Focusing on Your Presence of Mind with Mindful Affirmations
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

By: Arlene K. Unger, Ph.D.

What is Mindfulness?

The concept of mindfulness has actually been around for thousands of years. Its origins can be found in the earliest Buddhist teachings (2500 years ago). It has been used over the centuries in traditional eastern contemplative practices like Hatha Yoga and other meditation practices. Zen masters taught mindfulness to enlightened monks in the ultimate acceptance of their own existence.

However, the way we use the term here, Mindfulness should NOT be confused with inward focused mysticism or spirituality. Today Mindfulness not only refers to the acceptance of one’s reality but what one does with that reality. As we use it, Mindfulness is the skill of living in the moment and relating to the world in a nonjudgmental and reflexive as oppose to reactive fashion.

In recent years, science and westernization have adapted Mindfulness so that it can be cultivated daily, used without years of practice, and be compatible and useful within almost any modern human activity. Mindfulness is simply an introspective method for grounding your thoughts, emotions and behaviors in the reality you are currently experiencing, so you can stand back, observe, understand yourself more fully and take care of your needs.

The act of Mindfulness is the ability to focus your attention on your inner thoughts while letting go of past or future worries. It will take some practice to witness your thoughts popping up and then going away without self-criticism, but it can be achieved by most people without extensive training, just daily practice.

Everyone’s mind naturally wanders, but when you practice Mindfulness you are aware of your mind wandering and can gradually redirect it back to the present. Mindfulness allows you to gently quiet all the noise in your head. Paying attention to your breathing, tracking your thoughts, or scanning your body for tension are just few of the many ways to reduce mental chatter. With Mindful practice, you can learn to remove the tendency to jump to conclusions, make assumptions and idle judgments, and recognize that your negative or positive feelings are coming from you and not the external world around you.

Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of Evidence Based Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) says we need to adopt a “Reflexive Mind” in order to cope with distress and change. Here, your mind is trained to act like Teflon, nothing sticks to it long enough to attach. Mindfulness has been shown to bring calmness and patience to those who embrace the practice. People who practice daily Mindfulness are processing life rather than analyzing its content. The ultimate state of Mindfulness is mental resiliency.
What are Affirmations?

Affirmations are declarative statements about something you now know, did, or intend to do. When you use an Affirmation you are not only being aware of your thoughts, but you are taking conscious control of them. When you say, write, read or even think of an Affirmation, you are, in effect, taking steps to acknowledge what is worthwhile about you.

Studies have shown that most of our daily thoughts are negative. Working with Affirmations makes you aware of how self-defeating thoughts chip away at your creativity. Affirmations help you create a new reality and visualize what you essentially want out of life.

What are Mindful Affirmations?

"Mindful Affirmations" (introduced in my book “Presence of Mind - Mindful Affirmations”), are not just inspirational sayings but, are thought provoking phrases that loosely derive from Mindfulness ideas of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the medical and meditative models of Mindfulness. He came up with Eight Stations of Mindful Meditation:

§  Smile
§  Breathe
§  Arrive
§  Attend
§  Find the essence
§  Slow down
§  Listen
§  See things with a new perspective 

Mindful Affirmations incorporate one or more of these active stations into each passage in order to support the Mindful notion of keeping an “open mind,” where possibilities have no limits. They are NOT meditations as used by Dr Zinn and others.  Mindful Affirmations take ordinary Affirmations like “Your self-confidence will carry you on,” and make them more reality based so the reader can gradually acknowledge and accept the truth about their life. An example of expanding the above Affirmation into a Mindful Affirmation would be “I barely thought of my own self-worth until I saw myself going backwards in life. Letting myself go and losing all I had gained made me feel stuck and dependent. I now see how harnessing my self-esteem can help me not only find my way but, carry me through life.”

This phraseology helps to evoke not only the reader’s subconscious mind, but keeps the reader focused on the key of Mindfulness, just being in the moment.

It has been my clinical experience that each time I ask a patient to read a Mindful Affirmation, they mention to me that they now see their old problem in a different way. One of the core values of Mindfulness is to be able to see yourself and the world around you with a “new set of eyes.”

In the book “Presence of Mind - Mindful Affirmations”, beautiful images and words are paired together to help stimulate your thoughts while gently lowering your subconscious resistance to being happy and successful. The journal pages allow you to explore your own ideas, blocks, and recovery needs. When you begin to embrace reality, you learn to believe that anything that you truly need is approachable, thinkable, and doable.

Mindful Affirmations help you not only face reality, but look beyond it by challenging your old mental dialogue with a new perspective.

Author : Arlene K. Unger Ph.D.
Dr. Arlene Unger is a licensed Clinical Psychologist holding certification in wellness coaching, treatment of substance abuse and nutritional counseling. She is in private practice in Dana Point, California. You can learn more about Dr. Unger  here on the Directory.