“Trauma is fundamentally a disorder in the ability to stay in the here and now.” – Bessel Vander Kolk MD (Dr. Bessel Vander Kolk is a doctor who specializes in Trauma. If you type the name into Google you can learn a little more.)
Mindfulness is a subject that ties in to all of the classes I take in treatment. Mindfulness is by far the most beneficial tool that I have learned because it provides support, healing, and coping in each struggle I face. I hope your able to benefit from this information as well.
What is Mindfulness?
Psychologist and mindfulness meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn has simply defined mindfulness in this way: “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
This sounds simple, but mindfulness is a skill that takes practice to cultivate and maintain. Why? Let’s consider the different parts of the definition…
- How much of the time are you really paying attention to whats happening in your life- as opposed to thinking about something else, remembering things, imagining possible futures, and acting out habitual patterns or more accurately, reacting to people and situations based on old habits of perceiving, thinking, feeling, and behaving?
- Paying conscious attention can be especially hard when a current interaction reminds us of past hurts or betrayals-and before even realizing it, we can automatically and defensively respond as if those old experiences are happening again.
- All of us have our habitual patterns, our vulnerabilities to automatic reactions based on past experiences of hurt, our “buttons” that can get “pushed.” This is particularly true when we are already stressed and/or in a hurry. Truly paying attention in our lives is a challenge for anyone.
- It takes a conscious decision, and effort by one’s mind and brain, to pay attention to what’s happening in the present. In fact, such choices and efforts are required over and over again, since we are continually pulled back into habitual ways of processing information and responding to things.
- Too often we’re on “auto pilot,” not even trying to pay attention to what’s actually happening in the unique situations and interactions that make up our lives. (Personal perception:This happens to me a lot when I am at home and when I have idle time. I believe that having structure and sticking to the “next indicated step” view each day allows me to become more mindful each day.)
“In the present moment”
- Most of us, most of the time, are absorbed in memories of the past or visions and plans for the future.
- For most people, it is rare to be aware, without some amount of distraction or multitasking, of what is actually occurring in the present moment.
- Particularly when strong emotions arise, people often respond not to situations as they are, but to reactive perceptions and thoughts based on painful experiences in the past. In the most extreme instances, one may not be “here” in the present but “back there,” reliving the past through responses to present situations. (Personal perception: For me this looks like Dissociation and Flash Backs. However, now that I know this information and believe in it’s value, I am now able to “bring myself back” by using the grounding techniques that I wrote about in another post, and searching for the “trigger” that “sent me back there” mentally.)
- This is one of the hardest things to achieve. We so often react intensely to our experiences, particularly unwanted experiences, and to our initial responses to them.
- “This is horrible!” “What an idiot!” “How could I do that?!” “I can’t take this anymore!” “Here I go again.” You know the ways you can instantaneously and automatically judge situations, other people, and your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors – often in a chain reaction of increasing judgment and distress.
- “I need…” “I want…” “I deserve…” Positive judgments and the cravings they evoke can also be a problem, particularly when they are automatic and intense. We can lose out focus, forget what’s important, get caught in cycles of addiction, selfishly take advantage of others, etc.
- In contrast, the non-judgmental quality of mindfulness brings great freedom – to see things more clearly, to evaluate situations with some distance from our habitual emotional reactions and impulses, to observe emotions and impulses as they arise without either trying to escape them or letting them carry us away.
- We all have at least glimpses of this potential, when we are feeling so positive and relaxed that something which would normally cause strong judgment and negative emotions is seen as no big deal, more clearly for what it is: a passing unwanted experience or temptation to indulge.
- But to bring this non-judgmental quality into our daily lives, consistently, even at very stressful times, this is something many of is can hardly imagine. Yes it is possible, by practicing mindfulness (and kindness).
- And for those who are vulnerable to remembering and reliving painful experiences from the past, to strong waves of emotion, to intense self-criticism – the cultivation of non-judgmental mindfulness can bring tremendous relief and freedom from old patterns. (I am currently in this stage of mindfulness. I do experience memories of painful experiences, strong waves of emotion, and self-criticism, but when I practice mindfulness and stay in the present I am now able to decrease the intensity of the pain, or pressure to engage in familiar cycles of behavior-or destructive coping skills; such as addiction.)
Example of an action/situation where I am mindful: Being at the beach walking the pier creates mindfulness and allows positive sensations to run through my body, which allows my mind to become more open, more positive, more rational, so that I can think about my life as it is at this point, in a positive and peaceful way. Which then creates an ability to think about the decisions I need to make in a rational, emotional, and wise approach. I can not make decisions in the past or future; only in the current moment.
In what areas could you benefit from being more mindful? Practice mindfulness any chance you get. I will be posting a couple more lectures on mindfulness to help solidify the material, the benefits, and ways of being mindful.
To the people that follow my blog posts,
I sincerely thank you for following and reading the posts I create. Having the knowledge that people are reading and potentially benefiting from the information given, inspires me to continue writing. Thanks so much.