Creating New Pathways With Mindfulness

Stumbling Block

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to establishing a mindfulness practice is, well, ourselves. Our mind believes and responds well to the words we tell it, especially slippery-637562_1920negative ideas. Negative thoughts such as, “I can’t do this,” “I can’t stop thinking,” “I’m doing this wrong” serve to only keep us from getting the most out of the practice. But, let the frustration flow and go because almost without fail those ideas will arise at some point in your practice.

One way to understand how we can get caught up in old ways of thinking/actions while also having hope that possibilities exist for a different way through mindfulness practice is to image our brains like a super highway.

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Super Highway

When we have a thought neurons fire in the brain creating a pathway. Over years of thinking and acting in a certain way we strengthen the path so that more and more neurons can gain easier access through our brain. Very much like a super highway, roadways are created so that cars can pass. Highways are developed to let more cars gain easier access to get to where they need to get to more quickly.

While these super highways can be beneficial in many ways they can also serve to make doing something new or our ability to break a pattern of thinking/behavior somewhat challenging. However, no matter how small the change in our thinking or actions does make a difference. Trying to think or act differently automatically develops an on off ramp for the super highway running through our brain. This new pathway is small compared to the well established path we have used for years. When we encounter the next situation our neurons want to take the easiest, fastest path (the super highway). It takes intentional effort to redirect the neurons to the off ramp.

 

 

New Pathway

Practicing mindfulness helps us develop new pathways in the brain. Our thoughts will surely try to follow the super highway that has been laid again and again. The task is to continue to come back to the new pathway. Over time what was once a small rut in the road, will become a dirt road, then a two lane highway, and finally, if we persist with the practice of mindfulness over years we will develop another super highway which may overlay the old pathway. This gives our neurons an alternate route to process information and helps shape our perceptions of ourselves and the world in a new way. Ultimately, there is hope in consistent effort and kindness toward oneself. A little mindfulness practice each day goes a long way in creating a positive super highway through our brains.

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Mindfulness and Self-Regulation

Ever felt out of control?

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As parents we can sometimes be confused about to do or how to help our kids. Perhaps our child is having a tantrum, is mumbling negative comments under his/her breath, or simply not talking. The feelings that arise in us can seem overwhelming.

Imagine how our child feels? Children and youth are in an even more difficult situation. They have feelings, thoughts and behaviors while also being regulated by adults. Without the skills of being able to deal with the internal landscape sometimes the external pressure can seem too much.

Self-regulation

Self-regulation is the ability to maintain emotions and behaviors regardless of the situation that arises. This process assumes one can identify feelings and is intentional about one’s actions. However, these abilities are not innate in us. The ability to know what one is feeling, be able to identify the nuances of that feeling, to reflect on one’s thoughts and intentions and to choose a course of action based on this process is a learned skill.

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A Head Full Of Mess

When a person begins to practice mindfulness one usually finds out how out-of-touch one has been with his or her feelings and thoughts. At first, I was unable to even identify what I feeling and was quite overwhelmed by the amount of thoughts I had in a ten second span (not to mention 5, 10 or 20 minutes). But mindfulness is practice that helps one to accept whatever arises. With gentle guidance and a little training one can learn to ride the waves of emotions and thoughts with ease.

As adults, we have spent years disconnected from our internal world. Children usually respond better because even if they cannot easily identify their feelings or thoughts in every day life they have not developed as many methods to build the walls up. Self-regulation really starts with looking inside, sitting with whatever arises and allowing the process to work.

Feelings and thoughts are always present. Developing the skills to be able to see them clearly and respond to them in a loving way is the first step in the process of self-regulation. Mindfulness is helpful in providing the structure and support in order to practice these self-reflective skills.

A New Approach

Here at Possibilities Exist we are looking for new solutions to children, youth and family needs whether it is in the classroom or at home. People are natural, instinctive learners.┬áLet’s put up the chairs and stop trying to approach problems with old, outdated solutions. Doing more of the same things over and over again and expecting different results is insane. Let’s push the boundaries of what learning can look like.┬áLet’s begin the journey and explore what possibilities exist within ourselves, within our communities and in the world at large.

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