Your brain changes during pregnancy to groom you for the costly commitment of carrying, giving birth to, and raising a child. By the time your baby is born, you have a Maternal Care System in play that primes you to find everything about your baby alluring. After months of persistent activation of your “wanting” and “liking” neural circuitry, your brain is prepared to make you capably baby-based (Numan, 2016)!
“The same hormones that program fetal development are those that shape the maternal brain… an adaptive function for both mother and fetus” (Glynn & Sandman, 2011).
Your Maternal Care System enhances your capacity to attend to and handle threats, nudging you to protect your child against what seemsdangerous, yet falls in the category of “neutral.” Interestingly, the hormones that maintain breast feeding (i.e., prolactin) also diminish your fear-for-yourself response, which allows you to boldly address threatson behalf of your child (Torner, 2016).
“Prolactin may act as a buffer to stress ” (Workman et al., 2012).
Your pregnancy and postpartum hormones definitely shape the maternal brain… to make you a competent caregiver.
Growing up, my teachers often said, “Pay attention.” But they never told me how to pay attention, and rarely why to pay attention. Usually, I was paying attention – to my friends, or my day dreams, or my doodles. But why is attention important? And how do you learn to pay attention to how you pay attention?
Attention is important because where you pay attention shapes what you experience. So this month, just for fun, notice where you place your attention. Can you see how what you pay attention to impacts your experience? What you place your attention on tends to grow. Quantum physics tells us that our attention shapes what comes forth from probability into form. Almost scary, when you think about it. You have enormous power to shape both the world you see, and your experience living in it.
Place your attention this week on sensory input. Notice what you see, taste, hear, touch, and sense. How do you relate to what you are experiencing? What thoughts move through your awareness? Judgements? Fears? Raising my children, I told them to use their inner guidance system. What makes you feel more open and uplifted? Lean that way. Lean in to love, ease, joy. Sometimes it is as simple as opening your awareness to what is. Your attention can be a shining spot light. Focus it where you want, and with conscious purpose. I recommend that if there is a way to lighten the moment …. choose it! (In life, you must be present to win.)
Exercise: Visual focus This video leads you through visual cues, however, listening to your environment will have the desired effect as well.
In this exercise, you experience that as you observe the world around you, you are more engaged in present-time attention. This brings you into more sensitive connection with how you are experiencing the present moment, potentially interrupting habitual patterns of auto-pilot, monkey-mind, or hamster-wheel. If you don’t know what any of those are, it is possible you do not need any help with mindfulness. You are a master. If, however, you usually run a line of chatter non-stop in your head, and fill in any open spaces with your phone, please keep reading.
Writing prompt: One thing I saw today that touched my heart was …..
Beauty and kindness exist in the world around you. Train your eye to watch for it, and recognize it when you see it. Also notice your body’s response to it when you do find it. Does your face begin to open into a smile? Does it touch you in a way that brings tears to your eyes, even if you don’t know why? What did you see/hear/observe today that made you notice in a deeper way, or made you feel connected to something bigger?
No restrictions on time or length. A single word is often enough. If your attention is vivid, each entry can give you a little brain boost every time you read it. Remember, what you pay attention to tends to grow.
Do you like to plan ahead? Many of life’s transitions can be made more smoothly with planning. When I had my babies, knowing that there is a part of labor and delivery called “transition” that is particularly intense helped me be prepared. Expecting what was coming, and having a plan to deal with it, made it less scary and more possible to ride it through.
There are transitions, however that come unbidden and unexpected. How do you ride through those times? In much the same way that the relaxation and breathing skills I practiced while I was pregnant helped me through transition during childbirth, practicing when it’s easy helps you get prepared for what’s ahead, no matter what surprises life delivers.
Practice when it’s easy! How do you stay centered, well-fed in body, mind, and heart? For me, I practice when it’s easy with regular time for meditation, time in nature, and frequent pauses during my day to take a few deep breaths and remember that aspect of myself that is connected to source. It doesn’t keep some life events from rocking my world and driving me to my knees, but it does provide a well of strength I can draw on in rough times.
At Twirl, we make gifts that carry a message, a reminder that we are connected. My Twirl throw is a calming weight on my lap as I sit in meditation in the morning, or a warm wrap around my shoulders if the morning is cool. Yesterday, my little bracelet with the Twirl logo on it reminded me multiple times each hour to breathe in and breathe out, returning again and again to an experience of balance and ease. We could all use a little reminder to practice when it’s easy. Whether you want a daily reminder for yourself, or you are looking for a special gift for someone else, visit www.twirlconnect.com.
How does your mindset impact your life? It’s early September. All signs point to summer fading away. Vacationers are returning from the seaside; students are returning to the classroom. Whatever your life holds, do you utilize the power you have to choose your perspective?
Earlier this summer, I wrote about a woman who returned from vacation to a packed schedule (sounds familiar!) with events to manage every night of the week. The evening I met her, she was relaxed, enjoying the evening, and firmly committed to maintaining what she referred to as “vacation mode”. She exemplified a disciplined mindset. She was the picture of grace and ease as she moved through her 14-hour day because she stayed in the moment. She was present to each encounter and every task. She didn’t get ahead of herself, get caught up in the size of her to-do list, or worry about the next thing coming. Easier said than done? Absolutely! But this week, as I return to work after a quiet week at the beach, I’m taking a page from her playbook!
I’m also inspired by Carol Dweck’s research about mindset. (Check out her book, called “Mindset”.) In my work with Twirl, there are so many new skills I need to develop. I’m learning something new each day. Developing a growth mindset – a belief that I may not know something yet, but I’m able to learn – makes the challenges fun and exciting instead of daunting and scary. You can read more about Dr. Dweck’s work here. While much of her research focuses on young students, the principles apply to all of us. This month, I’m working on developing more flexibility in my thinking, and looking for opportunities to grow. My hair may be getting more gray, the lines around my eyes may be getting deeper, but my brain is getting more flexible (with effort).
Staying present and developing a growth mindset are 2 ways I make my life a little easier, and a little more enjoyable. As I show up for myself, I find I have more to bring to my relationships and my family. What are ways you show up for yourself? Celebrate them! Share them with others. Leave a comment below - I’d love to hear from you.
This last month of summer, we're celebration vacation-mode here at Twirl.
Even if you aren't planning a trip away from home, join Linda in this lovely meditation. Begin with appreciation. Allow your heart to open, and your smile to grow as you relax and enjoy a vacation of appreciation!
Today, the solar eclipse crosses our country, and the line of totality runs just north of the Twirl headquarters. This event is weaving lives together in ways both planned and unexpected. Millions of people from around the world are making their way toward the path of the eclipse. Millions of people are talking about this event and sharing anticipation and celebration.
In a TED talk, David Baron discusses his experience of an eclipse. If you’d like to hear how it inspired him and changed his life, watch his talk here.
When we feel awe, appreciation, and a connection with something greater than ourselves, and when we share that experience with others, we create an energy that changes the world. What if we learned to come together more often in love and appreciation. At Twirl, we dream BIG.
This month is a great month for connecting, slowing down, and enjoying the end of summer. Perhaps August finds you taking a vacation and enjoying travel. Whatever your plans, can you slow down, have fun, and live life more richly? It’s a choice! As the world seems to speed up, with information traveling lightening-like across networks and media outlets clamoring for your attention, it is more vital than ever to find time for a quiet and easy pace. Whether you’re planning a vacation this month or simply scheduling a little ME-time on your calendar, I hope you make this month count.
Have you heard about “forest bathing”? Scientists in Japan are studying the health benefits of time spent quietly enjoying being outside in a wooded environment. They are even talking about “prescribing” this treatment for people experiencing high levels of work-related stress. You can read a Washington Post article about it here, or listen to an interview about it on NPR here. While part of me thinks this is really cool (left brain, science data geek self), there is a part of me that screams, “what has this world come to?!” Do we need scientists to quantify benefits, and medical practitioners to prescribe going outside and enjoying nature? Maybe. If you’re feeling depleted this month, try a little nature. The world is rich with resources all around us that support health and happiness.
Taking a mindful pause is at the foundation of being able to experience the richness all around you, and it’s at the foundation of what we do here at Twirl. Whether it is the beneficial energy of trees, or the love and support flowing to you from a friend far away, you only feel it when you pause to notice (i.e., become mindful). As I prepare to travel this month, I’m tucking an extra Twirl journal in my bag. One for me (I make note of special moments of connection I experience to reference on a blue day), and one for someone I meet on the road, to support their living more mindfully. Perhaps someone you love is coming to visit. A Twirl robe gift set in the guest room is a great way to let them know you will be with them even after your visit ends. If you enjoy finding gifts that are beautiful, useful, made in the USA, and carry a message of love and caring, you’ll love having Twirl as a resource. Visit our product page if you’d like to see more.
Much like the synergy of how our breath connects us with the trees (we breathe in oxygen, they breathe it out; they breathe in carbon dioxide, we breathe it out; both growing and thriving from the relationship), a gift from Twirl is a tangible connection of our love flowing to someone, their reception of the love, the amplification of that love as they think of us…. It’s what we think of as “Twirling”. May your month be filled with beautiful time outside, a good measure of slowing down, and lots of twirling!
Would you like to have more energy? Lighten your load, and let go of extra baggage effortlessly by a simple practice of "grounding". Grounding helps us stay more fully present in present time, and you know the old story about the present - it's a gift!