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Mindfulness Matters

Robyn Chu is an Occupational Therapist  who specialized in sensory processing and serving children in all areas of need related to Occupational Therapy.  She is also the owner of Growing Healthy Children and has embraced mindfulness in her daily life. 

Mindfulness is a merging of my worlds. My day-to-day life includes a lot of time in my head, prioritizing people and relationships and thinking about my never-ending to do list. I sometimes got to the end of the day and realized I have not taken any moment for self-care.  Often times, I am hit with a wave of all the different emotions that I’ve had throughout the day and ignored. My mind goes 150 miles an hour and I try to fuel my body so that it can try keep up.
In the past couple of years, I have realized the toll this approach to goals and career takes on my well-being. Ironically, my to do list includes teaching therapists, teachers, parents, children about their sensory systems. I teach people about the what happens when information comes in to their brain from their senses that are part of the interoceptive, vestibular, and proprioceptive systems. I mentor professionals and families on how to be self-aware and notice when that sensory input is escalating a fight, flight, or freeze response in their brain. I love teaching people how to tune into their bodies and use sensory tools to be present and connect to those around them, building deep relationships and creating meaning in life. So, you can imagine my wave of realization as my self-reflection process exposed that I was not doing the very things I was teaching others to do. I put my brain into overdrive and began my passionate journey of reconnecting my brain and my body.

For me, mindfulness has not been a time separated from the rest of the day. I have found joy and relief in tuning in to my body throughout the day. Emotions have different effects on different parts of my body and paying attention to these emotions makes tose thoughts and emotions less scary. I used to think that the emotions would knock me off my feet like huge waves crashing on the shore. Naming the emotions and tuning into them has helped me to stand on the shore and not get knocked over. I ask myself, “What am I feeling?” and “Where do I feel it?” Sometimes, mindfulness is just like paying attention to the feeling of water drops on my face as I take a shower or the feel of the towel on my skin when I dry off. But other days, mindfulness is consciously being aware of the nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach as I nervously think about what might happen next in the day’s journey of tasks.

My “ah ha” moment started as I noticed the power of being fully present when I started surfing. I feel an incredible sense of calm and regulation after tuning in to all my senses while catching waves. I feel the hug of the wetsuit, the tingling in my fingers when they touch the cold water, the warmth of the winter sun on my back, the surfboard supporting and carrying me. I hear the rhythmic waves crashing, birds calling, and surfers talking periodically. My eyes are keenly focused on the horizon looking for the right wave - my wave. I see the glistening of the sunlight reflecting on the water and keep in mind where all the other surfers are to make sure that I have my lane. I noticed where the seaweed has come up to the surface as the tide is getting lower. I look at where the wave is going to crash and think about my position, angling my board to drop in to the wave. I am so dialed in to my body position, knowing that 1 inch forward or back, one lean too far or standing too fast could mean the difference between riding the wave in and falling quickly into the white water. I feel the power and energy of the water below and behind me and notice my speed and I paddle hard!  I pop up and stay low and connect with the wave. Fully present and mindful. The bliss. The joy I feel bubbles out of me, and I can’t help but grin bigger than I usually do.
This presence, this feeling, is so powerful. I feel challenged and inspired to replicate this level of mindfulness in my daily life. It takes practice and requires intentionality. Mindfulness can be found on an app where you set aside 30 seconds or a few minutes of praying and paying attention to your body, absolutely!  I have woven it into my weekly routine: a Polynesian dance class, my next presentation, a meeting with a therapist going through a hard season of life. A keen sense of my body and brain consciously fully present and connected to what is happening right now. It’s a gift to myself and those around me.
Find your path to mindfulness.  Choose presence.  Choose balance.  Choose hopeful mindfulness on your hip journey.

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