4-19-20 Mindfulness/Awareness

Mindfulness: maintaining a moment-by-moment consciousness and attention of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle nurturing lens.

Awareness: when we are aware; when we recognize, know, what is occurring. Not just blindly being led around by our thoughts and emotions or by the influence of others.

Addiction is a behavior used to escape difficult feelings or situations, whereas mindfulness involves conscious and deliberate focus on emotions as a way to disarm them and interrupt habitual patterns, like drug or alcohol use or other obsessions. Addiction is the pursuit of what seems to be lacking, but has really been there all along. Mindfulness – Awareness is one way to connect to one’s inner resources and see the abundance in life, while recognizing that reliance on avoidance techniques will only increase our suffering.

After we have a handle on our primary addiction, we realize that it is only a symptom of our problems. We may often have an inability to focus clearly and see what is real, and we just continue trying to get what we want or to avoid seeing what’s really going on. We may exhibit harmful behaviors through our need to think about our problems all the time, to talk or think about ourselves, our problems, our accomplishments and knowledge, or to judge and demean others. We may deny looking at the feelings that are defining how we view ourselves and the world, and act out by complaining, judging, sex, buying things, withdrawing, controlling, or seeking praise.

Choosing to not look at who we are and how we work denies us the ability to counter our habitual behaviors with behaviors that enhance our lives and raise us above the mundane. We must not deny our capacity to love, to be kind and wise. That is truly who we are, not our thoughts.

We need to regulate our awareness towards our feelings, not away from them. How do we do this? We don’t respond to an emotion as if it is a poisonous snake slithering out from under our desk. We have to be aware of the emotions, and this awareness might signal the need for effortful self-regulation. We exercise restraint. We acknowledge the emotion without acting out aggressively, freezing up or running away. We begin to utilize our thoughts and emotions with our intelligence, our intuition and wisdom, in healthy and useful ways.

Mindfulness practice puts a healthy space between us and what’s going on for us. Meditation on our breath, our body, our thoughts and our feelings can let us see that, “this is fear,” “this is joy,” “this is craving.” This is just a thought, it is not who I am, it is just a temporary thought. Mindfulness invites people to stop, breathe, observe, and connect with their inner experience. It fosters well-being and less emotional reactivity. It strengthens areas in the brain in charge of decision making, emotional flexibility, and empathy.

Mindfulness also includes nonjudgmental acceptance of our emotions (or thoughts). It’s the difference between a teaspoon of salt in a tea cup, where our emotions are the major force, versus a teaspoon of salt in a clear pond. The salt is still there in the pond, but not as an overbearing, dominant factor. All our thoughts and emotions are merely another hue in our rainbow, not the dark rain cloud we make them out to be. They are simply something we’re aware of and with that awareness comes the ability to Choose which way to guide our minds.

Whenever we begin feeling overwhelmed or when we’re being pulled in an unhealthy direction, we can use our breath: We stop and take three breaths, Present, Peaceful and Open, to bring our awareness forward. We believe in ourselves, and thus move beyond being dragged behind our feelings.

We aren’t used to the discipline of being aware of our lives. It will take time and repetition to begin using our awareness and mindfulness. When we stopped believing our addiction was our master, we stepped into a new world. We made determined efforts at changing our behaviors and mindsets. We began to open up, appreciate and enjoy life and other people. We engaged prayer and meditation. Mindfulness-Awareness is the next available step into our journey of awakening, if we choose to engage it. It is where we begin touching into our greater awareness, our hearts, and make conscious contact with a power, an awareness much greater than believing some definition we’ve given ourselves.

“We find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely on it…As we go through the day we pause [read: are aware], when agitated or doubtful, and ask [mindfully] for the right thought or action.” Alcoholics Anonymous

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.” Hamlet, Act 2 Scene 2

Carry and protect the serenity in your heart. There is no greater service than helping others; it is instrumental and essential in YOUR recovery. This only happens when you get out of yourself, heal yourself, and all of a sudden you find you are taking care of and respecting yourself and are naturally in service to others. And you are healthy and happy.

Here is a practice, PPO, that is easy and very useful. Please try it out and see how it feels.

In your daily life, use Present, Peaceful, Open (PPO) as a way to bring yourself back to your stronger, gentler self when feeling angry, judgmental or fearful. At work, at home, on the computer, while talking to someone, while walking, and thinking, thinking, thinking. Stop thinking so much, bring your awareness to the NOW, feel more, be available to NOW, stop the mindless chatter and blather. Come to your senses.

Present: Stop. Take a full, deep breath (or two, or three), and exhale fully. Say to yourself with each breath,
“I am Present.” Feel yourself become present in your body. Simply feel your energies come back into your body from wherever they are. Feel your body electric.
Peaceful: Take a full breath (or two, or three), exhale fully, stand or sit up straight, and say with each breath, “I feel peaceful.” Drop your shoulders, relax your jaw. Feel your entire body and mind relax and calm down.
Open: When you are more present and peaceful, breathe deeply, and with the out breath say, “I am Open.” Expand and open your mind and heart to the world with a sense of gentle strength that feels calm and inquisitive. Use your strength to go forward, acting from your heart, not your fear. Smile.

You could set your alarm for once an hour as a reminder to practice PPO many times each day. A new behavior takes at least a month to become a habit. You may drop your sense of fear or anxiety 10% or 20% at first. That is a good beginning. Keep believing in your gentle strength, and it will become who you are, not just a place you visit occasionally.

How do you fill your bucket? One drop at a time.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
The great arises out of small things that are honored and cared for.
Heart of Recovery web site — fcheartofrecovery.com