This Magic Moment: Embracing Meditation and Mindfulness

person meditatingThe positive effects of mindfulness and meditation have been in the news a lot lately. From Time to ESPN The Magazine, we are hearing that slowing down to observe the present moment can lead to greater personal control and better results.

“Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field for practice,” Russell Okung, an offensive lineman for the Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks, told ESPN in September 2013. “It’s about quieting your mind and getting into certain states. … There are so many things telling you that you can’t do something, but you take those thoughts captive, take power over them and change them.”

Mindfulness skills are a core element to dialectical behavior therapy. Why? Because we often seek to avoid painful emotions and experiences which can lead to problems. Often what we’re avoiding tends to stick around, maybe even cropping up in a new way. Or our efforts to avoid—like drinking or using drugs to escape—end up hurting our bodies and our relationships. When a person lacks awareness, he or she acts impulsively to escape pain or fulfill a desire.

And while it makes sense that we would try to avoid discomfort, is that really possible? Entirely? No. Difficult circumstances occur. What we continually try to figure out, as humans, is how to tolerate difficult circumstances. In our darkest moments, we might even think to ourselves, “How am I going to make it through this? How can I survive this?”

This is where mindfulness comes in. The key to this skill is its ability to break life up into more manageable chunks. Often when we think about things, we are thinking about the past and the future, and the weight of all of that crushes us.

If we can instead focus on this one moment, right in this very second, even if it is painful, we can handle it for that second. Not only that, but we’re expanding our awareness to let other information in, which also affects our experience. This allows us to also pay attention to other things going on that might be really pleasant.

We don’t necessarily change the pain, but we change our relationship to the pain. I always think of a scene from the film The Matrix, where the lead character talks to a little boy who is looking at a spoon and successfully bending it with his mind. The boy eventually tells Keanu Reeves’ character the secret—not to focus on bending the spoon, but to realize that “it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”

The concept of being within a dream, awakening from it, and finally gaining control over it is shown throughout the film. And while our lives are not a dream, we can take steps to “awaken” ourselves and try to be more in touch with this moment. When we are able to do that, the moment becomes more tolerable and we gather more information to make wiser, more conscious decisions.

Acting as an impulse robs us of control. As an alternative, mindfulness skills help develop a lifestyle of participation with attention and awareness, so we can have access to our wisdom, even in the middle of chaotic or painful circumstances.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Sarah Lebo, LPC, CADCI, therapist in Portland, Oregon

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Zeke

    Zeke

    February 6th, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    This has been in the news quite a lot lately. Why the sudden focus on this now, when it has been around for so long? Are we just now finally realizing the multiple benefits of this practice?

  • lola

    lola

    February 7th, 2014 at 3:49 AM

    I try so hard to be in the moment but I am such a day dreamer that my mind always wanders and I am not able to focus on the things going on around me physically, just on everything going on inside my head. I am hoping to work on this through mindfulness and meditation.

  • Virginia

    Virginia

    February 8th, 2014 at 6:17 AM

    The thing that always seems to hold me back is that I want to only focus on the here and now but somehow I always allow past experiences to kind of cloud my judgement. I know that a large part of being mindful is to focus on the moment and not allow that past to creep in and harm what you are doing today. I would like to find ways to be stronger at weeding out more of the negative and focusing more on the things that are positive in life but I think that in the end I am a more negative nellie at heart. Yuck, I hate to even admit that! But I am trying, I want to be different, but it is a journey I suppose.

  • irish queen

    irish queen

    February 8th, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    If anyone REALLY has gotten a handle on this, would you please tell me how it’s done? Distractions take me back and ahead. The present, as hard to believe that it is, , is truly elusive in my head. I’ve been ‘practicing this for nearly 10 years, and still can’t cinch it!!

  • Franky

    Franky

    February 10th, 2014 at 3:50 AM

    I love the quote above from the football player, it is a time to quiet your mind and take control over those voices that are constantly telling you the things that you can’t do, and never lifting you up and telling you the things that you can. Thos evoices in our heads can become deafening at times, drowning out anything good and smothering all of that with negativity. Why not use this tool as a way to quiet those voices, to take control over them and theerby take soem control over your own life again.

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