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Pay Attention! (Or at least try)

A cursory glance inside a Starbucks makes it seem as though everyone on the planet is multi-tasking: posting, tweeting, pinning and texting. While modern technology has provided us many wonderful opportunities to expand our minds (and our wardrobes), it has done little to teach us patience, or the pleasure of doing one thing at a time. We’re hearing a lot these days about mindful living

and the many health benefits of meditation — but what, exactly, is mindfulness?

Simply put, mindfulness means paying attention–but not necessarily in the way to which we are accustomed. While writing a check to your kid’s school, stirring the spaghetti and checking the caller ID on a ringing phone — sure, you can still “pay attention” to your husband describing his day to you. Sort of.

Though, if pressed, you could probably repeat the gist of his story — were you really tuned into him? Mindfulness is more than just being aware of what your spouse is saying; it is actively listening to him, observing his face when he speaks, watching the way he uses his hands to talk, paying attention to your own breath, noticing yourself drifting from his words, then purposefully bringing yourself back to the moment.

Slowing down and staying with the here and now allows us to more fully appreciate this particular point in time in a more purposeful (and less stressful) way. The constant pursuit of “What’s next?” and “When will this be over?” provides us no lasting joy and simultaneously robs us of “this moment”.

Mindfulness also allows us the opportunity to be aware of and move through and past our negative emotions. We’re human, after all, and most attempts at spending quiet time with our thoughts will inevitably have us mentally rehashing yesterday’s unpleasant exchange with a coworker and cursing our forgetfulness to buy dog food. Our instinct is to jettison painful or unwanted thoughts and feelings the second we conjure them, but mindfulness teaches the futility of this practice. Trying to dismiss “bad” stuff out of hand is like yelling at the wind — it won’t help. Allowing yourself to notice and accept negative thoughts and feelings in a nonjudgmental way allows you to work though and eventually appreciate them for what they are: thoughts and feelings; not directives and mandates.

If you are new to the idea of mindfulness, try starting small. Turn off your smart phone while your child is talking to you. Notice the leaves and grass while walking your dog. Take five minutes every day to sit in a chair and unplug, and if while doing so, you find yourself highly annoyed by your neighbor’s lawnmower, accept that thought and gently bring yourself back to your breath. You just never know where mindfulness might take you.

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
–unknown

Check out our NEW! Insights Mindfulness Meditation Group

When: Every Saturday
Time: 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Where: Insights Collaborative Therapy Group, 5445 La Sierra, Suite 204, Dallas 75231 (for directions and more information visit www.insightstherapy.com).

The cost is FREE! Registration is not required.  For more information email lsanger@insightstherapy.com” title=””>Laurie Sanger.

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