I know the idea of Mindfulness sounds elusive. People often envision sitting crossed-legged on the floor, repeating “OMMMM” over and over, waiting for their mind to settle down. If you are like me, that process never worked! My brain is often too busy running down rabbit holes of thoughts that lead in a million directions at ninety miles an hour. Sound familiar?
For me, Mindfulness was like a miracle. It was less about stillness, and more about observation. I would often overreact to my thoughts, believing they were telling me the truth of a situation. Learning the concepts of Mindfulness, I came to understand that my thoughts are not always facts, but are filled with judgments and assumptions that are often wrong. Yet responding in that state could drive my emotions right off a cliff, leaving me in a place of stress all the time. It was exhausting!
Observing my own thoughts gave me space. It gave me perspective. And most importantly, it gave me time to assess whether this was a thought I needed to react to or not. It gave me choice. And in that choice, whether to react or not, gave me a freedom I did not know was possible.
I always loved the analogy of the subway car. I could imagine spray painting my thoughts on a shiny silver car. And when the doors of the car opened, I could decide to get on that thought train and ride, or step back on the platform and let those thoughts speed down the track into the dark. Since learning Mindfulness almost two decades ago, I ride that train a lot less, and have created more peace in my life. Even when times are overwhelming or stressful.
The great thing is this doesn’t require a lot of time. Just stop. Take a breath. Notice how you feel. Observe your thoughts. And then, decide what you want to do. I promise you, this simple exercise can create miracles for you too!
Terry Galler, MA, LPC