Is everyone feeling mindful today? You may be asking yourself what I mean by that. Throughout my career in the mental health field, I have had the opportunity to hone my group facilitation skills, and now pride myself on this being one of my greatest professional assets. Within the past week, I offered a free mindfulness meditation group through my private practice, Whole Wellness Services.
I wanted to share with you what I learned and what I shared with others during that experience.
Have you ever felt like your days drag on in a stretched numbness? Or like “hump day” should be called “numb day?” A lot of us get lost in the small happenings of every day life so much so that we forget to stop and stare at the bigger picture. We become stitched together with small insignificant pieces of our lives, and this unfortunately can become our entire existance. Your annoying boss, your smelly feet, your cable bill. These are the things that are on your mind and dictating your behavior, and therefore, these are the things you become. Are you worried yet?
There is more to life than this. Mindfulness is the foundation of Buddhism, but you don’t have to throw out your Christmas tree and convert to take away some important lessons and employ them in your every day life. A little bit of mindfulness goes a long way!
Mindfulness meditation has been shown through studies to reduce stress levels and help ease mental health symptoms, as well as increase peace of mind in our daily lives, increase sleep quality, and lower blood pressure and heart rate. Some folks also consider mindfulness their way of practicing spirituality, which can help one to draw meaning from every day life. There are not many down sides to practicing mindfulness, beyond making a commitment to spend as little as one minute a day practicing and getting better.
Yes, meditation takes some practice. We are constantly in a thinking and feeling state. Meditation tells us to give our brains a chance to just stop for a moment and be clear. Of course, no one is perfect, and being clear is very hard. This is where mindfulness comes in, which tells us, “If you have a thought during your meditation, observe it non-judgementally and refocus.” In other words, do not judge your own meditation performance.
In my recent group, which was an introduction to mindfulness and was full of newcomers, I noticed some individuals did engage in judging their own performance. This of course detracts from the mindfulness piece as a whole. I emphasized the importance of letting go of expectations while meditating. Once you get great at doing this while meditating, my hope is that you will be able to apply this to every day events in life as well. I recently read an article which spoke of the formula for happiness. It discussed how having expectations often ruins our ability to feel happy. We dream of the future or a lost past and image it in a way it is not, or cannot not be. This causes dissatisfaction. If we learn to live within this moment, just how it is, we are letting go of our expectations and can be open to happiness.
Thinking this way is not easy and does not come quickly. It happens little by little and day by day. If you apply this thinking to 1 moment of your day, in my opinion, you have already won. You are better off than you would have been otherwise. You are closer to letting go. 1 moment of your day is doable for any one, I think.
Going back to the mindfulness meditation group, I felt it was a great success. I went into it without expectations, and was extremely pleased with the outcome. I did not expect full attendance, I did not expect people to provide large donations, and I did not expect group members to be avid meditators. Because of this, I was extremely impressed and happy with the group, where we had at 70% attendance, and beginners abound. I read a short passage from a highly recommended book on meditation, Wherever you go, There you are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I also facilitated a 15 minute guided imagery meditation that I created, and was impressed with the group’s ability to concentrate through it. Please stay tuned, as I will attach a copy of the script to this posting.
I hope that you will give mindfulness a try! Please share your experiences with me.