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Although it feels like New Years was weeks ago, we are still very much in the conversation of "New Year, New You!" Even though every January we tend to engage in a dialogue about what we can do to revamp or upgrade our lives, each year we see a few new concepts or practices added to the "what's trending now" lists. In the past few years, the concept of mindfulness or being mindful has become a crucial part of the self-care conversation.
From the boardroom to the kindergarten classroom to centers and apps dedicated to the practice, mindfulness trainings are widespread and have become mainstream. Credited with reducing stress and anxiety and having several other physical and mental health benefits, mindfulness is often defined as the practice of bringing your full mind to a singular object or situation or, as Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and leader in the field of mindfulness, defines it, mindfulness is "paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally."
Although being totally present to one thing for even five to ten minutes might seem like a no-brainer, for many it is a challenge. Described as a practice that takes practice, many beginners are encouraged to practice mindfulness by bringing their attention to day-to-day activities, even something as simple as drinking a cup of tea or eating food. We are urged to smell the food, taste the food, chew the food, and truly be in the experience of the food.
Yet for most of us, after the first few seconds, we are no longer savoring the experience but judging it. Our mindfulness has turned to monkey mind, filling our heads with thoughts like:
"When you become aware of your Integrity Snatchers,
you can remove them from their seat of power."
That's one of the reasons that I always look forward to The Shadow Process, our weekend workshop where people learn to unconceal, make peace with, and integrate their shadows. One of the things that always amazes me about this process is that after the two and a half days, nothing in the outer world of our participants has changed. When they leave the workshop on Sunday, their work situation, bank balance, condition of their body, or state of their relationship with their spouse or mother remains the same. But their relationship with their shadows and themselves has totally shifted and that creates the opening for everything else in their life to evolve and grow!
The process guides them to see themselves, their past, and the possibilities for their future in a brand new light. They find answers from within that they never knew they had. Suddenly, the negative internal dialogue that has been running their lives is no longer in control. Instead, it is replaced with words of compassion, acceptance, and a sacred knowingness that everything they have endured or experienced is there to support the evolution of their soul and is part of their divine recipe. This new relationship with themselves is nothing short of a revolution that transforms their inner world and has the power to transform their outer world.
It is this newfound peace of mind which quiets their monkey mind and makes mindfulness a consistent and easily attainable state of mind. Actually, many of our participants tell us that after the process they experience something very foreign - a quiet mind.
So, if you want to remove the obstacles to mindfulness, yes, practice and patience are key. But I invite you to do shadow work. It will be the catalyst for you to make peace your past and your pessimism so you can unwrap the gifts of the present.
Transformational Action Steps
To quiet your monkey mind and master mindfulness, take time to do shadow work.
(1) Observe the thoughts and beliefs that loop in your brain and chip away at your ability to stay present. Write them down.
(2) Looking at your list, own that these are just thoughts.
(3) See how these thoughts have served you or pushed you to be or do more. Find their gifts.
(4) Identify positive thoughts about yourself that will counterbalance the negative ones.
(5) To truly accelerate your mindfulness practice, join us at The Shadow Process April 6th to April 8th in Los Angeles.