Cissy Brady-Rogers
Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers

Tag: pay attention

It’s that time of the season when temptations to neglect body and soul come in many forms: overbooking social events, not drinking enough water and mindless eating of holiday goodies are three I’ve encountered these past few weeks.

My daily centering prayer time and regular yoga practice are two primary ways I maintain my alignment with myself amidst the stressors. They keep me rooted and grounded in the Love that is the point of these holy days. When my spiritual tank is empty from not praying, and I’m disconnected from my body because I’ve not been practicing yoga, I’m more likely to ignore the signals that tell me to slow down, drink water, and stay away from the sugary treats that show up everywhere this time of year.

Time to Align with Love

My former pastor Bob Whitaker used to tell us that people got sick at the holidays from eating too much sugar.  I snickered then, but wondered if there wasn’t some truth in his folk wisdom.  Now I learn, in my wise adult life, that in fact sugar does deplete my immune system and make me more prone to infection. My intention is to enjoy a little bit of the things I especially love — like my own Famous Irish Toffee and the Cobb Family’s homemade fudge — but to keep a kind and loving bridle on the part of me that wants to eat the whole batch!

As you enter into these busy days of celebration, staying connected to the One from whom all good things come will be good for both your body and your soul.

What helps you stay connected to yourself and what holds you together when life gets stressful? Imagine how different the next few weeks will be if you dedicate five minutes a day to writing a gratitude list, praying a psalm of thanksgiving, meditating on God’s love or some other soulful practice.

What will you do to stay connected to yourself and the One from whom all good things come during this season of celebration?   Your good health is worth at least five minutes a day, isn’t it?

I love Mary Oliver’s poem “When I am Among the Trees” so much I committed it to memory. It reminds me of who I am and what I am called to be. Like the trees, I have come into the world “to go easy, to be filled with light and to shine.”

This week has been tough. Personal and professional challenges show up to dampen my days, weigh me down. I practice gratitude, pray for help, do all the things I know to do to be well. But the clouds have hung close anyway.

I found my quiet center and a lightening of my load as I sat at my kitchen island and took a mini-retreat with my colleague Joy Malek’s  Sacred Space Retreat Kit.

when i am among the trees

She introduced me to Wendell Berry’s “I go among the trees” – reminding me that like the trees that shed leaves in the fall, stand naked through winter, and bloom again in spring, my life unfolds one day at a time and nothing lasts forever.

Both the blessings and challenges of life must be worn lightly, not clinging too tightly to the goodness nor resisting the struggles. It’s all part of the cycle of life that enables me to be filled with light and shine, even when I’m naked in the midst of winter clouds.

Joy’s kit is a series of simple reflections to create a pause in your day, go within and find your quiet center. Or, as Joy puts it, a life centered in soul. A wonderful way to pause in your busy or burdened day and “go easy, be filled with light and shine.” Even if you can’t get away to the trees, a few minutes at your kitchen table or before you check your email might be just the thing you need to lighten your load today.

It’s Friday afternoon at 4:50. The sun is setting and I’ve got a list of unfinished tasks. My energy is running low. My mouth is dry. My attention is waning. What shall I do?

Chill out. Take a break! Now!

promoting good health with Legend & Skye

My helpers in restoring equilibrium

I went outside, picked up dog poop, checked out the rising crescent moon.

Nothing like a few moments of solitude and silence to provide a mental reset.

What’s the power of solitude and silence?

Intentional inward focus with reduced input from the outside sources creates space for the mind to re-organize, to ground and center internally.

Solitude, even a few moments of it when done in an intentional way, can do wonders for restoring mental equilibrium.

The critical part is being present to the moment, with an intention to withdraw. If I’d picked up the poop with an intention to “hurry through it” so I could get back to the computer, it wouldn’t have the same impact. The simple choice not to focus on the next item on the list and to keep my attention on the dog poop, being where I was, not where I intended to go next, made the difference.

Many things can activate this inner stillness that restores mental harmony. The form is a tool to harness and direct mental attention away from external distractions and draw within. Brother Lawrence entered such a state when he “practiced the presence” of God  while working in the kitchen. Meditation of all forms help usher us into a similar state.

This blog is dedicated with love and gratitude to Legend and Skye who made today’s break possible!

In a NY Time article advocating equipping children with cognitive focusing skills, Daniel Goleman sites a study indicating that ability to manage attention is a better predictor of financial success and health than either IQ or SES of family of origin!

When it comes to physical, mental and spiritual health, regulating attention is critical.

specificity, focus, control

The physical therapist who guided my shoulder rehabilitation last year had a mantra: specificity, control, focus. It’s all about working smarter, not harder and longer. The more I focused on working my rotator cuff muscles and not compensating by using other muscles or momentum, the better my outcome. I could spend many hours mindlessly going through the routines while distracted by an audio book or watching television and not make the progress I did by spending half as much time with specificity, focus and control.

And so it is with any part of our lives: regulating attention is an essential skill, especially as opportunities to be distracted increase.

Recent studies highlight the potential of benefits of mindfulness training for treating female sexual dysfunction. For reasons beyond the scope of this blog, many women grow up in varying degrees of disconnection from our sexual awareness. Thus, disconnection from arousal or the capacity for pleasure and orgasm. Simply learning to “tune in” instead of “tune out” can make a big difference in our capacity for sexual satisfaction.

If the connection between regulating attention and sexual health intrigues you, consider joining me for the Soul & Sexuality at Eclessia church in Hollywood beginning October 20. I’ll introduce a Christ-centered form of attentional prayer as a tool for supporting sexual health.

In the coming years I suspect we will see a lot more about the implications of simple mindful awareness practices on mental and physical health, as well as success in other realms of life.

In the meantime, here’s a simple exercise to work your attention regulation muscle. Read through the exercise, then set a timer for a minute to practice. With eyes closed, take a long full inhale, followed by an even longer, slower exhale. Purse your lips like you’re blowing up a balloon to help you regulate the exhale. Then bring your full attention to your breath and just notice your breath. Notice the feeling of air as it passes into your nose, through your throat into your your lungs. Notice your chest or belly slightly expand on the inhale and contract on the exhale.

That’s it.

Doing this exercise a few times a day can be a powerful start on increasing your attention regulation capacity. Who knows, you might even improve your health!

Here’s an idea that just might work: A group of social scientists are experimenting with using “nudge marketing” to increase consumer awareness of nutrient dense foods options and decrease purchasing of processed foods that contribute to onset of chronic diseases.

Mindful eating begins in the grocery store. If we don’t pay attention to what we are putting in our carts, we are more likely to fall for the marketing tactics of the processed food giants. And it includes educating our kids about how marketing works so they can become mindful consumers. The most common ploys include:

THE ENDS OF AISLES are huge revenue generators, especially for sweet and salty foods.

IMPULSE PURCHASES (60 percent of purchases are unplanned) – especially of items placed next to checkouts.

For me, mindful grocery shopping includes:

1.) knowing what’s in my refrigerator and cupboards (like the jar of olives that wasn’t there last night for the Greek salad).

2.) stocking up on things we eat daily (so I don’t wake up and find we’ve run out of the almond butter I love on my toast).

3.) keeping a grocery list on my smartphone – adding things when they run out (and looking at it when I’m at the store…).

4.) always having fresh veggies in the drawer (even if they go might go bad – not wasting food can be a good motivator for some of us).

5.) always having a few bags of frozen veggies and fruits in the freezer (It’s better than nothing).

6.) planning meals and including those items on my list (still getting back to this after a long hiatus post-shoulder surgery).

What does mindful grocery shopping look like for you?

Yesterday a client came to session stating that she didn’t think she was a good fit for coaching. She hates paperwork, forms, filling things in and writing things down. “I’m not a journaling kind of person.”

Welcome to My South Pasadena Office

It was awesome!  I love the way she took charge of what she wants and needs. She spoke her truth and started a conversation about adapting the tools and process of coaching to fit her needs and personality, not the other way around.

Women are biologically wired and socially conditioned to adaptation–to fit ourselves into other’s versions of reality rather than listen within and find our own way. This “substantial female preference to affiliate under stress” underlies the people pleasing dynamic that leads us to be silent when we want to speak up, say “yes” when we want to say “no” and compliantly fill out forms that we want to tear up and throw into the trash can!

The personalized health planning model I’m training in at Duke Integrative Medicine is a medical model. Paperwork, quantitative tools for assessing where you are now and where you’d like to be and creating measurable goals to guide behavior change are part of the package. It’s an excellent model with some solid initial research demonstrating positive health outcomes.

But, it’s just a model, not a magic formula.

I’m reminded of the scripture that says, “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12.2).

Lasting change doesn’t come from the paperwork, the diets or the programs that the world has devised–many with good intentions and great benefits for some people. Transformation comes from renewing your mind, learning to attend to and  listen for your own truth, not by trying to adapt yourself to fit my model or anyone else’s.

From a Christ-centered perspective, transformation comes from deepening your connection to the mind of Christ within. To strengthen your awareness of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control that come from the Spirit of Christ within you.  It is within you, not in a book, a pill, or  a new routine.

Wired to attend and adapt externally, even after all these years of healing work, I still excel in people pleasing.  A big part of my on-going transformation comes from mindful awareness and centering prayer practices. Turning my attention within and just being aware of what is going on within and around me, without responding, has taught me a new way of being in my body and my life. When I neglect my daily practice of twenty minutes, I notice a significant difference in my ability to hold onto myself, take a stance and not fall into social adaptation patterns that don’t benefit me or others.

Like other helping professionals, I offer services, programs and information to support transformation. But the bottom-line of what I offer is meant to help you listen to yourself, trust yourself and live from within. That is the new way of being in your body and your life.

Listen to yourself, listen to your body, know yourself and be a discriminating consumer of services, information and programs.

I loved sitting with my client yesterday. The internal listening and honesty she exhibited in our conversation about the model and her health goals will guide her toward authentic, sustainable new ways of exercising, eating and living–because she’s living from within!

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” (World Health Organization)

What is complete physical, mental and social well-being worth to you?

Since my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in 1992 I’ve invested a significant amount of time, money and energy to be physically, mentally and spiritual healthy.

I started buying organic back when organic was hard to find.

I’ve paid out-of-pocket for healthcare services I consider essential even though my insurance company did not.

I paid out-of-pocket for my personal psychotherapy over the years because I didn’t want my mental health (or lack thereof) to be anyone’s business but my own.

I’ve given up work (and the money I could have made taking on those extra clients or jobs) in order to have time to exercise regularly.

But most of all, I’ve invested countless hours learning to listen to my body and to make choices about eating, drinking, moving, sleeping, relaxing, working, playing, engaging, serving  based on the wisdom that comes from paying attention to my own experience.

Taking time to listen to your life–body, mind, spirit–is the most important investment you can make in your health.

Health coaching, therapy and spiritual direction are different modalities that help you do that.

Coaching focuses on behavioral change. Coaches listen, ask questions and help you to discover your inner wisdom about where you want to be, what you want to do and develop strategies to get you there.

Psychotherapy focuses on mental, emotional and relational health. Therapists listen with you and help you listen to yourself to increase self-understanding, better regulate your mental and emotional energies and improve your relationships.

Spiritual direction focuses on your relationship with your soul, God and things of the spirit. Spiritual directors listen with you to hear what your soul is saying, what God or the spirit might be saying and help you deepen your capacity to live from these depths.

I’ve invested a ton of time, money and energy in all three modalities–both as a recipient and as a student/practitioner. Of all the investments I’ve made for my health, these have provided the greatest return-on-investment.

What about you?

Learning to listen to yourself and become your own expert on good health will make the money, time or energy spent on nutrition, exercise and other pursuits much more effective and sustainable.

If you’re interested in finding out more, check out my services page or contact me for details. I or my colleague Lisa would love to explore with you how learning to listen to yourself can support your complete physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being.

What does taking your time look like?   Most often it will be different from what taking my time looks like. We all move at different speeds, each according to our own pace which varies from day to day and season to season, dependent on variables of all sorts–including the weather and internet speed.

Taking my time entails listening to myself–especially paying attention to the level of stress or ease in my body. When I’m moving too fast, tension rises, my shoulders hunch up, my neck stiffens, and I tend toward holding my breath. Those indicators tell me it’s time to slow down and check-in with myself.

Twelve years ago, during a particularly difficult time of my life, I heard the voice of God’s love tell me:

Doing Nothing is Good for Your Soul

Go Slowly

Be Gentle


Over the years these three phrases echo from my depths when I’m moving too fast, doing too much and have lost my connection to a felt sense of the ease, spaciousness and freedom I experience when I’m in alignment with God’s love.

Yesterday was an intensely productive day. As I lay restless in bed, it occurred to me that too much energy out can amp me up and leave me running too fast at the end of the day. I need to slow down, ease on the brakes and give myself short moments of being still during my busy days.

The perennial wisdom of India Arie’s mama (see picture above), my mom and loving mothers everywhere is to  slow down and take our time. For me, checking in with my body and remembering to breathe is a simple but powerful way to re-align with God’s love and release the tension that so easily entangles me in a too busy lifestyle.

How about you? What helps you take your time and work at a pace that keeps your body at ease and your soul at rest?

Yesterday I had the privilege of hearing the stories of Kimberly, Brent, Richard and Michael from Pacific Clinic’s Anti-Stigma Speaker’s Group. Through courageously sharing their stories of struggle with chronic mental illness, they taught me and my marital and family therapy students far more than we could have ever learned from a book. And, they helped dispel some of the stigma often attached to bipolar disorder and other biochemically based diseases.

Brent said his spiritual program of recovery through Emotion’s Anonymous has taught him to look for the good amidst the challenges. He told us the benefit of breaking his ankle was that it slowed him down. As a person who experiences manic episodes, he chuckled and said that slowing down was a good thing for him to have some help with!

After my mindful walk yesterday, where I experienced gratitude for my feet, I had a special appreciation for his story.

Beginning and ending the day with gratitude, and focusing on the blessings instead of the problems of daily life is good for both psychological and physical health.

What are you grateful for today?

I just got home from a short, but very satisfying walk. I feel refreshed, connected to my neighborhood, grateful for Occidental College where I walked, and renewed by the sunshine, birds, and smell of spring in the air.

Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh teaches a formal practice where you walk, just for the sake of walking. It isn’t a means to an end, but an end itself. And, as he puts it in his teachings, “You walk like you’re the happiest person in the world.”

In formal walking meditation, you pick a certain area in which to walk. In the beginning it’s recommended that you pick just a ten to twenty foot path in the privacy of your own home so you can get the hang of it before venturing into public. Then, walk back and forth along your path for a set amount of time. Walk with slow, purposeful steps, paying primary attention to your feet, legs, and body, noticing all the sensations that arise as you walk.  Walk, just to walk, and enjoy walking.

Today, I practiced informal mindful walking as I went up to Oxy to run an errand.  I set one foot in front of the other, noticing the heel of my foot striking the ground first, then rolling over the middle of my foot, and finally pressing the weight of my body into the ball of the foot as I completed each step. The errand took a bit longer than it would have if I’d rushed up there at my normal “taking care of business” pace. But it was worth the extra few minutes.

I became aware of the amazingly complex mechanics of my feet. I became grateful that I don’t have any of the odd little annoying misalignments in my right foot  that I’ve experienced in the past. I was so connected to my feet that I got home and investigated.

Did you know that each foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles and tendons? And that the 52 bones in your feet make up about 25% of all the bones in your body — a total of 206 for most of us!And, they all work together, sometimes in perfect harmony, sometimes not so perfect. But, either way, they get us where we are going and take a lot of abuse–especially for those of us that run or wear high heels! Hopefully not at the same time.

You can find plenty of instructions for formal mindful walking practice through an internet search. But, I like Thich Nhat Hanh’s simple description of just walking for the sake of enjoying walking. That’s what I did today and it turned my errand into a blessing.

When will be your next opportunity to walk? Perhaps to the office down the hall or into the kitchen for a glass of water? How might you turn that short walk into an opportunity to savor each step and be grateful that you can walk. Maybe experiment with walking like you’re the happiest person in the world. How might that revolutionize your day if each time you walked, you did it like you were the happiest person in the world?