- Nicole Bleak
Shared by Michelle Visser: certified mindfulness coach
In the early 1970’s Jon Kabat Zin developed a methodology for practicing Mindfulness to conduct research on the effectiveness of the practice for patients with chronic illnesses in which there appeared to be no medical solutions. The hope was that the practice would allow patients to develop coping mechanisms for co-existing with the physical and emotional difficulties of their condition.
His definition of Mindfulness is: “Present moment, nonjudgemental awareness.”
The ability to be attentive to whatever is happening in the present moment without judging it or becoming distracted can be difficult on a good day. It becomes even more complicated when we feel overwhelmed, hungry, overtired, or overworked. Mindfulness allows us to become aware of how we are feeling and offers anchors in the present to promote the regulation of our nervous system. The goal of Mindfulness is equal parts noticing how things are for you and equal parts taking a few nourishing moments out of the automaticity of your routine. The use of an anchor is focusing on something immediately available to you to keep you in the present moment rather than engaging with typical behavior patterns. Often that is drifting back into the past or striving for the future. The most accessible anchor to utilize is our breath. We are constantly breathing, and we don’t need to remember to bring it with us when we leave home. Using breath can be energizing or relaxing. We just need to be tuned in to what we need, and we can make this determination by becoming quiet in our mind enough to become aware. Early in practicing Mindfulness, you may feel strain in being still for even a minute or two, which is entirely normal. Just like successfully stringing together ten pull-ups or completing Murph, you practiced the movements to achieve your current ability level. It is the same with Mindfulness, and noticing that it is hard to sit quietly for even a minute is being aware of how it is for you right now. We do so many things automatically, without realizing we are doing it. Eating four portions of chocolate when we intended only to eat one Driving to the store and arriving without knowing the route we took Saying that thing that we wish we hadn’t said. We all do it, so there is no particular reason you should judge yourself unduly for having the same habit. How might things be different for you if you could cultivate a sense of awareness about why you do something? Would you possibly feel a greater level of success at the end of your workout if you believed you did the best you could do? Would you be more likely to prepare a satisfying meal if you could view the time preparing as just what I am doing right now? Would you be able to let go of that numbing habit if you could respond to your stress rather than react to it? So while we sit and notice our breath moving in and out of our body, we may hear the sound of air moving through our nostrils. We may feel the expansion or contraction of our belly. We may notice a moment of brief ease because we have successfully allowed our mind to suspend engaging with our thoughts. But you will think, eventually. So you can just notice that as well. What is the quality of your thought? What are your thoughts about? Is there generally a positive or a negative tone to them? Is this part of a regular pattern of thinking for you? Do you notice yourself judging yourself for having thoughts because you believe you are now doing Mindfulness wrong? This is what Mindfulness is not - it is not about doing it perfectly and nailing it. It is about noticing what you are doing or thinking with full non-judgemental awareness.