Friday, July 7, 2017

The Mindful Family: We're All in This Together

Waiting for Cobbler

Week one of The Mindful Family Practice has been all about togetherness: one of the goals of the practice and one of the things our family is starving for.

I've had the week off from my work at the Crow Collection of Asian Art, with this awkwardly placed holiday of July 4 on a Tuesday.  After a weekend pick-up at camp, a lazy day Sunday and pre and post fourth jubilees I found myself finally relaxing into my week off: on Thursday.

But I kept intention close: this was a week for long bike rides (32 miles logged) with the boys, baking experiments, reading, meditating and tree-house building (a work-in-progress).

But it was also a week of chores. As the boys grow, our bungalow shrinks. I found myself in a pattern of walking through the house, picking up clothes, the guitar, fidget spinners, towels and shoes. Sometimes I found myself picking up the same thing a fourth and fifth time.

This morning I stopped looking at this as a complaint: stopped looking at it as something "done to me" and stopped yelling into our shrinking house: Boys! Pick up your stuff!

I started looking at these leavings as my meditation practice: the motion of moving things through the house: floor to dirty clothes bin, dirty clothes bin to a sorting practice, filling the washer, moving to the dryer, folding, moving the clothes back into a drawer.  Just clothes in different places. Summer puts a different abundance in this work. It's hard not to hear the call to work.

It's also hard not to hear the call of the closets: the need to lean into less clutter more minimalism. On the latter I have a long way to go. This morning I invited Edward to clean our closets with me. I showed him how to sort: sorting the give-away from the keep; sorting the hangers to recycle, sorting the shirts from the dresses.

As we cleaned the closet, we wet a cleaning cloth and I showed him how to run his fingers with the cloth along the baseboard. We did this work slowly and intentionally. He surprised me with how long he stayed. I think it was because I was teaching him something new, and I was listening. I watched this nine year-old sweep, dive deeply under the bed and pull out any "oddlings", I watched him carry our bags out to the garage. I felt this work as a practice, not a chore, as a chance to be together accomplishing something important. I think he felt it, too.

I thanked him for his work, and he asked me to make waffles. An easy way to repay his effort, I thought. We sat together watching the waffle maker do it's magic. And at the end of "brunch" I sat in the mystery of watching him take his plate and silverware to the sink where he rinsed it off, independent of my prodding.

As much as this abundance is about togetherness, it's also about time. My week home has been simple, but I looked for the spaces where our time together could truly be together: accomplishing the things the house was calling for. And all I had to do was stop calling out Boys! and just listen to them.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Mindful Family: Working it out on the Santa Fe Trail

"Quit cutting me off" Baker said to Edward the Younger as we sat, mid-ride at the All Good Cafe in the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. Baker set his head down on the table, likely the result of riding six miles then drinking a tall chocolate milk.

"This is how we work things out" my dear husband spoke up. I looked up from my meal. We are in a different conversation, I thought to myself. I looked into this: a family talking about actions and impact at a meal in the middle of a 12 mile bike ride. Something is cracking open.

Baker went on to describe what it's like to be on the trail when he gets cut off from his brother. Edward described what it's like when Baker suddenly stops. We talked about not making each other wrong, but seeing the reasons for the actions and the impact to another. Baker sat up a little straighter. A few minutes later he asked if we can take another ride tomorrow.

On the trail back we sailed through East Dallas as most of it is downhill. I watched Edward, taking both hands off the handlebars and lapped up his joy thinking of my own first "free-ride" 35+ years ago.

At one point, with three ahead of me, they took a sudden and unexpected water break, surprisingly close to home. I groused--as a biker behind me had to deal with the road block slow down without much warning. "You can't stop in the middle of the trail without warning!" I exclaimed.

All three looked at me. Baker smiled, "No one's wrong, Mommy. We just have a communication problem. Next time all of the riders need to know when we're stopping."

I inhaled. It was happening again. The Mindful Family is becoming more mindful. I hope this writing place shares our accomplishments and our failures: we're far from knowing how to weave this life.

Like everyone else, I'm just trying to make this precious time we have left with these beautiful boys more meaningful. One day at a time.

This morning was an experiment in trying something hard, meeting the challenge with joy and taking care of each other. I'm grateful for the lessons of the cycling trail.




Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Mindful Family: Berry to Pie

Today, July 1 is the first of 100 Days of The Mindful Family Practice.

100 Days working to have more attention, more silence, more togetherness and more understanding. The architecture for this plan was inspired by a talk given at a corporate mindfulness retreat I attended at Plum Village near Thenac, France. This idea came to me on one of those long delicious and rare train rides as I soaked in all of the goodness we learned from the sage monastics.

The Mindful Family would be a project: our project for my husband Scott and our two boys Baker (10) and Edward (9). After they picked me up at Terminal D in the Dallas/ Fort Worth Airport, we drove to dinner and invited them to participate. I asked them if, as the teacher shared with us, if they felt starved for attention, more togetherness and more understanding. They immediately agreed.

Following our discussion, a family vote made it real: we are all in. I asked them to come up with new commitments, promises for these 100 days:

Written June 8, 2017:

Mommy's Promise: iPhone goes away at home. 


Baker's Promise: When someone walks in the door he will stop and greet them. 


Edward will work on being calmer and go with the flow. 


Scott will be off the computer and available to the boys during the day. 


Wow. The power in the commitments was something Scott and I both felt: this is a new family. Now we have to do the hard work to study our attachments to technology and build new connections with our kids. We are all in this together.

Today it is real: Today, July 1 is the first of 100 Days of The Mindful Family Practice.

I found time in two spaces for new conversations about intention and awareness. The first was in the blackberry patch. An unexpected family outing following camp pick-up was the perfect launch to The Mindful Family Project. Wild Berry Farm offered row after row of blackberry, blueberry, squash and tomato for our mindful eyes to find. The boys, pail in hand loved it. For every berry they put in the bucket I'm pretty sure a second went in the mouth. Perfect. We walked slowly and I taught them how to look under the bramble. To leave the red ones for another day, and to check for any bugs stowing away on the berry as it went from vine to bucket. It was a lovely Texas afternoon. Scott wanted to sit out but I reminded him we were there for the boys and he made it to every last row. We are, after all, the Mindful Family.

The second Mindful moment happened as I taught Edward and Baker how to cut the lattice work for the blueberry pie. Edward made a simple weaving, but his choice to use the zig-zag crimper brought a  rustic craftsmen style to this work of art. We brushed an egg yolk across the pastry as a last touch. We slowed down: taking care not to stress the crust. We worked on breathing and enjoying the pleasure of baking a pie with berries we'd picked. It was altogether lovely.

At dinner we reviewed our promises for this chapter of our lives together. I sensed there was an urgency to eat dinner and get to the dessert course. We reminded ourselves to eat slowly. We talked about how these 100 Days will be different for us. Edward picked up my phone and took it to his side of the table. And so it begins.

The house is quiet now, two boys, exhausted from a week at camp, nestled in their beds. They're older than they were just 7 days ago: I am always awed by the growing up that happens at Camp. And if that can happen in just a week, imagine what we will experience in a 100 Day Practice. We will find 100 Days to love them, listen deeply to them, understand them and look for the spaces to be together and quiet. Today was the last day for the blackberry season, but most certainly the beginning of our season in joy.   

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Mindful Family: 100 Days in Joy

At the close of the Mindful Eating Practice (March 1-June 8, 2017) I attended a corporate mindfulness retreat at Plum Village in the South of France. After several days of beautiful Dharma talks, walking meditations and quiet reflection I returned to Dallas with three very special humans in my sight: Scott, Baker and Edward, also known as My Family.

In my notebook I wrote:

What is the Crow Collection of Asian Art doing for FAMILIES. 

What am I doing for my family?

These questions are the seedlings of this talk by Brother Phap Dung on June 6, 2017. He shared with 200+ executives and mindful journeyers the urgency of finding compassion for families in our communities: foremost our own. Brother Dung taught us that families are craving

attention

silence

understanding and

togetherness.

This is my experience, too. The struggle to connect in a world of schedules, work, school and technology pulls all of us away from each other.

There is potential, with intention and mindfulness for something different: a family that is in loving connection and a space of presence.

Beginning July 1, the Hoflands will launch the Mindful Family Project (July 1-October 8, 2017): a practice of new ways of being across 100 days. We will talk and be quiet. We will share and learn. We will explore and just sit. We will study ourselves and share our experiences in this blog.

This is a journey for our family to find each other and experience all we have to give each other in these few and fleeting years. As with the Mindful Eating Practice, I look forward to being in the family in that future: one that is more understanding and aware of this precious space we hold in the world. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Mindful Detox: Part III: Twenty Pearls

III

Twenty Pearls



In the world of elimination diets, I learned very quickly that you can’t focus on the “can’t” and you have to make it fun. What follows are the snacks, meals and practices that created joy out of elimination: “yes” out of the “no” and more fun in the journey.

Twenty Pearls for Detox Success:

I. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oatmeal, Hemp, Walnuts and a wee bit of local honey. Sweet and simple. Beautiful and Filling.

II. The Fake Margarita: After a challenging work trip to Mexico, this little gem stayed with me through the end of the detox: 3 parts mineral / sparkling water, one part fresh lime juice. The tartness helps you forget you’re missing tequila, and the refreshing texture of a little bubbly only makes the distraction more fun.

III. A Really Beautiful Vinagrette: Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Salt and Pepper: just as the French do it—nothing simpler, nothing better. (Dijon mustard is a nice addition, too)

IV. Almond Butter on Udi’s Gluten Free Bread

V. The Art of Tea: In the work of distraction, tea and tea service have a lot to offer. Tea, with all of its elegance makes drinking a mindful ritual: it offers tea cup, saucer, tea pot, tea, hot water and strainer. It offers time to wait and be grateful for this moment. Every part of this experience of tea brought me joy: a welcome distraction as other dinner guests mulled over the cocktail list.

VI. Small bits of organic dark chocolate. Yes, it’s allowed. Just make sure there’s no sugar added.

VII. Podcasts: Tara Brach’s series on Relaxing the Over-Controller was a welcome companion in this work of mindful practice. I also always enjoy Krista Tippett's On Being and Deepak Chopra’s Secret of Healing

VIII. Writing. Creative writing was a harbor for me in this work. It was and is a place to set intentions, joys, frustrations and challenges. Even as I write my learnings, the writing place is compassionate and ever-present. I found time to write as often as I could and this gave me grounding, perspective and awareness of my progress.

IX. Community: you. I set the plan, the intentions and the failures and the learnings all in a space of love and support via my blog, Facebook and Instagram. I put it out there and I never looked back.

X. Always have a drink in the hand. At a cocktail party? Perrier first, network second. Waiters are trained to put a glass of wine in your hand. Be warned! If you don’t see water: ask. Always have a drink in the hand, and never hesitate to ask a friend to help you with this. Which leads me to the next pearl:

XI. Ask for what you need: challenging menu? Ask. I was amazed at how accommodating restaurants are! Secret tip: chefs love to be asked to cook for vegetarians. It breaks up the kitchen menu-monotony I guess, but I have this intel from a very reliable source. One outcome of the he Mindful Eating Practice I never anticipated? Assertiveness. Ask for what you need.

XII. Ice is not nice. Ayurveda is a wonderland of practices for anyone wanting to design a new eating lifestyle. I learned so much from my explorations of ancient vedic wisdom. Ice is not nice and a glass of hot water upon rising are just two—but I recommend exploring Naivedhya as a start.

XIII. 1 Tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar diluted in water. Enough said.

XIV. Flower Child Foods and True Foods Kitchen made the Mindful Eating Practice FUN.

XV. Crunch Master Chips and Carrots with Hummus

XVI. Meso Maya’s Pozole Verde 


XVIII. Kris Carr

XIX. Cookie and Kate's Almond Quiche

XX. Tei An’s White Mushroom Salad. Pretty much anything at Tei An. Ask for Tamari Sauce (See #XI) as a substitute for Soy sauce.

The Mindful Detox: Part II: How I Did It

II

How I Did It

To create the Mindful Eating Practice, I created an assemblage of the best practices from several explorations of diet, lifestyle and mindfulness. For 100 days: from March 1st to June 8th I would exist in a different way, eliminating five things: sugar, dairy, gluten, coffee and alcohol. In their place, I would look to create clarity, joy, balance, calm and health-intended purpose. I would lower my blood pressure, cholesterol, inflammation and weight. All of this happened. I now exist in the future I imagined: even at the cellular level.

Body

In 2012 when I experienced my first exploration of how rhythms turn into practices and practices become habits, my integrative medicine doctor encouraged me to walk for 30 minutes every day. “Pair your exercise with something you love,” she said, a glimmer in her eye. Something I love, I thought. I love taking in the luminous water at White Rock Lake. I love capturing the sunrise at dawn, studying the effects of light and color under a big bold Texas sky. She encouraged me to create a new practice pairing these loves: nature, photography and exercise. From this seminal conversation #pocketsunrise was born: a now six-year study of the lake during what I call The Magic Hour. Sunrise holds all the promise of a new beginning: a tabula rasa to hold and be grateful for: a place to create. Exercise became something I looked forward to, and #pocketsunrise has been a joyful companion to this practice.

It is with this spirit that I approached designing the Mindful Eating Practice. I looked back at the elimination diets, cookbooks and books I’d come to love over the years:

  •       From the Elimination Diet at the Sammons Cancer Center program in the Cvetko Center I chose to eat meals high in fiber, color and nutrition. I looked for alkaline fruits with lower sugar content (apples, cranberries). I created salads with lean proteins.  Protein shakes with hemp, fish oil, and other brain boosters.
  •       From Mark Hyman, I borrowed the Protein Shake, the supplement packs for the 21-day detox and the Regulate Female Hormone kit. I also sources several recipes from the 10-day detox and his book Eat Fat Get Thin.
  •      From Arbonne and the Nutritional Reset Program I carried over the chocolate and vanilla protein powder for shakes and the green-tea based Fizzys.
  •       From my exploration of Ayurveda and consultations with two brilliant practitioners I built in new practices of drinking a glass of hot water upon waking, adding triphala to my supplement pack and sleeping just seven hours a night.
Mind

In the weeks leading up to the start of the Mindful Eating Practice and for the next 100 days, mindfulness would be my quiet companion. I found and made time to meditate daily: from 3 minutes to 45 minutes. I sought out the quiet.

Preparation was vital to setting the intention to be different. I spent time thinking about how I could create new habits and neural pathways around healthy eating. I wrote about “me” in that future. On March 1st I wrote in my blog:

As for well-being I am creating a me that will flourish in 

lower blood pressure 
more fitness and exercise 
more energy 
less inflammation 
more capacity for yoga 
more clarity in purpose and thinking 

Writing this puts it all into existence: me in this future of health and well being: leading in contemplative work and heading up an art museum that celebrates the compassion that happens when art meets healing. I am my own best experiment, and I am taking myself on to be someone who is stronger, wiser ready for the good work ahead of us. Pardon my dust and please hold me to account every day. 

In my brain and in my thinking, I worked on my being already in that future. I imagined how I would look: the clothes in my closet that would fit more loosely. I imagined the way I would feel: lighter, more flexible, more alive. To these little meditations in the first days I created three mantras I would carry forward:
 
For well-being: to every cell

For finding beauty in unexpected places: little alleluias everywhere

W
hen I felt the liminal response to a take a glass of bubbly from a tray of champagne flutes: be like a monk. 


Be like a monk leads me to the importance of Spirit in this work. In addition, and not separate from mindfulness, is prayer. Taking on a new practice for 100 days takes will, and as I experienced it, will comes from the heart. I had a heart connection to this work, forging this future. I filled my thinking about this re-construction of myself with love, grace, patience and understanding. Monastics (I would learn during the last week of the Mindful Eating Practice) live in this love. For all they give up, love fills. Love filled up the spaces left from eliminating five things. I was in love with the capacity to sit with desire. I loved writing about the work to create a different future. I loved the community cheering me on: at home, at work and through my social networks. More love existed with each day, each failure, each challenge. As in mindfulness, if the mind wanders, you can always come back. There is beautiful grace in this work. The grace to forgive and move on. This came from sitting with Spirit, opening the heart and just listening.