Mindfulness: a resource for differentiation

Mindfulness: a resource for differentiation

By Carla Toenniessen.

“Mindfulness provides a simple but powerful route for getting ourselves unstuck, back into touch with our own wisdom and vitality. It is a way to take charge of the direction and quality of our lives, including our relationships within the family, our relationship to work and to the larger world and planet, and most fundamentally, our relationship with our self as a person.” Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are

February 6, 2017—How does the saying go, “crisis as opportunity”? As a result of three recent medical emergencies in my family, one with my husband and two with my father, I have discovered mindfulness meditation as a resource for self-regulation, self-definition and connection. I had already been trying on mindfulness without even knowing it, as part of the “research project” of working on self and “staying in my own skin,” as Larry Matthews calls it. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn mindfulness is about paying attention to process—to what is happening inside a person and without—to practice awareness and to observe one’s experience, to be present and intentional with the stance of a learner. Mindfulness may seem simple, but it is not easy and it is a life-long project. Sound familiar?

The opposite of being mindful is being mindless, which occurs when anxiety increases and one gets carried away, even driven, by automatic thoughts and reactions. Along similar lines, in A Failure of Nerve, Edwin Friedman distinguished between “cerebration” which he considers to be reactive and “thinking” which comes from “the differentiation of the thinker’s self.” (p.129)

According to the current brain research thoughtful reflection and meditation help lower anxiety, promote right and left brain connectivity and assist access to the cortex, the higher ground. Opening the way for creativity, imagination and insight to emerge. Slowing down, noticing one’s breathing, listening to the body, paying attention to senses and experiences are but a few ways to practice mindfulness and to self-regulate in order to get clearer about a well-defined response. The opportunity awaits. u

Carla Toenniessen is a family systems coach and practitioner. She has participated in the LIM Workshops at Lost River since 1998 and joined the faculty in 2008. Visit her website Systems Journey.

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