Mind Full or Mindful?

By Amy Brightman, LCSW

After attending a week long intensive training in upstate New York last week with spotty cell phone service and plenty of time with nature, I realized I spend a lot of time up in my head and only small moments actually feeling my feet on the ground. Like a true New Yorker, not being “plugged in” and the absence of sirens and horns while I slept felt a little eerie. But after a few days, I started to settle in and really feel what it is like to breathe, walk, and be in the present moment.

It was uncomfortable: I started to recognize how my mind wanders, how I judge things, and what my body actually feels like. And, it was liberating: time didn’t seem to run away from me so fast, I actually saw all the nature around me (even on the rainy days), and I felt more aware of my needs. Everything started to feel like a natural schedule rather than an imposed schedule. And then, poof, I came back to New York City. I went right back to my autopilot mode. So, it got me thinking: how do I accomplish being in the here and now in a life that is so focused on what’s next? And, boy, do I need to practice what I preach!

I’ve been reading Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are, and for those who want an introduction into mindfulness, I recommend reading it. Kabat-Zinn lays out mindfulness meditation in a simple way, making it not too intimidating for those who want to start cultivating their own practice. In his book, he gives recommendations for practicing mindfulness in everyday life. It got me thinking about my own practice and ways to ground myself, to actually put roots in the ground, even if it’s just for five seconds. Here’s what I’ve been working on:

  1. Just pause and think “right now.” Kabat-Zinn talks about using “this is it.” Find a word or a phrase that works for you. Use it as a signal to stop and plunk yourself into the moment you’re in right then and there.

  2. Feel the weight of your body in your chair or the concrete under your shoes as you walk.

  3. Take 10 deep breaths. Feel your belly rise and fall. Notice the sensation of breathing.

  4. Close your eyes and recognize how you feel today. How are you feeling emotionally? How do you know you feel this way?

  5. Name five things that you see, four things that you feel, three things that you hear, two things that you smell, and one thing that you taste in that very moment.

These are all pretty quick things I can do any moment in my day, but mindfulness is a practice because it requires practice. Some days mindfulness comes a little easier to me and other days it feels very challenging. As I continue to add to my list to develop my own practice, I encourage everyone to start their own lists. You can even make commitment to limit distractions - I’ve been keeping my phone in another room when I’m home. Over time, I hope to develop more awareness, acceptance, and appreciation of my here and now and I hope you can do the same. Begin by asking yourself: Am I being mind full or mindful?

 Amy Brightman is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.