole trip may be ruined. What if she is really sick and we are far from home?” The stories could have gone on and on. Instead I chose to embrace the present moment like her. Not to say that fear based thoughts didn’t enter my mind; however, I witnessed the thoughts and choose to see them as thoughts and not reality. The reality was that my daughter was sick in that moment and I truly had no idea how long the food poisoning would last. I had no idea how the trip would pan out but I was sure that if I perceived this event through a lens of fear/lack (why does this happen to me? My whole vacation is ruined, etc.) then indeed my experience would reflect my thoughts.

Living mindfully, means showing up for all of life, releasing all of our expectations of how things ought to be, and allowing life to unfold naturally on its own with absolute trust in its unfolding. This is not to be confused with being passive to life. Quite on the contrary, it takes commitment, intention and astute presence to actively engage with life. My daughter’s experience with food poisoning was an opportunity for myself, my daughter, my son and husband to practice equanimity- to see life as it is and release our need to categorize it as “good or bad, “acceptable or unacceptable.” Entering the present moment and flowing with life as it presents itself is a gift. This quality of “entering flow” can be cultivated and is the path to freedom. When we let go of expectations, we can engage in life.  When I released my expectation of how I pictured my family vacation to be, I made room for what actually was and was able to see the beauty in the midst of a challenge. I saw my daughter and her warrior spirit. I saw how easily she could flow with life and I marveled at her ease and full acceptance of the present moment. I saw the beauty in each breath she took as she slept in my arms. I saw her having fun swimming and playing in the sun despite the food poisoning. I saw the compassion of my son as he cared for his sister. I saw the unconditional love my husband showed for our family. I would have missed all of this if I were caught in my thoughts and resisting the present. All of the energy that it takes being consumed with thoughts and “what if’s” is freed up and room is created for spontaneity, joy and gratitude.

I am so grateful for the gift of mindfulness and how it has transformed my life and the lives of so many others. I can’t think of a better way to express my deepest gratitude than to intentionally show up for all of life’s moments and embrace the present without attachment or expectation- only full-on acceptance, open heartedness, and deep trust.  It is from this place that we can navigate a life that is in full alignment with our deepest self. This is my hope for all of us.

 

With love,

Amanda

The Wake Up Call

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There is no controlling life. Try corralling a lightning bolt, containing a tornado. Dam a stream and it will create a new channel. Resist, and the tide will sweep you off your feet. Allow, and grace will carry you to higher ground.”

~ Danna Faulds

In a blink of the eye, everything can change. Many of us have had firsthand experience with the ever changing nature of life. Whether it is a new diagnosis, a move, an accident, a divorce, a birth or a death, we soon realize that life comes without any guarantees. The faster we learn that we cannot control life, paradoxically, the easier and freer living becomes.

Through the practice of mindfulness, we begin to experience two crucial elements of life. The first is that everything is impermanent—our feelings, our circumstances, our lives and the lives of our loved ones. The other is that the only thing we have control over in life is how we choose to respond to our circumstances. Therein lies our power to co-create the life of our dreams.

At different times in our lives, we may get the call—the call to rise up and live the life we are meant to live. The call doesn’t necessarily come in a perfectly wrapped gift box. It may come in the form of a heart attack, a depression, a divorce or a layoff from work. The call is happening all the time but many of us are too busy in our heads to notice the present moment and too disconnected from our truth to hear the call. Don’t worry; the call doesn’t go away. Life is always working in mysterious ways to get us to wake up. If the call is ignored, our wakeup can come in louder and louder forms until our attention is caught, our escape tactics have run dry and we have few options left aside from turning inward and doing the work that is the only path to set us free.

Does this sound familiar? I personally sensed that I was “off path” years ago. I could not put my finger on what I was feeling. In fact, from the outside, it appeared as if I had it all together. I had a wonderful husband, two healthy kids, a meaningful career, yet an emptiness was growing within. I tried my usual escape tactics—keeping busy and avoidance—until the call became too loud that I could no longer ignore it. I felt disengaged from life and was unable to find happiness in the things I once enjoyed. I was confused, disconnected and felt deeply lost. I longed to return to the periods of my life when I felt joyful and connected.

No matter what I did to “figure it out,” it just didn’t make sense. There was no catastrophic external event that occurred. Letting go of trying to understand why took me a long time. I turned to mindfulness as the crucial step in reconnecting with myself. I signed up for an 8 week mindfulness based stress reduction course (MBSR).  Through the practice of mindfulness, I discovered that my answers could not be “figured out” in my mind. In fact, my mind only created more confusion. I found the stillness that was needed to reconnect with the real me. Slowly, I began quieting the inner chatter and trusting in myself and life. I knew I had all of the answers within me and with mindfulness, I have been able to access the place in me of unconditional love, patience and trust. My practice has had such an enormous impact on my life that I have now been trained through the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School to teach mindfulness to others that are seeking to find their way back home.

What is your call to wake up? Perhaps if we can see these events with a different perspective—by trusting that life is happening for us and that every occurrence is perfectly delivered for our biggest growth potential. Would we dare welcome the “unwanted” and make proper room for it?

Mindfulness is a life skill that teaches acceptance and allowance. Through practice, we train our attention to be in the present moment, the only real moment there is. It is in the present moment that we can hear the call, that we can safely feel our feelings, and that we can discover some of the patterns that keep us stuck. Becoming the observer of our thoughts, sensations and emotions allows us to form new choices and patterns and release old patterns that no longer serve.

The call is here. Maybe it is a whisper or perhaps a loud scream. Either way it is an invitation to answer it. Will you?

I will be teaching the 8 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course at Copper Beech Institute in West Hartford, CT this coming January 2017 for anyone interested in taking a deep dive into mindfulness.   https://www.copperbeechinstitute.org/mbsr-day-winter17

I Took The Bait….

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Ever find yourself falling victim to your old patterns despite all of your efforts and good intentions? These days I have made it a mandate that I am present and in tune with my energy, actions, and thoughts. But…when the trigger is extremely charged and the wound is very raw, the temptation to fall into an old pattern is high. It is critically important to know yourself and your “hot spots.” When we are triggered by someone or something, they are mirroring to us that which needs to be healed within us (otherwise we wouldn’t be triggered). The people or the situations in ours lives that provoke us the most are actually our best teachers (IF we can see them in this way).

The other day I was activated and the trigger was too intense that I took the bait. I bit back. I was even aware that I was highly reactive while I was doing it but I still choose to continue. It didn’t end with that event either. As the day went on, I continued to take that negative energy with me. For example, I gave into useless gossip, lost patience with my kids, and felt overall drained. It wasn’t until later in the day when I took inventory of my inner landscape, that I could feel my energy was very heavy. I knew exactly why. When we are attuned to our bodies, we can feel when we are “off.” That particular energy was draining and dirty.

So what do we do now? I can tell you from this particular experience that once my inner landscape felt contaminated, my ego (or “false self”) was very loud. The ego is that inner voice that always has something to say and a lot of the time it is not so nice. My ego immediately had a field day with my low energy state. Thoughts such as, “You should know better,” or “Back here again? Don’t you learn?!” The ego has lots of tricks in its bag and the dirtiest trick of all is shame/guilt. However, my authentic self has grown and has become the voice I can now (thankfully) hear and choose to listen to. It is the quiet whisper that soothes my heart. The voice that tells me that we all make mistakes and in fact, we often learn best through our mistakes. It is the voice that offers forgiveness to myself and to the other that I lashed out on. For what I didn’t know a few years ago but definitely know now is that I am allowed to be imperfect and I am enough just as I am. I no longer need to berate myself for my wrong doings, instead I can uplift myself with my progress, my good intentions, and actively change my own energy. I know that I am always offered a new moment to choose better.

We are all enough. Just the fact that we were born is a guarantee that we are all worthy to give and receive unconditional love. So let’s make a commitment to clean up our energy, to not listen to the voices that keep us stuck, yet instead embrace our highest self, the one who deeply knows our unmatchable worth.

The next time you fall victim to an old pattern, take inventory of how it makes you feel. Journal, meditate, talk to a trusted friend and then choose to forgive and release that energy. Continue to build your muscle of awareness and with practice we will overtime no longer be interested in taking the bait. Our inner landscape is sacred and protecting our energy is a priority. We all make mistakes. We can always choose to grow by learning from our mistakes and not allowing them to keep us stuck in old patterns that do not serve us anymore.

Much love,

Amanda

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Internal Battle of the Wolves

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There is a Native American story that I love and gives a great visual for us to understand what is going on within us at different moments in our lives. The story is about a grandfather who tells his grandson that there are two fighting wolves within us. One wolf is full of anger, resentment, jealousy, blame, hate, guilt. The other wolf is full of love, acceptance, kindness, faith, peace, hope. The grandson asks, “Which wolf wins?”  The grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”  Isn’t that the truth? We all have these feelings inside of us and we possess the ability to create our reality based on which wolf we are feeding. I made a picture of this particular story a few years ago for my son and it is hung in his room as a reminder that we all have the ability to choose our actions and “feed” ourselves.

There is nothing wrong with feeling angry, jealous, or even resentful from time to time. The feeling is what it is. However, whether we act on it is totally up to us. Sometimes the anger is so overwhelming that we feel powerless and react through yelling, violence or self destruction (over-eating, drinking, etc). Through present moment awareness (mindfulness practice), we train to be with our feelings and cultivate an inner awareness that provides space so we don’t feel that strong impulse to react. Instead we can use these feelings as signals to go inward. Our emotions are constantly guiding us and sending us clues to heal from the inside out. For example, I never liked feeling angry. I actually would feel guilty if I was angry- so on top of the anger was guilt and then later resentment. Wow- can we dig ourselves into a hole. I have now learned to appreciate my anger. I can use it as a sign that something is off. When I am present with the anger, I realize that most of the time I am feeling this way due to not supporting myself, for example, not getting enough sleep or not having enough quiet time. I most likely have over extended myself and have not been clear on my boundaries. I will then take my power back by restoring myself and my boundaries. No longer is there a need to look outward and point the finger at another. Our feelings are a call to look inward. We then can respond from a loving place because we have processed our feelings and activated our healing power.

Just by being human, we all encounter internal battling wolves. However, we each have the capacity to feed the wolf we want to experience in our lives. If we want more love, we have to give more love. If we want to be supported, we have to support ourselves and others. If we want to be understood, we have to learn to understand.

Next time you feel the strong pull to blame, gossip, yell, or compete, just remember you always have a choice. The more you choose to respond instead of react, a new pattern will start to develop. We have to continually feed ourselves and make choices that are aligned with the life we are creating. We can begin to see our emotions as guides that are directing us to heal. Use it as an opportunity to go inward instead of reacting outwardly. In time, we build new patterns and our old ones will no longer entice us. If we find ourselves “feeding the wrong wolf,” we simply course correct. There is no need to shame ourselves. We forgive, clean up our mess if possible, and do better next time. There is always a new moment presenting itself to us to start again.

 

xoxo,

Amanda

 

How To Get Rid of A Bad Mood

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How many of us, at times, feel completely at the mercy of our moods? I know that I was totally ill equipped for years in dealing with my own inner state, especially my variable moods that were evoked by being the mother of small children:) I wanted out and I wanted out badly. I no longer wished to be held captive by internal or external circumstances that would determine the type of day I would have. It is an exhausting and horrible way to live. I set the intention to take my power back, to own my moods and to RISE above them. But how? The answer is simple yet can be so difficult when we are held tightly by the grip of anger, shame, blame, or jealousy. The answer is to be with it.

 

This week, a particularly bad mood arrived at my doorstep. Not sure where it came and it honestly doesn’t matter. The secret to ridding yourself of a bad mood is to not try to rid it away all. Huh? Yes, just invite in and be with it. It is in our resistance that it persists. So here I was the past few days- inside I felt angry and grumpy. I witnessed these intense feelings and physical sensations (tight chest, short breaths). I also witnessed the metal garbage that went along with my mood. It is very interesting to see how our particular mood state fosters a certain state of mind. I saw that the way I was seeing things was from a tainted lens of anger and annoyance. I just noticed, did not judge, and to the best of my ability did not inflict my bad mood onto others (to the best of my ability – I am still human). It is important to note that I did not believe any of the garbage that was swirling around in my mind. I knew that it was only fueled by the fire inside.

 

Since I was aware that I was in the company of an unkind friend, it was important for me to take extra care of myself with proper sleep, meditation, and alone time. I didn’t wish it away or indulge it either. I actually was just with it. Knowing the impermanence of our feelings, I went along for the ride and allowed the feeling to eventually pass. No longer is the hold of my emotions so tight that I need to be engulfed by them and act on them. Instead, I can witness them and do my very best to welcome them in. As we face our unwanted parts, they are not so scary anymore. We all have a deeper and wiser capacity to rise above whatever decides to show up on our doorstep.

 

Even with my intense feelings, I choose to seek gratitude for my experience and use it as a way to deepen my ability to be with life as it is and not as I want it to be. I was able to empathize more with my patients who were also dealing with a bad case of the grumpy:) Everything that is presented to us is there for our deepening into who we already are. Helping someone else helps loosen the tight hold. Forgiveness also loosens the grip. I forgave myself, my thoughts and asked for forgiveness if I was unkind in anyway toward someone.

 

So next time you find yourself overcome by emotion, see if you can invite it in and just be with it. No need to analyze it, wonder when you will feel better, blame it on someone or something, just let it be and it will pass in time. This is easier said than done and needs to be practiced over and over again. I can’t urge enough the importance of a meditation practice. It builds the inner space that is absolutely necessary to be able to witness our physical sensations, feelings, and thoughts. Without that space, we can’t help but fall victim to our overwhelming moods.

 

My mood is passing on its own and I am fiercely carrying on moment-by-moment, breath-by-breath. We all have the capacity to transcend our bad moods and access of authentic self. This is the road to freedom.

 

Forging on,

Amanda