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What clouds the waters?

April 27, 2011

In order to find genuine happiness and lead empowered lives, we must first begin to live in the moment, which can be challenging. Mindfulness practices can help you cultivate this lifestyle by encouraging you to bring your awareness back to the present moment and focus your attention on one thing at a time. This column aims to open a space for readers to ask questions and receive answers from a mindful perspective.

Q: At the suggestion of my doctor, I have been trying to lower my stress level and meditate, but I find that although I relax during the meditation, when I go back to work I quickly become agitated. Why is this?

A: First, congratulations on starting your meditation practice, because the first steps are the most difficult. The untrained mind and emotions are like a glass of water filled with dirt particles swirling around. Meditation helps the particles in the water to settle to the bottom, but life triggers can stir them back up, clouding the water. During a meditation practice or other inner reflective activity, you are able to witness the mental processes of the mind and to learn to distance yourself from them, which is what leads to the diminishing of your emotional reactivity. This is the ease that you feel during your practice. However, once back to daily life, it is easy to get pulled back into habitual patterns. Your mind has established these patterns over time, and it will take some time to reconstruct healthier ones.

As you finish your meditation practice and prepare to reintegrate into daily life, it is helpful to incorporate a mindful affirmation, such as “I am going to do my best to continue this state of clarity and ease throughout my day.” Without this extra step of awareness, it is easy to immediately fall back into old patterns. Dedication and persistence with your meditation practice will naturally pave the road to extend the positive feelings and prolong your calm attitude as a natural way of being in the world.

Natalie Garvey D., M.Psych., is a California native and an eight-year resident of Costa Rica. Recognized by the Costa Rican Professional Psychologists Association (4496), she dedicates her professional time to accompanying others on their path of self-discovery and healing. Send your questions to [email protected].

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