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Unstuck in the middle

We are creatures of story.
The narrative structure helps us navigate the challenges of daily living.

We set out into the unknown each morning. We contend with dragons, vampires, and boring meetings. Once in a while, we discover a bit of gold or a few magic beans. We head home to rest up for tomorrow's adventure. 
But all climb and no resolution can make the story structure feel like a prison instead of a path. 

In my life, both at home and at work, this has frequently lead to trying to figure out who is to blame when I’m feeling hopeless or bored.

It has also meant wishing that solutions would be quick, obvious, and comfortable when, instead, they have usually been slow, vague, and required me to choose one discomfort over another.

Staying means compromising. Leaving means developing a plan. Neither choice is easy or comes with any guarantees.

Journalist Brooke Gladstone points out, in The Influencing Machine, her timely and compelling non-fiction graphic novel about the history of media:

“Stories have beginnings, middles, and ends. Some news stories, science stories for instance, never really end. They’re all middle. It’s a narrative nightmare. Try to fix the problem by tacking on a provisional ending, and the reports appear more conclusive than they really are.”

This explains the confusing advice we get about coffee, chocolate, or wine being the underlying problem one day and the cure the next.

When faced with uncertainty in the longitudinal field research of our own lives, it's easy to get frustrated and rush toward conclusions that complicate matters instead of resolving them. The peer review process is no downhill jog, either.

Trying to escape the emotional discomfort of not knowing how things will turn out becomes habitual.

Developing attentional fitness through a multi-sensory approach to mindfulness practice can help erode the homesickness that comes from spending so much time in the middle—not by providing answers to our challenging problems, but by developing the capacity to feel more at home with uncertainty.

When we practice forgoing the tug of endings now and then, we get better at inhabiting all the messy, uphill middle that makes up so much of our lives.

We might even discover some buried treasure along the way. When we abandon the urge to escape, we learn to notice a surprising amount of vitality that has been hiding right beneath our feet all along.

Summer mindfulness workshops, classes, and talks

Upcoming classes

Calling Off the Battle with Distractions
Friday, June 15, 2018, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM, Mt. Carmel St. Ann's

Most people think that meditating means not thinking. No wonder they give up. This workshop explores how to change the way you relate to the inevitable thoughts and feelings that appear when you're trying to focus on something else. 

Saturday Morning Retreat: Find Rest in the Unrest with Mindfulness
Saturday, June 16, 2018,  9:00 AM – 12:00 PM, Amelita Mirolo Barn (Upper Arlington) 

Unplug. Recharge. Learn mindfulness exercises that lead to being able to recognize and savor natural restful states that are available throughout an ordinary day.

Breath Awareness for Concentration and Relaxation 
Mondays, June 18 & 25, 2018, 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM, Mount Carmel Healthy Living Center

Find out what makes breath awareness such a popular introductory mindfulness exercise, its potential drawbacks, and how to get around them. No experience necessary. Sign up to attend one or both classes.

Mindfulness Strategies for Worry and Insomnia
Friday, August 17, 2018, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM, Mt. Carmel St. Ann's

Explore attention exercises that can help you to stop trying to think your way out of discomfort and confusion and to get more rest.

Weekly summer practice sessions

Exercising together helps maintain consistency and motivation. 

Practice with us the first three Wednesday evenings of each month from 7:00 to 8:30. 

Summer session dates:

  • June 6, 13, 20
  • July 11, 18
  • August 1, 8, 15

Sessions include guided exercises, practice in silence, and discussion. 

We share strategies for developing and maintaining a consistent mindful awareness practice that fits your needs and interests.

All experience levels and meditation strategies are welcome.

The core group of participants is warm and would love to help me convince you that you're not meditating wrong

These practice sessions are free. I put any donations towards my web page, marketing online classes, and providing free or discounted talks and coaching services when financial resources are an obstacle.  

Email or call 614-284-9618 for address and parking details. 

The contemplative photography camping trip in Northern New Mexico will be Sep. 26–30, 2018. Submit your contact information to get details and registration information.

Recent attention grabbers

Ethnowise: Embracing Culture Shock to Build Resilience, Responsiveness & Connection by Michael Kimball

I rarely experience so many flashes of recognition in one book. It's a textbook written by an anthropology professor at the University of Northern Colorado, but the insights align with what I'm trying to promote through Attentional Fitness Training. Powerful perspectives and tools with serious implications for countering cultural polarization and tribalism.  

When Everything Clicks: The Power Of Judgment-Free Learning

This new episode of Hidden Brain really clicked with me. It explores several insights into what makes learning a new skill so challenging and some creative ways teachers and coaches have come up with to increase the odds of success. 

The World Is Our Field of Practice 

Another rich On Being conversation, this time with Zan priest and author angel Kyodo williams who says: "There is something dying in our society, in our culture, and there’s something dying in us individually. And what is dying, I think, is the willingness to be in denial. And that is extraordinary." 

The Beauty of Being a Misfit 

Riveting TED Talk by Lidia Yuknavitch compares the misfit's myth to the hero's journey. Why isn't everyone talking about this one? They will be. Watch it and I know you'll want to help me spread the word. 

The Humanity We All Share

You'll also want to add this talk by Elyn Saks to your TED queue, too. She beautifully recounts her personal experience with schizophrenia and how the support she got helped her become an expert in mental health law. 

“I don't wish to be seen as regretting the life I could have had if I'd not been mentally ill, nor am I asking anyone for their pity. What I rather wish to say is that the humanity we all share is more important than the mental illness we may not.”

The Ability to Tell the Difference 

Russell Brand makes me want to pay closer attention and ask better questions. His conversation with historian Yuval Noah Harari crackles with insights like this: "The success of Homo sapiens as a species is built on our inability to tell the difference between a fiction and a reality."

All We Need to Know about Wanting

"Every living thing
has preferences."

I don't know who Jim Dollar is, but this poem he posted to Facebook syncs up with what I'm trying to get at by encouraging people to exercise their attention. We will never stop wanting, but we can change the way we relate to the wanting itself. 

"Stories about gradual improvements rarely make the front page even when they occur on a dramatic scale and affect millions of people. And thanks to increasing press freedom and improving technology, we hear about more disasters than ever before. This improved reporting is itself a sign of human progress, but it creates the impression of the exact opposite." 

~ Hans Rosling, from "Good News at Last: The World isn’t as Horrific as You Think

Rosling, H., Rosling, O., & Rönnlund, A. R. (2018). Factfulness: Ten reasons we're wrong about the world--and why things are better than you think. United States: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. (Goodreadslibrary)

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Keep in touch between newsletters: Take care, 


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