About mindfulness and meditation
What is mindfulness?
Often our minds are not really “with” us – they are remembering, regretting, planning, analysing, wishing for….…in the past or future….missing the present moment.
Mindfulness can be seen as a state of mind or a mental skill which is an antidote to the above. Simply, it is:
Full awareness and acceptance of the present moment experience.
Kabat- Zinn (1998), a pioneer of mindfulness based therapeutic approaches in the West, describes mindfulness as “paying attention, without judgement, to the experience of the present moment”.
Guidelines for practice
- Do not try hard! As best you can, let go of achieving anything or expecting anything particular. Approach with curiosity, with playfulness, with an open mind as far as possible. Approach yourself with kindness and compassion.
- Approach with the intent to stay right where you are, with whatever is there for you in the moment. Allow your experience to be as it is, without attempting to alter it’s nature, without reacting against it. Mindfulness is not a relaxation not a technique. Relaxation may be a by product, but in this practice ,we are not trying to change how we feel….
- Intend to direct your full awareness or attention to one aspect of the present
- Observe, describe. Try to see- but not evaluate or analyse. Take input from the senses as acutely as possible in the attempt to see the ‘reality’ of one’s situation and internal processes
- Non-judgment: trying not to evaluate experience as either good or bad. Try to catch yourself thinking, or judging, or feeling (shoulds, should nots, good, bad, nice, irritating) and move back to simply observing, describing…
- Decentering (defusing, detaching): Observe your experience (thoughts, emotions, and sensations) without reacting to them.
These forms of meditation are not suitable for those who have experienced psychosis or who are currently experiencing deep depression. If in doubt about this practice, please see a counsellor.
If you begin to feel “lost” or extremely uncomfortable during the practice- bring yourself out of it. Open your eyes, move your body, reconnect with the physical world around you…
Senses and breath
When we practise mindfulness, we become more and more familiar with our mind, and in particular we learn to recognise the movement of the mind, which we experience as thoughts. Living in the past or in the future is our habit. We almost forget to live in the present moment.
- As you start the practice, you have a sense of your body and you begin to notice the breathing.
- Making use of our senses through seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching we explore what is being experienced in the moment.
In this practice, the intention is simply to “drop into” your body and experience fully what is there.
- Let go of expectations, of notions of success and failure, or “doing it well”! This is not a relaxation exercise, nor is there any state to be achieved, no competition…there is no need to try to influence what is happening…
- Regardless of what happens - discomfort, busy mind, lose concentration, feel bored- just do it! Let your experience of the moment be just that…
- If your mind wanders a lot, note the thoughts as thoughts, and bring your attention gently but firmly back to the body sensations.
- Approach with the attitude “Ok, so that’s how I am right now”. Accept, and observe changes from moment to moment.
Thoughts and feelings
In this practice, we continue to observe: we watch the activity of our minds, seeing the passing thoughts as “mental events”, rather than as very true or even very important!
- We observe the emotional charge and physical changes that come with some thoughts.
- We note, describe, and move on to the next moment... "there’s my heartbeat", "there’s a fear or emotion", "there's a worrying kind of thought" ...then gently lead ourselves back to the breath.
- We become aware of the part of ourselves that knows when we are stressed, or angry, or excited or worried...we use the non judging observer in us and learn to recognise our own habits and patterns of mind, body and emotion.
One type of mindfulness meditation is mindful breathing, where we are allow the attention to settle in one place, on the sensations of breathing. The aim of this meditation is not to focus on the breath, and to block everything else out, but rather to use breathing as a point to bring our attention back to when we notice that it has drifted away.
- When you notice your mind has wandered, acknowledge where it has gone, and gently bring your attention back to the breath.
- Try not to judge where your mind has gone, or berate yourself for losing focus. Instead, remember that it’s normal for minds to wander, and use it as an opportunity to practice focusing your attention again.
This is a directed meditation that invites us to cultivate a warmth, care, friendliness and kindness towards ourselves and others. It is a practice that helps heal emotional pain, supports our ability to tolerate suffering, and dismantle the hard walls or defences we create. This meditation is an antidote to the critic or judge that appears when we are clear sighted and observing ourselves through mindful meditation.
You are invited to listen to the “Introduction to Loving kindness” download before you move into the practice.
The three minute space
This meditation is a great way to break the “automatic pilot” we run on, and to come fully into our present moment: “what is my experience right now?”. The practice means we can “drop into” ourselves throughout our days, and with an awareness of our current condition, can make some wise choices and responses.
If you'd like more support, come along to one of our workshops or make an appointment for individual counselling.