Mindfulness is a hot topic right now and is presented with spiritual teachings and is often accompanied by exercises, like taking a few deep breaths, box breathing, meditation, or sitting like a frog, to employ when you are feeling "emotional".   At first glance it seems like mindfulness is being able to breath, sit still or handle things like the Buddha, so that you can comfortably move forward with what you are doing. But mindfulness has nothing to do with breathing, sitting still, spirituality, or even forging ahead in what you are doing. 

So if mindfulness isn't about meditation, breathing, or spirituality what is it about?

One of the main concepts behind mindfulness is that our brain has tremendous plasticity. It can learn new things, and in the case of mindfulness, when we can chill our nervous system out we can learn new ways to respond (or not) to intense emotions.

Our brain's plasticity is what allows us the ability to make shifts around our responses to intense emotions.  Further mindfulness theory understands that there are sensitive periods of brain development in terms of emotional memory and that we learn through environmental input beginning around 10 years old through puberty! So patience might be another piece of mindfulness to consider. It took you 10-15 years to develop these styles! So let's take it easy on ourselves and give ourselves time to retrain our brains! 

Mindfulness is about welcoming our emotions and calming our nervous system so that we can begin to take the action(s) our emotions are asking us to take. And so we can start to tune up or tune down certain aspects of our emotional styles and our empathic engagement. For some, just calming the nervous system is enough to help them make strong, resourced, balanced, and intentional movements in their lives.

However, there are those of us who that need more than sitting meditations and deep breathing  to help us down regulate, in fact, sitting meditations and deep breathing can be harmful for some vulnerable people. Just imagine for a moment that you are returning from war where you were trained in box breathing to steady your weapon to kill people and then you show up to get help and they teach you box breathing as a tool to calm yourself!  In Dynamic Emotional Integration® we have included many different skills and exercises that are active in nature to help people calm their nervous systems so that they can attend to the messages behind the uncomfortable sensations.

So coming full circle. Mindfulness is a beautiful concept. It is about emotion regulation and not suppressing our emotions. The brain has the gift of plasticity that helps us create new ways of working through uncomfortable and difficult situations. There are more options available to you if you are finding that deep breathing and stillness aren't helping you make shifts in your life that are meaningful or you aren't creating relationships that are full of sweetness. DEI skills like conscious complaining, empathic gossip, shadow walks  can help you discover small shifts you might be able to make to get you closer to the longings of your soul. Without losing your cool.

Oh and you may just get to access and develop your rational brain...that is pretty cool too.

My DEI workshops might be for you if you find the stories that make up your life keep coming to the same ending each time and you long for something different. Or if breathing, meditation, and spirituality are just not accessible to you or they just keep the story on repeat. 

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Andrea Watkins