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    « If it hurts don't call love | Main | No need to judge everything »
    Thursday
    Sep062012

    Mindfulness

    Mindfulness is a practice of mind -- it is remembering and being mindful of one's being. Mindfulness can be thought of as a kind of meditation actively practiced throughout the day, whether or not one practices formal sitting meditation.

    Our experience of ourselves in mind is how we know ourselves, it is the basis of our sense of who we are, our self-idea. In the same way that we need a mirror to see our face, we need a mental and emotional reflection of ourselves (in the mirror of our mind) order to appreciate who and what we are as beings in the world.

    When we practice being consciously reflective of ourselves in a positive, appreciative way, we are mindful of our self as worthy, as valued, and we feel good. When we are mindless, distracted, critical of self, lacking in positive self reflection, we are "mindless," empty -- we focus away from ourselves, we feel a lack, a sense of being needy -- we feel something is missing. It is. What's missing is our appreciative sense of ourselves. This leaves us feeling insecure and vulnerable, and so we look outside of ourselves for validation -- we look to others, to the world around us, for some sense of who we are and what we are worth.

    Small children are naturally mindful, naturally "full of themselves." You were, too, when you were a little one.

    In seeking to understand mindfulness, it may help to consider it’s opposite: mindlessness

    Mindless means living without a conscious, deliberate sense of knowing and appreciating oneself. Mindless means desperately striving; living anxiously, constantly seeking to achieve something in order to feel worthy. It means feeling empty, insufficient, and consequently seeing what is lacking in everything. It means needing to prove, defend or justify oneself to others. Mindless means being reactive—helplessly driven by external events, without a strong, authoritative sense of being.

    The practice of mindfulness, on the other hand, means learning to tune into, to feel and connect deeply with what is best in ourselves -- feeling pleasure in knowing and being ourselves; it means consciously and deliberately feeling a sense of being enough, and sensing the possibilities in everything; recognizing what is good -- in ourselves and in the world, and actively cultivating an attentive, open, forward-looking, intentional, participatory way of being in our everyday life. It means relearning, step by step, to be present as oneself, and in turn, learning to be authentically present in the lives of others. It means conscious, deliberate appreciation of our experience of being in this world.

    The practice of mindfulness helps us be more present to ourselves and our experience, and reminds us of what really matters -- enjoying our time in this world. It also helps us cultivate many virtues, among them openness, perspective, freedom, joy and a strongly felt sense of being grounded and authentic.

    Mindfulness is not detachment, nor is it quietism; it is not self-discipline of any kind; it is not learning to be patient with suffering.  It is learning to move beyond suffering by tapping into the essential joy that is always present at our core. It is learning to connect more fully with our larger self -- our larger being in the world.

    Real mindfulness is not inward -- it takes us outside our small sense of self, and leads to greater involvement in life -- including a deeper sense of understanding ourselves and others, a greater sense of flow and abundance, a more complete sense of loving and being lovPracticeed, and a real sense of being grounded and totally at home in this world.

    To be aware of self is to feel joy. Mindfulness without joy is a restrained, "neutralized" sense of self-in-the-world, self-in-experience. Cultivating a "neutral" sense of mindfulness is preferable to cultivating a critical sense of mindfulness, but it is still focused on "lack." It would be far better to cultivate and feel a sense of self-delight, self-appreciation, the way we did naturally as children.

    Cultivating Mindfulness: Aids to Practice

    Reduce Stress and Tension By Enjoying Your Self More
    Do more of the things you love to do -- choose to do them deliberately, intentionally, and enjoy the fact that you are doing them. Do them for no other reason than that they feel good. Try to choose things that involve more creativity, more participation on your part. Pick things that are different than what you typically do for work. TV, movies, books, magazines, newspapers, surfing the Internet are all right in themselves, but don’t usually aid in the practice of mindfulness. It's too easy to lose yourself in them.

    Learn to Simply Observe, Without Judgment
    Set aside quiet time to pay attention to your inner experience, your current ideas—self-talk, feelings, mental pictures, sensations. Try to observe what’s going on inside you without getting too caught up in the experience. Practice welcoming whatever is there in you inner experience. Be willing to let thoughts, feelings and sensations come and go without clinging to them or trying to push them away.

    Use Simple Descriptions
    Practice putting your experience into words. Describe what’s going on as if you were telling yourself about it in a simple, matter of fact way, without it having mean something, without it being "significant." Just say what's there -- stay very close to the actual experience without elaboration. Simply welcome and allow yourself to acknowledge what's there, and see it for what it is, the passing mood of the moment: "I just felt sad," or "My arms feel heavy," or "I’m thinking I have to say something." Like it's no big deal. Learn to call emotions and feelings by name: anger, sadness, joy, etc. Observing and identifying your feelings will help you understand your inner motives, the reasons you do the things you do.

    Learn To Be More Accepting and Welcoming of Your Experience
    Being non-judgmental means setting aside our biases and "opinioneering" and approaching situations instead with an open mind, willing to learn.
    Try to observe situations without judging or evaluating -- try to separate your judgments and opinions from the actual experience of the situation. Or you might ask yourself: "Do I really need to 'weigh in' on this? Can I just let it be?"
    Take part in things without being critical, without finding fault, as if you were experiencing things for the very first time and had no point of comparison. See the world more with the "eyes of a child."
    Being non-judgmental begins with silencing verbal criticism, and deepens when we let go of criticism in our hearts, but must eventually extend to not needing to criticize or complain at all. It doesn't feel good to find fault, and it doesn't help.
    If you do catch yourself judging, don’t add to it by criticizing  yourself for doing it. Just let it go. Start over.

    Be of One Mind
    Try to do only one thing at a time. Don’t "multitask." When you are eating, eat, when you are working, work, and so on. Practice giving whatever you do your whole attention.

    Remember What's Important to You
    From time to time, think about your purposes, motives -- why you're doing things, what matters most to you. Make sure it's actually what's important to you, not what seems to matter to everyone else.

    Pay close attention to what actually feels better in each situation, rather than just follow what you think you're "supposed to do." Stay away from ideas of "should" or "right" or "fair" and focus instead on approaching things in a way that feels better to you.

    Spend More Time With Yourself
    Actively cultivate a better relationship with yourself -- spend time enjoying being with yourself:  take yourself out on a date, spend some quality time with you. Do things you enjoy doing, and be conscious of yourself enjoying yourself as you do so. Acknowledge what you like about being you.


    Mindfulness has it's beginnings in the ancient practice of yoga, but the modern concept of mindfulness stems more from contemporary reformulations of  East Asian Buddhist teachings and practice. Mindfulness practice  is most closely associated with Theravada Buddhism and Vipassana or "Insight" meditation. The original word for "mindfulness" in sanskrit  is "smrti," usually translated as "recollection," or "remembered."

    Mindfulness is the practice of remembering the self, of being enlightened by all things.

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