June 19, 2010

Mindfulness of emotions

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:00 pm by kellyfdennis

So, how did you do with eating your raisins mindfully? I think it’s such an awesome experience to eat food and actually appreciate the taste, smell, look, and essence of it. I hope you tried it.

I’d like to apply that same concept of mindfulness to emotions.  Ya know, emotions get a bad reputation among some of us human beings. However, they serve some pretty important functions.  Think about babies before they can speak.  How do they communicate?  Crying, laughing, startle, smile, etc.  They tell us what they need using their emotional selves. Emotions communicate our needs to others, even as adults.

Emotions also motivate us for action.  Imagine that you come home from work (or school) and there is no one else there and the door is ajar. Immediately, most of us would experience some level of fear.  “I know I closed and locked it before I left.”  That’s when our “flight or fight” response kicks in.  Our fear motivates us to explore and defend, or flee and call 911. (both are appropriate responses, by the way.) Can you think of a time when emotions have organized, prepared, or motivated you for action?

Our emotions also communicate our needs to ourselves, if we let them. Sometimes we get confused here. Let’s say that someone does not say hello to you when passing you on the street; it would not necessarily be a cause for injury in and of itself.  However, if you have a history of being ignored by important people in your life, you may interpret this situation as being unlovable or rejected. Therefore, you must interpret your emotions in the present, not based on past experience. Recognizing the way our emotions communicate about the past, can help us understand why we react the way we do in the present.

Am I being too psychobabbly? Ok.. Just experience emotions in the “now” not in the “way back when”. The person passing on the street may have had a host of “stuff” going on with them and it probably wasn’t about you at all. In fact, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t about you at all. If we can learn to experience emotions “in the now” we can use them to be intuitive about a host of experiences. When have your emotions given you info about a situation versus giving you info based on a past experience?

So, here’s an experiential exercise I sometimes do with the people who sit across from me.  Try it and see if it may be the beginning of a new emotional experience for you.

“Begin by sitting in a comfortable position.  Take a deep breath through your nose and let it our your mouth. Do this three times, paying attention to the breath moving in and out. In your ‘thought self’ tell yourself that you are accepted and loved, your emotions are valid.  Tell yourself again. Allow yourself to ‘look at’ and accept a painful feeling which you experienced, but wished you did not. Let it be just what it is.  Don’t judge or criticize the feeling, just allow it. Breathe in and breathe out, paying attention to your breaths. Allow yourself to slowly return to your surroundings.”

Long live emotions!

June 14, 2010


Posted in Uncategorized at 7:52 pm by kellyfdennis

So, quite a bit of time has past since I last blogged. My apologies.

The people who sit across from me and I have been talking quite a bit in counseling about mindfulness.  So, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the subject.

First of all, it can be a challenging concept to grasp.

Goldstein & Kornfield, 1987, say: Mindfulness is that quality of attention which notices without choosing, without preference.  It is a choice-less awareness that, like the sun, shines on all things  equally.

Marlatt, 1994, describes it as this: Mindfulness accepts present experience as one of constant change.  All experiences arise and pass away like waves on the sea and mindfulness accepts this on a moment-to-moment basis.  There is not an attempt to control or fix the present moment or what happens next.

So, it’s being in the moment; accepting, observing, not fixing or judging.

Wow!  That’s not what we humans like to do…accept, observe, not judge.

So, try this mindfulness exercise when it comes to eating and see if you can accept, observe, not judge your experience .

Eating mindfully means becoming aware of the eating process itself. Often, we eat mindlessly, while talking, watching television, driving, etc. When we eat on the run or while thinking about other things, we are often unaware of the taste, texture, color or that the appetite control center in our brain needs to register ‘satisfied!’

Mindful eating is being present, moment-by-moment, for each sensation that happens when chewing, tasting and swallowing.

· Take three raisins in the palm of your hand

· Sit quietly and become aware of your breathing for a few moments

· Become aware the raisins: how they look, feel and smell. Notice any associated thoughts as they come up. Bring your awareness back to the raisins in your hand

· Close your eyes

· Bring one raisin to your mouth. Experience the movement of your fingers and arms.

· Notice the response of your salivary glands

· Chew your raisin 15 times

· Become aware of all your sensations – notice the texture of the raisin, how it changes as it mixes with saliva, how your tongue moves it around, the mixture of flavors coming from it, etc.

· Prepare to swallow the raisin

· Notice your swallow response

· Follow the raisin’s inner journey until you no longer experience it as a food

· Repeat this process with the remaining two raisins

Perhaps blog about your insights. The point of the exercise is not to eat your meals in this way but rather to learn something about your own eating habits and to discover how eating mindfully might benefit you.
You might find value in applying this awareness to the first bite of each meal. This helps set an intention of being mindful through the course of your meal.

So, what’dya think?


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