Mindfulness and the Child Within
She looks in the mirror and sees a reflection. A little girl, in pig tails with a crooked smile, stares at her cautiously. The woman knows those eyes. Big brown eyes filled with curiosity, trust, love and adventure. The woman opens her mouth to say something but the little girl is gone.
She closes her eyes and there is a picture. The woman can smell the fresh cut grass, hear the cheers of frantic parents and see a small 6 year old girl at the end of the field standing in front of a goal. The other girls, some in orange, others in light blue jerseys, are clustered at the other end around a soccer ball. The small girl looks to her left and smiles with delight at the beautiful wild “blue bells” growing outside of the goal post. She leaves the goal and walks towards the delicate flowers. You’re beautiful, she says to herself, as she gently picks one, with delight and quiet innocence. She puts the petals up to her nose and inhales. She is very much present with the flower, her small fist wrapped around it. Suddenly she is snapped out of her “moment” with the bluebell. She turns around to see the girls kicking the ball towards her goal with rapid speed. She sees her coach and parents jumping up and down on the sideline. They are screaming, their faces red and spit flying from their mouths, as they yell for her to get back in front of the goal. It’s too late. A goal is scored and the other team celebrates and she abashedly returns to her post.
Children have a way of being “present with themselves.” They take in their surroundings by living in each moment. They laugh without thought at an adult’s cooing, or skip rocks along a stream, they pick flowers, go in for a hug and allow themselves to express emotions without hesitation. When we are young, we unknowingly and naturally allow ourselves to be present. However, this changes as we develop and begin to experience uncomfortable situations (like the one above) and “worry” about how others will react to us. Development into adulthood involves learning how to live with pain, guilt, loss and heartbreak. While this is a natural progression of life, these experiences and reactions from others feed fear. In therapy, clients often talk about fearing 3 things: the future, the unknown and change.
Mindfulness is about being aware of the present and learning to live in this moment. For example, today is the future we were scared of 6 months ago. As adults, it takes a “conscious” effort to live in the present moment. Mindfulness is more than just meditating. It is a level of awareness that brings us to a place where we can live in the now. This is the moment that really matters. Mindfulness practices can help with various mental health issues and chronic pain. Jon Kabat-Zinn began MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) in the 1970’s and has been researching, training and teaching mindfulness for over 40 years. At times, we create a personal narrative that is detrimental to our mental and physical well-being. There is much more to Mindfulness to be explored and I cannot cover it all in one blog post. For more information on Jon Kabat-Zinn and mindfulness practices, visit https://www.mindful.org/jon-kabat-zinn-defining-mindfulness/.
Mindfulness takes practice, discipline and patience. In therapy, clients often tell me, “I close my eyes, begin focusing on my breath and then my mind leads to what I am going to have for lunch that day.” This is a great example and is part of the process. We bring ourselves back from those thoughts into the present moment. It’s kind of like, “wait, hold on, come back to the present.” Then our mind may wander to another thought and again, we bring ourselves back to the “now.” Just being able to do this is what practicing “living in this moment” is about.
The woman opens her eyes. She takes a deep breath, splashes some water on her face and looks up into the mirror. The little girl, holding the blue bell, stares back at her. The woman says, “Life has brought me many trials and tribulations. A lot of grief, stress and disappointment. It hasn’t been all bad but I am not you anymore.” The little girl whispers, “Maybe it’s time to leave the goal and just pick some flowers.”