What is mindfulness?
i. It is focused on the now.
There is a time to reflect on the past, and a time to plan for the future. This time is for the present, to experience what is going on with the now. Just because we don’t think about it, does not mean it does not affect us. Paying attention to it will actually help us manage it more.
ii.It is experiencing the now through our sense. The now could be the external world, or our inner world of thoughts and emotions.
a. We use our smell, touch, hearing, sight, taste and our minds to experience the external world.
For example think about the room you are in. What does it look like? What does the air smell like? What does the chair that you are sitting on feel like? Before you have an opinion on what it is – think about this process as a conscious information gathering process using your senses.
b. Use your mind to explore your inner world.
For example: What are the thoughts, feelings and sensations going on inside of you? What does that anger feel like? Is there sadness?
Start to recognize what is going on inside and allow yourself to accept what you are experiences. Acceptance here does not mean the thoughts are helpful or even accurate, it is just acknowledging that you think these things and feel these feelings.
- How to be mindful.
- Mindfulness is about noticing and acknowledging how things are at the moment. Whether you are happy or upset in the moment, whether you are still or rushing, whether you are tired or energized. It is noticing what you are going through and accepting your state. Your state is not the situation. Being mindful does not mean you are fatalistic, but rather you understand what you are going through at the moment. For instance you could be feeling depressed and hopeless. Rather than being overwhelmed by the feeling, take a step back and understand what you are feeling. Acceptance does not mean that the situation will never change, it just means, that you accept that it is what it is right now. It may be different tomorrow.
- Coming back to the present. You will find your mind wondering, judging, conceptualizing, storying. Come back to the now self. Explore this moment with curiosity, intention and kindness.
iii. For now, be here.
Situations will change, sometimes for the better and sometimes out of necessity. For this moment, take a minute to be here, whereever you are and to see things from a place of stillness and calmness. It may feel like you are in a storm, so be in the eye of the storm just looking at things and yourself before you step out again. This allows you to gain a perspective on what is going on, experiencing without fixing, and recognizing without judging.
And so as you start your mindfulness exercise, remember that you may be distracted. This is common and normal. Distraction or a wondering mind is not a failure. It just is. Notice that your mind is wondering, and patiently and compassionately come back to the here and now.
If you are ready to give this a try, you can try this exercise from The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook :
Take three or four deep diaphragmatic breaths. Notice how the breath feels in your throat, as it fills your lungs, and as it stretches your diaphragm. While breathing slowly, notice how you feel inside your body, particularly your stomach and chest. Notice your neck and shoulders and face.
Now notice how you feel emotionally. Just keep your attention on the feeling till you have a sense of it. Describe that feeling to yourself. Label it. Notice the strength of the feeling. Find words to describe the intensity. Notice if the emotion is growing or diminishing. If the emotion were a wave, at what point of the wave are you now – ascending on the leading edge, on the crest, beginning to slide down the far side?
Now notice any changes in the feeling. Are there other emotions beginning to weave into the first one/ describe to yourself any new emotions that have appeared. Just keep watching and looking for words to describe the slightest change in the quality or intensity of your feelings.
As you continue to watch, you may notice a need to block the emotion, to push it away. That’s normal, but try to keep watching your emotions for just a little while longer. Just keep describing to yourself what you feel and noticing any changes.
Finish the exercise with a few minutes of mindful breathing – counting your breaths and focusing on the experience of each breath.