As a child of two parents in the medical field, I was exposed early on to both conventional and alternative medicine. I recall learning of muscle relaxation and imagery techniques to manage both stress and migraine headaches. I also still laugh at the time my father convinced a patient that his left ankle in an ice bath would not feel cold so long as his right foot was in a hot bath, and the two temperatures would even out up his spine and feel warm in his brain…it “worked” in that the patient believed it.
Then in my adolescence, I took lessons in Tae Kwon Do at a dojo that emphasized discipline. If our eyes strayed during lessons, we had to do push-ups; if we were not ever mindful of our environment, a teacher might catch you unawares with a strike to the gut. (Mindfulness isn’t always about calm and relaxation!)
While considering a career in medicine, I ended up in a health psychology concentration upon learning of experiments where group therapy could extend the life of cancer patients. I was immediately drawn to the methods of altering physical health via mental means. I would end up researching expressive therapies, with the idea that more self-aware and emotive people would be overall healthier. (They are.)
And then after practicing in the area of chronic pain and chronic health management for many years, it became clear that many interventions I used with my patients fell under the umbrella term of mindfulness. While I had been learning, practicing, and teaching mindfulness for years, I never recognized the formal terminology. I went on to attend seminars with leaders in the field, tailor my treatment approach via formalized/manualized techniques, and even integrate mindfulness into my personal life and my own psychotherapy.
Now, I give lectures on the topic. I try to be mindful when I eat. I integrate mindful meditation into my weekly routine. I try to count my breaths when I run. I focus with intention when I play with my daughter, and am conscious of when I need to “check out.” I am a work in progress, but I am aware of and accepting of this truth…I am mindful of my reality.