“Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.” James Joyce.
Currently, mindfulness is a very popular idea: 60 Minutes had a segment covering it, there are TED Talks on it, and videos abound on YouTube. It seems new, yet it has been around for 1500 years. What is new is our ability to map the brain and see how it is affected by practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is defined as a way to intentionally pay attention to the present moment without being caught up in judgment and criticism. It is both a meditation form and a life style. It means staying awake, aware and paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and body sensations without passing judgment on what you are experiencing. It is about gathering information about yourself and your experiences. Your personal auto-pilot runs your life with old ideas and thoughts. Mindfulness is a way to begin to turn off your auto-pilot and make choices about your life.
We have all heard someone use the statement, “That is just the way I am.” Usually, they mean, “I cannot change or will not change.” New brain imaging technology has proven that all human beings can change the way their brain works, thereby changing the way they are. New brain skills can be developed by intentional effort, focused awareness, concentration and repetition.
Mindfulness meditation is one tool we can use to change who we are, how we act, how we see yourself and how we feel about yourself and others. Mindfulness meditation is done by simply paying attention to your breath: listening to it going in and out. When your mind wanders, and it will, you simply bring your attention back to your breath, without judgment or criticism. It is the returning you attention to the breath that strengthens the brain.
This is the opposite of living on auto-pilot. Unlike Mr. Duffy, it means living in your body. As you pay attention to yourself, you begin to notice the patterns in your life and the thoughts that flow through your brain all the time, both when asleep and awake. The phrases you repeat to yourself, such as “I can’t stand this, no one likes me, I can’t do this,” are your red flags. As we listen to ourselves, we become aware of these “red flag” statements. With this awareness, we can choose whether to follow these directives and act in the same old ways according to our templates, or to pause and find a different way.
A life style of mindfulness means remembering yourself when your attention wanders and you get distracted. As you notice what took your attention, this is a “red flag.” Noticing the “red flag” is one of the stepping stones of personal growth that will lead you to your deeper self.
One idea for practicing mindfulness is to pay attention to yourself when you wake up. What are you thinking and feeling as you are waking up? These are the thoughts that set the tone for your day.
Mindfulness can help you change your life. If you want or need help developing this skill call me at: 919-881-2001.