Mindfulness is a word we hear more and more in everyday talk in our culture. Cultivating mindfulness, the power of mindfulness, taking time for mindfulness: what does that mean? It has become a popular catch phrase and the practice usually starts with paying attention to your breath, doing some counting, slowing down and closing your eyes.
But what is the purpose of “doing mindfulness”? And what is mindfulness, anyway? Think of the world we live in. Things tend to move fast. We are encouraged to multi-task, be working long hours, from home, in the car, from our phones. We hardly ever stop. This can lead to stress. We may not even notice at first. Our body starts going faster to keep up with the pace and our mind paces our body. Our muscles tense like they are running a race. Pretty soon we find that we hold tension from the constant race in a few places in our bodies, maybe in our shoulders, or our stomach, or our lower back. Many people find that they have physical pain that does not seem to be associated with an actual illness.
Mindfulness is an attempt to tune in, to slow down, to pay attention to what is going on in this moment. Often it is directed by the breath because it is a simple way to direct the mind inward, away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world, and towards the single moment. It is a miraculous thing, really. By simply paying attention to a single moment of breath, you too can escape from the rat race for a second, let go of all that tension, for just a second, and relax.
In mindfulness, we practice letting go, in this moment, and beginning again in the next. This is the true meaning of living in the moment. Breathing in, we let go of the tension that is making us crazy, breathing out, we release it for a moment, and are free. Breathing in, we have a moment of freedom and relax, breathing out, we relax a little more. Breathing in, we realize that we do not have to do everything at once, we can sort things out, breathing out, we begin to se a path. Breathing in, we begin to feel free and slow down a little more, breathing out, we accept ourselves as we are.
There is no magic to mindfulness. It is not connected to any religious practice. But it is particularly important to recovery and maybe to all of life. As recovering people, we have often lost the path to ordering and choosing how we want to live our lives. We can get into a pattern where our mind is just spinning and we cannot seem to stop it. Thoughts keep doubling back on themselves and we find we cannot make a healthy decision. It can lead back to unhealthy addicted patterns that are more familiar than the new life we are trying to develop. We forget the new tools we are trying to put in place.
We need to STOP!
Take a Breath!
Observe what is happening!
Returning to the breath, breathing in and out slowly, we remember that we can choose to slow down and pay attention to our breath, that it only takes a moment to gather ourselves, step out of that hamster wheel, into the present moment, where we can pick up the tools of recovery and call someone, ask for help, write a list, think things through, sort it out, returning to our task a more centered person.
Mindfulness is a tool to stop negative patterns in their tracks. You can step out of the pattern you are in and back onto the recovery track. Try it today!