My niece Morgen Paul is doing the AvonWalk for Breast Cancer in Washington DC in memory of my sister Terri who died in 2003 after a courageous 10 year battle. If you would like to help find a cure for Breast Cancer, please consider donating to a member of her team: “Terri’s TaTa’s”. Click on this link: AvonWalk for Breast Cancer: Terri's TaTa's
This summer I became a mother.
My life changed in every way possible. I was thrust from a world of books and clinical training to one filled with diaper changes, burp cloths and 3am feeds. Overnight, I became severely sleep deprived, physically exhausted and mentally overwhelmed. I was suddenly responsible for a tiny human being who was dependent on me for her every need, and although this responsibility was often a joy, it also filled me with wordless anxiety.
Maybe you have also experienced a change in your life- the loss of a friend, a new job, moving cities, marriage, graduation, a change that fills you with a kind of suffocating, racing anxiety that you can’t get away from. Maybe you experience sleepless nights, hectic days, and a constant wondering “How can I stop feeling so anxious? When will I ever stop worrying?”
I have found that it is precisely during these intense, anxiety-filled days that being mindful is necessary, but oh so difficult.
Mindfulness is “awareness without judgment of what is, via direct and immediate experience” (Cindy Sanderson, PhD). You are being mindful when you listen to a song and experience every note, when you make some tea and take time to smell its aroma, when you dance without self-consciousness and when you notice the colors of the sky during sunset.
Mindfulness is meeting every moment of life in the present, with complete awareness, and suspending our judgments, whether positive or negative. Unfortunately, the world we live in does not encourage mindfulness; we are expected to be multi-taskers, to do two or three or four things all at the same time. Most of us have two or more pressing responsibilities, work, school, family, friends, that constantly demand our attention. We admonish ourselves for not doing what we ‘should’ and doing what we ‘should not’. We often spend our time planning the future or ruminating about the past, rarely appreciating the present. We move through life with breakneck speed, asking, “What’s next?” instead of savoring what is now.
When anxiety overtakes us, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should-nots’ may seem even louder. They can easily drown out our sense of self, rock our sense of equilibrium and steal whatever sense of peace we may feel. It becomes easier is do things on auto-pilot, to stomp through life, to hastily tick things off our lists, and hope that somehow, someday, that anxiety will go away.
But will it?
This is what I want to suggest; instead of hitting the fast-forward button, why don’t we try to hit pause.
Pause, and breathe. Pause, and feel. Pause, and savor.
Maybe, just maybe, if we slow down and take the time to live in this present moment, life and all its demands will be that much more manageable.
For me, being mindful is learning to be with my daughter without thinking about my work; and to be at work without worrying about my daughter.
What does being mindful mean to you?