Why I Love to Teach and Practice Mindfulness

They say you teach what you most need to learn. For me, this could never be more true.

I teach mindfulness to children, parents, and anyone else who comes to me. Sometimes I address groups of people, and other times I meet with small groups of family or friends. My most rewarding experiences typically involve incidents where I am working with one or more individuals who have finally “met their mountain.”

Why Mindfulness

For me, this was when I hit a time in my life that, regardless of degrees earned, life experiences up until that time, or a wonderful job, I had recently experienced four major life cycle events that resulted in a reduction of my coping skills. For someone who had always been able to bounce back from difficult situations, I soon realized that “the norm” was not going to do it for me; I needed a new addition to my personal toolkit!

That’s when I learned about and started my practice of mindfulness. Being secular, simple, and scientifically supported, I must admit that it took me a long time to actually believe it could make the differences in my life that had been reported. I was always crying, continually being emotionally reactive to the people with whom I came into contact, and really did believe that others were to blame for every negative that I perceived came my way.

Finding Difficulty with Establishing a Consistent Practice

While I kept trying to be consistent in my practice, it was difficult. After all, there will never BE time for mindfulness; a person has to choose to make time for mindfulness. Instead of mindlessly trolling the internet or some social media website…instead of watching some television show…instead of reading some magazine…instead of strolling through a mall. Taking some daily time from these non-essential activities that had become a habit, and devoting that time to a mindfulness practice…it was hard!

Each day I would struggle to turn my formal mindfulness time into a habitual practice, but never is it as wonderful as when I am teaching someone who KNOWS they are in a time of need. They know something is off…different from their norm, and might even know why. Still they don’t know what to do about it, and are willing to try anything to finally get some relief from having that constant yapping in their mind and being so upset all the time.

Teaching Basic Brain Science

In these situations, I explain the basic parts of the brain:

  • how the prefrontal cortex is where you plan and learn new things
  • and how the hippocampus is where you store memories and many emotions
  • how the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus love to work together (like I need to do my report, and this is how I can accomplish that.)
  • then, how the amygdala, the alarm center of the brain, can flip on (flight, flight, freeze) whenever we feel a strong negative emotion like anger, frustration, embarrassment, or fear
  • and, finally, how the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus is broken when the amygdala flips on (Uhhhh, yes, that’s why you forgot the information for which you had so carefully prepared!)

Then, I teach people how to turn off their amygdalas. Such a simple thing: take three slow, deep breaths. And, finally, how to practice one of the different forms of mindfulness. Mindful listening. Mindful breathing. Body scans. And so much more!

And why do I love this so much? Because then we practice together. While they practice their new skills, I practice mindfulness along with them! And we both find the relief, and blessings, brought from this simple, secular, and scientifically supported practice.

It’s just so wonderful! I hope you find a blessing in your day, too!

Dr W

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Photograph by @sethdoylee on Unsplash.

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