This mindfulness practice is a grounding technique that is helpful for anxiety because it allows us to be present. Being present with all that is around us, not just overwhelming feelings, thoughts, sensations, urges, or memories can allow us to continue on with our day, regardless of how long these hang around for.
If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that I’m quite into mindfulness practices. I’ve found them to be quite helpful. Whether you’re dealing with a chronic physical illness, mental illness, or just daily life stresses, mindfulness can be amazingly helpful to get yourself centred and present. Just doing 10-15 minutes of meditation a day, or going for a mindful walk (especially if that gets you out in nature) can reduce anxiety and increase focus and attention. There has been tons of research done on the subject if you don’t want to take my word for it.
I was introduced to mindfulness first by my naturopath, who suggested downloading an app (such as Headspace or Calm) and trying to do some meditations through there. My psychotherapist was not far behind to recommend it as well. I started slow and progressed as I became more comfortable doing the practices. 5 minutes turned into 10 which turned into 15. This is basically how I suggest starting if you haven’t done so yet.
So what are these lessons from mindfulness. I have three for you today.
Distinguishing “future problems” from “today problems” – I used to worry a lot more and have a lot more anxiety about the future than I do now. One of the best lessons mindfulness taught me was how to stay present enough to focus on today, rather than worry about tomorrow. As I just moved across the country, this has been very helpful. Many people have asked if I will stay out here after practicum. “I don’t know” is my answer. Why? Because that’s a future problem. A today problem is setting up my apartment or another is getting prepared for practicum (which starts tomorrow!). I no longer worry about future problems until that future is right around the corner. There’s enough on my mind as it is. Mindfulness can help you develop this skill.
Appreciating the moment – this totally ties into being present as the above lesson does. In the past few days when I have been stressed because there is so much to get done, I’ve gone outside for a moment and appreciated that I am literally in the middle of the gorgeous Rocky Mountains. The Okanagan valley is surrounded by stunning nature and I’ve found that to be instantly calming. Even if you don’t live somewhere quite as visually pleasing, mindfulness can help you appreciate the things that you do enjoy. When I lived in Toronto (which is literally the opposite of where I am now), I was able to appreciate the liveliness of downtown (pre-pandemic) and the closeness of Lake Ontario. When I lived in LA, I could appreciate the constant sunlight and beautiful whether. The point is, there is always something to appreciate, whether in nature or in your life, and staying present can help you do that.
The final lesson is non-judgment – I used to be way more judgmental, of myself, of others. Of course, it’s completely human nature to judge and I don’t think it’s possible to be nonjudgmental 100% of the time. However, mindfulness can help with non-judgment more often than not, and it can help you catch yourself when you are being judgmental. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, no one is perfect. Hell, my mindfulness aren’t perfect, and they aren’t supposed to be. By letting that judgment go, you can feel more at peace (at least I do), and that is a really good lesson.
I hope you have some takeaways from today, especially if you haven’t tried mindfulness. I’m not saying that it’s a cure for anything or that it works for everyone. And it definitely requires patience (you might need to practice consistently for a month or more to see any results). What it can do is help you lead a better life and make the most of it (if you give it and yourself the chance).
Some of you may have heard of this concept before, and many of you may have not. It was only recently introduced to me through my meditation app, where the guided meditation happened to talk about wabi-sabi. The explanation of it made me realize how much I identified with the concept and how important I think the concept is, regardless of what we’re dealing with in our lives.
What is wabi-sabi? It’s a Japanese worldview that has been around since the 15th century. There isn’t a great translation for it (as often happens when we try to translate culturally-specific concepts) but roughly, wabi means finding simplicity in nature, and sabi means appreciating beauty. What it’s taken to mean is the beauty of imperfection, and accepting the imperfections in your life, while making the most out of what you have. Because no one is perfect, and yet we all strive to be, especially in the Western World. But why? I am not perfect, you are not perfect, literally no one is. Another way of viewing wabi-sabi is your ability to appreciate complexity while valuing simplicity. The world has become a more and more complex place, as we’ve seen through this pandemic, but also just through the consistent advancement of technology, and through the political landscape in the Western wold. But while the world may be complex, it is the simple things that are more likely to bring us joy. Like spending time with family or friends, being able to work from home if you have that option, and the adorableness of a child’s laugh.
This concept is tied into Zen Buddhism. There are three aspects of Buddhism that it is related to: impermanence (we’re all going to die fyi), suffering (is inevitable, no one has a life without any), and non-self (which may not have actually been said by the Buddha, there is much debate). These concepts kind of tie into existentialism too, don’ they? Finding meaning in life, non-being, existential anxiety… Wabi-sabi definitely ties into some Zen principles like simplicity, asymmetry, beauty, naturalness, grace, freeness, and tranquility. And finally, I see the connection to mindfulness (which comes from Zen Buddhism as well) such as being present, seeing things as they are, and acceptance.
When it comes to health, there is definitely ways of applying wabi-sabi. We must accept our illnesses. We must accept any body imperfections that come with them. We are beautiful the way we are. We should look for the beauty in the simple things in our lives to make ourselves happy. That doesn’t mean we can’t dream or strive for more. Rather, we can enjoy and accept as a way of improving our mental health, while always trying to make the most out of life.