Mindfulness meditation is about practising paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally. Jon Kabat-Zinn
Explaining Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness means being aware of what you are doing, when you are doing it – being in the present moment.
Often we are not actually mentally present in what we are doing. Recent research from Harvard University has suggested that we may not be present 47% of the time! As you sit here reading this website you may find that your mind drifts away from what you are reading and starts thinking about something else.
Throughout the day your concentration can very easily drift away from what you are doing and so mentally you are no longer present. You can easily become preoccupied with your thoughts about the past and the future so that your experience of the present moment is dulled – you miss out on what is happening to you in the moment.
Mindfulness is about being present both mentally and physically with the activity in which you are engaged.
Mindfulness meditation involves practising being in the moment – it gives you the opportunity to ’wake up’ to the present.
There are both formal and informal meditation practices:
- Formal practice involves coming to a time of stillness and focusing your attention on some aspect of the present moment for example – your breath, the sensations present in your body, feelings, sounds and thoughts. Practice can also focus on the movement of your body through mindful stretching and mindful walking. Guided meditations are available for formal practice.
- Informal practice involves bringing your focus to the activities of daily life – drinking a cup of tea, having a shower, walking the dog.
During meditation you are invited to adopt a non-judgemental, patient and kindly attitude towards whatever arises during the meditation. This is an important aspect of mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness Meditation offers you a time of stillness where you can learn about your thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations which in the normal hurry of life you may be unaware of. Letting go of judgement, sitting with patience and allowing your experience to unfold moment by moment, allowing yourself to be just as you are.
Why Should I Meditate?
People who have developed a daily meditation practice often report that they experience reduced anxiety, increased levels of energy, greater clarity, a greater awareness of pleasant events, and an improved ability to cope in difficult situations.
As you move through life you will inevitably experience problems – you get ill, friends and relatives will come and go, you may have financial problems, relationship difficulties or difficulties at work to name but a few problems that may avail you. These can cause you to feel stress. Your thoughts and emotions about these external events can further add to the level of stress you experience.
As your level of stress rises you may experience problems such as muscle tension causing headaches and backache, difficulties sleeping, chronic anxiety, high blood pressure and digestive problems as well as a compromised immune system.
To add to this your way of dealing with chronic levels of stress may be harmful. You may overeat, overwork, over worry, drink too much caffeine or alcohol or take drugs in order to try and cope with the situation. Sooner or later the accumulated effects of stress can lead to a breakdown of one form or another – exhaustion, burnout, physical illness or recurrent anxiety or depression.
Meditation can help you to cope with the stressors you have in your life more effectively. Living in the present moment can deepen your everyday experiences making life richer and more enjoyable. Mindfulness can help you to see things more clearly so that you act in ways that support a better level of health and wellbeing. It has much to offer people looking for more meaning in their life and their relationships.
Today the study of the brain, neuroscience, is supporting the observations that have been made for many centuries that meditation can help our health and feeling of well-being.
Comments from people who support themselves with a meditation practice.
One of the exciting things about meditation is that whatever difficulty or range of difficulties you may be facing at the moment meditation will enable you to cope more effectively. Meditation practice is not problem specific and you are encouraged to let go of how it will help you and just do it. Then you can see for yourself if you are coping better and enjoying life more.
- ‘Mindfulness is so easy, and yet so hard! But having kept at it in one way or another over the past couple of years it has changed my life. In the doctor’s surgery with a fairly long wait once, I focused on my breath amongst the noise and bustle of the waiting room, and was very surprised when my blood pressure was the lowest it had been for some time, and almost down to normal. Then there was the day at work when I was on the brink of tears and stood in the stairwell doing a breathing space. For what seemed like the first time in my life I was able to control my emotions and face the situation without the embarrassment of tears. Now, going through a period of mild anxiety and depression, it is when I use mindfulness techniques and meditations to ground myself that I find I’m better able to look at my situation, and although I’m not sure how it will end, I know that mindfulness, alongside other tools, will help me to get back to my former self.’
- ‘I have always had a tendency to be anxious and being retired has given me even more time to worry unnecessarily about past and future events. Dwelling on past injustices, feeling guilty about mistakes and worrying about future events only leads me to unhappiness. Being mindful keeps me in the present. I am less judgemental about myself and others, less anxious and now have a much better quality of life. I find that talking to my grandchildren about mindfulness helps them too.
- ‘Mindfulness helped free me from the tight grip of anxiety from which I had struggled with for years. Even when I was in choppy water after separating from my husband, the mindfulness CD helped me to still my racing thoughts and find a peaceful place daily.This helped me to recharge my batteries and to cope with the challenges of each difficult day. Mindfulness is a safety net which I wish I had found years ago.’
- ‘I have found that by practising Mindfulness when I wake in the night, I can stop my mind churning and wandering aimlessly or worrying over the days issues and then I go back to sleep and sleep deeply and feel rested when I wake. The more I do it, the easier I find my practice becomes and I am able to still my mind even without listening to a CD to help me.’
- ‘When I was pregnant I was very daunted by the prospect of giving birth and being a mother; practising mindfulness helped me to gain a better sense of perspective and remain centred when I was feeling anxious. In the first few weeks and months of my daughter’s life, at times of stress, I found that a few mindful breaths brought a sense of calm and stopped me from feeling overwhelmed. Mindfulness has also helped me to appreciate and enjoy cuddles with my baby while she is still little.’
- ‘Working flat-out and not enough hours in the day to get through my ridiculous workload, how was taking time for mindfulness supposed to help that? I don’t know how or why but the day runs more smoothly and less problems arise since I’ve incorporated it into my week- I don’t meditate every day but I know it’s there when I need to re-focus and gain perspective.”
- ‘As an Occupational Therapist I am aware that choosing how to nurture yourself, physically and mentally, as best you can, is vital and can be variable. Mindfulness has given me the skills to practise meditation in a way I never thought possible and as a result I am delighted to run, walk, sit or lie into an oasis of calmness that promotes my wellbeing. With the simplicity of tuning into my breath, mindfulness helps me prepare for stressful events professionally and personally and gives me a strong sense of control.’
- Having attended 2 Mindfulness courses I have also begun to use aspects of it in my role as a teacher in a school for pupils with special needs. Initially we introduced this as more of a ‘relaxation’ session, but this has developed into a mixture of relaxation, learning how to breathe more effectively, dealing with anger, visualisations and simply listening to guided stories’. Our pupils LOVE this session and frequently ask ‘are we going to have relaxation (a generic term we use for all sessions) today?’
‘No-one can tell you how to live with cancer although many love to try. Mindfulness meditation showed me how to simply sit without opinion or judgement and just gently acknowledge. It wasn’t an overwhelming light bulb moment, more a gradual realisation I was enjoying today instead of regretting a future I might not have. Each day still brings its own challenges but I’m more at ease with my circumstances”
‘My husband had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and I was waiting for him to come out of surgery, with the knowledge that the surgeon was coming up to see me to tell me whether the cancer had spread to the bones, or not. The former outcome would have given him a seriously reduced life expectancy. Prior to ‘mindful awareness’ I would have played out the whole negative scenario, had conversations with his family in my head and probably cried a river by the time the operation was over, not to mention the stomach churning pain I would have felt whilst playing out these stories. However, I sat and grounded my feet, slumped my shoulders and found a place of peace in my mind and when the surgeon arrived I was so much stronger than I could have ever been before.’
- Blood pressure
‘I started Mindfulness to quiet my mind and raise my awareness of the present moment. I had read The Power of Now but needed guidance to achieve the Now. One benefit I was not expecting was the lowering of my blood pressure, which has stayed down and stopped me having to go on medication.’
- Chronic Fatigue
‘Having been diagnosed with CFS / ME I have found that when I use it, mindfulness is a very effective and helpful tool. It never ceases to amaze me what additional energy I can capture by taking the time to stop and be still, PROPERLY still !! I am very much a ‘dash and crash’ person who continually fails to learn to balance my days. However, when I DO remember to take even the smallest amount of time to ‘be still, to breath, to listen, to feel, to watch,’ I really benefit. Often it is my eyes that suffer the most pain and usually results in the all familiar ‘ME headache’. Just closing them and being in the moment is often enough to offset the headache and remind myself what other senses actually ‘awake’ when the eyes are shut!’
‘I took the Mindfulness course hoping it may help me to learn how to better manage my difficulties with ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I’m sure it did, and I’m even more certain that I have acquired something of a life skill that is there for me when needed and which I expect to practise and improve in the future.’
- Chronic Pain
‘Mindfulness has enabled me renegotiate my relationship with my body- which, for a while, was becoming untenable. Having chronic pain, and having the heightened anxiety (and sometimes frustration and anger that accompanies it) didn’t seem to get better, no matter how hard I pushed it away or tried to keep my chin up. It wasn’t until Mindfulness gave me the peace, stability and strength to give up fighting my body and learn to befriend it, that I began to feel human again. I still have pain, but now I have a lot more of myself back to deal with it.’