Mindfulness Made Easy – Practice #10 Practice Yoga

Here is the tenth of my 50 Mindful Practices  from my upcoming book. Please sign up for my weekly emails if you want to get the rest automatically in your email box. I welcome your feedback and please pass along to your friends!


Practice 10: Practice yoga

“Meditation relaxes the body, brings clarity and steadiness of mind, and opens the heart.” Jane Hope

What it is. You have probably tried yoga or perhaps other body movements like NIA , Tai Chi or QiGong. What you may not know is the importance of these practices to your state of mind and sense of well-being. Growing up, we all learned about the importance of getting exercise (recall Participaction?), not truly knowing how these various exercises work and how they impacted everything we do.

Although most people know yoga and other movements as stretching regimes or sets of exercises, many are based on thousand-year-old practices and are designed to move your body in such a way that energy (also called chi) is able to move more freely. You not only loosen up muscles and strengthen joints, but activate the chakras or energy points so that you actually feel an energetic boost. By moving your bodies in these fluid ways, you not only activate your body, but your mind as well.

Your body consists of millions of muscles continually expanding and contracting – from the tip of your head to the bottom of your feet. The more we move, the more these muscles and joints say alive and fluid. Each muscle movement activates some sort of energy in our body so if we do not move, our energy levels stagnate and even deplete – both mental and physical.

Unlike Western thinkers, Eastern societies do focus solely on the brain when diagnosing and dealing with things like anxiety and depression. Eastern medicines prefer a whole body perspective. They see the human body and all its parts as deeply interconnected and then physical aspects as just as important as the mental aspects. In Eastern medicine the idea of chi, or life energy, is critical to understanding illness. This life energy moves through us at all times. It ebbs and flows both naturally as well as in reaction to external circumstances.

How to do it. You can start yoga right now by doing some basic movements. Here are a few to try: Stand up and reach up into the air and gently roll your body down to touch your toes. Lie down and stretch your whole body from fingers to toes. Do gentle body twists and rollups (like sit ups) and dangle your arms and legs to improve movement and circulation. There are lots of other simple demonstrations in books and on the Internet.

I recommend signing up for a free introductory yoga class at a local studio or community center. Speak to the instructor to learn more about how yoga works and the different kinds of yoga practices.  You can then decide if you prefer to do body movement alone at home (perhaps with the help of a video) or to join a regular group. One example of the power of a body movement is a simple smile.Thich Nhat Hanh recommends practicing “smile yoga,” a slight but authentic smile, many times during each day. As he says, “A tiny bud of a smile on your lips nourishes awareness and calms you miraculously.” A smile can send a physiological message to our mind that we are safe and free from harm.

What to notice. If you gently reach your arms up or roll your shoulders  back you will feel your lungs expand and energy move down into your entire body. You may notice that you release energy that is trapped in your head and neck. If you slowly roll down and touch your toes you will notice tingling all the way down your neck and spine. As you let your body hang down you can stimulate your legs and feet. Every small movement has the possibility to open up closed joints or tight muscles. After any body movement you will feel more flexible, fluid and calm since you are freeing your body to move in the way in which it was designed.


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Motherhood Is Madness – An Introduction

I have finished writing my book on mothers and am looking for Beta readers. please let me know if you want to read it. Here is the INTRODUCTION. I welcome your feedback and please pass along to your friends!



Mothers today feel like they are going absolutely crazy. They are exhausted, underpaid and under-appreciated. They feel like slaves to their kids, to their home, to their husbands and often to their careers – just like their mothers did. The best-selling book, “No Kids” describes in a nutshell how devastating childrearing can be. From ruining sex lives and relationships to sucking up every spare moment attending kid’s soccer games.  It’s no surprise that couples are having fewer children these days.

So what went wrong? Did the suffragists and feminists fail mothers? Most people blame mothers for this sad state of affairs. We blame them for not achieving a proper “work-life balance.”  We tell them that wanting to have a career is overly ambitious and say things like, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” or “Go home, your children need you.”  We convince them they brought it upon themselves and it’s their own fault for choosing to have children. We expect them to lie in the bed they made.

The research, however, says that mothers and their choices are not the problem, the way we treat mothers is. As a society we have slowly shifted the responsibility of raising children onto mothers and convinced them that they must sacrifice their lives and careers for their husbands and children.  As a result, if children and families do flourish, it is at the expense of mothers. And if women are unwilling to do this, and choose to have a both a career and raise a family at the same time, we make their lives miserable. We refuse to create positive work conditions or provide supports.  And to make matter worse, we as a society tell working mothers that they must do paid work and unpaid work to a level of perfection that is frankly absurd. Mothers are expected to be perfect wives, daughters, mothers and perfect full-time income earner.

Authors Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels remind us in their book, “The Mommy Myth” that this is the same problem that our mother’s faced, “It is important that we remind ourselves of the tyranny of the role of the MRS, because it was what feminists attacked as utterly oppressive, and because under the guise of the new momism, it has risen, phoenix-like, and burrowed its way once again into the media and into the hearts and minds of millions of mothers.” (p 34)

This book shines a light on the real reasons why mothers suffer.  It shifts the blame from mothers, to a whole system consisting of hundreds of factors that make it extraordinarily difficult to raise children these days. These factors – often called “the sticky floor” – are not only hidden but are rooted in our out-dated beliefs. Working together, they systematically curtail mothers’ choices in hundreds of different ways, limiting their choices to such a degree they literally leave women with almost no choice at all.

Here you will learn that motherhood is truly madness, but need not be. By looking at the invisible expectations our society places on mothers, we can begin to see why mothers feel so trapped and unhappy. By looking at the propaganda and rhetoric, we can begin to see why women blame themselves, keep quiet and believe they have no options. Motherhood as we know it is complete insanity and it must stop!

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How did a man’s organisation raise 574 million?

The Movember community has raised $574 million to date.  Wow. I wonder why is it so much harder to raise money for women? What can women do to make their causes (such as inequality and violence) as cool and exciting. Do women need to grow mustaches!?? V-Day is about as close as it gets. I welcome your creative ideas!

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Mindfulness Made Easy – Practice #9 Go very Slow

Here is the ninth of my 50 Mindful Practices  from my upcoming book. Please sign up for my weekly emails if you want to get the rest automatically in your email box. I welcome your feedback and please pass along to your friends!


Practice 9: Go very slow

“Not causing harm requires staying awake. Part of being awake is slowing down enough to notice what we say and do. The more we witness our emotional chain reactions and understand how they work, it’s easier to refrain. It becomes a way of life to stay awake, slow down and notice” Pema Chodron

What it is. You may have heard of the internationally successful slow food movement. It was started by a handful of people who believe that we should not rush food. We should not rush growing food, harvesting food, preparing food and eating food. They wanted to reclaim the natural cycles of food and help humans get more in touch with the very nourishment that keeps us alive.  They have taught us how to savour food and relationships! What a great idea! Now there is even a slow medical movement, combating the speed at which we diagnose and resolve medical issues.

We live our lives in a complete rush. We move from catastrophe to catastrophe in continual movement – seeing, responding, reacting, planning, eating, yelling and rarely pausing. We launch into situations and before we know it we are flipping out and blaming others for their foul moods, bad  tempers or inappropriate responses.  In reality, much of this could be preventing simply by slowing down a bit, and giving yourself time to pause before moving from one situation to the next.

How to do it. Think back over your first waking hour this morning. Recall in as much detail as possible what you did and who you spoke to. Did you wake slowly and eat your breakfast calmly? Did you leap out of bed, speed into the shower, and shovel down your breakfast, or skip it altogether? For the next hour try to go as slow as you possibly can. Notice your internal urge to pick up speed and where you feel it in your body. If you catch yourself rushing simply stop, take three slow deep breaths, drop your shoulders, smile and continue.

The key to slowing down is mostly noticing how you are moving.  When are you moving at break-neck speeds? When are you calm and in the flow? When are you completely still? Over time and with some reflection you may begin to understand the deeper reasons for your compulsion to speed.

What to notice. The most obvious benefit to slowing down is the sense of relaxation you feel. It feels like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. Slowing down also causes your mind to clear. You are able to see and think more clearly. It’s as if the fog lifts, if only for a second. You will be able to observe things that moments before were just a blur.  Over time you may discover that there is a little voice (I call the slave driver) in your brain that is telling you to never stop. This voice may be telling you things like, “If you stop you will be worthless or broke” or “No one will likes lazy people.”   Being mindful of this voice (also called the ego) helps you understand the deeper roots as to why you find it so hard to slow down.

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Mindfulness Made Easy – Practice #8 Listen to your Body

Here is the eighth of my 50 Mindful Practices  from my upcoming book. Please sign up for my weekly emails if you want to get the rest automatically in your email box. I welcome your feedback and please pass along to your friends!


Practice 8: Listen to your body

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious awesome, indescribably magnificent world in its self.“ Henry Miller

What it is. We are often so busy in our minds that we forget completely about our bodies.  Mindfulness expert and author, Tara Brach suggests returning to your body as often as you can each day. Your body is continually taking in and giving out vibrations and energy. As children we rarely learned  how to really listen to the messages or how to understand them.   Mindful listening  usually begins with simply noticing when your body tenses or relaxes in response to your emotions – such as when you feel angry, pressured or criticized, or when you are excited or calm. It also involves watching how you respond to these senses and emotions and understanding their impact on you.

How to do it. Sit in complete silence for a few moments. Take three deep breaths. Do you feel any tension in your body? Is your neck stiff? Are your legs comfortable? Is your nose itchy? Does your skin feel warm or cool? Can you hear your heart pumping, your stomach growling? Now think about your feet. What do they feel like? Wiggle your toes. Flex your foot from side to side. Rotate your ankle. Press the ball of your foot against the ground. Now let it flop. How do your feet feel now? You can focus on and activate any part of your body such as your hands or arms. Often if you simply relax your shoulders, jaw and belly, you can activate an overall sense of well being in your body.

What to notice. If you listen closely to your body sensations, you may hear hundreds of tiny little messages. And over time you may begin to understand what they might be saying like: “Get more sleep’” or “You are thirsty, not hungry!”  They might be trying to alert you to something like danger or urging you to open your hearts in forgiveness. Some agitation is a sign that you need to wait before making a decision, whereas other agitation is a sign you need to act immediately.  Once you notice your sensations and their impact you can better understand why your body is behaving this way and you can  adjust accordingly.  If feeling stressed,  for example,  you may know it has to do with a comment someone made about your work or not getting a full night’s sleep.  You can choose to send energy directly to those body areas that are seizing up, you can choose to take some down time or you can choose to push your emotions away for the time being.  With increased mindfulness  you can select the most appropriate response given your circumstances at that particular moment.

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Is Motherhood Making You Mad? Do this Quick Quiz

I have just finished writing my book on mothers and am looking for Beta readers, so let me know if you want to read it. Here is a QUICK QUIZ in the Preface of my book. I welcome your feedback and please pass along to your friends! I can email you a version if you prefer to share it with freinds.


Quick Quiz for Busy Moms

Please answer the following questions. To what extent do you:

  1. Feel overwhelmed by the job of being a mother                                 Never, sometimes, often, always
  2. Suffer from feelings of guilt for not doing enough.                            Never, sometimes, often, always
  3. Feel you had to choose between career or family                                Never, sometimes, often, always
  4. Feel like you are not feeding your children well enough                    Never, sometimes, often, always
  5. Feel like you should be enjoying my children                                       Never, sometimes, often, always
  6. Feel undervalued by your husband and kids                                        Never, sometimes, often, always
  7. Feel like you carry the bulk of the responsibility for the family       Never, sometimes, often, always
  8. Feel like you are responsible for the most of cleaning                        Never, sometimes, often, always
  9. Feel like you do most of child rearing                                                    Never, sometimes, often, always
  10. Feel you are responsible for most meals                                                Never, sometimes, often, always
  11. Feel like you are responsible if your children fail                                Never, sometimes, often, always
  12. Feel like if you don’t do everything, no one else will                           Never, sometimes, often, always
  13. Feel that raising kids is hard work                                                           Never, sometimes, often, always
  14. Think you are not an ideal role model                                                     Never, sometimes, often, always
  15. Feel you would like more financial independence                               Never, sometimes, often, always
  16. Feel resentful when your husband does not do as much at home     Never, sometimes, often, always
  17. Feel like you are often alone in your struggles                                      Never, sometimes, often, always
  18. Feel you have to do everything to a high standard                               Never, sometimes, often, always
  19. Feel you would like to contribute more outside the home                 Never, sometimes, often, always
  20. Feel you don’t have enough time for yourself & things you love       Never, sometimes, often, always

Copyright MaureenFitzgerald.com


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Mindfulness Made Easy – Practice #7 Walk Mindfully

Here is the seventh of my 50 Mindful Practices  from my upcoming book. Please sign up for my weekly emails if you want to get the rest automatically in your email box. I welcome your feedback and please pass along to your friends!


Practice 7: Walk Mindfully

“What we really seek is not the surface goals [like money and status] those are just means to an end. What we are really after is the feeling of relief that comes when the drive is satisfied. Relief, relaxation, and an end to the tension. Peace happiness – no more yearning.“ Bhante Gunaratana

What it is. Not long ago I attended a one-hour mindful practice with a group of lawyers. We were led through a practice of mindful walking but were limited because the room had a huge oblong table in the middle. As a result we eight lawyers found ourselves marching at a rigorous speed around the outside of the table! Needless to say this was not helpful for getting centered but it did remind me how quickly we revert back to old habits, particularly when we are following the pace of those in front of us.

Some beginners to meditation find sitting difficult so prefer to walk when trying to be mindful.  Although moving your body in mediation can help with focus, there is a danger of falling into a trance and walking too quickly, often on automatic pilot! Because we feel rush, we rarely even notice the speed at which we are walking. We rush to the bathroom, we run to the elevator; we scurry to catch the bus or a taxi. We rarely slow our pace down.

How to do it. Pick a quiet location in or out side where you can walk for at least ten paces without interruption. Stand still and center yourself. Take a few deep breathes. Sense the air and space around you and notice your hands and feet and body.  Stand up tall and align your body so you feel like a string is pulling you up through your head. Focus your eyes slightly downward and ahead of where you will be walking. Ever-so-slowly begin to walk, sensing first the lifting of the leg and the placing of the foot. Sense the shift of balance and feel the ground. Relax your body and mind. Notice how you shift your weight from one foot to the other to test your balance. As you step notice how your foot strikes the ground, heel to toe. Notice how your arms and torso move. Walk as slowly as possible without losing balance.Be aware of the ground under your feet and the sounds of your steps.

What to notice. At first you may feel stiff, awkward and off balance. Slowly you will get into a gentle rhythm or pace and will eventually synchronize your steps with your breathing. As you walk your thoughts and emotions will arise. As they do, try again to focus on your body moving and your steps. In doing so your thoughts may begin to float away with each step. Slowly. The point of walking mediation is not only to to become more aware of your walking but also to use your walking as a focus to keep distractions at bay. As well, the natural movement of each step will cultivate your overall mindfulness. You will become more aware, alert, centered and calm.

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Women get shut down when they speak and men get rewarded

Here is research that shows how women are treated badly when they speak up whereas men are rewarded. The solutions suggested in the article are somewhat slim, like have a “no interruption rule” and put more women in leadership positions. In my upcoming book (Leveling the Playing Field) I say that we must get to the root of why men feel they can interrupt without any negative consequences and why men don’t see women as leaders, and sometimes at all. These deep rooted mindsets (called implicit bias) cause these gender barriers. It is important to notice the events when they happens and equally important to understand WHY they persist. This article is a great start. Click here to read it all: When womn speak they get shut down

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Motherhood is Madness: Why I am writing this book

In celebration of International Women’s Day, here is the Preface of my new book. I am almost done writing and wanted to share some of it right now. I welcome your feedback and please pass along to your friends!


Preface: Why I wrote this book

I did not really respect my mother. It was not her fault. Although she was beautiful, smart and amazingly efficient at raising five children, I did not aspire to be like her. I saw her as a slave to our family – like an unhappy prisoner. She made all our meals, did all our washing, cleaned our house, did our laundry, helped us with homework, and ironed all our clothes. Rarely did she do anything for herself. When she wanted a new dress, she had to ask my father for money. Although outsiders saw her as happy, one day when I was eighteen years old, she packed her bags, left our family and never came back. And I do not blame her. Why would a brilliant light allow herself to get sucked dry in a family that did not appreciate her or even see her?

Although I did not realize it at the time, I know now that I contributed to forcing her out. Although I may not have done anything mean or cruel, I was part of a system that kept her trapped in a horrible life. I just did not see it.

It was not until twenty plus years later that I came to this realisation. I was a practicing full time lawyer and full time mother. I was also doing research for a book on raising strong girls. It was a perfect storm.

My research helped explain not just why I rejected my mother but why my life seemed so out of control. . Apparently during the teen years, most girls struggle against very strict societal expectations. Girls fight internally and externally against pressure to be nice, sexy, smart, and perfect. They despise the fact that they are not taken seriously and resent being manipulated. But unlike boys, girls shut down, develop eating disorders or do what I did and turn against their mothers.

But this was not the whole picture. The research also shows that girls are particularly hard on their mothers for two reasons. They know that mothers will tolerate this as part of their accepted role in life so daughters can abuse mothers with few consequences. But, more importantly, teen girls reject their mothers because mothers are exactly what they do not want to be: powerless. Mothers stand for failure. As daughters watch and listen to their mothers and other women they slowly come to understand the limited role of women in our society. They begin to see their mothers as trapped and with little control or influence. This causes girls to reject not just their mothers, but all women and in essence, the feminine part of themselves.

This is tragic on so many levels. Mothers sacrifice themselves and then daughters reject their mothers, and then themselves. And here is the kicker; even though teen girls think they are escaping the cycle by pushing their mothers away, a decade later they often find themselves in the exact same situation as their own mothers. Why? Because it is not our mothers fault. It is the system of motherhood, and this is what this book is about.

I wrote this book to shine a light on what was really happening to mothers today. At the same time I wanted to better understand why we treat mothers so badly, why we feel like slaves to our children, and why we reject our feminine side. I also wanted to prevent my own daughters from repeating the cycle and cutting off important parts of themselves. What really kept me writing though was my desire to help other mothers understand that they are not to blame for the bulk of their unhappiness and that there is a reason why they feel like they are going crazy. I believe that if mothers know the truth and join together, they can not only make the world better for themselves, and their daughters, but the whole world.

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Mindfulness Made Easy – Practice #6 Smell Mindfully

Here is the sixth of my 50 Mindful Practices  from my upcoming book. Please sign up for my weekly emails if you want to get the rest automatically in your email box. I welcome your feedback and please pass along to your friends!


Practice 6: Smell mindfully

“Mindfulness, bravery and compassion and wisdom are not born overnight but nor are they remote and unattainable qualities. They can be awakened, and once awakened, will inspire others.“ Jane Hope

What it is.  Mindful smelling involves noticing when your sense of smell is being activated and understanding its impact on you.  Our sense of smell is our most powerful sense. For some, the smell of fresh baked bread, clean sheets or popcorn can evoke a sense of comfort. For others the smell of a mother’s perfume can stimulate forgotten memories. The smell of smoke or gas can alert us to danger. The smell of food cooking can remind us that we are hungry. Without a sense of smell we cannot taste! But sadly, many of us do not even realize when our noses are stimulated or the impact that smells have on our entire sense of well-being.  We often only notice smells when it’s extreme, like when the oven is on fire or there is mold on our yogurt.

How to do it.  With another person, go to your kitchen and open up a food or spice cupboard. Select few items that have distinct smells, like lemongrass, peanut butter, coffee or vinegar. Take turns closing your eyes while the other person moves items under your nose. Guess what the item is and reflect on whether it brings back a memory or feeling. Another fun exercise that demonstrates the power of smell is to pretend you have a lemon in your hand (no real lemon is required) and slowly move your hand towards your mouth. Your mouth will begin to salivate even though there is no lemon in sight!

What to notice. How is mindful smelling different than the smelling you do automatically day-in and day-out? How many smells do you notice in an average day? If you slowed down, do you think you would notice smells? Do you think some smells make you more calm or more agitated? Although we can all smell with our noses, it comes as a surprise to most, that we do not use our noses as much as we could. It’s a if we need  to retrain ourselves to smell again. We have all heard the phrase, “You need to stop and smell the roses!”  but it seems so difficult to notice all the wonder and beauty unless we stop or at least slow down.

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