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Are You Paying Attention?

Vanessa Flores

When I used to hear the word mindfulness, I always thought it meant that I had to go to some very distant part of the universe in my mind full of butterflies, crystals, buddha's and long deep breathes. I thought to myself, "when in the world am I ever going to get to a place that has all those amazing things at once and do I really want to or have the patience for that?" I am a go go go kind of girl. I have a hard time slowing down and always have. If I have 5 minutes in the day, I tend to fill it with something on my to-do list and if it's not on there then I add it so I can check it off. 

Through my individual work with my therapist and being a therapist myself, I've re-learned what mindfulness is. Brené Brown describes it as "paying attention." That's it. Just pay attention. I can do that. I can pay attention. I'm really good at that. I'm especially good at that with others but the work is how to do it with myself. 

For those of you who have a hard time being "mindful" I'm going to invite you to try to "pay attention" instead. I don't know about you but it's really helped me reframe the way I think about calm and stillness. The way I think about slowing down. The phrase "paying attention" gives me permission to slow down in really creative ways that I never would have tried before. I'll list them below.  

A quick look at my day: 

6:30am: Wake up. Stretch. Breathe. Eat a banana and drink a protein shake.

7:30am: Workout at Orange Theory Fitness. Most recently, I had gone a very long time without doing any exercise at all. My idea of exercise was laying on the couch watching back to back episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. When I landed in the ER for the first time in my life this year with dangerously high blood pressure, I knew something about my lifestyle had to change. I needed to move my body. Joining Orange Theory has changed my life, my body and my health. I'm not looking to lose pounds or even be the next runway model. I want to be healthy. I want to feel good. I want to be alive. Whatever you choose, just move your body.

8:30am: Eat a second breakfast that is protein-based and take a long shower. I get dressed with a little music playing in the background. My favorite thing about getting ready is picking out my shoes. 

*Drive to work happens here too. I usually listen to a podcast. My favorites that I listen to often are Being Boss, The Marie Forleo Podcast, Practice of the Practice, Abundant Practice, Straight Up With Stassi and Other: Mixed Race In America

9:30am: Arrive at my office and take some time to set an intention for the day. I usually write it on a post it note and stick it on my desk where I can see it all day. I look at my schedule to see what beautiful clients I get to work with that day and prepare my mind, body and soul for what's to come. I usually light a candle in my office, water my succulents if needed and fill up my water bottle. It's go time! 

10:00am - 6:00pm: My day is spent in session with clients, returning e-mails, working on my marketing strategy and planning for any offerings I have coming up. In between sessions I usually make time to slow down and drown out the noise in my head. I usually choose from the following things; I make time to practice box breathing, take a walk around the neighborhood, put on my favorite Spotify playlist titled "Totally Stress Free." or see who's around the office and make time to interact with my colleagues. 

6:30pm: I make the trek home. I usually turn off the radio and drive in silence because as if traffic is not stressful enough, it's been a long day and I need some quiet time for me. Luckily I have a 30 minute drive home so it gives me a chance to reflect on the day and leave it at the office because no matter what is done or left undone, at the end of the day I am enough. 

7:00pm: Cook and enjoy dinner with my husband. The t.v. is silent but it is on. We always eat at the dinner table together. We share our peaks and valleys of the day and we reflect on how we feel. We check in with each other. During this time we have a rule: no cell phones and no distractions. It's just the two of us. We are paying attention to each other. 

9:00pm: Wrap up dinner and clean up the kitchen. My husband and I make it a priority to have some time alone at home. It's how we manage each other's needs based on our personality type. He is an introvert and I am an extroverted introvert. We need alone time even when we're in the same house. He'll usually go to the bedroom and read and I will either read, journal or watch a t.v. show. Yes. I watch t.v. and it's totally okay. I'm not numbing out and binge watching 15 episodes of Grey's Anatomy like I used to but I am getting some comfort from watching 1 episode of DVR. It's what we need. It's how we fill each other up and ourselves. 

10:30pm: Bedtime. I put my phone on silent and turn it face down. Bryan (said husband) and I chit chat before bedtime and wind down. I haven't gotten to the place where I don't have my phone at my nightstand but I'm taking baby steps. I have faith I will get there soon. Before I close my eyes, I practice some gratitude for the day I just had. It's how I remind myself to pay attention to the small stuff. 

Some ideas for you to slow down and pay attention that I practice often are: 

  • Listen to music while I'm getting ready for the day. Listen to the lyrics and the background instrumentals. Pay attention to the flow of the song. Sing along if you want to! 
  • Listening to a podcast on your way to work. 
  • Start your day with your favorite beverage whether it's a hot tea, a glass of lemon water, a hot cup of coffee or a protein shake and take 5 minutes to intentionally journal while focusing on the words that I am putting on paper. You don't need a prompt or a a "Dear Diary" entry. Just let your pen flow.   
  • Turn off the radio while driving home. Drive in silence. After such a long day, it's important for you to reflect and catch your breathe. 
  • Enjoy a nice dinner with good company. Leave your phone in your purse during dinner. Focus on the conversation and the good food in front of you. Indulge in connecting with who you're with. You'll never get that exact same moment again.
  • Practice breathing. Take 2 minutes, plant your feet on the ground, breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, repeat. 
  • Take a walk outside. Notice how the trees are moving and the way the wind is blowing. Feel the temperature and lift your face to the sun. Breathe in the air. 

I'd love to hear how you take time to slow down and pay attention and if you're not doing it, it's never too late. It's all a practice. We don't always get it right but we can always try again the next day. 

What is The Daring Way™?

Vanessa Flores

As Certified Daring Way™ Facilitators, my colleague Sarah Jones and I host a variety of different groups and workshops in Austin, TX based on The Daring Way™ curriculum written by Dr. Brené Brown. For people who don't know Brené and her work, they often want to know, "What is the Daring Way™? What does that mean? What would I be doing in one of these workshops?" These are great questions that are important to ask before committing to such a great investment. 

On a high level, The Daring Way™ is a highly experiential methodology based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown. The method was designed for work with individuals, couples, families, work teams, and organizational leaders. It can be facilitated in clinical, educational, and professional settings. During the process we explore topics such as vulnerability, courage, shame, and worthiness. We examine the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that are holding us back and we identify the new choices and practices that will move us toward more authentic and wholehearted living. The primary focus is on developing shame resilience skills and developing daily practices that transform the way we live, love, parent, and lead. 

What does that mean you ask? As a doctoral student, Brené decided to devote her research to defining what 'Wholehearted Living' is. She was looking for men and women living and loving with their whole hearts despite the risks and uncertainty. Brené wanted to know what they had in common. What were their main concerns, and what were the patterns and themes that defined their Wholeheartedness?

Using the grounded theory methodology developed by Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss, Dr. Brown's main goal of her research was to understand the participants' "main concerns" related to experiencing the topic being examined which was shame, wholeheartedness, vulnerability, etc. Once those main concerns emerged from the data, Brené developed a theory that explains how the participants continually resolve these concerns in their daily lives.

As part of her research, Dr. Brown has spent over a decade interviewing men and women and listening to stories that ultimately contributed to the findings within her research. To learn more about the research process and Dr. Brown's findings, click here

Out of all of this came the creation of The Daring Way curriculum and the Rising Strong curriculum which are taught and facilitated nationwide by Certified Daring Way™ Facilitators in a variety of different formats which can include 3-day workshops, 8-10 week groups, half day workshops, etc. If you want to learn more about the offerings in your area, take a look here

And if you're looking for a 3-day workshop here in Austin, you don't have to look far! Sarah and I will be hosting a 3-day workshop based on The Daring Way™ curriculum the weekend of November 11th-13th.

What will you do? We will go through all 12 lessons in the curriculum together as a group, watch a series of personalized videos with Brené herself and complete a series of hands-on activities in order to dive deeper into each of your stories. The goal is that you have a better understanding of what your shame is, where it comes from, how it impacts how you show up in the world and explore practices to better love yourself and embrace who you are, imperfectly. It will be hard, fun and intense. Brené defines it as the "messy middle" and I couldn't agree more. It's messy and it's so beautiful. We hope you'll join us! Payment plans are available. Sign up here



Hi! My name is Vanessa and this is my story.

Vanessa Flores

Hi Y'all! It's been a while since I've introduced myself to those new to the blog and reintroduced myself to those of you have been following for a while. So here it is. An all about Vanessa and why she does the work she loves. 

My name is Vanessa Marie Flores, and I grew up in a small town (not so small anymore) near the U.S.-Mexico border called McAllen, TX. I am the youngest of three, and my older sisters don't waste any time reminding me of that. I was raised by a beautiful woman who loves to spend time keeping her nails fresh and painted and never passes up on any opportunity to go shopping. I must be her daughter. :) Although my father (technically my step-dad) came into my life when I was in sixth grade, we instantly connected through our love for the Dallas Cowboys and can liven up any party with our dry sense of humor. We're pretty much soulmates. 

We all have our stories. We all have a childhood that I believe brings us to where we are today. My childhood was not the best, and my mom was a single mom for most of my life. She did the best she could, and her best was pretty darn good. I knew early on that I wanted to help people. I had initially thought I wanted to be a teacher and then my middle sister became a teacher. But even before that, I knew I wanted to help people with their "problems" (whatever that means). Over time, I realized that what I wanted was to build individual relationships with people and get to know the essence of who they are rather than teach a class of students. I've always been better one on one although I consider myself to be an extrovert and can easily find my way through a crowd. Little did I know that I would find myself "teaching" later on in my journey. Keep reading. 

I made the trek to Texas Christian University (GO FROGS!) in Fort Worth, TX after high school graduation against my mother's will. She did not want me to be nine hours away from home. I didn't care. It was where I wanted to be, and nothing was going to stop me. I declared a major in Psychology during freshmen orientation but after taking an Intro. to Psych. class, I quickly submitted a change of major. It wasn't the professor that changed my mind. I think it was more of the content. It didn't quite speak to me in the way my Intro. to Social Work class did. One felt like experiments and science while the other screamed people! I like people so I went with it. I decided on Social Work instead, and the next four years went fast. At the end of my senior year, it was time to do it all over again. 

My love for Austin has always been real. So real that I applied to the University of Texas at Austin to obtain my Master's degree in Social Work. To my disappointment, I wasn't accepted into the program. I don't think I've ever told anyone that. Welp, I guess now I have. So, I decided to head to the University of Houston for my master's degree because I was accepted and it was in Texas. I know now that was the best decision for me. The opportunities that came within those two years paved the path for where I am today. I landed a rockstar internship at Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center and was offered a full-time position before graduation working in Adult Trauma and eventually Pediatrics. I fell in love with being a medical social worker and was sure that it was where I would be forever. Well, never say never, and never say forever. Life happened, and I had to leave Houston. Anyone want to guess where I ended up? 

AUSTIN, TX! Yup. Four years after graduating undergrad, I made it to the very city I knew I was destined to be in. I began my career as the Pediatric ICU Social Worker at Dell Children's Medical Center. It was an incredible opportunity, and I am still so grateful for my time there; however, the longer I stayed at Dell, the more I realized that I couldn't do it forever. Working with chronically ill children took a tremendous emotional toll on me over the course of the 6 years I was in the medical field. The work was so powerful but I found that I was becoming numb to life and death events that I knew I wanted to feel, should feel. All of this was enough for me to let go and get curious about the world of school social work. Like I said earlier, my middle sister has been in education for a long time (about fourteen years), and I have seen her throw herself into her students and families. I wanted to know what that felt like. 

I most recently spent three years working as a high school social worker at KIPP Austin Collegiate. By the time I got this job, I had already been working on obtaining my clinical license in order to move into the world of private practice one day. Initially, I didn't really know when that "one day" would come but I was sure it would. Working in education was such a rewarding and unforgettable experience. Almost all the families I worked with were first generation, undocumented Latino families who were all working towards the same goal of supporting their children to and through college. I felt so privileged to learn their stories and be a part of their families in a way that promoted healing and success. There was a connection I shared with my students. Being of Hispanic origin and living in a low-income family while being the second in my family to go to college, I understood the challenges from all sides (financial, educational, racial). It was the best job I've ever had, and I would do it all over again if the opportunity presented itself. 

I left KIPP by choice. I spent the 2015-2016 academic school year launching my private practice part-time. It felt like the right time. I was working full-time at the school and seeing clients privately in the evenings. I began to build a clientele and things continued to pick up. By the time the school year ended, I decided to take the risk and leave KIPP to pursue private practice full-time. It was a bittersweet decision, and it's one I think about often. I'll be writing another blog post later about my journey to private practice so stay tuned for more. It's an emotional story, and it's very personal to me because I left a school full of students and families I loved. I am grateful for their support and understanding to this very day. 

Private practice hasn't been easy, but I believe that ALL people should have access to healthcare despite their economic status. I believe that I have the ability to reach a larger audience of adolescents and adults, while being able to provide pro bono and community service work, as it connects to my values. I don't know what it's like to not be able to access healthcare, and my hope is that my clients know that is not a barrier when they work with me. 

So, why do I do what I do? I do this work because every family I have worked with, every child's story that I have ever had the privilege of knowing, and every life I have touched has taught me some of the greatest lessons. My social work journey has taught me that within each of us lies a human heart; a human heart that requires love, attention, warmth, protection and compassion. It requires connection with another heart. It requires that someone be willing to listen and to hold space for silence, grief, loss and pain. We all have hearts that are aching to be loved unconditionally. I can do that. I want to do that, and it's why I'm here. I'm not here for me. I'm here for all of you.