Mindfulness: Definition – the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something; a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations
This is one of the most important love lessons I have to offer. This is also one of the love lessons I failed drastically over the years. So, my darling children, I am here to teach you how to do life better than your mother and spend less time feeling sad, lonely, lost, and stupid. At this point, I believe you are both already better in life! However, things will come up in your relationships at home, at work, in your family, and in your life, in general, that will have the potential to lead you into depression, just like your mom. I do not wish depression on anyone. I think you have both suffered from it to some degree throughout your childhood and for that, I am eternally sorry that I did not know how to prevent it for you. Depression is a frightening place where you lose your will to live and lose your sense of purpose in life. Mindfulness is the skill needed to keep finding your way to a healthy frame of mind, also known as a mindset, that will prevent depression from setting in. Remember that statement because that will be on your life test over and over and over again. No, Son, mindfulness is not some soft mushy word that is just for girls to worry about. Men need to know the importance of this if they plan on having a successful relationship! Or a career!
How did I fail in this department? I failed because I never looked at myself in the mirror and asked myself to find the root cause of why I felt the way I felt in response to certain things that happened in my life. Why did I get angry about certain things? Why did I cry over certain things? I was so busy blaming your dad, my parents, my bosses, and even you two for why I felt awful inside and not once did I take responsibility for learning why I continued to feel hurt, sad, lonely, belittled, lost, it was just easier to keep blaming other people and blaming life and not once did I take responsibility for changing my own thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs that would allow me to see what I was doing to contribute to my very own unhappy state.
We all enter adulthood with some preconceived subconscious thoughts and beliefs about ourselves based on our perception of things we were told, things we saw, or things we felt as young children. This can create negative chatter in our heads and that is what prevents us from being the best version of ourselves.
What do I mean? I will tell you a personal example from my childhood. I was given up for adoption as an infant. I knew from an early age that my parents, by definition of genetics, were not my parents. In an early grade in school we were working on a family tree activity and were expected to write down which one of our parents we got our hair color from and our eye color from. I sat there and stared at my page because I did not know the answers. As every other child around me was furiously writing their answers, I sat there feeling dumb. That thought led to “I was thrown away” and that thought led to “I was not good enough to keep”. Those thoughts became how I approached my life. I left my childhood feeling unconfident, abandoned, and stupid. Who gives up a smart baby? Who gives up a baby they love? Nobody, right? At least that is what my little elementary age mind told me. I did not have answers to those questions and that set me apart as being different and I took that into my little head and heart to mean I was worthless and unlovable.
It did not matter if I did things right and did things well, I still did not believe I was good enough. People would try to compliment me on what I had accomplished, and I would insult myself as a response and make a comment about how I could have or should have done it better, when in fact the appropriate healthy response would have been a simple “thank-you”. Other people could see the value in who I was. I could not. I only saw what I had done wrong and how I was bad. I never believed positive feedback was real or true…how could it be? I was thrown away as a baby so there was nothing good about me. Ever since those early times in my life, any negative feedback I received whether it was justified or not, fed into my sense of worthlessness and I have battled those feelings my entire life. It has been my default subconscious belief of myself, that I am stupid and not worth loving. So, it is a struggle every single time someone gets angry at me for me to remember and convince myself that no, I am not stupid and yes, I am worth loving. It was not until I reached an older adult age when I was introduced to the concept that what I had lived my entire life believing about myself was a lie; it was not true. No one had ever told me I was stupid or not worth loving; however, my little child’s brain had associated those feelings of difference from the other children as “stupid” and “unlovable”. On a conscious level, as a young adult, I knew it was not true; however, when those same emotions are triggered, I use mindfulness techniques to prevent the words “stupid” or “unlovable” from taking over my thoughts.
What is this relevant to your two? In your early childhood years, you heard words or saw things that you developed associated thoughts and feelings, and as certain circumstances arise in your life, they will trigger those internal thoughts and feelings. I have witnessed mindfulness in both of you in greater depth than I ever had at your age. Keep practicing it. When you feel like your reactions or emotions don’t match the situation in front of you or if other people do not respond the way you expect them to, check your own self and look for the why inside of you first before blaming other people. Not only that but be aware that people you love are going to struggle to be mindful at times, too, so have patience with them.
The love lesson is this: Keep tabs on how you feel, what you think, and the physical response of your body in any given moment and understand the root of where it comes from. Before you act out in anger or dissolve in tears, are your initial responses truly fitting to the situation at hand or is there some internal chatter getting in the way of more compassionate, appropriate, useful responses?