It’s a wonderful day when I am inspired by a client. Just a few months ago I was sitting with a curious, highly active, and spirited young woman whom I will call Juliana. We were discussing ways to manage debilitating anxiety and sudden flashes of anger, and I explored with her the possibility of developing a mindfulness practice as one element in a program to regulate these emotions.
Cultivating mindfulness is highly beneficial. The research is clear. Brain scans show positive changes in areas associated with concentration, focus, memory, and emotional control. And yet people are often reluctant to begin a practice because they feel they cannot do it right.
The good news is that there is no incorrect way to “do mindfulness.” The goal is not to be thought free. In fact, we need thoughts to intrude in order to develop the skill. When we notice a distracting thought without judgment and return to our focus, we are practicing the exact skill we hope will generalize to our life.
But Juliana said something different. After working to develop her practice, she noted that sitting still increased the emotions she wanted to manage, and that she actually felt worse with practice. She wondered about adjusting her practice to align with her natural activity level.
A moving meditation? That’s a term typically associated with practices like qi gong or tai chi. I asked Juliana what she thought she might do. She responded quickly that she would practice the skill on her motorized skateboard, eyes open of course!
Following several weeks of daily practice Juliana reported a significant and positive change - and in fact, she stated that she has a sense of internal calm she’s not felt before. She feels more in control, with less anxiety and fewer outbursts.
A terrific outcome! And more importantly, a lesson:
It’s possible to adapt a mindfulness approach to your temperament or activity level. You do not have to adjust yourself.