Mindfulness is often defined as “paying attention on purpose moment by moment without judging” ( from Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat Zinn, a world authority on the use of mindfulness training in the management of clinical, mental and emotional problems). This means developing the ability to pay deliberate attention to your experience from moment to moment. With practice you can learn to tune into what is going on in your mind, emotions and body day to day without judging your experience.
How Mindfulness Impacts on Your Life and Your Health:
Mindfulness is a skill and practice that is increasingly recognized as an effective way of improving our lives and our health:
It improves the quality of your life by freeing it from the harsh dictates of the human mind. Becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings and body sensations may not sound like an obviously helpful thing to do, however, learning to do this in a way that suspends judgement and the resulting self criticism can have surprising results. Many people report finding inner strengths and resources that help them make wiser decisions about their health and life in general. Most of us find ourselves frequently ‘swept away’ by the current of thoughts and feelings, worries, pressures, responsibilities and the desire for things to be different from how they are right now. This can be particularly powerful when we are faced with pain, difficulties and illness that confound our attempts to find a solution or to feel better. Feeling stuck in this way can be draining. Mindfulness can help us to work directly with the struggle we sometimes have in relating to life’s experience and in doing so can really improve the quality of our life. Most emotions are your body’s reaction to your mind’s self talk and chatter. Mindfulness helps you free yourself from your mind and rise above thought.
It helps with pain management and reduction. If you really narrow your focus to pain or any other unpleasant body sensation, it quickly gets worse. When you have pain in your body, all sorts of thoughts go through your mind.Mindfulness meets them openheartedly and openmindedly without making a big deal of them. We can make space for an attitude of honoring things completely and at the same time not making them into too much of a big deal. It’s a paradoxical idea, but holding these two attitudes at the same time is the source of enormous relief and joy. We hold a sense of respect toward all things, along with the ability to let go. It’s not about belittling things, but on the other hand not fanning the fire until you have your own inner war of nerves. In addition to mindfulness I incorporate EFT/Tapping to deal even more effectively with pain. Once the mental and emotional aspects are handled, acupressure and trigger point therapy may or may not be needed as well. Often the pain is reduced to a manageable level without the need for any physical treatment.
Relieving Stress. In my work as a Health and Life Coach, the biggest stumbling block that I have noticed my clients run into is stress. Mindfulness is one way of managing stress. Mindfulness based approaches are intended to teach people practical skills that can help with physical and psychological health problems and ongoing life challenges. The approach is an integration of meditation, the philosophy of mindfulness ( being inwardly aware and living in the present moment) with current psychological understanding and knowledge. It is taught in an entirely secular way and has no religious context at all. It is a skill that can to be practiced by anyone and like prayer can be used by anyone of any religion. It helps us accessing our existing inner understanding. It is a skill that brings our attention to the breath and the body during stillness and movement. The two main approaches that have been developed in recent years are Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction(MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy(MBCT). There is also Core Mindfulness for borderline personality disorder. Many other types of therapy are starting to include mindfulness techniques. EFT/Tapping is in a similar way going mainstream as far a therapy is concerned. For the everyday member of the public, it is a way of developing more peace, focus and results in less stress.Mindfulness reminds us to see life life from the point of view that everything is spontaneously arising and that things aren’t “coming at you” or “trying to attack you” in any given moment. It teaches you to give yourself more space and room to relax into. Your stomach, which may tend to be in a knot, can just relax. Your tense neck can relax. Your mind can stop spinning and relax and be open and still. You let your thoughts go and perceive what is there after you have let go. It opens up a boundryless dimension of being which is characterized by awareness, letting go and flowing with the current of life. It helps you reduce or end your ‘life drama’.Dwelling in a place of silence, space and listening is stress relieving indeed. This assists us in our relationships on all levels as we are much less hot headed and reactive.
Beat Addictions and Develop Positive Habits. You will find on the internet a lot of courses and programs that tackle beating addictions using mindfulness. These range from quitting smoking, drinking, drug taking, various eating disorders to weight loss. You may have noticed that I offer similar programs. It seems that some aspects of mindfulness are used in most of these programs. That is a great idea, because mindfulness works, whether you are trying to stop bad habits and/or cultivate new healthy habits or deal with stress. I also consider biochemical balancing using nutrition , superfoods, supplements, minerals, fats, enzymes, detoxification techniques like massage, reflexology, shiatsu, kinesiology and exercise plus EFT/Tapping, mindfullness, NLP, CBT, coaching and bach flower remedies to deal with the mental and emotional factors that often block us from making changes. I am not saying that everyone needs all of these. They are some of my favorite techniques. I consider them all as old friends when it comes to making successful change in a persons life.
If you go onto utube you will find numerous presentations where mindfulness is being promoted to control/heal cardiac problems, high blood pressure, PMT and hot flushes, overcome depression, enhance emotional intelligence, strengthen the immune system, slow aging down, enhance studying, focus and concentration, control weight and a lot of other medical problems. Mindfulness is also popular in the corporate world as it helps stress management and productivity for those in business.
I will end this blog by looking at mindfulness and breath. In my next mindfulness blog I will go into mindfulness walking, mindfulness and observing your thoughts and mindfulness and being present with your emotions. I will also give tips on common hurdles that come up in daily practice.
Mindfulness and your breath:
Tune into your body right now. What can you sense? Are you relaxed and tension free? Is there heaviness or discomfort? Take a few long, slow deep breaths and check your body again. How does it feel now? Those few deep breaths may have made a really noticeable difference to the way you feel. A few deep breaths can make you feel lighter, calmer and more grounded. Learning to regulate your breathing consciously is a valuable skill to learn. Breathing brings more oxygen into the body and expels waste CO2 on the outbreath. Taking control of your breathing rate and depth allows you to stimulate the body’s brakes- the parasympathetic nervous system. This puts the body into repair mode which is necessary for healing. Breath raises life force in the body. Movement of energy through us is registered as feelings. Breath rate and depth provide us a thermostat for controlling emotional intensity. Some of my clients have told me that they stressed in their lives. When I have asked them to deepen and slow their breathing, they have noticed tension and emotional upset in their bodies. When I have asked them to keep breathing like this while feeling the tension in their bodies, the tension releases. Because emotions are such a powerful source of insight and wisdom, not breathing deeply and slowly prevents us from accessing them fully. On the one hand this is useful if those emotions are unpleasant. On the other hand, if we are committed to total health and want to grow in awareness, then we need to make contact with them in order to receive the message that they hold for us. A technique called focusing can be included here to go deeper into what is emerging. It is a simple process of noticing how your body feels about something and then listening to what your body wisdom has to say to you. Entering into a caring relationship with your feelings and accepting them as they are, the doors of change and insight open and relief from tension follows.
Sitting down to a 10-20 minute session of mindfulness once a day will reduce your overall stress levels. If you are in the middle of great stress in your life, you may benefit from two or three sessions of mindfulness sitting per day. It is very helpful if you are sick or detoxifying, or going through work, family or personal crisis of some kind.