Using Mindfulness and Heart Wisdom in the Process of Change

By Ginny Johnsen, RD, LD, CLT


If we never slow down the constant chattering of our minds and the commentary or judgment that goes along with it, how will we be able to hear and know the wisdom of our hearts? How can mindfulness and heart wisdom help with the process of change?

Most of us go through our lives in a trance, habitually reacting to life and acting out the same conditioned behaviors. We go through our over scheduled days like we are on automatic pilot, doing the same things over and over again. When someone pushes our buttons, we react in anger and frustration. This “trance” may work for those who are happy with their lives and the choices they make; however, many people are unhappy with some part of their lives and the vicious circles they find themselves stuck in. Successful behavior change begins with mindfulness.

 Donald Altman, a psychotherapist, author and former Buddhist monk, describes “that mindfulness possesses certain qualities that promote a healing attitude.” Altman teaches that “mindfulness gently invites the process of change” and that mindfulness is process. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder and director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, defines mindfulness as “an open hearted acceptance of this moment.”  The principles of mindfulness developed by The Center For Mindful Eating state that:

·         Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, non-judgmentally.

·         Mindfulness encompasses both internal processes and external environments.

·         Mindfulness is being aware of what is present for you mentally, emotionally and physically in each moment.

·         With practice, mindfulness cultivates the possibility of freeing yourself of reactive, habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and acting.

·         Mindfulness promotes balance, choice, wisdom and acceptance of what is.

In my life, mindfulness is the process of slowing down life and the chaos of my mind in order to become aware of what I’m thinking and feeling. Mindfulness is non-judgmental observation and very much like a scientist observing an object under a microscope without any preconceived notions, only to see the object exactly as it is. Once I become aware of my thoughts and feelings, I then go to a place of acceptance. Acceptance and looking at thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental way is a very important part of this process.

When I judge my thoughts and feelings, (especially if I judge them as bad) the fear, shame or blame I may feel as a result can bring the whole process to a screeching halt. My judgment and the negative feelings that come with it, make it difficult to look at my thoughts because it is too painful. If something is too painful, most people will stop the whole process. Thoughts and feelings aren’t good or bad, they just are. All feelings are okay and part of being fully human and alive. Reaching an awareness and acceptance of my thoughts and feelings then gives me the permission and level of comfort necessary for me to look in the dark corners and painful areas of my life. Mindfulness and increasing awareness is a skill that takes practice, time and effort.

          Once we are aware of our thoughts and can look at them without judgment, we can slow down enough, quite our minds and listen for the wisdom from our hearts. In the process of change, it’s important to listen to the wisdom from your own heart and not someone else’s. We are all unique and one of a kind creations and no one else has had the same life experiences as you. It’s impossible for anyone to see life the same way you do, they haven’t walked in your shoes. This is why a strategy for change that worked for someone else might not work for you. They could give you a detailed list of the steps they took and even walk you through them and you’re still not able to follow through. Most likely, their method didn’t work for you because you are not them. Your perceptions, longings and motivations in life are different from theirs. So go within, search your heart and listen for your own wisdom.

          In searching for your heart’s wisdom, here are some questions to consider. What do you long for? What do you really want? What do you want that’s most important to you, right now? Once you identify what it is you want, you then need to ask yourself what that change in your life really means to you. You need to ask the questions several times, each time reaching a deeper level of what you’re longing for in your life. The discovery of your deepest longing will then help you to stay focused and motivated to accomplish the change you desire. For some, this process of discovery can be overwhelming. You may want to consider hiring a Coach for a faster and smoother process.

          In my practice as a Dietitian, I use mindfulness and coaching in the process of change when people struggle with food issues or want to make lifestyle changes in order to improve their health. So many people get angry with themselves for overeating, for their lack of willpower and for failing yet another diet that was supposed to be the last one. The rules, regulations and harsh judgments that are part of the “diet mentality” keep people from listening to their body and they end up being stuck is the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting. Once you’re stuck in the cycle of yo-yo dieting, you can find yourself in a heated battle with food and it can keep you from fully living your life. Mindful eating focuses on nurturing your body rather than starving it, encourages natural weight loss, and helps you find the weight you were meant to be. Most importantly, it can help you end your battle with food, find peace and live a richer and fuller life.

          If you want to be successful in the process of change in your life, come to a place of mindfulness, listen to your heart and watch how your life becomes richer and more meaningful.  

Ginny Johnsen, RD, LD, CLT is a Registered Dietitian, Intrinsic Life Coach and Holistic Coach™ in private practice helping individuals improve their health through lifestyle changes. She offers both classes and individual instruction in Mindful and Intuitive Eating, works with eating disorders and provides testing and therapy to overcome food and chemical sensitivities.  You may contact Ginny at or 740-881-4687.