It’s Easter, and we usually visit family on the farm at Easter. I love the space, the simplicity, the physical work, and the animals, as well as spending time with family, but this year I’m going to China.
Why is that? My sister’s cancer, which was in remission, is active again and I want to spend time with her.
“But what does that have to do with mindfulness?” you wonder. Like Chinese medicine and acupuncture, mindfulness can be a very powerful tool for balancing energy.
Which leads to the real challenge: practicing mindfulness can be particularly hard! Especially when you are struggling with emotions and stress (which most of us are). The biggest challenge for many of us is to change or adopt new habits. Even if we know that these habits will make us much happier and healthier, it is likely that we just don’t do them, because often is just so much easier and more comfortable to stay with the familiar.
We tend to be in our heads a lot, thinking and worrying about the past or the future – the mind racing. Mindfulness is the art of coming back to what’s here, right now. Paying attention to the present moment with intention, openness and curiosity, and without judgement – with the positionality that there is no good and there is no bad – it all just is. We notice what is here, without being so reactive to what’s happening. It is a willingness to accept what is. It is a way to filter out distractions from your environment – and from your brain, and is certainly helpful for letting intuition come through.
David R. Hawkins, M.D.,Ph.D. says that mindfulness means being willing to put forth the energy to be watchful of ourselves and know when we are off course. Mindfulness is the inner honesty to take a personal inventory. It is the willingness to spot our defects of character and admit our shortcomings. It takes some effort to be watchful of ourselves and see some areas where we could improve. We don’t ignore our shortcomings, or make a big deal out of them, or go into a guilt spasm – we just notice and acknowledge them. (because guilt is a self indulgence and is narcissistic – so don’t waller in it!) Mindfulness is taking responsibility for our own consciousness.
In the workplace, this means being fully present to the task at hand, and not thinking about a difficult boss, losing your job, what is piled up in the inbox, or what might appear there in the future. Sit quietly for a few minutes, and simply breathe in and out, focused on nothing but the breath – eliminate all other thoughts and just let calm return to the present. It is the energy of being aware of what is really happening in the present and of refocusing on your work and its purpose. In the daily work routine this can also mean increasing creativity, being more productive and less stressed.
Your emotions play an enormous part in your overall health and well-being, but we are taught to control and suppress them. Obviously we need to put our emotions aside to do our work and comfort others, but with mindfulness, we also need to set aside time to acknowledge them in ourselves, if we want to be truly healthy and able to serve others. Mindfulness and acupuncture work together to accomplish this by unblocking energy channels and helping us to acknowledge what we are feeling.
Mindfulness can have significant benefits for many chronic pain sufferers and research shows that practicing mindfulness may result in positive changes in the brain. It could be time well spent for chronic pain sufferers to manage their pain and wellbeing through mindfulness. This is about helping people to understand that healing comes from inside, and giving people the strategies and the tools to find their own way.
The biggest challenge without a doubt is to keep up this peaceful practice. Everyone can see the enormous potential in practicing mindfulness and yet they find it hard to maintain this healthy change and deepen it. One of the problems is that other things keep grabbing our attention and become more important, such as getting things done, instant gratification, reacting, stressing, being driven by outcomes, pushing forward in our lives, towards what we think(and hope) will be and feel better – lots of “doing” rather than “being”. This is when we actually need more mindfulness, but are less likely to do it. Unfortunately some people only come back to mindfulness after accumulating a lot of intense pain in their lives, so that they can get the relief and benefits of inner peace, calm and wisdom, which are genuine longer term investments. They realise that the way that they have been living causes them pain and they no longer want that, and so they make the necessary changes. That is, they interrupt their “doingness” for more “beingness”. Once your intention is clear, remind yourself that change happens in small steps, one little step at a time. If you stop taking the steps, don’t berate yourself – instead be curious and kind to yourself, and investigate what happened, and how you can best get back onto the healthier stepping stones again.
Mindfulness in the clinic
We are working on a research project with researcher Elli Ioannou to enhance your treatment results at the clinic, and if you have visited us recently, you may have been asked to provide feedback on the video on the TV screen in the waiting room.
You may have been surprised to see a TV there and wondered whether we would be screening the news, or educational video footage. Instead you saw videos of nature without sound. We hope that you were mindful of this.
In the midst of our busy, screen-filled lives, even artificial reminders of the beauty, tranquillity, and detail of the natural world help us to achieve greater mindfulness, and that helps you to gain more benefits from your treatment and get better treatment results.
We know that when you come into the treatment room in a relaxed and mindful state your treatment is more beneficial. We also know how hard it is to let go of the pressures and invasions of the world, especially while you are checking your phone and responding to urgent messages. We hope that the natural images you see will help you set that aside, and see your time in the waiting room as an extension of your treatment because we all need to be more mindful.
. . . more about Elli Ioannou – Photo Media
If you spend time in waiting rooms – doctors, dentists, etc you’ll notice that there is often a TV showing the news, or other general programming, or possibly a video looping through an educational programme about the discipline.
If there is no TV, waiting patients are usually flicking through emails or social media on their phones, or reading out-of-date magazines. A couple of years ago, Elli spent a lot of time in medical waiting rooms and it occurred to her that these activities either countered the treatment she was receiving, or didn’t help prepare for it.
Elli was trying to practice mindfulness to accelerate the healing process, and none of the waiting rooms really helped her achieve this goal, so she decided to use her video and media skills to change things. “I’m hoping to launch a full-scale research project on the power of this video to affect patient outcomes in the future, but at present I’m looking for health practitioners who would like to provide waiting patients with a more mindful experience”.
If you know of any practitioners who would like to learn more, I’d love them to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss setting up a trial.
“Watching the grass wave in the wind transported me to another place and rested my mind.”