Think You Know What Mindfulness Is?

Mindfulness is everywhere these days; celebrities are shouting about it, businesses are adopting it, there is a plethora of mindfulness books and apps. With the rise in interest in well-being, mindfulness, which comes from ancient practices of meditation, has found itself bang on trend.  As with any trend, there is a danger that mindfulness, as it gains in popularity, becomes co-opted, and a watered down 'buzz word’. An increase in profile is not necessarily translating to an increase in understanding of mindfulness. The real meaning and value of mindfulness is in danger of getting lost.

Let’s start with what it’s not…

1. It’s Not Easy

At the heart of mindfulness is a very simple idea; it is about paying attention in the present moment, in a particular way.  It may be a simple idea, but it’s not easy. You might have already noticed this if you have tried even a short Mindfulness exercise and seen how your own mind has a very strong tendency to wander off in all directions and jump from thought to thought.

2. It’s Not About Clearing Your Mind!

This one might surprise you. Mindfulness is not about clearing the mind, or having a blank mind, because that would involve pushing thoughts away, which would get you into a situation where you are wrestling with your mind. Mindfulness is not about striving or struggling at all. It is about observing the full range of present moment experience, including thoughts, bodily sensations, and feelings, holding them all in spacious awareness.

3. It’s Not About Relaxation!

Again, this might surprise you. The goal of mindfulness is not relaxation or helping you get to sleep. Some people find that it does both, but again, these are happy by-products of practising mindfulness rather than the aim itself. Mindfulness is about falling awake, about showing up, with full attention, for the present moment.  This is why it is best to practice Mindfulness at times of the day when you can practice for the amount of time that you want, and not fall asleep after the first 2 minutes of practice.

4. It’s Not Just For When You’re Feeling Stressed!

It’s not just for when you are feeling stressed.  Sometimes people think that they only need to practice Mindfulness when they feel stressed or worried.  This is not the case.  Mindfulness is an on-going practice that has benefits for your entire quality of life.  You wouldn’t only go the the gym the day that you are doing a marathon, you would have put in hours of training before the big day. It’s the same with mindfulness, it is about training your attention, and, in some ways, a bit like taking your mind to the gym, you need to practice regularly to see benefits and also to be able to draw on the skills at difficult time.

5. It’s Not Just For A Particular Type Of Person!

Anyone can practice Mindfulness and see benefits.  You don’t have to have a particular personality type, you don’t have to have an interest in complimentary health, you don’t need to have a particular faith or an interest in the spiritual, you don’t have to be a yogi or a Buddhist, (and of course if that’s you, that’s great) but the point is, the benefits of Mindfulness can be accessed by anyone who is willing to learn about it and to practice.

If you want to find out more about the scientific basis behind mindfulness and how to learn to practice, come along to our ‘taster’ workshop at the Parlour Café on Norwood Road on May 11th. The workshop is run by a Senior Clinical Psychologist, Dr Su Yap, of Mindsurgery London. Details can be found here:

Text and Photo (c) MindSurgery London 2017


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