What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is an innate human capacity to deliberately pay full attention to where we are, to our actual experience, and to learn from it”    Jack Kornfield

Mindfulness is about paying attention to what’s happening right now, with an open mind, enabling us to see more clearly and respond more skillfully. It can help us see things as they are – rather than as we hope or fear they might be. Connecting with the here and now, with curiousity and compassion, can help us feel calmer, think clearly and respond wisely, even in challenging situations.

  • Mindfulness isn’t stopping what we’re doing, it’s knowing what we’re doing.
  • It’s stepping out of the mode of driven ‘doing’ into ‘being’, creating a space where we can take stock.
  • Mindfulness is connecting with the reality of the present moment and choosing how we respond, rather than being at the mercy of the reactive “automatic pilot” or our thoughts, which may repeatedly take us into the past (ruminating on what has happened) or into the future (driving us incessantly from one task to another and presenting us with worst-case scenarios). It’s not about suppressing thoughts, but becoming aware of them and developing the ability to untangle ourselves from them.
  • It’s seeing things clearly, empowering us to make active and appropriate choices.
  • It’s developing skills to enable us to consciously and systematically work with the challenges and demands of everyday life and with stress, pain, or illness.
  • It’s a way of being which can enable us to engage with our experience, pleasant and unpleasant and live more fully.

How do we do it?

  • We grow mindful by practising a moment to moment awareness: tuning into the breath and other experiences as they are happening; observing them as they are, without judging or changing them; training our attention to stay where we intend it to be and resetting this intention to pay attention again and again, with patience and with kindness.

How can Mindfulness help?

  • Cultivating mindfulness can lead to growth in: flexibility, well being, relationships,  communication, health, resilience, confidence and performance.
  • The skills and a clearer understanding of the nature of the mind can help us let go of unhelpful thinking patterns and take a broader perspective.
  • It can help us tap into existing internal resources and, through regular practice, find calm, clarity, stability and strength.
  • It can help us appreciate the moment and savour the positive.
  • Practising mindfulness does not end difficulty, illness or pain, but it can help us change our relationship with them.
  • We can use it to take care of ourselves, especially when we are under pressure.
  • It can help us nurture compassion for ourselves and the world around us.
  • It can enable us to move through life with greater ease and equanimity.

The Neuroscience

  • There is scientific evidence that regular mindfulness practice results in measurable changes to the brain associated with improved ability to regulate attention, emotion and actions, better mood and resilience.
  • Regular practice has been demonstrated to increase working memory capacity, important for decision making.
  • The changes support greater insight into ourselves and others, helping in relationships.
  • Regular practice also appears to strengthen the immune systerm, and has been associated with faster recovery from illness and wounds and reduced inflammation in the body.
  • Changes have been seen in intervention studies even after the 8-week course.

Who can benefit?

  • It is suitable for most and people of all ages report positive results after taking a course.
  • In the workplace it can improve staff health and well-being.
  • In schools it can enhance well-being and learning with children and health and effectiveness in teaching.
  • In sports and other skills training it can improve performance.
  • In personal and professional life it can help with relationships.
  • It is known to help reduce stress, recurrent depression, anxiety and chronic pain. It is recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence and GPs are increasingly referring adults to 8-week courses.

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