By Cordes Simpson

As I write this article in early May, I am struck by how busy everyone is. There are high school and college graduations, Mother and Father’s Days, June weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, kids moving home, some moving away, summer camps, political primaries, family obligations and of course, deadlines at work. I sometimes feel like I am running in circles going from person to person, event to event, place to place and thing to thing. I have friends saying “what day is this?” or “I absolutely can’t think about anything else until after the … !” You can fill-in-the-blank. Without realizing it we can quickly become human doings rather than human beings.

 

According to the Mindfulness Workbook (Teasdale, Williams & Segal), there are seven core features of the Doing Mode: 1) Often automatic. 2) Works through thinking. 3) Focuses on past and future. 4) Tries to avoid unpleasant experiences 5) Needs things to be different 6) Takes thoughts/ideas as real 7) Focuses on what needs to be done, ignoring undesirable side effects, such as being unkind to oneself or others. I liken the Doing Mode to the round sand dollar shell and we are all running around and around the outer circle until we either explode or implode. In cultural anthropology terms, we are only viewing and living life through as a thin slice off the top rather than a thick meaningful slice.

To become more of a human being and enjoy life with more depth and meaningfulness, we must change our paradigms to include mindfulness. Instead of being automatic, be intentional. Don’t just grab any old shirt to wear, choose a particular shirt. Try to live more in the present moment. Really notice the look on your child’s face when he or she receives a diploma or watch the soon-to-be grandmother as her daughter opens the baby shower gifts. Try to connect with life more directly. Use your senses to see, smell, taste and touch. Actually enjoy every second of that pizza; don’t eat so fast that you lose count of how many you had.

Concentrate more on living in the present. That doesn’t mean forget the past or don’t plan for the future. Today, the weather was great and I drove around town with the windows down, the sunroof open and my country music up just a little bit louder. This drive was a wonderful experience and I also got to take advantage of the sun giving me a little color and adding highlights in my hair! (Still multi-tasking … what can I say …). One of the hardest things to do is to accept all experiences pleasant or unpleasant with respect and honesty. Try not to numb them out with alcohol or ice cream. Just sit with it, understand it, express it and then let it go. Be gentle with yourself. You are only a mannequin if you don’t feel.

Another tough one is allowing our experiences to unfold as they should. They don’t have to fit a plan or time limit. Instead, really absorb everything as if you are sucking all the sweetness out of a watermelon. Slow down. In addition, thoughts are just thoughts. If you don’t like one you can let it go and choose another more positive thought instead. Just because you think it doesn’t mean that it is true, worthwhile or necessary to keep.

Lastly, although I am a big fan of a goal, focus and plans, don’t forget the bigger picture. If you do you may reach the top of the ladder only to realize that you were on the wrong one. When a small child or dog comes running to you, it is because they want to be with YOU, not the CEO, president, manager, millionaire or store clerk. You are “the someone” who loves them. I will never forget when my daughter was an infant and she would turn her head towards me when she heard my voice and lift her arms for me to hold her and lay her head contentedly on my shoulder … absolutely priceless. Beats any paycheck I have ever earned.

To learn more about mindfulness go to www.helpguide.org/harvard/mindfulness.htm

Cordes Simpson, MAT, MA is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Charleston. She uses primarily CBT and EMDR to help people manage mental illness, trauma and substance abuse. She also mentors people interested in re-focusing their lives. To contact Cordes, please e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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