Mindfulness seems to be a rather gentle tool at first appearance. It is know as a tool to reduce stress, popularized in the West by John Kabat-Zinn. Or mindfulness is used to expand your consciousness, have a more deeper experience of the present moment and be in the “now”. But mindfulness can also serve as the only tool that is left when you are amidst a severe low self-esteem crisis.

In the middle of a low self-esteem attack, when shame, anxiety, or other burdensome feelings are prevalent, when you wish the ground to open up and swallow you, it is not the time to do some exercises, or to analyze your thoughts. You are just too involved in that devastating experience, too agitated and ruffled, you will not be able to do anything wise and productive. The only thing that might still be possible is coming to awareness.

Even in the middle of an emotional thunderstorm, you still have the ability to be aware of what happens. The result of your awareness will allow you to put some distance between you and the distressing feelings. You will be able to observe them and 'wriggle' yourself out of them. And that will lead to the second result: The troubled sea of your emotions will calm significantly. Studies on the effects of mindfulness have proven that finding.

To be fully aware and experience those disturbing feelings is at first glance counter-intuitive. You probably want to be rather in a galaxy far, far away than right in the middle of a devastating experience, being totally aware of it. So, you have to jump in the deep end there and make the decision to be willing to experience what is to be experienced. “Bring it on” is the attitude that will set you free. To know that your feelings will settle may encourage you to take that plunge.

How to practice mindfulness?
An effective and easy way to practice awareness is to use your senses. By directing your focus completely to the experience of one of them, is a good method for the beginner to learn how to be mindful. Later on you can expand your awareness and become aware of whole situations. Here are some examples of how you can use your senses to train mindfulness.

1. Observing: Direct your attention to what you see. Keep your focus fixed on one impression, part of a landscape, a picture, or any object of your choice. Give all your attention to it, as if you want to absorb the object with your eyes.

2. Listening: It is useful to close your eyes during this exercise, but you can do it also with open eyes. Simply direct your attention to what you hear and listen to it. You can either select a single noise, like the traffic on the street or the merry twitter of the birds. Or you can open your ears to all you can hear, as if you don't want to miss any sound.

3. Touching: Where ever you are, you can make contact with the things around you. Touch something and feel the texture of its surface, its weight, or its temperature. A good exercise for people who have their heads in the clouds is to make contact with the ground. Preferable barefoot, just stand and feel your connection to the earth (With some imagination, that is also possible on the 5th floor.)

4. Sensing your inner body: Direct your attention to your body and try to sense what is going on inside of you. Again, you can choose between focusing on a single body part, say your left foot, or you can broaden your awareness to your whole body. You might experience a slight tingling or your blood pulsating inside of you. It is not important what you feel, but that you focus your attention.

Author's Bio: 

Olaf Schwennesen, M.A. is a certified coach for solution focused therapy and a licensed natural health professional for psychotherapy. He works as a lecturer and trainer for social and methodical competences and in private practice in Berlin, Germany.
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