Do you know what your next thought will be? If you were in control would your mind criticize and judge you mercilessly like it does? Our minds are meaning making machines. It compares all experience against our unique belief system about who we believe we are. Does it agree or not? It judges everything and then comes up with a new story of self for the moment. This happens autonomously, automatically and subconsciously. We become aware of what our minds have made up and believe we were the ones who consciously thought it. In fact, we are just knowing what our minds have already created and take ownership of it. Our minds have a mind of their own. Free will? I am not so sure!
There are only two ways to be free of pain and suffering. Death and coma. And that is not what mindfulness is about. Mindfulness is not about a silent and peaceful mind. Loss of a loved one, your job, a relationship or your health is difficult. There will be sadness, grief, anger and pain. Mindfulness will not change that. But what it can do is to allow you to hold your pain without fighting and resistance. One holds the suffering with wisdom and compassion.
Learning how to breathe properly is one of the most effective tools you have for stress relief. How do you do it?
Our breath is under automatic and conscious control. Bring your awareness to your breath.
Breathe in a conscious slow, deep and smooth manner through your nose.
Belly rather than chest breathing with the inhalation and exhalation supports relaxation.
Exhalation is the parasympathetic or relaxation response while inhalation is the sympathetic or fight or flight response. Breathe out by at least 1 second longer than what you breathe in. Ultimately aim for slow breathing with an in-breath for a count of 4 and an out-breath for a count of 6. Put them all together and you have the capacity to put out the fire of acute stress or lower the simmer of chronic anxiety.
From an interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn in MINDFUL magazine he explained: “And nonjudgmental, by the way, does not mean that you won’t have any likes or dislikes or that you’ll be completely neutral about everything. Nonjudgmental really means that you’ll become aware of how judgmental you are and then not judge that and see if you [can let go], for a few moments at least, the restraining order that filters everything through our likes and dislikes or wants or aversion.”