Silence the Mind with Mindfulness Therapy
Practice mindfulness every day to improve your sense of wellbeing.
What if you could feel calm regardless of what is happening to your body? What if you could feel a sense of contentment and peace inside? And what if you took this tool with you everywhere you go?
Mindfulness is a practice which provides just this, a way to stay in the present moment, engaging in life and living life as fully as you can. Notice that it is called a practice. In mindfulness training, we learn to guide ourselves to a quiet place and simply sit, allowing our thoughts to come and go, without getting attached to them. Thoughts are not our reality; they are of our brain. But sometimes we act as if our thoughts are our entire world.
In this busy world, we are increasingly distracted by so many activities- our cell phones, text messaging, the internet, daily chores, the list goes on and on. Have you ever said to yourself “I do not know where this day went- what did I do all day? Chances are you were busy but your mind was not truly engaged in your environment, people around you or the value of the tasks. Mindfulness can enrich our days and help us see and appreciate the things in life that add meaning and richness. Do you smell the flowers as you walk by? Do you notice the delicate drops of dew on the leaves in the morning? Did you see the sunset or notice how the light and shadows dance across the room? Did you notice the smile or kind gesture of a stranger walking by? This presence or awareness is also mindfulness.
Mindfulness helps us find the simple things in life that add meaning, joy or value.
To get a taste of mindfulness, we will try a simple exercise. In this exercise we will move through some simple changes in position while sitting in a chair. You will explore how your body feels and where your mind’s thoughts wander… try this exercise (click here). Leaning forward in the chair is like the state of anxiety. Our thoughts take us out of our bodies, into the future that doesn't yet exist. In this state, we catastrophize about our future. It is the state of constant worry. We grip, grab, yearn, have urges and desires. Leaning back is like living in the past. Ruminating over what we should have done, sometimes scolding ourselves. This state of mind generates depression. However, sitting relaxed in the middle is "just right." In mindfulness training, we learn what is called "the Middle Way". Training our minds and bodies to sit quietly and accept whatever comes is a powerful antidote to depression and anxiety. Besides, the practice creates contentment. To be peaceful, we have to begin with feeling peace inside.
For some of us, sitting still can bring on a re-emergence of symptoms. Experiencing these symptoms, such as tremor, thoughts that I might be getting worse, are also to be accepted. Just simply notice the symptoms, accept them and focus once again on your breathing. Following your breathing can be like surfing. You lie on the board of breathing as you watch a swell approach (such as a symptom re-emerging), feeling comforted by the surfboard of breathing under you, supporting you. You stand up on the board to ride the wave, staying right in front of the crest, not being wiped out by the power of the wave, but riding it. Soon the wave subsides and we rest on the board. We feel the exhilaration of riding the wave and not succumbing to it.
The practice of mindfulness can be summarized by the saying "pain is inevitable, suffering is optional." All of us experience pain, either physically or emotionally. No one is immune. But suffering is something within our control. We hear about mindfulness all the time now. Because of scientific data that shows mindfulness practice related to changes in the brain and neural pathways, it is being taken seriously as an integral part of medical treatment. Early evidence of the benefits of mindfulness includes the ability to cope better with chronic pain and life-threatening illness. More recently, we are finding that mindfulness is a powerful tool for use with Parkinson's disease, stress-related disorders, burnout, addictive disorders, incarceration, eating disorders, and as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioral therapy.
But to really benefit, you have to carve out time to practice. If you want to learn more about mindfulness, a good start is Pema Chodron's CD or book, When Things Fall Apart
. It's a powerful and engaging story which will leave you inspired. Quiet Mind
by Susan Piver will also introduce you to the concept of mindfulness. It's a small and simple book which includes a CD of different forms of meditation so that you can try them for yourself and see which ones fit. Experience is the best teacher here. Your experience is something no one else can take away from you. And there's no right way. In mindfulness, learning to accept yourself just as you are, and in the process, learning to accept others, is part and parcel of the practice.
Learn more about the powerful role your mind plays in health and wellness in the Mind Power series:
The Power of a ‘Sugar Pill’. We review the mysteries of the ‘placebo effect’ and how this shapes our understanding of research and treatment effects.
Find your Sugar Pill. ‘If you believe it, it will happen’. The placebo effect is not all bad. Learn easy strategies to harness you placebo effect.
Glass Half Full Think positive. Positive thoughts encourage positive moods leading to positive activities.
Turn to Take a moment to relax, for more information on the power of the mind, relaxation and techniques to help.
Author: Jan Fite, PhD. Clinical Psychologist at the University of Washington. Dr. Fite uses mindfulness therapies to help people improve symptoms of chronic disease such as pain and live their best with these symptoms.