In November, I’ll be co-presenting a continuing education course for other music therapists at our national conference. One of the main components of the course is mindfulness, and it’s a topic that I’ve felt is increasingly important in our daily lives. In the past few years, mindfulness and meditation have become more popular—trendy even. Research study results on the subjects are released and discussed almost every day, it seems—mindfulness improves blood pressure, decreases stress, increases sense of well-being and self-esteem. It goes on and on.
But what exactly is mindfulness?
My definition of mindfulness is simply the act of being mindful, paying attention to what’s happening right now, noticing what’s occurring in your body and mind. It’s a state of being non-judgmental, just observing what’s going on. As a simple example—right now, pay attention to your breathing. Notice if it’s fast or slow, deep or shallow, how it feels to inhale and exhale, if you experience any tightness or looseness, if the air is warm or cool, dry or humid, the difference between inhaling through your nose or your mouth…. Just pay attention. And notice that there’s no judgment about this action. It’s not right/wrong or good/bad if the air is cool or warm, if your breaths are quick or slow. These qualities just are.
Mindfulness is simply paying attention to what is.
After you’ve observed what is, you can decide if you want to change it. If your breaths were shallow, you can simply breathe more deeply because that might feel more comfortable for you. That’s not a judgment, it’s simply an adjustment.
Mindfulness helps us slow down and cultivate a sense of gratitude.
Our lives tend to be hectic and busy, and we go from one task to another with barely a thought in between. It’s no wonder we feel stressed and overtired when we’ve run through our daily to-do list as fast as possible, only to never reach the end of it.
Consider this—what would it be like if, instead of stressing and texting and drumming our fingers on the steering wheel while waiting in the bank drive-thru lane, we took those few minutes to breathe and observe the surroundings? Notice nature. Find a bee or a bird and simply watch what it does. If you can see clouds, play that childhood game and see what shapes the clouds take. Pay attention to what is happening all around you. Use your senses—what do you smell, hear, see, feel? We rush through our days and hardly ever notice these things.
So give it a try! When you catch yourself feeling stressed or worried or tense, take a few moments to be mindful. I think you’ll start to notice a difference!
If you’re curious about how music therapy and GIM fit into the picture, contact me for more information. I’m always happy to answer questions!