If you are experiencing anxiety, you are not alone! In the 10 years of teaching mindfulness programs, many of the participants mention anxiety as a major challenge.
Here are 5 mindfulness strategies to consider and learn that are well documented to be effective in reducing anxiety.
Strategy 1 - Remind yourself that the experience of anxiety is not permanent. It comes and goes just like any other human experience.
Strategy 2 - Develop an attitude of friendliness and willingness to get to know the experience of anxiety. See if you can make room inwardly for the kaleidoscope of thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. This can be very challenging to do and the practice of mindfulness can show you how to make this happen.
Strategy 3 - See the experience of anxiety as a human reaction to stress and challenge and let go of thoughts and judgments of being defective. In my experience, it is very easy to conclude that you have a defect and use it as a reason for denying compassion for yourself.
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Recently, I lead a 4 hour mindfulness retreat that was open to anyone who has taken MBSR or Mindful Self-Compassion.
I began the retreat by acknowledging that each person would arrive at the retreat today with all kinds of things happening in his/her life – joys, sorrows, challenges, irritations, fears, satisfactions, concerns among others. In ancient times, these were referred to as the 8 worldly winds.
The worldly winds label experiences that blow through all human lives and they include:
· Gain and loss
· Praise and blame
· Fame and disrepute
· Pleasure and pain
What worldly winds are blowing through your life as you read this?
For me, to reflect on this question offers a sense of freedom. The freedom comes from an inner acknowledgment that these winds blow through every human life. Rather than it being an opportunity for shame and self-judgment, this is an opportunity to find and discover resources that will uncover one’s capacity for poise, resilience, and profound coping.
Mindful self-compassion is suggested to be one of those resources that can be cultivated in any moment of our lives. This is a transformational capacity that helps one to develop a purposeful response to difficulties in our lives in three fundamental ways including:
· Cultivation of self-kindness rather than self-judgment and blame
· Reduces our sense of isolation through the lens of common humanity
· Changes how and who we perceive our “self” to be
Overall, we will learn how to create a new relationship with our experience. Rather than simply wanting it to go away, we find ways to meet our difficulties and to embrace them with heartfulness. A simple of way of thinking about the “how to” is to consider asking yourself “What does this need?” rather than “How do I get rid of it?”
Intrigued and curious? Learn the practice of mindful self-compassion.
One of the benefits of undertaking a mindfulness practice is you get an opportunity to notice how you give yourself a “hard time”. This voice is often referred to as the “inner critic”.
The inner critic expresses itself through any number of ways including communicating “not enough”. Mark Coleman describes it this way in his recent book, “Make Peace with Your Mind”: “Such is the way of the critic. It’s never enough. No matter what we do, it always reminds us we could do more, be better, achieve something greater. It robs us of the satisfaction of our accomplishments” (p. 72). Does this sound familiar?
There is much that you can do to reduce the impact of this negative voice.
Through the practice of mindfulness meditation, you will start to see this mental pattern more clearly. Consider that these mental patterns may have been hatched in your mind a long time ago and become habitual. In my case, I can recall many beliefs and opinions that were formed as a teenager that are no longer relevant for today and yet, they can often surface and create havoc with my wellbeing.
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