According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, who created the Gold standard Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course over forty years ago, Mindfulness is:
“Paying attention: on purpose, in a particular way, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”
At Inner Space Works, this translates to having an awareness and being in tune with what’s going on inside and around you. This brings greater awareness to the effect that your thoughts, feelings, words and actions can have on yourself and on others.
In fact, we think Mindfulness is a superpower!
So, what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a type of meditation that focuses the mind on thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations.
There is a misconception that mindfulness mediation is about ‘getting rid’ of thoughts – have you ever noticed how impossible that is to do?
This quote by Claude AnShin Thomas of The Zaltho Foundation explains how Mindfulness meditation can be used to understand that the mind is always generating thoughts but that we can learn to feel in control of our mind as opposed to feeling like our mind is controlling us.
The Mind is Always Generating Thoughts
“Many people think that meditation is about stopping our thoughts or having a blank mind, but this is simply not possible. Our mind is of the nature to generate thoughts. Meditation is about learning not to get swept away by our thinking (or by our emotions). […] Meditation gives us the opportunity to develop a new kind of relationship to our thinking. We learn to be an observer of our thoughts, without attaching to them or rejecting them. We start to notice that thoughts and feelings are not so solid, real, or lasting: they arise, have a certain life-cycle, and then they pass away. If I am concentrated on my breath, then all things are present. My thoughts are here, my feelings are here. I am just not drawn as deeply into them, and I am not controlled by them.” – Claude AnShin Thomas
Why is this important?
So often, we live our lives on Autopilot, not paying attention to what’s going on around us or inside of us, physically or emotionally.
This can lead to us missing out on the good stuff or, find ourselves feeling unhappy or disgruntled about life, not truly understanding why.
Think of a time when you have had so many thoughts going round and around in your mind; things to do, people to see, tasks to complete, you wondered how on earth you were going to get everything done?
Perhaps you felt overwhelmed, but rather than acknowledging the feelings of overwhelm and the emotions that go with that; tension, stress, sadness, you kept going until the point of burnout and exhaustion. Or, perhaps it has left you feeling lost and confused.
You might also find that you are unknowingly, taking out your frustrations, anger or upset on those who are closest to you, either in proximity or within close relationship and you want this to change!
The first stage of Mindfulness training is to acknowledge that you are running on autopilot and to identify when this happens.
It can be surprising how often we miss things – By bringing attention to yourself and beginning to notice, you become more self-aware and begin to change how you respond to events, situations or circumstances, more positively.
The good news is, you have a choice of how to respond, rather than react automatically and you don’t need to reach a point of burnout!
Often, stress, anxiety and depression are the result of us being overwhelmed by thoughts and feeling out of control. Mindfulness meditation offers us a way of becoming less controlled by our thoughts.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder and creator of the 8-week Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course states that:
“Thoughts are not facts”
Through Mindfulness meditation training, it is possible to understand the meaning of this quote fully, by observing our thoughts and noticing how the thoughts affect our behaviour and attitude towards ourselves and others.
Mindfulness meditation practice gives you the opportunity to pause. Even if you struggle to even begin to consider the idea of pausing because there’s always so much to do, research has shown that if you take at least ten minutes a day to practice mindfulness meditation, this can have a positive effect on your well-being.
The key is in the word ‘practice’. Mindfulness is a skill that can be learned and trained. It takes time, perseverance and patience to cultivate an attitude of kindness towards ourselves. The mind continuously creates thoughts. This is natural and there is no way of stopping those thoughts. However, if we pay attention to our breath and body, we are able to observe our thoughts as mental events and not get caught up in those thoughts and story lines that can be detrimental to our well-being. We learn and understand that thoughts are not facts, they are merely a creation of the mind based on our previous experiences and our future worries. Our attitude towards those thoughts and towards ourselves is what becomes important. Cultivating compassion, kindness, a friendliness towards ourselves as we would have for a best friend or loved one.
Being here, right now, in the present moment, acknowledging what’s going on, inside and around you, can help you to gain perspective and to stay grounded during challenging times.
The 3 elements of mindfulness meditation
Intention – To cultivate awareness (in practice, we return to the focus of our attention repeatedly.
Attention – To pay attention to what is occurring in the present moment (each moment that passes by). We do this by learning to observe thoughts, feelings and sensations as they arise.
Attitude – To cultivate an attitude that is curious, non-judgemental, kind and compassionate.