I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
We all have the ability to rest our attention on something. Mindfulness extends this ability and deepens it. As our concentration grows the mind naturally begins to calm and with a calm, steady mind we can see more clearly, experience more deeply, who we really are and how the world is around us. Seeing more clearly we begin to make better, saner, choices for ourselves and others.
However, just to be clear, mindfulness is not about learning to relax nor a way to make ourselves do something we don’t really want to. It’s not about staying in control or perfecting our performance. Neither is it a way to be always happy by pushing away pain. And it is not a quick and easy fix.
Rather being present with everything within us, allowing what ever happens to come and go, leads to a place of stillness without fear. A place where we can wisely meet the entirety of who we are with kindness and compassion. Mindfulness ultimately is about waking up.
Breathing in I notice I am breathing in.
Breathing out I notice I am breathing out.
The Buddha, Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta
Originating in the psychology of Buddhism, a meditation tradition almost two and a half thousand years old, mindfulness meditation can be learnt and practised by anyone, whatever their background, age or personal beliefs. Mindfulness enables our human capacity to live a more meaningful, balanced and contented life.
In recent years many secular forms of mindfulness have been developed by members of the health care professions. The two main approaches are Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), both contribute towards our ‘Eight Week Mindfulness Course’ and its follow ups, ‘Deepening Mindfulness’.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
In the late seventies Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical School to help people with a wide range of physical and mental health problems including depression, anxiety and chronic physical pain. Many thousands of people have since completed the Eight Week MBSR programme, an intensive experiential training in mindfulness meditation that enables us to respond more effectively to emotional and physical stress.
MBSR is now taught world wide in clinics and hospitals to staff, medical students and patients alike, and also in prisons, businesses and corporations, legal practices, schools, universities, and government agencies. Evidence based research shows MBSR to be effective in helping a wide range stress related mental and physical illnesses and in supporting self-care.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
Adapting the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dr John Teasdale, Professor Mark Williams and Professor Zindel Segal have since created Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for the treatment of depression. This approach aims to help those of us liable to depression to recognise patterns of thought that make us vulnerable to depressive relapse. MBCT does this by encouraging a mindful awareness that enables us to consciously recognise destructive patterns of thought, such as ruminating, generalising and catastrophising, and do something different.
This different way of relating to our experience, recognising thought patterns while not pushing feelings away, offers a new way to be with our self without fear and with some real choices. MBCT is now recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a treatment of choice for people who have suffered three or more episodes of depression.
Meditation cultivates loving-kindness and compassion… It gives us a way to move closer to our thoughts and emotions and to get in touch with our bodies. It is a method of cultivating unconditional friendliness toward ourselves and for parting the curtain of indifference that distances us from the suffering of others. It is our vehicle for learning to be a truly loving person.