Life only happens right here [the present moment.] Everything else is fantasy. This is where it’s unfolding. And, when mindful, you possess full control…and your full womanhood. As our thoughts, emotions, relationships…our interconnections, are allowed to fully impact ourselves and each other.
Dr. Vivianne Tran
Our Brain Controls our Bodies, But Does our Mind Have to Control Us?
In the neurological nebulas of 100 billion firing neurons, is the mind. The mind regulates our stream of consciousness, which includes an ongoing current of thoughts, perceptions, memories, and emotions. It’s a constant flow of energy of which the mind is responsible for monitoring.
But, does the mind regulate our stream of consciousness quietly? Absolutely not! Cue: Self-Talk. Self-talk is the internal dialogue of the mind as it goes about processing. And, this internal voice can manifest as an upbeat, loving regulator, providing you with nourishing words and positive feedback. Or, it can monitor the processes of your life rather cynically, negatively…sometimes our inner voices are altogether snarky; at times I wouldn’t even buy my own mind a beer at the bar.
The negative manifestations of the mind, or Self-talk, when attended to over and over can be a gateway to personal suffering- often in the forms of depression, anxiety, pain, or anger. And it becomes what seems an unavoidable habit, a metaphorical ‘getting in bed with the Cynic’- repeating over and over, until life as a whole, feels lackluster.
There is so much more to live…than thoughts of insecurity. The potential is infinite.
I had the honor of attending a unique workshop for women that not only addressed this type of self-talk related suffering, but guided us through the process of cultivating our own mindfulness. Hosted by Amy Steel’s Journey’s Center of Wellbeing and presenter Dr. Vivianne Tran, the workshop entitled: Women and Mindfulness; an Experiential Workshop
Broadening our Definitions
Dr. Tran opened the workshop with the question: What is Mindfulness?
Pre-Tran, I would have deemed the academic definition of Mindfulness as sufficient:
The awareness that emerges through paying attention, on purpose and non-judgmentally, in the present moment.*
*Note- in this definition, there is nothing about mindfulness cultivating inner and outer appreciation; expanding our mind-body awareness; how it enriches relationships; or how practicing mindfulness transcends universally- impacting all.
I think Dr. Tran would say: “We need to broaden our definitions.” The academic definition simply cannot contain Mindfulness.
We were placed in a circle, a community of women upon a studio’s cork floor. Slowly through discussion and practice, Dr. Tran breathed life into the definition of Mindfulness- until we bridged Mindfulness as a concept to how Mindfulness looks.
Walk the Walk and Catch the Self-Talk
I found the discussions on the negative manifestation(s) of Self-Talk particularly empowering. Dr. Tran explained how the concept of Self is trained through our own behavioral expectations. We are the ones with the expectations, and we are the only ones who can end the cycle of suffering.
The trick is to catch yourself, and notice when the negative talk begins.
Being Mindful of not only what you are thinking, but when you are thinking it, can be a hard trick to learn. As Dr. Tran says, there are over 60,000 thoughts per day. Ask yourself, How many of these thoughts are positive? Is what I’m thinking now manifesting positively or negatively? Am I treating myself with love and compassion, as I process this thought, idea or emotion?
The second trick, which goes beyond tallying how much and when, but is learning to control what we think. Being Mindful, and analyzing our expectations is another difficult prong to the fork when relearning a new behavior.
It is done in the moment, with a gentle, probing analysis of what you are thinking and how they figure into your own expectations. Without guilt or other attached emotion, analyze your thoughts. Are my expectations truly realistic? Do my expectations involve another person? What would a more positive interpretation look like? Am I being overly attached? Am I avoiding the issue?
Appreciating is Mindfulness
Dr. Tran continued by elaborating on the power of Appreciation and Compassion. If in the moment you catch yourself suffering/ruminating/etc., a beautiful way to become Mindful and to instantly release any suffering, is to fill your heart with Appreciation.
When we are Mindful, Appreciation is automatic.
When we Appreciate, we are being Mindful.
Try it! Next time you feel yourself sliding down a funnel of negativity, start listing everything you appreciate. Or, shift your focus to an appreciative quality the situation presents. Focus on being compassionate to others. You are instantly being mindful, and automatically reestablish your equanimity.
Of course, you may in two seconds revert back to the thought and ‘be off and running,’ which will require once more the internal process of:
3. Refocusing with Appreciation/Compassion
But, that is why they call it a Practice! In order to grow and establish new behaviors, one must practice and return to Mindfulness, again and again.
Rose Hip, Lavender and Cherry Tea
For me, the Women and Mindfulness Workshop was something I found exciting and invigorating, and calming and relieving; I found my reaction was in a happy balance. The time spent with Dr. Vivianne helped bring to my awareness what I think we all in some way seek- love, grace, compassion, acceptance, appreciation; these experiences are here for each of us, if we take the time and practice to attend to them. We alone define our own states of existence.
Dr. Vivianne Tran’s Mindfulness Workshop shimmered through and above the academic definition of Mindfulness, and it gifted the moment to each of us.
Mindfulness is the smell of rose hip, lavender and cherry tea; the feel of the floor pushing back into the four corners of my feet; the taste of dark chocolate tantalizing with its sweet and bitter notes; and the sound of a breath inhaling and exhaling, moment by moment, breath by breath.
Thoughts from Journey’s Center of Wellbeing
The reason this workshop was (is) important is because we get caught up in the many tasks of daily life and miss seeing the beauty of each moment individually. I think of mindfulness not as a thing to do, but as a way to be. If I can grow in my ability to fully appreciate each of my tasks, all of my interactions, every place I’m fortunate enough to be, I think my life will feel more full and rich. Vivi is able to present the topic in such a user-friendly manner that I truly feel I have the ability to become more mindful. It doesn’t feel like I need to overhaul my life to make this change. It’s simple and attainable, something that really can make a difference in my daily life as a parent, in my career, and in all my interactions. I believe this workshop is appropriate for everyone who has any inclination toward mindfulness or meditation. It’s for anyone who seeks a tool for gaining perspective on any aspect of life, and anyone who has a desire to BE in this world in a more present, fully participatory way.
We absolutely have plans for future classes.
We intend to continue on deeper into the aspect of mindfulness with the first group of participants as well as offer additional beginning classes.
Throughout the workshop, we were introduced to various techniques for cultivating mindfulness and strengthening our practice. Daily practice unfolds uniquely to each person. ~Dr. Tran
Active Mindfulness- Radical Acceptance of the Moment: By focusing on the cycle of the breath, you shift your attention in the moment to the body; through this Mind-Body-Connection, you accept the moment for whatever it may be.
Formal Meditation: 25 minutes of daily formal practice tangentially expands the informal practice of Mindfulness; learning to ‘quiet’ the mind is a very powerful tool. Start with 5 minutes and work up.*
* Meditative Practices often take some time to reveal their full potential; meditation requires revisiting, or returning, with a spirit of openness and curiosity, rather than forcing an outcome.
Yoga: a system of exercises or postures, coupled with breathing techniques and meditation that help cultivate a Mindfulness of the Body and strengthen the Mind-Body-Connection.
Eating Mindfully: Bringing food, and the process of eating, to awareness can increase satisfaction and help get in touch with a broader version of yourself.