If you’ve ever built something, fixed something, or solved a problem, you know this basic fact: use the right tool for the job. Don’t use a wrench when you need a hammer. We all know and live by this common sense approach to using tools.
In a sense, our mind is our most basic problem solving tool. Without a mind that is in good working order, using hammers or other tools become more difficult. For example, when we are distracted, overwhelmed by emotions, or “stuck in our heads,” we are more likely to drop the hammer or miss the nail. When our minds are stable and steady, curious, and attentive, we can truly put the hammer to good use.
Mindfulness is the practice of training the mind, to learn how to properly and effectively use this indispensable tool. Combining mindfulness with therapy is a natural fit. As your mindfulness skills develop, there is a shift in how you relate to your emotions, your friends and family, your work, your problems, and your enjoyments.
You learn to apply your skills of being present, open, and kind to the tasks of therapy. This might include relating to anger with mindfulness, which is quite different from becoming mindless and reactive to anger. Or relating to a partner with mindfulness, becoming more aware of patterns of communication and feelings that need to be shared. Another example is becoming mindful of reactions, learning to make thoughtful choices instead of getting carried away by habit or emotion.
When you relate with anything in your life, be it a thought, a person, or a situation, you start with your own mind. A cranky mind is likely to be cranky with thoughts. A distracted mind is likely to be distracted when dealing with people. An overwhelmed mind is likely to experience situations as overwhelming. When you start with a mind of mindfulness, you learn to see thoughts, people, and situations more accurately, more clearly, and with a sense of confidence and openness. You start with a mind that is present and strong. Try it out sometime!