Today is a snowy day in Denver! As the wind blows and the temperature plummets, I am reminded of the gift of slowing down. When something comes up that takes us out of our regular routine (whether it’s weather, illness, unforeseen obligations, etc), we might have no choice but to S-L-O-W D-O-W-N. I greet this ‘slowdown’ with anticipation and also a bit of anxiety. What to do on a snow day? Play out in the snow? (did that, nose froze!). Read a book (yes, please)? Peruse the internet ? Have you ever felt this way?
As I noticed all of the feelings I was experiencing and the thoughts I was having, I brought myself back to the present moment and asked:
“What choices do I have with this experience?”
I realized that I have the power to choose acceptance of this moment, EVEN THOUGH I still might feel some anxiety (or whatever else). I became aware that this concept is something I have been working on with clients recently: finding a way to be with slightly uncomfortable feelings while making a choice that helps me to make steps towards being the person I want to be. And today I really want to be peaceful and embrace the cold and snow because I know that tomorrow the sun will come out again, the flowers will be nourished, and the birds will awaken. It will be spring once more.
Mindfulness can be effective in just a few minutes. What is mindfulness and how is it effective?
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;
in the present moment, and
A great book for introducing yourself to this concept is: Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn is a famous teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.
Today, offer yourself the gift of slowing down, breathing deeply, checking in with your body awareness, noticing your thoughts but trying to not attach to them. This video is a great tool for experiencing the benefits of mindfulness — whether you have a snow day or a busy day – truly allowing us to feel our bodies and to follow their lead into our experience. I invite you to try it yourself — whether you have an hour to give or even just five minutes.
Have you ever had something on your “to-do” list for days….weeks…(in my case, months!)? And you keep saying, “I’ll do that later”, or “I’d rather do anything — even my taxes! — than do that”? I knew that I was certainly avoiding parts of my “to-do” list because I found myself cleaning everything in my house, office, car, instead of facing the looming elephant in the room.
That elephant, for me, was my professional video. I have made videos in the past, when I started my practice, but took them down because I didn’t feel like they represented “authentic Kate”. I tried again last year to film a video, with a new edge and twist to it, trying to be myself but instead getting emotionally overwhelmed. What was the deal?
So, this March I decided to truly look at what was keeping me stuck and to confront those factors. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), an amazing type of behavioral therapy I was recently trained in, one of the guiding principles is to define what is meaningful to you and to pursue it, even if that means experiencing some uncomfortable emotions or feelings along the way.
I spent an afternoon writing about why I wanted to film a professional video. What did it mean to me? Here’s what I came up with:
I still was missing something. Those don’t seem too intense….why couldn’t I just map out what I want to say, and say it? With my meaningful goal in hand, I engaged in some “exposure therapy” (also an element of ACT), and tried to film some initial versions of my video. I was feeling quite uncomfortable. I reflected on a quote I recently heard: “I know that when I’m feeling uncomfortable, I’m about to grow”. Hmm.
After about an hour of filming, viewing, grunting because there was something “wrong” with it, I took a walk and laid down on a patch of green, bright, vibrant grass and took a deep breath. I breathed into my body and tried to focus on what was my barrier to creating a video that was “showable”.
I realized my Perfectionist was rearing her hair-sprayed, curly, gum-smacking head and was telling me “IT’S NOT PERFECT ENOUGH!!! YOU CAN’T BE FINISHED UNTIL IT’S PERFECT!”.
Oh, man! How did I not see this before? I know my Perfectionist quite well…we have coffee sometimes and chat…and I thought I’d be aware enough of her nosiness that I would realize she was interfering. I guess she tricked me. I took another breath and told her: “You are not going to control my video. But, you did show me something very important.”
So, I went back to my office and filmed my video in no time. It is entitled “Perfectly Imperfect”. Sure, it gives me the shivers to ‘put myself out there’ like this, but why not be myself? Being authentic, human, and showing that I am not perfect is one of the most healing aspects I can offer my clients as they find recovery from eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, or body image and self esteem issues.
My Perfectionist showed me that, while I’m not going to banish her, she is not always helpful. She can get in the way of me being myself, which then can build up anxiety and stress…to levels that I don’t always want to stay at. Getting to understand the times when she is and isn’t helpful has been important for me, and you can also find a way to gently (or not so gently) ask your Critic or Perfectionist or Judge or whomever you have to take a hike for now.
If you are so kind, please view my video and leave a comment with your impressions. My hope is to model that we are all perfectly imperfect and that, in itself, is freeing. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and view this!
If you are looking to improve self-esteem or overcome destructive eating behaviors, I offer a FREE consultation so please give me a call at 720-340-1443!
Happy Valentine’s Day! St. Valentine reminds us that life should be filled with love - for our friends, for our partner, for our family, for our community, and, extra importantly, for ourselves! Have you shown yourself love lately? Sometimes I think the greatest gift we can offer each other and ourselves is to slow down, notice, and be grateful for the world around us. Here are a few great tips for focusing on this reconnection and being present with yourself amidst a busy, chaotic world:
I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to change something. When I was a teenager, the focal point of the thing I wanted to change was myself. This dissatisfaction with myself, or parts of myself, spiraled into an exhaustive effort and cycle of “if only I looked like…if only I could do…THEN, I’d be happy”. Let me tell you how that ended up: in an eating disorder. Only when I was able to accept myself, ALL of myself, and the range of emotions I experienced on a daily basis, was I able to stop destructive behaviors and lead a value-driven life. I know that I am not unique in the way I was thinking; I believed that my emotions were the problem and that my thoughts were “bad” and that I needed to change all of it. When I stopped struggling with all of those beliefs, I was free. That didn’t mean accepting the negative beliefs and talk I was saying to myself, but stopping the struggle with my emotions, as I learned that it is not the emotions themselves that create dis-stress or dis-orders, it is the struggle, or attempted control, over the emotions that is the problem.
Eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, compulsive over-exercising and other types of disordered eating behaviors as well as body image struggles can be borne out of a desire to find happiness and peace — but somewhere that mission gets diverted into destructive behaviors that lead to suffering. It seems that there is a call to find a way to “be with” our emotions in non-destructive ways.
I am currently getting trained in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, an empirically-based therapy that “makes no attempt to reduce symptoms, but gets symptom reduction as a by-product”, writes one of its founders, Russell Harris. This approach is rooted in values, forgiveness, mindfulness, acceptance, compassion, living in the present moment, and accessing a transcendent sense of self, a therapy that encourages us to accept what is without judgment, and to be find some peace in our struggle (while acknowledging that some type of suffering is part of the human experience). ACT has been clinically proven to effectively treat eating disorders and other types of conditions such as OCD, anxiety, chronic pain, and stress, amongst many others.
ACT uses six core principles to help people develop more psychological flexibility and to get out of some of the rigid patterns that keep us stuck in self-destructive pattens:
I’m eager to utilize this approach with clients and am excited about the way that it encourages us to be ourselves, knowing that we are okay just as we are. To me, this is a big sigh of relief!
Are you interested in applying some of these principles in a hands-on experiential way? Are you ready to cultivate a more peaceful, accepting relationship with food and yourself? Join me and colleague (and ACT expert) Christine Allison, MA, LPC on March 2nd, 2013 for a workshop where we will practice all of this!
Early bird special ends on 2/15 so ACT now!!!
Held at my office, 709 Clarkson St, Denver, on 2/3 from 10am-2:30pm, the early bird rate is $65, and after 2/15 it will go up to $85.
Contact me to sign up TODAY — seats are filling up!
See the flyer here:
Read more about ACT: Embrace Your Demons by Russ Harris
Growing up, I spent many giggly hours watching ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and reading the books about Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, Roo, Kanga, Christopher Robin, and all of their friends. As an adult, I look at these stories and realize the powerful messages they send us: unconditional love and acceptance, the beauty of simplicity, that we are all unique and different. The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet offer extended meditations on these lessons of peace and understanding.
Today I re-watched one of my favorite episodes, “Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore”. The psychotherapist in me couldn’t help but focus on the different roles adopted by the characters as well as the humanity in the story. This particular episode centered on Eeyore, the gloomy donkey with a rain cloud perpetually hanging over his head. Many of us, myself included, can identify with the sadness and despondency that envelopes Eeyore each day. Perhaps there is a part of you that really relates to this. Do you allow this part to have a voice? Do you push it away and try to ignore it because it feels consuming and dreary? Do you judge it and tell it that it doesn’t belong? These actions are the very thing that Eeyore fears. . . that being himself is too heavy for anyone else to love or accept.
When Eeyore goes to hide away and isolate, Pooh goes to find him and try to understand why he is so gloomy that day. Pooh, finding out it’s Eeyore’s birthday, goes to round up his friends to bring him gifts and celebrate. Of course, things go awry (Pooh, unable to control himself, eats the honey that he was bringing for Eeyore, and Piglet trips on his balloon gift and it pops). In the end, all of these characters, who might represent parts of ourselves, sit down at a table and celebrate Eeyore’s birthday. Giving Eeyore space, love, acceptance, attention, and not trying to change him in any way — these actions allowed Eeyore to feel safe and enjoy himself after all. He found that the popped balloon fit better in the (empty) jar of honey than it would have it it was still intact — showing us all that sometimes when things don’t go as planned, they actually turn out better. The silver lining of an unpredicted experience.
Who are the parts of you? Do you have a Tigger — a part that struggles to focus or commit, sometimes says or does the wrong thing but is lovable just the same? Do you have a Piglet — a worrier who wants everything to be okay but doesn’t always know the answer? Do you have a Pooh — a thinker, with great ideas, a peace-keeper, also lovable for his faults? An Owl — wise, knowing, but overcompensating for not being perfect? An Eeyore — gloomy, sad, despondent, brought to life and empowered when his voice is heard and validated? Can all of these parts of you sit down at a table and share a birthday celebration without judgment, exile or banishment?
As Pooh says at the end of this story: “Everybody’s alright, really”. This is a very healing perspective on the essence of human nature — after all, Pooh is the bear that can heal us all.
Take a look at the video yourself and share your perspectives on what Pooh and his friends can teach us — as children, but even more meaningfully as adults.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I am enrolled in a writing class through Original Impulse where I am delving deep and becoming more connected to my writer self. This week, we did an exercise where we introduced ourselves to our inner critic (or gremlin) and tried to get to know it instead of avoid it. This technique made me think of principles in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), as it encourages going into the emotion and engaging it with acceptance instead of trying to rid ourselves of it.
I often work with my clients in a similar way to identify and get to know their critic voice. For those struggling with an eating disorder such as bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating, there can be an “eating disorder voice” or “critic voice” that speaks negatively or destructively to them and damages self-esteem and healthy coping. In getting to know the voice, speaking back to it, individuating ourselves from it, we can feel empowered and free. We can even utilize the voice’s power for our own good — try to understand what it needs, what it wants, and how it can help us instead of harm us.
I thought I’d share the exercise we did in writing class, altered slightly to speak to the eating disorder voice or whatever the critical voice means for each of us. We all have an Inner Critic. How can we reach across the aisle and enlist his/her support?
When we challenge ourselves or commit to a difficult task (like recovery), sometimes our inner critic can get LOUDER and try to convince us that the effort isn’t worth it. Have you ever had that experience? This is common, so if you come across it don’t let the critic voice get in the way of pursuing your goals. Instead, get to know it – give him or her some direct attention:
Once you have a clearer picture of your Inner Critic’s way of life and personality, you can separate yourself from her and notice your voice as opposed to hers.
Some tactics in working with your Inner Critic:
If your Inner Critic is full of “should’s” and is driven towards perfectionism (as mine sometimes is!), try to remember that the drive for perfectionism keeps us stuck and away from our goals. Recovery (and life) is messy and certainly doesn’t fit into neat little boxes. I like the saying that “Perfect is the enemy of beginning.”
Finally, ask your Inner Critic two important questions:
I notice that sometimes the drive under the critic is actually desiring to help us in some way. For example, my critic’s drive for perfectionism is actually her way of trying to help me find whatever I’m looking for to cultivate inner peace. When I am able to notice that, I can reframe the voice, change the words, and funnel that energy into self-care activities.
After you’ve tried this exercise for yourself, feel free to leave a comment about how this was for you or anything you discovered about your inner critic. Has your relationship with her changed? In doing this, we can connect with, utilize, and befriend all parts of ourselves and not feel like we need to “banish” any of them — even our Inner Critic.
It’s almost Labor Day weekend — the symbolic “end of summer” and a time to rest and rejuvenate before the start of autumn. With all of the time we spend working, don’t we deserve a little break? Then why is it that so many people have a hard time taking the whole three days to have fun? Because we have a hard time saying “no” and letting go.
I am certainly guilty of this from time to time and have to mindfully remind myself that time off allows my brain to rest, my body to heal, my emotions to breathe, and my stress to decrease. Only when I turn “off” my work brain and give myself a vacation can I assess what I need in order to be a healthy and balanced psychotherapist and human being.
Are you like me and have a hard time leaving work at work? Instead of “laboring” this Labor Day weekend, why not try something radically different? And if you work in an industry that requires you to work this weekend, there are still ways to relax and find some personal time for yourself. Because you deserve it.
Creating boundaries between our personal and professional lives, no matter what your profession, helps us define our values, our purpose, our goals, and allows us to be more present with ourselves and with others.
Here are Five Tips to Mindfully Let Work Stay in the Office and To Allow Yourself to ENJOY!:
1.) Imagine it’s Friday and you are waiting to get off work for the weekend — you want to enjoy this time off, but know there’s going to be so much to come back to on Tuesday and this anxiety is already looming over your head. What to do? Make a list. Write down everything you have to get done next week and allocate time in the coming week for each task. If it still feels like too much, prioritize tasks in order of immediacy and importance, and focus on setting aside space for those high on the list. Email this list to yourself. If you have your emails linked and see work and personal emails together (really handy but impedes on personal boundaries!), turn off your work email until Monday night…or even until Tuesday. You will have a plan for how to proceed and can get started while still feeling organized.
2.) Try doing a visualization. Imagine your office space. See yourself there, doing your daily work tasks. Notice what feelings you are having: anxiety? boredom? frustration? Notice where you feel these in your body. Now visualize yourself closing the drawers in your desk. Shutting down your computer. Lowering the blinds. See yourself walking out the door and locking your office behind you. Stand in the hallway for a moment and focus on this physical boundary between you and your office. Get a clear picture in your mind of this separation. Mindfully pay attention to yourself walking out the door and getting into your car/bike/bus. Say to yourself a mantra, something to the effects of: “Work stays at work, I deserve this space to breathe, relax, and play”. Repeat this as many times as necessary.
3.) Spend some time reflecting on who you are outside of work. Work is one domain in your life (for more info on defining values in domains of your life, read about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). What are the other domains of your life? Home? Spirituality? Recreation? Relationships/Roles? Passions? What gives you energy? What activity or person makes you feel great about yourself? Where do you go to renew and rest? Spend the weekend following these other parts of you and giving them attention and time. Being a whole, balanced person helps us to be proficient and happy in all areas of our lives. Allowing yourself to not work helps you to define what else is just as valuable (or more so) than work is…and helps you be better at your job, too.
4.) If you have to work this weekend, focus on planning for some time to give to yourself. Even if your schedule is hectic and demanding, carving out a few hours to spend reading, walking in the park, or going to a local festival, can be therapeutic as well. Small doses of mindful and peaceful activity can help your stress levels to decrease and knowing that you have that time to look forward to can propel you through the work hours.
5.) Let go. I know — easier said than done! But really, what is the use of worrying/fretting about work for three days where there is nothing you can do about it? Sure, I guess you could get caught up on work or get ahead of work during this holiday, but there won’t be anyone to email or discuss work ideas with because they will be on holiday too (or should be!). Remember that you can get it done later and that this time, this present moment, is valuable. Allow yourself to be present. Work will always be there, but the gift of a long weekend won’t!
Note: if you feel stressed about letting go, be gentle with yourself. Your career may be very valuable to you and an integral part of who you are. The feelings you experience are very normal and won’t necessarily go away. Accept them. Live through them. You can STILL enjoy your weekend and not allow those feelings to impede on your fun!
Do any of these tips sound like something you’d like to try to create some boundaries between work and home life? I’d love to hear how it goes for you and how you practiced being mindful this Labor Day weekend. Have a great weekend!!
The seasons of life cycle through our challenges and our joys. As the fall air begins to color the Colorado skies, I am reflective of the changing tides, the laughs we have laughed, the tears we have wept, and the difficulties we have endured. It has been a tough summer in Colorado. It seems at times so simple to slip into the dark cave that beckons, and I find myself stepping inside. But, what about the light at the other side of this tunnel? A wise mentor shared with me the other day her philosophy on dealing with challenging times. She said “sometimes I need to retreat into my cave, and that is okay. I just try to imagine it lined with sparkling gems and jewels and beautiful rainbow specks of light.”
This philosophy reminds me of the ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) principle of getting cozy with our feelings and emotions, accepting them no matter what they are. Today I read a guest post on Tamara Suttle’s popular blog Private Practice from the Inside Out by Ann Stonebraker, who is a therapist in private practice at Labyrinth Healing. Ann wrote of the “green-eyed monster”, and how, when we feel the green eyes of jealousy churning up inside of us (as tends to happen sometimes, naturally), instead of running away from the feeling, we can ask it what it has to teach us. Jealousy can also be approached in a way that reminds us what we are grateful for.
This post inspired me today to blog about the things I am grateful for in my own life personally and professionally. Though our “caves” have much to give and teach to us, instead of dwelling in the darkness of the cave why not look towards the jewels that also line it? Sometimes a darkness yields a gem.
I encourage you to add to this list as you may so desire. A good practice to get into is to write down three things every evening in your own “Gratitude Journal” that you are grateful for that day. I’ll get us started:
Things I Am Grateful For:
My list continues to grow each day. I am grateful for all of you who stop by my blog and give your opinions and ideas. I also encourage you to tune into Private Practice from the Inside Out, which hosts a weekly gratitude blog as well.
What are you grateful for?
A few weeks ago, I went to a panel of eating disorder professionals in Boulder, Colorado, which was the final event in the “Journey to Wholeness: From Anorexia to Addiction, Bipolar Disorder and Recovery” series sponsored by the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness and featuring renowned author Marya Hornbacher (author of such groundbreaking books as Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, and Madness: A Bipolar Life, among many others).
The panel, featuring local eating disorder psychotherapist Isabelle Tierney and Toni Saiber, executive board member of the Eating Disorder Foundation, was truly inspiring to me as a mental health professional working with eating disorders, as well as someone who has recovered from my own eating disorder. The panel members had all recovered themselves from eating disorders as well, and I appreciated the candidness about what it is like for them to pursue the passion in life of helping others find recovery.
A resounding theme of the event was HOPE. What place does hope have in eating disorder recovery? How does it support people in their journeys towards wholeness? All panel members agreed that their own personal experiences have influenced and informed their practice today in a way that makes them, resoundingly, human. I was inspired by the authenticity of panel members: ”sometimes, when I’ve had a challenging week, I still have to notice how I try to use food to cope”; “recovery is a lifetime process, always evolving, always present”; “I’ve learned that when I said no to my eating disorder, there were things I then had to say yes to, which was challenging at first”. These are the voices of recovery, spoken by those who are so inspired by this journey that they now make it their life’s work to help others.
I left with a renewed spirit, a passionate drive, a dedication to commit myself to my own life’s path: to help others find their recovery, too.
I was given a handout at the panel, one so useful that I have shared it with many of my clients. It’s entitled “Indicators of Recovery” and I have attached it as a pdf at the end of this post. One of the things I love about this handout is that NONE of the indicators have to do with food, weight, or appearance. There is no counting or numbers. These are indicators to a healthy and balanced life, and can be applied to anyone and everyone — not just those with an ED. I like going through this with clients so that, on the sometimes tough days of recovery, they can see where they are and what they’ve already done in terms of recovery. The first step is asking for help and that’s a HUGE one — maybe the most important one of all.
I want to point out a few of these indicators that really stand out to me, as a possible jump-off point to further discussion and reflection:
When something feels out of your control, what do you do? How do you respond? Do you avoid or deny? Do you get angry? Do you feel helpless or hopeless? Do you turn many of these feelings inward on yourself? I have worked with many people on managing unpleasant or painful experiences and today I got to delve into this very thing myself when I encountered a situation that was out of my control. I then had to decide how I was going to cope with it, and let me tell you — my first response wasn’t pretty. I learned so much about myself during this process; I learned that I have a tendency to internalize, self-blame, and worry. All of those things getting stuck inside of me doesn’t feel great.
BUT, the experience also gave me an opportunity to practice some skills I have learned using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). I recently attended a workshop presented by two colleagues Brenda Bomgarder, MA, NCC (whose has a counseling and coaching practice, Creating Your Beyond) and Christine Allison, MA, LPC (www.ChristineAllisonTherapy.com) who are trained in ACT principles and therapeutic methods and who help both professionals and clients in following ACT’s message on coping with emotions.
ACT’s core message embodies “accepting what is out of your personal control (such as emotions, feelings) while committing to action that will improve your quality of life”. What did I learn during this training? Using mindfulness as a guide, three of the basic ACT concepts include:
1) defusion: distancing from, and letting go of, unhelpful thoughts, beliefs and memories
2) acceptance: making room for painful feelings, urges and sensations, and allowing them to come and go without a struggle
3) contact with the present moment: engaging fully with your here-and-now experience, with an attitude of openness and curiosity (taken from The Happiness Trap by Dr. Russ Harris).
Applying these techniques to the way that we manage emotions allows us to “deal with painful feelings and thoughts effectively” while “helping us to clarify what is truly important and meaningful to us - ie our values – then use that knowledge to guide, inspire and motivate us to change our lives for the better.”
So, because I am a human and swim in the same sea of emotions as every other person, I practiced what it would be like to sit with the worry and distress without pushing it away. I realized as soon as I tried it that the practice of acceptance and open awareness was much less exhausting than trying to avoid or contain feelings that I believed were “not okay”. It’s okay to worry and to really feel it. But I needed to check in and ask myself: what does the worry accomplish? I noted that the worry about this situation kept me away from the bigger thing that I really valued in the grand scheme of things — spending time with a loved one. By accepting the worry and anxiety, it didn’t have such a hold over me and by letting it sit, I was able to move forward and focus on valuable experiences that create a full and happy life.
I am reflective on how ACT can be helpful to those who are struggling with eating disorders, anxiety, depression, or loss. In working to accept and sit with painful or unhelpful thoughts or feelings, my clients have noticed that they do not feel the need to “cope” in a destructive way — i.e. cutting, disordered eating, purging — and that it is easier to allow the feelings to be felt. By diffusing thoughts that seem unhelpful and by distancing themselves from identifying strongly with these thoughts, clients feel more empowered to make choices that create a life they desire.
Find out more about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy at the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science or The Happiness Trap. You may be surprised how stuck we get in the struggle — and how easy it is to move forward from that place!
Here’s a great metaphor for ACT:
I am very excited to host a guest blogger today, Brenda Bomgardner, MA, NCC who is a therapist in private practice in Denver and who is the founder of Creating Your Beyond, LLC.
Brenda Bomgardner, MA, NCC, works with people whose lives have been touched by acts of violence and who are ready to create a life beyond loss and trauma. Brenda facilitates workshops, offers individual counseling, as well as couples therapy. Also, she is an inspirational speaker on topics that she is passionate about and which offer guidance to the community.
Today, Brenda offers a post about mindfulness and breathing — concrete steps to calming your inner self. In addition, Brenda is hosting a workshop tonight, May 24th from 6:30-8:00pm at People House in Denver: “ACT in a Nutshell“. You can find out more information at www.creatingyourbeyond.com or www.peoplehouse.org.
Mindfulness is a topic getting a lot of attention lately. Mindfulness http://www.mindfulness.com/ is giving your full attention to the present moment. Mindfulness can help you develop the capacity to be with difficult and often intense emotions, sensations, thoughts, memories or urges. Meditation http://meditationcenter.com/ is the formal practice of mindfulness. With meditation the purpose is to reach a state of inner peace.
Mindfulness skills are part of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy http://www.actmindfully.com.au/acceptance_&_commitment_therapy (ACT). The purpose of ACT is to help people live a more fulfilling life by increasing psychological flexibility http://www.drkevinpolk.blogspot.com/2009/09/enhancing-psychological-flexibility.html and decreasing suffering. It is in our struggle with pain that suffering is exacerbated.
Mindfulness and present moment in regards to psychological flexibility is about being with your experience. Consequently, if you are experiencing something uncomfortable the objective is to allow room within yourself for the experience to be. Yes, that is correct; it is not to get rid of the intense uncomfortable feeling. It is to notice it and be aware of the experience by using the observing mind.
Take a moment to remember a painful moment. Bring into your memory the incident with as much detail as possible. Now notice how your posture changes. Go ahead take a break from reading to be with your painful memory. Did you notice the urge to close in to protect our vulnerable heart? This is a natural response. However, as we close in there is less room to let the experience be. It is like an overfilled balloon ready to burst. The feeling I notice is a tightening in my body, which increases the intensity.
So here are 10 breaths you can take to help you learn to be present as the observer. I call the observer the curious scientist as if I am watching me as I am. Within ACT it is a tool or skill called defusion. It enhances psychological flexibility. Now take 10 seconds of noticing with each breath.
If your mind starts to chatter while you are taking the 10 breaths for 10 seconds, just notice the chatter and bring your self back to the observer of experience to notice.
When clients learn how to engage in mindfulness and defuse from their experience they are able to have more space to connect to their values and live a more fulfilling life. Hence, the next step is helping clients is to work on clarify their values.
Would you like to learn how to create a life worth living by developing psychological flexibility? Join me at one of my workshops http://creatingyourbeyond.com/workshops/
ACT in a Nutshell: May 24, 6:30-8:00 pm
What to do with Those Father’s day Blue: June 14, 6:30-8:30 pm
You’re Not Who You Think You Are: TBA early fall 2011
The United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration http://www.samhsa.gov/(SAMHSA) lists ACT as an empirically supported method as part of its National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices http://220.127.116.11/ViewIntervention.aspx?id=191 (NREPP).