It seems the term “mindfulness” is popping up all over lately. It offers hope in calming our minds, relaxing our bodies, and boosting our brains. And is it possible that it can help with headaches, body pain and the tensions of daily living? Alina Tugend of the New York Times recently wrote an article about mindfulness, focusing on what it can do for you, and just as importantly what it cannot provide. The following is a portion of her article…..

I had an understanding that mindfulness went hand-in-hand with meditation, but also that it was more than that. “Intentionally paying attention to the present nonjudgmentally” is the way Janice Marturano explains it. Ms. Marturano is a former deputy general counsel and vice president for public responsibility at General Mills, and helped start its Mindful Leadership Forum in 2004. She left a few years ago to start the nonprofit Institute for Mindful Leadership. What it’s not, she said, is only about reducing stress. Or emptying our minds of all thoughts. Or about religion. So here’s what I learned about the basic techniques. First, find a quiet place to focus your attention – on your breath or perhaps on an object. It’s not deep breathing, but rather experiencing “when the breath enters and leaves,” Ms. Marturano said. “Feel the stretch in the rib cage, without me doing anything. Can I notice when the mind takes a hike and redirect it? That redirection is the exercise.”

It sounds simple, but it’s not, because it goes against the grain of how most of us think and operate. We want to get things done, to identify and fix problems. And that’s the opposite of what mindfulness is all about. “The way it’s presented in the media, people begin to believe it’s a magic pill”, said Christy Matta, author of the book “The Stress Response”. And, she said, if you go into it with the idea of reducing stress, you’re working against the very thing you’re trying to attain, because you’re aiming toward a goal. Mindfulness, “is about being present,” she said. “You have to just do it. You can’t strive for things.” Ms. Matta said, part of mindfulness is also uncomfortable feelings – not trying to change or judge them, but being aware of them. And that may not feel so pleasant.

Eventually, mindfulness is supposed to help us spend less time worrying about the future or fretting about the past. We’ll gain perspective, listen better and step back to consider more choices and make decisions more clearly and intentionally, rather than reactively, Ms. Marturano said………   3/23/13


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