“Time for mindfulness. Start with the basics.”
That was the instructions from Claudette’s Life Coach. The words swirled around in Claudette’s head for a while, darting here and there, before taking hold.
Not wanting to have another episode, the last one almost got her. Claudette reluctantly paid attention.
She had not wanted to turn to mindfulness, admitting she is stressed out was difficult. But the pressure was building.
Plus the term mindfulness bothered her — it is tossed around a lot these days.
After a routine of daily red wine failed to manage her stress, she merely increased the dosage up to three glasses a night. After nine months of intensive drinking, Claudette’s stress coping ability weakened. To make matters worse, she developed acid reflux — her stomach churned with constant agitation.
A few weeks later she was hit by a stress storm — a big one
Claudette was at the casino trying to gamble away her tension when she had the altercation.
“A woman with crooked glasses and broken teeth asked me if I was finished playing the slot machine. The next thing I knew, I powered up and stood in her face.
“Get the f**k away from me. Isn’t it obvious? I am still here!
“That is all I remember, The next thing I knew I was being escorted out by security.”
For Claudette, being barred for life from the casino was a wake-up call
Being a busy trial lawyer with a crippling caseload was unbearable. Her only comfort was to zone out while staring at the rolling cherries and lemons, hoping for three sevens.
One night she found herself, curled up like a sick puppy on the floor, her eyes swollen with tears. She didn’t think she would survive the night.
Only she did survive.
In fact six months later Claudette is much calmer. She found better ways to cope with stress.
Claudette embraced mindfulness
Over four decades, she didn’t believe in alternative cures — if it didn’t come from her doctor it wasn’t right. Sure the mind-body connection was important when it comes to overcoming stress, just believing in something wasn’t enough.
Yet, Claudette knew that for all the years of research and billions of dollars spent, mainstream medicine still almost exclusively rely on drugs to treat most conditions.
“My Life Coach introduced me to mindfulness. I discovered that by paying attention to whats going on around me, instead of operating on autopilot, I could reduce stress and improve my performance.”
What exactly is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a form of meditation.
Ellen Langer teaches that mindfulness is the process of actively noticing new things. When you do that, it puts you in the present moment. It makes you more sensitive to context and perspective.
Become the observer
Claudette tends to worry that she will encounter a problem she cannot solve — this gives her stress.
She now understands that a pleasant thought is fleeting. Likewise, a challenging thought is also fleeting. So without judgment, she doesn’t struggle and resist.
Your Judgy Brain
It can be tempting sometimes as you are sitting, meditating or just in silence, watching your thoughts coming and going, wondering what is all about.
And perhaps, if anything your thoughts are ever-changing.
For Claudette, after a few weeks of practicing mindful meditation, she was tempted to think that as long as her mind was a little quieter, that was all the benefit to be had.
But the truth is there is more benefit to be had by witnessing that coming and going of thoughts.
By becoming the observer. Claudette was able to witness her thoughts coming and going. That is the real benefit.
“As I witness my thoughts, in the beginning, I tended to chase after the exciting ones, to resist the challenging ones and to accept the welcoming ones.”
Our minds are wired to get carried away in thought
But as we become more familiar with the role as the observer we start to see that thoughts come and go. We can witness them in every moment.
A significant part of mindfulness is breathing
Claudette uses the sensation of breathing to bring her back to the present moment.
“As soon as I get distracted, I take a moment. I breathe in deeply. I count my breaths… 1, 2, 1, 2… to acknowledge my thoughts and I come back to the present.
“Nothing forced. It’s like tapping a glass with a feather.”
Claudette credits mindfulness for reducing her stress
“If I could do it all again, at the casino, I’d breathe first. I’d think before I speak.”
New ways to find inner peace in a busy life
“I feel less frustrated. I am less inclined to freak out.”