Mindfulness is a secret that was well understood in the ancient world and has been kept alive by certain cultures until the present day. It is so effective that it’s now one of the preferred treatments recommended by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
The practice of mindfulness is a process that leads you to a profound understanding that thoughts and feelings (including negative ones) are transient. Like clouds in the sky, they come and they go. And ultimately, you have a choice about whether to act on them or not.
Mindfulness practice helps cultivate a deep and compassionate awareness that allows you to assess your goals and make the best choices towards realising your deepest values. It is the beginning of a process that puts you back in control of your life.
Living mindfully has been shown to exert a powerful influence on one’s health, wellbeing and happiness. The cultivation of a mindful life is akin to learning a musical instrument, or training a system of muscles through regular and patterned exercise. The skills and benefits gradually accumulate, deepen and unfold.
It is important to have good guidance. Mindfulness-based psychotherapy provides a coherent structure within which you can observe your own mind, body and life unfolding. It offers a systematic, safe and trustworthy approach for working with, and through, whatever arises.
Through its simple yet radical practices of self-awareness and self-inquiry, you begin to see what happens when you pay attention and act with kindness and compassion towards yourself and others, even if it feels a bit artificial at first.
An important aspect of mindfulness-based psychotherapy is learning how to simply be with one’s emotions. While we inevitably feel a little sad, anxious, or irritable from time to time, it’s not the mood that does the damage but how we react to it. . .
For instance you may have noticed that the effort of trying to free yourself from a bad mood can often make things worse? It’s as if struggling against difficult feelings pulls you deeper into an emotional quicksand.
The reason this happens is because our state of mind is intimately connected with memory. It’s constantly trawling the depths in search of memories that echo our current emotional state. These memory echoes are incredibly powerful, and once they gather momentum, they are almost impossible to shake free.
In mindfulness-based psychotherapy you learn to recognise memories as they arise and to safely and freely experience your emotions, without getting overwhelmed by the influences of the past.
Suffering is Optional!
A further benefit of mindfulness practice is the eradication of unnecessary suffering from our lives, much of which arises out of our habitual ways of thinking and acting.
Mindfulness-based psychotherapy encourages you to see and break unconscious habits of thought and behaviour that prevent you from living life to the full. You begin to see that while pain is a part of life, suffering is optional!
Sometimes the habits that cause us the most suffering are the ones we’re most unaware of. It’s as if we’ve trained ourselves to look the other way while we suffer! A trained therapist acts as a kind of mirror in which we can become aware of our blind spots. As we begin to see how we habitually block and judge ourselves, alternative paths and choices emerge.
In time, new pathways are carved out in our neural circuitry and old patterns are permanently released. It’s worth remembering that it may take time for mindfulness practices to reveal their full potential, but they lead to deep-down and lasting change, which really can make your life more joyous and fulfilled.
Photo by Andy Cheek of Stevenage, Herts.