There are many definitions for mindfulness, all of them are correct. Mindfulness is basically moment-to-moment awareness. Most of us spend a lot of time on automatic pilot – we aren’t aware of the moment we are in. Jack Kornfield playfully refers to mindfulness in terms of love. He says anyone interested in love should be interested in being more fully aware in the present moment because we can only love in the present moment. Thoughts about love in the past are nostalgia and anticipation of love in the future is fantasy!
Research suggests that you can change your brain’s neurotransmitters throughout your entire life. You are never too old to change the way your brain works! One way to do this is through MINDFULNESS.
So let’s talk about the BRAIN for a minute because, as we begin to understand mindfulness, the brain is at the core.
The brain has three major parts:
- The brainstem is the reptilian part of your brain, the fight or flight part. This is the part of your brain that is alert to dangers that might come your way, both emotional and physical.
- The limbic houses the amygdala that serves as the smoke detector and is always on alert to determine from the information gathered by the senses whether or not we are at risk. This is the part of our brain that deals with emotions, fear, anxiety and anger.
- The cortex is the logical part of the brain, where we are able to make sense of things and work through our emotions and find peace and happiness.
Everyone has a window of tolerance. This means that there are parameters in which you feel safe, peaceful, and in control of yourself. Within this area, it is like a calm river flowing. You are able to live in the here and now, not worrying or forecasting.
When events in our life happen that throw us out of this balance, we either go into chaos, or we withdraw. Your personal response to this is usually the same every time. We all get thrown for a loop, no one is immune to that, however, the key is all in our response.
We can learn to be happy and at peace, no matter what is going on externally. We can learn to witness it, process it, and work with it through being mindful. I know this sounds too good to be true!! I’m not saying it is easy, but it isn’t nearly as hard as you might imagine. Just being aware of these principals can make a huge difference.
Here is a great starting point for mindfulness: just pay attention to your window of tolerance. Where are your boundaries? When you get thrown out of balance, are you in chaos or withdrawal? How can you change your reaction to that by being fully present in the moment?