Thank you for being curious about my Mindfulness page.
Definitions of Mindfulness
The most commonly used definition is one by Jon Kabat-Zinn who was the inspiration for the mindfulness based therapies-MBT’s (for example Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy MBCT) that are now available in the UK.
‘Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. Mindfulness is used in the service of self-understanding and wisdom’. Jon Kabat-Zinn
Living in the 21st century is full-on; we are exposed, via social media to pressures about how we should think, look, and behave. News stories are often negative, showing us the impact of war and poverty in people’s lives. Not only can this make us feel depressed it can lead to a sense of helplessness, or insecurity, and lacking self-belief or confidence.
We cannot control most of what is happening in the world, but we can control ourselves. We can learn to focus on what we want from life, how to be the best version of ourselves. Mindfulness helps us to be in the present moment, and able to observe these other things without becoming emotionally vulnerable or caught up in catastrophising. We can learn to care and be compassionate in a more useful way. Meditation is one of the tools that enables this change.
Buddhism has been practiced in many forms for over 2,500 years. Mindfulness represents only a small aspect of Buddhism. It is linked to the relief of suffering.
Buddha teaches of the ‘Two Arrows of suffering’. The first arrow is true suffering, as might be felt when a loved one dies. The emotions and suffering directly related to this are appropriate and often felt intensely. However, there is a tendency to think or analyse the first arrow. Typically, we might think – ‘why me?’ or ‘that’s not fair’. The emotions brought about by thoughts are referred to as the second arrow. This suffering we bring upon ourselves.
The practice of Mindfulness, learning to be present rather than lost in thinking enables us to be less reactive to thoughts and emotions and therefore to suffer less.
Many counsellors are now offering mindfulness. There is scientific evidence supporting its use with anxiety. The area of the brain called the amygdala, warns us of danger and leads to our bodies preparing for danger. When we have thoughts about doing something wrong, or something bad happening the amygdala reacts in the same way, as if there is danger. This is felt as anxiety. Meditation can alter this response by helping us to recognise thoughts are not facts. Grounding techniques used in trauma work, can also calm down our danger response. I use trauma informed mindfulness in my work.
The attitudes of mindfulness which develop with meditation also facilitate personal growth and acceptance.
Being in the present moment, rather than lost in thought can promote logical, timely decision making, and avoid reactive frustration or annoyance.
Counsellors who offer mindfulness should be trained appropriately and have their own mindfulness practice.
Emma Dunn is a psychotherapist & counsellor in Rastrick, Brighouse, West Yorkshire. She treats those with depression, anxiety, stress, unhelpful eating habits & existential angst & also runs a variety of mindfulness courses.