What is mindfulness?

Introduction

Mindfulness is a simple, practical tool to help us find calm and stability in the midst of our daily lives. It’s a form of mind training or meditation that has extremely beneficial results.

To quote Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness:

means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.

What is mindfulness?

When we incorporate the kind and non-judgemental aspect of mindfulness into our being it benefits our relationship with ourself and others – right in the midst of our busy, stressful lives. Once we know how to do it, we can do it anytime, any place, anywhere.

Mindfulness is rooted in Eastern spiritual traditions but in more recent years has been adapted into well researched, secular programmes widely available in medical, mental health and wellness settings. These programmes include Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).

Mindfulness is the practice of directing attention to what is happening in the present moment in contrast to our more habitual states of mind where we are often preoccupied with memories, fantasies, worries or planning. Although we are often unaware of the current of our thinking, it has a profound effect on how we live our lives, as well on our mental and emotional health.

There has been a significant body of research carried out in this area over the last 30 years, which is growing exponentially and indicates that practicing mindfulness regularly helps the body/ mind respond rather than react to stress, leaving valuable resources available for improving our general health and well-being.

Practicing mindfulness helps us to wake up to our lives, to what is happening in this moment, with an attitude of kindness towards ourselves and our experience.

What are the benefits?

Extensive research has shown that developing mindfulness has a significant positive effect on:

  • developing greater self awareness
  • increasing ability to manage stress
  • physical and psychological health
  • reducing anxiety and depression
  • reducing tension, anger and fatigue
  • enhancing relationships
  • increasing vitality
  • aiding better sleep
  • developing stronger immunity

UK’s National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends mindfulness for the treatment of depression.

See my Testimonials section to find out what local people think of the mindfulness courses they have attended.

Effects of developing mindfulness include:

  • lasting decreases in physical and psychological symptoms.
  • an increased ability to relax.
  • reductions in pain levels and an enhanced ability to cope with pain that may not go away.
  • greater energy and enthusiasm for life.
  • improved self-esteem.
  • an ability to cope more effectively with both short and long-term stressful situations.
  • enhanced interpersonal relationships.
  • increased ability to manage anxiety and depression and/or low mood.
  • reduced tension.
  • better sleep.
  • greater sense of meaning and purpose in life.

How do you get started practising meditation?

The best way to get started is to join a class and learn in a group setting from an experienced teacher.

You can read a book and start at home in your own living room. Some books even have helpful CDs with practices, but it is much harder to do it by yourself. Also, sitting with a group just makes it more fun to learn.

Recommended reading

If you can’t get to a class, these are some of the books I recommend:

Full Catastrophe Living – by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Coming through Depression – by Tony Bates

Finding peace in a frantic world – by Mark Williams and Danny Penman

Peace is every Step – by Thich Nhat Hanh

I offer a number of different classes, but the one that is most helpful if you really want to integrate mindfulness into your life is the 8 week programme.

What does the 8-week mindfulness course involve?

In the 8-week mindfulness course, participants meet together as a class for eight weekly 2 and a half hour classes, plus one all-day session.

The skill of mindfulness is taught through formal and informal mindfulness practices. Formal mindfulness meditation practices include the bodyscan meditation, mindful movement, sitting meditation and the 3-step breathing space. Informal mindfulness meditation practice involves exercises to help you integrate mindfulness into everyday life.

In each class, participants have an opportunity to talk about their experience of the home practices, the obstacles that inevitably arise, and how to deal with them skillfully. Each class is organized around a theme that is explored through mindfulness practice, group inquiry and other relevant exercises.

As mindfulness training is primarily experiential in nature, the main ‘work’ of the course is done at home between classes, using CDs with guided meditations that support participants developing practice outside of class. This requires devoting approximately 40 minutes per day to home practice. In many ways this commitment to daily practice is the most important aspect of the course. It is through personal experiencing of mindfulness that we come to understand the possibilities it opens for us in our daily lives.

Over the eight weeks of the program, the practices help you to:

  • become familiar with the workings of your mind.
  • notice the times when you are at risk of getting caught in old habits of mind that re-activate downward mood spirals.
  • explore ways of releasing yourself from those old habits and, if you choose, enter a different way of being.
  • get in touch with a different way of knowing yourself and the world.
  • notice small beauties and pleasures in the world around you instead of living in your head.
  • be kind to yourself instead of wishing things were different all the time, or driving yourself to meet impossible goals.
  • find a way so you don’t have to battle with yourself all the time.
  • accept yourself as you are, rather than judging yourself all the time.
  • be able to exercise greater choice in life.

Why is it important to have a qualified teacher?

With the popularity of mindfulness increasing it is important to go a class led by a properly trained and experienced teacher.

I adhere to the Good Practice Guidance for Teaching Mindfulness-Based Courses developed by the U.K. Network of Mindfulness Teachers and to the Ethical Guidelines developed at the University of Massachusetts CFM.

The guidance includes:

  • formal mindfulness training
  • personal regular mindfulness meditation practice
  • engagement in regular supervision
  • commitment to on-going personal practice
  • training
  • supervision
  • attendance on retreats and
  • a high standard of ethics in relation to teaching and practice of mindfulness.

Download my Winter Programme for January 2019 (with a free meditation poster) here: Winter programme