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What comes to mind when we hear this word? 

For centuries, people have applied mindfulness to everyday life as a way to  enhance clarity and focus. Today, we can apply this tool to better relate and  respond to our busy minds, that are sometimes too full to interact or even  function. 

Simply put, mindfulness is awareness. Awareness of our current, present  experience and not that of past (regrets, sadness, loss) nor future (worries,  fears, anxieties). 

When we find ways to better respond and relate to our overwhelmed minds,  do we really ‘fix’ the problems holding us back? 

Not exactly ~ like many other worthwhile aspects of life, this is a practice, and that involves repetition. It includes the recognition that life involves suffering. This is not about pushing away these anxieties, worries, losses,  regrets and sadness, but finding a way to make room for them all.  

How can we do this? Invite ourselves into this moment. 

The past has passed. 

The future is not yet here. 

All we have is the present, which can bring us some peace ~ perhaps in  forgiveness (past) or calm (redirecting from future worries). This is mindfulness. 

By identifying these very elements (anxiety, regret, anger, panic) as they  approach, and without their attached story, we are already giving ourselves room to return to the present. We do it with softness, kindness and without  judgment. 

This is mindfulness. 

We can mindfully wash the dishes, brush our teeth or take a walk. Keeping  our awareness on what we can see, touch, hear and experience. This is mindfulness. 

Life is never still ~ the mind is never still. Awareness is always still.

Settling into the present may liberate us from the busy mind (perhaps taking  us into the past or future). 

“Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help  the lotus flower of happiness grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud.”  

~ Thich Nhat Hanh 

Most of us are forgetful ~ we are not really here a lot of the time. Our  minds are caught up in worries, fears, anger, regrets and not mindful of  being here. We are caught up in the past or in the future, which sadly  results in us not living our lives fully in the present moment. 

It is human nature for our minds to wander ~ it’s just what it does with  thoughts and the stories that accompany them. When we recognize that our  mind has wandered, we can access mindfulness to bring ourselves back ~  without judgement or criticism and stories; just accepting we are back and  have the opportunity to start again.

We bring ourselves back by opening our eyes to what is in front of us, our  ears to what we can hear and allowing our minds to experience this. 

Think for a moment about all of the birds outside our window that we may  have silenced by the active mind, or the sunsets and sunrises missed when  worries flooded our minds. 

If we mindfully return to the present, even for a moment, we have stopped  talking (not only the outside conversation, but the inside talking, our mental  discourse). 

Then, we can fully awaken to what is in front of us while, even briefly, the  rest seems to settle. We become aware of something, such as a flower, and  we can be liberated from the anger, despair, worries and fears that  previously took us away. 

This is mindfulness. 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS With gratitude, I respectfully mention Howard Cohn, Oren Jay Sofer ©, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Martin Aylward, whose teachings have influenced my practice and work.


I Feel Like A Failure. Am I Depressed?

I just feel like there’s nothing I can do right. All I want is to be good at something, but there is always someone better than me. I’ve cut myself hundreds of times because I just hate myself so much. I’ve tried to lose weight and lost it, and then gained it back. I’m so mad at myself for gaining it all back, I’m mad at myself for  not being able to show people what I can do when it matters. I feel like a loser. I get angry all the time too, and have no patience with people.  I’ve always told myself to never lose  hope, and right now I have no hope. Sometimes I pray at night, hoping I’ll die in the night and not wake up in the morning. I’ve told my Mom that I want to see a therapist and need help, but she took it as a joke. I don’t know who to turn to and I don’t know what to do with life (15 year old female teen).

A: Thank you for writing in for help. It sounds like you have an illness called major depression. While I can’t diagnose you in this forum, you do need to be seen and evaluated by a physician or mental health therapist ASAP.  How brave of you to reach out to your mom for help, and I’m sorry she didn’t take you seriously. Did you tell your mom about the depth of your hopelessness, your self-harm, and how much you hate yourself? Please reach out to her again and be completely honest with her about the depth of your despair so she can feel the urgency. Sometimes parents don’t know how to handle a child’s emotional pain. Please go to her again and tell her in firm way, “Mom, I need to see a therapist as soon as possible. I am very depressed, I’m hurting myself, and having thoughts of wanting to die. I’m scared and I need your help. Please take me to the doctor or therapist.” 

If your mom doesn’t understand depression or mental illnesses, you may want to have her read some of the resources on PsychCentral so she has a deeper understanding of what you’re going through. If your mom still doesn’t respond to you, please reach out to a school counselor or another trusted relative for help. There is help and treatment for the symptoms that you’re describing. Please continue to be persistent so you can get the help you need.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW


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