Mindfulness meditation – a stress-busting practice that’s supported by thousands of peer review research articles – is a powerful healing tool, but it isn’t one size fits all.
In just the past month of speaking, I’ve gotten the following feedback from my students about what works and what doesn’t work for them:
- “I already count things all the time! Why would I want to count my breaths?”
- “Mindful walking is my favorite.”
- “Holding my breath for four counts makes me anxious. Why do we have to do that?”
- “I love gratitude and loving-kindness meditations! They make me feel good.”
- “It’s really hard for me to sit still. Within 15-20 seconds, my feet and hands start tingling and I want to move!”
- “I don’t have time to meditate, but I always have time to take a few deep breaths at my desk.”
What to do when mindfulness looks different for everyone? To help answer to this question, Dr. Marty Lumpkin and Dr. Preston Wiles developed the Emergent Mindfulness program for medical students at UT Southwestern. The term “Emergent Mindfulness” refers to seeing what “emerges” for you as meaningful and enjoyable during your exploration of mindfulness.
Both Dr. Lumpkin and Dr. Wiles are trained in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, an 8-week program pioneered in 1979 for improving mental and physical health through mindfulness meditation. Though they were initially teaching UTSW medical students the full 8-week MBSR program, Dr. Lumpkin and Dr. Wiles saw the need for creating a version of the course that would best serve their audience. Through their work with countless student groups, they gleaned that “above all else, mindfulness is valued as a life attitude before it is a set of life practices.”
Firstly, Dr. Lumpkin and Dr. Wiles structured the new program as four weekly sessions of 90 minutes to make the course more accessible. Secondly, in Emergent Mindfulness they would focus on offering “quiet, simple daily shifts” through emphasizing informal mindfulness practices (rather than formal practices). Finally, the shorter program would still offer plenty of time for group sharing and discussion to inspire camaraderie and exploration amongst the group.
As Dr. Lumpkin writes, “Emergent Mindfulness places joy and savoring life in the center while it guides people in stress reduction and the importance of connecting-with-acceptance with all life experiences.” For the stressed but otherwise healthy student, this approach to mindfulness is both enjoyable and effective.
Here are three tips to bring the wisdom of Emergent Mindfulness to your life:
- Get Curious: DuringIn mindfulness practice, we cultivate the attitude of non-judgment, which is facilitated through an attitude of curiosity. As you look to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life, lead with curiosity. At any moment you can simply pause and ask yourself, “What is happening right now?” And notice any thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations that are present.
- Experiment: Try out different ways of practicing mindfulness with the focus on enjoying life more. During your exploration, you might consider mindful walking, mindful eating, mindful communication, mindful pausing, art gazing, and outdoor meditations. See what emerges for you as most enjoyable and impactful!
- Savor: Practice noticing and reveling in simple moments of joy and pleasure – a breeze on your face, or a yummy cup of tea. Techniques like journaling and gratitude can help you capture and reinforce small moments of goodness.
What has emerged for you in your own mindfulness exploration? Do you tend to favor informal practices rather than formal practice periods?
As Chief Mindfulness Officer of Mastermind Meditation, Dorsey Standish brings research-backed mindfulness and mindful movement to clients throughout the state of Texas. A lifelong learner and scientist, Dorsey has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and is enrolled in the UT Dallas Applied Cognition and Neuroscience Master’s Program. After mindfulness transformed her own work, health and relationships, Dorsey left her corporate role at Texas Instruments to share the power of mindfulness with others full-time. Dorsey’s teachings combine neuroscience research with her experiences in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program and multiple weekend and 10-day silent meditation retreats. Join Dorsey for one of Mastermind’s upcoming applied mindfulness programs at mastermindmeditate.com/programs.