Living mindfully asks us to awaken and learn to be aware in each moment. We practice tuning in to life with all of our senses—seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching…and listening with our hearts.
By contrast, when we lack mindfulness, we continually struggle with disappointments in our lives and miss out on simply being in the moment. Isn’t it amazing how much time many of us spend thinking about the future or the past—ironically missing the most important moment…now.
So, let’s explore mindfulness, as it relates to drinking a cup of tea or coffee. We’ll imagine staying fully present during the beginning, the middle, and the ending of the experience.
For example, let’s picture ourselves being present while standing in line, alone, at our favorite coffee house (beginning). We’re waiting to place our order and pay for our beverage. While waiting, we smell the delicious coffee fragrances and curiously notice the people around us.
Next, we receive our hot drink and sit down at a table to sip it (middle). As we inhale the steamy scents and savor the taste, we breathe deeply. We enjoy the warmth beneath our fingers, as we gently grasp our cup. While listening to the coffee house noises, we glance out the window to see what’s going on outside.
Later, we take the last sip of our warm beverage (ending). We stand up, stretching a bit, before mindfully tossing our empty cup into the recycle bin. We leave, feeling grateful and satisfied. So, there you have an example of being aware during different stages…and embracing the present moment.
By contrast, the opposite of mindfulness is being asleep in our lives. We may be tuned in to our minds (thoughts), but we may be asleep when it comes to our bodily responses—or our emotional responses.
For this reason, it’s easy to resist natural stages—especially endings—and feel disappointed (like after our beverage is gone), rather than embracing a moment of gratitude. Meanwhile, if we focus only on our negative responses to the ending stage, then we miss enjoying the pleasurable warmth of the tea or coffee in our stomachs.
In addition, if we are prone to possessing exceptionally high or “perfectionistic” expectations, then we will undoubtedly struggle with all three stages—the beginnings, middles, and endings. On this path, life will never measure up to the “perfect fantasies” in our minds. As a “recovering perfectionist” myself, practicing mindfulness is an important tool that I continue to be grateful for in my daily life.
In 1979, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Since its introduction, MBSR has become a complementary holistic method offered for a variety of health challenges. Studies researching MBSR’s effectiveness have shown that, for a majority of participants, pain-related drug use decreased, whereas activity levels and feelings of self-esteem increased.
For this reason, during private sessions, I teach clients how to reduce stress by becoming more mindful. When we’re listening, our somatic or bodily responses offer important messages. Unfortunately, when these messages are ignored, the symptoms often become louder and may include an escalation of pain in an attempt to get our attention.
We might think of pain (emotional and physical) as nature’s way of sounding a warning alarm. Frozen or stuck feelings and memories can create a sense of dis-ease in the mind and the body. When left unaddressed, these painful memories may eventually manifest in the form of stress-related diseases.
Finally, when we practice staying present — during beginnings, middles, and endings — we tune in to our mind-body wholeness. By doing so, we “gift” ourselves and savor…the many precious moments of our lives.
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Join Trina and attend her Walnut Creek workshop for women and men: Managing Emotional and Compulsive Eating—John Muir Women’s Health Center: Monday, February 11, 6:30-8:30 pm. Cost: $40. Seats are limited—register today: (925) 941-7900 option 3. For more info, go to www.TrinaSwerdlow.com & click on “Private Sessions & Workshops.”
Trina Swerdlow, BFA, CCHT, is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, an artist, and the author and illustrator of Stress Reduction Journal. She currently has a private practice in downtown Danville. You can reach her at: (925) 285.5759, or info@TrinaSwerdlow.com.
Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy services in California can be alternative or complementary to licensed healing arts, such as psychotherapy.