What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness as a means of structured stress reduction, was first introduced by Jon Kabat Zinn, who first set up a stress-reduction clinic in Massachusetts in 1979.
With a background in meditation and medicine, Jon Kabat Zin (who is now a professor of medicine, and widely regarded as “the father of Mindfulness”) wanted to see how the ancient art he had been taught by Buddhists, would work with people who were very stressed.
The workshops he ran were a success and gained much clinical interest.
The field he developed, he called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction or MBSR.
Mindfulness, the word, is the translation of an ancient Buddhist word, Sarti. Which in turn comes from a Sanskrit word. Sarti means to be aware.
Specifically to be aware of ourselves. Knowing what we are doing as we are doing it. Checking in with how we are doing. Working in the present moment.
Of course it makes total sense to be aware of things at all times.
IMAGINE how wonderful would it be to be able to check in with what is reality, and what is really just a thought… and to be able to do this before our thoughts carry us away on a torrent of crisis planning for the future – or a dramatic reconstruction of our past torments. Because we all do that. Don’t we?
Unfortunately, our thoughts can often take on a life of their own, and the opportunity to check in with them, question them, become aware of their affects on us is not always easy. And that is why Mindfulness is so powerful.
The ongoing practice of Mindfulness means that this “check in with our thoughts and feelings” may become more and more of a default setting.
And the more we can return to mindfulness at a time of stress, the easier we can experience life. Suddenly, rather than seeing the drama or crisis of a situation that might or might not occur in the future. We can see that right NOW is perfectly fine. And right NOW is actually the only place where we can really act. Whatever the situation, rather than being guided by our Ego, that wants to jump in and create more drama, big things up (and it is only trying to help us!) we can take a more measured view. A view that ultimately means we can a) enjoy the Now much more, and b) access our creativity and positivity to deal with a situation should we really need to.
Because stressed thinking ties us in knots. It takes us out of a resourceful state, into a mind-spin. Mindfulness can take us out of the mind-spin, and allow a cool, reflective understanding of a situation.
Mindfulness is both a science and an art.
Numerous studies have shown that Mindfulness, the practice, can reduce stress levels and allow us, as individuals, to connect with our own happiness. The very thing that stress disconnects us from.
The SCIENCE of Mindfulness:
Although the ancients knew that mindfulness was good for them, today we are ever-more able to study mindfulness and the benefits. New technologies and emerging opportunities give us the possibility of really getting to grips with the science behind the experience. Studies on the brain, show time after time, that mindfulness, meditation practices can help us in many ways.
No matter what you believe about how your brain is programmed to behave, or your genetics, etc, a recent study out of Davidson’s lab at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, U-W Madison, on compassion meditation demonstrated that just 30 minutes of practice a day over the course of two weeks was enough to produce a change in behavior and in brain function.
Studies using MINDFULNESS BASED COGNITIVE THERAPY
MBCT prevents depression in the most vulnerable patients:
In patients with three or more previous episodes of depression, MBCT reduces the recurrence rate over 12 months by 40-50% compared with usual care.
MBCT is as effective as reducing recurrence as antidepressants.
In the UK, the Government’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended MBCT for those with three or more episodes of depression in their Guidelines for Management of Depression (2004, 2009).
Mindfulness is an ART which takes practice.
Mindfulness means that we can reduce, and sometimes eliminate our suffering, because so much of our painful thinking is about the past (which has happened, and gone, but we do love to re-live it, revel in the painful details, re-suffer it)
And the rest of our painful thinking is worrying about the future – which has not happened yet, and still we love to imagine the worst. How bad it could be. The fear, the trauma, the drama and the stress.
Yet, if we consider the present. The “now”. Free from the pain of the past, or the worry of the future, it is simply a beautiful, perfect, present moment of “now”.
Mindfulness means that we can train our mind/body to be more in the present, thus eliminating past, future, suffering. Things that we have already gone through, and things that we may never go through. It allows us to put thoughts into perspective and recognise them for what they are. Just thoughts. Not facts.
In itself, and of itself it is very simple. And yet it is quite difficult, with the pressures of living to keep in mind to be mindful.
So, Mindfulness is both a science and an art. It takes practice, but then by practicing, we are actually doing Mindfulness.
“We Learn By Doing
Not many years ago I began to play the cello. Most people would say that what I am doing is ‘learning to play’ the cello. But these words carry into our minds the strange idea that there exists two very different processes: (1) learning to play the cello; and (2) playing the cello. They imply that I will do the first until I have completed it, at which point I will stop the first process and begin the second. In short, I will go on ‘learning to play’ until I have learned to play’ and then I will begin to play. Of course, this is nonsense. There are not two processes, but one. We learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way.”
– John Holt, taken from
Chicken Soup for the Soul
Therefore we cannot be mindful without practice. And we cannot practice mindfulness without being mindful.
Mindfulness Trainings, Devon
Mindfulness-UK offers Mindfulness trainings as full-day, part days and 8-week Mindfulness programmes. We run programmes open to the public in Devon, near Exeter and Newton Abbot. Please ask for details.
Mindfulness Trainings, Worcester