Mindfulness, or the intentional practice of bringing one’s attention to the present-moment experience without judgment, has become a buzzword lately after the popularization by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and the development of smartphone apps like Headspace and Calm.
It is an easy and helpful technique to practice and has many benefits including, but not limited to, bringing a sense of equanimity, focus and calm. And since dysregulated stress is often a contributor to chronic health conditions, many patients come to my office interested in learning this practice and then look up begrudgingly and say something along the lines of…
“Doctor, I’ve tried, it’s way too hard, and I just don’t think I can do it.” And then they go on and on about how their mind wanders or they can’t sit still long enough.
And in response I’ll say something to the effect of, “well if you tried, then you already are.”
Then I get the perplexed glare that later turns into solemn understanding as I explain one of my favorite techniques called “noting”.
“Noting” is so simple to use. Take this example of a common scenario of a patient who wants to learn how to meditate but tells me their mind wanders too much and their body fidgets so it is difficult for them to sit still in calm. In one scenario they may find themselves frustrated that their meditation practice does not look like the Dalai Lama sitting with his fingers poised in a mudra. This only adds to the guilt of their experience. However there is a solution. With mindful noting, all the person needs to note is “my mind is wandering.” or note “my body fidgets.” And can leave it at that. Usually this simple practice of noting what is happening without judgment can ease the tension and strain felt in the heart.
So next time you are looking to capture the most perfect moment of your life but things seem to be going all wrong all you need to say to yourself is…
“The house is a mess.”
“I am feeling frazzled.”
“The children are throwing spitballs”
And I promise you will release the tension you are holding, and maybe even chuckle.
Ava Satnick, MD, October 3, 2022