What is mindfulness, and how does it work?

In this article we will take a look at what mindfulness is and how you can incorporate it into your daily life. You have probably heard a bit about mindfulness in the last few years. The concept has appeared in all manner of industries, it seems that the possible applications for mindfulness are unlimited. From the mundane to the most exhilarating activities , if you can think of it you can do it mindfully.

It has been touted as a cure all, a panacea for our modern age, but is it all that its cracked up to be? Can practising mindfulness help you with your stress, your anxiety and your relationship problems? Mindfulness is by no means a quick fix but it does have some impressive and rewarding capabilities.

The following is a short guide to help you navigate the over saturated world of mindfulness. Mindfulness in its true essence originated out of Buddhist meditation and is a complex spiritual discipline. Many of the techniques and guidelines that are suggested in a western psycho-therapeutic context have been borrowed and adapted. Psychology in particular has adopted many spiritual practices in the last 30 years, and there are many scientific studies that support the use of such spiritual practices as mindfulness and meditation, particularly depression and anxiety.

The basic premise to understand in the pursuit of a mindful life

  • Its about slowing down and paying attention
  • Its about breathing, feeling, sensation and connection.
  • Witnessing your thoughts as if they are not your own but a constant projection like a movie streaming from your mind.
  • Its about allowing these thoughts to happen.
  • Purposely bringing your attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, without judgement.
  • Its about allowing these thoughts and experiences to move on.
  • Finding agency in surrender.
  • Its about fostering a inner sense of quietness.
  • Its not a product you can buy.
  • Mindfulness is a discipline rather than a destination.

Mindfulness is really a way of life or a way of living consciously. The practice is an ongoing work in progress , its not really something you attain and then have. Even the monk who dedicates his or her life to meditation rarely ever “gets there”. Starting with the correct mindset is crucial. If you have predetermined expectations of mindfulness, you might be disappointed. Starting with little or no expectation and practicing non-judgement where possible will be really helpful. In the beginning this is pretty difficult, the mind races, the inner critic or the part of you that judges might become more authoritative, intense or fearful. To support the process especially in the beginning, I suggest being a witness to this rather than a participant. What I mean by that is applying a sense of curiosity to what comes up, allowing it to be there, and simply observe it.

The experience of connection is the tangibility of mindfulness

Mindfulness rewards you with an authentic and resolved relationship with self. Once we have a good relationship with ourselves we are able to have better relationships with others. The experience of connection is the tangibility of mindfulness. Connection to self, to others, and to nature. Life is much more pleasant to live when we are aware of our connections. The sense of connection that I speak of here is related to being in the present moment, a fundamental tenant of mindfulness.

One of the easiest ways to experience this present moment is to tune your attention to your body. Having a mindful shower is a great way practice this. Start by tuning your attention to the sound of the water, the sensation of the water on your skin, the temperature of the water, your breath, your muscles slowly relaxing. Simply pay attention to the sensations of having a shower. The shower is a great place to practice mindfulness, its hard to be anywhere else when you have a shower, it really brings you to the present moment.

I use mindfulness training in my practice because its really effective and empowering for my clients. I often see difficult emotions and anxiety made much easier to deal with when mindfulness is practiced. Communication is improved by slowing down and paying attention to whats going on inside. Mindfulness teaches us a lot about ourselves, and that’s a great addition to any therapy. My experience has shown me that practicing mindfulness between therapy sessions is a wonderful addition. The benefits include better integration of the therapy, reduced stress and an increase in self knowledge. Mindfulness provides support for your process and goals. The best thing is you can take it with you and use it long after you finish therapy.

mindfulness meditation

How can I build a strong foundation of awareness and presence? The following is a short yet effective mediation for recognising the present moment.

  • Find a quiet place.
  • Sit or lie down , make yourself comfortable.
  • Breathe , deeply and slowly.
  • Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
  • Focus on your breath.
  • Pay attention to just this.
  • Notice the sound, the feeling and the movement associated with each breath.
  • Continue for several minutes, allowing you to enter more deeply into a relaxed state.
  • Gently pay attention to any thoughts or sensations that arise in this state.
  • Simply watch them, and notice that you are watching these thoughts.
  • Become aware of this aspect of attention, that you are attending to yourself, you are watching, not passively but actively. You decide not to attach to them, you decide not to judge them. You simply let them be.
  • If at any stage you feel attached to a thought just go back to paying attention to the breath and repeat the steps.

This meditation can be practised for as long and as often as you like. I recommend making this daily practice. Entering into this state of mindful stillness, even for just a few minutes is wonderfully restorative.

If you are interested in discussing how mindfulness training can benefit you or you would like to book an appointment contact me here.