You’re probably here because you have heard about mindfulness meditation and some of the benefits. Maybe you’re weighing up if it’s worth a try? If so, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to jump in!
Mindfulness and it’s foundational principles have been practiced for thousands of years. It’s only now becoming widely accepted in the West and much of that has to do with the remarkable results from studies and research projects going on around the world in some of the best Universities. The results are truly compelling.
Because of the increase in popularity, there is a huge wealth of knowledge and wisdom out there in the form of websites, videos and books, so deciding where to start can become a bit overwhelming. I hope this website will add to the knowledge part and not the overwhelm.
If you’re entirely new to mindfulness, attending a class is a great place to start. There’s nothing like beginning the journey with others and being part of a group who are in a similar place to you. Their discoveries and questions will inform and assist you, as you develop and grow.
If circumstances don’t allow, or if you can’t find any classes nearby, then you can simply begin by using some of the resources I have listed (see menu). The list of resources will grow in time.
Below are some snippets of info which I will be blogging about in time. Hopefully, some of them will peak your curiosity and help you step by step on your mindfulness journey.
DEFINITIONS OF MINDFULNESS
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally” Jon Kabat-Zinn
“the practice of bringing your awareness deliberately to the present moment in time and experiencing it without judgement or expectation.” Dr Patricia Collard, author of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Dummies
“The practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, thought to create a feeling of calm.” The Cambridge Dictionary
“Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training.” Wikipedia
“The awareness that arises through intentionally attending in an open, accepting, and discerning way to whatever is arising in the present moment” Dr Shauna Shapiro & Dr Linda Carlson
ELEMENTS OF MINDFULNESS
Below are topics within the subject of mindfulness which may interest you.
In time, many of them will feature in my blog. They are not in any paricular order of importance but each element does have importance.
If there are topics you are curious about, which are not covered here, you may want to go to the resources page to discover more or ping me a message and I will do my best to find some good answers.
Time travel is all too easy, in our heads that is.
We can be so keen to get to a better moment in the future, that we don’t recognise the richness and wonder of this one.
Same goes for the past. We sometimes find it so hard to let go of past events, that we are no longer able to enjoy the present moment.
Acceptance, Beginner’s mind, Letting go, Non-judging, Non-striving, Patience, Trust, Gratitude and Generosity.
By learning to approach the present moment differently, we get a new perspective on life.
The application of the these attitudes to each moment brings about a sense of freedom from the worrying and ruminating that we get tangled up in.
All forms of life have an ability to sense their environment in some way or form.
To be mindful is to re-engage with our senses and the vitality of life instead of being stuck to our screens or absorbed in our apps.
We have all experienced moments when we were fully engaged with life, absorbed in our senses and probably feeling a sense of peace too.
Humans are defined by their higher consciousness, also known as the reflective consciousness.
Our ability to think about all manner of issues, problems and topics and then reflect on our thinking is amazing.
Sometimes, however, our thought patterns become unhelpful, our minds become awash with concerns and anxieties.
This is a word you will hear a lot in Mindfulness circles.
It refers to the close examination of anything and everything you can be aware of in any given moment including stuff like pain and suffering.
So, even with the most unpleasant aspects of life, instead of avoidance and denial, we approach them with openess, curiosity and complete acceptance – befriending.
Closely linked to thinking, this term describes the relentless way in which the doing-mind (see Being and Doing) always seems to have something to say about pretty much everything we do.
It is also described as judging.
So if you see something (and it could be anything), the doing-mind will quickly evaluate it as good, bad, valuable, nice, wanted, unpleasant, blah, blah, blah….
Mindulness is not a clinical exercise in emotional control or concentration. Exercising compassion and gentleness as we develop a more clear awareness of our deepest thoughts and emotions is integral to being truly present.
Mindulness encourages the development of compassion for ouselves and others.
All Eastern languages use the same word for heart and mind.
It is useful to be able to perform complex tasks without using up too much thinking capacity e.g. driving the car to work.
However, when the autopilot has been inadvertently conditioned to attend to worries and troubles of the past and future, the result can feel pretty unpleasant.
Mindfulness reconditions you to be aware of what you choose to notice.
In the English lanuguage, this word can create all kinds of ideas and concepts of extreme anguish.
However, suffering can occur more subtly in ways that we may not be aware of.
In other languages, suffering can mean something more akin to things not being quite right. Like a wheel of your car not being balanced, other problems occur.
Our judgements often lead us to creating dulaities or binary choices – placing people or things into groups, either this or that.
They say the world is made up of two types of people. The ones who group people into two types of people and the ones who don’t.
However, people cannot be pigeon-holed due to the variances between us. Same goes for so many aspects of life.
Compassion for oursleves and others is a central part of mindfulness.
We are often our own worst critic, saying things to ourselves we wouldn’t dream of saying to others.
Through cultivating awareness, we are able to notice our personal characteristics and those of others and respond to them nonjudgmentally, allowing for a greater sense of peace.
We often have preconcieved ideas about meditation. I imagined an Eastern monk sitting in the Lotus position chanting “OM” for hours on end.
As meditation is studied by scientists with technology that reveals the inner workings of the brain, we discover that it is a form of mental training. This training has been going on in the East for thousands of years. Thankfully, it is now accessible to us.
Pure awareness allows us to see things as they are, not worse than they are or better than they are but just as they are. This awareness is something we all have, it is inherent in each of us.
Through meditation, we are able to become more familiar with ourselves, our thoughts, our feelings and our wisdom.
We can then begin to live authentically, no longer needing to impress or perform in order to feel complete.
We love to make life neat and tidy by placing things in boxes and labelling them. This is great for keeping the house tidy but not so good when dealing with people.
Many problems are caused by grouping people into …isms e.g. Buddhism, Socialism, Libertarianism, rather than seeing individuals for who they are.
As with dualities, these over simplified groupings can lead to distance and conflict rather than closeness and harmony.
Anxieties often arise from the belief that we cannot handle what may come.
The vast majority of us, however, have pretty good track records for handling whatever life has thrown at us.
We all possess understanding and learnings which we can draw upon if we would only give ourselves time and space to listen. Mindfulness encourages us to spend time with ourselves and to listen to the answers we all hold.
Question: “If we are always mindful, how can we plan ahead?” It’s a question that pops up regularly. Being present also involves being aware of our thoughts and noticing how those thoughts affect, what therapists call, our state.
The MBCT difficulties meditation is a good example of this. During this meditation, while remaining calm and still, we ponder a problematic thought which can be past, present or future and notice the affect.
Taking time out to be still may sound boring but it’s actually such a treat!
We spend so much time dashing from one place to the next. If we are not dashing physically, we are often mentally running the gauntlet of pressures, troubles and woes.
When we choose to be still and allow our awareness to notice what is actually occurring in the present moment, we can then gain insight into who we really are.
Becoming more mindful affects the way we interact with others. We learn to notice our thoughts, feelings and reactions.
Being able to respond with greater emotional awareness and, thus, control allows a person to be freed from the automatic reactions we all develop over time.
This increased awareness gives us the opportunity to choose our response to others with wisdom and discernment.
Mindfulness and children is a huge subject in itself, covered by many wonderful books and articles.
Young children exhibit the ability to be absorbed in what they do, completely in the moment, full of wonder and awe, apparently extremely mindful.
Maintaining this ability to be attentive to their environment and inner world in the present moment is a skill that can benefit children in many ways more ways than one.
Awareness grows with inquiry. It’s so easy to become over-familiar with the incredible details that surround us every moment.
We may feel like we have seen it all, you know, been there, got the T-shirt, worn it out. The truth is very different.
If we look closely, we see that nothing remains the same. We change and evolve and so does the world around us. To be mindful is to pay attention to what is and not to what we assume things will be.
We have one life, no re-runs, no read-throughs (you may notice that I repeat this a few times on the site, apologies but I reckon this is important!).
Surely, we should be making the most of the precious moments we have here on this planet.
Mindfulness helps us to do that through training us to pay attention to what is happening right now rather than being swept up in worries or being too focused on the past.
All living creatures have a form of consciousness, an awareness and ability to respond and react to their environment.
More complex organisms are able to do what we call thinking. Complex neural processes that enable the creature to thrive.
Not all creatures, however, possess what is called meta-awareness – the ability to think about their thinking. Humans possess what is called refelective consciousness.
A number of the meditations involve single-point-focus or one-pointedness meditation.
These exericses involve keeping our attention on one aspect of our present moment experience, e.g. the breath. This sounds easier than it actually is.
Though the aim of mindfulness training is not to improve our concentration, there is evidence that the by-product of certain meditations is an improved ability to concentrate.
The term for meditation in Tibetan means “familiarisation”. To meditate involves famililiarising yourself with all of the many aspects of your moment to moment experience of life.
While remaining still and settled, we are able to observe so many details that occur within us and around us which we would normally miss, due to being distracted or stuck in autopilot mode.
One of the reasons why mindfulness has become more widely accepted as a tool to improve our well being is our ability to be able to observe the brain.
Modern science allows us to study which parts of the brain are being excited when our senses are stimulated in certain ways.
Functional MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) show us which neural networks and pathways become activated when we pay attention to our senses, when we think sad thoughts, when we become upset etc. This technology is invaluable in assessing how and why mindfulness works.
The term emotion is a relatively new word which describes mood states and feelings, often linked to pleasure or displeasure.
Some teach that emotions are not simply thought based but also have a physiological component. For example, if a person describes the sensations involves when they are fearful or anxious, they may describe thoughts about a potential problematic future which elicit a knot or butterflies in the stomach.
Emotions are complex and sometimes hard to fathom but being mindful of our emotional state can be transformative.
Mindfulness has no religious bias. Though some of the principles have their origins in Eastern tradition and Buddhism, modern mindfulness is a series of exercises that require no religious beliefs at all.
All you need to practice is the ability to be aware (something we all have anyway) and the discipline to invest some some time and effort into looking after yourself.
Some have been concerned that emptying your mind allows opportunity for unhelpful thoughts to arise during meditation. This form of meditation never requires an emptying of the mind.
Thousands of research projects that have been completed investigating the effects of mindfulness.
The research has been wide and varied. Questions have been answered about how mindfulness effects the working of the brain/mind, whether mindfulness is more effective with different types of people, whether mindfulness is as effective of others forms of psychotherapeutic techniques for specific conditions. The lsit goes on.
For more information just search ‘Mindfulness Research‘ and you will see the vast amount of information available.
Awareness is something we all have. To be mindful simply means to be aware or to notice. So why do we need to do a mindfulness course if we already have it?
Much like many of our other abilities, a training programme can sharpen and assist us in the practice.
Increasing our capacity to be aware enables us to appreciate each moment more, respond to various triggers with greater composure and influence our overall wellbeing in many ways.
What’s your reason for looking into mindfulness? Are you hoping to manage your stress levels? Maybe you want to be able to better handle intrusive, unwanted thoughts. It could be that you want to have more control over your mood state.
Whatever the reason, your intention is an important element in getting the most out of your training.
When you sit or lie down to meditate, remind yourself of your intention and it will influence what you get out of each exercise.
I love this phrase, it sometimes pops into my mind when I’m meditating and my attention has drifted off somewhere. This phrase helps me bring it back and, importantly, appreciate the only moment I truly have – this one, just this.
I first heard it when listening to a Jon Kabat Zinn meditation but it comes from a poem he often quotes by…
Prior to 2005 most research revolved around evaluating the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions.
However, there were questions about the mechanisms underlying mindfulness-based interventions.
In 2005 Dr Shapiro et al proposed that mindfulness had three components: Intention, Attention and Attitude. These three inseparable elements are interlaced in each mindful moment.