Mindfulness is a rapidly growing philosophy in the field of counseling and mental health. You may have
heard of mindfulness before, but there may not be a solid understanding of what mindfulness is. For
many people, mindfulness is synonymous with meditation. However, meditation itself can be loaded
with preconceived notions and expectations for inner peace, enlightenment, relaxation, and the ability
to slow down and think about nothing. While meditations that seek out these outcomes exist,
mindfulness makes the process much simpler.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction or MBSR defines mindfulness as
“paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” We
can simplify that definition even further. Mindfulness is being present and being okay with the present.
When we are mindful, we notice what’s happening in our world right now and we allow ourselves to say
that what is happening right now is allowed to happen. When we are mindful this way, we allow our
mind to speak with us and we learn to listen to it. Our goal in mindfulness isn’t to think about nothing
and clear our mind- quite the opposite! Our goal is to pay attention to our surroundings and our present
moment, including our thoughts, and learn to put space there and reassure ourselves that despite
everything happening in the world right now, we are okay and will keep moving forward.
One of the simplest mindfulness meditations is RAIN. It’s a practice that we can do for 30 minutes or an
hour, but it’s also a practice that can be done in less than 5-minutes. It’s a mindful practice that allows
us to check-in with ourselves and practice this new way of paying attention to, and being okay with, the
R – Recognize. Take some time to recognize what is going on right now. What can you see, hear, smell,
taste, and touch? How is your breathing? Your pulse? What is on your mind right now? What intrusive
thoughts is your mind giving you as you give it this space? Above all else, how are you feeling?
A – Allow. Allow the present moment to just be. As you are recognizing the present, resist the urge to
change it or judge it. Tell yourself, “Everything is allowed to be how it is right now.” You may not like
how you are feeling, but you are allowed to feel that way.
I – Investigate. We’ve recognized our present moment and we’ve decided to let it be as it is. Now we can
investigate it. Why is it the way it is? What events have influenced it, or are influencing it? Is there
anything going on with you that needs to be managed? Are you hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? If so, can
we address that? What can you do to nurture yourself and take care of yourself?
N – Non-identification and Nurture. Non-Identification means that we separate ourselves from our
feelings. You can feel anxious, that doesn’t have to mean that you are anxious. Everything around us is
constantly changing, as are our emotions. You may be anxious now, or upset, or sad, or frustrated, or
happy, or excited. The one thing each of these emotional states have in common is that they are always
changing. No emotion is forever. By recognizing that, we can lower the intensity of our emotion. If I
know my stress will pass, I can lesson the burden of being stressed right now. With that realization, we
can nurture ourselves. What do you need right now? What’s something you can do after this practice to
take care of yourself? Would it help to call a friend, to read or write in a journal, to take a short break or
to go for a walk, or maybe to just sit and relax? Take this step and recognize it as you nurturing yourself
in this present moment.
Jacob Johnson, LPC
Jacob Johnson graduated from Northern Arizona University in 2015 with his Master’s Degree in counseling after receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in philosophy there prior. He started his counseling work in the field of substance use and co-occurring disorders working inpatient in Flagstaff and Prescott before moving back to Phoenix where he has worked as both an outpatient counselor and a clinical supervisor.
He is a licensed professional counselor who has worked extensively with adults, adolescents, and families in the fields of substance use, co-occurring disorders, and general mental health utilizing a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, motivational interviewing, and positive psychology.