When I was in my early twenties I recall reading an article on meditation. Ever since then I have in various ways tried to find ways to meditate. My hope is that this blog will in some way encourage you to explore issues of mindfulness and meditation more. Whilst meditation is generally based within
religious and Buddhist traditions, mindfulness, whilst still being based on Buddhist practices, is able to be practiced without any belief beyond the desire to be more mindful. Kabat – Zinn describes mindfulness as
‘paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and non – judgmentally’
In practice mindfulness is a way of observing ourselves as we think, feel and have various bodily sensations. Unlike counselling, this way of learning to sit with whatever is going on for us is not around interpreting anything or learning to find new ways of being; mindfulness allows us to tolerate what is going for us without needing to avoid it. Over time this means we build up resilience to difficult emotional states and/or thoughts. Several years ago I decided to re energise my mindfulness practice and began with several iPhone applications. The best one that I found is called ‘headspace’ which offers ten minute guided meditations which help you understand the process and ease your way into it. I also attended a mindfulness course run by ‘the mindfulness project’ and can be found at: www.londonmindful.com. Through signing up to a course I found this helped me with motivation and also gave me people who I could talk to about how I was finding practising mindfulness several times a day. Whilst I found this course very helpful, there are mindfulness groups in most towns these days if you prefer to practice with others.
My experience of practicing mindfulness is similar to what I hear from other people who practice it. Whilst I will often feel that it is pointless while I am sitting, over time I have learnt to see these thoughts as just thoughts. They, like any thought or feeling, are transitory and change quite quickly if we allow ourselves to sit with the discomfort for a few moments. In the meantime I have found that I am less anxious, and can tolerate complex situations far better. I also found that my sleep improved and that I had more motivation through my day. Generally, mindfulness helps with:
Enhanced flexibility of body and mind
Stopping addictive behaviours
A blog post can’t really do justice to mindfulness so I have focused on the benefits, however if you are looking for more information, then; http://www.mindfulnet.org/page2.htm may help. Within counselling there is often a focus on what is unconscious, or rather what is influencing you but is outside of your awareness. Mindfulness works with what is present and allows you to cope better with direct issues you may be facing.