Welcome Back! Today, in the final instalment of New Brain / Old Brain we are going to discuss Mindfulness.
In Part 1of New Brain / Old Brain, we reviewed that we can get stuck in a loop when we get triggered by a strong feeling, especially ones that make us feel threatened.
This loop activates Old Brain which directs emotions, and makes us feel threatened. Once we feel scared, our emotions direct our attention towards other threatening things, so the loop stays activated. This means New Brain is basically off-line, and our ability to problem solve (creativity, plan) and integrate are shut off.
In last week’s post we highlighted that this loop can be interrupted with MINDFULNESS by showing ourselves COMPASSION. That is, by being sensitive to our own suffering, we can engage in behaviours that activate our self-soothing systems.
So, what is MINDFULNESS, and how does it help interrupt the old brain?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, famous Mindfulness teacher and founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, defines mindfulness as:
“…paying attention in a particular way; On purpose,in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
However, being Mindful DOES NOT have to be a seated meditation practice. The purpose of Mindfulness is to bring us wholly into contact with the present moment. Anything we can train ourselves to do at those times when the Old Brain is activated which will bring us back to that nonjudgmental stance that will allow us to show ourselves compassion will do. These can include:
2) Music and Dance: One of my favorite activities is playing guitar. I [Ryan] can spend hours completely focused on the feel of the strings on my fingers, the sound of each note and how they blend together. Adriana on the other hand, uses dance as a focus, her mind and body free to flow with the music in the present moment. I’ve watched her completely connect with the present, with herself, and it is a thing of beauty.
In reality, anything can be made a mindful practice, at any time, anywhere. The act of drinking a glass of water, or simply relying on mindfully taking a single breath. All can serve to bring us back to the current moment. It is in that moment that it becomes easier to see things from a nonjudgmental stance, to begin to make choices from the perspective of the “Strong and Healthy Self”, to show ourselves compassion.
For those of us who are not very experienced with being present, how can we start?
1. It can be helpful to start by noticing WHERE we are most present, where are we most completely connected to what we are doing?
For some of us it is when we are in nature, for others it is when we are with animals (our son Lucas is clearly very present with animals and instinctively goes to them when distressed), or it may be when we are organizing, or with our kids, in the car etc.
2. While we are paying attention to where we are MOST present, it is also helpful to notice where we are LEAST present. Sometimes we can be surprised, we may think we are most present with our kids or our partner, but that is where we are actually most in our heads, or distracted.
3. So, what can we do to help ourselves learn to be mindful in our day to day life? We have options here:
- Select one small thing we do daily, like brushing our teeth, washing our hair walking to the car etc., and consciously choosing to complete that activity while bringing ALL of our attention to that activity. (ie. If we choose brushing our teeth, we focus all of our attention on the taste of the toothpaste in our mouths, the foam forming in our mouths, the sensation of the bristles of the toothbrush against our gums, the cold feeling from the minty flavor etc)
- If we are more present in one situation, choosing to consciously redirect ourselves back to our 5 senses, whenever we notice we are going into our heads etc., to try to be even MORE present in those situations.
- Consciously choose to focus on bringing the presence we have in the places it is easiest for us, in other situations also.
So we are almost at the end of January of 2014. Who will you be this year? Are you ready to be present and LIVE your life? Are you ready to CHOOSE to live with self compassion?
Remember you can follow us on twitter @KRyanWilson, @DrAdrianaWilson, or send us an email! Have a great week!