‘Breathe in, breathe out’: Local counselor recommends mindfulness practice

By: 
Charlie Denison
Reporter

Sit back.

Be still.

And get ready to practice mindfulness.

Licensed counselor Chris Tremain is one of many therapists worldwide using this exercise, which was made famous by Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

According to Hanh, mindfulness is a “source of happiness and joy,” that starts by “putting your focus on your breath.”

“I’ve been drawn to mindfulness a long time,” Tremain said. “I’ve gone on retreats with Hanh three times and just loved it. It’s an incredible practice.”

Considering the fast pace of society today, Tremain said practicing mindfulness is essential to one’s mental health, especially considering how easy it is to trigger stress or anxiety in any given situation.

“We are living in a society where it’s easy to disconnect from our emotions. “With all the gadgets, screens, computers, phones iPads games and video games, if we can find some ways to really just ‘be’ we can access our internal wisdom. If we can quiet the mind, we’ll find the answers we’re looking for within. Answers to big problems become very simple.”

Without looking inside, without slowing down, Tremain said – as emotional beings – we’re prone to react. We can be impulsive, hyper vigilant and defensive.

“We need to treat [our emotions], but many of us don’t,” Tremain said. “Instead, we disconnect. Alcohol or drugs disconnect us from the physiological experiences, such as shock or trauma.”

“Disconnection” can take on many forms, Tremain said, including working out, food, work, perfectionism or codependency.

 

Treating trauma

A big part of Tremain’s job – and a big part of mindfulness – is identifying trauma.

“Trauma is the experience you went through that needs healing and clearing,” she said.

If the trauma isn’t treated, the mind will be triggered, leading the body to go into shock, which makes the body feel like it’s back in the original trauma.”

Through mindfulness practice, Tremain looks at stressors, listens to personal history and identifies trauma. Sometimes the trauma can be difficult for the client to find, but she’s willing to work on it and help her patients cope with it. 

“Trauma is often stored,” Tremain said, “and it’s often a theme, so when that theme gets activated every experience along that theme comes up.”

When the trauma arises, Tremain wants her patient to embrace it.

“We want to stop disconnecting and treat the trauma,” she said.

By treating trauma, one can enhance their lives. According to organizational psychologist and motivational speaker Paul Hannam, mindfulness “improves the quality of each moment” by “awakening and revitalizing you.”

Such a practice seems to be gaining momentum. In a recent essay, Hannam said “30 percent of general practitioners recommend mindfulness and children are using it to reduce stress and anxiety, especially during exams.”

“Million have adopted mindfulness in their lives at home, work and school,” he writes.

Why?

“Because it works,” Tremain said. “Benefits include clarity of thinking and staying engaged in the present moment.”

 

How to practice

When beginning a mindfulness session, Tremain makes sure her client is comfortable. First, she has them stretch out and relax their body. She has them breathe in and breathe out.

“Feel your body for a minute,” she says. “Put all of your mindful awareness on your physical body. Let your thoughts and emotions go. Is there tension? Tightness? Are you cold or hot? Describe your feeling.”

Feeling anxious? If so, Tremain recommends you let go and just “feel the body.”

“Stand up very slowly, slow everything down, walk over to a wall and slowly push against it,” she says. “Feel your body and drain your adrenaline.”

Tremain encourages her clients to feel grounded in their body, to feel their body and to “slow down.” There are countless ways – and countless places – to practice.

“Sipping tea is a great experience for mindfulness,” she says. “Breathe in, smell it, blow on it and then drink.”

Even doing chores at home can exude mindfulness.

“When you’re washing dishes, be here right now,” she says. “Sweeping does this for me. I’m very present when I do it.”

 

Practice, practice, practice

Mindfulness is not hard, Tremain said, but it takes discipline, intention, concentration and awareness.

“Be aware of your breathing,” she said. “Breathe in, breathe out. Feel the breath come into your body. Focus on your breath. Right here. Right now. In. And out. It’s impossible to be in the future or the past if you can feel the breath coming into your body and feel the breath leave your body. So, at work, if your mind is racing, just bring your focus to your breath.”

This exercise must be done regularly to see results.

“We call mindfulness a practice because it’s something we have to practice,” Tremain said. “It doesn’t come to us normally or easily.”

There are opportunities each day to “get grounded,” be it in the bathroom, at your desk or elsewhere. Take a moment.

“Breathe in and be aware you’re breathing in,” Tremain said. “Breathe out, and be aware you’re breathing out. Feel your breath come into the body; feel your breath leave the body.”

For more information on mindfulness, Tremain recommends books by Thich Nat Hahn and John Cabbott Zin.

Category:

Poll

Where is your favorite place to go camping in Central Montana?