I guess we can now say there is a new-ish tradition on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog. Every Monday I will cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives. For me, quotes and poetry can often sink me into a state of greater understanding.
Here is a Quote by Viktor Frankl, M.D.:
“Every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.”
In real life, this quote doesn’t always appear to be true. When you’re struggling with depression or intense anxiety or you’re already half way down with that bottle of vodka, it may not seem like there was any choice there.
However, in order to fully get the gist of this quote, let me lay out another quote that I’ve said before by the same Psychiatrist, Neurologist and Holocaust survivor.
“In between stimulus and response there is a space, in that space lies our power to choose our response in our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
I quote this one often because it is so true and so powerful. While there are genetic factors to our mental, emotional and physical challenges in life, there is often a moment in between when we get triggered by something and how we react. In that moment lies the opportunity to choose how we are going to best support ourselves.
The reason it seems like there is no choice in falling into a very deep depression, a panic attack, or using a substance, is because we are not aware of that space.
Mindfulness supports us in slowing time down a bit to cultivate a nonjudgmental awareness of this space and we become able to turn a kind attention toward this difficulty, acknowledging it and then choosing what will be the most effective action in that moment. In time we can identify with Frankl’s quote of having “the freedom to change at any instant.”
This may not mean that depression or anxiety is cured, but it may mean that it doesn’t have to fall to the depths it has in the past.
You can cultivate mindfulness in daily life in two ways, each supporting the other. Formal practice is where you intentionally set time aside and actually in some form of meditation practice. Informal practice is when you bring mindfulness into the activities you already doing on a daily basis (e.g., eating, washing, listening, walking, etc…)
It often is best to get support with practice via a group or individual guidance. If this is not possible, Guided CDs are often the next best thing. I, among others, host a Mindful Living Twitter Feed that is meant to send you quotes and messages that bring you into a mindful space and support mindful living. I created this because it was something that I often thought would be helpful for those I work with.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interactions provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.