On Mindfulness

 

Lots of people are looking for ways to stay centered during difficult times. It’s inevitable that we are going to encounter sources of stress in our lives. I’m a big proponent of mindfulness to help reduce stress and anxiety, and cultivate kindness and compassion – qualities we could all use more of .

Mindfulness is the art of focusing on your experience in the present moment, without judgment – just being with what is. It’s about accepting ourselves, our feelings, our experience, and knowing that we’re okay. It’s easy to believe that just because we’re experiencing difficult feelings – anger, sadness, frustration - that something is wrong and we have to make a change.  But what if it’s alright to feel whatever we feel – pleasant or unpleasant – and we’re still okay, even if it’s uncomfortable?

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More often than not, when we look around at the present moment – where we are right now – all is well. But the mind tends to wander. And it often settles on something that made us unhappy yesterday or something bad that we think may happen tomorrow. We may be replaying past conversations to a different conclusion, or imagining what we would say when/if... Or our minds may be chattering about mundane and useless things that we already know. For example, I’m working in the yard on a hot day. It’s uncomfortable. My mind has me thinking about how hot and I’m uncomfortable I am, as if I hadn’t noticed, or as if grumbling about it in my head is going to make it easier.

But if we hold still and stay here, we will see there is nothing to fear in this moment and this is the only real moment there is. The futures we imagine never arrive, and when they do, they’re nothing like we imagine them. And replaying the past with the fantasy of a different outcome is just a way of beating ourselves up.

In the present moment, all is well. Mindfulness helps us tap into our wellness. Sure, we have difficult circumstances and uncomfortable feelings. Grief is part of life. Mindfulness helps us to be with those circumstances and feelings. while staying balanced and centered at the same time.

Mindfulness is a simple concept, but takes a lot of practice. It’s can be hard to do in just our every day experience, or when we’re distracted. So we need to train the mind. It’s not unlike training a puppy to heel. You’re walking your new puppy. It tries to wander away. You gently, but firmly, pull it back to your side.

One simple practice is just to take a few moments during the day to focus on your breathing. If you’re feeling stressed or tense, or if you’re about to go into a situation that has you nervous, just take a few minutes, place your hand over your diaphragm, and take ten long slow deep breaths in a way that moves your hand away from your body. Chances are you’ll notice the noise in your head gets quieter, or at least more manageable, and you’ll feel a little more centered. You can pause and do this as often as you like during the day, or just when you’re feeling stressed.

Another quick mindfulness practice is to notice the time and say to yourself “It’s (time) on (day and date). I am in the present moment where I am safe and among friends.”