Mindfulness, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, is “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” 

There are a lot of misconceptions about mindfulness in popular culture and media, so I would like to clarify a few points about what mindfulness is NOT.

It is not relaxation. Certain mindfulness practices may feel very relaxing, at certain times, for some people. However, relaxation is not the aim or a guaranteed outcome of mindfulness practice. In fact, many people find elements of mindfulness meditation frustrating, uncomfortable, boring or otherwise unpleasant.

It is not a quick path to spiritual awakening. Ability to be mindful and self-aware is an essential component of any spiritual seeker’s work, but it will not automatically lead to enlightenment, even after years of practice.

It is not therapy. Whilst regular mindfulness practice can be very healing and therapeutic, it is not a replacement for psychotherapy or counselling. If you are suffering from the effects of trauma or are experiencing other forms of significant mental distress, one-to-one therapy with an experienced psychotherapist or counsellor is strongly recommended, and mindfulness practice can go a long way in supporting your healing journey.

It is not just ‘flavour of the month’. Whilst mindfulness has become particularly popular in recent years, researched in scientific trials and incorporated into various CBT treatment programmes, it has been around for some thousands of years, originating from ancient Buddhist practices.

Some simple ways to be mindful in your everyday life are:

  • Notice the different shades of green, the quality of the light, the temperature of the air on your skin when you are out in nature
  • Slow down as you eat, paying attention to the different tastes and textures in your mouth, the colours and aromas of the food, being aware of the food’s journey to your plate, its origins and the people who have contributed to growing, harvesting and transporting it
  • As you walk, notice the sensations in your legs and feet, paying attention to the contact between your foot and the Earth, being aware of how your body moves through space.
  • Listen to the sounds in the space you are in – sounds near you, as well as distant sounds, whether the sound of your breath, the humming of the refrigerator, sound of the wind, birdsong, the rain – listening without judgement of whether the sound is “nice” or “not nice”, listening with openness and curiosity.

Apart from using the principles of mindfulness in my therapy sessions and teaching my clients mindfulness practises, I can also offer an integrated Mindfulness & Wellbeing Programme for primary schools – please contact me to find out more.

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