It’s true, there’s been a lot of talk about the importance of being mindful. But what does it really mean to be a mindful individual? And what does it mean to practice mindfulness in our daily lives?
So, first things first, mindfulness is something that can be practiced, but it’s not really about techniques. There are some tools that can be developed to help in becoming more mindful, but in the end, mindfulness is about a way of being, not doing.
The Anxious Posture
I like to think of it this way. Many of us have already developed a way of being that I call an anxious posture. An anxious posture habitually leans into the unknown future and projects seemingly benign worries, our deeper fears, and worst possible outcomes into that, as yet, unrevealed space.
We ask ourselves, “What if….?”, “How will I…..?”, “Shouldn’t I…..?”, and over time this adapted way of thinking becomes our filter in most of life’s circumstances.
The Depressed Posture
There is another posture that is common to our culture, and that is the depressed posture. The depressed posture leans into the past, and clings to hurts and disappointments and nags at us with thoughts like, “Why didn’t I….?”, “I should have….”, or “I wish I had….”. It is a posture of resentment and regret.
There might be many reasons we adapted these ways of processing and filtering information, but one of the more common is that these unhelpful postures are less scary than what we imagine being present to ourselves might be like:
- If I allow myself to be present to the moment,
- I might not like what I see, or hear inside myself.
Our anxious and depressed postures are actually distractions from the feared present.
Mindfulness rests in the anchored knowledge that I am okay, and because I’m okay, I can be right here, right now.
We are not “okay” because everything is going well, or life is amazing. This anchored self exists even when life brings trial, tribulation, and suffering.
Mindfulness grows in a state of gratitude in the midst of the pain in the present.
So, if you were interested in how to start becoming more mindful, just consider:
Noticing throughout your day when you are not being present to the moment. As soon as you have noticed, you have become mindful in that moment. So the idea is that noticing when you’re not present is not to be judged or condemned, but rather, seen as an opportunity to flex the muscle and therefore grow in your capacity to remain present.
Another simple practice you could begin doing each day is to spend several minutes “tuning in” to your 5 senses. Make a mental list of all the sounds you hear in the environment. Feel the pressure of the floor pushing against the bottom of your feet. Notice as you inhale that the air around your nostrils feels cool, and as you exhale it feels warmer, etc. This practice will help to ground you in the present moment.
If you are interested in reading more on mindfulness I would recommend Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Wherever You Go There You Are.
Or if you’re looking to expand the mindfulness techniques you already use, check out 25 Ways to Practice Mindfulness to Lower Anxiety & Increase Self-Care.
If you would like some help developing a more formal mindfulness practice, or dismantling those anxious and depressed postures, give us a call. We can help.
Men & Couples Therapist | MA, LMFT
I help men and their families, who are hurting, angry, and struggling to find their way through life’s challenges, to create real and lasting change.
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