Years ago, mindfulness practices helped me in ways I can barely describe.
At the time, I was experiencing extraordinary stress and anxiety from a combination of work and family responsibilities and, to top it all off, had just experienced a panic attack. That was the breaking point for me and the moment I knew things had gone too far. From that point on I vowed to do better. But I didn’t yet know how.
That’s when I found the practice of mindfulness and meditation through Bruce Lee (I was an avid martial arts practitioner at the time) and the rest is history. But mindfulness can help with much more than just stress and anxiety. It’s now been used to help heal a wide variety of both physical, mental and emotional challenges.
3 Mindfulness Practices for Overcoming Life’s Greatest Challenges
The energies of mindfulness, concentration and insight can liberate us from our anxiety and worries. We let go of the past and the future, and come in touch with the wonders of the present.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
The practice of mindfulness, even five short minutes a day, has the incredible ability to help us alleviate stress and better manage anxiety and depression. But its uses don’t stop there.
We all experience different challenges in life and we all need to find healthy ways of not just dealing with those challenges but, hopefully, overcoming them as well. That’s where these mindfulness practices come in. Here are three unique mindfulness practices for overcoming some of life’s most difficult challenges:
1. Healing relationships: Forgiveness meditation
There are many ways to heal a relationship, but sometimes, the person isn’t around anymore for that to even be possible, whether that be the father or mother of your child being out of the picture, a deceased family member, or someone you never had the chance to forgive (or ask for forgiveness from). That’s when an exercise like this simple forgiveness meditation can be very powerful.
There are three perspectives or ways this can be practiced, which you’ll have to decide on:
- Forgiving others: When others have harmed you.
- Asking for forgiveness: When you’ve harmed others.
- Forgiving yourself: When you’ve harmed yourself.
Each version of the exercise has essentially the same steps but with slight changes. Let’s say you want to forgive yourself:
- Reflect on the pain you caused: Sit down somewhere quiet and take a few minutes to reflect on the pain you caused yourself. What did you do? What was the result? How do you feel about it now?
- Be mindful of what arises: As you ask yourself these questions and reflect on past events, be aware of whatever thoughts, feelings, or sensations arise. These are a telling sign and offer many important insights.
- Ask for forgiveness: Now that you’ve steeped yourself in these past experiences and the thoughts and feelings connected with them, it’s time to ask yourself for forgiveness. This might sound like a weird and hoaky exercise, but quite simply– it works.
Whether this was something you did to yourself, others, or which others did to you, it’s you who ultimately holds the power to create forgiveness and healing because this idea of holding someone accountable (including yourself) is a mental construct. And, with work, this can be broken down or changed into something else by working with the mind.
So, to do that, simply repeat this sentence like a mantra for several minutes: “Please, forgive me for _____.” Or, in the case of forgiving someone else, “I forgive you for _____.” As you repeat this sentence, continue to notice any thoughts or feelings that arise such as anger, resentment, sadness, or relief.
Keep in mind that this meditation will take several sessions. Forgiveness definitely isn’t an easy thing with or without this exercise, but with time you’ll be able to create healing more easily with an exercise such as this.
2. Communication: Mindful speech and listening
We are, by our very biology, social creatures. So, you’d think we’d be better at communicating than we are. However, the reality is, effective communication is a skill that takes a lot of practice and dedication.
The problem is, without it, we can often end up in difficult situations. Say something you don’t mean when you’re worked up and angry and a healthy relationship can suddenly be on the rocks and in a state of emergency. To keep this from happening and to communicate more effectively in general, mindful speech and mindful listening can be used.
The idea is pretty simple: you communicate with greater awareness of what you’re saying (think before you speak) and by paying more attention when you’re listening (and listening more). Here are a few tips for doing just that:
- Be aware of the effect that certain words can have on a conversation: Some people are sensitive to certain words. When communicating, it’s important to do so in a way that that specific person will understand most clearly.
- Be aware of how you’re saying what you’re saying: How you say what you say is just as important as the actual words you speak. Practice becoming more aware of this.
- When possible, communicate important messages in the right environment: This isn’t always possible (or necessary), but when communicating a very important message the environment can play an important part in getting your point across and creating a more constructive conversation.
- Withhold judgment: It’s easy to pass judgment. We do it often without even thinking. Practice not reacting so automatically when listening and you’ll have more constructive conversations.
With mindful speech and listening, you’ll be able to communicate more effectively and heal wounds caused by the words you’ve spoken to one another.
3. Craving and addiction: Mindful indulging
Addiction and other addiction-like behaviors can be very damaging over time. That’s because these behaviors tend to grow and affect more areas of our life as time goes on. Examples of this could be indulging in food or another unhealthy behavior for emotional reasons or any form of addiction.
Below is a simple mindfulness practice for helping deal with addiction and similar behaviors. Keep in mind that this practice is a bit different from the others and needs to be used carefully:
- Be fully present for the craving: As you feel the craving coming on, enter the experience with your full awareness. From the point you notice it start to come on until the point that it ceases pay attention to what goes on in your body and mind. Self-awareness is key here.
- Be fully present for the feeding of the craving: If your craving is sugary foods and you have a problem with eating when your emotional and gaining unhealthy amounts of weight, give your body and mind what it wants and notice what thoughts, feelings, and sensations arise as you feed the addiction or craving.
- What did you find?: Throughout the course of this exercise, certain insights are likely to arise. A feeling or emotion you didn’t expect or a collection of thoughts that gives you insight into what you’re telling yourself as the craving arises and as you feed it. If you eat when you’re emotional maybe notice a pattern of negative self-destructing thoughts arise along with the behavior. With this, you know to counter the behavior as it arises with a positive mantra that can, over time, help fight off the behavior and heal it.
How you use these practices and what works best is ultimately up to you. But one thing is for certain– with greater self-awareness and the healing power of mindfulness practices we can take control of the situation and begin to live our life with greater peace and balance.