The ancient wisdom of mindfulness helps us make positive changes in our brains and our lives.
A recent study of people of all ages, backgrounds and gender responded across the board with "feeling not good enough," "I'm not living my life right," and with tremendous self-judgment and shame.
Shame is universal, and something everyone has felt at some point in their lives. Worse, we think if we beat ourselves up, we'll somehow improve.
Yet, shame doesn't work. It never works. It can't work.
When we feel shame, the brain's growth learning part shuts down and triggers a cascade of cortisol and other hormones. We want to avoid it and hide the parts that most need our attention.
As a Yoga teacher, I deeply believe in transformation, yet you cannot achieve transformation without mindfulness.
So let's break it down...
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is to be fully present in the moment. Yet, constantly the mind wanders. It's not so easy. A recent Harvard study showed the mind wanders 47% of the time. That is nearly half of our lives that we are missing. We're not here! Part of mindfulness is simply learning to train the mind in how to be here, where we already are.
Where do we begin, and how do we arrive here fully?
Through our breath. Focus on full breaths in and out without judgment. When the mind wanders, simply return to the breath in and out of the belly. What you practice grows stronger. If you are frustrated, annoyed or impatient, and you focus on those feelings, that is what you will create more of.
Repeated experiences shape our brains. We can actually sculpt and strengthen our synaptic connections based on our repeated practice. Mindfulness strengthens the immune system, decreases stress and cortisol. It helps us sleep and feel better. When you look at meditators' brains, the areas related to attention, learning, and compassion grow bigger and stronger.
What we practice grows stronger.
Meditate with judgment - you are growing judgment.
Practice with kind attention, and you will experience kindness for yourself and others.
Kindness bathes us with dopamine, turning on the brain's learning centers and giving us the courage to see the things we don't want to see and the resources we need for lasting change.
Mindfulness isn't just about paying attention. It's about how we pay attention with kindness, like loving arms that welcome everything –even the messy, imperfect parts of ourselves. We're practicing all the time, moment by moment. Not just when we're meditating on the mat. We're growing something in every moment. So, the questions really become, "What do you want to grow?" "What do you want to practice?" I'd love to hear.
True and lasting transformation requires Kind Attention!