The Mindful Mend
Maybe you've heard the term "mindful" being used to describe a tool that someone is striving to use in order to better themselves. "I'm just trying to be more mindful" they'll say, leaving you wondering "what the heck?"
Mindfulness can be described as a practice that seeks to focus one's attention to the present moment while keeping the ever busy "monkey mind" from swinging from place to place. Though it may sound easy, it can be frustrating at times. The experience of settling the mind may be similar to how you feel when you take your dog for a walk. You want her to pace with you but instead get pulled and stopped as she reads every story in the grass with her nose.
Our thoughts can be like that too. Instead of focusing on what is before us, our they are racing to other places, time and imaginations. Some of us are so skilled at developing stories in our heads that we may even begin to feel the emotions and sensations in our bodies as if it were happening in real time. With heart racing and adrenaline pumping, we can find ourselves living in the mind more than our own reality. While as humans, we are 'wired' to do this as a means to stay safe, it can often rob us of the interactions and joy before us.
Over time, the practice of mindfulness can help us mend our anxiety, depression, and sense of overwhelm. It is a discipline that brings with it the gift of freedom and presence. It can help develop a greater sense of connection to both ourselves and others.
Notice I've used the word "practice" as mindfulness is something each of us will grow in over time as we exercise and rehearse. Here are a few tips to get started:
From time to time, just notice your breath and the sensation of breathing. Pay attention to the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe. Feel the air flow in and out. Notice the pace and rhythm of your breathing.
Take time each morning to meditate for 5-10 min. It may help to set a timer on your phone and even listen to relaxing music. Begin by breathing in through your nose as you count to 3 and out your mouth as you count to 5. Any time your mind wanders, which it will, gently direct it back to your breath. At some point you won't need to count, but in the beginning it helps to focus the mind.
Throughout your day, when your mind begins to drag you to other places (to the past or future, real or imagined, pressured or escaping) intentionally ground yourself by using your senses. Notice something by touch, by sight, and by sound in your space.
When experiencing stress, take 3 deep cleansing breaths with hand on heart (breathing in the nose for 5, hold for 2, and out the mouth for 7) and slow down.
Finally, without judgement, notice where your thoughts tend to take you. Observe patterns without being critical of yourself. Like a good scientist, this will be an important step to direct and inform your process of growth.