Mindfulness - Focus your awareness. Let go of the struggle. Be in the moment. Make the choices that allow you to experience life to the fullest.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a simple form of meditation. There is no sense of emptying the mind or finding some sort or trance state. Mindfulness meditation simply consists of focusing your full attention. A common practice is to focus on your breath as it flows in and out of your body. When being Mindful, we step back from thoughts, feelings and body sensations. We observe these experiences as they arise and, little by little, let go of struggling or going on a journey with them. With practice, we become more able to accept that thoughts arise of their own accord; that you are not your thoughts and that having a thought is not necessarily meaningful in itself. We can watch as they appear, linger and pass. We can learn that thoughts and feelings (pleasant, unpleasant or neutral) come and they go, and ultimately, you have a choice about whether to respond or not.
Mindfulness is about checking in on ourselves in a non-critical way. Being compassionate and kind to ourselves. Unsurprisingly, Mindful meditation plays a large role in Compassion Focused Therapy. It begins the process of taking off the auto-pilot and getting back in to the driving seat of our lives.
Why is Mindfulness Helpful?
Over time, regular mindfulness practice can bring about long-term changes in mood and stress and can reduce the suffering associated with many health conditions, including persistent pain.
Many people find that they experience an increased sense of happiness and well-being. There is good evidence that mindfulness not only helps to prevent depression, but that it leads to changes in the brain. Being Mindful does not remove our ability to feel pain and distress (and a good job too as these emotions are important) but when they arise, Mindfulness can help them to be less overwhelming and allow us to move on more easily. Memory and concentration can improve, as well as sleep.
What Mindfulness isn't...
There are many cliches and myths surrounding Mindfulness. Secular Mindfulness as used in clinical practice has it's roots in Buddhist psychology but is not in anyway religious. There is no need to subscribe to any particular philosophy or belief system to practice meditation. There is also no need to sit on the floor in the lotus position or to wear any particular outfit, although you can if that suits you. Most people sit on chairs, lie or stand. You can meditate anywhere, and bring Mindful awareness to any daily activity. As long as you are breathing, you can meditate!
Meditation is not relaxation. When we are being Mindful, we are switching on our awareness. Sometimes thought of as "falling awake." At times we may experience relaxation. At other times we might notice boredom or irritation. The only thing to do is to be aware of the things that arise in our minds and bodies and to allow ourselves to explore them with interest, openness and kindness. There is no "doing it right or wrong", just allowing ourselves to be in the moment, however it is.
Acceptance is an important attitude in Mindfulness practice. However, acceptance is not resignation. Being Mindful is not about passivity. Instead, it is about being able to step back and see the wood for the trees to be able to respond to the challenges and experiences within our lives from a perspective of equanimity and wisdom, in touch with our core personal values, our true selves,rather than stress and reactivity.
This video from Jon Kabat Zinn is gives more insight into the attitudes underpinning Mindfulness practice.
WHAT DOES MINDFULNESS INVOLVE?
Much of the work that Graeme undertakes with people incorporates Mindfulness as it is an important component in Third Wave CBT therapies such as CFT. Graeme is a qualified Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Teacher with experience of running structured Group Programmes. He is happy to hear from organisations who are interested in running groups for their employees or clients.
MBSR is a group approach developed by Jon Kabat Zinn, which combines Meditation and some light Hatha Yoga practices, some teaching and also discussion and inquiry. It has been shown to be helpful in reducing stress and anxiety and improving wellbeing, particularly in relation to physical health problems. MBSR groups run over 8 sessions, plus an initial orientation session and may incorporate a full day mini-retreat between sessions 6 and 7.
MBCT draws from CBT and MBSR and has been shown to be a highly effective treatment for reducing the risk of relapse in depression and is recommended by NICE. There is also research being undertaken to examine it's effectiveness in helping people who are currently depressed. Like MBSR, MBCT is run as an 8 week structured course, plus an orientation session, for 2 hours per week. The course also includes meditation, inquiry and discussion, as well as some work in pairs.
In addition, Graeme is able to offer 1:1 Mindfulness interventions.
WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION?
For more information on Mindfulness, go to the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness website at: www.umassmed.edu/cfm/ or the University of Bangor Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at: www.bangor.ac.uk/mindfulness/.
THINK Mindfulness MIGHT BE HELPFUL?
Get in touch with Graeme to find out more and to arrange a free initial consultation.