Mindfulness: It's Not All in Your Head ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Mindfulness, by helping us notice our impulses before we act, gives us the opportunity to decide whether to act and how to act. Gil Fronsdale
Would you like to be able to notice your thoughts, and not be controlled by them? How about occasionally doing nothing, rather than always doing something? Would you like to do one thing with focus and rapt attention, instead of always doing two or more things somewhat haphazardly? What about seeing things as they are without judging them?
If you've said yes to any of these questions, mindfulness is for you. The attitudes of mindfulness sound simple and make sense but require a bit of practice. Kabat-Zinn, my mindfulness guru, identifies these seven:
BEING or NON-STRIVING. Being without doing is an important lesson to take from mindfulness. It's about slowing down, taking time to just breathe and focus and learning how to be with yourself without distraction. It feels good to check in with yourself now and again. High performers worry this will decrease productivity, but non-striving boosts energy by boosting positive emotions.
NON-JUDGING. How you view the world and yourself affects what you're able to do in a crisis, or for that matter, in a simple conversation. Are you aware of your beliefs and biases? Can you take in another person as they really are, without coloring your perceptions with your predetermined beliefs? It's a lot easier to like and accept people, and yourself, when you're not constantly judging them against your internal standards of right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate, good and bad. Being curious and interested, without judging, is calming.
ACCEPTANCE or AWARENESS. Being aware of one's thoughts rather than letting them define us is key. Allowing thoughts to define us, we think: I am anxious, or, I am afraid; oh no! When simply aware we think: I am having anxiety provoking thoughts; how interesting. This is the ability to notice one's thoughts rather than be consumed by them. It's about stopping the need to immediately act on them in order to stop or prolong them. Acceptance takes the sting out of negative emotions.
LETTING GO or NON-ATTACHMENT. After acceptance it's calming to let go. We might have a nagging, unpleasant thought, or a situation that does not go as we'd like. Knowing we don't have to try to change things all the time frees up energy for other pursuits.
BEGINNER'S MIND. As yoga instructors like to remind us, you're practicing with the body you've come in with today. This involves letting go of our expectations for how things were yesterday, ought to be today or might be tomorrow. Forget your opinions and desires and be open to seeing things as they are right now.
TRUST. This is about trust in yourself, your feelings and your intuition. How often do you find yourself saying, if only I'd trusted my intuition I'd have done...differently? Try it. You may find you can trust in others more easily when you follow your own wisdom.
PATIENCE. Patience is about knowing that things will happen in their own time and cannot be rushed. Patience helps us connect with the present and reduces anxiety. Next time you're in a rush, ask yourself, what's the hurry?
Cultivating mindfulness involves practicing these skills. You can pick one and try it three times a day; morning, noon and night take a moment to be aware of your thoughts and accept them without trying to change them. Or choose two and see how you can practice them in novel ways; practice patience by walking more slowly and deliberately for a day. Or practice being by sitting quietly for 5 minutes DOING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
In the explosion of research on mind-body connections, there's been a great deal of focus on mindfulness. It's been shown to improve health and wellness in a variety of domains.The research has spoken on mindfulness: it's not all in your head.
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