Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention with gentleness, curiosity and acceptance. It helps us live more fully in the present moment. This means paying deliberate attention to what is happening in our bodies, and to what we are doing, feeling and thinking, without judging or trying to change our experience. Mindfulness incorporates mindful breathing, bodyscan practices, mindful eating and mindful movement.
By exploring these practices we begin to observe our thoughts as they arise moment by moment without judgement. Allowing thoughts to come and go we can come to the profound understanding that thoughts and feelings are transient. We are more than our thoughts. Through the practice of mindfulness we come to realise that we have a choice about whether to act on our thoughts or not.
Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself. When unhappiness or stress take hold in our lives we can observe our thoughts with friendly curiosity and allow them to pass. In essence, mindfulness allows you to catch negative thought patterns before they tip you into a downward spiral. It begins the process of putting you back in control of your life.
Over time, mindfulness brings about long-term changes in mood and levels of happiness and well-being. Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness not only prevents depression, but that it also positively affects the brain patterns underlying day-to- day anxiety, stress, depression and irritability so that when they arise, they dissolve away again more easily. Other studies have shown that regular mediators see their doctors less often and spend fewer days in hospital, memory improves, creativity increases and reaction times become faster.
Mindfulness is the capacity to be fully with ourselves from one moment to the next and to be available for life as it unfolds in this particular moment. Mindfulness is not about trying to get somewhere; rather it is about recognising what is already here and giving ourselves the space to be where we are and as we are.
Despite the proven benefits, however, many people are still a little wary when they hear the word meditation. Before embarking on a Mindfulness course it is important to dispel some of the myths: