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S2 EP218 – What is Means to be Present and Mindful

Episode Summary

Do you spend most of your time focused in your mind or your body?

Are you focused in the past and future, or in this present moment? Discover how to create the aliveness and joy of being in this present moment, and how you can be mindful and connected with spirit all the time. 


Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul here with the Inner Bonding podcast. Today I’m speaking about the power of being present and mindful, and what it actually means to be present and mindful, in order to experience the aliveness and joy of life.

For many of us, it can be a challenging journey to shift from mind focus to body focus, and become aware of our feelings, which is necessary in order to be present and mindful.

This was the challenge for my client Bryan. “Bryan” I said in our second session, “Breathe into your body and notice what you are feeling.”

“I feel bad and uncomfortable and empty. I don’t like focusing in my body,” He said.

“Where do you focus most of the time?” I asked him.

“In my mind. I think about work all day and then the rest of the time I daydream about being a successful actor or think of other things,” he answered.

Bryan was a businessman and had never even tried to be an actor, so his daydreaming was an addictive way to avoid his feelings. “So you do all you can to stay in your head and out of your body – right?” I said to him.

“Right. It doesn’t feel good in my body,” he said.

“Bryan, imagine that you always ignore your little daughter, and then when you finally do give her some attention, you find that she is upset with you for ignoring her all the time – and then you ignore her more because you don’t want to know that she is upset with you for ignoring her so much.”

“I would never do that with my daughter,” he said.

“But this is exactly what you are doing to your own inner child – your own feelings,” I said to him. “You ignore your feelings. Your bad feelings are your inner child letting you know that you are abandoning him, and then you don’t want to attend to your feelings because you don’t want to know that you are feeling alone and empty inside as a result of your self-abandonment. Just as your actual daughter needs your love and attention, so does your inner child – which is your feeling self. As long as you choose to stay in your head rather than your body, you will continue to feel bad in your body.”

I find in my work with individuals and couples that most people have found many ways to not be present in their body. You may have learned to avoid your feelings when you were a child, because you had no way of dealing with pain. But now avoiding your feelings is actually the cause of most of your pain. Feelings of anxiety, depression, hurt, emptiness, aloneness, anger, guilt, and shame are all being caused by what you are telling yourself – your false beliefs and self-judgments – and how you are treating yourself – ignoring your feelings and turning to various addictions instead.

Staying focused in your head instead of your heart and your gut is one of these addictive ways of abandoning yourself.

When you are in your head, you are focused in your lower left-brain, which is where our programmed ego wounded self is. When you are in your lower left-brain, you are not present in the moment – not lovingly attending to your own feelings and needs. It is this lack of loving presence that creates the bad feelings in your body.

“Bryan,” I said to him, “please put your focus in your heart and breathe into your heart. Open to learning about what is loving to you and invite the presence of love and compassion into your heart. Imagine the feelings of love you have for your daughter and bring those same feelings to the sad and alone little boy within you. Ask him how he feels about you as his inner parent.”

“He is mad at me…he’s REALLY mad at me,” he said.

“Yes, which is why you are so often irritated and mad at others. You make others responsible for the aloneness and emptiness that you are causing.”

“What should I do?” he asked.

“I suggest that you wear a rubber band to remind yourself to check inside throughout the day – and put sticky notes around and set an alert on your phone. You need to start to practice being lovingly present in your body, open to learning with your feelings. You need to recognize that your feelings are your inner guidance, letting you know when you are abandoning yourself or loving yourself. Are you willing to practice this?”

“Yes!” He said.

The more Bryan practiced being lovingly present in his body with his feelings, the better he felt inside his body, and the more he was able to be loving with others as well.

Our society does not foster emotional presence and mindfulness. In fact, we offer a myriad of addictions to avoid feeling our painful emotions, because we have not been taught how to manage them. In many cases, our parents and their parents role-modeled unhealthy behavior for avoiding emotional pain: addictions to substances, people, manipulations, activities and things.

Ask yourself this. When you want to binge, eat sugar, drink alcohol, use drugs, smoke, yell, blame, hit, appease or resist someone, try to be perfect to get approval, get busy, clean the house, shut down, turn on the TV, scan the Internet, gamble, shop, masturbate with pornography, demand sex from your partner or compulsively act out in any other way, what are you feeling? Are you turning to your addictions to distract you from feeling lonely, heartbroken, alone, empty, sad, anxious, depressed, scared, angry, guilty, shamed, or unworthy?

The idea of feeling your past and present emotional pain may be overwhelmingly scary to you.

The truth is you can learn to handle it. Your fear of painful feelings is based on the beliefs about pain that you acquired in childhood, beliefs that are false now that you are an adult. To move beyond your false beliefs, you must be willing to test them, to prove them false. And to test them, you must resist the urge to blunt your emotions with addictions. Until you stop numbing out in the face of your pain, you will never know that you can feel your pain without going crazy or dying, that your pain is not endless, and that it can be a source of information and strength rather than weakness. You miss out on much of what life has to offer if you numb your feelings, so if you want to be present and mindful and experience the aliveness of life, then you need to learn to lovingly manage your painful feelings.

In all the years I have been working with people in pain, I have never had anyone die, explode or go crazy from opening to their pain. I have never met anyone whose emotional pain was unending. Nor do people kill themselves from feeling their painful emotions when they are willing to learn how to heal them, and when they reach out for the appropriate help. It is not opening to painful emotions and learning how to manage them lovingly that causes suicidal feelings; it is sitting in pain with no inner or outer help that causes a person to take his or her own life. Some acts of suicide may be how the wounded self avoids taking responsibility for the emotional pain of the inner child. When you learn and practice Inner Bonding – opening to feeling, learning from, and healing your pain – and learn how to manage and release the deep existential pain of life, there is no longer a need to avoid it.

Even when you are willing to feel your emotional pain, which is Step 1 of Inner Bonding, it can take a lot of practice to actually do so.

Many of us are so used to ignoring our emotions that the moment we feel a twinge of fear, anxiety, or loneliness, we open the refrigerator, pour a drink, grab a cigarette, yell at someone, turn on the TV, or answer email. We may even find ourselves doing this before we consciously know we’ve had a feeling. In order to break this pattern and learn about your feelings and what you believe, think, and do that may be causing them, you need to be mindful of what is going on inside your body. You need to begin to focus on your inner experience.

When I tell people that they need to be willing to feel their emotional pain, they sometimes say to me, “What’s the big deal about that? I feel my pain all the time.” But there is a world of difference between feeling pain and having the willingness to feel it in order to learn from it and take responsibility for it. You need to be willing to feel the painful emotion, explore it, own it, find out what you may be thinking or doing that is causing it. There is no healing in just feeling and expressing your emotional pain. You can cry and rage forever, but if you are not willing to take responsibility for your pain, you will be stuck with it forever.

Sometimes people respond with, “Why? Why feel my pain? What’s the point?” They believe that feeling emotional pain – especially the heartbreak of childhood – is a waste of time. “Why cry over spilled milk?” they argue. “Why can’t we just try to find our joy and skip the pain?” The answer is: because joy and pain are in the same place in the heart. When you put a lid on your pain and stuff it back inside, you put a lid on your joy. You choose to live an emotionally stunted life. You also close your heart to the information that pain can bring you.

Embracing your wounded pain – the pain that you cause, such as anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, shame, aloneness, emptiness, jealousy, or envy – with an intent to learn, is the pathway to loving yourself rather than abandoning yourself. Embracing your existential pain of life – loneliness, heartbreak, helplessness over others, grief – with much compassion, allows the pain to move through you.

I had been working with my client Rosemary for a few weeks regarding her anxiety. She had lived most of her life with fairly intense anxiety and now, at 43, she wanted to feel some inner peace.

In the previous session we had worked on the fact that her anxiety was often caused by her ego wounded critical voice that often obsessed on the past – on what she “should” have said or done differently – and then she projected into the future with thoughts about all the bad things that could happen. I suggested that she practice being more mindful – staying more in this present moment, choosing to be conscious of her feelings and of the guidance from her higher self, as well as of what is going on around her.

In our next session, I asked her, “How did you do this week with staying more in the present?”

“I think I did well,” she said. “I wasn’t nearly as anxious, but I’m finding that being in the present is boring.”

Boring! That is the last thing that I experience when I’m in the present moment!

The problem was that Rosemary had never cultivated her passions, her gifts and talents – the things that would bring her joy. And she had never cultivated her spiritual connection – connection to love, joy, and creativity. And she had never spent much time in gratitude, and so had never experienced the aliveness and fullness of heart that comes with gratitude. For her, after all the drama of anxiety, being present felt empty and boring.   

When I’m in the present moment, the moment is filled with light, joy, freedom, aliveness, and a profusion of creative ideas that stem from my passions and my sense of purpose. Spirit fills my heart with so much love that I think my heart will burst with it! It’s anything but boring!

Rosemary had spent her life pleasing other people rather than pleasing herself, so she had little idea about what would bring her joy.

“Rosemary,” I said, “please go inside, breathing into your feelings. Ask your inner child what she would love to do this coming weekend.”

“I know exactly what she wants to do. She wants to go skiing and she wants me to find her a ceramic class,” she said.

“How long since you’ve been skiing?” I asked her.

“Oh, it’s been at least 10 years. I have a voice in me that keeps telling me that it’s too expensive,” she said.

“How long have you wanted to learn to make ceramic pots?” I asked.

“Since high school,” she said.

“Rosemary, are there expenses you can cut out to have the money to ski and learn to pot?” I asked.

“Yes, there are, but my critical voice is telling me that doing these things is self-indulgent,” she said.

Rosemary had been keeping a lid on the things that would bring her joy for many years, so when she was present in the moment, there was no feeling of aliveness and creativity.

I worked with Rosemary to start to listen to her higher voice rather than her critical, controlling voice.

It took a few weeks, but finally she went skiing and started a ceramics class. She started to feel some aliveness for the first time in her life. As she continued to open to her passions, a new sense of purpose started to emerge. Rosemary had been stuck in a job that got her by, but it wasn’t work she was passionate about. The thing that she knew she was very talented in was in interior and landscape design. She loved creating beautiful environments and had done it for herself and friends for years, but never professionally.

By opening to her passion and sense of purpose, and to her higher voice with gratitude and a desire to learn, she finally gained the courage to do the work she always wanted to do.

Now, being present is no longer boring for Rosemary. Now she feels the joy of tuning into her creative flow and supporting others in creating beautiful environments that feed their souls.

There is much power in learning to be present and mindful, and numerous ways of learning this. There are many forms of mindfulness meditation, and each person needs to discover which works best for them.

There is the traditional Eastern form of meditation, where you focus on something such as a candle flame, your breath, or a mantra. In this form of meditation, the purpose is to detach from the thoughts that come from your mind, letting them float by while you open to spirit.

Another form of mindful meditation is where you open to the energy field of love and truth that is always here and available to you. In this form of meditation, you do not need to stay still and focus. Rather, you regularly bring your awareness to the present moment and continue to open to the ever-present love. It is more a way of being than something you are doing.

Inner Bonding falls into this second form of meditation. By practicing staying tuned into your feelings and your spiritual guidance, you can learn to stay connected with spirit, with God, with the energy field of love and truth, all the time. Inner Bonding can become an all-day form of mindfulness.
Staying tuned into the energy field of love and truth requires an act of surrender. Instead of relying on the mind to govern your actions, you come to accept that the mind rarely knows what is in your highest good. Since the mind is incapable of discerning what is true and what is not, it is not in your highest good to rely just on your individual mind for guidance.

Surrendering to guidance is a choice that becomes your normal way of being only with much practice. The more you open your energy to the loving, compassionate, and wise energy of spirit, the more natural it becomes. This means consciously opening the heart to love and truth. It means consciously opening to learning with your spiritual guidance. It means being a loving adult and not allowing the thoughts and feelings of your wounded self to take over – embracing these thoughts and feelings with an intent to learn, rather than becoming them. It means consistently saying to the thoughts of your wounded self, “You need to be quiet – you don’t know what you are talking about,” and opening to the truth of spirit. In order for Inner Bonding to become an all-day form of mindful meditation, you need to be conscious of your intent throughout the day. The more you choose to open to learning and surrender to spirit, the more you develop the new neural pathways in your brain and the easier it becomes to be a loving adult, moment by moment. 

Some people find it helpful to utilize both forms of meditation.

Doing a formal sitting meditation can help you relax, open, and connect to your guidance, setting the stage for Inner Bonding as an all-day meditation. Other people find that they cannot sit for long, and that sitting meditation becomes a chore rather than a joy. They find that doing a formal Inner Bonding practice, through writing or talking out loud, creates the opening they are seeking. Some people find that they connect with spirit more deeply when they are moving, such as walking or dancing, and others find that they become most connected when they are in nature.

As you practice opening to learning with and surrendering to your guidance, you can practice bringing the energy of love and peace into your body. Imagine the energy of unconditional love coming into all the cells of your body. Imagine that your body is like a sponge, absorbing the energy of love that is always here for you.

The more you practice throughout the day, opening to the love and truth that is here, the more you will discover the joy of being present with your feelings, with spirit, as well as with others. Joy can become your normal way of feeling when you practice making Inner Bonding an all-day mindfulness meditation.

My client Patty had been doing Inner Bonding for over a year, yet she still was unable to stay conscious of her feelings. And even when she was aware of feeling any wounded feelings, she would completely forget that it was her thoughts that were causing her pain. She would completely forget the intent to learn. Her resistance to taking responsibility for her own feelings was running her life.

In previous sessions, she had also been resistant to exploring her resistance. Yet she was tired of being stuck, so she finally opened to learning about her resistance.

“There must be a good reason that you are so resistant to feeling your feelings. Are you willing to explore this?” I asked her once again.

“Yes. What comes to me is that when I was little, I was not allowed to feel my feelings, and if I did, I was punished. My parents had no empathy or compassion for my feelings. I decided when I was little that it was safer not to feel my feelings except when I was with someone who was compassionate toward my feelings.” 

“So it sounds like now you are making others responsible for whether or not you feel your feelings.” I said to her. “There must be a good reason why you are not willing to be that compassionate person now for your inner child – your feeling self. What does your wounded self believe about you doing it for yourself rather than waiting for someone else to do it?”

“Humm…I think I believe that it feels good only when someone else is compassionate toward me,” she said.

“So you either spend a lot of energy trying to get others to care about your feelings, or you just ignore your feelings and feel abandoned?” I asked her.

“Yes, I think that is what I do. It feels so good when someone else really gets me, really understands me,” she said.

“Patty, have you ever really tried to get you, to really understand you? Have you ever really opened to bringing the love and compassion of spirit into your heart for your own feelings?” I ask her.

“No,” she answered.

“Well, this is what needs exploring,” I said to her. “You have been completely resistant to even trying to do this for yourself, and there must be a good reason. Are you willing to explore this?”

“I just don’t think it will feel as good,” she said.

“The fact that you are not even willing to try to see if that is true makes me think that the real issue is a control issue – that your wounded self is very devoted to having control over getting others to do it for you, and to staying in the victim place. Obviously, it has been a life-long project of your wounded self to get empathy, compassion, and understanding from others, and you often get angry or irritated when you don’t get what you want.”

“Yes, and I am tired of this. I have a great loving adult in other areas of my life.”

“Patty, would you go to your guidance and ask whether it is accurate that it feels better to get the compassion from someone when you are not giving it to yourself?”

“Okay. (long pause) My guidance is telling me that I would feel so much better if I took responsibility for my own feelings. She is telling me that I will not be able to have a good relationship until I am willing to do this – that as long as I expect others to do it for me or just ignore my feelings, I will feel alone and lonely. And I feel resistance to my guidance! Wow! I can see that I really don’t want to do this! I’m sure my guidance is right, but I so want someone else to do it for me!”

“Patty, this is a great awareness! This week, I suggest that you consciously resist taking care of your feelings. Do it on purpose to become more aware of this choice.”

She began doing so, and ironically, as a result of her willingness to consciously choose to abandon herself, Patty is slowly beginning to become aware of and take compassionate responsibility for her feelings.

Is your inner baby monitor on?

Before I had my first child, I was a very sound sleeper. The phone could ring without waking me up. However, from the moment I came home from the hospital with my first son, that completely changed. I heard every little whimper from the bassinet that was next to our bed. My mothering instincts had seemingly automatically clicked on, and I became totally tuned into my baby’s feelings and needs.

On the inner level, it was a totally different story. Since my feelings and needs were unimportant to my parents, I had learned to make my own feelings and needs unimportant to me as well. I had learned to tune them out and instead be very tuned into others’ feelings and needs.

When I started to practice Inner Bonding in 1984, I discovered that Step One, being present with my feelings, was enormously challenging for me. It was not that I couldn’t tell what I was feeling – it was that I couldn’t remember to notice my feelings. I was so used to noticing what everyone else felt and caretaking them, that I kept forgetting to notice and care about my own feelings. In fact, I realized that my feelings of fear or anxiety were a trigger for me to care-take someone else rather than care about myself. I had a caretaking addiction.

It took me a couple of years of practice before my inner baby monitor was turned on – the one that was tuned in to my own needs. Somewhere along the way I realized that if I wanted to be a loving adult and take responsibility for my own feelings and needs, I needed to have my inner baby monitor on all the time.

When a woman has a baby and she wants to be a good mother, she knows that she needs to stay tuned into her baby all the time. If the baby is asleep in another room, she has a baby monitor on so she can hear when the baby wakes up. She would never think that she has to tune into her baby only a few times a day. 

Yet very often my clients ask me, “How often should I be practicing Inner Bonding?” The answer is, “You need to be practicing Step One all the time.”

This, of course, means being mindful of your inner experience. It is only when you are aware of your inner experience that you can move into the other Steps when necessary. When you are mindful of feeling anxious – or any other wounded feeling – you can immediately move into an intent to learn about what you are doing or telling yourself that is causing your painful feelings.

When you are mindful of feeling tense when interacting with another person, you can immediately tune into what might be occurring between you and the other person and take loving action on your own behalf. Are you tense because you have abandoned yourself to the other person and are trying to get his or her approval? Are you tense because the other person is pulling on you for your approval? Are you tense because you want control over the other person or because the other person is being controlling with you? Are you feeling lonely because one or both of you have disconnected? All this information comes by consistently staying in Step One of Inner Bonding.

When a mother or father has a baby and stays tuned into the baby, it’s because she or he wants to be a loving parent. The intent is to be loving with the baby. The same intent needs to be operating for you to be present and stay tuned into yourself. When your intent is to learn about being loving to yourself and others, you will stay tuned in to yourself and take loving action on your own behalf. You will be a loving inner mother with yourself only when you are tuned in to your own feelings and needs all the time, and you will be a loving inner father when you are willing to take loving action on your own behalf. 

Your inner baby monitor will stay turned on when your deepest intent is to be a loving mother and father with yourself.

Retraining yourself to remember to be mindful and in the intent to learn is the challenge. What do you need to do to remember? When I first started to practice Inner Bonding, I wore a little gadget called a Motivator that I could set to silently buzz against my body as often as I wanted, to remind me to tune into myself and to my guidance. Some people carry around their doll or stuffed animal to remind them. Others wear a rubber band, program their cell phones to remind them, or put sticky notes around. Think about what would work for you and start practicing having your inner baby monitor on all the time, so that you can be present and mindful and experience the aliveness and joy of life that can come from being present.

I invite you join me for my bi-monthly masterclass and receive my live help, which you can learn about at

And, I invite you to join me for my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”

And you can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my new book, “Lonely No More: The Astonishing Power of Inner Bonding” and from our website at

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

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