More about Mindfulness

Mindfulness simply means
moment-to-moment awareness.

It means being more aware of the moments of our lives, living more vividly, and being present with whatever is happening in our bodies, hearts, and minds--all while non-judgmentally observing our inner experiences. Mindfulness helps us develop the potential to experience each moment, no matter how difficult or intense, with greater serenity and clarity. So much of the time, we live ahead or behind ourselves or are on "automatic pilot”—going through the events of our days, without experiencing them fully as they happen.

Automatic Pilot 

In a car, we’ve probably all had the experience of driving for miles on “automatic pilot" without really being aware of the mechanics of driving or the passage of time. In the same way, we may not really be "present" for much in our lives. We go through the motions of living. We can often be "miles away" without knowing it.
On automatic pilot, we are more likely to have our buttons pushed. Events around us, thoughts, feelings and sensations can trigger old habits of thinking that are often unhelpful and may lead to anxiety or a worsening mood.

Mindfulness: Present Moment Awareness

By becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations from moment to moment, we give ourselves the possibility of greater freedom and choice.
Being present in each moment is the way to change our experience of life. We cannot change the past or control the future; we all know how unpredictable life can be. The one thing we can change is how we experience the present.
The sooner we become fully present to our thoughts, feelings and body sensations, the more readily we can connect with your inner wisdom. It is this wisdom that enables us to restore balance, regardless of the challenges we are facing.
Mindfulness also helps us make conscious choices rather than repeating the same old choices. Most of us respond to stress using coping skills we learned years or even decades ago. These mental and emotional habits have become embedded behavior patterns and we automatically turn to them, whether or not they still serve us. As our awareness grows, we can learn to stop repeating the mental and emotional responses that have caused us problems in the past. Instead we can begin cultivating new pathways and new responses that better serve who we are today and what the moment calls for.

It matters what you pay attention to!

Mindfulness can be very useful for stress management, as the experience of stress is deeply influenced by how we pay attention to life’s discomforts.  Simply stated: if the mind habitually notices what ‘s wrong and rarely notices what’s going well or what’s neutral, this is a ripe environment for stressful reactions to flourish. Similarly, if the mind habitually pushes away what’s difficult or painful, stressful reactions can accumulate.  Mindfulness teaches us that even in the midst of chaos, confusion, pain or stress, we can find a way to steadiness, stillness, and even a boundlessness of love.

Okay, how does mindfulness happen?

Mindfulness is easy to understand, but not easy to do! The way we achieve mindfulness is through the practice of meditation. 
Try concentrating on your breath for a few moments. You will probably notice that it's difficult to stay fully present in a focused way. When we sit still, most of us can see that our minds are all over the place.
Through practice, it is possible to develop concentration. You can also get to know your own thinking patterns—habits of the mind that keep you feeling stuck or helpless. Observing that the "old" skills you have for responding to life are no longer beneficial is the first step in creating change. 
Meditation, though deceptively simple, is a practice that is developed through repetition.  With time and dedication, it can help you sleep better, feel better, increase your ability to cope with stressful situations, improve your self-esteem, and renew your enthusiasm for life.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an intensive eight-week training, designed to teach participants to take an active role in the management of their health and wellness, and to learn new perspectives on how to approach the very human challenge of how to deal with life's stresses. How we live and work with pain and stress in our lives makes a huge difference to our happiness.
The MBSR class can start you on the journey toward greater well-being by helping your understand the relationship between stress and your body, heart and mind.

MBSR was started by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. and assisted by Saki Santorelli, Ph.D. and colleagues in 1979 at the University of Massachussetts Medical Center. In 1993, Bill Moyers featured Jon Kabat-Zinn's Stress Reduction program in his series, "Healing and the MInd." The curriculum of the program was shared freely, and a great wave began as health professionals all over the country began to model similar programs. Soon thereafter, MBSR programs began being taught at community centers, schools, prisons, and religious centers. Currently, there are hundreds of locations in the United States that are offering Stress Reduction Programs. MBSR has also expanded internationally, with programs nearly on every continent of the world.

Description of Program

The MBSR class meets weekly for 2.5 hours, and there is an all-day session in the 6th week. Students are asked to practice mindfulness meditation or mindful movement for 30 minutes each day, using instructional CDs provided by the instructor. Over the 8 weeks of the program, students learn and practice a variety of meditations, and grow to understand fundamental concepts of mindfulness.
The program begins with an eating meditation, and the curriculum expands weekly with meditations that focus on the breath, body, gentle yoga movement, sound, sensations, thinking, and loving kindness. 
The book Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn is the text for the program, and provides the underlying  foundation for the class.
Group discussion is a big part of the program, as the shared experiences of the students highlight mutual learning.
A big part of the program is the all-day silent retreat, which participants report as the highlight of the program. 

Who Attends?

This class is ideal for:

  • People in physical, emotional, or chronic pain

  • Anyone with a medical condition who wants to reduce their level of stress, fear, and anxiety

  • Anyone with these signs of stress: burn-out, apathy, depression, feeling overwhelmed, frustration or  irritability

  • Anyone with stress related physical conditions such as muscle tension, gastro-intestinal symptoms, or high blood pressure

  • Anyone who wants to learn about living more vividly and deepen his or her sense of well-being

  • Anyone who wants new strategies for dealing with life’s challenges.

No matter how stressful your life currently is,  with open-hearted awareness, you can gain insight, ease, and a renewed sense of freedom, choice, and connection.

Healing vs. Curing

MBSR is not about curing illnesses. It is not about ending stress. We cannot make stress go away; it is part of life and part of the human condition. MBSR is about healing—finding a place of peace and comfort with whatever is occurring in our lives and in the moment. The heart of the MBSR program teaches each participant to grow in compassion, opening the heart for deep healing.

copyright © 2015 Karen Zelin
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