Mindfulness — Paying Attention to Your Life
“Mindfulness is basically just a particular way of paying attention. It is a way of looking deeply into oneself in the full spirit of self-inquiry and self-understanding.”
Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn, pp. 12
That is a word I have hesitated to use over the last few years because it instantly conjures up images of New Age practices or specific religious beliefs that can make many people uncomfortable, both Christian and non-Christian.
And honestly, that’s a shame because it’s a powerful word, and my failure to speak of it is rooted in my own insecurity. Mindfulness is a word that is not “owned” by any particular religion or practice. Rather it’s a word that I have been using more and more frequently in my own life and in my work with clients.
Because…people who are not mindful can be people who are completely unaware of what is happening in their lives. They are often unable to live in the moment (that’s different then live for the moment which mindfulness is not about as Zinn writes). They are often people who are easily given to their emotions and are unable to self-regulate. They are often people who lack boundaries. They are often more easily given to anxiety. Etc.
Here is an experiment: When you are out in public today look around at the countless number of people who are staring at their cell phone screens and not paying attention to their surroundings. Or go to a local playground and watch the number of parents who are unaware of what their kids are doing, or who don’t see their child asking for their parent to just pay attention to them.
And by the way…that is all of us. We are all not very mindful people at times. We are all guilty of not paying attention to our surroundings.
But I believe that our lack of mindfulness may be one of the biggest issues that we face, as it has an insidious way of disconnecting us from the present and from our relationships. And in many cases creating neglect to the most important things and people in our lives…God, spouse, kids, friends.
So when I talk about being mindful, I’m speaking of that self-awareness that someone has which allows them to truly be present and engaged in the moment. It creates an environment that fosters wisdom and discernment. And ultimately it leads to healthy action, rather than just reacting to something.
One of the things that I try and teach couples in my therapy office in Plano and at The Hideaway Experience in Amarillo, is the ability for them to be mindful of their negative feelings and actions (i.e. pain cycle), in order that they can be mindful of creating a new pattern based on Truth and strengths (i.e. peace cycle) to operate out of. Without that mindfulness to create change, and to see the way that God is moving in our lives…we get stuck.
When we are mindful we are able to connect with God, ourselves, and the other relationships. Without it, we are often disconnected.
I’m going to spend a little more time next week talking about this issue of mindfulness and how you can simply begin the practice of it in your own lives through breathing, prayer and conversation. And I’m going to also talk about how being mindful is congruent with Christian beliefs, rather than one that is not (if you are already hold that view, then awesome, I want to hear from you. If you don’t hold that view, then I ask that you hold off on judgment and simply be curious for the moment).