I feel there is a lot of confusion about mindfulness out there, but this quote by Jon Kabat- Zinn sums it up best. Don't think about it too much, just remember that mindfulness is more of an experience rather than a concept. If you are willing, mindfulness doesn't have to conflict with any of your beliefs, schemas, perceptions, or opinions in any way. Mindfulness can be a gentle addition to any and all of these and, when given a chance, is likely to enhance your life in a positive way, particularly if you or your children struggle with high stress, overwhelm, inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, physical pain, ruminating thoughts, anxiety and worry, addiction, poor motivation, and/or mood instability.
I guess what I am trying to do here is to get your 'buy in,' so to speak.
My number one difficulty in teaching mindfulness to clients is just helping them to be open to the experience. I find that many people fear that mindfulness is a kind of cultish ritual, or hippy religion that they are going to have to adopt by abandoning their beliefs and completely changing their outlook on the world. I mean, I guess you could use mindfulness in this way if you wanted to, but this is certainly not my intention when teaching mindfulness to clients, nor my intention when I use mindfulness in my personal practice.
I invite you to open your mind and consider the possibility of mindfulness being a sweet and gentle tool that you can use to improve your health and wellness. Try this on for size and see how it works for you.....
So to get started, let's use a simple metaphor and DIY craft to help you grasp the intention of mindfulness in a cerebral and visual way.
Anyone who knows me well, know how much I love crafting, so these Mindfulness Jars are a marriage of my two favorite things, crafting and meditation! Also, this craft is super easy to do and a great way to introduce mindfulness to your kids. In this way you can promote wellness for the whole family!
- One mason jar of any size (I used the half-pint size here)
- Hot glue gun and glue sticks
- Small figurine, something that will fit inside of the mason jar with room to spare on all sides. I used this fun little gnome!
- Glitter of any color
- Tap water
First begin by filling your mason jar with regular tap water. Test out how much water you will need by placing the figurine (the gnome) inside the water, as the water will rise when you do. Make sure to leave some space in the jar because you will also add quiet a lot of glitter.
Once you have the right amount of water, you will then use your hot glue gun to glue your figurine to the underside of the mason jar lid. Place a good amount of glue at the bottom of the figurine. Then gently place the figurine in the center of the underside of the lid. Hold in place until the glue has cooled. Set aside and let dry completely.
Now you will add the glitter to your mason jar filled with water. Pour glitter into the jar, on top of the water. You will use quite a lot of glitter. I used about half a bottle, until there was about an inch and a half of glitter sitting on top of the water.
Once the figurine is completely dry and cooled, you are going to place the lid onto the mason jar, as you regularly would. Be careful no water or glitter spill out. If so, you will need to pour some out to make room for the figurine. Make sure the lid is securely fastened and then tip your mason jar upside down and voilà! Mindfulness Jar complete!
Now let's pretend the mason jar is your mind and the glitter is the thousands of thoughts, feelings, and emotions that swirl around in your head all day. When these thoughts, feelings, and emotions (glitter) start swirling around your mind (mason jar) you may feel stressed, overwhelmed, fearful, confused, depressed, agitated, distracted, or a combination of any of these things. Also, notice that when these thoughts, feelings, and emotions (glitter) are swirling about, it is really hard to stay focus on any one thing (the gnome) as these cloud your ability to focus on what really matters, such as your work, tasks, relationships, wellbeing, etc.
When you engage in mindfulness and pay attention to what is happening in the moment, gently watching the thoughts, feelings, and emotions (glitter) swirling, noticing your breath, sitting in stillness, becoming aware of the physical sensations in your body, allowing things to unfold naturally without trying to change anything, suspending all judgment, you may begin to notice that the thoughts, feelings, and emotions (glitter) start to slowly settle until you are able to see more clearly and your mind (mason jar) becomes calm. With a calm mind you are able to focus on what is important so that you may feel more relaxed, improve your concentration, be able to make better decisions, and feel a sense of peace or wellbeing.
Try it out now. Take a minute to watch the very short video below for a brief demonstration of the basic principles of mindfulness...