WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?

“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when we pay attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally".


Jon Kabat-Zinn.

What Does that Mean in Plain English? 

The ability to focus the mind at will, in the present moment, rather than worrying about the past or the future or wishing that the present moment be different to what it is.  Being able to observe your experience, non- judgmentally with a kind and curious attitude.

 

That Sounds Pretty Simple, So What’s the Big Deal About Mindfulness? 

According to research, the average person spends 46.9% of their time lost in thoughts about what has already happened or worrying about what is going to happen.  At an extreme, this can make us feel depressed or anxious.  Mindfulness training helps you stay focused on the now, where peace and your power reside.

 

Where Did it Come From and Is it Religious? 

Mindfulness is an aspect of a number of ancient spiritual traditions. Most notably, it is associated with Buddhism and has been used for approximately 2,500 years as a means to alleviate human suffering.  In the West it is now taught without any reference to religion, is often combined with aspects of cognitive behavioural therapy and is backed-up by scientific research.

 

How Did it Come to the West? 

In the late 1970’s Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, a molecular biologist, working at a hospital at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre in the USA pioneered the integration of traditional Buddhist mindfulness meditation practices with mind-body medicine. 

 

He called the 8 week training programme ‘Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction’ and asked his colleagues in the medical field to scientifically measure the impact of the course on participants’ brains and bodies.

 

What’s the Evidence? 

The research findings were quite astonishing ranging from a drop in the stress hormone cortisol in the participants’ saliva, 50% faster healing rates from conditions such as psoriasis and changes in regions of the brain associated with improved working memory, positive mood and compassion.  These findings prompted further research and interest, which has grown exponentially over the decades.

 

Today, more than 50 mindfulness peer reviewed journals are published each month on the application of mindfulness and it is being used to improve the lives of people with an array of mental and physical challenges such as pain, cancer, eating disorders, insomnia and addictions.  (https://goamra.org/resources/reviewsmeta-analysis/link)

 

Why is Mindfulness So Popular Right Now?  It Seems to be Everywhere!

Apart from the scientific findings, the current explosion in interest in mindfulness is also partly due to a growing need to find ways to manage the pace of modern day living and the demands and distractions of modern technology.   

 

Our attention is being pulled in so many different directions all the time: towards our mobile phones, laptops, emails, social media, etc. This constant bombardment of information often leaves us feeling distracted, frazzled and exhausted.

 

What Mindfulness is Not?

Mindfulness is not therapy; we do not probe into your past to find the causes of your present difficulties, nor is it a talking therapy.  It is more akin to a form of brain training combined with a certain attitudinal stance.

 

Mindfulness isn’t a quick fix, it takes some weeks of consistent practise in order to begin to notice the benefits and if you want to maintain the benefits, then a daily practice needs to be established and maintained.

 

Mindfulness is not relaxation. Many people find it very relaxing but this is a side effect. The intention of mindfulness training is to keep your mind focused on your present moment experience and to bring an accepting, self-compassionate attitude to your experience, whether that experience is pleasant or unpleasant.

Next 6 Week Mindfulness course starts Thurs 19/04/18 - 6.15pm - 7.45pm at St. Andrew's Church, Mount Park Road, Ealing, London, W5 2RS.

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