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Mindfulness – Clarity, Compassion and Calm

Posted by Administrator on 9/21/2013

“Mindfulness is a way of learning to relate directly to whatever is happening in your life, a way of taking charge of your life, a way of doing something for yourself that no one else can do for you”, says the Center of Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts (UM) Medical School. For many of us it is the first step towards healing – working with our own stress, pain and illness directly and compassionately. The opposite to mindfulness is that confused, disconnected sensation, better known as mindlessness, which dulls the senses, creates a loss of awareness, mechanical responses and forgetfulness.

 

Unlike our ancestors, most of us in the world today do not live in constant fear of wild animals, global epidemics/disasters or of the neighboring tribe bearing down on any given day. We have a much greater sense and better understanding of our world and how it works so that we’ve developed mechanisms and approaches to master many aspects of it. Yet in this modern, advanced society with all its advantages, our stress levels are profoundly high, to the extent that stress is now recognized as a major factor in several chronic and fatal diseases.

 

But what exactly is mindfulness?  Several definitions of have been used in modern psychology. According to Psychology Today, “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience”.

 

Mindfulness has also been defined as a psychological quality that involves:-

 

First - bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis, this involves paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. And second - each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises is acknowledged, and accepted as it is.

 

In fact, training in mindfulness and mindfulness-based practices, often results in the development of a ‘Beginner' Mind' i.e. the ability to look at an experience as if for the first time.

 

We all know what it feels like to be overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, despondent. When these powerful emotions occur, mindfulness can help us reduce their impact with some basic steps –

 

·       Stop what you are doing

 

·       Breathe deeply and fully, concentrating on every breathe, becoming aware of your body and all its sensations

 

·       Recognize your thoughts and reactions, but do not judge or attempt to interpret them

·       Do not identify with your thoughts - your thoughts are not you.

 

·       Regard yourself with compassion

 

·       If possible, find an action which will support you at the moment, a brief walk, playing music, talking with a good friend, etc.

 

Practicing mindfulness can help people to begin to recognise their habitual patterns of thinking, which have developed out of awareness over time. This process allows the individual to eventually respond to difficult situations in new rather than habitual.

 

Participants in mindfulness programs have demonstrated improvements such as -
 
  • Lasting decreases in physical and psychological symptoms
  • An increased ability to relax
  • Reductions in pain levels and an enhanced ability to cope with chronic pain
  • Greater energy and enthusiasm for life
  • Improved self-esteem
  • An ability to cope more effectively with both short and long-term stressful situations.

 

Indeed, to deal with the effects of stress, a number of psychological and medical centers have incorporated mindfulness into their stress and anxiety relief programs, e.g. the UM Center for Mindfulness, University Health Network, University of Toronto, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, etc.

 

Fortunately for us, mindfulness is not something that you have to acquire. The ability to be mindful is present in each one of us, it simply requires practice. It is a deep internal resource, readily available and patiently waiting to be released and used to help us grow in awareness and to improve the quality of our lives through compassionate healing.
 

 

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