Mindfulness as one of the approaches I elicit in therapy
“Most people these days are stressed out by the fast pace of life, economy, and worries about the future.
In a survey, conducted in the UK, a whopping 86% agreed that
“people would be much happier and healthier if they knew how to slow down and live in the moment” (Mental Health Foundation, 2010).
It is no wonder that mindfulness has rapidly gained attention in the popular press and is one of the few complementary medicine technicques to be offered in hospitals and clinics worldwide.
Definition of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present.
When you are mindful you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad.
Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to your current experience,
rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.
Mindfulness is the cultivation of your mindful awareness (John Kabbat-Zin).
Nine important attitudes in Mindfullness (by Jon Kabat Zin)
1. Beginner’s mind
This moment is always fresh or new – we have never been in this particular moment before.We can bring this attitude to each moment. To see things like as for the first time. An example is to see your children as they really are – not through your lenses or ideas about their outcome or opinions but really as they are. In the mind of the expert there are not many possibilities left but in the beginner’s mind there are endless possibilities – because we are come to it fresh.
2. Non-judgment / Non-judging
We do have ideas and opinions just about everything – that has the potential to turn out in judgement – our judgement is often black or white. It can become toxic as a unhealthy habit of the mind in the sense of not being able to see things just for what they are. With non-judging you don’t categorize your thoughts and feelings as good or bad, try to change them, or feel compelled to act on them. All feelings have a purpose, whether to protect you from danger or open you to love. You watch and accept whatever arises in consciousness with an open mind. You extend this non-judging attitude to other people and things.
3. Acceptance of things as they are
You don’t try to force or change reality to fit your vision of what should it be, feel like a victim, or bemoan the unfairness of life.
Instead, you try to see reality clearly and let it be as it is, knowing that you can tolerate whatever it is that comes up. You extend this acceptance to others, knowing they are the best judges of what is right for them.
4. Letting go
The opposite of clinging or grasping. Letting go means letting be – allow things to be as they are. A thing does not have to be the other way it actually is.
Trust is a wonderful attitude to cultivate. A good place to start is with ourselves and with our body. You need to come to trust the natural wisdom of your body – how beautifully your body supports your life. We tend to take our body for granted until something drastic happens. You need to trust your different senses: seeing; smelling; tasting; hearing; touching; etc. (Coming to our senses) We are trustworthy. The more we can learn to trust ourselves, the more we can learn to bring trust to our relationships to other people, nature and to various challenges we can face in life.
We can miss the importance of this moment due to our impatience. Recognition that things unfold in their own way. In some profound way things can not be hurried as it will happen in their own time – like a lot of containment is necessary in therapy. In life we are always rushing. Therefore we are never where we actually are...This is a tremendous loss. We are therefore impatient while to be patient can be healing.
7. Non striving
Non striving can also be seen as non doing – to simply be with the unfolding of life from moment to moment without any agenda whatsoever. It turns out that this is tremendously healing / restorative because we always have an agenda or on the way to become more or better. We have so many items on our to-do list therefore it is not easy to do. To realise whatever is already here is good enough. It does not mean that you will not doing anything at all – the contrary is true.
To bring gratitude to the moment. To be alive. We are taking such a lot of things for granted – especially when it come to our senses: to breath, to see, to work, the functioning of our organs.
How powerful it is to give yourself over to life. It gives joy to others. It enhances connectedness. You demonstrate that you care – that you give time and care to someone else than only yourself.
Important concepts in mindfulness
i. Focus on the present moment
When your thoughts get lost in thinking about the past or worrying about the future, you bring them back to what you are experiencing right now.You try to remain open to how things unfold in the present, rather than having preconceived ideas about how things will or should turn out.
Ii. Being fully present
You are spaceously aware of whatever you are experiencing in the present moment as you go through your daily life. What do you feel in your body? What are you seeing, hearing, doing – right now?
Richard Rohr skryf: “If you can’t be present right now, nothing new is ever going to happen to you...Consciousness comes from a wholehearted surrender to the moment.”
iii. Openess to Experience
Rather than dreading and shutting out your own feelings and experiences because you think you can’t handle them, you welcome with curiosity any thoughts and feelings that naturally arise, knowing they are merely sensations in the moment and the next moment can be different. You create mental spaciousness to contain these thoughts and feelings.
Thomas Merton writes: “A door opens in the center of our being, and we seem to fall through it into immense depths, which although they are infinite – are still accessible to us. All eternity seems to have became ours in this one placid and breathless contact.”
You feel connected to all living things and nature in being part of a larger whole. You reflect on and feel grateful for the cycle of life and the food, beauty, and protection that nature gives us. You know that all living beings want to feel happy and secure and avoid suffering and you feel connected by similarity of needs and experience.
You do not try to hold onto things, people, or experiences, knowing that life is in constant flow. Attachment comes from fear and is the basis of suffering. You learn to surf the wave of life, going with the flow and being confident in your own ability to adapt. When one door closes, another opens.
vi. Peace and Equanimity (calmness)
You maintain and even-keel, not going too swept up in life’s highs and lows. You know that life is a cycle and you can’t see the whole picture at any one moment. When things don’t go your way, you stay firmly rooted in your own clear vision and values. You walk with a peaceful heart and adopt a non-harming, non-violent attitude.
You deal gently, kindly, and patiently with yourself and others. Rather than judging, condemning, you open your heart to really listen and try to understand your own and other people’s experiences. You allow yourself to feel other people’s suffering. You love people not for what they can give you or because you need something form them, but because you connect and emphasize with their experiences.
The following positive effects of mindfulness have been researched:
Reduced rumination (a deep considered thought about something)
Boosts to working memory
Less emotional reactivity
More cognitive flexibility
Enhancing self-insight, morality, intuition and fear modulation (brain’s prefrontal lobe area)
Increased immune functioning
Positive effects on therapists and psychologists:
Decreased stress and anxiety
Better quality of life
Echart Tolle wrote: “Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment. Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life – and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”
“You can’t be mindfull and unhappy.”