Great Comp Garden in the Round

Mindfulness Jon Kabat-Zinn described Mindfulness as the process in which you pay attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally. He said, as others have, that Mindfulness is not a belief system, but rather, Mindfulness describes a way of noticing our thoughts, physical sensations, sights, sounds, smells all in the present moment, which is really the only moment we have at any one time. This is the space in-between the past and the future, and every given moment, and certainly, the moment is always the most important moment, because it will be, at some stage, the moment before the moment of our deaths, which, for all practical purposes, is unknowable, and so every moment is of absolutely vital importance.

Mindfulness skills may sound simple, however, because our minds are constantly searching for inputs, information and meaning from many different sources at once, to stay absolutely focused in the present moment is challenging and takes practice. Intra-actional Analysis considers that Mindfulness is the engagement of the Adult with the Free Child ego state, in that the individual is focused upon living in and experiencing the present moment, without judgement and the subscription of meaning. A client suggested to me recently that “Why does everything, action etc have to have meaning” why can’t we, in other words, passively experience the present moment and morph within it. This is the challenge of Mindfulness and in this sense then Mindfulness is meditation in every sense of the word.

Kabat-Zinn provides the example that we might look around the garden and think “That grass needs cutting or the vegetable patch needs weeding”, whereas, the young child will be in the same place but say “Hey – come and look at this ant!” In this way then, Mindfulness is noticing what we don’t normally notice, because our minds are clouded by thoughts and concerns about the future, or the past, and typically, we think about what we need to do, or we ruminate over that which we have done. Mindfulness can be described as choosing and learning to control our focus of attention, by merging with the environment around us, again leaving our ego states behind as we attempt to perceive and experience the world around us in a non-judgmental way. As soon as we start to classify, judge, reason etc, then we are back in the ego states, once again, and we know now that the ego states carry inherent potentials to falsely represent the world around us. So, by becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, from moment to moment, we give ourselves the possibility of greater freedom and choice.

When we garden, for example, or go for a walk, we tend to be preoccupied with thoughts of what we have to do in the future, what we have done in the immediate, or more distant past, worrying about future events, or flashes of remorse about past events, but typically, we are not focusing upon the actual gardening tasks (selecting the weed, feeling the stem in our hands, noticing the resistance as the weed is pulled from the ground, and following the path of the weed into the pile on the path beside the garden. Or, even though we are walking, we are not experiencing the rhythm of the action itself, hearing the birds above, noticing the changing light patterns on the trees around us, monitoring our body sensations during the activity. If thoughts intrude during any of the activities it is best to notice these first, and then gently return to the task or activity itself. In meditation, consider that a thought is merely a reminder to return to the focus on your breath, nothing more and nothing less. These actions are creating the space within which in turn allows for the reunification and rebalancing of the ego states.


Mindfulness in Everyday Life

“If you let cloudy water settle, it will become clear. If you let your upset mind settle, your course will also become clear.”

– Buddha’s Little Instruction Book (Kornfield: Bantum Books, 1994)

Mindfulness is a of self-awareness training adapted from Buddhist mindfulness meditation. It has been adapted for use in treatment of depression, especially preventing relapse and for assisting with mood regulation (references available on a separate page).

It has been described as a state of being in the present, accepting things for what they are, i.e. nonjudgementally. It was originally developed to assist with mood regulation and relapse prevention in depression and has been found to have considerable health benefits.

These exercises are designed to introduce the principles*.

Some Mindfulness Techniques to Practice One Minute Exercise

Sit in front of a clock or watch that you can use to time the passing of one minute. Your task is to focus your entire attention on your breathing, and nothing else, for the minute. Have a go – do it now.

De-stressing Exercise

  • Bring yourself into the present by deliberately adopting an erect and dignified posture.
  • Then ask yourself: “What is going on with me at the moment?”
  • You simply allow yourself to observe whatever happens. Label any thoughts that you have and thenleave them alone….just be prepared to let them float away. Attend to your breathing or simply takein your surroundings instead.
  • Besides thoughts, there may be sounds you hear, bodily sensations that you are aware of. If youfind yourself constantly elaborating on thoughts, rather than labelling them and returning to theneutral, remember to observe your breathing.
  • When emotions or memories of painful events occur, don’t allow yourself to become caught up bythem.
  • Give them short labels such as “that’s a sad feeling”, “that’s an angry feeling” and then just allowthem to drift or float away. These memories and feelings will gradually decrease in intensity andfrequency.
  • More importantly, you will begin to identify yourself as an objective observer or witness ratherthan a person who is disturbed by these thoughts and feelings. This requires practise but can then be used when ever you are stressed.*Adapted from those in Elliston, P. Mindfulness in medicine and everyday life. British Medical Journal, Career Focus, 17th November 2001.This document may be freely downloaded and distributed on condition no change is made to the content. The information in this document is not intended as asubstitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Not to be used for commercial purposes and not to be hosted electronically outside of the Black Dog Institute website. www.blackdoginstitute.org.au

Mindfulness in Everyday Life Mindful Eating

  • This involves sitting down at a table and eating a meal without engaging in any other activities – no newspaper, book, TV, radio, music, or talking.
  • Now eat your meal paying full attention to which piece of food you select to eat, how it looks, how it smells, how you cut the food, the muscles you use to raise it to your mouth, the texture and taste of the food as you chew it slowly.
  • You may be amazed at how different food tastes when eaten in this way and how filling a meal can be. It is also very good for the digestion.Mindful WalkingHere the same principle, while walking you concentrate on the feel of the ground under your feet, your breathing while walking. Just observe what is around you as you walk, staying IN THE PRESENT. Let your other thoughts go, just look at the sky, the view, the other walkers; feel the wind, the temperature on your skin; enjoy the moment.Associated Breathing Exercise
  • Stay with any distressing thoughts for a few moments, then as you let them float away, you gently redirect your full attention to your breathing.
  • Pay attention to each breath in and out as they follow rhythmically one after the other. This will ground you in the present and help you to move into a state of awareness and stillness

Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Mindfulness is a form of self-awareness training adapted from mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is about being aware of what is happening in the present on a moment by moment basis, while not making judgements about whether we like or don’t like what we find.

We all have the capacity to be mindful. It simply involves cultivating our ability to pay attention in the present moment and allows us to disengage from mental “clutter” and to have a clear mind. It makes it possible for us to respond rather than react to situations, thus improving our decision-making and potential for physical and mental relaxation.

It is not simply a relaxation technique or ‘power of positive thinking’. The technique is based on Buddhist meditation principles but was described by Teasdale and Beck for use in treatment of depression and then used by Linehan as a core skill in her cognitive behavioural therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder.

Linehan (1993) describes three “what” skills: observing (simply attending to events and emotions), describing (applying labels to behaviours, emotions and situations) and participating (entering into current activities) and three “how” skills: taking a ‘no judgemental’ stance, focusing on one thing in the moment and being effective (doing what is needed rather than worrying about what is right or second guessing the situation). These are all included in the ‘de-stressing’ exercise.

It takes practice and daily sessions can be entered on the mood chart (also available at the Black Dog Institute website www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/factsheets). There are many excellent texts for the general public.

Courtesy of the Black Dog Institute www.blackdoginstitute.org.au

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