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A couple of weeks ago I  wrote:

Managing stress is as much a personal responsibility as not smoking, wearing a seat belt, and not using drugs. Nobody is going to do it for us. Ignoring or enduring stress can lead to such unhappy consequences as: heart disease, diabetes, obesity, chronic headaches, sleep problems, depression and anxiety, irritable bowl syndrome, cancer, and premature aging. These problems creep up over time and can catch us off guard while we are painfully trying to “Do Our Best.”  From: 7 Tips for Managing Stress 2/2/2013

I listed several ways to manage stress which included: getting enough sleep, exercising, talking with friends, avoiding looking at things with a microscope, taking a mental vacation, journaling, and the practice of mindfulness.  There are many other methods for living a more peaceful life and I would love it if this blog could become a community of readers who share their tips. This week I am going to focus on the practice of mindfulness.

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Ten years ago mindfulness was seldom mentioned. In fact, it was a concept that was just beginning to take form in the therapeutic community as a mental practice with  potential related to stress reduction. Around that time I was working at a mental health agency that was beginning to implement a new treatment model whose foundation was based in mindfulness practice. Along with a colleague I was asked to master the treatment model, lead a group therapy session with clients, and educate our staff so that their clients could benefit from this new form of therapy.

All I knew about mindfulness was that is was a form of meditation finding it’s roots in Buddhism, and though it was practiced all over the world, was primarily an Eastern practice. I was honored to be asked, scared about the responsibility, but THRILLED at the thought of having such a cool job that I was actually going to get paid to learn how to meditate.

It has been twelve years since that time and I have a profound respect for mindfulness practice. I have learned a lot but still consider myself an”advanced beginner.” I know this will be not only a life-long pursuit of learning, but “being.”

In the late 1970’s Jon Kabat-Zinn was developing his own mindfulness practice under the Korean Zen master Seung Sahn. The following is an excerpt from mindful.org The Man Who Prescribes the Medicine of the Moment

On a more intimate note, he recalls interactions with his teacher, the late Seung Sahn (known to his students as Soen Sa Nim), with obvious admiration and a discernible sense of the teacher’s presence… “I said to him,” he recalls, “‘Soen Sa Nim, I’m here to learn how to practice from you. I’m not interested in being a teacher; I want to be the student.’ And he said ‘If you are my student, then this is how you will learn to be a student, as you teach.’ And I said, ‘But I don’t know anything. I don’t know what to do. I wouldn’t know what to talk about.’ And he said, ‘Aawwwwww,’ as if he really deeply understood what my issue was, ‘no problem, you only talk about area you understand. Don’t talk about area you don’t understand.’”

Singing Bowls

Singing Bowls

Let me share with you some of what I understand about this sacred practice…

Mindfulness begins with welcoming yourself in this present moment.

Some people avoid mindfulness because they are too shy to meet themselves, fearing who they really are. This is what comes from listening to everyone’s voices but their own. We have nothing to fear and everything to gain by investing time in our own minds. It is the only place we can meet God and or our higher selves, and see the present moment for what it is without judgment. It is the only place we can make wise choices.

Mindfulness practice is not about Nirvana. Practice is about strengthening the mind, just as going to the gym is about strengthening the body.

Mindfulness is state of being. It’s about being in the moment. There is a difference between practicing mindfulness and mindfulness.

Mindfulness is about watching your mind, your breathing, or whatever you are focusing on from an observer’s view; an observer with wisdom and compassion.

Mindfulness is about describing what you become aware of one-mindfully and non- judgmentally.

Mindfulness can be practiced sitting, standing, walking, eating, running, singing, playing the piano, cleaning, building…there is no one way…the possibilities are limitless

The practice of mindfulness is the practice of staying in the here and now. Marsha Linehan has said, “Our minds are like untrained puppies. We tell it to sit and stay…and it will for a moment and then run off. We must gently call it back.” This is the nature of our minds. This is what we are disciplining through practice.

Through the practice of mindfulness, we become our master.

A fruit of mindfulness is acceptance. Non acceptance is a source of great unhappiness. Therefore mindfulness brings peace.

Formal mindfulness practice involves designating a period of time on a regular basis to practice. Informal practice involves randomly checking in to the here and now, and opening your awareness to what is present. Both are useful.

Research linking the health benefits to mindfulness were based on formal practice.

As little as 10 minutes a day has shown to be beneficial in as short of a time as two weeks. Surprisingly this 10 minute period can be broken up into two 5 minute periods.

A Google search on mindfulness practice yields 10,200,00 results.

When I have been able to maintain a formal practice, I feel balanced, more in control of my emotions, less reactive, happier, and more compassionate towards others. It sounds strange, but I believe my body responds in a unique way.  I feel like my body, mind, and soul are cooperating for my optimal well-being.

I re-posted an article written in December called, “Get Me Off of This Merry-go-Round.” If you missed it, take a look. Below is a Ted Talk on mindfulness for your viewing. Its well worth the 10 minutes it takes.

At least once a month we will be exploring the topic of mindfulness and it is my hope that you will begin your own practice. 10 minutes a day is all it takes to both open and manage your world.

Shine on 🙂

Barbara