We seem to be hearing a lot about mindfulness these days. And it is being touted as a way to manage everything from depression and anxiety, to chronic pain, and addictions such as alcohol, among others. We might have even heard of mindfulness being used in schools, prisons or in health care. Yes, there certainly seems to be a lot of mindfulness around!
So is this new? Well yes and no… Yes because the mindfulness we know in the West was introduced in the 1970s/1980s within health care to manage chronic pain by Jon Kabat Zinn. And no because mindfulness is one of the paths which make up the way in which Buddhists live their lives ethically.
The mindfulness that we are seeing around us, as eight week courses usually, is the secular version introduced by Jon Kabat Zinn. So you do not need to be interested in Buddhism, nor will you be converted and if you already have a faith then this will not interfere with your held belief system. Essentially this westernised version of mindfulness makes explicit to us how we create our own suffering with our wild minds. It is not about positive thinking, distraction or avoiding anything in our experience. Mindfulness is the deliberate intention to pay kindly attention to our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judgement. This paying attention is to do with looking at what is happening in the present moment rather than being caught up within it. I appreciate it sounds a bit cryptic or ambiguous-it really needs to be tried to be believed!
There are two ways in which we develop this kindly awareness and most of us will be aware of meditation but we can also bring this quality of attention in our everyday tasks such as brushing our teeth or doing the washing up. The eight week courses that I run include both these formal and informal practices alongside mindful movements which are a type of moving meditation.
You may be wondering how mindfulness meditation can do all these things that is claimed, and essentially through the practice of meditation and the informal practices you are changing the structure and function of your brain! Scientific research using brain scans shows that meditation has an influence on the emotional parts of the brain which leads to the calming effect we see not just immediately during and after a meditation but, with practice, sustained over time. The brains of people who meditate even for a few weeks shows changes in comparison to non-meditators, and meditators are demonstrably happier and less reactive to the stuff that life throws at us.
If you would like to attend an eight week course I have one commencing May 2017, please do not hesitate to contact me for further details or explore my website: www.counsellinginwrexham.co.uk
where you will also find details of the drop-in meditation groups I run if you didn’t feel you could commit to 8 weeks.