Feeling a little overwhelmed? Things changing too fast? For centuries monks and spiritual types have been practicing mindfulness and meditation in order to gain a more enlightened state of existence.
But recently psychotherapy has capitalized on the practice of mindful meditation in order to help clients learn to deal with the tech-dazed, sleepless, busy culture that many Americans now live with.
So how can what saffron garbed monks help any of us? Do we all need to don robes and collect alms in order to attain a happier more productive life?
Not at all. Learning to focus, to psychologically let go of distraction, and to adjust to the ever-changing nature of our lives is something anyone with anxiety or depression can find beneficial. Nothing calms you like slowing down to celebrate and become intimately connected with every movement you make.
So what are the lessons to be learned from mindfulness and meditation? One important one is that we are living in this moment.
Anxiety is exacerbated by worry about the mistakes of the past and anticipation and dread of the future. When we focus on this moment, yes this moment where we’re sitting at our computer reading a blog. Where we feel the warmth or coolness of our room, see the flowers on our desk, hear the dog breathing at our feet. That.
When we’re intimately connected with what we’re doing right now it’s virtually impossible to have worry about something happening in a different time frame. Therapists now assist clients in learning to experience in all their senses what’s going on in the present. Whether they’re cooking, or working, playing with their children, or staring out the window. Being present in the moment centers and calms us.
And that’s just one element stolen from the depths of ancient spiritual thought. There is also the actual practice of meditation, which research is showing us is physiologically transformative toward a more peaceful mind. Many conferences for therapists now open, close and have breaks for actual periods of meditation. This is where participating counselors sit for 10 to 20 minutes focusing only on their breath as it slowly goes in and out. In and out. In and….
So, while mindfulness and ancient spiritual practices are rather new to the field of psychotherapy it looks like they’re having a big impact on helping people learn to slow down and experience the moment.
Karen Kozlowski Graham, LCSW, Management Consultant and Psychotherapist, has worked in the fields of interpreting, social work and leadership with Deaf and hard of hearing people for over 30 years. She is one of the founders and was the CEO of SignOn: A Sign Language Interpreter Services in Seattle. Karen has a BS from Northwestern University in the field of Communicative Disorders and an MSW from the University of Chicago in Social Service Administration and was recipient of the prestigious Elizabeth Butler award from the University of Chicago for outstanding work in human services. Karen is a former Certified Sign Language Interpreter and is currently a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.