When you’re “In it”

Sometimes you’re so deeply entrenched in some distracting, non-mindful state that it can be hard to extract yourself. You might be stressed, anxious, angry or just distracted. Even if you’re aware of it, pulling yourself back out can be very hard. This past Monday started with an emotional morning for my son, he didn’t want to school and I was forced to be the bad guy and make him go. As we battled, I managed to stay disconnected enough to not be angry and he was so mired in not wanting to go that he was sad and fearful. On that day, I was blessed with mindfulness and he was a victim of his emotions. (Emotions are fine, good and valid… I made sure to tell him so.) Without making him stop having emotions, we got him to just breathe through things. It wasn’t pretty, but with an audible intake of breath and then an audible release, he was able to move one step at a time to the car so we could leave. One breath. Just this. It wasn’t easy for him and I’m proud that he did manage to push through it. Within 5 minutes on the road, he was back into himself, accepting of his fate and unfortunately trapped with me and my lecturing.

I don’t always get to be blessed with a detached, stoic self. This past weekend, I watched a documentary, “Do you trust this computer“, which got me thinking about the state of politics and general social dis-ease as it’s affected by technology. Sadly they ended their movie on the negative things that have happened, rather than opening with that… so, of course, it’s what I dwelt on. My day had a nagging anxiety hanging behind all of my actions. I soldiered on, but it wasn’t until I really stopped and looked that I realized that I was letting it push my buttons and exacerbate my stress. I couldn’t just shrug it off, or detach myself once it was there. While I can’t say that it fixed me completely at the time, I did stop everything, move to the basement and let a guided meditation app walk me through 10 minutes of clearing my brain. It did calm the anxiousness, it did help de-stress, but I had to take actions. Much like my son’s audible breathing, I had to take additional steps to calm my mind.

My third incident recently, sadly doesn’t have as awesome an ending. I was at work and had big plans to finish several tasks, but I also had so many great internet distractions to observe. Knowing that I had a looming deadline coupled with the need to finish some of my day-to-day responsibilities, I still found myself opening a new tab in a browser and either looking at funny cat gifs, flipping through project ideas on Pinterest or distractedly watching movie trailers for this summers big blockbusters. I know step one of repairing this would be to just close those browser tabs, or maybe disconnect from the internet. Unfortunately when the boredom monster comes to play and when I’m being a master procrastinator I have the hardest time finding some mindful practice that pulls me back. This is my biggest demon to overcome, and it happens both professionally and personally. I’ll say the best answer is probably to step away from a computer or device that causes the distraction, do something “analog” that gets me thinking or focused, then come back. Sometimes this can be a walk, more often it works best if I can just take 10-15 minutes and journal in my physical composition book. If you have a suggestion, I’m open to that as well.

Mindfulness, for me, isn’t a constant state. I’m often just “Mindfullish” and it hangs around the periphery of my awareness. I’m OK with that, I live in a world full of emotional things and I appreciate those exciting moments that are buried within a passionate reaction. I tend to expect that being fully mindful, monk style, means that its always level and there aren’t the spikes of highs and lows so I balk at pursuing it. I go back to my mindful practice as a toolbox, or whenever possible, as just a practice. The two examples above are pulling tools out of the toolbox. When I’m breathing while taking a walk outside, or when I’m soft gazing down the road while driving, I’m practicing my ability to disconnect from those emotions and just be. If I can get good at being present in the non-emotional moments then I can reference back to that when things do get emotionally charged.

The balance of practice in calm times and the actions I can take when charged up is what mindfulness is all about for me. If I can’t detach and “just be” when there is nothing to distract me then how can I expect to step back from excitement.

Anxiety and Depression

Mindfulness at it’s best is bring awareness of the present moment, removing the rumination on the past or dreading the future. Also known as Depression and Anxiety respectively. When we let our monkey brain run wild we run the risk of falling into those two mental diseases, among others. This is much more easily said than done, I’ll state that to begin with, but it is possible and with practice, it becomes easier.


In the beginning, it’s helpful to form a habit of checking your mindfulness throughout the day. If you make a habit of seeing if you’re focusing on the past or future too much then you’ll start to see yourself at the beginning of an episode you don’t wish to participate in. Maybe this is a reminder on your computer that pops up or an alarm on your phone or watch. Maybe you have a string tied around your wrist and when you see it, you stop and check where your awareness lies. As you get better at this then you can start use behaviours or thought patterns as the trigger to see where your mindfulness is. I’ve found I’m good at testing this when I start to drive or when I’m walking outside.


When you find the time, just take a deep breath or three and ask yourself some questions; How am I feeling? What am I feeling? Can I stop this pattern? Is this healthy? Anything that gets you to step outside of the emotion can help, this is mostly about changing the pattern before it’s too late. I’ve had the greatest success, when answering, to answer the question out loud if possible. I have a hard time doing it, but when I’m brave enough, a primal yell can really release that energy that’s built up.


As I continue to focus on the questions I will try to also observe my breath, take as deep a breath as possible and exhale for as long as possible as well. I will also, if safety permits, relax my focus so that I’m not looking at anything. Often this relaxed gaze manifests physically as me relaxing my neck and face and staring straight ahead. I keep breathing and gazing in this manner until I’m not feeling a strong, undesired emotion anymore. While there is definitely some mental dialogue happening in my head as well, mostly observing these behaviours.


The real trick for these suggestions is to be ahead of the heavy, strong emotions. If I’m already anxious or depressed it can take a while to turn that off, presuming I’m even able to. For me, these have been most effective when used early and when I can silence the monkey brain who wants to mention how absurd these techniques are… sometimes he likes to call me a hippy or a wacko for trying to use behavior instead of medication to resolve issues, but I’m getting better at turning down his volume if not muting him altogether. If I can turn off the chatterbox then you can too.

Mindfulness and Purpose

Mindfulness is your friend when you get lost, emotional or pulled away from your true nature. It can be there to help if you feel the pull of any negative emotion, giving you the chance to pull yourself back into your vision of what you wish to do in your life. Don’t be confident that it will give you purpose, though it’s certainly possible that it can, rather it’s there as a waypoint to bring you back into focus. This is often the case for me.
In the past few years, I’ve found myself more anxious, worrying about me and my family’s future. At my worst, I’ve become depressed, frustrated and apathetic, generally unmotivated to do more than browse the internet. Consumed by distraction, it’s very easy to just float along without purpose and the further you float, the harder it can seem to get back on track.
Years ago, we’ll say about 20 of them, I was fascinated by, and constantly studying philosophy and religion. I read regularly and had high minded thoughts of making the world a better place. As time passed, I let myself get wrapped up in my 9-5 job and eventually got married, had kids, and didn’t spend much time thinking of those things. It wasn’t until my 40s that I start to look at the future again, but this time with a more concerned eye. I had kids that needed to be educated and fed, the world seemed to be going downhill and I was left employed in a position that didn’t give me purpose. These conditions introduced me to a new feeling, anxiety. (Or it seemed new to me anyway.)
The blessing of anxiety, for me, was that it threw me back into my youthful attempts at meditation, minimalism, mindfulness and generally finding peace in the “right now.” I was reminded that I didn’t need to own more things or take on more bills to accomplish happiness. Anxiety brought into sharp focus the truth that my happiness was always by my own choice and my own actions. This isn’t to say that if I wanted to I could just “get that dream job” but rather that I had the choice to be happy right now. If I couldn’t find joy in myself while working this job, why would it be different with another. If I wasn’t motivated to do things in my free time, how would retirement change that? Rather than dread the future, Mindfulness is teaching me to enjoy right now and remember that it’s my choice to be happy.
As I spend more time being mindful it reminds me of those days in my youth when I wanted to help myself and others to live a more peaceful, blessed life. Oddly enough, getting married and having kids is the BEST reason for me to find peace and learn to encourage it in others so that I could share it with my family. Beyond that, I strongly believe that everyone will stand to benefit from it and use it to strengthen their own purpose. With Mindfulness, it’s easier to step back and remind ourselves WHY we’re doing the things we do, for better or worse.
DISCLAIMER:  My anxiety was definitely a by-product of my lifestyle choices and was very treatable with meditation and mindfulness, that isn’t the case for everyone and I encourage you to do what’s right for YOU. I firmly believe that becoming more mindful can help everyone, but don’t want you to do anything that makes your life harder than it may already be as you struggle with Anxiety. Be an active part of your healing and you’re already well on your way.