The effectiveness of Mindfulness as a treatment for anxiety, stress and trauma has been validated recently through extensive research. I prefer to use the term 'awareness' as mindfulness techniques do not utilize the mind. The mind is unable to be present here and now. It is always in the past or future regretting or anticipating, conjuring up stories and making judgments and commentaries on the present moment. Awareness operates in the present moment.

When we are aware, we are not operating from our limited mind, but have greater access to our universal consciousness. Although developing beneficial mental habits can be helpful, we cannot simply think our way to health and well-being. The reason this is important in therapy is that all healing occurs in the present.

Trauma expert, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, MD states, "When working with people who have been traumatized, it's crucial to help them learn how to feel the present and to tolerate whatever goes on. The past is only relevant in so far as it stirs up current sensations, feelings, emotions and thoughts." He also explains, "it's important to recognize...the experience of trauma is not about the past. It's about a body that continues to behave and organize itself as if the experience is happening right now." These statements hold true for all types of healing.

During my counseling sessions, when appropriate, I teach specific awareness (mindfulness) exercises that are simple to do, immediately effective and easy to practice at home. The effects are cumulative, which means the more you practice, the more effective they become. This is because you are actually changing your brain and nervous system to respond to stress in a healthier way. Awareness with specificity (noticing the specific location and qualities of the sensation) and an attitude of curiosity rather than judgment, increases the effectiveness of the awareness exercises.

Please visit www.irenekokataybooks.com to find information on my new book, "Simply Sacred," which invites the reader to live more fully in the here and now through stories and meditations from my work with death and dying and my travels in India.

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