Many people find mindfulness confusing. Some may think of people sitting on the floor chanting or focusing on their breath or trying to clear your mind of thoughts. This can feel like a hard thing to do, and it is, unless you practice doing it a lot. The type of mindfulness that I use with my clients is a little easier and super useful.
In my office, mindfulness is simply noticing, with curiosity, what is happening in the body, heart, and mind. Right now. This is easy because we do not have to try to stop doing something (like thinking thoughts). It can be challenging because we are not used to using our minds in this way, and, we have spent a lifetime developing very effective strategies to avoid whatever we are thinking and feeling, right now. These strategies are so automatic that they just seem to happen, whether we want them to or not.
You may be wondering why this noticing what is happening right now is useful, especially if it is unpleasant, uncomfortable, or downright distressing? This is a good thing to wonder!
It is useful because each moment of our experience is rich with feeling and meaning and we are reacting to these feelings and meanings before we are even fully aware of them. In fact, we are moving so quickly through our daily experience that we never become fully aware of most of what we are experiencing. But, we are reacting to all of it. It is as if we are on a train that is gliding along at a fast clip. We can see that there is landscape out there, but it is a blur. It is not until the train slows that we can make out the trees, fields, homes, and wildlife that make up that landscape. As the train slows even more, we can see individual leaves, flowers, ever smaller details that make up the world around us. When the train stops for a few moments, we can study the rich detail of a tiny dot of landscape. It is all there whether we can see it, or not.
When we slow down our noticing and turn our focus to our inner landscape, we find that even the smallest moments are actually rich with feeling and meaning. Now we can allow this experience to flow up into our awareness. From here, we can move into intentional responding, rather than mindless reacting.
So, next time you have a moment to be still, get curious. Look inside. What is my mind thinking, right now? What body sensation seems to go with that thought, right now? Can I identify an emotion with that sensation? The richness of our experience can be surprising. In therapy, we work with all that is present and develop ways of working with what comes into awareness to create effective, intentional responses. By using mindfulness this way, it makes sense and becomes very useful.
As a therapist, mother, daughter, partner, and seeker, I am always on the journey toward a more peaceful, authentic life. I hope to share knowledge, insights, and the ongoing unknowns I find along the path...