22 Jul Finding Magic in the Mundane
When working with clients and teaching mindfulness, I recommend them to “find magic in the mundane.” It’s a phrase I use to describe being present with anything ordinary, while also noticing all the sensory experiences about the situation that make it unique.
When one is feeling good, it is easy to notice the beauty in the environment. The tune of a bird or the colors in a sunset tend to catch the attention. On the other hand, it is difficult to conjure a magical perspective when one is feeling sadness, grief, fear or anger.
Those feelings can dull or darken the senses and leave a person preoccupied with their thoughts. At the same time, it is those times when a little sparkle of joy is needed the most. This is when mindfulness comes in handy.
In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), we discuss that mindfulness is the foundation of the therapeutic skills that we teach. We commit to it, because it reduces suffering, increases control of one’s mind and allows us to see the world in front of us by connecting to the universe. It lets us use skills to control our thoughts and emotions. It also requires that we let go of judgements and assumptions.
Mindfulness allows us to experience the world as if we were just dropped on the planet earth for the first time. Think about it! If you do not have an assumption for what a flower is or what the ocean is, how would you experience it? You would use the sensory parts of your body (whatever you have access to) and take in the data, with wonder and curiosity. Your body would experience the sights, sounds, smells, sensations, even tastes! When we look at the world around us from a place of wonder and with a curious lens, it becomes vibrant. This is where the magic is.
How does one do that? DBT Skills provide some mindfulness reminders in order to return to your senses:
- Notice your body sensations (that you have access to)—observe with eyes, listen to sounds, notice smells, pay attention to sensations in your body/skin, taste, observe your breath.
- Pay attention with purpose—commit to being in the state of wonder and curiosity. Is there anything unique about this object or sensation that you may have taken for granted?
- Let the assumptions and judgements of the objects you are looking at drift away—control your attention to the object you are attending to and if assumptions pop up, just let them float away like a cloud.
- Notice your feelings, urges and thoughts as separate from yourself—mentally push your worries or thoughts away from you to get some distance; imagine your mind as a conveyer belt and your thoughts or feelings as boxes on the belt passing by.
The world is full of so many marvels that can lead to joy. We just need to pause, get out of our heads and notice. You can do this by trying a sensory experience (i.e. look up at the stars, smell the summer air, listen to each instrument in a song, taste some refreshing cold water, or feel the soft fur of your pet). Take some time out of each day in order to observe the world around you. A choice of magical mindfulness, may leave you feeling better about what initially appears to be ordinary.
Authored by: Alison Trenk, MA, LCSW