The Art of Mindfulness

I found that mindfulness techniques/exercises don’t have to cost a fortune and they don’t have to be complex. It turns out that they can be quite simple. What mindfulness really is about, is discovering who you really are. The techniques are simply tools that help you achieve that goal of self discovery. It matters not which exercises you chose, only that they work for you. So, my guilt of failing at yoga was unnecessary and my anxiety towards sitting for long periods of time in a contorted position was equally so.

Like all things in life this is a process and it is going to take some time and effort to find what works for you. I tried and failed many times before finding what worked for me. Things that did work; in time eventually didn’t and again I had to try new things until I found another good fit. The process becomes easier and more efficient over time and with practice so never give up and never feel as though you are failing because you aren’t. It is all just a part of the self discovery process.

You can start practicing mindfulness in a very simple way. The next time you eat, eat slowly, savor your food, be aware of the texture and the taste. Was it something you had to chew or was it something that simply melted until you had to swallow. Build up your awareness of tactile sensations by paying attention to taste, touch, sound, and visual responses. When you feel you have mastered that increase your focus and become more aware of your emotional responses (in addition to your physical) to these activities. When you are comfortable with that take it deeper and start paying attention to when your mind drifts away from the goal of the exercise and be aware that it drifted and then bring your focus back to the object.

I found that doing these rather mundane tasks actually made me aware of certain triggers and I also became aware of the fact that I rush through everything, hence the yoga fail. I started to apply this technique to everything that I do, chores, showering, eating, getting dressed, even staring out the window when lost in thought. I caught myself staring out the window one day, oblivious to everything except the endless stream of thoughts ping-ponging through my mind, and I pushed the thoughts away and began to actually pay attention to what was going on outside my window.

It was august, and mid-day, I couldn’t see the sun but it was excruciatingly bright and shadows were short. The ground was dry; cracked, the grass was dying; golden tipped with varied shades of green to ground, jagged, torn tops from being mowed. The leaves on the trees were not as green as they had been during June and July, pale but not as bright as that new, spring  green…yet not quite ready to turn to autumnal colors. Birds in the sky but no clouds, squirrels running around. I realized that the light outside, although bright from the mid-day sun was not like it was a month ago. There was a certain slant to it, which reminded me of Emily Dickinson. I was aware of being kind of sad in a wistful way, which I found odd.

Odd, because I love Autumn, it is my favorite season and I am never heartbroken when summer ends. I find it too hot, too noisy, too busy. I pondered previous Augusts, and it dawned on me that I was always a bit blah during that month. It turns out that I take a slight dip in mood every August and September and then slowly start to escalate into hypomania and by Christmas it is full blown mania followed by another dip in mood and another hypomanic state and full blown mania again by May.

I had accidentally stumbled across my bipolar cycle with the help of a mindfulness exercise. By being aware of when I cycle (added to how I cycle), I could make changes to manage my bipolar more effectively. I have also been able to pinpoint a great deal of my triggers using these techniques, which I can not explain how life changing that is. For the first time in my life I felt like I was actually in control.



Photo: Blue and Gold; Autumn Sky. Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.A. Nikon DSLR 5300, by Pamela


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