When was the last time you truly noticed the feel of the water on your body whilst taking a shower? Or really savoured your food, noticing the many flavours and the various textures? For most of us, the majority of our daily tasks are carried out without any noticing of the sensory richness of these, somewhat mundane tasks. For many, food is consumed in front of the TV or computer, or on the go, - and the shower routine has become the ideal place to plan the day ahead, think about meetings, or daydream. On reflection the answer that comes up for many of us is that we rarely truly notice and pay attention. The implication of living a life on autopilot, busy entertaining thoughts concerning the future or the past, is that we may never be where we actually are.
To pay attention, to truly notice are essential aspects of the mindfulness practice. The origin of mindfulness comes from the heart of Buddhist tradition. However, to benefit and develop mindfulness one does not need to be a Buddhist.
To be mindful, simply means to pay attention, - but in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and in a non-judgemental manner. A powerful element of self-care is to check in with yourself a few times a day and begin to notice what is going on for you in this moment. Simply notice how you are on a physical, emotional, cognitive level in this moment, one area at a time. Is there any tension in my body? If so where? What is the sensation? What sort of thinking is going on? Noticing the thoughts; is your mind on the past or the future or in the present moment? What am I feeling at the moment? Am I happy, sad, or anxious? Whatever you find, just notice. The invitation is to not judge it.
Then ask yourself what it is like to merely notice, and not give into the conditioned impulse to change what we do not like.
For those in recovery sitting with uncomfortable feelings can pose a significant challenge.
As you know, on the road of recovery stress can pose as a major trigger. When we feel overwhelmed, our new and healthy coping strategies don’t always seem readily available in the moment, and the desire to pick up and use old and familiar ways of coping may seem irresistible. Whereas the mantra of the 12 step programme is; ‘One day at a time’, it might be useful to think of the mantra of mindfulness as; ‘One thing at a time’.
When we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed many of us find ourselves becoming very reactive to everything that is going around us. This might have been particularly true while we were active in our addiction. However, once we become more mindful and cease to react to the constant flow of emotions that sometimes overwhelm us, we begin to have more choice in how we react. Stressful events, or moments of feeling overwhelmed will demand an action. Rather than reacting instantaneously, practicing mindfulness, allows us to create a moment of pause between the event and the reaction, so that we can have a healthier stress response and feel less overwhelmed.