Mindfulness: Breaking The Habit By CHOOSING To Shift Your Perspective.

I was waiting to turn at a corner when car after car kept coming by. A minute passed and then five minutes passed. “What the hell?” I thought. I couldn’t back up since there were cars behind me. It was a long funeral procession driving very slowly down the long street. I had somewhere I need to be! This was ridiculous! I noticed my heart rate go up and my chest constrict. I became restless and felt stuck. I did not want to be in this situation and noticed that I was pissed off about it. Then I laughed at myself.
I think this is a normal human reaction (minus the laughing at yourself) when stuck in traffic. But in this situation, there is a distinctive difference between someone who practices mindfulness and everyone else. Most people in this situation would become really frustrated. Their thoughts, heart rate, blood pressure would all speed up, they would take the situation VERY seriously and then they would react. They might mumble curse words under their breath. They might feel frantic and anxious. “I have to be somewhere!” they might scream out. They might feel an intense amount of anger and honk their horn at the traffic slowly rolling by. This is the “normal” (which is really abnormal since being stuck in traffic is hardly a threat to someones survival) stress functioning state of our collective world right now. Maybe this is why so many people are on medications and dependent on doctors to help deal with the ravaging effects of chronic stress?
The mindfulness practitioner becomes aware that they are getting pissed off. They notice their raised blood pressure and heart rate. They notice the flood of judgmental thoughts flooding their brain and they say to themselves, “Wow look at all these judgments about the situation that I am. Wow.” Just becoming aware of all the judgmental thoughts (which are really just an unwillingness to accept what is) (“I don’t like this,” “This sucks,” “This is taking way too long,” “I need to be somewhere else,” “This is terrible!”) immediately begins to calm down the nervous system. The mindfulness practitioner then becomes aware of their breathing, notices the sounds that they are hearing, becomes aware of the sensation of their palms on the steering wheel and relaxes into the situation rather than reacting against it. Within a minute or so the stress is gone, they have accepted what is (“So I am stuck in traffic, such is life. I can still be present with what is right now.”) and as a result avoids the detrimental psychological and physical effects of habitual reactivity and chronic stress. All they needed to do was be willing to become aware of all the judgements in their head.
Mindfulness is really just a shift in perspective. When practicing mindfulness we are shifting out of a perspective that is closed, automatic (habitual), judgmental, unaware and as a result reactive into a perspective that is open, curious and accepting of what is. More so than any other creature on the planet, human beings really struggle to accept what is. We continually judge what is, resist it and want things to be different. As a result we suffer the life depleting effects of continual and poorly managed judgments. Our judgmental minds are mostly conditioned. Chances are, from a developmental perspective, if you had a parent or parents who were very judgmental this is why you have a difficult time accepting what is (I have experienced this first hand since my wife has parents who are not judgmental of much and as a result she doesn’t judge nearly as much as I do!).
Next time you find yourself at a corner unable to turn or in any other undesirable situation, see if you can become aware of the flood of judgments rushing through your brain. It is only through becoming aware (waking up!) that you can then CHOOSE to shift your perspective towards a more mindful one. As a result you will begin to break judgmental/reactive habits that may have been undermining your health, well-being, relationships and quality of life all along.

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