Living and working a stone’s throw away from the hustle & bustle and the constant clamor of our nation’s capital, one would think that taking a mindful moment to just…
take a breath…
would leave you trampled and left in the lurches by the army of wheelers, dealers, movers, shakers, and the various forces that keep the D.C. area dynamic and prosperous.
I am sure by now you have heard about MINDFULNESS...a way finding inner balance in a world that can sometimes seem off-kilter. The art of being in the present moment. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? You might have had a little chuckle at the notion. You might have thought to yourself “I’m in the moment, right now. Look at me! This is a moment and I’m in it!” I have to admit that, when I first heard a mindfulness expert discuss the purpose and practice of mindfulness a few years ago, I was a little skeptical. Blame it on the high-energy Darwinist mentality that we all seem to have in this area of the nation. Blame it on the perception that, in order to survive, we need to consistently move forward and be two steps ahead of the game. Blame it on my FOMO if I were to take a moment to be in the present. For whatever reason, I was not completely open to the practice of mindfulness.
Still, like any good therapist (or anyone who just enjoys exploring and learning strategies for cultivating a positive and healthy outlook), I decided to place my hesitations on the backburner and embrace the art of mindfulness. For a month, I etched out time each and every day to practice being in the present moment.
The plan was perfect. Right before bedtime, I took 10 minutes to lay in a comfortable position, to take deep and purposeful breaths, to focus on my senses, and to be in the present moment without distraction. I was hell-bent on reaping the benefits of mindfulness and on taking these benefits back to my clients and students!
Blame it on the mentality of the area in which I reside. Blame it on my own internal interferences. My ‘daily 10 mindfulness month’ ended up being me mindfully responding to emails, checking stocks on my phone, and entertaining the 1000’s of random thoughts and tasks that popped in my head, luring me away from being in the present. Much like a child will do anything and everything to avoid bedtime, my mind was taking on every possible thought and distraction to keep me from simply being in the moment.
I felt an odd sense of validation. Almost happy that my initial thoughts were proven correct. I put away all of my mindfulness research and resources and moved on…for a brief time, at least. Not too long after this mindfail, I received a client with severe anxiety who seemingly had tried every tip, trick, strategy, and practice in the book. Every one, that is, except mindfulness. Although hesitant, we decided to work with on developing mindfulness as a strategy to ease the anxious thoughts. After all, what does not work for some may work for others, and vice versa. It was worth exploring if it meant possibly helping this client live a more joyful and fulfilling life.
We started with deep breathing exercises. We then moved into body scans. We practiced noticing without judgement. We explored sensory and grounding techniques. We practiced being in the moment, letting thoughts drift in and out like the ebb and flow of waves. We listed to mindfulness apps, read articles together, and tracked the impact of mindful practices. Within weeks, my client began gliding into the office, as bright and refreshed as could be. Always with a smile, and increasingly with positive tales of mindfulness moments taken throughout their day. I have to admit that these mindfulness exercises had an impact on me, as well. I found myself utilizing elements of mindfulness in everyday moments. This prompted me to then start a mindfulness movement in my school. Students and teachers alike took Monday Mindfulness minutes, practiced mindfulness after transitions, and were even given mindfulness corners for students to use as needed. It has taken time but, this practice is positively impacting our school climate and even seems to be leaking into our community, as families come to me often with their family mindfulness moments.
So, what did I learn from this? What do I hope you come away with?
You cannot force mindfulness to occur. It does take practice. It does take time. It does take an open mind. These factors do take effort and commitment. But, with a little patience, mindfulness will become second nature in those moments of need. Just as you cannot force happiness or love, you cannot force yourself into mindful moments of clarity and serenity.
With that, I do hope you give mindfulness a shot. Or, another shot if you have already and were not satisfied with the results! I am sure you will find it to be beneficial on many levels. To help jump start your journey into mindfulness, I have added a few of my favorite resources below, both for adults and children. Cheers!
(This portion contains affiliate links, which means I get a small portion of proceeds if you choose to order one of the books listed below directly from my site. If you are interested in any of the books below, please feel free to click the book title to learn more or purchase)
by Ronald D. Siegel
(From book) Mindfulness offers a path to well-being and tools for coping with life's inevitable hurdles. And though mindfulness may sound exotic, you can cultivate it--and reap its proven benefits--without special training or lots of spare time. Trusted therapist and mindfulness expert Dr. Ronald Siegel shows exactly how in this inviting guide. You'll get effective strategies to use while driving to work, walking the dog, or washing the dishes, plus tips on creating a formal practice routine in as little as 20 minutes a day. Flexible, step-by-step action plans will help you become more focused and efficient in daily life; cope with difficult feelings, such as anger and sadness; deepen your connection to your spouse or partner; feel more rested and less stressed; curb unhealthy habits; find relief from anxiety and depression; and resolve stress-related pain, insomnia, and other physical problems. Free audio downloads of the meditation exercises are available at the author's website: www.mindfulness-solution.com. Start living a more balanced life--today.
by Eline Snel
(From Book) Mindfulness—the quality of attention that combines full awareness with acceptance of each moment, just as it is—is gaining broad acceptance among mental health professionals as an adjunct to treatment. This little book is a very appealing introduction to mindfulness meditation for children and their parents. In a simple and accessible way, it describes what mindfulness is and how mindfulness-based practices can help children calm down, become more focused, fall asleep more easily, alleviate worry, manage anger, and generally become more patient and aware. The book contains eleven practices that focus on just these scenarios, along with short examples and anecdotes throughout. Included with purchase is an audio CD with guided meditations, voiced by Myla Kabat-Zinn, who along with her husband, Jon Kabat-Zinn, popularized mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) as a therapeutic approach.
by S.J. Scott
(From book) Feel overwhelmed by your thoughts? Struggling with anxiety about your daily tasks? Or do you want to stop worrying about life? The truth is...We all experience the occasional negative thought. But if you always feel overwhelmed, then you need to closely examine how these thoughts are negatively impacting your lifestyle. The goal of this book is simple: We will teach you the habits, actions, and mindsets to clean up the mental clutter that's holding you back from living a meaningful life.
Sites to check out:
Wonderful website with great tips, projects, scripts, and information on cultivating mindfulness in children.
A non-profit and all-around great site for exploring mindfulness at home, at work, and in all areas of life.
A great starting point for those who want to learn more about and/or incorporate mindfulness into everyday life.
Mindfulness mentor and creator of the Mindful Kind podcast, Rachael provides creative and simple ways to bring mindfulness into your life.
Apps to explore:
Including thousands of meditations led by a number of mindfulness gurus on a variety of topics, calming sounds for moments of reflective stillness, a customizable mindfulness timer, and ways to track your progress, this app highlights your connection to a community of mindfulness lovers by allowing you to log your mindfulness minutes and to see who is currently utilizing the app around the world.
Equipped with a variety of tools to create calmness and ease, this app carries with it a variety of meditations to assist with sleep, daily grounding techniques, and tools for managing levels of high stress or anxiety.
Great for overall stress and anxiety relief, this app includes soothing sounds of nature, a gratitude journal, mood and personal growth tracking, and quick mindful medication & breathing guides.
Great for mindfulness newbies, this app provides education on mindfulness and the science behind its impact. It also includes 30 days free of mindful meditations and activities that relate to a variety of topics.
This app is great for mindfulness “on the go”. It personalizes and customizes the mindfulness experience with specific settings, options for sharing out with a community of kindred mindfulness spirits, and guides that are specific to your needs in the moment. It’s also just visually cool, too.
Up next...THE 4R's OF SPRING!