Why Practice Mindfulness?
Most people assume mindfulness is about relaxing or emptying the mind of thoughts. While both these things may happen, it is not the intention or goal, but rather to build a 'mind muscle' that enables you to put your focus where you want it at any given time.
You might be wondering what the 'big deal' is about being able to do that. Being present in the moment we are in, is a skill we had more as children but lost as we became adults with the pressures and responsibilities of our lives. If we can be in the moment, even for a few seconds at a time, we can unlock from our habitual negative or anxious thoughts and we can therefore learn to notice when we are becoming low or anxious and take action sooner. If we are able to see our thoughts as 'just thoughts' this will free us from the grip of anxiety or depression and generally make us less reactive and more responsive. We will have time to consider our choice of response and by doing so we will make more rational decisions and not become overwhelmed and driven by our emotions.
Many of us live our lives on 'automatic pilot', not fully in the present moment. Have you ever driven your car and been so engrossed in thoughts that you cannot remember the journey? I know I have!
Mindfulness is generally taught over an 8 week programme and is a personal commitment to doing the practice daily, sometimes twice daily. It is not a good idea to practice at a time when you are experiencing a relapse of depression so do talk to a mindfulness practitioner before you decide to start in order to make sure you are suitable for the course at the present time.
It was originally created by Jon Kabat-Zin to help those suffering from chronic physical pain. Physical pain and/or depression can also be helped with this approach and the techniques for both overlap.
The techniques have been extrapolated from Buddhist practice but are not taught in any religious context.
Many of the exercises can be done without any special equipment and some without anyone knowing you are doing them!
Mindfulness is not clearing your mind but simply becoming aware of what is there in the present moment.
If you practice mindfulness regularly, you will see the world from a clearer, calmer viewpoint.
You can begin in many ways and do not have to spend a long time meditating to get benefits, but you do need to practice with some consistency.
'At the end of your life
If you were not present
Where were you?'