Jamie Goffin, LCSW
About a year ago I had a realization that I had been walking through life unaware of sacred and meaningful moments in my life. There isn’t one specific “Aha!” moment that defined this but rather a build up of moments that were lost because I was distracted in thought, giving attention to something else or just simply not in “the moment.” When I was sitting with clients, my attention was wandering. I even realized that I was doing mindless listening, giving mindless hugs and even worse mindless eating. I realized that I could be “too busy” in my head to even notice it.
I became interested in mindfulness stress reduction, initially as an extra tool to help the growing number of clients that initiate services because they are “stressed.” I started this journey with Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book “Full Catastrophe Living” and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program; which expanded my awareness around the power of being able to quiet my thoughts, slow down and how to develop a more mindful relationship with others and myself.
The psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said, “In between stimulus and response there is a space, in that space lies our power to choose our response, in our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Mindfulness practices help us put in that space. For instance, if we were applying this to making food choices it would be helpful to get a space between the thought; “I want that bag of cookies” and the actual behavior of eating it. We get a chance to consider what would really serve our physical and emotional health best in that moment.
Learning to cultivate and intentionally engage in the now has become a practical way for myself and millions of others to alleviate stress and pain, increase emotional freedom and even create a healthier brain. Mindfulness programs are growing not only in hospital and clinical settings but also in corporations and schools. Even Google boasts a successful mindfulness program to help its employees. Mindful leadership is on the minds of CEOs, politicians and even in sports. One of the most winning basketball coaches, Phil Jackson encouraged his players to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness based programs are becoming one of the best researched and most talked about phenomena today. Research and brain scans are proving that how we pay attention and what we pay attention to have dramatic effects on how our brain works. In the book, “The NOW Effect” by Elisha Goldstein, he discusses that mindfulness does more than allow us to change our brain architecture, or stop our destructive behaviors, we are able to help our brain become naturally flexible in our decision making, we can regulate stress better, calm our anxious mind when it is snowballing with thoughts and have better focus on tasks with school and work. Most importantly, we can feel empathy and compassion towards others and ourselves.
As I’ve become more aware and made intentions to practice mindfulness daily I’ve learned that the practice takes only a few minutes a day, there is a wide variety of mindfulness practices available and exploring those without judgment was a bit uncomfortable at times. The practices I thought I would dislike the most actually became the cornerstones of my life by connecting with family, friends, colleagues and clients.