Mindfulness is an overused term that must be used mindfully. In my mindfulness practice, I am continually struck by how the concerns of the moment—a worry, a memory, a word—all conspire to claim our whole experience, as if we are entirely comprised of our anxiety. When I meet clients, I facilitate a two-way communication, through which I hear their worries and concerns while they get a sense of how I work and listen.
Eventually, I will ask clients to reflect on what they have told me, particularly regarding how and where they carry these experiences in their bodies. I see my role less as imparting information or sharing with the client what they do not yet know about themselves, and more as an invitation to expand awareness where it is constricted or fragmented. Mindfulness is not a specific intervention that I utilize with clients, although at times I will instruct and guide their meditation practices. Rather, it is my focus on the immediacy of the lived moment, the “here and now,” that guides my work, even if we are discussing distant memories.
Compassion is also central to my practice of mindfulness. Senses of dissatisfaction, futility, or even failure in life are often the issues that bring a patient to therapy. There is a profound paradox in my suggestion that clients need to find a way of accepting who they are right now in order to progress. They counter that if they were able to accept themselves, they would not be in my office to begin with. This touches on the deep dichotomy that we have in our culture between “doing” and “being.” While my clients often feel they must change in order to accept themselves, I strongly feel that unless one is first able to feel compassion for how one has become the person he is, he cannot mobilize the most important resources for a change.
To be mindful, I need to accept and stay in touch with whatever is shown to me. How can I know myself, otherwise? This is how we start and that is how mindfulness enters our therapy work.