Mindfulness/ Meditation: should be available on prescription was a headline which caught my eye (Tuesday 5.1.10 The Guardian). Meditation is a term which brings to mind Eastern religious images. It is a deceptively simple concept. Often in my trainings and therapy I start explaining it in words, then at some point say
“Oh just let me show you what I mean, sit comfortably, with your eyes open or closed…”
In the mindfulness sessions I started to run in Leicester, I noticed a wide variety of people attending, from social workers, nurses, lecturers to students form the local University. At times I would finish work, feeling exhausted, I would drag myself to deliver the session. Then something wonderful would happen. After a 40 minute session I would experience a sense of well-being (I hope the participants did too). There would be an opportunity to speak to some of the participants who wanted to share ideas and ask questions. By the time I made my way home I felt energised, refreshed and in a great mood.
Some people who have recovered from depression and anxiety worry about possible relapse of their problems. Research is showing Mindfulness based therapies can help prevent relapse. People learn skills to use themselves in times of pressure or when working too hard.
So what is it?
Modern therapy has begun to use a new way of dealing with thoughts- how we focus our attention. So here it is not what we think, but how we think and manage thoughts and feelings. ‘Mindfulness’ is one such area which is a technique for managing problematic thoughts and body sensations and exerting some power over how you attend to things. We can learn to use our attention in a ‘mindful’ way which can reduce anxiety and improve mood and lead to the belief that we have some skills to deal better with distress.
Mindfulness is based on the ability to focus on the present moment, with full participation in the experience, without passing judgement or evaluating about the experience. The process is so simple – yet so challenging. Keep your attention focused on the moment that you’re experiencing right now. Suspend your judgement about what you’re feeling or thinking. Simply observe what’s going on around you, in your mind, in your body without doing anything. Just allow yourself to be aware of what’s happening. Think of how different this process is to the on-going, constant commentary going on in our awareness of our modern everyday life.
The goal of mindfulness training is not to challenge or trying (consciously) to change the content of thoughts. Rather, it is about cultivating a different attitude or relationship to thoughts, feelings and sensations.
We can do this by getting in the present moment with a simple, accepting, welcoming ‘bare attention’.
I believe this is a process of relaxing the mind and body and may well increase our creativity. It is skill that can best be learnt when someone shows you how to do it. I will be re starting my mindfulness sessions in the near future.
Until then I wish you the best…and leave you with this thought:
“If you are rushing around a lot, you are probably not in a flow state”