Updated: Sep 2, 2018
By Dana Asby
When most people hear the word “mindfulness,” they think of meditating monks or the zen mamas in yoga class. While yoga and meditation are some of the most popular and effective mindfulness techniques, mindfulness is much more than this; it’s a mindset. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the medical doctor and scholar credited with bringing mindfulness to America, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Mindfulness isn’t just something you do; it’s a way of being.
The first aspect of mindfulness is intentionality. Some people go through the motions of life without stopping to think what they want and how to get there. Being mindful means thinking about why you are doing something before you even do it. Before picking up that sweet snack, stop and ask yourself what your body needs and how you want to feel. You might realize that a banana would be even more satisfying than a cookie.
In our workshop, we help couples intentionally plan for their family’s future by organizing their household responsibilities equitably, deciding exactly which family values are most important to them, and brainstorming ways to instill those values in their children.
In the Present Moment
The second aspect of mindfulness is being in the present. It’s easy to get caught up ruminating about the mistakes of the past or to spiral into worries about the uncertainties of the future. Mindfulness asks us to put aside what has already happened and let what is going to happen occur on its own so that we can fully enjoy the beauty of the present moment.
Instead of bringing the annoyances of your work day into your home, you can leave those frustrations at the door and engage with your family with happiness. Instead of feeling anxious because you’ve been fixating on whether or not you’ll get that raise you deserve, you can release those worries and truly be with your partner and/or child. Obsessing about what you could have done differently in the past does not change what happened. Fretting about what could go wrong in the future doesn’t help you avoid your fears or achieve your dreams. Mindfulness asks us to release these worries, so we can live our best lives while they are happening: right now!
We teach couples specific mindfulness techniques like breathing exercises and guided meditations that will help alleviate anxiety about the past or future so that you can be the best version of you with your children and partner.
The third aspect of mindfulness is letting go of judgement. Humans are pre-programmed to make instantaneous judgements all day long. Neanderthal women needed keen judgement to pick the berries that wouldn’t poison their families while their male partners needed to exercise their judgment when choosing which prey to hunt. While these skills are useful in many aspects of our lives, judgements have no purpose when applied to determining the worth of another person--most importantly ourselves--based on our perceptions of a snapshot of their behavior.
We are our own harshest critics. How often do you catch yourself saying unkind words such as, “Ugh! I’m such an idiot!” or “Why can’t I be as good at this as my friend?” Negative self-talk leads to a false narrative that can change the way you think about your own abilities and can affect your performance negatively, resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Mindfulness shows us how to acknowledge those thoughts and let them go so that we can experience everything that is actually occurring right now without being clouded by our distorted thinking.
In addition to being gentle with ourselves, mindfulness asks us to show compassion to others in all situations. Humans are very good at filling in gaps with information to make sense of a situation; however, assumptions often lead to miscommunications. While your instinct might be to conclude that your server is not very good at her job after she brings you the wrong drink, you might change your perspective if you learn that she’s been the Employee of the Month 3 months running but just learned that her grandfather died. Making judgments about the lives of others rarely helps us understand them better. Instead of filling in the gaps on your own, engage in an open dialogue and try to understand the other person holistically.
Our workshop helps couples let go of the judgments they’ve made about their own parents and themselves as potential or current parents by reflecting on how they were raised and how that has affected the way they operate in relationships.