Formal and Informal Mindfulness Practices from a Beginner’s Mind

Formal and Informal Mindfulness Practices from a Beginner’s Mind

The answeres you seek never come when the mind is busy, they come when the mind is stillFormal and Informal Mindfulness practices are important because it helps us see the richness of life by being fully present in all of our waking moments.  A simple starting point to Mindfulness practice is to incorporate an attitudinal foundation of embracing the concept of a “beginners mind” and “non-striving” cultivated by the stance of becoming an impartial witness to your own experiential presence. Jon Kabat-Zinn is a medical physician and professor emeritus and Mindfulness guru who runs a Mindfulness clinic that treats people who suffer from elevated stress, chronic pain and illness defines Mindfulness as paying attention in a particular way on purpose in the present moment and nonjudgmentally. Zinn states that the benefits of Mindfulness are immense contingent upon the deliberate and consistent practice of setting aside a time during the day for moments of relative peace and quiet with a beginner’s mind.

The more systematically and regularly people practice, the more the power of Mindfulness will grow and work for you. My work in private practice is to guide beginners and veterans in this process, to provide tools to help them listen to their own bodies and minds and to begin trusting their own experience in a way that makes life more joyful and rich.  The point is, when you begin to pay attention in this way your relationship to things change and you actualize a new sense of calmness, self-confidence, inspiration, happiness and creativity. Incidentally, the word practice does not mean a rehearsal or perfecting a skill so that we can put it to use at some other time. Rather, in this context, practice means “being in the present moment on purpose.” The means and end of Mindfulness are the same. We are not trying to get somewhere else, only working at being where we already are and being here fully.  By the way it is formal and informal Mindfulness practices that enable the individual to develop an uncanny ability to deliver confident and interesting public speeches in TM and to perform comfortably in leadership roles, business meetings and social networking venues.

Nevertheless, let me take a minute to define the differences between formal and informal Mindfulness practices.  Formal Mindfulness is allowing ourselves to be intentional about dwelling in silence and stillness for 10, 20, 30 or 45 minutes a day focusing on the breathing and sensations in the body. Informal Mindfulness is remembering to practice Mindfulness behaviors in our waking moments. We learn to navigate through the ups and downs and storms of the mind and body. We learn to be aware of our fears and emotional pain, yet feeling stabilized and empowered by our connection to something deeper within ourselves. Informal Mindfulness is the ability to be on your feet noticing what you are doing while you are doing it rather than reverting to the auto pilot mode of thinking.  Some examples of informal Mindfulness behaviors can be practiced by Mindfully taking out the garbage, Mindfully eating, Mindfully walking, Mindfully driving, Mindfully cooking—and the list goes on.  The richness of Mindfulness or present moment experiencing is the richness of life itself. 

However,  too often people live in the domain of auto-pilot mode and let their preconceived beliefs about what they “know” prevent them from seeing things as they really are which in truth is the richness of life.  When the mind is dominated by judgment, self-blame, dissatisfaction, and worry  or become kantankerous in their relationships there is usually an unwillingness to accept things as they really are, whether you like them or not.   The human mind has a strong tendency to reject things as they are when it comes to pain, dilemmas or grief. As Einstein pointed out, this locks us in to an identification with our separateness and such a view can cut us off from our ability to see clearly and to heal just when we need it most.  What most of us feel is overwhelmed, fragmented and driven.  Interestingly enough, Socrates said “Know Thyself” in a famous speech at Athens. A student challenged him by asking “you say that, but do you really know yourself?” Socrates replied, no, but I know something about this not knowing.  On the whole, as you embark upon the practice of Mindfulness practices you will come to know something for yourself about your own not knowing.  For this reason, adopting a beginner’s mind approach to Mindfulness allows us to be receptive to new possibilities and prevents us from getting stuck in the rut of expertise, which too often thinks it knows more than it does.   

Consequently, we tend to take the ordinary for granted and fail to grasp the extra ordinariness of the ordinary by seeing the richness of the present moment by nourishing beginner’s mind as a Mindfulness practitioner.   Without doubt Mindfulness is not the answer to all of life’s problems but it will allow your problems to be seen clearly through the lens of a clear mind.

 In summary, let me remind you that Mindfulness is regulating your emotions and bringing your awareness and your attention to the very present moment and by doing so you literally become more awake. So often when we run errands or go shopping and feel impelled to rush from one place to the other on auto-pilot mode until we get it all done. This is exhausting, anxiety provoking even depressing because of the monotony of living life in the same old ways.   Mindfulness Means paying attention in a paticular waym on purposem in the present moment non-judgmentallyMental health researchers and psychotherapist’s understand the basic truth that the human mind craves something new. In practicing formal or informal Mindfulness with a beginner’s mind and bringing present moment awareness to routine tasks makes living more full and more real. The fact that no one ever taught you how to do this or told you that it is worth doing is immaterial. When you are ready to begin this path, it finds you.  


If you are interesting in Mindfulness therapy please call the office for an appointement or email Olufemi to schedule Monday through Saturday 8 am to 6 pm.  

 Thank you!    

For an appointment 816.665-3003 email: [email protected]

Breaking the Addiction Loop

Addictions are among the most damaging of human conditions, significantly affecting the mental, physical, economic health of individuals, families, and their communities. For example cigarette smoking is the leading cause preventable early death. Why can’t individuals, who can often clearly see the harm they are causing to themselves and others, stop smoking or put down the bottle? What gets people “hooked” and how can Mindfulness-Cognitive therapy can help get them unhooked from their addiction.

Positive and negative reinforcement in a nutshell is what drives the stimulus that drives addictive behavior, simply put it feels good. Over time people consume more and more alcohol, cannabis, cigarettes, sex, etc to get the desired effect and a physical tolerance is developed. This is the addictive loop. The addictive loop is primitive and can be resistant to cognitive therapy but not always. Addiction behavior, stress and depression line up well with Mindfulness-based Cognitive treatment.

Addictive behavior is a craving or attachment to a substance, object or event and environmental or ruminative thoughts can be a trigger to repeat the addictive loop of addiction.

I use evidence-based therapy tools that focus on the Stages of Change which explores ways to slowly reduce addictive behavior and looking at the negative and positives of behavior. Other therapy tools are to avoid triggering cues, exercise (if appropriate) and replace addiction behavior with other positive or creative activities. Mindfulness practices specifically targets the critical links of emotion and craving in the addictive loop and works to eradicate the learned pattern of the addiction. Mindfulness practice teaches individuals that instead of running away from the uncomfortable feeling of a craving but rather learn to be present in the moment and to be curious and explore what the craving actually feels like in the body no matter how unpleasant. This approach help individuals learn that cravings are inherently not permanent and that your skin will not catch on fire. People learn that they can indeed ride it out and each time they gain greater insight, courage and confidence in the rooting out the addictive loop. Each time they feed a craving, it strengthens; each time they starve it, it weakens. It really is cause and effect in action. Mindfulness-Cognitive practices actually work to help people break addiction cycles.

Mindfulness practices improves our mental capacities, ranging from improved intentional focus, to decreased mind wandering and emotion regulation. Research shows that brain activity patterns change with meditation practice. Olufemi Sharp, MA, LPC

feedback loop

Why Am I so Anxious?

Become an Amygdala Whisperer:

The amygdala is tiny almond shaped, the oldest emotional, most primitive part of our brain, which was designed to ensure physical survival. Anxiety is caused by fire sirens going off in the brain. The amygdala. The amygdala reacts to threatening objects in the environment. When it is triggered, it sends immediate rapid fire signals to your brain and body to make your body ready for a fight or flight situation. It’s easy to allow the worry, stress and fears of life get take over.

When anxiety is triggered your heart beats faster, muscles tense, blood pressure rises, adrenaline is pumped into your bloodstream and more sweating occurs. When you feel extreme anxiety (fear, chronic stress and worry) the physical symptoms and thought errors can be debilitating.

One method of dealing with anxiety is learning how to recognize and talk back to that internal critic running on overdrive in your head.  Journal write your thoughts throughout the day. Make journal entries of all triggers, self-critical and all unhelpful thoughts and any feelings and physical responses that arise. Next, practice talking back to your thoughts with a more balanced perspective. For instance, (unhelpful thoughts) “My boss yelled at me I can’t do anything right.” (helpful thoughts) “This job stinks, it’s only temporary. I’m human, not perfect and mistakes happen.”

Perfectionism causes anxiety, it is another example of how people create acute and chronic stress out of thin air. A lot of people are very hard on themselves thinking they have to be perfect. Perfectionism is an illusion. The flip side of the perfectionism coin is inner-shame. Accepting that you are not perfect can help you self-regulate and calm the amygdala.

Mindfulness helps with taming the amygdala by telling it kindly to chill out. Mindfulness puts the brake on the steaming gas pedal of the amygdala. Mindfulness practice keeps it from going into a hot over-drive system.

Mindfulness practice lessens activity in the amygdala, and enhances activity in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex plays a major role in higher-level cognition, including all types of self-regulation. Self-regulating the amygdala is your internal dialogue of: “calm down, dude, sister-girl, nothing to get excited about.”

In summary, an amygdala whisperer is tender self-talk. It requires you to slow down and be more deliberate about having mindful and cognitive moments throughout the day to keep anxious and depressive thoughts at bay.  You can gently override your emotional brain's screaming alarm system on your morning commute to work. You need an adult brain that tells you to shift thought to a different station. Practice, practice, practice slowing down, pausing, reflecting, introspecting, and choosing to set intention toward the best version of yourself.  I support you!

Olufemi Sharp

Signs, Symptoms and Treatment of Child Obesity:

Obesity may not be associated with physical problems or complaints until late in an illness. Most of us feel we can easily recognize an obese child or adult when we seen one, the reality is that from a medical standpoint a child has typically passed from being "overweight" to "obese" long before their parents recognize it. Other physical complications of childhood obesity often go unrecognized until they are at advanced stages. Subtle indicators impacting their health may include:

*poor physical endurance or ability to keep up with friends
*shortness of breath with exertion
*snoring or long pauses in breathing while sleeping
*consistent complaints of pain in their knees, ankles or hips
*swelling or fluid accumulation in their lower legs or feet.
In addition, other health issues may develop such as asthma or gastroesophageal reflux/ heartburn, headaches, abdominal pain, daytime sleepiness, absent or irregular menstruation, persistently elevated blood pressures and/or depression and anxiety.

How can I help my child develop healthy habits?

Parents, grandparents and teachers play an important role in helping to educate children to build healthy eating, drinking, physical activity, and sleep habits. Teach children to self-regulate and how to override "mindless" urges to indulge repeatedly in energy density foods. Teach them to balance the amount of food and beverages he, she, they eat and drink with equal measures of daily physical activity.

Take your child grocery shopping and let him or her choose healthy foods and drinks, and help plan and prepare healthy meals and snacks. Take them to various community gardens on Saturday mornings to select fresh vegetables and fruits. This is a way to both support the community and eat healthy. My friend Nadine Farris runs a wonderful community garden called Hope & Faith on 10th and Troost.

There is no secret to healthy eating habits. It's a matter of fostering high self-esteem in our kids by helping them to feel happy, healthy and to have a positive body image.

Here are some other ways to help your child develop healthy habits:

*Be a good role model.
*Consume healthy foods and drinks, and choose active pastimes.
*Children are good learners, they observe and copy what they see.
*Talk with your child about what it means to be healthy and how to make healthy decisions.
*Discuss how physical activities and certain foods and drinks may help their bodies get strong and stay healthy.
*Children should get at least an hour of physical activity daily and should limit their screen time (computers, television, and mobile devices) outside of school work to no more than 2 hours each day.
*Chat about how to make healthy choices about food, drinks, and activities at school, at friends' houses, and at other places outside your home.
*Involve the whole family in building healthy eating, drinking, and physical activity habits.
*Everyone benefits, and your child who is overweight won't feel singled out.
*Make sure you child gets enough sleep.

While research about the relationship between sleep and weight is ongoing, some studies link excess weight to not enough sleep in children and adults. How much sleep your child needs depends on his, her, their age.

You can be an important role model in helping your child build physical activity and healthy eating habits.
When it comes to exercise motivation is over-rated. You can not wait for motivation to come before you decide to exercise. Many times you have to put one foot in front of the other and get out the door. Go to the gym, go for a walk, do stretches, dance, pushups, etc. Help yourself and your kids change the way they eat by acting your way (even when it's tough) into a new way of vibrant living.

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