In mindfulness, which has its roots in several eastern contemplative traditions, we learn skills which support us in developing an open, and non judgemental quality of attention, and a capacity to come back to what is happening for us in the present moment. We begin to develop an ability to tune into sensations and responses in our body, the nature of our thoughts and emotions. Being with this present moment and whatever is arising for us is quite different to our usual modes of day-dreaming, worrying, planning and preoccupations. We are very often unaware of the current of our thinking, but it can have a big impact on how we live our lives, interpret events and respond to what is happening around us.
Rather it is something that we all already have. It just takes practice. Which is good news!
This is a natural internal resource that gets clouded by the business of our minds, and lives! Too often we tend to live our lives “in our heads”, worrying about the future, or reliving the past, caught up in day dreams, rehearsing, planning. Mindfulness, with practice, offers us a way to be more present and aware in the moments of our lives, as they are unfolding. This awareness is very powerful because it can interrupt the habit of getting lost in our thoughts, mostly about the future or past, which often creates more stress on top of the real pressures of our everyday lives.
Mindfulness is not a quick fix or a pancea, nor is it positive thinking or relaxation! There are many misconceptions, and misinformation about mindfulness. Although relaxation can at times be a by-product it is not the goal here. Mindfulness is about waking up to the present moment, as it is, not how we want it to be. It has been said that mindfulness allows us to see the ‘the good, the bad…and the ugly’, of our lives. Despite how this may sound, with this broadened sense of awareness and insight we are better able to know what is going on for us, and make better choices that are more helpful for ourselves, and others. Practicing mindfulness can take quite a lot of strength and courage. It is not always easy to wake up to certain aspects of our lives, and we may have developed long standing techniques to numb out and distract ourselves that may once have served us well. The approach we take in turning towards our experience in mindfulness practice is therefore one of gentleness and patience.
There may be times in your life when mindfulness may not be appropriate, or the most helpful resource for you. As a Mental Health Occupational Therapist, Rachel in Insight Out Mindfulness, is committed to having a sensitive but transparent discussion with you around whether mindfulness may be a helpful approach to engage with.
This sounds straightforward enough, right?
We very quickly notice however, that paying attention can be really challenging for us! We discover that our minds are constantly barging ahead, planning the next thing on the ‘to do’ list, or ruminating on past events, regretting, or judging and commenting on what is happening now. Training the mind to stay focussed and ‘present’ is a bit like bringing the brain to a gym. The ‘muscle’ of focus and attention can initially be a little weak, or a lot! This is totally normal and it is why a lot of people unfortunately might stop-believing that mindfulness is not for them, or that it cannot help them. It can be very helpful to have guidance here.
Rachel is an experienced, and accredited teacher who can guide you through a mindfulness programme allowing you find for yourself how mindfulness can help you, and how you can maintain it in your life.
Mindfulness is usually learned through completing an eight week programme of structured practices and guided self learning. There are two recognised approaches: MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) and MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction).
We recommend engaging in an 8-week course format as the starting point, as it is the most widely-researched and evidence-based approach.
The 8-week format is also an opportunity to make a commitment to showing up and building a regular practice over a series of weeks. It takes this kind of repetition over time to form new patterns of thinking and habits.
You will also find that learning to mediate in a group with others and under the guidance of an experienced mindfulness teacher will provide you with a good source of insight and support.
Over the last 30 years, academic research in the fields of neuroscience, psychology and physical medicine have documented the wide-ranging benefits of learning to practice mindfulness particularly with 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction/Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Courses.
With practice, mindfulness has been shown to provide a sense of ease, and serve as a helpful antidote to stress, that can sometimes undermine our health, quality of life, performance. Indeed the evidence has shown that it can be an effective aid in the treatment of many mental and physical health issues, as well as generally improving our self-awareness, ability to manage stress/anxiety, relationships, and well-being.