I’ve been working hard to be more mindful these days. I think that part of the problem is getting past my preconceived notions of what “mindfulness” actually is. If it stirs up images of long haired yoga enthusiasts for you, you’re not alone. Yet, I know many people who are truly mindful…present in the moment, grounded, calm…you know, how most of us want to be, yet find to be a hard place to inhabit.
I’ve (finally) gotten around to looking at mindfulness in a more serious way. I’m particularly interested in mindful parenting. I don’t know about you, but my life can be pretty distracting between phone calls, emails, facebook, twitter, 3.5 year old, wife, dogs….etc, etc. I found myself never truly present, always thinking about what happened earlier in the day, what was yet to come or being distracted by someone else’s needs or thoughts.
It’s funny, because being diagnosed with diabetes set me on a path of mindful eating years ago, apparently by accident. I guess I’m a slow learner, as it’s just now creeping into my parenting and life in general.
Enter Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts and creator of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Here’s Jon discussing mindfulness.
Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally, as if your life depended on it.
On purpose. How many of our thoughts and emotions are “on purpose”, and how many are just reactions to our world? You’d be surprised at how little of our day is intentional, especially the comings and goings of our own minds and attention.
In the present moment. What other moment is there?
Non-judgmentally. A thought is just that, a thought. An emotion is just an emotion. Too often we beat ourselves up for having thoughts and emotions, judging them, feeling guilty or ashamed for having them.
As if your life depended on it. Because it does. As Jon says in the video, the only moment that we’re actually alive in, is this one. The only time that we can love, laugh, cry or experience anything is this present moment.
So what does mindfulness look like in my life? Well for starters, I took Facebook and Twitter off my phone. It was just too easy to be distracted by all the digital noise coming out of that small, handheld device. I also started to cultivate a practice of being grateful every day for something wonderful in my life (of which there is much).
In case you’re not convinced that mindfulness is worth cultivating, here’s the warning label. It’s been shown to;
- Relieve stress
- Improve heart disease
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce chronic pain
- Improve sleep
- Help with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc.
So give it a try, and start by picking up a copy of Jon’s classic book; Wherever You Go, There You Are. Click the link below to buy it off Amazon, and I’ll donate the commission to a local charity. Win-win.