A few people have asked about mindfulness in recent weeks – so this weeks blog is written by my good friend Martin Stepek who has been practising and teaching mindfulness now for over ten years. Les, A Moodscope member.
Sometimes people confuse mindfulness and mindfulness training, and it's helpful to get the distinction right.
Mindfulness is one of the many qualities or states of mind our brain can produce. Other examples are anger, happiness, love, hatred, irritation, forgiveness. It's just not as well known as these others.
So there's nothing special about mindfulness but there is a lot that's special about what it can do for us in our daily lives.
Mindfulness is the skill or trained ability to notice what's actually going on, in a much wider and deeper sense than our usual autopilot sense of awareness.
With this particular skill of mindfulness we can avoid so many of our common poor decisions in life, which are the result of knee-jerk reactions to minor things, which we get way out of proportion.
On the positive side mindfulness allows us to see the potential for beauty or positive outlooks in everyday situations.
Thus we can avoid self-created situations and nurture moments of joy, happiness and kindness. It doesn't take a genius to work out how different that makes the quality of your day, and over time your whole life.
So mindfulness is the skill of noticing moment by moment in a much warmer, more open non judgemental way.
Mindfulness training is what is says on the tin. It trains you to be increasingly more mindful. It does this by stepping out of the busyness of everyday life and guiding us to practice noticing what actually goes on moment to moment; usually focusing on our breath because that's always present, easy to notice, and easy to return to whenever we get distracted, bored or uncomfortable.
We also focus on the mind itself and what state it's in, on how parts of our body feel, on how words and mental images can positively affect how we feel. All of this is good practice for noticing more mindfully in normal life.
Over time our ability to be mindful increases, and this improvement can continue for life so long as we keep practicing and training.
The training is commonly referred to as "mindfulness meditation". To my mind meditation is a troublesome word. Many associate it with spiritual insights such as being one with the universe or God. The Buddha, who devised the techniques we call mindfulness, said his sole task was to teach about "suffering and how to end suffering." I'd be delighted to settle for that.
Mindfulness teacher, author, speaker.
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