Many wellness strategies are rooted in mindfulness, which is the non-judgmental experience of the moment. Mindfulness includes a focus on the present, here-and-now experience in lieu of engaging the thoughts and feelings that often bother us and take us away from the immediate moment. These mind-absorbing thoughts frequently tend to focus on the past or the future, but rarely involve the present. For example, if you were standing at the river’s edge at Old Mill and you were attempting to focus on a large boulder that lay slightly submerged underneath the water’s surface your mind most likely would wrestle with yesterday’s happenings, today’s concerns, and tomorrows anxieties. There is nothing wrong with the thoughts in and of themselves, but constantly ruminating on our thoughts can cause us to experience a variety of negative emotions that can include symptoms of stress, which inevitably impact our contentment with life, mental and physical health, and satisfaction in relationships. In my experience, the more we can learn to embrace the moment (i.e., mindfulness), the more we can create sustainable contentment for ourselves.
Let’s say you were standing by the water’s edge in the example above. You just got out of a meeting and experiencing a great deal of stress. Your boss really came down on you regarding your recent job performance; your spouse is feeling angry with you because of your in-laws’ upcoming and unannounced visit; and you dislike yourself right now because you gained a few pounds. These invasive thoughts and associated feelings can be treated like the river. You notice the thoughts, but you experience them in a way that lacks judgment. You can see the thoughts and feelings meander towards you as they flow down the river, but when they present themselves a conscious choice is made to allow them to flow by instead of engaging them. Before you know it, your focus turns to the immediate moment and to the rock and surrounding river. You concentrate on the rock, its colors, the ripples in the water you see resulting from the rock, and the noises the water makes as it edges by. Inevitably, thoughts or feelings not based in the moment will continue to present themselves, but you choose to let those thoughts float on by, allowing you to continue focusing on the present. The more you practice mindfulness in this way, the more skilled you will become in experiencing the moment for what it is. Doing so will help you experience less stress over time and a quick way to find restoration throughout each day.
Try out this mindfulness exercise at an area around Bend where you find peace and comfort. Begin by focusing on the sounds or the sights at that place. Sit and listen. Sit and observe. Acknowledge your thoughts and emotions that emerge, but do not engage them. Let them float on by, and open yourself to experiencing all that Central Oregon has to offer.