Mindful Versus Mind Full
Psychotherapist Katrina Steel explores the challenges and benefits of moving from having a full mind to being mindful.
Most of us are consumed in the constant stream of thoughts. Swept up in a current of worry and wondering, planning and never-ending to-do lists; almost absorbed into the mind and swallowed into its torrent of pressure, stress and anxiety.
It’s a wonder we can even get out of bed in the morning or can find a space to breathe sometimes. I mean this can’t really be living, can it?
Don’t you sometimes just wish you could hop off the constant rapid ride of life and access a space of stillness where the mind slows, and you are able to breathe?
Mindfulness is the ability to slow the mind and access the present moment. In reality this is easier said than done. The whole ‘mindful movement ‘is great but how do we actually become mindful?
Firstly, we need to identify that we are NOT our thoughts. Eckhart Tolle, an expert on presence for peace and the author of The Power Of Now, depicts one of the greatest steps towards consciousness is realising you are not your thoughts, you have thoughts.
Once you can access this awareness you begin to open yourself up to the possibility of the mastery of your mind resulting in many benefits such as a reduction of anxiety, depressive symptoms and increase in wellbeing.
So, if you are not your thoughts then, who are you? Are you your thoughts, or are you the thinker of your thoughts?
I invite you to become aware of your thoughts. To be the witness, the watcher, the observer of your mind and the thoughts it is thinking. And now, as you watch and listen, the journey begins.
Are you aware of your thoughts? What ARE you thinking? Where IS your attention? Are your thoughts running stories of the past? Are you thinking about something that happened yesterday? Last week? Last year? Are your thoughts running a narrative about the future? Are you playing out all the possible scenarios of what could happen tomorrow? Next week? Next month? My invitation is to WATCH-YOUR-THOUGHTS.
As you slow down and become aware, I invite you to become curious and begin to notice. Is your mind overflowing in a deluge of thoughts? And if so, has this been happening without you really noticing?
The mind is continually thinking. That’s what the mind does, it thinks. Just like the lungs breathe and the heart beats, the mind thinks.
The shift occurs when you realised you are not your mind? That you have a mind, just like you have a heart and have lungs.
One of the main parts of the brain, the animal brain, the amygdala is designed to keep us safe. Its purpose is survival. Its job is to assess danger, minimise risk and reduce harm and it therefore it is attuned to threat. If this part of our brain is overactive, or unconsciously in the driver’s seat then it will continually focus on what could possibly go wrong. This fundamentally is… anxiety. Fearful thinking about the future.
The mind runs like a scientific theorist. Assessing what could go wrong. It then creates a hypothesis, usually one based on fear, working to assess potential threats.
Herein lies the problem. The mind then becomes focused on risk, threat, danger, problems, worries, stress, pressure, distress, overwhelm, anxiety, depression. These experiences compound further creating mental, emotional and physical disease and illness.
This is where depression and anxiety are bred, and later born. Within our mind, fed by thoughts, fuelled by fear and birthed whilst we are asleep inside the belief that we are our mind and our thoughts. Thing is, You can CHOOSE-YOUR-THOUGHTS!
This is where mindfulness comes in. By realising we are not our thoughts, we can begin to take the control of our ship and steer ourselves from the constant cascade of thinking into stiller waters. We can create peace of mind which will in turn free us from our mind made suffering.
By monitoring your thoughts, you can begin to bring yourself back into the now. By noticing your thoughts, you can begin to create space between you and your thoughts. You can begin to listen and witness and slow your thoughts down.
By inviting conscious breath, you can begin to resource the body, offering it calm and presence. Orienting your attention
by focusing on your surroundings brings you into the here and now. Bring your awareness to nature, to the room, to your hands, to your breath. In this moment you are moving towards the power of now.
This is easier said than done. The ability to defuse from your thoughts and access the present moment requires practise. However, training your brain by noticing your thoughts, slowing yourself down and moving into the present moment will enable you to shift your mental and emotional experiences from anxious and distressed to cool calm, and connected.
Mindfulness practiced moves you from the reactive state of surviving life to a responsive experience of living life.
As author, Robin Sharma wrote, “The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.” I invite you to notice your thoughts and become the master of your mind.