Having your breasts squished is not the worst part of a mammogram. It may not be pleasant but it’s what happens next that can be the real challenge. Sitting in the little room waiting for the radiologist to give you the thumbs up/thumbs down is a perfect opportunity for your mind to hold you hostage.
Left to its own devices, the mind likes to entertain the worst case scenario, and then amplify it. What if this? What if that? Your heart beats a little faster, your palms get sweaty and your thoughts hurtle along like a runaway train.
There are all kinds of situations in which your mind can wreck havoc. Many of them have to do with waiting for something…for test results, for a call back, for someone who is late to arrive, for your performance review, for a conversation with your spouse once its announced “we need to talk.”
Mindfulness is about noticing and accepting what is happening in the moment. Not projecting your thoughts into some point in the future. In this moment your worst imagined fears have not actually happened. The only life you can experience is the one that is happening right now.
Mindfulness is also not about turning everything into a pleasant experience. Notice the chatter in your head. Notice that you are anxious. Notice that you are frustrated. Just notice and accept it. Don’t make it bad or wrong that you are feeling that way.
And then breathe. Your breath is your most important ally in taming your mind. Focusing on your breath takes you out of your head and puts you back into your body. You can’t worry about what has not yet happened if you are focusing on inhaling and exhaling.
Once you feel more grounded in the present, shift your focus. No matter how much your mind would like to drag you into an uncertain future, expressing gratitude in the moment allows you to focus on something else. With each exhale, say “In this moment I am grateful for…” You might be surprised at the long list of things.
Happy or sad, excited or fearful, there’s always an opportunity to practice mindfulness.