..........slow down.......take a breath.......be in the moment.......hold your thoughts & feelings as gently as you would a baby bird.......let them go.......just be..........

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Mindfulness and the Baby Bird

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

One of the most influential thoughts I have come across to describe Mindfulness came from the book titled Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh.  Though he is referring to anger when he writes, I have experienced how I can apply it to any unwanted feeling.  If you practice being mindful of your thoughts and feelings, you will most definitely encounter thoughts and feelings that you would rather not.  Instead of ignoring them or pushing them away, which would be considered "non-mindful", Hahn suggests the following:
First he writes, "'My dear anger, I know you are there, I am taking good care of you.'" 
Then, he goes on to compare caring for your anger like a good mother cares for her fussy baby. 
"The mother holds her baby with mindfulness, fully concentrated on him.  The baby feels some relief because he is being held tenderly by his mother...  She holds the baby not only for the sake of holding the baby, but also to find out what is wrong with him." 
"We hold our baby of anger in mindfulness so that we get relief.  We continue the practice of mindful breathing and mindful walking, as a lullaby to our anger."
When I was trying to come up with some easy steps to take to begin practicing Mindfulness, I thought about how holding a baby bird might also describe the gentleness Hahn describes above.

As Jon Kabat-Zinn--well know author and speaker on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction--says "Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally." (cite)

Applying the idea of holding thoughts and feeling as you would a baby bird, seems to describe that action for me.  How can you be judgmental of a baby bird?  When we hold a baby bird we also need to be gentle and attentive.  We don't want to hold so tightly we squish the little bird, yet we do not want to hold so loosely that it falls.  (I should note that the baby bird has not learned to fly yet.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

My Favorite Online Mindfulness Resource

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Mindfulness and the Present Moment

One of the key aspects of Mindfulness is being in the present moment.  But what does that mean?  One of the signs for me that I am there, or at least, getting there is when I hear a bird sing.  This does not mean remembering hearing the bird sing or waiting to hear the bird sing.  However, listening for the bird's song and remembering I heard it can be reminders to me to "just be there."

Going through therapy for panic attacks, one of the phrases that stood out to me was "Just let it be there."  Just letting it--the racing heart, shortness of breath, spinning thoughts--be there is really a challenge.  When I am having a panic attack, my body and mind seem to instinctively do the exact opposite of what I know will help.

As I have a wonderful imagination, the "What if?" question can come up with many not so wonderful answers when I am having a panic attack.  Granted, there are times when my great imagination is a positive thing, but when I am having a panic attack, it is not helpful.

But, not everyone has panic attacks, so how is being in the present moment even something to pursue for "normal" people?

I think that the most beneficial answer to that question is awareness.  This type of awareness is when you see how your response to a situation is really based on preconceived ideas influenced by your own experiences.  If we are in the present moment, not the past or the future, we let go of our preconceived ideas and judgements.

From a Christian perspective, I have seen how this can be so beneficial in my prayer life.  Instead of coming to God with my own agenda, I am able to let go and simply sit awhile in the presence of God.   Spiritual practices like prayer are called "practices" for a reason.  Like Mindfulness, they are something intentional that you need to practice in order to learn.

There is so much good information out there on Mindfulness, that I hesitate trying to express all my own struggling thoughts on the matter.  Yet, I have also seen how certain words find resonance with me, and help me understand it better.  Maybe the present moment is not so much a destination to something or somewhere as it is a journey with something.