Living Well Integrative Health Center

2176 Windsor Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. (902) 406-1500

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Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention on purpose to the present moment without judgement. Cultivating a mindful practice is one way that we can really help ourselves learn to listen to what we need emotionally, physically and cognitively.

If we are able to see ourselves accurately we would see that there us more right with us than wrong. We would also see that essentially everything we need is already present inside each and every one of us. We know ourselves better than anyone else yet often we can't access this. We suffer with this being human thing. So often we torture ourselves with doubts, worries, indecision and find ourselves living a life or lifestyle that we don't really think we want or need.

Often we are not present with what is here, depriving ourselves of the joy of living now and with confidence in the person we are. Somewhere deep within each of us is a knowledge of what makes us strong, healthy and happy. How many of our thoughts throughout the day are actual replays of events or hurts gone past, needs not met? How often do we worry about what is to come or of a future we can't predict? How much time do we waste getting caught up in judging thoughts, gripping emotions or strong physical pains?

When we are able to be present, to access intentionally, at our call what it feels like in our bodies, to feel what we are feeling and are able to identify what are minds are thinking, we start to become in tune with what it takes to steady the mind and to listen to ourselves better. Once we are aware of ourselves, we can begin to work with what  is there.

How would you feel if you were to experience yourself as stable, strong, flexible and balanced? What would it be like to be able to know what you think, to feel how you feel and to let that inform you of what you need and how you want to live this one precious life? How would your life be different?

I took many meditation classes in my young adulthood. I always had the misperception that I wasn't doing it "right" or that I couldn't sit as calmly as I was "supposed" to. Over time and practice I learned there is no "supposed" to but only "what is". Mindfulness and insight meditation training changed my experience of meditation and of myself. Once you have trained and practiced, you can never go back to how you were, yet you were there all along. It's a strange paradox.

Mindfulness practice informs all aspects of my life and without it I would be living a life without the consistent depth of enjoyment that I do and the low points would be more difficult to bare. To paraphrase the Dalai Lama, 'meditation and awareness are great but useless without logic and reasoning'.

The basis of the Mindfulness classes I am holding at Living Well embrace the structure and principles taught to me through the wonderful instructors from the University Of Massachusetts Medical School's Center for Mindfulness. I was fortunate enough to study as well with John Kabat-Zinn who developed MBSR, my formal training. My class however also involves a structured component to help learn how to use the awareness you cultivate to inform you of how you want to live day to day though use of discussion and home exercises (CBT, ACT  & EFT) which I also have professional training in. It is not talk therapy, it is experiential and requires sharing of process. 

It is liberating if you choose it to be. The classes are held once a week for 2 hours for a total of 8 weeks. Although one might think they would never enjoy a group setting, thinking it's unlikely to be intimate and secure, you are wrong! People tend to share the process and the struggles not the most intimate details of their lives. You share as much or as little as you wish, but what becomes very obvious, and is only possible in a diverse group of people, is that we are all human. In that humanness we all love, lose, struggle, joy, pain and hope in much the same ways. Being fully awake for this human experience is a different way to be with what is. Please call reception to sign up for the next 8 week class. 

 

Resilience and Mindfulness

When we lack resilience we dwell on past problems and feel stuck. We may feel victimized or sorry for ourselves and both these mind states are unhealthy, depleting and contribute to our not being able to cope with stress and adversity to the best of our ability. Being now in the face of stress and adversity and knowing how to respond does require some intentional past reflection (not to be confused with ruminating or getting stuck in the past). The who, what, where, when and how of having overcome prior obstacles (and we all have) can now help us think about our present circumstances with courage, positivity and confidence in our ability to overcome. We can't change the past. We cant alter that things have changed and are always changing. Life requires that we have emotional flexibility to adapt to changes but often we find ourselves trying to control things within ourselves and our outside world in an attempt to feel less vulnerable, as if this moderates the stress that accompanies change. This is something akin to using a match to put out a fire.

We may even seek and take refuge in unhealthy ways to escape and cope. Our society even reinforces these ways. This limits our ability to creatively and thoughtfully respond to what we and the current situation need to make it through the difficult time or feelings. We tend to worry about the future which doesn't allow us to predict it nor to affect it intelligently. How we are now, what we choose to turn towards inside and outside ourselves and how we respond to ourselves and our circumstances does allow us to be NOW, where we already are, which is all we can ever do. In turn, the present experience does affect our future. 

"Mindfulness" is a term that is buzzing right now. Mindfulness is simply being present in the moment without trying to alter, change or judge our experience. I value it in so much as I believe that it is the only way in which to authentically live well, how to be more than okay in the face of calm and adversity. Similar to resilience, mindfulness is not a trait, it can be learned. It is a process and a way of being. 

Mindfulness can help us learn to be more present, to reflect on our pasts or consider the future without getting stuck. It teaches us how to judge less and how to be more accepting of ourselves, our circumstances and other people. We learn how to respond rather than react. It helps us recognize our true nature, our strengths and our vulnerabilities, and to see how we can turn towards rather than avoid ourselves in an attempt to live consciously. This is true self-compassion, self-love.

Mindfulness helps us to accept and adapt to change which is at the core of resilience. Mindfulness lets us be ourselves, which is what we already are. In a sense it is like giving ourselves permission to be just who we are, to befriend ourselves. We learn how to listen to what we already know, what is best for us. Deep within us is all of this. Time, experience, conditioning and habits can alter our ability to access our knowing, confidence and our resilience. We once fell a thousand times but still got up and tried to walk. We succeed because we fail and because each and every one of us has within us a deep seated understanding of what it takes to make ourselves happy and healthy.

- Dr. Maria Patriquin