Friday, February 04, 2011

Cindy Ricardo - Mindfulness: Finding Peace in the Midst of a Storm

This article is a nice reminder that we are not required to be at the mercy of our emotions, our struggles, our pain. We can choose to turn toward our suffering and not be in a battle with it. I know it sounds impossible from the outside, but with practice it not only ceases to be something out of reach, but it also stops being something that feels frightening.

This comes from the always useful and relevant

Mindfulness: Finding Peace in the Midst of a Storm

By Cindy Ricardo, LMHC, CIRT, Mindfulness Based Approaches/Contemplative Approaches Topic Expert Contributor

Click here to contact Cindy and/or see her Profile

What do you do when you’re feeling anxious, depressed or stressed out? How do you treat yourself? Are you able to be compassionate towards your own emotional pain or do you engage in self criticism, judgment or blame?

For most of us, our initial reaction to pain is to look around for someone to blame, blame ourselves or ignore our suffering. As humans we avoid pain and seek pleasure. We either avoid pain by getting distracted: taking drugs, drinking, gambling, become workaholics, surf the internet, etc. Or we go to the other extreme, reacting towards the world and ourselves through judgment, blame or criticism. We dwell in reactive thinking (I’m always doing this wrong or he’s always doing it wrong!) which escalates our emotions. Pretty soon we’re on an emotional rollercoaster rolling from one emotion to the next and feeling totally out of control. Neither of these approaches help us respond to our pain. Instead it increases our suffering, intensifies painful emotions and keeps us stuck in a pattern of reactive behaviors that lead to feelings of inadequacy and disconnection.

So why do we engage in behaviors that don’t help?

There are many different reasons behind our reactivity in the face of pain. Some of it has to do with childhood experiences and the how we learned to deal/not deal with our emotions, some of it has to do with our brains and how we’re wired to react when danger or a threat is present. Stereotypical gender roles (for women it’s okay to express feelings through sadness and tears, for some men the only feeling that is okay to express is anger) can greatly influence how we react/respond to our emotions. Spending time trying to figure out the origin of our triggers is important but it can take a long time and doesn’t address the immediate need to alleviate our suffering in the present moment. One approach that does help is the practice of Mindfulness.

Mindfulness – a compassionate approach towards life…

One of the most healing and compassionate approaches to pain that I’ve found is the practice of Mindfulness. The benefits of this practice are wonderful in that it helps us turn towards our suffering with a desire to heal and stay connected with ourselves, the world and others. Mindfulness is a practice that helps us stay in the present moment, becoming aware of what we’re feeling in our bodies, our hearts and learning to notice when we’re hooked into our stories or reactive thoughts. It’s a centering and grounding practice so that instead of creating stories, getting lost in negative thoughts, or reacting towards others out of our defenses we attune to our own pain in a loving way.

Read the whole article.


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