What it is
We all know these moments, when we are fully immersed in the moment, such as when beholding a breath-taking sunset, listening to beautiful music, or having any other similarly intense experience. The mind goes quiet and we are all attention, as we taste the richness of the moment.
The present moment experience
To be mindful is to be fully aware of the present experience. It is all about awareness and living in the present moment. This suggests a kind of openness. Mindfulness is focused primarily on attention, being aware, but not in the way that we normally associate with ‘paying attention’ and ‘concentration,’ where you focus on one specific thing.
Increased intensity and awareness
Mindfulness is the art of being in the moment, in the here and now. Training mindfulness is a pathway to creating more intensity and awareness in life. The greater your ability to direct your attention, the better you will get at distancing yourself from distracting thoughts that keep circulating in your head. You will find it easier to concentrate, easier to relax. Your mind will settle down.
By practicing mindfulness, you will learn to make conscious choices instead of responding on autopilot. This will allow you to nip stress triggers in the bud and change how you deal with unhelpful thought patterns. It will create a higher state of awareness and better enable you to sense and safeguard your boundaries.
Why practice it
I am overwhelmed by the depth of the word ‘kindness’. Whenever an old pattern pops up, I think: “there it is again Karin
Numerous studies have shown that mindfulness increases quality of life and that it brings about positive change in our cognitive and neurobiological functioning. Mindfulness also transforms the way in which we view ourselves and the world, and how we respond to our surroundings. This kind of wide-ranging efficacy is what makes mindfulness such a valuable practice for so many people.
Some of the main effects of mindfulness training are:
- greater awareness of and insight into your thought patterns, responses, actions, emotions, and moods and an ability to choose to handle these differently when you need to
- the ability to step back from your problems and gain another perspective
- a greater sense of ease and you experience things more consciously and intensely
- the ability to tap into your innate, inner resources
Furthermore, the mindfulness training often also produces the following effects:
A greater ability to:
- deal with stressful events or times when things aren’t going the way you want them to go
- concentrate so that you can focus more and worry less
- set boundaries because of greater awareness
A decrease in:
- stress-related symptoms such as high blood pressure, digestive ailments and a weakened immune system
- sleep problems and general fatigue
- depression and anxiety
- (chronic) pain
- mental or emotional fallout, serious illness or other setbacks
About MBSR and MBCT
The foundations of mindfulness training were laid by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Working at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, he noticed that chronically ill patients, for whom no further medical options were available, were often left to their own devices. They would be told that they just had to ‘learn to live with’ their pain and their symptoms, although nobody could tell them how.
Kabat-Zinn is a molecular biologist by trade and has ample experience in meditation and yoga. Using knowledge from these three domains, he developed a program to empower patients to take their health into their own hands and change their experience of it. His approach revolves around the idea of developing the quality of attention.
He called this program Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Over the years, MBSR has proven its worth as the most complete mindfulness training program for everyone, not only for patients.
Later, a cognitive psychologist called Zindel Segal teamed up with Mark Williams and John Teasdale to develop a variation on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction that included elements of cognitive behavioural therapy: Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). This form of mindfulness training is intended for people with a history of depression, helping them prevent a relapse by giving them mindfulness as a tool to manage their condition. Certain elements of this program are focused specifically on depression. However, MBCT only differs from MBSR on a very small number of elements.
The Dutch context
In the Netherlands, we generally use the overarching concept of ‘mindfulness training’ for a training that integrates aspects of mindfulness-based courses. This is because MBCT is considered as adding several elements that are highly valuable for the general public. As a result, most Dutch mindfulness teachers offer MBSR which includes several elements of MBCT.
How to train it
Mindfulness is a skill you can practice and hone. And that is where mindfulness training comes in. The American architect of mindfulness training, Jon Kabat-Zinn, harnessed Western psychological insights into an eight-week mindfulness program that has been around for 40 years now, and which has proven to be effective, as shown by numerous scientific studies.
Who it is for
Mindfulness training is suited for anyone who is ready to invest in improving the quality of their life, who aspires to live and experience life more intensely, who wants to enjoy more, and more intensely, and who is willing to take a different stance in relationship to their thoughts and behavioral patterns. And it is for anyone who wants to learn to take a different approach to turbulence in their life.
Any adult, regardless of age, regardless of physical ability, with or without health issues, is welcome and can take reap benefits from the training. In the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn the architect of the mindfulness training: ‘I have never met anyone who would not benefit from mindfulness in his life.’
And you will especially benefit if you:
- often feel that your calendar is more in control of your life than you are.
- want to better cope with your busy life.
- long for more moments of enjoyment, rest, and reflection/silence.
- want to worry less.
- are physically affected by tension or stress.
- would like to deal better with difficult emotions.
- want to recharge your energy levels faster.
I took the training hoping I would learn to change myself. Instead, I learned to accept myself. That’s something entirely different… …and this created a much greater change. Christina