Mindfulness teaches us to direct our attention to what is happening right here, right now, with an attitude of kindness towards ourselves and our experience. This “being with” ourselves is in contrast with more habitual states of mind in which we are often preoccupied with memories, fantasies, worries or planning. Yet, the capacity to be present is innate to each one of us and can be deliberately cultivated, alongside our capacity for kindness.
Although we are often unaware of the current of our thinking, it has a profound effect on how we live our lives, as well on our mental and emotional health. Becoming aware of our habits of mind can thus profoundly effect our well being, our relationships, and our emotional resilience.
In the evidence-based 8-week MBSR/MBCT programme we learn the skills which support us in developing this quality of attention, and the capacity to come back, again and again, to this present moment, with patience and compassion. These 8-week programmes are not group therapy, although they can be healing, but are very practical, educational courses, teaching us to apply the art of mindfulness to our day to day lives.
What Mindfulness Is Not:
Mindfulness is not positive thinking
Mindfulness is not about having only good feelings. It does not help you to get rid of unwanted feelings, but to actually feel them. That is why it is often said that mindfulness is not for the fainthearted.
Our usual reaction to uncomfortable or distressing feelings is to push them away and try to get rid of them. This just does not work. “What we resist, persists.” With mindfulness we learn to turn towards the difficulties, challenges and pain in our lives with an attitude of allowing and kindness. This is a gentle process, not a forceful one, and it happens gradually as we build emotional strength and resilience. Resistance and avoidance require a lot of energy and when we let them go and allow ourselves and our experience to be as they are we find that we free up a lot of energy which can now go into seeing more clearly, making wiser choices and taking wiser action.
Mindfulness is not relaxation
Becoming more relaxed may be a welcome by-product of mindfulness practice, but it is not the aim. As we develop mindfulness we begin to see our lives, our behaviours and relationships more clearly and this is not always easy. That is why the attitude we bring to the practice is one of kindness, patience and self-compassion.
Research into Mindfulness-based Interventions:
There has been a sizable body of research carried out in the areas of MBSR & MBCT over the last 35 years which indicates that a regular mindfulness practice helps the body/ mind respond rather than react to stress, leaving valuable resources for taking care of our general health and well-being.
This research has, in the main, been carried out on the full 8-week programmes, the recommended programme length in both MBSR and MBCT. These courses are designed to follow a trajectory which requires 8 weeks to complete. Programmes lasting less than this are NOT MBSR or MBCT. MBSR/MBCT classes should be be at least 2 hours long. This means that the minimum number of class hours should be 16 hours. In addition in both MBSR and MBCT there is a full day’s silent practice, held somewhere between weeks 5 and 7. This day’s practice can last from 6 – 7.5 hours.
Extensive research into 8-week MBSR and/or MBCT courses has shown that developing mindfulness has a significant positive effect on:
- developing greater self awareness
- increasing ability to manage stress
- physical and psychological health,
- reducing anxiety and depression,
- reducing tension, anger and fatigue,
- enhancing relationships,
- increasing vitality
- aiding better sleep
- developing stronger immunity