Are you someone who deals with stress, busyness, or any amount of burnout that affects your physical energy and enjoyment of life? I am betting most of us can relate! One of the available techniques to address this widespread condition is mindfulness. Maybe you have heard a bit about this practice, originating from ancient Eastern meditation, but maybe this is a totally new idea for you to uncover. The easiest way I have found to describe mindfulness is to say it is "an intentional focus on one's current experience in the present moment, in a non-judgmental way". This broad definition actually opens up a world of possibilities for us all to explore and utilize in our own unique lives. This is not a cookie cutter prescription, but a garden of freshly tilled soil ready for your planting. So the answer to the above question: "Could it Work for You?' is a resounding Yes!! Let me tell you why.
1. It is so Simple! Mindfulness means paying attention to what is happening in the present moment. We are all capable of doing this, we just become easily distracted by many thoughts of the past and future along with the ongoing inner critique that we all know too well. By practicing the act of noticing and observing the present moment, we drastically simplify the hectic pace that spins inside and around us. This may take the shape of a more formal mindfulness meditation practice, in which you sit for as little as 5-10 minutes daily and train the mind to pay attention to the in and out flow of your breath. I like to compare this to a wet rag wiping a full chalk board clear of all its layers of writing and marks. You walk away with a "clean slate", refreshed and clear to engage each approaching moment. You can also use this technique as an ongoing interaction with the moments of your day: mindfully walking, eating, sitting, working, playing. Each is an opportunity to participate more fully with your own physical body, sensations, emotions, and relate more closely to your activities and the people around you. If you think of someone in your life who was an extremely good listener, they were practicing mindfulness whether they knew it or not. Instead of being distracted or "absent" in their listening, they where "being present". That is why you remember them as a good listener! They weren't judging or anxious or distracted, but simply continued to pay attention. All it takes is willingness and a little consistent practice. Just as a child learns a new habit such as daily brushing teeth and dressing themselves, this habit of mindfulness can be adopted gradually into your unique lifestyles.
2. It Really Works! There are more and more studies each year showing the benefits of mindfulness. It has been proven to decrease tension related pain, blood pressure, anxiety and depression, while improving the immune system, memory, creativity and energy levels. The method for bringing about these changes is through simplifying the mental focus to the present and triggering a relaxation response as the mind realizes the body and current circumstances in an accepting and nonjudgmental way. What does this mean? It means that the way you view yourself and the events happening around you is so impactful to the overall health and function of your mind and body. Are you harsh and critical? Do you hold yourself up to impossible standards? Or, do you show yourself and others grace. Do you view self-care as a requirement to your quality of life? Do you work in cooperation with yourself and others, on the same team, or always at odds and striving to force a change.? These are all questions to ask yourself that will help you become aware of how you can promote a habit of being nonjudgmental. Remember, returning your focus to the current experience and self-acceptance breeds calm and affects the body on every level.
Tools to Use: Your breath is one of your Greatest Tools! Every inhale and exhale is available to you as a reminder and ongoing practice for living in the present! Your five senses are always waiting to connect you to the current moment: what do you hear, smell, taste, see, and feel?? The Natural World around you is a constant conversation with the present. Simply noticing the day's weather, the sound of nature and the movements displayed through creation will guide us all into the right now! And finally, your attitude towards yourself will help sustain your dwelling in the present. Develop and cultivate the beliefs that you are valuable, worth taking care of, and created by and for love! Enjoy the adventure of encountering the moments of your life!! Every single one of them is precious and meant to be experienced and encountered as only you can.
Mary Gilliam, PT, MHS, CPI, CYI
Co-Owner of Arts and Wellness of Edenton