“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally” Jon Kabat-Zinn.
By becoming aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, from moment to moment, gives us the possibility of greater peace, freedom and choice. Increasing awareness through mindfulness allows us to respond to situations more consciously rather than reacting in conditioned and automatic ways. Core skills of mindfulness practice include:
Observing- observing your experience in a direct and sensual manner rather than analytically. It involves shifting attention away from thinking and to simply observing thoughts, feelings, sensations with a kind and gentle curiosity.
Describing- This aspect of mindfulness involves describing what you observe which can be applied to emotions as well as experiences. For example, rather than being fused or caught up with a thought or feeling you may describe the feeling as “heavy”,” tense”, or “constricted” and you may say “I’m having a thought or feeling about…”.
Participating Fully- This aspect of mindfulness involves trying to notice all aspects of your experience without excluding anything. This may be applied to external activities or internal experiences. This includes not trying to avoid unpleasant or undesirable aspects of your experience or emotions including negative feelings.
Being Non-Judgemental- being non-judgemental of your experience is an important aspect of mindfulness. Therefore no attempt to categorise thoughts, feelings or experiences as good, bad, right or wrong is made. No attempt to avoid or control aspects of our experience is made, and instead, opening up a non-judgemental holding space and applying a gentle curiosity to all aspects of our experience is the goal.
Focusing on One Thing at a Time in the Present Moment- This aspect of mindfulness trains our wandering attention to return to the present moment time and time again and is a skill that is strengthened through practice. “Noticing” non-judgementally when your attention has drifted away from observing and sensing to analysing and thinking about our experience. When this happens we just gently bring our attention back to the present moment and this is a natural part of developing the skill of mindfulness
When we take a mindfulness approach to our emotions, confidence develops in “sitting with” difficult and painful emotions so that the urge to escape from or exclude aspects of our experience becomes less intense and we are no longer fearful of being overwhelmed by them.
In counselling sessions, evidence based mindfulness practices from therapies including Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy may focus on breathing, body scan exercises, and applying mindfulness to feelings that arise in session. After practicing mindfulness in counselling sessions, client’s have observed that when sitting mindfully with their feelings they tend to “evaporate” and “fade away”. This represents a healthy way of working with emotions through letting our thoughts, feelings and experiences emerge, take shape and release naturally, rather than suppressing, avoiding, or attempting to control them.
Another benefit of mindfulness is that it can be applied to everyday activities. Everyday activities such as breathing, preparing food, eating, washing dishes, walking, and driving can be opportunities to apply mindfulness. Approaching these activities with mindfulness, observing, describing, participating, being non-judgemental and attuning to the present moment experience leads to greater relaxation and self-regulation abilities, acceptance, and may eventually lead to Zen like states of peacefulness and calm.
(Counsellor Midland Women’s Health Care Place)
Ref: www.cci.health.wa.gov.au, “The Happiness Trap” Russ Harris 2007, “Mindfulness” Williams and Penman 2011.