Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than present experience. We are therefore out of touch with reality. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is. ~ Alan Watts

In general, I like to write about what I know, but this blog post will be about what I'm actively learning, and will evolve as I learn more. Mindfulness is something I've always been interested in; I've dabbled, but haven't yet explored it deeply.  That said, I always find myself drawn to, and admiring of people who seem to exhibit qualities like harmony, peace, and groundedness.  When I talk to these people, they often turn out to regularly practice mindfulness in some way.

Stress is a normal part of life.  There's no way to eliminate it, but we do have the power to choose how we respond to it, both physically and emotionally.  A mindfulness practice can help us regulate our responses, and experiences of stress, and come to recognize that everything is in a constant state of change.

My experience of mindfulness:

I like a tiny bit of chaos in my life; in moments of stillness, I want to shake things up, and create movement.  The mindfulness practices that have worked best for me have been moving meditations like yoga, or walking mindfully.  I find that both are stress relievers, mood boosters, and bring my focus into my body and out of my thoughts.  

Trying new things is another way I bring myself to mindfulness; when I can't anticipate what's going to happen, I find myself fully in my body, and engaged with experiences as they happen.

Art and Nature are both means for me to detach from stress, and thoughts, and lose my sense of self in my appreciation of beauty.   

Mindfulness and Trauma:

For some people deep breathing, or focusing inward might be difficult.  This can be particularly true for people who have suffered physical trauma; the body might not feel like a safe place to be.  There are ways to do mindfulness work that take this into account; the focus can be external, as opposed to internal, until the feelings of trauma have been resolved.

Talk therapy might not be enough when working with trauma and stress; the central nervous system can develop conditioned stress responses to any stimulus reminiscent of the original traumatic event.  These triggers can cause people to react immediately to the stimulus, without having time to think about or choose a preferred response.  Often these triggered reactions are self-protective and people come to regret them after the fact.  The body manifests stress well before the conscious mind does; these reaction times can be so rapid that people don't have time to recognize the chain of associations, so they might be left confused as to their own behaviors.  A mindfulness practice can help people learn to slow these reactions down, giving them time to understand what is happening, and choose deliberate and thoughtful responses.

Benefits of a mindfulness practice:

  • Reduced rumination
  • Reduced stress & anxiety
  • Improved working memory & focus
  • Less emotional reactivity
  • More cognitive flexibility
  • Increased relationship satisfaction
  • Increased empathy & compassion
  • Improved quality of life

Mindfulness is great for children, too!

  • It results in better social behavior, and less aggression among peers
  • Improved math skills
  • Less hyperactivity, and fewer ADHD symptoms
  • Significantly lower suspension rates
  • Lower depression and stress scores, and improved well-being