Likely you’ve heard the term mindfulness (or meditation) and maybe you have some ideas about it and that it’s good that mindfulness exists in the world. There’s a place for it out there. But what about with you, what might mindfulness do for you?
What researchers know is that mindfulness helps people manage stress, anxiety, and pain, increases compassion for others, helps develop mental flexibility, and even increases happiness.
!! How can all that be possible?
The path is through self-awareness. This means noticing in a very concrete way what you are experiencing in this moment in time with total acceptance. You’re aware of sights, sounds, events and also what’s happening inside you: physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts.
Perhaps that sounds simple. Yet it’s challenging. If you try to focus for just 60 seconds on the sensations of breathing, you’ll notice how instead of staying with that feeling of chest rising and falling and so on, your mind flits about. It begins to plan, to remember, to judge, to be critical… in short to whirl away in this place that isn’t really your existence.
This is the way most of us operate all the time. We are only partly in this moment of life, a consequence of which is that we are detached from real connection with others, and significantly from ourselves.
“We all create a certain kind of story about ourselves,” says mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn, “and then proceed with our lives without realizing that, in so doing, we’ve removed ourselves from the actuality of living itself.” He says that we get so wrapped up in this story that: “we lose what’s best and deepest in ourselves. That creates a huge amount of suffering and alienation.”
The way back is to look in.
As we notice, non-judgmentally, what we are experiencing, we are able to create a little space from the judgment. For instance, perhaps you notice how you feel anxious about an upcoming event at work. Then you notice an internal voice that belittles you for feeling anxious about “such an insignificant thing.” As you watch this experience, you are less caught in it (and so less reactive), which means you are less subject to its pain.
You start seeing the patterns of your thoughts, and you see that your thoughts and emotions pass. They begin to pull you less. This, says Kabat-Zinn, means that you have: “more ways of seeing that are fresher, and that you’re less likely to be caught in conditioning.”
Gradually your life can become more spacious, stable, calm and open.
That is why mindfulness connects so well with counseling. It’s a tool towards an expanded life, a means for you to have more sense of possibility, which typically brings a greater sense of contentment in living.
I often use mindfulness with clients to this end. If you’re curious about it, need assistance with it, or want more information, please get in touch. I can help.
 Simon, R. & Sykes Wylie, M. (2004 Nov/Dec.) The power of paying attention. Psychotherapy Networker.