What is Mindfulness

soup girl Medium 257x300 What is MindfulnessThroughout counseling circles, the practice of “mindfulness” is getting a lot of recognition. For many of us, mindfulness may be a new term. I wanted to take some time to explain mindfulness and the benefits that it is said to promote.

Mindfulness is purposefully slowing your mind down to focus on what you are experiencing in that particular moment. So often in our modern culture, we are trained to multitask. We aren’t just walking from one building to another, cooking dinner, or even brushing our teeth- we are thinking about what’s next. In those moments we are making lists, processing emotions, and thoughts, all while accepting new information. Busyness runs throughout our culture. Anxiety is on the rise. Mindfulness- in contrast- is a tool counselors have been using to try and slow down the day. In this process, stimuli from the outside are processed piece-by-piece and filtered through a screen of pausing and relaxing.

Yoga and Meditation are often forms of Mindfulness that are taught through counseling to be intentional in helping bring Mindfulness about. Typically these exercises begin with focusing on breathing and slowly allowing yourself to receive the benefits of self-control, patience, reasoning, lessened anxiety, improved concentration, and increased flexibility and attention.

So take some time in your day to stop, notice your breathing and your surroundings.  Become attentive to the present moment and exhale the tension and inhale a full complete breath. Practice a mindful moment each day and you might find that it helps you slow down and experience life more fully.  You might also find that you enjoy your co-workers, employees, spouse and even kids a little more when you are more mindful of the moments. Living a slower and purposeful life is one of the greatest gifts that you can give yourself and the ones you love.

Let’s all just take a break

Screen Shot 2015 09 17 at 12.17.20 PM 300x204 Lets all just take a breakWho doesn’t have a busy schedule these days?  There has certainly been an increase in the pace of the American family! If family life used to cruise at 50 mph, it is now traveling at 100 mph. Certainly fueled by the acceleration of electronics, what was fast 20 years ago is not acceptable today. 120 years ago, if someone missed the stagecoach, they unpacked their bags and planned to catch another coach the next month. Today, if the plane is delayed a few minutes, the crowd freaks out.

Certainly, cell phones and computers have increased organization and productivity, but in the family, they have also increased the stress level. Today’s teenagers live at a frantic pace so different from my teenage years of the 70’s. I recall afternoons coming home from school, grabbing a snack from the kitchen and watching Gilligan’s Island on TV. I played sports and during those seasons, we had practices every afternoon, but only during the seasons. Summers were spent at camp and just “hanging out” with my family and friends.

Today, year-round sports mean the domination of athletics 365 days a year. A friend told me the other day that his son’s football coach was reluctantly giving his players a week off in the summer. Crazy. Year-round schooling and academic pressures demand that teens spend more time than ever in the books. The increase in “electronics” means that text messages, email, and phone calls are accessible all the time.

As parents, we need to help dictate the pace of the family. I’m not suggesting we live like the Jews of old who wouldn’t even walk more than 8 steps on the Sabbath. We don’t need to pull our kids out of sports or take away their cell phones. But I am suggesting that parents prayerfully step into the pace of the family. Kids and teenagers (and adults) all need down time. And the “down” is different for all of us. Today, as I was praying with Jeanie, I prayed, “Lord, thank you for a restful day.” Jeanie asked me later “was today really restful? You mowed the yard and cleaned out gutters.” “Yes,” I replied. “It was restful because I chose what I wanted to do.” Stress ensues when our schedules are dictated for us. Sure, ultimately our time is God’s time and we yield to His will, but we make loving choices everyday to make wise choices in setting our schedules.

Parents, step up and in and help your teenager set boundaries. Help them establish “gaps” in their busy schedule and find a little down time. Every hour doesn’t have to be filled with an activity. Don’t dictate to them but teach them. Of course, it’s easier to teach what we practice, so take inventory of your own pace first. We all need down time to just chill and read, exercise, watch TV, mow grass and most importantly, spend time with family and with God.

Make down time a priority for your family. Unplug the electronics and enjoy the time of Sabbath.