Mindfulness

You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf.” -Jon Kabat-Zinn

The past few weeks have been difficult for my family. It was our first Thanksgiving since my parents passed away. We decided to skip it this year, it was too difficult. Instead, we sat in our pj’s and watched movies. I took some time to think of all that I had to be thankful about, there are boundless things and people whom I am thankful for. I am mostly grateful for my parents and their gifts of discipline, faith, compassion and their love of family. We will forever cherish one another because of how they raised us.

So while I mourn my parents, I also need to honor them by being the best wife, mother, sister, friend that I can be. So I sit, I reflect, I am mindful of the pain, but I’m also mindful of all they have given me. I am grateful for their love and that will never leave me.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, a mindfulness expert, uses the ancient metaphor of the ocean to describe how mindfulness works. The entirety of our mind is deep, it’s vast and intrinsically still and quiet, like the debts in the ocean. There are times in life when the waves are dangerously rough, but if we learn to sit still and get a hold of our thoughts, we can ride through the waves.

Mindfulness is a practice, it’s all about being. Mindfulness helps you find your way, it allows you to listen to your heart, listen to your own yearning. Just begin by paying attention to your mind, really get to know it, be present, so when you are stirring the pot, or washing the dishes, just do that, be mindful of it. Whatever you are doing, do it with awareness. Dive underneath your pain, your anxiety, your anger and you will find awareness capable of holding it all and knowing “this is anxiety, It’s going to be ok”. When we actually believe our negative thoughts we spiral into anxiety and depression. Change your thought pattern and you can change your entire life. When you become aware of your negative thoughts, you have power over them. Zinn says that mindfulness is the gateway into the full dimensionality of being human of being alive. Without it you miss a lot.

I try to be mindful as much as I can. I often find it easier when I walk in nature. Mindfulness is not meditation, you don’t have to sit still for a period of time in order to be mindful. It’s just the practice of being present. Try it and you will realize that you are not your thoughts, but the awareness of your thoughts. It will change your life.

You can learn more by picking up Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Mindfulness for Beginners.

Alone with your thoughts

 

270da806342c7c384426912c88f3dd18Who are you when you are alone? Most importantly, are you able to be alone? Completely alone, without any noise? No television, no radio, no books. Are you able to be completely alone with your thoughts? I’m not talking about when you are alone and busying yourself with cleaning, cooking, reading or working. Can you just sit still by yourself and be with your thoughts?

If you can’t, then that should be your mission this year. Just to be ALONE with your THOUGHTS.

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About two years ago I met someone whom I now consider a spiritual mentor. He suggested that I spend al least 20 minutes a day alone. He asked me to listen to my thoughts. I had never been asked to LISTEN to my thoughts. I found it strange but I was willing to try it.

The first time I sat in silence with my thoughts was extremely uncomfortable. It’s not meditation, it’s just being present, in tune with the “movie” playing in my head. We all play movies in our heads. We don’t even know that we are doing it but we do it all the time. We play conversations we’ve had with others. We think about how we could have said things differently. We repeat words of criticism from others or even from ourselves over and over again.

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Sit down, with a journal. Spend twenty minutes writing freely. That means write whatever you are thinking without worrying about spelling, punctuation or jumping from one thought to another. Just write continuously for twenty minutes every day for a month. Don’t look at it, just close the journal as soon as you are done writing. After a month, read your journal. That is how you will see what your subconscious is focusing on. You will see the pattern of your thoughts. Once you know what your focusing on,  you can change it by replacing it with positive thoughts.

There, that’s the amazing piece of information I have been given through my religion, my spirituality, my mentor. I hope that it helps you as much as it has helped me and continues to help me.