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Mindfulness: It's all about you!

Mindfulness: It's all about you! | Cultural Trendz |


It's all about you.

You get to decide what's possible. Not your parents. Not your best friend or spouse or community or culture.

In this case, both the good news and the bad news is that nobody else is responsible for you. In order to fully step into your power, you get to learn radical self-responsibility.

How terrifying is that?! It seems much easier to blame others when life doesn't quite go the way we'd like it to, doesn't it?

And why does it matter, anyway? Because, as Rick Hanson, in Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, says, "Who is the one person in the world you have the greatest power over? It's your future self."

A lot of the work I do with clients is teaching them how to be radically responsible for their future selves. We begin with mindful awareness of what's happening now, right where they are. Using gentle self-observation. Eventually moving to self-observation without self-judging.

Once the mindfulness journey begins, it can become a powerful path for cultivating a rich life filled with those things that most matter to you and your beloveds, including your future self.

10 Power Tips for Mindful Working, Loving, Living

1. Are you sleepwalking through your life?

Time is rushing along, whether or not you're paying attention. All of a sudden, you'll find yourself living your future life.

Oops! if you've been mindless all that time. Begin with self-awareness. Paradoxical as that sounds, self-awareness is how to fast-track toward your future self. Use mindfulness to wakey, wakey!

2. Define your own success.

Use mindfulness to articulate your value system. Next, make choices from those values. Don't be comparing yourself to anyone else. Own your future self, beginning right here, right now.

3. It's all about passion.

Yours, no one else's. And when you're going big, reach for grand and glorious ideas. According to Scott Dinsmore, "Those around you absolutely must dream as big or bigger and have as much passion or more than you do."

Use your mindfulness chops to know and embrace your passions.

4. Work and love and live from your strengths.

The brain is wired for the negative. Poor thing, your brain is just trying to protect you from perceived attack.

Developing a mindful awareness practice allows you to make choices from your strengths -- once you acknowledge them -- rather than your brain's ancient fear-based vulnerabilities.

5. Start listening to your stories.

The ones you tell yourself all day long about why it's not happening, why you're the wrong person for the job or the relationship, how s/he's a jerk.

You have the power to change your world by simply tuning into your own stories, using mindfulness as the foundation.

6. Ask questions.

A lot of them. Your future self depends on you questioning the status quo. Otherwise you might end up mindlessly rocking on the front porch one day, wondering what the hell happened to your life.

Ask "Why?" And "How?" And "Why not?!" Use your mindfulness tools to discern the deeper answers, and cultivate the courage to move ahead from there.

7. Remember, there's no such thing as failure.
Rather, there are lessons learned. Explorations undertaken. Experiments tried.

Mindfulness teaches us to pay attention, notice what's really going on rather than what we're pretending is happening, and to sit quietly with the non-judgmental observations. Course correct. Move forward, into your future self.

8. Who are you hanging out with?

Make sure you're spending time with at least some winners. With people who refuse to let you give up. Because who you spend time with now means an awful lot to your future self.

Pay attention, notice what you notice, mindfully up your game as necessary.

9. Ask for help.

It won't hurt you, I promise. Many people are compulsive about not asking anyone for anything -- it's that Lone Cowboy thing. Here's the problem. It ain't gonna happen all by yourself. No successful person ever got where s/he got without standing on the shoulders of, even being held up by others once in a while.

Use your mindfulness skills to learn how to connect with others, ask for help when needed, hang out with people who'll have a positive impact on that future self of yours.

If you wait 10 years, you've lost 10 years.

10. Action.

Where does that fit in with a mindful awareness practice?! Actually, there's a lot of action going on, it just doesn't look like much from the outside. But when you get off the cushion or out of the chair, and begin taking mindful action on behalf of your future self, you begin moving from a lovely place of quiet confidence.

You future self will be most grateful, I promise.

Vilma Bonilla's insight:

Love this very powerful self awareness practice. ~ V.B.

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Heels and the secret fashion life of older women

Heels and the secret fashion life of older women | Cultural Trendz |

We may not be able to last all day in heels any more, but a wonderful group of intelligent, articulate and stylish women of the older generation have revealed their style secrets.

At last academics have confirmed what I have always suspected – shoes are evocative, and powerfully so. And apparently an awful lot of us older women secretly skip around our homes in heels – even though we have long swapped them for flats during the day thanks to fallen arches and bunions. We will not be (entirely) defeated!

Favourite shoes are possessed of an almost magical ability to anchor our memories and speak loudly of who and what we are. That we, as middle-aged women, still indulge shouldn't be surprising, and we do indulge – I know because it was one of the questions I asked women at the Royal College of Art last Friday. The right shoes, as we all know, can lift the spirits immeasurably – and ownership of heels does not make you an enemy of feminism.

It was heartening news that came out of the talks about fashion and the older generation. Dressing when you're an older woman usually involves the following: dark colours, greater coverage and sober styles – and avoiding any claims to sexual attention (God forbid). But thankfully, there is a growing "ageing demographic" who want to shake up society's assumptions – and our wardrobes.

As I listened to the speakers at (a)Dressing the Ageing Demographic, I duly paused and assessed myself – black jacket, black trousers, black T-shirt, black trainers. Hmm … Professor Julia Twigg had a point. Well, in my defence, this was a Friday at the end of a hectic week and I had expended no more than 30 seconds (possibly less) on deciding what I would wear that day. Then, lest I was in any doubt, it was confirmed that I am indeed "an older woman" when I learned that the official age for this depressing demographic is 55-80 years. I wonder what comes after that, apart from death? Freedom from being told what I should wear?

But surprisingly, the day spent in a basement lecture theatre near Hyde Park in London turned out to be one of the most thought-provoking I've spent this year. I was fascinated and not just because I fit the demographic, but because it was a real treat to be among intelligent, articulate women sharing a common purpose – to change the way we approach age and what we wear when we're old(er) – and, yes, how we feel about fashion. Fashion is important to us, although I'm tempted to substitute the word "style" because the two are intertwined. Style (or fashion) is an area of pleasure and a means of self-expression; what it is not is the exclusive preserve of the young. Forcing older generations through an ever-narrowing funnel of "greige" is to deny part of what makes us individuals and human, no matter our age. No one is devoid of expressing some element of personal style – although we might wish some were. The way we look tells people we meet what to think about us, which I agree can be superficial but is nonetheless true. The way people look plays a large part in our decision to get to know them better, and vice versa. We like to be able to pigeonhole people and there lies the problem because what, for God's sake, are old(er) people expected to look like?

What used to happen was that, depending on your stage of life, there was an agreed kind of uniform to be adopted. That's no longer the case. Had my mum survived to 58, I doubt she would have looked anything like I do now. Hers would have been a middle age of skirts and cardigans, sensible shoes and perms, because that was what you wore then. It is with a large degree of pride that I see my generation busily reinventing middle age and extending it. Hopefully, when we get to "old", we'll reinvent that, too. Not that it's an easy nut to crack.

One startling fact to come out of (a) Dressing the Ageing Demographic was that although a number of bigger brands normally associated with a younger customer base are researching the older market, they'd rather no one knew that they were. In other words, they're embarrassed by it, by us, and fear that their brand might be tainted by association, which is nonsense and awful. But not as awful as the "onesie" with a padlockable rear zip – and this drew an audible gasp from the audience – that one company suggests is appropriate wear for people with dementia by an audible gasp from the audience. Dr Sonja Iltanen presented the session that depressed and alarmed me most, suggesting a worrying trend towards functional, stigmatising and infantile garments at the expense of the individual. Yes, I appreciate there are practical issues when the body starts to misbehave, but if this is all I've got to look forward to then I'm chucking myself into the Thames at the first sign of stress incontinence.

My day in the RCA basement delighted and concerned me in equal measure but I learned so much. I loved the diversity of age in the attendees (from students up to and beyond retirees) but was disappointed not to see more men – there were four – but it was a thumping good start and, if enthusiasm for the subject is anything to go by, an indication that greater things lie ahead. We just have to keep shouting until we get what we want.

Follow The Invisible Woman on Twitter @TheVintageYear


Vilma Bonilla's insight:

An interesting analysis of style and self-expression in the 55-80 age range. This demographic is diverse and is reinventing the norm. ~ V.B. #fashion #culture


"Style (or fashion) is an area of pleasure and a means of self-expression...No one is devoid of expressing some element of personal style – although we might wish some were.  "The way we look tells people we meet what to think about us, which I agree can be superficial but is nonetheless true. The way people look plays a large part in our decision to get to know them better, and vice versa. We like to be able to pigeonhole people and there lies the problem because what, for God's sake, are old(er) people expected to look like?"

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What does it mean to wear heels?

What does it mean to wear heels? | Cultural Trendz |

It went like this. At a reverse-demo event in New York last night, Jorge Cortell, the CEO of the healthcare startup Kanteron Systems, noticed a female attendee wearing shoes. He snapped a picture of the shoes. He then tweeted the picture of the shoes. This is what he said:

Event supposed to be for entrepreneurs, VCs, but these heels (I've seen several like this)... WTF? #brainsnotrequired

Sexist! the people cried. No, it's not! Cortell responded. His #brainsnotrequired musings were merely protective, he explained, of the health of the shoe-wearer. And, by extension, of the health of us all. Heels are dangerous. Heels are dumb. High-heeled shoes are not, as it were, "sensible shoes."

But, of course, shoes are not merely shoes. Shoes, like any other clothing choice one must make every day, reveal something—inconveniently, maybe, but inevitably—about the wearer. Chuck Taylors say something. Sambas say something. Adidas shower shoes say something. And, yes, stilettos say something.

The question is what they say. What Cortell was suggesting with his off-handed "WTF?" comment (and with the #brainsnotrequired tag that accompanied it) is that the stiletto-wearer he creep-shotted was putting superficial concerns—appearance, attractiveness, style—over matters of a more pressing variety. (Comfort, perhaps? The ability to run a 10k at a moment's notice?) His tweet was suggesting, essentially, an inversely proportional relationship between depth of intelligence and height of heel. It was suggesting, as well, that the footwearer in question was somehow attempting to game a system based on meritocracy using something else: femininity.

Heels, essentially, are cheating. Heels, essentially, are wrong.

We can debate at another time whether heels are, indeed, the high-fructose scourge of the shoe world. The issue here is their place at a tech demo—an event that finds participants rewarded, ostensibly, on the strength of their ideas and execution, rather than their style. Heels, of course, are more fraught than their fellow-shoes because they're gendered in a way that the others aren't. Stilettos are Lady Shoes. And, as such, they carry, along with an actual lady, the baggage of hundreds of years of freighted femininity. It's easy to see them and all their contradictions—bold and teetering, leg-lengthening and stride-impairing, empowering and constraining—as representative of the precarious path walked by many women in tech.

In the Valley, as the AP noted earlier this month, "women who rise to the top tend to be judged more, both by men and other women, and in order to succeed they do have to dress better." And the women in the echelons of the industry, certainly, have their heels and wear them, too. Marissa Mayer, whose love of high fashion has become a significant aspect of her public persona, posed for a Vogue profile wearing statement stilettos. Sheryl Sandberg's Time cover co-starred her heels. Some women in the Valley, Claire Cain Miller wrote in the Times last year, "worry that they will not be considered serious technologists if they care about clothes." But "many are confident enough to dress the way they want to."

And yet—here is the catch of it—the sartorial statutes of the tech industry at large assume the opposite: that to dress well is, indeed, to be hiding something. To pay obvious attention to one's own appearance is to protest too much. Mark Zuckerberg wears hoodies because he can, but also because they remind all who behold him that he has better things to think about than his clothes. Steve Jobs did the same with his black mock-turtlenecks. (Though it's worth noting that the Apple founder's symbols of sartorial laissez-faire were designed by Issey Miyake.) As Lizzie Widdicombe wrote in a recent New Yorker profile of Brian Golberg, the aspiring entrepreneur "tends to wear baggy polo shirts, purchased in San Francisco, where, as he puts it, 'the schlubbier you are, the more credibility you have.'"

Time and attention are zero-sum things, and to devote too much effort to one's appearance is to take effort away, implicitly, from one's other pursuits—professional success among them. "The perception in Silicon Valley is that if you dress well, you couldn’t possibly be smart, or you’re in P.R. but couldn’t possibly run a company," Leila Janah, founder and CEO of the job-connection site Samasource, told Miller.

Which is to say, it seems that the tech industry has not only a glass ceiling, but also a shoe ceiling. Once you're in the C-suite, you can wear heels as high as you want; until then, heels may earn you a creep-shot and a "WTF?" from men who are meant to be your peers.

The problem with that is not only the double-standard for women working in the same industry; it's also that many women who aspire to leadership roles would prefer not to wear hoodies and shower shoes as they work their way up. Many women would rather wear shoes that make them look a little bit taller—that raise them up as they raise themselves up. As Janah put it, "I remember briefly attempting the Adidas and jeans and sweatshirt over T-shirt look, but I realized I was trying to dress like a young tech geek, and that just wasn’t me. Fashion is expressing my aesthetic sense just as much as our website is."

So what's an ambitious woman to do? To heel, or not to heel? Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan and the other founders of the women's movement fought against the constraints of traditional femininity: They wanted not only equal representation, but also freedom from social pressures that came at the expense of women's careers. Those pressures were embodied, in some sense, by the heel. The movement's success, however, has meant that femininity is no longer a force; it is, or at least it is more than it's been before, a choice. Which means that #havingitall can negotiate its lines not just according to work and family, but also according to work and fashion. Wired's cover girl this month is, literally, a girl. She may be the future Steve Jobs, Wired declares. And even if she's not, she is likely the future in some other way. It is revealing, perhaps, that this symbolic tech-worker-of-the-future wears a uniform. And that you cannot see her shoes.


Vilma Bonilla's insight:

A very interesting piece highlighting shoe apparel choices in women in the tech industry.

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Make a habit of happiness and resiliency

Make a habit of happiness and resiliency | Cultural Trendz |

One of the secrets to wiring our brain toward happiness is in the simple understanding that what we practice and repeat starts to become more automatic. Call it a happiness or resiliency habit and it’s something that anyone can create. We all have thoughts and behaviors in our lives that lend themselves toward unhappiness, a neutral state, or happiness. While the brain defaults toward paying attention to negative stimuli to keep us safe, we are active participants in our health and well-being and can nurture a happier and more resilient brain.

Here’s a suggestion to start with that comes from the 365 Daily Now Moments:

“One of the things we can give in life is love to ourselves. This isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary to feeling well.

Consider today, what is one way you can give love to yourself?

Maybe it’s taking a vacation from the inner-critic for a day, indulging in a treat you don’t normally give yourself the luxury of, or perhaps simply putting your hand on your heart and priming your mind for good by wishing yourself to be happy, to be safe, to be healthy and to be free from fear.”

This can seem so simple and yet it is so powerful. Learning how to give more love to ourselves is a key practice that when turned into a habit, becomes a source of happiness and resiliency.

While our brains are incredibly complex and mysterious in some ways, they’re also fairly simple in other ways. Take the process of conditioning. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand at this point why a dog salivates at the sound of a bell after it had been introduced numerous times with dog food. That’s the classic Pavlovian tale.

In this same vein, when we practice and repeat introducing ways to love ourselves in certain contexts, the contexts themselves become cues for that to begin happening automatically.

Take a moment to really consider this question. What would the days, weeks and months ahead look like for you if loving yourself came more naturally?

Treat this as an experiment for the next week; consider what loving yourself means to you. Then begin sprinkling that more into your day as a practice for the next week. Set your judgments aside and be curious.

What does your experience teach you?

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