It has been said before that we don’t really see the world the way it is… we actually see it the way we are. But what does that mean?

As we grow up we are influenced by everything around us, our parents, our siblings, our friends, the type of home we have, our neighbors, school, television etc. As we absorb all the information around us, we develop as sense of what we believe to be true, based on our experience. This forms our belief system that we inevitably take with us out in to the world. As we experience life on our own, everything we encounter is interpreted through the filter of our belief system. And through that interpretation we decide what we think is right or wrong, good or bad, important or insignificant, and this becomes our perception of reality.

The difficulty that exists is, if you don’t have the exact understanding of life as someone else, then your perception will be different based on your experience, and you will interpret an exact situation in a different way. Thus creating a very different reality than someone else. And if everyone’s reality is different, then whose reality is the true reality? Fortunately, there is no need to ask that question. The better question might be, “How do I experience the best reality I can?”

People with substance use issues generally spend a lot of time avoiding their painful, shameful or fearful reality.  It appears that being in the present moment is so uncomfortable, that using chemicals, relationships, spending, eating, gambling, sex, etc. to escape reality is the only way to feel better. Yet, the real truth is… that experiencing negative emotions in the present moment, does not actually mean you are living in the present moment!

Truthfully, your feelings are generated by the thought you had. Usually feelings of shame, guilt, remorse, anger and resentment come from thinking about past events. While fear, worry, anxiety and apprehension are created from thinking about what the future holds. Therefore, to truly experience the present moment, one must not be thinking about the past or the future.

True reality is happening right here, right now, no matter what your perception or belief system is. To really be present in this moment, is to let go of old ideas and experience this instant without judgement.

“Without judgement”, is not ignoring that some things are helpful and some things are harmful, or that some things are safe and some things are dangerous. It means that you recognize that all those things are facts about your preferences, your value system, and you, not facts about the thing or experience itself.

Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing right now via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. Mindfulness lights up parts of our brains that aren’t normally activated when we’re mindlessly running on autopilot. And there’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain. This is so important for people with substance use disorders as the chemical use itself has altered the brain from its original form.

Learn more about Mindfulness here:

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