By Joyce Willis, MC, LPC, Therapist, The Meadows
What is mindfulness?
The great leaders of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Thich Nhat Hanh and Jack Kornfield, tell us that mindfulness is the art of paying attention to what you are doing and what is going on around you in the present moment.
An online survey conducted by the American Psychological Association recently found that more than 50 percent of Americans feel stressed out and anxious about this year’s presidential election.
In her #Mindful Monday presentation on Facebook, Meadows therapist Joyce Willis reminds us what forgiveness is and what it is not:
“Forgiveness is about bringing peace to ourselves. Forgiveness is a way to end suffering for ourselves and others and to bring dignity and harmony back into our lives. It is fundamentally for our own sake, and for our own emotional health. It is one tool that we can use to let go of the pain that we carry.”
In AA’s Big Book, the 4th step calls on people in recovery to search out ‘the flaws in our make-up which cause our failure,’ and understand that ‘self, manifested in various ways, is what has failed us.” The book goes on to identify the number one failure of self as resentment.
However, for people who have been abused or mistreated, resentment is perfectly reasonable feeling to have toward the perpetrator (or perpetrators.) When people with histories of emotional trauma approach this step in their recovery, they can sometimes feel stuck. Some interpret this step to mean that they have to find a way to accept some responsibility for what happened to them—that they have to somehow find their part in allowing themselves to be victimized.
This notion can most certainly be counterproductive to trauma survivors’ processes of healing. And, it can intensify the shame and self-blame that likely fed their addictions and behavioral health issues in the first place. That’s why there has to be some nuance and balance to interpreting this step for those who have experienced physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse.
No one is responsible for someone else’s decision to abuse them. In order to heal, it’s not the abuse that the survivor has to accept responsibility for but for the ways in which they may have acted out as a result of their feelings related to that abuse. If a trauma and abuse survivor realizes through their work in recovery that they have behaved in ways that were harmful to themselves or others, they can ask themselves “What other choices did I have? Could I have done better given the circumstances?”
All in all, forgiveness is not about absolving the abuser of guilt or letting them “off the hook.” Instead, it’s about letting go of feelings and beliefs that prevent a survivor from living the full, connected, and authentic lives they deserve.
Forgiving is not easy. It is not something you can do in an instant. You can’t simply decide to forgive and then expect all of your anger and resentment to instantly disappear; it is something that you will have to work through over time, by letting go of a little bit of your anger each day.
You may need more than meditation to help you let go of resentment, especially if you have been abused or mistreated. Therapy and self-care can also be crucial to forgiveness, but meditation can play a key supporting role in the process by helping you cultivate your capacity for love, compassion, and healing. Meditation can help you access and accept the past as it is, and help you gain a deeper understanding of the thoughts and beliefs that are blocking you from having a full emotional life and reaching your full potential. More on Mindfulness and Meditation
Check our Facebook page every Monday for a new guided meditation led by one of our experts. Coming up on Oct. 31, Joe Whitwell, MAC, LAC, CCTP and Therapist at The Meadows Outpatient Center will present a mindfulness talk and exercise on Anger.
And, for a more intensive experience, consider registering for or 5-day Mind & Heart: A Mindful Path to Wholehearted Living workshop. For more information call 866-494-4930 or reach out online.
Why do we struggle in life? That’s a question that many religions, philosophers, and scholars have tried to tackle for centuries. You’d be hard-pressed to find any human being who hasn’t experienced their fair share of pain and difficulty. It often comes in the form of trauma, abuse, neglect, break-ups, betrayals, disappointment, failures, illnesses, loss, and grief.
Regardless of the type or severity of their hardships, people typically find ways to survive. But, unfortunately, some of the ways we adapt our thoughts and behaviors in order to survive get in the way of our ability to thrive.
When we feel pain or discomfort, we tend to try to avoid it, suppress it, or repress it; or, we find some distraction through drugs, alcohol, food, sex, or any number of other substances and activities.
Mindfulness is about bringing unconditional, nonjudgmental attention to our experience in the present moment. Its aim is to help us learn how to tolerate, accept, and even appreciate our pain, and emotional experiences. Mindfulness work teaches us how to really show up in our lives without being constantly distracted by fears of fantasies and without wishing for things to be other than they are.
So, how do we go about this work? There is no one “right” way, but many people begin to cultivate mindfulness through the regular practice of meditation. Many experts believe that you can begin to notice changes in your moods and perceptions with as little as 10 minutes a day of meditation.
That’s why each Monday The Meadows will offer you the opportunity to meditate with one of our experts. Watch The Meadows Facebook page for a live, 10 to 15 minute, guided meditation every week.
Joyce Willis will be leading our first Mindful Monday session on Oct. 24 at 12:30 Mountain Standard Time (3:30 p.m. Eastern) Joyce is a therapist at The Meadows with 18 years of experience with mindfulness and meditation practices. She began her journey in 1998 when a doctor told her she needed to slow down after suffering a severe asthma attack. She realized that she had spent years trying to be superwoman, and didn’t quite know how to slow down. This led her to pick up Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Full Catastrophe Living.
Since then, she has trained with Kabat-Zinn and other leaders in the field of mindfulness like Jack Kornfield and Ronald Siegel. Through her Mindful Monday sessions, she hopes to help people connect their emotional, spiritual, mindful, and physiological selves with compassion and respect.
The Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows offers an incredible, transformational, 5-day workshop on mindfulness called Mind & Heart: A Mindful Path to Wholehearted Living. It is led by The Meadows Medical Director, Dr. Jon Caldwell, whose clinical practice is rooted in the timeless teaching and contemplative traditions of mindfulness meditation.
During the workshop. Dr. Caldwell leads participants through several enlightening presentations and experiential exercises focused on cultivating mindfulness and compassion. Ancient and scientifically-verified practices will be applied in unique ways to help heal past wounds. People with various levels of experience with mindfulness and meditation can benefit from the workshop. All that is needed is a curious mind, a willing heart, and an intention to heal!
For more information on the Mind & Heart Workshop or on any of The Meadows personal growth workshops, please call 866-457-3202, or reach out online.
Dr. Jon Caldwell has been chosen as 2015 Recovery 2.0 Faculty. His presentation: Mindfulness Approaches to Recovery is part of the Recovery 2.0 Conference. Please make a point of signing up for the free conference to hear Jon and 30 other thought leaders.
Recovery 2.0 is a global movement and community of people who embrace a holistic approach to recovery from all addiction including such elements as: Yoga, Meditation, 12 Steps, Healthy relationships with people, food, money and the identification of one’s purpose and mission in life.
Whether It's Your First Day Sober, You've Been in Recovery For Years, You Have a Loved One Who Has Struggled With Addiction, Or You Work in the Field of Recovery, Find Inspiration and Support at the 4th Annual Recovery 2.0 Conference!
You can learn more at the website.