Saturday, May 15, 2010

What is Mindfulness?

A large part of my adventures in awareness will involve the practice of mindfulness. When I speak about mindfulness with others I most often get a reaction of confusion or skepticism. "What kind of hippie mumbo-jumbo are you blabbering on about?" I imagine they are thinking.

It may sound ethereal to some but in reality the concept of mindfulness is rather simple. The best way I can describe it is the practice of present awareness. It involves living in the moment and paying attention to the a calm, non-judging way.  This involves becoming aware of your internal stimuli (your thoughts, feelings, and sensations) in relation to your environment, and just letting them be. Just observe and accept.

Mindfulness originated as a Buddhist spiritual practice but has since infiltrated the Western world, especially within the realm of Psychology. Mindfulness has been applied to a variety of mental health issues including: depression, anxiety, pain management, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), ADHD, substance abuse, stress, suicidal behavior, and even weight loss. The therapeutic benefits of mindfulness have been well studied and are gaining momentum in psychotherapy and popular culture. Not only does mindfulness help treat several health issues, but it also enhances overall wellness and satisfaction in life.

My personal reasons for wanting to become more aware and mindful are as follows:

1. I will be more present with others. I believe being present leads to active listening, rich conversation and genuine human connection. Have you ever talked to someone who was not paying attention or seemed unengaged in your conversation? Not very fun is it? This is the kind of behavior I'm trying to avoid.

2. I want to become more familiar with my surroundings. This requires attention and awareness.

3. I do not want to get so caught up in the past or the future, that I do not enjoy the now. If you're in the habit of anticipating the future or on ruminating/reminiscing about the past, you're never really enjoying where you are at.

4. I will be able to dispel negative thoughts and/or anxiety more quickly. By being mindful and simply allowing my feelings to happen and paying attention to my physiology, I will be more efficient at redirecting my focus to more constructive thoughts and feelings.

5. It will help me become more in tune with my senses. I will be able to see more clearly, hear more profoundly, touch more sensitively, taste more fully, and smell more deeply. I will be able to perceive more of what life has to offer my human limits.

6. I will be better at "thinking before reacting". By being aware of my thoughts/feelings etc. I will more carefully consider my reaction to a given situation. Therefore, I'll make wiser choices.

7. I will be able to develop a new vigor for life. By being mindful I can savor the moment, notice things that are novel to me, and appreciate what I have more fully. Enthusiasm for the NOW!

8. I will be more successful with my clients. Not only will I be more adept at being active and present with my clients, but I will be able to teach them what I have learned about mindfulness.

9. I will gain greater satisfaction from my work. By staying in the present moment I will be immersed in my work, rather than anticipating when my shift is over or focusing on the dread I may feel related to an upcoming task.

10. I'll be able to enjoy my free time more. Rather than preoccupying myself with stressors, thoughts of work, or the future, I will be able to relish the moments where I am most content. When a moment may seem dull, I'll see the opportunity to make it exciting!

11. I will be more in touch with "reality" or the existence of multiple realities. When you are mindful, you start to understand that your unexamined feelings/reactions to a situations do not represent ultimate reality. Being in the moment gives you the chance to see things you might not ordinarily see, and break from typical interpretations of the world around you. Less assuming, more observing and questioning.

12. I will learn more about myself, others, and the world around me. I love exploring new knowledge and insights. Awareness is where it all begins.

13. I will be able to make more positive changes for myself and others. Without awareness, areas for growth or improvement cannot be pursued. To solve a problem, you must first know there is a problem.

I'm sure there are other reasons that I have not listed, but this is a good start. Currently I am reading a book called "1,001 Ways to Live in the Moment," which has been helping me begin my awareness adventures. I look forward to sharing my discoveries.

Well I'm off to the next moment! Oh wait, I'm already here.

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