What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is paying attention – on purpose and non-judgmentally – to what is happening right now, even if it’s difficult.
You’ll learn meditation on a mindfulness course, but mindfulness is a practice for the whole of life. It means finding a different way to respond to experience throughout the whole day.
Mindfulness is the art of being fully present with our lives as they unfold moment by moment. We can learn to let go of troubling thoughts and unhelpful states of mind, access a sense of calm and acceptance, and develop focus. We can learn to let go of being compulsively busy, preoccupied and anxious.
Mindfulness isn’t really something you ‘do’, it’s a natural way of being, and it becomes more a way of living. We all have this quality to some extent already. Although the practice is simple and natural, it takes training, and the results can be life-changing. This training can help with stress, pain, anxiety and depression.
What happens on the course?
The most popular way to learn mindfulness worldwide today is the eight week course. The modern secular mindfulness movement is booming with courses now being run in the NHS and other healthcare settings, corporate stress management, Parliaments and even military training.
This course is carefully structured to introduce you to meditation and mindfulness. Each week has a theme and introduces an aspect of mindfulness. The emphasis is practical – looking at how mindfulness helps in daily life. Over the weeks we explore how to develop mindfulness of our bodies, thoughts and feelings, and learn to notice how we respond to our experiences, including our difficulties.
The mindfulness practices we learn on the course are the body scan; mindfulness meditation focusing on the breath and body; mindful movement; and the breathing space – a short meditation to help us become centred and present in the midst of our activities.
Each session includes a period of mindful meditation or movement. Inquiry is another aspect of the course, involving dialogue between the teacher and participants using gentle questioning to explore our experience of the exercises in the sessions. There’s also time to explore how your practice has gone in the week and how it’s affecting your life, as well as hearing about others experiences. Working together in a group is an important and supportive part of the course. At the same time there is no requirement to share in front of the group.
This course requires regular daily practice for its eight week duration of at least 30 minutes a day. This is all part of the training in a new way of being. If you’re not able to make this commitment at this time, and if you know you’ll likely to miss two sessions or more, it’s better to wait until you can devote such time and therefore get the most benefit.
An all day session held in the second half of the course is optional though you are strongly encouraged to attend if you can as its a marvellous opportunity to deepen your practice and reap what you’ve sown. You’ll be led through all the practices on the course so far plus some new ones. The day is held in silence, including over lunch, until the last hour, when there’s a chance to share.
Who’s it for?
Mindfulness is for anyone ready to explore a new way of living. No prior knowledge is needed. Everything can be adapted to suit your needs and capacity, for example, you can sit on a chair, rather than meditation cushions, if you prefer. The course is secular and suitable for those of any religion or none.
This course can help people who want to work with a particular issue, such as depression or anxiety. Some people may want to learn how to cope better with stress. Some people simply want to learn to appreciate their lives more fully.
These courses are now backed up by over 30 years of scientific research. These studies demonstrate a long lasting reduction in stress and the consequent benefits in well being, and significant effects in many physical and mental health conditions.
A word of caution though – if you’re in the midst of very difficult mental health issues, this might not be the right time for you to do the course. Please contact me to discuss this.