CHANGE via AWARENESS and MINDFULNESS
Awareness and mindfulness may be the first steps to actual change. My friend’s daughter is in fourth or fifth grade. Her class has a special project for the month of February which has the option of including the entire family. The focus is on health. A one-page form for each person is available to allow them to see their progress as they check off each item successfully completed. The items include:
Four to five servings of fruits and vegetables
Two hours or less of TV daily
One hour of exercise daily
No sugary drinks
What a good idea! Whether a person checks off one or none of the boxes each day, attention is brought to the subject. Conversations are started. My friend and I talked about which goals are the easiest or hardest to reach.
This school project happens to coincide with a few weeks of the Christian Lenten season. Many Catholics “give up” something for Lent. Others choose to “do something” during Lent. In either case, Lent and the school project both provide venues to notice our behaviors and to improve our actions or thoughts.
To notice our defects of character or our weaknesses takes courage and self-honesty. Denial can be strong. Becoming aware and mindful of our thoughts and behaviors help us to transform.
Once we see our limitations and faults, we can make the decision to change or not. This step is important. If the individual does not want to change, it is likely that change will not occur. There are times when we feel pressured by friends or society to act a fixed manner, to eat a certain diet, or to live a particular way – and deep down, we do not want that for ourselves.
True change happens when the individual desires it. To take time to witness your behavior, to notice how often you reach for food when you are not hungry, how often you treat someone rudely or whatever behavior is causing you inner discomfort, opens a window of opportunity for change.
There are times we use the same methods repeatedly to change. Either this technique works temporarily or not at all. Yet, we continue to repeat the same method. That is another reason why mindfulness is important.
Notice your behaviors and thoughts at the moment. Be present. If you eat something, let yourself taste the food. If you are under stress and about to say something unkind or unnecessary, take a breath. Notice it. Be aware. Maybe you will still say the words this time. Maybe next time, you will take the breath and be silent!
An exercise I highly recommend is sitting in solitude and silence. Let the thoughts flow as they may and gently let the thoughts leave. Breathe. Eventually your mind will (most likely) be quiet. Experience this stillness. “Just Be”. (Read: https://roadtofreedomandpeace.com/just-be/)
Many people seldom take the time to be still – physically and mentally still. Try it for five to twenty minutes. Have no expectations or judgments. What do you experience? If you experience no more than a slowing down of your thoughts and breathing, that is rewarding enough. Your body and mind deserve a short rest! When you return to your day, be aware of any positive changes … small ones at first. Small improvements may lead to big changes. Although we want to make big improvements quickly, many times change that is lasting begins with small steps of choosing the next right thing.
Change may be difficult. Freedom to change brings gratitude to mind. When I was living in psychological captivity in my marriage filled with domestic violence and extreme abuse and torture, there was no freedom to become who I desired to be. There was only time to survive each day. “Feeling Good” sung by Nina Simone speaks of freedom … the freedom that comes with each new day. What a positive song. The lyrics remind me that although life and change may be difficult, it is so much better than living in psychological captivity!
I ask you to be present. Life is worth being present and mindful! We miss much when we are somewhere else in our heads. Try it!