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Beginning mindfulness

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

All journeys have a starting point, but not all starting points are memorable or specific. In an attempt to nail down when and where I first encountered the term mindfulness, I draw a blank. The concept has been around much longer than my awareness of it, much longer than the current trend in writing (or podcasting) about it, and much longer in practice than even the term mindfulness has existed. In many ways all people practice some manner of mindfulness, so for this post my intention is to discuss the concept in terms of a practice rather than just a broad movement.


The starting point for my personal practice of mindfulness is slightly more defined, although there is no date or moment to speak of. I suppose if I were pressed, I would say I found momentum while in graduate school. Things since have slowly snowballed into a more consistent mindfulness through many areas of my life (although there is still room for growth in varying quantities in equally varying areas). My graduate studies officially ended over a decade ago and I've been working hard to incorporate mindfulness into my professional and personal life ever since.


In the past decade I've held several different positions professionally, including a Supervisor position at a psychiatric facility, an adjunct teaching position with a hybrid university (in class and online), a stay-at-home dad, a certified personal trainer and most recently as an independent businessperson in the field of life coaching. Personally, this past decade has brought two beautiful boys (10 and 7) and a 15th wedding anniversary. To say there has been a lot of change is fair. All in all, the positives outweigh the negatives. To that end, I would give a great deal of credit to a mindfulness practice as one of the keys to things looking mostly up.


In my professional life, I have worked with a wide array of clients (age, sexual orientation, mental and physical health) in developing habits around mindfulness. For some, meditation and journaling have been the best tools for where they are in life. For others, developing routines around self care, specifically with nutrition and exercise, are the principle practices they need. In my personal life, I use almost all of these tools to help guide me towards a well balanced lifestyle. I keep journals and sketch books that allow me to sit with thoughts and ideas both painful and hopeful. I take walks to get movement and to create space for deeper insight into my own moods and ruminations. I try to eat intentionally, especially when I'm stressed or feeling lazy.


As I continue to work with more and more professionals, I keep coming back to mindfulness. There is no shortage of knowledge available these days (thanks to the internet and search engines), but lack of know how isn't what seems to befuddle many of the people I work with. It is more often a lack of good habits and an abundance of roadblocks. Instead of trying to target one specific area the client has identified in need of change, I try to start with understanding the client's own perception of their habits. I like to engage each person in a discussion around mindful practices they may already be using. Client aren't clueless about the terminology; again, knowledge is abundant and the idea of mindfulness is prevalent throughout common literature and media. It is more common for clients to be stuck with a vague sense of what they should do and no real practical application.


One of the benefits of my decade plus of honing my own practice of mindfulness, both professionally and personally, is that I have encountered so many of the roadblocks people face on a daily basis. I am beyond hopeful that I can help guide my clients as we navigate these obstacles. The process takes teamwork and usually more time than expected, but the result is a change that can last a lifetime, and that for me is the best part of the job. And to be clear, it is work. But doing the work is necessary and leads to the deepest kind of gratitude I've ever experienced.


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