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Practicing Mindfulness
 

So, what exactly is "Mindfulness?"  You can't do a search of anything without finding it in the results - mindful parenting, mindful eating, mindfulmindfulmindful. So, one might ask, how do I actually BE mindful, and how can it change my life?
 
In its simplest form, Mindfulness is Paying Attention.  But it an attentiveness that is present, empty of judgment- with an open heart, with a tender allowing, with loving kindness. It's paying attention to the Moment, whatever it contains, with every neuron and every cell in your body.  Let's take a simple example, let's say it's eating a peach.  When was the last time you took a bite and were utterly enraptured at the taste, fragrance, texture and overwhelming experience of eating a peach?  We slip through our lives almost completely unaware, distracted by our self-recriminations and resentful inner self-talk about the past, or worries about the future, and the moment at hand is lost.    There's an old Zen adage that states, "Live each day as though your hair were on fire."  Now that's being in the present moment.
 
There is a finer quality that has been termed "spaciousness" - that allows us to observe and experience without reacting.  This helps us detach from our usual knee-jerk reactivity, out of childhood and unconscious conditioning, and begins to soften our relationship with the inner demons and behaviors that seem to have us in their grip.  And all of this naturally cultivates compassion; not only to others, but to ourselves.

Mindfulness can bring many benefits to your emotional and physical health, as well as to the relationships in your life.  It's an amazing tool for stress management and overall wellness, because it can be used at virtually any time and quickly bring lasting results.   By developing moment-by-moment awareness, we create the ability to witness our experience and to choose our responses rather than to react automatically to our surroundings. By living mindfully, we can overcome stubborn mental patterns and live more joyfully.  In working on my own process and that of others for decades, it's the one piece that I feel has been the most effective in creating lasting change.

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Mindfulness based counseling is a powerful innovative approach to healing that is based on ancient wisdom on how to tap the power of our own minds. Mindfulness means to pay attention, with intention, in the present moment, without judgment.

Individuals who practice mindfulness report that they have an enhanced sense of well-being, an expanded experience of joy in their lives and a more positive relationship with themselves and others.

Over 20 years of evidence-based research has clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of mindfulness approaches to stress reduction, to recovery from illness a living.​By developing moment-by-moment awareness, we create the ability to witness our experience and to choose our responses rather than to react automatically to our surroundings. By living mindfully, we can overcome stubborn mental patterns and live more joyfully.

 

Mindfulness and the Brain

Mindfulness changes the brain!  We're just beginning to understand the effects of this ...

1)  The Amygdalla

It has been found that mindfulness positively affects the amygdala, a region of the brain primarily associated with emotional processes,  This area becomes less active, and has less grey matter density following mindfulness sessions.

2)  The Hippocampus

The hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with memory that helps regulate the amygdala, was found to be more active. 

3)  Prefrontal Cortex

The part of the brain associated with both impulse control and maturity tended to become more active following mindfulness training. In addition, meditators showed thicker cortical regions related to attention & sensory processing, suggesting that meditation may offset cortical thinning brought on by aging.

In my own personal experience, mindfulness & mindfulness practice has resulted in more overall positive changes than anything else.  By cultivating self-awareness, we begin to become aware of our motivations, thoughts, behaviors, beliefs, etc., before they can become a problem.  By combining it with meditation, it allows us the space, generosity, compassion and peace to shift these out of a knee-jerk reaction and into a conscious choice.  This changes EVERYTHING!

 

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