Mindfulness is the rather new version of meditation, which is an age-old practise of taking control of ‘the chattering monkey’ of our mind.
Human brains have changed very little since primitive times, and in those earlier times life was in many ways simpler. Things were more immediate, choices were fewer, danger was more apparent and tangible. Over the millennia our world has changed, and in the recent 100 hundred years or so it has changed at an incredible speed. We move more and faster using many different forms of transport. We communicate constantly. Our waking hours are no longer governed by daylight and so, frequently we do not get sufficient rest, and our brains have not adapted to these new and constant demands – they are overworked!
As children we are taught to recognise and respond to many of our physical needs, when we need a wee or poo we heed the signal and go to the toilet, when we are hungry or thirsty we eat and drink, when we are tired we know we need to sleep. We have not been taught, traditionally to tune into our emotional state, whether we are calm, relaxed, tense, stressed or frightened, in fact to admit to some of these states has been considered weak, and it is this lack of awareness and ability to respond to the needs arising of out the difficult states of mind that we find ourselves in, that has caused the huge rise in unhappiness and stress related.
Many of us feel that we are victim to the thoughts that we think and engage in, it can feel that once the thought is there we have no choice but to give it the time and energy it is demanding and that can be exhausting and very unhelpful if the thought is one of fear, anxiety, irrationality or obsession. That is where learning how to take control of our thoughts is so very useful and mindfulness is a great technique to master.
I work as a hypno/psychotherapist, so with the very area of the mind which benefits from mindfulness, which is why I encourage clients to learn and practise mindfulness daily, in addition to using the therapeutic hypnosis I provide specifically for their ‘problem’ areas. Developing the skill of mindfulness is empowering, it allows us to understand that rather than being
victim to our thoughts we can be master of them. We can bring a halt to unhelpful thinking, live entirely in the present, be it for a minute or an hour and then chose what thoughts we engage with in emerging into the lived experience of the day.
So what is it? It is keeping our awareness and thoughts in the present moment and only in that moment, not venturing back into memory or future but ‘being’ in the moment, aware only of what that moment holds, so very much a feeling based awareness. How are we feeling in this very moment, how does our body feel, comfortable, uncomfortable, warm, cold, noticing our feet, our breathing, how our body feels where it is in contact with whatever we may be sitting or lying upon… all without any judgement on these awarenesses.
This sounds simple but actually can be very challenging! Often we find our mind has wondered off into other thoughts, dinner, our to do list, relationships, worries… If and when that happens simply, kindly, as if taking a small child by the hand we can return our thoughts to the present. This simple concept, though it may be initially difficult to achieve for any length of time is the beginning of our ownership and control of our thought processes so that we can give this amazing mind of ours ‘time off’ time to chill, relax, reboot, refresh. I sometime think the way we use our minds is comparable to sitting with the car engine running, one foot full down on the clutch and also full down on the accelerator – a sure way to burn out!
“Mindfulness is the easy way to gently let go of stress and be in the moment. It has fast become the slow way to manage the modern world – without chanting or finding hours of special time to meditate”
Dr Patrizia Collard, The Little Book of Mindfulness
“Mindfulness is fast becoming the most popular method to alleviate anxiety, stress and even depression. Above all, it helps you feel more fully alive…”
Michael Chahaskalson, Mindfulness is Eight Weeks
“Mindfulness is a way of exercising your ability to pay attention: when you can bring focus to something, the critical thoughts quieten down. We’re told, especially as children, to pay attention, but we have no instructions on how exactly to go about it.”
Ruby Wax, Frazzled
“Mindfulness, a simple yet powerful way of paying attention to your most difficult emotions and life experiences, can help you break the cycle of chronic unhappiness once and for all.”
Williams, Teasdale, Segal & Zabat-Zinn, The Mindful Way through Depression