I'm back with more from Anne Sussman, our resident mindfulness and meditation expert. Read on to learn about her inspiring project, Bliss Buddies, how you can be apart of it and why volunteering and giving back is so vital to her everyday life. The Project: Bliss Buddies
The “Bliss Buddy” project is something I created. In the roller coaster that is life, we all will experience sadness, sickness, and death of a loved one. No one gets away unscathed. How is it that we can find the joy in the midst of all that? There is so much to be grateful for in life--from the moment we are born we breath. Beginning there, to just be grateful for your breath, for your life, is the way to start. Before my feet hit the floor each morning I say “Thank you, thank you, thank you”. Gratitude begins and ends my day. It is true that where you put your attention, grows. It’s like watering a plant--your attention is love. When you put your attention on small moments of joy in your life, you will be amazed at how they begin to grow. Being on the lookout gives you the opportunity to see what you are looking for. This is about the steps it takes to start living that way and having more of that joy in your life.
The Acronym: N.E.W.S.
Notice- Noticing the small moments of joy is the first step to cultivating this practice. Make a choice everyday to be on the look out. Once you begin turning your attention to these small moments, you will find them almost everywhere.
Experience- What am I seeing? What am I feeling? What am I hearing, tasting, and smelling right now? Experiencing fully through all your senses, just as the moment of joy is happening, is the best way to begin. Being tuned in, present, and engaging all your senses is a great way to imprint that joyful moment into your brain and turn it into a strong memory. Being fully present is how we experience the most joy we can out of life. If you’re thinking about the past or the future, it’s impossible to live in the moment. It is only when you are dialed in to right now that you can fully experience that feeling of being in the zone. That’s when the "Aha" moments of life become available to you. When you stay in the present more, you have more of the "Aha" moments.
Write it down-Writing it down--keeping a journal or just a quick note helps to solidify the experience. There is a visual record of what the moment was--a way to remember it when you move on in your fast-paced life. Taking that time to just jot it somewhere helps to keep it ever present.
Share- Share it! This is the essence of the Bliss Buddy Project--taking the time to share it. Find a partner, a Bliss Buddy. Make a commitment to do this with someone for two weeks in a row. Exchange emails every day and in the subject line write, “Bliss”. Then just send a quick note - “Bliss moment today was when I walked outside, the sun shone down on my face”. That’s all there is to it! Making a commitment to doing this keeps you accountable to noticing what those moments are through out your day.
Why Bliss Buddies
I learned to meditate seven years ago. In class, my teacher talked about how she partnered up with someone to talk to them about how to notice the joyful things in life. I wanted to expand on that and decided Campowerment would be the perfect place to introduce and implement the project. I created the NEWS acronym when I brought the idea to camp. I always end my circles with an explanation of the project and charge each camper to find their own Bliss Buddy to participate with.
Get Your Own Bliss Buddy
To be a part of this, just find a partner. It can be a friend, a sibling, even a co-worker. Anyone can be your Bliss Buddy, as long as you both commit to noticing what you are grateful for each and everyday. Then it's just a quick report by email. It can be as simple as “Starbucks got my name right!” If times are tough for you and you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for, how about your light switches in your house illuminating your home every time you touch them. Or a guarantee of hot or cold running water from your faucets! We take so much for granted. Beginning to see how blessed we are helps to put the difficulties we are going through in perspective. Maybe in the midst of the worst day we have ever had we can be grateful for putting our head on a soft pillow and knowing we made it through.
Anne's Bliss Buddy
At the end of one of my circles, a camper approached me telling me she wanted to participate but didn't have a buddy. I volunteered to be her bliss buddy. We emailed every day for one month and decided we wanted to continue so we emailed once a week for the next two months. We still wanted to continue but not be tied to a schedule, just when we felt compelled to. Our relationship grew into something more--we started out as a Bliss Buddies and became more of pen pals and close friends. We still email often--she sends postcards from all of her travels. We talk about our bliss, but also the difficult things life throws at us and how to get through them. We have really been there for each other. We reconnected in person when she returned to camp a year and a half later.
What's funny is that I was asked to write something about her and I was asked about what she does for a living. I realized that after emailing for two years, I had no idea. It just never came up. We just never defined each other in that way. Now I know she lives in Texas and is pretty high up at the company she works for, but I still have no idea what she really does. We've communicated about our lives and really built on that. We never filled in the blanks of any of that other stuff because it didn't matter. It didn't seem important.
Meditation and the Craziness That Is Motherhood
Meditation and Mindfulness are the perfect antidote to the stress and craziness that is motherhood. Meditation is a vitamin, not an aspirin! It is something you need to incorporate each and everyday not just when you are stressed out. We know from research that after 8 weeks of regular meditation twice a day for a minimum of 20 minutes, your brain begins to change to become more responsive and less reactive. Your ability to stay present and in the moment is a way to ease the anxiety that is created by worrying about the future of “What if?” or the depression that comes from dwelling in the past.
Slowing down and enjoying the little moments, bringing an open heart to the process of parenting, and really being there for all of the messiness that is life is incredibly rich. Life is short. We don’t know when our time on this planet is up. Kids grow up so fast and the moments that you remember most are the ones that you are truly present for. Try this: Float back to a vivid, happy memory. You probably are able to see, feel, hear, possibly even smell or taste what was happening for you. That memory is so evocative, so strong because you were absolutely there, experiencing it fully, through all your senses.
On Turning 50
When I turned 50 I started asking the big questions in life. Is this all there is? Why am I here? What am I here to do? To learn? How do I even know there is a God? I went to a workshop with the brilliant Rumi Scholar, author, and founder of the Institute for Sacred Activism, Andrew Harvey. He shared the three prong approach to having your own experience with the Source, the Divine, a combination of sacred study (real religious texts), sacred activism (compassion in action), and meditation. It was the perfect life recipe to answer those mystical questions I found myself asking and to have a "knowingness" of God. It really resonated with me. I signed up for Torah classes, began volunteering at the Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges, and started taking meditation classes.
I had already been volunteering at the food pantry for seven years when I founded Mindfulness Meeting Place. I wanted to continue to do more, so I decided to donate 10% of everything I earned to the Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges. I also ask whoever comes to class to bring a can of food with them. Did you know that you can’t buy feminine hygiene products and diapers with food stamps? You can’t buy prepared food with food stamps either. It's important to remind people that where they live, people are suffering and don’t know where their next meal is coming from. It’s heartbreaking. These men, women, and children are very hungry.
That Aha Moment
For a while, I had to turn off the news. I got really depressed because I couldn’t help all these victims of world tragedies. But I realized I can take care of and help the people right down the street from me. When I started working at the pantry, 50 people would show up on a Wednesday morning. Now that number has grown to 200. The need is getting greater and greater. The more you meditate the more you learn we are all interconnected--we are all energy. It’s part of me now. I can’t not help. It’s the way I am. If I could teach everyone for free I would, but I need to earn a living. So when I decided to open this business, I also decided that I would give back.
You Can Help Too
For more information about or to make a donation to the Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges, go here.
BIO: Anne Sussman is the founder of Mindfulness Meeting Place. Anne received her certification as a Mindfulness and Meditation Instructor at the McLean Meditation Institute. Anne began meditation in 2009 at a weekly class, hoping to find relief from pervasive anxiety. She believes strongly in the power of meditation, as it is the tool that changed her life from the inside out Anne holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and has twenty years of experience teaching Conflict Resolution skills to teachers, parents and students, as well as parenting classes to young moms at an early childhood center. Her training in Mindfulness Meditation techniques is a perfect complement to her strength as a born educator. Anne's goal is to help you live better, as she does. Read more about Anne and connect with her on Facebook.