Thursday, December 22, 2011

An interview with Sue Patton Thoele, author of THE MINDFUL WOMAN 

Why do we (women) tend to put self-love on the back burner? How can that tendency affect our mental and physical health?

Society has done an excellent job in training women to be caretakers and, consequently, to think of others before themselves. Occasionally, that's exactly the right thing to do, but not as an overriding habit. If we don't pay loving attention to our own bodies, minds, emotions, and spirits, we'll drain ourselves dry. Although we can run on fumes for a while, eventually something has to give. It may show up as illness, depression, anger, or any number of other energy-draining feelings and experiences. We function best from overflow, not overwhelm and exhaustion.

One of the activities in your book is to write a haiku. How does writing a haiku embody the practice of mindfulness?

First of all, haiku is simply fun! It's a good mindfulness practice because it requires attention, focus, and creativity. Haiku can distill confusing and convoluted feelings in three simple lines. Its simplicity is relaxing if you can just enjoy it rather than fall into a perfection/performance bind over doing it. For example, at the end of the chapter entitled Accepting What Is, I wrote this haiku:

Swaying with the wind
A willow exemplifies
Grace-filled acceptance.

Because I can be a little too wordy when I write, it was fun for me to try and get the gist of a chapter into three scant lines. I ended each of the chapters in Part II with a haiku.

Can you describe your personal journey toward mindfulness?

It's definitely a case of "reporting from the road!" I consider mindfulness a lifelong practice. Sometimes I'm better at it than others. Like almost everyone else I know who is trying to be mindfully present in the here and now, I experience countless detours and delays. Occasionally, I lose my way completely, but there is one surefire practice that helps me get back on track. It's simply to turn my attention to my breath. Simple, yes… but also profound. Breath is the bridge between body, mind, and spirit. It is a welcoming gateway to the here and now. Focusing on our breath centers us in the reality of the moment and invites our thoughts back to the present rather than skittering around in the past or future.

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