What is Mindfulness?
What is Mindfulness?
Jon Kabat Zinn describes mindfulness as bringing your complete attention to the present moment. Whilst this sounds very simple, in reality we often find ourselves lost in thoughts and feelings, particularly about the past or the future. By practising mindfulness, you can learn to spend more of your life fully present and awake to what is happening right now.
Being awake in this way can be the key to a much happier and more fulfilled life.
What is Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction?
This is a practical and experiential course, which includes:
- Guided instruction in mindfulness meditation practices
- Gentle stretching and mindful movement
- Group interaction
- New approaches to old patterns of thinking and reacting
- Supported home assignments
- Home practice CDs and weekly course hand-outs
What would I expect from the course?
The course consists of eight weekly group sessions, each two and a quarter hours long, with no more than 16 people in a group. From the very first session, you will be guided and supported to develop the building blocks of mindfulness practice, starting with awareness of the breath and the body, and later including gentle stretching and movement, walking and sitting meditations. You will also be encouraged to introduce mindfulness into your daily life, slowly and gradually, by learning to bring mindful attention to the ordinary activities that make up your day. Each week, there will be the opportunity reflect on your practice with others in the group, and participants often describe this as a very helpful and supportive part of the learning process.
Would I be expected to do practice and coursework at home?
Home practice is an essential part of learning mindfulness. It is your commitment to daily practice that will really establish the skills you will be learning, and offer the greatest potential for personal growth.
Home practice is purely practical. You will be asked to follow a 30 minute guided meditation every day (and provided with the guidance on CD) and also to undertake some simple tasks, such as bringing mindful attention to a routine activity. You may choose to jot down a few words to remind you of anything you want to talk about in the next session.
There are no written assignments, and no course books to read.
Each week you will be given a hand-out of what we have done in the session, as a reminder of the material we have covered. This will include helpful readings and references we have shared. These hand-outs make up a complete handbook, which you can read after the session refer to after the course to support your ongoing practice.
How might learning mindfulness help me in my life?
Mindfulness is a way of fully appreciating the joys of life, and working with the challenges, so it can be of benefit to anyone and everyone. It is a form of self-care, a way of supporting our own well-being so that we can live and enjoy life to its full potential.
Life can be stressful for all sorts of reasons, and it’s often not possible to have everything the way we wish it could be. Those things that are outside of our control, such as illness, uncertainty and changes of circumstance, can leave us feeling helpless, and dealing with strong emotions and symptoms of stress.
By learning and applying mindfulness day by day, we can become more aware and accepting of our thoughts and feelings, and appreciate how we can choose to respond to them. Mindfulness can provide us with a healthy alternative to worrying about the future, regretting the past, and missing out on all that’s possible here and now.
People who complete the course often report:
- An increased ability to relax
- Reductions in pain levels and a better ability to cope with pain and other symptoms of stress and illness
- Greater energy and enthusiasm for life
- Improved self esteem and confidence
- A better ability to be kinder and more understanding to themselves
- An ability to cope more effectively with stressful situations
Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction is also known to have specific benefits for some physical and psychological conditions, and has been applied widely in relation to:
- Anxiety, panic, depression, compulsive behaviours
- Problems sleeping
- Relationship difficulties, at home and work
- Pain, illness, stress related conditions such as psoriasis and asthma
- Stress relating to uncertainty, transitions and life changes
Where Does Mindfulness Come From?
Mindfulness is not a new idea, but rather one that has been taught and practised for over 2500 years.
As far as we know, the first person to teach mindfulness was Gautama Siddartha, more commonly known as the Buddha. He taught that by learning to pay attention to the present moment, it is possible to achieve freedom from the suffering that we inflict upon ourselves and others. This idea is not unique to Buddhism, or even Eastern spirituality.
You don’t have to become a Buddhist to practise mindfulness – indeed many people from different faiths or with no religious beliefs at all have found that it helps them to lead happier and more fulfilled lives. Mindfulness is about finding inner happiness rather than constantly chasing after things that we think will make us happy.
More recently, mindfulness has been the basis for a number of therapies and used in response to a wide range of conditions, including depression, chronic pain, anxiety and stress.
In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has approved mindfulness based approaches for use in the National Health Service.
“Wild animals run from the dangers they actually see, and once they have escaped them worry no more. We however are tormented alike by what is past and what is to come.”Seneca (Roman Philosopher)
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