One of the ways we can work together to help you feel more calm, steady, wise, and self aware is by practicing Mindfulness and Meditation.
What do mindfulness and meditation have to do with mental health?
A lot! In the simplest of terms, your brain is neurologically prone to engaging in processes that can cause or exacerbate suffering, and the regular practice of mindfulness and meditation can mediate these effects so that you grow wiser and more at peace over time.
Meditation can help you...
Externalize and dismiss your critical inner voice
Increase your self awareness by listening deeply without external distractions
Tap into your inner emotional world that has been shut down due to emotional neglect
Differentiate your own thoughts and values from internalized parental and cultural messages
Counter your distorted, negative thinking style that is the hallmark of depression
Quiet your overactive, anxious mind that gets trapped in fear and worry loops
Reduce your emotional over-reactivity that takes a toll on your relationships
Increase your vitality by directing your thoughts and energies to the present moment
Of course, suffering can never be fully eliminated, and it is important to note that one of the most important contributions of meditation is teaching us to better tolerate distress and suffering so that we can be more resilient.
Research has shown that regular meditation literally changes the structure of the brain in beneficial ways. In our modern world where the pace is fast, where screens and other media provide constant distraction and over-stimulation, meditation is one antidote for soothing our nervous systems, re-connecting with ourselves, and living in the present where all the action is!
Establishing a practice
I am a firm believer that ANY amount of practice is positive and beneficial! Together we can help you bring mindfulness and meditation into your life no matter how busy you are. Experience different types of mindfulness practice in session with me and see what you find most helpful. Learn about how to develop a practice by getting involved in local meditation communities, using smartphone apps and podcasts - all of which I will direct you towards.
What is mindfulness?
I read a great illustration of mindfulness somewhere recently. It's that moment when you are TOTALLY absorbed in a movie, all caught up in the story and the emotions, unaware of the time, or the weather outside - and someone's cell phone rings loudly in the theater. Snap! Instantly you are jolted out of the "cinema trance" and you become aware of the present reality again: that you are sitting in a big room with a bunch of people, looking at a big screen and reacting to it.
Mindfulness is that state we enter into with the "snap" - that awareness of the present-time reality.
The cinema trance state is analogous to what our minds are doing when we are not beingmindful...
thinking about the past or the future
engaging in mental storytelling or fantasy
running through our to-do lists
judging ourselves and others unfavorably and suffering
being swept up in powerful emotions
distracting/ numbing ourselves with various kinds of external stimuli (including addictions)
By design, our brains love to engage in these kinds of activities. You can probably add a few more of your own to that list. Our brains truly have a life of their own!
Jon Kabat-Zinn* defines mindfulness as "awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally."
When we practice mindfulness and meditation, we become conscious observers of our minds. We choose to focus on witnessing and accepting the here-and-now reality of what is happening, in contrast to our brains' gravitation towards the there-and-then fantasy of what has been, what could be, or what should be. We bring curiosity to our mental processes and in a sense, we learn to think about thinking. This puts a valuable space between ourselves and our thoughts, so that we have greater choice in how we think, and how we respond to thoughts that arise. Developing this ability is critical to emotional health, because as explained on my CBT page, maladaptive ways of thinking have a negative effect on the way we feel.
To pay close attention to ourselves without distraction or judgement is a grounding and powerful experience.
What is the difference between mindfulness and meditation?
These words are so frequently used together or even interchangeably that it can cause some confusion. Mindfulness is a state of mind and being; meditation is one practice or tool that we can engage in to cultivate the state of mindfulness (among other benefits, such as calming the nervous system).
Meditation takes many forms. It can be practiced solo or in a group; with movement or stillness; in silence or with sound (the voice of a guide, music, nature sounds); secularly or in the context of religion.
Similarly, mindfulness can be practiced and cultivated in many ways besides meditation.
Come experience the benefits!
*Jon Kabat-Zinn is the original founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and one of the most prominent figures in the world of mindfulness.