30 Jun #BeMindful – A Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness
In my last post, I introduced you to the idea of mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn is the internationally known author leading the mindfulness charge into modern mainstream society. He describes mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” In this post I’ll spend some time on the basics of mindfulness and some of the misconceptions..
To begin, let’s first gather a basis for the mind’s “natural” tendency. More often than not, our thoughts are spent pondering about our past as well as planning for the future. There are a number of theories, but the most likely reason for this instinct is so we can learn from our mistakes and make plans for a better tomorrow. Like a pendulum, the mind swings back and forth between these two “worlds” while intensifying the emotions associated with mulling over the past and fretting about the future.
This is Your Brain on Autopilot
Here’s an example: have you ever driven from Point A to Point B and asked yourself, “how did I just get here?” In those (and countless other) experiences, the brain is essentially on autopilot. If you have had this experience, let me be the first to let you that 1) you unfortunately did not teleport and 2) this is very normal. While it’s nearly impossible to always be in the now, we can (with practice) move from mindless to mindful.
MIndfulness vs. Relaxation
There are a handful of misconceptions about mindfulness, but let’s take a look at one of the most common. Many find that they are intrigued with the idea of mindfulness to help feel more relaxed. Certainly, relaxation is a common side-effect for some people when they engage in mindfulness; however, this is not the intent. Again, as Jon Kabat-Zinn noted, mindfulness is about becoming aware of what’s in the present moment from a non-judgemental perspective. A newcomer’s innocent mistake is to go into a mindfulness exercise intentionally trying to relax; however, quickly finding themselves thinking; “Am I relaxed? I’m not relaxed yet! Why am I not relaxed? This isn’t working.” leading to greater distress and being taken even further away from the present moment. From being mindful. Read my next posts and discover some exercises about how to truly #BeMindful.
If you want to go further in strengthening your own mindful muscle, you should register at gocrossoverhealth.com for a “50-Minute Monthly Mindfulness Class. I’m holding these the first Wednesday of each month. Of course, you can always schedule an appointment with me to find out how to #BeMindful. And talk to me on Twitter. I’m @RossNelsonPsyD.