Are you stressed out or irritable? Do you vent your anger on people around you? Do you feel estranged from your children? Have you been sick from the pressures of work? Do you feel unappreciated at home? Have you felt you’ve been a failure as a parent?
If the answer is yes, that’s a good start to being “aware” and “mindful” of your inner self, says Dr. Lourdes “Honey” A. Carandang, Ph.D., a noted clinical psychologist.
Mindfulness has become a byword in psychology. “Mindfulness is purposely paying attention and being fully aware of what is going inside of you and around you in order to not be reactive,” Carandang says.
Strong, intense emotions like anger often result in impulsive actions.
“When you are angry, you tend to shout,” Carandang says. “You curse. You hurt the person. That’s being impulsive. Mindfulness teaches you to regulate your emotions and be less reactive to situations.”
You pause. You breathe. You calm yourself.
Mindfulness, Carandang says, is being conscious of your emotions so that you can act on it in a way that’s not harmful to you, to other people and to society.
In these trying times, violence, turmoil, chaos and confusion have a huge impact, especially on families. They are overstressed and overburdened. Carandang says families need to care for their inner self and for each other.
“Here, mindfulness practice or mindfulness parenting kicks in,” Carandang says. “You are there for one another. When you are there, you are not thinking of your work or anything, you are just there. You give the gift of your presence.”
Live in the moment
In a family setting, mindfulness teaches every member of the family to “live in the moment and just be there.”
“It is important for every family to be totally present in the moment,” Carandang says. “It is when you listen to your child and you are not distracted by texting or making calls or watching TV. It makes a world of difference in your relationship if you listen deeply to your children.”
How do you listen deeply?
“Don’t do anything else,” Carandang says. “You focus on the person. You look into his or her eyes and you listen to what he or she has to say. You are there at the moment. Your entire body, soul and spirit are there. We use mindfulness so families can talk to each other more and listen to each other and be calmer.”
Carandang singles out working moms who get home stressed from work and traffic.
“When they reach home, they start yelling at the maid about the dirty sink and at their children for their unfinished homework. Little did they know, they have unconsciously absorbed the stress and pressure from the outside world. They bring them home to their families.
“It’s best that when you reach home, you put down your bag and say, ‘Okay, I’m safe home.’ Then, pause and breathe. Wash your hands. You’d be surprised, you become a better person for your family.
“Because of the stressful life we live in, we lose our respect for the dignity of other people,” Carandang says.
To promote mindfulness in the family, Carandang and her team of clinical psychologists at the Mindfulness, Love and Compassion (MLAC) Institute for Psychosocial Services, Inc. will hold a workshop, “Mindful Together: For Families,” on Sept. 15 at Miriam College in Quezon City.
The workshop will teach families, especially parents, how to listen and communicate well with their children aged 12 and above.
“Teens have strong, intense emotions,” Carandang says. “Their brains are wired differently. They look for instant gratification. They react to social media and many things. We teach them to stop and listen to their emotions. If not, they just burst into something and hurt themselves, go into depression, and then become suicidal.
“It’s a kind of behavior that when you really think about it, you don’t want to do. When you become aware, you start communicating.”
The workshop is ideally for the whole family. It will consist of dialogues, one-on-one sessions with parents and kids, and group work.
“I always say that in a family system, when one is stressed, the whole family is also stressed,” Carandang says. “Ang sakit ng kalingkingan ay dama ng buong katawan (The little finger’s pain is felt by the whole body). But they all react differently. Some will just get mad or leave the house, others go into drugs or worse.
“By being aware together, they meditate together, and they calm down together. When they communicate, they learn how to listen and speak in words that are loving and kind.”
Mindfulness has been in existence for 2,500 years in the East, but was popularized in the West only 35 years ago. In the Philippines, Carandang pioneered it only 15 years ago.
Mindfulness is very important for healing.
“For instance, someone has experienced trauma,” she says. “When you’re mindfully listening to the person, you are already healing him. You are giving the person a very important message: I am listening to you, you are important, you matter, you are a worthy person.”
The workshop will tackle kindness, self-awareness and acceptance. Participants must be honest and own up to their feelings.
“You become true to your feelings especially at home and at work,” Carandang says. “You can pretend, but you cannot pretend for a long time. When you are angry, you don’t say I am not angry. That’s the worse thing to do. With mindfulness, you become authentic. Accept the truth. If you’re sad, don’t say you are happy. Allow yourself to be sad because that’s a normal emotion.”
One of the advantages of practicing mindfulness is living in the moment, relishing the present and its beauty.
“For example, you eat your breakfast mindfully by not doing anything else like texting or reading. You savor your delicious breakfast. You taste your coffee, you sip it and you enjoy it. You’re not in hurry. Your breakfast is there for you and you must be there for your breakfast.”
With this kind of technique, you don’t easily get burned out.
“I often see this in big companies where people are always rushing to doing many things,” Carandang says. “You need to pause and rest when you are tired already. It is the awareness that you are tired and you don’t push yourself until you get sick.”
People want to accomplish a lot at the same time. “What they don’t know,” Carandang says, is they will accomplish more when they know how to take a break.”
She cites an example. “If you have a coffee break from 10 to 10:30 a.m., you should enjoy it. People think that when they cut 15 minutes off their coffee break, they will accomplish more. It has been proven in research that when you enjoy your coffee for 30 minutes, you perform better and the quality of your work is far better.”
Carandang says how you are in your family affects your work, and how you are at work affects the family.
She assures workshop participants that they will understand themselves and their families better, communicate better and be less impulsive and reactive.
“There will be compassion and better relationship at home if they are mindful of their feelings,” Carandang says.
The “Mindful Together: For Families” workshop is on Sept. 15, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., ESI Building, Miriam College, Katipunan Ave. QC. Resource speakers include Dr. Honey Carandang and Dr. Joanna Herrera. Fee is inclusive of lunch and snacks. Call 5732975, 0955-7487090.