Mindfulness is the willingness and capacity to be equally present with all events and experiences with discernment, curiosity and kindness (writes Christina Feldman).
Mindfulness is about awareness. When we are mindful, we pay deliberate attention, in the present moment, to things as they are rather than to how we wish them to be. Instead of ruminating on the past, which we can't change, or worrying about the future about things that may or may never happen, mindfulness keeps us grounded in the here and now. This is helpful for the important reason that it is only in the present moment that we have an immediate choice about how to respond.
Far too often, we spend our days on automatic pilot, not really attuned to what is going on in our minds, hearts and bodies. We can become accustomed to thinking and feeling in certain ways out of habit. Mindfulness teaches us to pay attention to our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations as they are right here, right now, with kindness and without judgment. By learning to focus on the present moment, we become better equipped to spot the build up of stress and other difficult emotions and thoughts so that we can deal with them more effectively. We can learn to recognise autopilot and chose when to "shift gears" between operating on autopilot and being in present moment awareness.
Instead of subjecting ourselves to the endlessly looping tape of our thoughts and feelings, mindfulness enables us to pause. When we pause, we give ourselves the space and time to see that there may be other ways to think about situations, freeing us from the tyranny of the old thought patterns that we automatically grab onto. Most importantly, we may come to realise, on a deep level, that thoughts are only mental events. Thoughts are not facts and we have a choice about whether to give them power over our minds and hearts. This shift can be very liberating, giving people a sense of possibilities and choices about how to respond to old patterns of thinking and acting. This can empower people to make changes in their lives.
Mindfulness-based practices include focusing on the breath and body as well as meditation, movement and the development a more mindful attention to everyday activities. All of these approaches help us learn to recognise the feelings and patterns of thinking that cause unhappiness.
Mindfulness practices may help you to:
tune in to the present moment
become more aware of body sensations, feelings and thoughts from moment to moment
learn different ways of relating to sensations, thoughts and feelings
recognise your habitual patterns of thinking, mood and feelings so that you can move out of auto pilot mode and be more aware of your reactions
increase your compassion and kindness towards yourself and others
How to find a mindfulness-based course for the public in your area
Although the Mindfulness Network do not offer mindfulness-based courses for the public, there are some excellent resources that can help you find a course near you, including:
- UK Network for Mindfulness-based Teacher Trainers. All teachers listed on this website have demonstrated that they meet the UK Good Practice Guidance for Mindfulness-based Teachers (i.e. are suitably trained, committed to continuous professional development, hold appropriate insurance and receive supervision for their teaching. You can search for teachers by location.
- Mental Health Foundation's website, Bemindful.co.uk. This website lists teachers who are listed on the UK Network Listing, as well as teachers who are not on the Listing.
If you live in North Wales, Bangor University's Centre for Mindfulness-based Research and Practice offer a range of mindfulness-based courses. We no longer offer courses in this location. Click here for their complete list of courses.
Bespoke Commissioned Mindfulness-based Courses
Our commissioned mindfulness-based courses are bespoke and tailored to meet the needs of the commissioning individual or organisation. We offer a range of different mindfulness-based courses, including Mindfulness in the Workplace, and work in a variety of public and private settings, including the NHS. For more information, please email our Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do people describe their experience of mindfulness-based therapy?
Simon, who participated in a mindfulness-based class in Exeter, described his experience like this:
"For me there is something very basic about following the breath. It seems to provide a method of transcending worry and negative thoughts by being aware of the level of mind which is such a basic element of "being" that it is actually beyond thought and therefore beyond what can, sometimes, be very negative thinking."
When Helen Ma interviewed people who had been through the mindfulness-based programme in Cambridge, here is what one person said:
"I found the awareness a bit of revelation really. That was like zooming out with a camera. You drive to work and see the two red lights in front of you and realise there is a whole panorama there. The awareness is quite stunning really... Just experiencing the awareness technique is great."