Mindfulness practice teaches us to remain present with what is happening now without stressing about it. Angry? Fine. Let it be there. Let’s see what happens next. Happy? Fine. Let it be there and let’s see what happens next. Mindfulness practice teaches patience and non-judgement with these states because research has shown that if we allow them to, emotions will change. And more importantly, we can train our minds to foster change in desired directions–toward health, contentment and vitality.
Mindfulness practice is not helpful for all people. Unless working with a trained trauma specialist, such as me, mindfulnesss practice can cause increases in anxiety or depression. However, for many people, it is very helpful.
Mindfulness practice acknowledges the power of your mind to influence everything else about you. It is based in buddhist philosophy and 30 years of secular, neuropsychological research that has demonstrated the direct connection between mind and body. Where you choose to place your mindful attention effects health, healing, stress levels, blood pressure, immune response, levels of depression, anxiety, and levels of vitality (check out Jon Kabat-Zin’s book, Full Catastrophe Living to read about this research). Your mind state can either foster change or maintain habits. Mindfulness practices teaches you how to foster change.
Most of us allocate the vast majority of our mindspace to trapping our thoughts, emotions, sensations and beliefs into habitual patterns, traps which, because they are rooted in the past, either keep us stuck in the past, or propel us into habitual worry states about the future.
Either way, in these past or future-based mind states, despite the fact that we might be attempting to maintain control by holding on to whatever we have–even if it doesn’t work anymore–we are actually careening out of control. Why? Because the fact is that the only moment that can be influenced is the one you are in now. Change happens now. If you are not comfortable with what is happening now–and you instead rely on coping mechanisms to avoid feeling it (denial, drugs, sex, entertainment, workaholism, etc)–you are forfeiting your access to change.
Mindfulness practice teaches an allowing pathway, which maintains at its gates compassionate, loving kindness toward self. It cultivates mind as a benign, loving advocate or parent. By becoming a kind and loving observer of your own bodymind experiences–thoughts, emotions, sensations, images, beliefs–dramatic changes can occur to mental and even physical health.
Mindfulness practice does not seek to teach you how to be blissed out. Though bliss may arise from time to time, the practice teaches you to be a compassionate observer of bliss, joy, hatred, anger, anxiety, butterflies in the stomach, mental notes to self, worry stories, self-critical tapes, etcetera. It teaches you how to allow all states of being–both pleasant and unpleasant–to arise and pass.
Mindfulness practice teaches you to return to this changeable moment armed with the power of open, compassionate, non-judgmental attention to awaken new possibilities–new thoughts, new experiences of old emotions, sensations, new beliefs, and new self-images.
For classes and workshops in mindfulness practice, in Los Angeles, check out these fabulous organizations:
The Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at UCLA’s Semel Institute–Classes and workshops are open to the public.
Insight LA -- Teaches Buddhist and secular mindfulness practices. Insight LA is the only organization in LA with authorized teachers of Jon Kabat-Zin’s official “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR) program. They offer all of their courses on a sliding scale.
Dr. Dan Siegel founded the Mindsight Institute (MI), an educational center devoted to promoting insight, compassion, and empathy in individuals, families, organizations, and communities. With a scientific emphasis on the mind and well-being, MI focus on the growth of healthy people who can nurture a kinder society. Through the Mindsight Institute’s worldwide Online Courses and in-person Lecture Series and Colloquium, individuals learn to harness the power of science and the wisdom of reflection to create an approach to health that focuses on a triangle of well-being: our minds, relationships, and brains.