Over the past ten years the word mindfulness has enjoyed tremendous popularity, the
popularity sadly is not equalled by an understanding of what the phrase means.

“Mindfulness as a psychological concept is the focusing of attention and awareness,
based on the concept of mindfulness in Buddhist meditation.”

The above Wikipedia definition is not very helpful. So we know it grows out of Buddhist
meditation, but what does that have to do with therapy? In meditation we try to bring our
attention to the present moment, attempt to clear our minds of passing thoughts and
reduce and eventually eliminate our reactions. In therapy you change by identifying
your reaction to thoughts and learning to compassionately understand why these
thoughts are upsetting. Therapy and meditation are indeed a very powerful combination.
An easy way to understand how the body is involved in mindfulness is to think about
how you respond to an exciting new idea, does your heart go a little faster, do you have
sweaty palms or even cold hands? The physical and the emotional responses to a
thought are immediate and out of your control. When a frightening thought cross our
mind there is a fear reaction and chemical reactions in your body, such as an adrenalin

Beginning to step back from our thoughts and look at them with a distant and curious
eye can actually slow the heart rate and reduce the intensity of other physical
responses. It is very confusing to realize that much of your suffering comes from your
own thoughts. When you predict a bad outcome you scare our self and enter a
frightened and worried state which is very uncomfortable(and actually does influence
the outcome). Rather than analyze the assumption many of us just try to escape the
pain. Body/mind fear cycles get interrupted by disempowering the thought process.
Mindfulness supports you in paying attention to how your body feels and where in your
body you a feeling it. Instead of ignoring and distancing yourself from pain you learn to
be curious and maybe even amused at the workings of the mind. The reinterpretation of
the myths and stories your brain is telling you can be freeing. Imagine yourself in a
movie studio cutting room. You think you know how the story goes, but suddenly you
see some footage from a new angle and it opens the story line to new possibilities.

A client I worked with years ago shared her history of being told she was not smart, and
was burdened for years by this belief. It effected her self confidence. Together we
looked at all of her accomplishments, her graduate degrees and slowly she began to
free herself of this long held myth. She had a dream one night that she had a very low
IQ score. At first she was very despondent to learn of this proof of her ignorance, but in
her dream she remembered she had a doctoral degree and thought that for someone so
ignorant she had accomplished a lot. She woke feeling a deep contentment.

Mindfulness is a feedback loop. As we relax and allow ourselves to feel emotions, the
fear is reduced and we move more towards neutrality and self acceptance. With less
emotional upheaval, the tension in your body begins to ease and an overall lessening in
suffering and confusion is the result. I like to think of it as an awakening to life.
Laney Kibel is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Portland Or. She is in private
practice. She sees individuals and couples. For more information call 503 781 3900

“One, the low-serotonin theory of depression has been so completely discredited by leading researchers that maintaining the story with the public has just become untenable. It is too easy for critics and the public to point to the scientific findings that contradict it.
Second, a number of pharmaceutical companies have shut down their research into psychiatric drugs [see Science, 2010], and they are doing so because, as they note, there is a lack of science providing good molecular targets for drug development. Even the drug companies are moving away from the chemical-imbalance story, and thus, what we are seeing now is the public collapse of a fabrication, which can no longer be maintained. “

Comments are closed.