If you live almost anywhere in the United States, you will have some experience with the blizzard and arctic freeze that has been sweeping every direction of the nation. Some of us have been stuck in airports due to cancelled flights, some of us have slid across icy intersections in a panic, some of us have had to wait in the sub-zero digits as we wait for a bus to take us to school or work, and some of us have to be separated from loved ones as we wait for the country to revive and breathe again.
This is as good a time as any to practice ways to be mindful and present in the face of a situation over which we might have no control. I know it sounds near impossible to be mindful as your fingers turn to ice (and you might want to punch me with those icy fingers for suggesting it), but please bear with me as we explore a few ways to appreciate the moment in a non-judgmental capacity. First off, what is mindfulness? Build from a tradition of Buddhist meditation, mindfulness can be described as adopting a calm awareness of one’s body functions, feelings, consciousness and environment, and its practice is said to be key in the development of wisdom. Rilke, a teacher of ancient mindfulness, states:
“(Have)….. patience with everything unresolved in your heart—-and try to love the questions themselves. Don’t search for answers which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now!
Perhaps, gradually without noticing it you will live the way to your answer.”
So, in truly living in your present moment, how can we achieve a state of acceptance and awareness?
1.) Close your eyes and try to notice what each of your senses are experiencing at that moment. What do you hear? What do you feel? Is the temperature warm or cold? Smell? If you open your eyes, where do you find yourself? Notice the brick ledge lining the yard of the neighboring house. How did that get there? Truly being aware of our surroundings helps us to find meaning in our existence and let go of anxieties about the past or future.
2.) Notice your breathing. Take deep breaths in and out and really feel it go through your body. This is a way to naturally calm down your body.
3.) Check in with your body. Where are you feeling pain? Stress? Tension? Sadness? Are you holding anxiety in your neck and shoulders? Do you feel the loss of a loved one in your chest? Try to explore your connection to your body and where it might be disconnected from your emotions.
4.) Quiet your mind. Once you have checked in with yourself and find yourself present in the moment, try to truly sit with it. Try not to let intrusive thoughts and worries about the past and future ruin your moment. There is nothing to do about those right now. This moment is yours, and you have complete control over it.
4.) Don’t give yourself a hard time if this is difficult. Especially in challenging circumstances where our plans may fall through or we are presented with unexpected news, we must be compassionate with ourselves. If it is hard to calm your mind, that is okay. Take those thoughts, acknowledge them, and let them pass through your mind. Mindfulness meditation is not about eliminating thoughts, it is about noticing them, not judging them, and letting them go.
5.) Follow the words of Deepok Chopra: “Close your eyes and watch yourself breathe for about five minutes. Put your attention on your heart and ask: Who am I? What do I want? What is my purpose? You don’t need to know the answers. Live the questions and life will move you to the answers.”
6.) Try yoga. Yoga is a natural way to spiritually align your mind and body and to heal the spirit through movement. This not only is healthy for you physically, but it helps to center the mind and work through the breath.
7.) Get a massage. Massages naturally encourage us to turn off our mind and notice sensations in our body. Working through tension held in muscles can release toxins and soothe your mind to help you tackle any challenges that might come your way.
And one last thought — give yourself a break! If it’s freezing and snowy outside, there’s no better reason for snuggling up at home with a pet and a good book.
For more mindfulness practice and body-centered psychotherapy, feel free to join Kate Daigle Counseling’s Body-Centered Emotional Recovery Group, held each Wednesday at 5:30pm and facilitated by Kate Daigle and Sarah McKelvey.
Don’t miss this video, featuring one of the most peaceful and therapeutic leaders in mindfulness meditation, Jon Kabat-Zinn. He is one of my personal heroes!: