May 26, 2017

What is Mindful Presence? And How to Use It with Anxiety

There are many different descriptions of mindfulness. Psychology Today writes:

"Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience."

Mindfulness can be used during therapy, with many different therapeutic methods built specifically around it.

I struggled with anxiety all my life and I still have an anxious brain in my head. Mindfulness was what pulled me out of rock bottom. It's still the tool I use every day so I can live my life rather than be a victim of it.

All my life I had been told that I cannot do anything for myself. That I was a victim of my circumstances. I had gone to multiple therapists, and neither one of them ever told me that I could do something for myself. (I had gone to the wrong therapists, I know that now. Therapists who work with CBT and mindfulness can be of great help, so don't hesitate to reach out to one if you feel like you could use some help.)

But then I started reading up on things, and I realized that there was plenty I could do. I was not a victim of anything.

Thoughts are just thoughts. Not reality. A thought can only hurt you if you believe it.

This is the basis of mindfulness. To recognize our thoughts as just thinking. I remember that I never used to do this. When I read or heard people talk about changing our thinking, I didn't even understand what they were talking about. It sounded like unscientific gibberish, but it couldn't be farther from that. There is scientific evidence that mindfulness not only improves health, but changes the brain as well. 

With anxiety, we believe our thoughts unconditionally. We believe something horrible is about to happen. But if we practice mindfulness and presence, we can see our thoughts for what they are--just thinking.

Our body follows our mind. It doesn't know the difference between a threat actually happening and just us thinking it will happen and believing it.

We don't have to follow our thoughts, believe them, act on them, we don't even have to destroy them. We can just let them be. If we see them for what they are, they can cause no harm.

Whatever happens, peace is always a possible reaction.

Still, anything can happen in life. You cannot convince yourself that nothing bad will ever happen to you. That's just believing a thought once again. You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.

I remember this realization of mine clearly. It was such a huge burden lifted. What's about to happen doesn't matter, only how I react to it. Life is not defined by what happens, but by our reactions to what happens. And peace is always an available reaction. With it, any situation can be transformed into a peaceful one. We can even be at peace with our non-peace.

Jiddu Krishnamurti has said, "Do you want to know what my secret is? You see, I don't mind what happens."

Nothing needs to change inside of us.

It is very common to want to eliminate negative feelings and thoughts and replace them with positive ones. In my experience, this is not the most effective approach. Because what this means is that we don't fully accept ourselves in this present moment. That we want something different. And what we resist, always persists. What we fight, we strengthen.

With mindfulness, we accept everything that is in the present moment. We don't resist it. We see it for what it is. We have arrived, We are home. Peace and calm will come if we stop resisting what is; not if we try to force it.

Once we see thoughts and feelings for what they are, they can no longer control us. We are witnesses observing, not victims being controlled. The mind is a beautiful servant, but a dangerous master.

We are free to do anything we want, since nothing can hold us down anymore. Even if we feel anxiety, we can do what makes us afraid. Thoughts are just thoughts. We can do what we want. We can be who we want to be.

The now is all there is. Nothing else can come.

Anxiety always makes us feel like something horrible is about to happen. Something that we cannot deal with. Of course we can't deal with it, because it is in the future, never now. 

We can only deal with what is happening now, and anxiety is not about that. It's about what's about to come. But what we fear is about to come will never ever come. All there will ever be is now. The always manageable now. What you think about is not true.

As you can see, there is plenty we can do to help ourselves. We are not victims of our own heads. We don't need to somehow morph into different people. We can learn to understand and live with ourselves. Peace is every step.

A guided meditation on the topic can be listened to here.

“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.” - Pema Chödrön

1 comment:

  1. Great article. I heard that a lot of patients is having a real breakthrough with mindfulness. Hopefully, approaches like this will be able to replace use of medication in future.

    Lung -