Mindfulness

Mindful attention is receptive, balanced and non-judgemental.  Mindfulness supports us to be present in the moment with the directness of our experience; with our thoughts, emotions, body and ways of relating and perceiving.  Mindfulness is cultivated by paying attention; it is an attitude of friendly curiosity towards life.  This awareness allows us to know more clearly what is happening in and around us as it is happening.  It allows us to respond, rather than to react to difficulties thereby manifesting a way of being that has more freedom and that is less driven by the need for things to be a particular way.

How Mindfulness Makes a Difference

Most people would probably say that they are aware, or conscious, of what they are doing.  The type of awareness that is being referred to here however, is a moment-to-moment non-judgemental awareness of our unfolding experience. This quality of consciousness is known as mindfulness.  When it is said that mindfulness is non-judgemental it does not mean we like or accept everything that happens. Mindfulness supports the mind to become more discerning, and for our innate wisdom to become more accessible to us.  It also sees the mind’s ‘building process’, which refers to the layers of experience we unconsciously create, in the form of our thoughts, preferences, views and accompanying emotions, which can be the cause of so much stress, suffering and fear.

Mindfulness enables us to see our actual experience in the present moment with greater clarity and kindness. It also enables us to see our habitual ways of responding to experience.  Our habitual ways of responding form part of our unconscious mind. From our earliest moments of life we have been ‘shaped’, though not fixed, by our experiences into the person we are now.  This shaping process continues through our body and senses throughout our life, we are changed by our experiences.  Each of us has developed habitual or unconscious ways of reacting and responding to our life experiences.  Our unconscious behaviours, beliefs and attitudes are sometimes referred to as being part of our ‘shadow persona’.  Our shadow can also contain our hidden treasures and talents, so there is nothing wrong with the shadow, it is just that anything in the shadow is out of our conscious awareness.  Becoming more conscious, and making conscious choices about how we live our life is part of the psychotherapeutic journey.

‘The practice of mindfulness begins in the small remote cave of our unconscious mind, and blossoms with the sunlight of our conscious life, reaching far beyond the people and places we can see.’  Earon Davis

The act of paying attention brings us into the immediacy of life and opens us to the inter-dependent nature of our existence. Being mindful is a way of experiencing our embodied presence, our physical body in this physical world.  As we do this we become more connected to our internal resources, the soil beneath our feet, the air we breathe and share, and more able to meet the welcome and unwelcome changes of life. Mindfulness increases our engagement in life and allows for a clearer understanding of how our experiences shape and impact our body, health, relationships and quality of life.  As we begin to bring this attitude of friendly curiosity to our experiences, the drama of our mind and heart can begin to calm and settle. Through this process we see how much of the stress in our life is caused by our over-reactions, misperceptions and our trying to control what happens in life.  When we see our self in this way compassion is a natural response. The compassion we experience is not just felt for our self. As we become more conscious our experience of the interrelatedness of life expands and our compassion effortlessly includes the suffering of others.

Mindfulness is inherent within our human nature; we can all become more mindful and grow in wise consciousness. The roots of mindfulness go back over 2,500 years and have their origin in the Buddhist tradition.  In the last 30 years mindfulness has come more into the mainstream through the work of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and others through the development of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programmes.  Jon Kabat-Zinn drew on Buddhist teachings and created secular practices to alieviate people’s physical and psychological suffering. The tools of mindfulness have now become integrated within medical, psychological, educational and scientific worlds.  NICE, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence has recommended mindfulness training as an effective method for preventing the recurrence of depression. 

I have been involved in working with mindfulness practices since 1997; through my own meditation practices, running mindfulness based groups and since 2006 working as a mindfulness-based psychotherapist.