MINDFULNESS | 22 AUG 2019
Mindfulness in the now
As a psychologist I have had the opportunity to learn about many life changing skills and strategies and what has stuck out the most, the most beneficial, the most effective and what I believe a fundamental life skill is that of mindfulness – the power of being right here; in the now.
If you watch a child play, they are very much engaged in the present moment, it is us adults who often, inadvertently, contribute to the loss of that skill as we have become immersed in the rush of this modern world. I’ve even noticed myself rushing my children along on the walk to school, yet on reflection observed that they had stopped to ‘smell the roses’ and engage their senses mindfully in this world.
Psychologists provide a vast range of treatments for a vast range of presentations and almost all of these require presence for change to be experienced.
Most of us can relate to being caught up in our own thoughts and feelings, unable to let go of past hurts and experiences or worrying about what the future may behold for us. Many of us can identify our triggers or what has contributed to our current difficulties and others are left wondering –‘where has this come from?’
Yet we carry such a profound power around with us, everywhere we go and often we don’t even realize or utilize it. I’m talking about the power of now. In his book of the same title Eckhart Tolle states that ‘the key is to be in a state of permanent connectedness with your inner body.’ Maintaining our attention in our bodies anchors us to the now. It is harder to get lost in our negative thoughts and live our lives in the past or the future, when we are anchored in the now.
But how do we do this? Marsha Linehan (2015) describes a set of mindfulness skills that, when used routinely, lead us to intentionally living our lives with awareness in the present moment, without judging, rejecting or attaching ourselves to the moment. When we can do this, some people describe it as a sense of freedom, of peace, a weight lifted, a new sense of self. With awareness comes the ability to accept, let go and problem solve.
- Observe – use your senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell) to notice your body sensations and what is happening outside yourself. Eg. Stop for a moment and just listen. Listen to the texture and shape of the sounds around you. Listen to the silences between the sounds.
- Describe – put words on your experience but not interpretations or opinions. Eg. Lie on the ground and watch the clouds in the sky. Find and describe cloud patterns that you see.
- Participate – engage completely in the current moment in whatever you are doing. Eg. Go running, focusing only on running.
- Non-Judgementally – see but don’t evaluate, acknowledge but don’t judge. Eg. Practice observing judgemental thoughts and statements, saying in your mind, ‘A judgmental thought arose in my mind.’
- One-Mindfully – be completely present to this one moment, notice distractions and come back to what you are doing. Eg. Awareness while making tea or coffee. Prepare a pot of tea or coffee. Do each movement slowly, in awareness. Know that your hand lifts the pot by its handle and so on.
- Effectively – do what is needed for the situation you are in. Observe when you start wanting to be right instead of effective. Give up being right and switch to being effective.
The best thing about mindfulness is that it can be practiced any time, anywhere, while doing anything.
So no excuses for being too busy to find time! And the benefits are endless: reduced suffering, increased happiness, increased control of your mind, improved immune responses and increased effectiveness.
As I am writing this blog I am using my senses to engage fully in this experience. I am noticing the warm sun on my shoulders and the wind in my hair. I know my body feels nice when I am outside in the fresh air so with this awareness I have chosen to write this blog by the water in a café. I am noticing the trees moving in the wind and the way the letters appear on the screen as I type. I am noticing the aromas as meals are prepared. I am noticing the chair holding me up and keeping me secure as I sit and write. I am noticing the way my fingers move to connect with the correct key to form these words and I am in awe of the way my brain provides the required signals to the rest of my body to make this blog possible. I am observing a feeling of gratitude.
If you or someone you know would benefit from learning more about mindfulness contact us at Shoalhaven Psychology (Shoalhaven and Illawarra) to make an appointment with one of our psychologists.
Linehan, M (2015), DBT Skills Training Manual
Tolle, E (2018), The Power Of Now