“Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present, and at one with those around you and with what you are doing. We bring our body and mind into harmony while we wash the dishes, drive the car, or take our morning shower.” The Thichnhathanh Foundation
Many of us experience stress and that makes us suffer!
Stress is a pervasive issue in modern society and has become a global public health problem. Continuous stress may lead to unproductive rumination that consumes energy and reinforces the experience of stress itself. Additionally, exaggerated stress can challenge resilience aspects such as hope and the capacity to forgive. Although certain levels of stress may result in improved functioning, there is evidence that a great deal of stress can negatively affect both physical and mental health. Stress has been linked to autoimmune disease, migraines, obesity, muscle tension and backache, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and other quality of life issues that affect humans.
What is mindfulness and can it help?
Mindfulness is defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, (https://www.mindfulnesscds.com/) the founder of MBSR, as a moment-to-moment awareness and is cultivated by purposefully paying attention to the present moment, with a nonjudging, non-striving attitude of acceptance. Since the creation of the 8-week MBSR course by Jon Kabat Zinn, there is now abundant scientific evidence of the effectiveness of the practice.
In general, the mindfulness practice with MBSR has shown to decrease stress, enhance the ability to deal with illness, facilitate recovery, decrease depressive symptoms and in general improve one’s health. (The Benefits of Mindfulness.) More specifically, it can improve the higher brain functions, increase immunity, lower blood pressure and heart rate, increase awareness, attention and focus, increase in clarity of thinking, lower anxiety level and contribute to calmness whilst increasing the feeling of connectedness. In this vein, there is now a whole community of practitioners of mindfulness to which one connect and experience the results of the practice together.
How is mindfulness training done and what do I learn?
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) sessions provide training in formal mindfulness practices, including body scan, sitting meditation, and Hatha yoga-based exercises. The body scan involves paying attention to parts of the body and bodily sensations in sequence, in a gradual sweeping of attention through the body from feet to head. In sitting meditation, the primary focus of this mindful attention is on breathing, the rising and falling abdomen, as well as on other perceptions and a state of non-judgmental awareness of cognitions and the stream of thoughts and distractions that flow through the mind. Mindful movement is based on Hatha yoga and focuses on moving the body through a series of postures to develop greater strength, balance, flexibility, and body awareness. Hatha yoga is included in the program as a means of encouraging attentiveness to body sensations and movement. In all of these exercises, when thoughts arise and attention wanders, the practice is to return the attention to the intended focus. Participants are also encouraged to practice mindfulness informally by brining attention to emotions, thoughts, and appraisals that occur while engaged in everyday activities, including walking, eating, driving, working, and conversing. MBSR is based on training attention through straightforward, secular, meditation techniques. It seeks to change our relationship with stressful thoughts and events, by decreasing emotional reactivity and enhancing cognitive appraisal.