Mindfulness is a way of being that with compassion and gentle effort allow us to be aware and present with our current experience. Many of us spend so much time, rehashing, rehearsing, analyzing the past, worrying about the future; we can miss the richness of the present moment, and create unnecessary stress.
Mindfulness gives us a way to be with the events that occur to us and inside us; our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. While we practice mindfulness meditation, the goal is to live mindfully. Mindfulness skills and perspectives encourage a broader understanding of life and tolerance for the happenings that occur. Mindfulness can be a foundation for growing our emotional resilience and more skillfully navigating life’s inevitable stressors.
While a core foundation of mindfulness is acceptance of our experience in the moment, this does not mean that mindfulness is about resigning ourselves to situations in our lives that may need to be changed. It does mean allowing whatever emerges to be acknowledged so that we can more skillfully respond and change what we need to.
While seeing the benefits of mindfulness personally and with clients, the research evidence is growing, showing a wide variety of benefits for with those experiencing stress, depression, anxiety, addictions issues and managing pain.
Through mindfulness practice we learn to change the relationship we have with our thoughts and feelings. Stepping back and observing our thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations, without being entangled in them, we can bring a sense of curiosity and compassion to them. We become aware how thoughts and emotions can pull us to react in certain ways that may not be serving us well. Mindfulness provides the opportunity to help us bring flexibility and choice to the actions we take, and perhaps respond more wisely.
The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Course is a well-researched and respected approach to self-care that uses mindfulness as its basis. It was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979, and is now offered in medical centers all over the world. It may seem wonderful or weird, yet in reality; it is a comprehensive course that teaches participants skills of paying attention to their lives and their experiences, inside and outside, and more. Over the eight weeks we will be attending to what is right with us, much of which we never notice or take for granted. It will be a vehicle for building on the strengths we already have to improve our health and well-being.
Through the eight participatory supportive sessions, participants receive guided instruction in mindfulness meditation practices, including gentle mindful movement. Through the course, we become more aware of the mind-body relationship in stress; and learn about our own current patterns of dealing with stress; exploring the judgments and assumptions about ourselves that can underlie our reactions and learn how to be compassionate with ourselves. We reflect on our communication, and how we can bring mindfulness to our relationships, and how we can choose more nourishing behaviors and activities.
Participants have the opportunity to deepen reflection, perception and perspective, and develop new communication skills; they learn about the stress response and how to influence that response in situations that arise. It is a stress management course that relies on the power of mindfulness to allow positive change in our lives.
MBSR is not therapy but rather an approach to self-care that helps focus awareness on thoughts, body sensations, and emotions in a non-judgmental way to recognize our inner psychological resources. Whether we are stressed by relationships at work or home, in our communication, during emotional upheaval, or physical/medical concerns, mindfulness is an empowering skill that allows us to have control over our response to these life challenges.
Mark Bertin MD says, “The eight-week program is an introduction to a lifelong training. Stick to it, even when practice is difficult and not much seems to happen, and your experience changes. Mindfulness is more analogous to long term physical fitness than anything more immediate such as knee surgery or a dose of antibiotics.”
The word Mindfulness is a concept. It is the practice of mindfulness that brings it to life. If you have been wanting greater clarity, peacefulness, and self–compassion, the MBSR course provides an opportunity to learn various mindful practices that can be integrated into your daily life.
Maureen Barry MSW, RSW Marie Wall MA, CPPA