I recently graduated from the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Foundation Program at Jefferson’s Myrna-Brind Center for Integrative Medicine – another step in my journey to help others just...live.
Mindfulness is not about getting an insta-fix when you're moody. Created by Jon Kabat-Zinn, living mindfully is about being present and aware of what we are feeling, in the richness of right now -- not walking around mind"less"ly thinking about memories of the past or overwhelmed by the "what if" of the future. We can create a conscious life rather than enacting our entire lives on autopilot, and as a result can train ourselves to make choices about how to act, emote, talk, form relationships – all from a space of complete control, guided by a reframed mindset on how to approach situations with kindness and non-reactivity.
At first, this might sound elementary and basic. It is - and that is exactly what is so fascinating. Mindfulness requires openness to exploring a process using full mind/body connection that brings us back to the types of qualities we exercised as children:
Non-judgment of our thoughts, ideas, failures – rather than what tends to evolve in our adulthood as a callused shell or catastrophic filter about our place in the world and things that happen to us.
Patience in allowing things to unfold at their own speed – rather than always hurrying to get somewhere or do something.
Non-striving, referring to the way we can allow ourselves to be at the current place in our journey – rather than spending our entire lives striving to be better, make more money, move to the next job title.
Beginner’s Mind and a genuine curiosity/sense of wonder – rather than ‘taking things for granted’ or letting what we ‘know’ prevent us from seeing things as they really are.
Acceptance to see things as they actually are in the present and being open to that – rather than imposing our own ideas about what we should be thinking or feeling.
The irony in all of this is that while the concepts seem so simple, the act of resetting your mind to think this way is the antithesis of human nature and what we’ve been taught to embrace socially. In this way, the most challenging part to grapple with is what enters our thoughts almost instantaneously when we try to just 'be' – we make quick judgments, assumptions or fabricated stories in our mind about the meaning behind what we’re feeling.
Our thoughts can become negatively powerful if we let them. We're extra hard on ourselves, dwelling on the "why is this happening to me," "I can't," "when will I get better?" But mindfulness teaches us to “gently escort” those stories aside and create a bubble of acceptance for what we notice in each moment. This is the mind’s recipe for self-care.
Intrigued? Stay tuned for more on mindfulness…