Ahhhhhhhhh (that's suppose to be a scream). We just got back from LA and I'm exhausted. Its a great city but I find it very tiring - the traffic, the crowds, the noise. The trip was about visiting family members who are having a difficult time in their lives. Children in the foster care system, can't hold on to steady work and from my perspective are in complete denial about their situation and about how to fix the problem.
My sweet calm husband tells me the best we can do is accept that these people are adults, are doing the best that they can and all they need from us is love, non-judgement and words of support. The hard part is that there are 5 children involved who have no say in their situation but are getting shuffled from house to house. Every bone in my body wants to scream "WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS". We tried having a supportive conversation about a plan to help these people and it didn't go very well (big big big sigh). My mind keeps looping back to what I should have said and starts down the path of do I try again and what if I say this or that. My sleep and dreams the last two nights have been very restless and I can feel the anxiety and tension growing around the situation. So for today knowing that I really have no control of the situation I'm going to review the 4 qualities of mindful acceptance so that I can keep practicing and letting go of what I have no control over.
1) Paying Attention - Staying present to the here and now. Deep breathing is good for this and is a way to keep bringing attention back to the body and to the space in which we live - the here and now. Taking time to notice what we notice in our bodies and in the space around us. Taking a minute to notice what you notice, the noises in the room, the temperature in the room, focus on your breath and just notice what you notice. This exercise brings us to the present, the place where we can take action in our lives.
2) On Purpose - In order to pay attention we must choose to do it, and do it again and again, over and over throughout your day and your life. So paying attention isn't something that we practice when we start to get anxious its a life commitment to be present.
3) In the Present Moment - We all know the experience of not paying attention - driving and thinking about other things, watching a movie and suddenly realizing that you have no idea what is happening, etc. We all know this because the mind is in a constant state of thinking and looping and pulling us out of the here and now. So the trick is to over and over purposefully practicing staying present - to our breath, our bodies and to the moment that we are in - the only place that is real.
4) Non-judgmentally - This one is really hard to do (especially for me). George, my brain, is always shooting messages of judgement: good-bad, right-wrong, sour-sweet, should-shouldn't, and so on. George was really going to town when we were talking to my LA family members - labeling them as selfish and judging them for putting their needs in front of the kids. And then later George started judging me saying "if you were smarter you would have said the right things so that they would take better actions in their lives". When our brains are being judgmental its very hard on us and creates a lot of confusion and anxiety. Very important to keep noticing our thoughts and practice sorting out which thoughts are helpful and letting non-helpful thoughts just drift on by.
So I'm off to my day ... praticing forgiveness, compassion and a committment to purposely live a mindful life ... more in the physical here and now than in my brain. Thanks George for all the times you help me plan and problem solve and respectfully I will choose to ignore you when your words are critical and judgemental.
The above 4 qualities were paraphrased from THE MINDFULNESS & ACCEPTANCE WORKBOOK FOR ANXIETY by John P. Forsyth, Ph.D and Georg H. Eifert, Ph.D