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Mindfulness: The Courageous Path

Writer, mother, and home-care nurse. I spend much of my day teaching patients about health, disease process, and the mind-body connection.

Mindfulness and Presence Positive Effects on the Brain

According to the American Psychological Association's Practice Review, one study found that people who practice mindfulness meditation activated the brain region associated with more adaptive responses to stressful or negative situations (Cahn & Polich, 2006; Davidson et al., 2003). Activation of this same region corresponded with faster recovery to baseline cognition after being negatively provoked by some stressful event (Davidson, 2000; Davidson, Jackson, & Kalin, 2000).

So Why Be Present?

Staying present, living in the “Now” is not for the faint of heart! Those that choose this path, choose a brave path. You may go to bed one night feeling fantastic, just to wake up the next morning feeling like you’ve been covered with a blanket of sadness. Learning how to deal with these emotions is key to living a healthy physical and mental life. Most people choose to run from these feelings, they run towards a cup of coffee, their email, food, alcohol or whatever their vice may be to try to escape feeling those feelings. This cycle may present itself over and over again, until the person learns to deal with those emotions head on by walking the bravest path. The path into themselves.

Many of us see ourselves as small children, helpless, not able to speak out about how they are feeling, because either their teacher may have doled out severe consequences or their parents simply did not have the time to deal with bad behavior and hence, their emotions. This leaves us alone with our various feelings that become quite terrifying if left to fester unchecked. To make matters worse, many of us were told as children to stop crying, or go to your room if you're going to cry. This has sent a subtle message to avoid our feelings, and that it’s not okay to cry or to feel.


Gaining Control Over Your Emotions

So how do we deal with these various emotions that seem to emerge out of nowhere? With gentle kindness towards ourselves first. We must collectively realize that every human on this planet feels the same way from time to time. We need to stop berating ourselves for having these feelings in the first place and for not being happy all of the time.

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Practicing loving kindness towards ourselves can be challenging, as the old voice from our childhood can appear at any moment to tell us otherwise, which may temporarily take us off our path. However, if when we have these thoughts, we can look at them from a place of loving kindness and gentleness, we can learn to abide with these thoughts and see them for what they are, just thoughts. In this way, we learn to actually “feel” the emotion that is welling up inside of us, by simply observing it. If you can catch it before it has a way of turning into a bubbling, festering mess, this is best.

One powerful way to gain this awareness is to practice meditation. Meditation can train the observer to watch their thoughts and become, well, “the observer.” A neutral loving being that simply watches these various thoughts come and go. But's it's not that easy, and does take time. However, the more you practice meditation, something wonderful happens. You begin to notice the observer, the watcher of your thoughts, and it is a very peaceful place to be, if only for a few seconds or minutes at a time. With practice, the length of time in this sacred space grows, and will also grow to small moments in this magnificent space during the day when you least expect it. In the most mundane of tasks, such as washing the dishes, filing, walking, etc.

Practice the art of feeling your emotions versus fleeing from them. The more you practice, the easier it gets. It’s not a fun to place to be at first. You may feel your stomach tightening, you may feel real fear, you may feel anxious and worried, but truth be told, it is the warrior’s path, the courageous path, the path to freedom. Freedom from fleeing. Learning to stay is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

Meditation and Awareness


Maria Bella (author) from United States on March 01, 2017:


Linda S. on March 01, 2017:

Love this article so true.

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