Mindfulness

by Julie Kiewatt

Part I

There are two modes of mind: being and doing. The doing mode is what most of us live in; we run around hurrying to accomplish tasks and thoughts are racing through our heads. The being mode is also called mindfulness; this mode is the feeling and experiencing mode. These two modes can be likened to taking a trip; the doing mode is hurrying to get to the destination while the being mode is enjoying the journey to the destination.

The concept of Mindfulness is derived from ancient Buddhist and Yoga practices and is often called Presence. The word Mindfulness means remembering in Sanskrit; in Buddhist texts this is referred to as the awareness that accompanies thoughts and actions…the awareness that is aware of itself.

Mindfulness is a state of being rather than doing; it encourages being a part of the experience rather than finding a way to get rid of it. We often are frustrated that we feel a certain way and this just adds to the problem rather than resolving it. Fighting a problem just causes more tension in the body and conflict in the mind.

Mindfulness is an intent to be aware of the present moment without judgment. It is an awareness of the mind, body, and soul. Mindfulness cannot be achieved immediately; it needs to be cultivated by practicing certain skills such as paying attention intentionally, noticing reactions to people and events, and practicing reacting with compassion. These skills are typically practiced through breathing exercises, yoga movements, body scans, and meditation.

Meditation is a way to bring attention to the “being” mode of mind. Breathing is the focus of the meditation and the idea is to keep the focus on the breath instead of on thoughts. If thoughts take over, it is important to refocus on the breath and to not get discouraged that other thoughts arose. Meditation allows us to notice all of the sensory input that is typically ignored. We start to notice tightness is certain areas of our body and are able to choose to relax them. We start to notice what thoughts come into our mind and when. If we can learn to recognize our stress through our body’s reaction to it, we can then begin to calm stress through the body. Once the body is calmed the mind is able to see a situation for what it is rather than resenting having to deal with it. This is all very important in the overall picture of mindfulness as that is what we hope to carry with us even outside of the meditative process.

Once mindfulness is practiced, people find that anxiety and depression fall away without effort. Conflicts that were once enough to throw us off our path are now only a little bump in the road. Mindfulness brings peace, happiness, and fulfillment.

The practice of mindfulness has changed the way that I live my life and is integrated into my work with clients. Everyone can benefit from this practice! If you have any questions about Mindfulness Training or wish to experience it, please call 406.471.6508. Arima… a mind, body, and soul approach to emotional health.

Part II

Last month we discussed the concept of mindfulness and how it can change our lives. A brief recap: Mindfulness is a state of being rather than doing; it encourages being a part of the experience rather than finding a way to get rid of it. Mindfulness is an intent to be aware of the present moment without judgment. It is an awareness of the mind, body, and soul. In the world of Psychology, Mindfulness was introduced by John Kabat-Zinn but has also been called Presence by Eckhart Tolle in his books A New Earth and The Power of Now, and Mindsight by Daniel Seigel in his books Mindsight and Parenting from the Inside Out.

How can we practice this presence of mind? First we must really understand what it is! So we have all experienced driving from one place to another and then not remembering anything from the drive? This is because our mind is busy with thoughts of other things rather than on experiencing the present moment. That is the opposite of mindfulness!

Practicing Mindfulness

First I want you to sit or lie comfortably and perform a body scan. A body scan is when you breathe deeply and slowly feel through your body, assessing any tightness or pain, or even just noticing that you are relaxed. When you perform the body scan and notice tightness and stress, then choose to let go of that tightness. If you have trouble noticing tightness in your body start with your hands and notice how they feel. Then squeeze them tightly into a fist for two or three seconds and release. Do you notice how much more relaxed they now feel? You can do this with all parts of your body until you feel relaxed and connected… meaning aware of your body. Your body will tell you when you are stressed if you listen to it! So now that you have completed the body scan and have relaxed your body, notice your thoughts. What comes to mind? Are you hoping that no one is looking at you? Are you wishing someone else was there? Are you thinking about what you’ll eat for lunch? Notice these thoughts and let go of any judgments you make of yourself because of them. Thoughts and feelings are just passing through and do not define who you are.

Another way to become aware of your body and thoughts is by eating something, let’s say a cracker. Sit in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Slowly place the cracker in your mouth and notice everything about it. The texture, the taste, the sound it makes as it crunches under your teeth. Notice the way it changes as you continue to chew and the way it moves around in your mouth. Pay attention to the muscles that are being used and every thought you have about eating the cracker.

Exercises such as the mindful eating of a cracker and the body scan will help you to experience mindfulness. If we can practice mindfulness even once a day for a few minutes, we begin to be more aware of our mind and body. As this change occurs, we are able to keep ourselves from over reacting, take a break when needed, and see things objectively. With practice, anxiety, stress, and depression can slowly be removed from your life as mindfulness begins to move into all aspects of your life.

Many have trouble practicing mindfulness by themselves. As a counselor, I integrate mindfulness into sessions with clients and they actually see permanent changes come about. Rather than just talking about what is wrong, we can actually change the way you perceive it!

If you have any questions or are interested in mindfulness, please contact me at 406-471-6508. Namaste.