What is mindfulness and what's so good about it anyway? Bringing mindfulness to your daily life…
Before you read this, pause for a moment and pay attention to what’s going on inside you… Just notice… Don’t judge… Now come back and read this article. There. You’ve done it. You’ve just been mindful.
You have noticed the present moment without judgment and brought yourself back to the task at hand.
Mindfulness is about being present in the moment right in front of you, and noticing your thoughts, feelings and body sensations with acceptance – even if you don’t like them – without judgment or avoidance or latching on. That’s it. Simple, complex and profound at the same time. Simple because you only have to pay attention to one moment at a time. That’s all you ever have really. Complex because the mind typically wanders on it’s own naturally (we dwell on the future or ruminate about the past) and that affects how we think and feel. Profound because the practice of mindfulness can have such a wide impact on how we live our lives – it is the singular most important practice I use personally and professionally that helps my well-being.
As human beings, we all experience all kinds of feelings, thoughts and body sensations. Usually we latch onto the pleasant ones and never want to let go of them (feeling close in a relationship, excitement with something new, the success of winning, etc.). And usually we try to avoid or deny the emotional experiences we don’t like (loneliness, fear, body aches, vulnerability, etc.). While these are normal human reactions, we actually cause ourselves more suffering if we do either extreme. To grasp on to the pleasurable, or to avoid the uncomfortable is to prolong our suffering. And yet, as the Dalai Lama says, “All human beings want to be happy”.
Mindfulness allows you to accept each moment as it is, to be more present, to become more aware and more able to move freely from one moment of life’s experience to the next. With mindfulness skills we learn that everything changes. One experience (or several) of sadness, physical pain, rejection, judgment, etc. does not define us.
By using mindfulness skills you can learn to watch how your mind works and not get so easily bogged down by some storyline (i.e.: “I’m not lovable”, “I’m not good enough”, “I always mess up”). By learning to set yourself free from these negative storylines, you actually can build your resilience and become better at managing your difficult emotions.
Mindfulness is not a promise that you will never feel hurt or angry or anxious again. Indeed it is quite the opposite. Because you are human, you will feel the whole normal range of emotions (including the yucky ones) from time to time throughout your life. But by developing a practice of mindfulness, you will learn to manage your upsetting feelings better and move through them more easily. You will learn to manage your emotions better, rather than them always managing you. You will be able to improve your relationship with your own feelings and thoughts, and have more ease.
Mindfulness involves practicing attention on whatever shows up; finding a way to accept it and let it be; and doing so without judgment toward others or toward yourself, for whatever feelings emerge. So often we make our own suffering worse when we self criticize or condemn ourselves for the feelings we’re having. Not only has our child said something mean to us that hurts our feelings, but we become quite critical at the way we yelled back at them and feel like a bad parent. Or we argue with our partner and often berate ourselves for crying about it. Or we suffer some loss and harshly judge the fact that we can’t get over it. Mindfulness means accepting all feelings that arise, even the difficult, unbearable or distasteful ones.
Mindfulness helps us to develop compassion for ourselves, and all the human experiences we have. This actually works better for us when we are trying to change and do new things. This kind of compassion toward ourselves helps to release us from our shame. Usually we feel if we do bad, we are bad – or unworthy. This shame-inducing practice or mindset of only seeing our sense of unworthiness is to allow ourselves to marinate in a bath of shame. When we feel like this, it actually makes it much harder for us to make desired changes. Mindfulness allows us to see and become aware of this often unrecognized way that our minds work, and in that awareness, to experience freedom from the tyranny of our negative thoughts.
When we have more kind awareness of the negative thinking we might lapse into or the ways we avoid unpleasant feelings, or may only seek out pleasurable experiences, we automatically bring more compassion into our lives – for ourselves, and for others whom we care about. We become more responsive in appropriate ways, rather than being so reactive. We learn to communicate more authentically and with heart in ways that others can more easily hear, which makes it more likely that our needs get met. Mindfulness also helps people to feel more connected and less alienated at work, community and home life.
Mindfulness is best developed with regular daily practice, but doesn’t have to take hours out of your day. Mindfulness could be practiced in a few minutes a day; and around your daily routines. In my next article in this series, I will share some practical and easily accessible ways to bring more mindfulness into your life.
… Now that you’ve read this, take another mindful moment to simply pause; take a deep breath, and notice whatever is present in this moment. What has come into your awareness? How do you feel right now? How is your body experiencing what you just read? Simply notice and let that be…
Congratulations on bringing more mindfulness into your life today!
For more information on my upcoming course to bring more mindfulness into your life please check out the OASIS program here.
For a FREE E-course that brings more calm and less worry into your busy life with mindful practices click here.
Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
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