Our minds are what make us human....well that, and opposable thumbs. We use our minds to understand, remember, plan, rationalize, organize and logic-ize (and make up words). We use all these functions (and more) to solve our problems...and if we look at even the root of that - to avoid pain and to feel good. In our minds we rationalize and think, "_______ happened and I don't like it. How can I stop _______ to feel ______." In this process we develop habitual responses, automatic reactions and filter everything through the lenses from behind which we see the world. Our thoughts and our perceptions join forces. Overtime and with "practice" our thoughts become our beliefs.
Our society and culture focuses strongly on our minds and the power of our minds. We tend to believe that if we think it, it must be true....and if we want to be "better" we have to think more. I believe this creates a dichotomy where we believe the mind has ALL the answers. We become disjointed from the rest of our bodies and the wisdom that lies in us, beyond the mind - the wisdom of our bodies, our intuitions, our emotions.
When we slow down and become mindful we take a step back from our habitual experience to gain perspective. Being mindful of the mind, we simply view our thoughts from a distance - from a witness perspective. We don't try to stop our thoughts, or empty our mind. On the contrary, we are deeply aware of the content of our thinking - yet we don't become enmeshed in it, we don't get carried away by it. We watch the activity of the mind from a curious, non-judgemental, witnessing perspective - we develop mindfulness around the true nature of the mind and the nature of our thoughts. We see the bigger picture of our minds. We begin to notice what thoughts may (or may not) serve our greater personal good. We may begin to realize thought patterns that dominate our experience (for example, anxious thoughts and worries) or perhaps you notice just how unaware you have been as to the content of the thoughts that dominate the internal world of your mind.
In any case, being mindful of the mind is a very dynamic and engaged process. It takes concentration and awareness, compassion and a lack of judgement. It also takes patience - understanding that we never arrive at a mind that is empty and serene. We arrive with an awareness that we can create space in our minds to notice and to choose our thoughts, reactions and even beliefs.
Taking the Victor Frankl quote one layer deeper, and understanding it as it applies to the nature of the mind: "Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
Create space for your own freedom.
I've always been very inspired by the Buddhist teachings around Mindfulness. My introduction to meditation was down the mindfulness meditation path, and I've always believed in a seamless and natural bond between mindfulness and yoga. In coping with emotional intensity and grief, mindfulness is an extremely supportive and honouring practice.
In its most basic and broadest sense, mindfulness is the practice of tuning into our full experience, using all our own senses. With mindfulness our experience becomes richer, our senses broader, our mind more focused.
Mindfulness is unique because it can be done as you go about your daily life - in fact, its probably practiced best this way - completely integrated into your daily experiences. You can turn any moment into a mini-mindfulness meditation by just slowing your movements down and paying attention.
From where you are right now, just stop. Notice something near you - an object which you can pick up. Take a moment to just notice that object, and all its qualities - shape, color, texture. Notice yourself noticing it - the movement and tracking of your eyes, the tilt of your head, your breath. Now very slowly (very slowly) begin to reach your hand towards the object, using all your senses to tune into the full rich experience of simply reaching. Noticing things like the contraction and simultaneous lengthening of your are muscles, the movement and touch of your clothing agains your skin, the subtle ways your hand adjusts and positions itself to grasp. Include being mindful of thoughts and feelings as they arise - noticing them without judgement and with complete acceptance and awareness.
Moving slowly and with awareness is the portal into minfulness. When we slow down we open ourselves up to new ways of experiencing each moment. The practice of mindfulness isn't to change anything, it's simply to expeirence if for what it is. Approach each moment with a fresh "beginners mind" and open perspective to an otherwise mundane and routine experience. It only takes a second or two to slow down, mid-day, mid-action, and practice mindfulness. A mini meditation to expand your inner awareness and create space for new ways of perceiving. Two great times to practice mindfulness are when walking, and when eating.
In his book, Man's Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl said, "Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
Create space for your own freedom.
Stay tuned for part 2: Mindful Thoughts, and Part 3: Mindful Emotions.
When I was asked to write this guest blog, I was honored and am still very honored. As a dance/movement therapist, I was excited to share from this perspective and advocate for the body's role in grief, mourning, and healing and then I let myself become caught up in expectations about having to write from this perspective. I thought I had to write the most poetic piece but through that journey the topic of this blog blossomed: permission. A topic that may seem so benign on the outside but in reality is important. Sometimes it is the journey that we find what is already naturally onside of us. To live authentically and in the continued interest of self disclosure, my intention is to not write the perfect post but rather speak from the heart and an embodied place in support of my own journey and your journey.
The world may place many expectations on how we move through grief and bereavement. People may attempt to push someone to move on or present ideas meant to be helpful with well meaning intentions. Action is being advocated for and as a consequence a place to explore and move through one's own process is not given the space and freedom to develop. Everyone has their own way of expressing and journeying through their grief. We may feel it in our hearts, our stomachs, or our limbs. We may express our feelings through stillness, spoken words, written words, art, music, or dance. There is wisdom is what messages the body conveys about our grief and how we choose to convey our inner process. Trusting one's own process can be freeing. Our grief and healing process is our own and it is okay to go through one's own journey! Yes, I am saying that everyone has permission to be as you are in your process.I hereby give all of you permission to grieve, mourn, move, heal, and be who you are in your own process. Below I have included a blank form that you may find useful.
Peace be with all of you. Kimberlee Bow, MA, R-DMT
Kimberlee Bow obtained her Master’s in Somatic Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Dance/Movement Therapy. She obtained her R-DMT or Registered Dance/ Movement Therapist credentials by meeting the high standards that are required of the field. Dance/Movement Therapy is based on empirically supported evidence that the body, mind, and spirit are interconnected. A dance/movement therapist therefore uses movement in a psychotherapeutic manner to encourage emotional, cognitive, psychical, and social integration and growth. Dance/Movement Therapy is suited for individuals, groups, family, and couples and can be used with multiple different populations in many mental health or medical health settings. For more information please visit the American Dance Therapy Website. There, one can find more information about Dance/Movement Therapy, the organization, great resources, and access to a list of Dance/Movement Therapists in your area.
Kimberlee Bow works in Colorado in a private practice with children and families. Additionally, she brings Dance/Movement Therapy to elder groups, veterans, at-risk youth, support groups, intergenerational groups, and continues to expand her work. Her website, www.kimberleebow.com, is currently under construction, but will up soon. For more information please email Kimberlee and she will be happy to answer questions.