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Mindfulness for Change Part 3

How has the breathing practice gone for you? Are you practicing becoming mindful of your breathing? Of how you walk, of how you eat, or even of how you hold a pencil? Are you practicing witnessing your thoughts and returning to your breathing? Are you practicing daily?

A friend I bike with complained that she was having trouble with foot cramps. I asked her to notice if she tightened her foot when biking. She found that she was and said that she has never noticed this before. We miss so much of what's really going on in our lives.

As you do mindful practice, you will experience fleeting moments of relaxation. Moments when the mind may be quiet or still for a moment. Keep going, with time these moments will grow. You will become better too at merely witnessing moments in your life rather than experiencing the heart ache, stress and worry that so many of us feel today.

There is so much that we do in our lives without really noticing it. Learning to be aware, to be present offers us so much.

As we cut through our self-deception, we start to encounter feelings and emotions that may be uncomfortable if not down-right painful. Yet these feelings can be welcomed as signs of places where we are stuck. They are places where we can move forward if we choose to stay in the uncomfortable place.

Normally we work hard to protect ourselves from emotions that we sense will be painful; this allows them to solidify. But by staying with our painful emotions we can catch ourselves before we harden our feelings into ones that are deeper and more troubling.

This hardening is like building a maze, and while we may get lost in there, its familiar. Its what we've mostly done since we were very young. As I write this, I imagine that some are thinking: "Staying with my painful emotions? No thank you! I'd rather keep doing what's familiar. At least I'm very good at it."

But, staying at this level means that we stay at the level of the maze. We can't see a way out. We can only keep going along and usually we wind up building it further.

By slowly turning towards our feelings and staying with them even for a little while, we find that we can face what there is to face. That we are not consumed by the feelings and that by doing so, we start to get out of the maze. Gradually, we find that mindfulness lifts us up above the maze so that we can see our way out.

For this week, spend five minutes each day focusing on distractions.

1. Begin by getting into your breathing/meditating posture, take three deep breaths and settle into awareness of your mind.

2. If a pleasant feeling comes, notice that. If you wish it would last, notice that.

3. Do other things come into your mind, like a barking dog, a noise someone makes, an unpleasant thought or feeling or worry? Do they interrupt a pleasant feeling, leaving you feeling upset or critical? If so, just observe that process.

4. Do find yourself upset, or growing irritable, thinking that you can never stay happy or peaceful long enough? Or maybe you believe you can't be successful at mindful meditation because anxiety, worry or saddness come? If so, just observe how easily your mind slides into judgement about its self.

5.Try to connect to a sense of love and self-acceptance. Bring the warmth of that love into your heart and let it flow through-out your body. Notice this.

6. Continue to notice whatever happens, coming back to your breathing and the present moment.

We'll talk more in the coming weeks about staying in uncomfortable spaces, acceptance and compassion. As always, feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.

Dave Marks, LCPC 847-299-3400