Near the beginning of 2015 I added mindfulness education to my private practice. I teach nearly all my clients about mindfulness, and like the guy in the Hair Club commercials, I use it regularly in my own life, too. And like it has for my clients, it has brought about some significant positive changes in the quality of my life.
What is mindfulness? I like the Psychology Today definition: “…a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
Mindfulness evolved from Buddhist meditation, but it is much more than that. It is a way of living your life fully in the present, free from the regrets of the past and the anxieties of the future. Our thoughts frequently lead to a chain of other thoughts and can pull us out of the moment and launch us into the past or future. You might think “Why did I ever drop out of college?” and that can lead to thoughts like: “It ruined my chances of getting a good job. Now I can’t earn enough to live the way I want.” And so on. Before you know it, you’re mired in regrets, unable to appreciate the good things that are presently a part of your life.
An important aspect of mindfulness is being “nonjudgmental” about your thoughts. Let’s say you have a worrisome thought. Try to consider it as “not important but also not unimportant” as well as “not good but also not bad.” It’s just a thought, a simple construct of your mind. Just kind of there. By not assigning the thought any type of value, positive or negative, you blunt its power to pull you out of the present moment. In fact, you can use that thought as a reminder to focus back on the present moment (like working, enjoying time with a friend or even falling asleep). When you can successfully do this, the thought becomes disorganized and fades from your mind. If you have the same thought a few minutes later, again be nonjudgmental and let the thought be a second reminder to focus back in on what you’re doing in the present moment. If you have the same thought ten times in a row that is ten reminders to focus on the present moment. Learning to be nonjudgmental becomes easy to do with the right mindset and some practice.
I’m a skilled hypnotist so falling asleep is rarely a problem for me, but mindfulness has become my go-to method for falling asleep on those nights when my mind is racing. I simply do a simple meditation on my breathing: mentally saying “in” on the inhale and “out” on the exhale. You’re always breathing in the present moment so it’s a good thing to meditate upon to be mindful. I’m nonjudgmental about any thoughts that occur, using them as reminders to focus back on my breathing and soon I am sound asleep.
I’m also really good at getting rid of a headache, but before I learned mindfulness it took me about thirty seconds to a minute to zap a headache into nothingness. Now I just become nonjudgmental about the headache as it is beginning and it usually fades in less than ten seconds!
If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness, look for books by Jon Kabat-Zinn or Thich Naht Hanh.
If you’d like a FREE copy of my mindfulness breathing meditation recording, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it you!