When I hear the word mindfulness, I tend to think of yoga or meditation. Although it can be part of both of those disciplines, it’s also something that can be practiced in daily life to help ease stress. Estrangement definitely brings stress to a life, so mindfulness is one way to help when the emotions are threatening to overwhelm your mind and heart.
The first time I was introduced to the idea of mindfulness, the term wasn’t used. I’d been in the middle of trying to tell someone about something traumatic and scary that was happening in my life at the time. The more I tried to talk about the fear, the more I started to feel panicked. I even started shaking. The person I was with (a pastor) gently asked me if I was afraid right then sitting in that room with him and one of the elders at the church.
No, I wasn’t afraid in that room at that moment.
He asked me if I could just spend a minute focusing on where I was right then. What was I feeling? Hearing? Seeing? Look out the window and see the sunshine. Watch the tree branches moving gently in the breeze.
As I followed his advice, I felt the fear and panic lift. Yes, there were reasons for fear and panic at other moments in my life, but this wasn’t one of those moments. In that moment I felt safe, protected, and cared about.
I took that lesson into my daily life and when I would find my mind wandering to things that brought stress, I would start observing where I was right at that moment. And it worked.
Funny how I never thought about applying mindfulness principles to my thoughts and feelings related to this estrangement until I read about the topic in Done with the Crying by Sheri McGregor earlier this week.
The following list contains some of the ideas I gleaned from McGregor’s book about how to begin using mindfulness:
- take one long breath, then another as an anchor to the present moment
- feel what you feel, but take note of what you’re thinking, feeling, and how your body is reacting
- don’t judge, just observe
- in time, you’ll be able to respond more purposefully when these thoughts begin, and then make healthier choices — but first, just be mindful, aware, and present in the moment
- learning what you’re thinking, feeling, and experiencing bodily in moments of severe pain or panic will help you come up with a plan to make better choices in the future and feel more in control