Cultivating Mindfulness to Detach from Sticky Thoughts
Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose-in the present moment-non-judgmentally (Jon Kabat-Zinn). When you are mindful, you calmly accept your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations-even the negative and painful ones- without judgment as though seen from a distance.
By living in the present, we begin to see that we constantly judge and evaluate everything. Our minds hold on dearly to our judgments. "I'll never pass math." "I'm not attractive enough." "I don't like that person." The real "mindfulness" skill is not getting trapped into coloring everything in life through our likes and dislikes (Jon Kabat-Zinn).
Instead we can come to realize "our thoughts are just thoughts." They are not the ultimate truth or reality. Once we understand that, we are free to let our thoughts drift away. We also can reassess our thoughts through the lens of our wise mind with its greater clarity and acceptance. In other words, we can change how we think and improve our lives.
Mindfulness is very useful in dealing with repetitive and sticky thoughts that cause anxiety. Before practicing the mindfulness exercise "Leaves on a Stream," it would be very useful to review the brief interactive simulation, "Leaves on a Stream Computer Simulation." Remember the benefits of mindfulness accrue over time with practice, as with sports and music. However, you can achieve relaxation from the exercise almost immediately.