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  • ashmorelindsay

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

How mindfulness can support you in creating a sense of calm through connection to the present moment, and tame the feelings of overwhelm.

~Learn to relax with mindfulness & cultivate presence ~

During times of stress, both personal and on a collective level, it is essential for our wellbeing to find pathways to calm, clarity, creativity, and openhearted compassion. But how does one find such qualities of being, when there is disarray, chaos, and crisis within and around?

Fear is a natural response to that which threatens our central sense of safety, the core of our existence, and our sense of self. As everything in the natural fabric of life has existed within a duality or balance, one can sense into this duality as knowing that both positive and negative qualities can and do exist in all things in the natural world in which we are a part of.

Even though in our western society, we have succumbed to dualistic thinking, negative/positive exist together naturally, as does being/doing, subjective/ objective reality, body/ mind. So too, the emotions of fear and courage are two sides of the same coin. One one side, the positive or creative side to fear is that fear can motivate and mobilize us to quickly respond, to take inspired action to protect and persevere. The destructive side to prolonged activation of fear is that it can become overwhelming. This momentary state can easily become a trait and take us over, hijacking our brain, and use up our life energy, attention, and weigh on our ability to be present with the moment. 

When fear becomes overwhelm-all parts of the brain become activated in the stress response and this can be a cause for impulsivity, catastrophic thinking, overreacting. Responsiveness or response-ability can only be possible in a state of heightened awareness where the space between stimulus and response is widened. We can consciously choose a response that is for the greater good for ourselves and others. Here, access to the higher-order thinking abilities within the brain such as reflection; the ability to attune to self and others; to our capacity to be creative and collaboratively problem-solve; can all be called upon to inspire our actions to keep calm, stay grounded, and connected to ourselves as a whole, and interpersonally with others; and to creatively move with the flow of life, which sometimes comes with turbulence and is bumpy and other times can be a smooth ride, it depends on the season and the elements at play.

Regardless of what is occurring around us and within us, we can cultivate our state of calm by focusing our present moment awareness. We can use our attention, or our mind, to change our brains to change our minds for the better. This is mindfulness. Using your attention can focus your mind like a spotlight on something in the present moment that is grounding, calming, or pleasant. This act can help to calm the stress response and give us access to the parts of our brain that can support us in becoming and staying grounded, connected, collaborative, calm, clear, creative, and compassionate. 

To cultivate our present moment awareness, we can do the following Slow Down & Be Mindful. Mindfulness involves:

1). Placing one's attention with intention upon something (an object, someone) and maintaining this intentional attention. This could also be considered attuning one's attention to that of something else.

2). Open awareness. Opening your awareness up allows you to become receptive to the moment, which is a state of allowing what is. This helps create distance between you and the subject of your attention so that there is some subjectivity afforded where both you, the subject, and the space between call exist independently yet together as well. 3). Kindness and Compassion. Holding compassion, kindness, love for both yourself and your inner experience, and that of another.

3. A Mindfulness Practice of Breathing: The antidote to fear and overwhelm is to connect with the present moment. How?! Breathe! Breathing is something we do in every moment and slowing down enough to notice your breathing creates a space large enough in our brain to respond to, and attune to the moment at hand, to the breath.

Mindfulness really means to intentionally attune or place one's attention on something (something like an object, or someone etc.) and maintain this attention with open awareness. Focusing on noticing the in-breath: the air coming through the nose, and following it down the back of the throat to fill the lungs and the expansion in the body that is created, and the feeling the flow of air out that same pathway to empty the body and feeling the sinking, settling grounding feeling that it creates is both an example of mindfulness and practice. Simple, natural, and something accessible to anyone, at any moment.

Use the above image as a guided visualization to help you track the breath as a way to support coming into diaphragmatic breathing- which is a fancy anatomical way of describing a deeper quality of breath that comes about when the parasympathetic half of the nervous system is stimulated! This supports the activity of the nervous system to down-regulate and restores a sense of calm in the body and in the system, and we can relax when we are regulated!. If you are an adult with kids, do this activity with them to support their own growing capacities to self-regulate through co-regulation. It is also a time to connect mindfully together and teach them the power of their attention and that of the breath, and the wisdom of their body. This is a powerful experience of befriending your body as an ally, and in developing skills to support your own ability to deal with stress and stay connected to yourself and with the moment at play. It is a fundamental skill that can serve you for life.

Neff, K., & Germer, CMindsight: the new science of personal transformation. to accept yourself, build inner strength, and thrive.

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