09 March, 2015

What is Mindfulness?

If you’re not focusing on your current experience and you’re not really in touch with the “here and now, this way of operating if often referred to as automatic pilot mode. Mindfulness is the opposite to the automatic pilot mode and it is about experiencing the world that is firmly in the “here and now”. Mindfulness is referred to as the being mode. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and co-founder of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therary (MBCT), defines Mindfulness as: “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgementally.”

What are the benefits of Mindfulness?

By learning to be in “mindful” mode old, unhelpful and automatic thinking habits die off through a lack of attention. What you focus on grows. Mindfulness practise helps develop a “Mindfulness Muscle” in the same way as you build any muscle through exercise. As this Mindfulness Muscle develops it places you in a better position to break free of or not “buy into” these unhelpful thinking habits, that are causing distress and preventing positive thinking.

How do we practice Mindfulness?

There are two parts of Mindfulness practise. Formal and informal practice. Formal practice involves taking time to do some form of meditation. Informal practice is where you bring Mindfulness into as many of your daily activities as possible.

What are the Core Features of Mindfulness?

The core features of Mindfulness are as follows:

1. Observing: The first major element of minfulness involves observing your experience in a manner that is more direct and sensual (sensing mode), rather than being analytical (thinking mode). Mindfulness thus aims to shift one’s focus of attention away from thinking to simply observing thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations (eg. sight, sound, feeling, taste, smell) with a kind and gentle curiosity. Describing: This aspect of mindfulness relates to noticing the very fine details of what you are observing.

2. Participating Fully: An aim of mindfulness is to allow yourself to consider the whole of your experience, without excluding anything.

3. Being Non-Judgemental: It is important to adopt an accepting stance towards your experience. A significant reason for prolonged emotional distress relates to attempts to avoid or control your experience. Bringing a kind and gentle curiosity to one’s experience is one way of adopting a non-judgemental stance.

4. Focusing on One Thing at a Time: The art of “being present” is to develop the skill of noticing when you have drifted away from the observing and sensing mode, into thinking mode. When this happens it is not a mistake, after all minds are made to think. So, simply acknowledge it has happened without judgement, and then gently return to observing your experience.

Is Mindfulness Suitable for Everybody?

Mindfulness is not always the answer. There are some contra-indications and some cautions to be aware of in the use of Mindfulness.