Mindfulness is a hot topic these days. It’s being blogged about, talked about, and practiced in many areas of life, not just in recovery. It sounds like a pretty blissful state to be in, doesn’t it? If you don’t understand it, you might be asking yourself: what exactly is it and why is it important for me, as part of my recovery?
Webster’s Dictionary defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis”.
In other words, mindfulness simply means paying attention to your current experience without judging it.
Our experience as human beings is full, rich, and ever-changing. We have five active senses plus a mind that is super active, sometimes over-active. There is a lot going on in each moment and if we’re not mindful, we may end up being unaware and missing out on much of what’s happening inside ourselves amid the activity. That’s a sure-fire way to derail your recovery path.
Have you ever found yourself in the kitchen, completely forgetting what prompted you to walk from your bedroom to the kitchen and why?
Do you ever get in the car, pull out of the parking lot, and then suddenly find yourself somewhere else; not remembering what got you there?
Before I found recovery, I ate all the time (and I mean all the time!), but if you asked me what I ate, I would not be able to tell you because I was completely not present while eating.
Balancing DOING with BEING is essential for recovery. One thing I know for sure is that overdoing is part of my addiction. And I am totally addicted to adrenaline. Part of my recovery has been keeping a daily meditation practice. I find meditation to be the best practice for becoming mindful, and it helps me deal with this part of my addiction.
Creating ameditation practice allows you to extend the same kind of mindfulness to the rest of your life. This expansion process will happen naturally once you develop a meditation practice.
I’m often asked, what’s a good way to start when you have no experience with mindfulness or meditation?
I recommend starting small. It is better to be successful with being mindful for 5 minutes every day than to start with 30 minutes once a week. When being mindful for 5 minutes every day becomes a habit for you, you can add 5 more minutes. And then when you’ve mastered that, add another 5. This is how you develop a consistent practice. When you get to 15 minutes of mindfulness daily, you are in a good place. 15 minutes is all you need. Creating your practice in the morning is best because you start your day on a positive note, or like Louise Hay, the queen of positive thinking says: “How you start your day is how you live your day.”
If you are a beginner, listening to a guided meditation or focusing on your breath or a noise (air conditioner, clock, traffic) is a good place to start.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, the founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment — non-judgmentally.” He explains that the focus should be on noticing the moment rather than trying to feel differently. Many people think that they are supposed to feel a certain way when they meditate. This is a false perception about meditation. Meditation is simply about being where you are and knowing it. Remember: being non-judgmental is part of the deal. You want to release expectations that you need to feel a certain way and simply to allow yourself to BE.
There are other ways to bring mindfulness to your life in addition to meditation. Throughout your day you can add fun, short Mindfulness Pauses such as: focusing on the taste, smell, and sensations when you brush your teeth, paying attention to the smell, taste, and texture of the cup when you sip tea, or spending 5 minutes in your backyard observing nature and paying attention to every small detail, using all your senses.
To get started building mindfulness into your life today, choose one idea shared in this article and start now. Stop right now and think, how can I be more mindful right at this moment?
Every moment you spend being mindful will allow you to become more aware in the moment, aware of your thoughts, and aware of what you are eating. Mindfulness will allow you to enjoy the present, and truly live your life to the fullest.