A weekend away to be still: Mindfulness in action

For the last few years, being mindful has been something that I have introduced to clients about through direct life experience.

So what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is about waking up. When you are mindful, you direct your entire attention to something with an attitude of openness and curiosity, using all senses to experience everything that the present moment has to offer. During that time, you are able to let go of thoughts of the past and future and just be in the moment. One of the easiest ways of practicing mindfulness is applying it in everyday activities such as taking a shower and feeling the warmth of the water on your skin or eating a meal taking note of the flavours, the textures and the aroma. Too often we are too distracted with our own thoughts to take note of the moment that will pass by all too quickly.

As a therapist who truly believes that it is important to directly experience and apply what I teach others to my own life, I decided that it was time for a well needed break after many busy months in the lead up to the launch of this website. In that moment of self reflection, of being still long enough to realize the level of fatigue I was feeling, I was able to notice a deep longing for a short break . I longed for a break that would allow me more stillness than activity; a chance to reflect in an environment that took me away from the very urban busy life that is my day to day world. I noticed my mind drift to the Barossa and with a free weekend ahead, decided it was time to find a lovely B and B to act as a retreat. As I searched for accommodation options, I narrowed the selection down to a few, but one really stood out from the crowd, for what it offered seemed to match my needs in that moment completely. I noted how much time I took to reflect on my own values and current needs, to find somewhere that would give me what I needed and take action, something which I teach people to do every day. Out of the way, a restored cottage amongst 66 acres of bushland, kangaroos, birds and the company of a friendly cat conjured up the recipe for a perfect break to foster feelings of peace and serenity. This is something that every psychologist needs to recharge the batteries for more satisfying work ahead.

Right now I am sitting writing this blog in front of an open fire as the trip comes to an end, and there are moments where I am drawn in by the sound of the fire, the crackling of the flickering flames and the peacefulness that comes with having a companion with whom I can practice the art of being silent for long periods of time. This is true mindfulness of the environment and is something that I have had the opportunity to practice daily here.  Opportunities to sit outside and really tune in to nature in a way that I rarely have – the sound of the trickling water in the stream and the sight of the leaves rushing past like my thoughts, the bird calls in the morning, the brief appearance of an owl, the sight of a family of kangaroos bounding in the bushes and the friendly cat Millie purring beside me on the sofa. So, why is all this important? It is important for the experience it gives and the memories it creates that are long lasting. It is important because it is a moment that will not happen again and a moment that I want to experience fully. It is important because in acting on my values and consciously attending to my environment, my perspective on my place in the world changes as a result of this experience. Like everyone, there have been moments on this trip where my mind has been pulled away to the past or the future and I have done my best to bring myself back to the moment.  At these times I have reminded myself of the “leaves on a stream” technique from ACT, imagining the thoughts on a leaf drifting into the distance and allowing me to bring my attention back to the moment quickly.

Mindfulness is all about being present and when you take time to get out of your mind and into your life, you are more likely to experience feelings of contentment. Find something each day to do mindfully and notice the difference it makes to your experience of the world.

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