What is meditation, mindfulness and mindfulness meditation?
Meditation is seen by a number of researchers as potentially one of the most effective forms of stress reduction. It also helps to improve physical and mental well-being, strengthen the immune system and manage chronic pain better. There are many different types of meditation but mindfulness meditation is the type that is mostly backed up by research studies which show evidence of its health benefits.
Mindfulness means focusing on the present, being aware of one’s actions, thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations without judging them. Because you are focusing on the present, you are not thinking about the past or the future or about anything which may worry you or which you may not have control over.
Mindfulness meditation was recently introduced in the Western World as an innovative method by which the layperson can regularly attain a state of mental peace and tranquility, i.e. relief from stress. Mindfulness meditation consists of sitting in a comfortable position (not necessarily on the floor with legs crossed) and focusing one’s attention on the breath. One can focus on the sensation of air coming in and out of the nostrils or on the rise and fall of the abdomen with each breath. Thoughts will inevitably start coming, one should acknowledge these thoughts without judging them and gently bring the attention back to the breath.
Like all good things in life, mindfulness meditation is something which must be experienced in order to understand. It is a holistic experience, meaning that in its fruition you will feel whole and complete, without wanting, lacking nothing. Even if just for a few minutes, the effects of morning meditation last throughout the whole day, removing negative states of mind like stress and worry.
We invite you to our clinic to give it a try. No need to be concerned about requirements and capabilities, you already have all the tools. What you will learn are simple age long tried and tested methods which will bring you back to living in the present, free from mundane stresses.
It has been said that meditation is the most natural state of being, hence the feeling of inner peace and the return to balance. After the 4 week course you would experience and understand the basics of meditation. Leaving you with enough knowledge to continue exploring this inner dimension on your own. Meditation can be likened to mind training and like all training it is something which has to be practiced regularly to get the best results.
How Mindfulness Works
No matter where you are on the mindfulness scale, reading more about this practice (and way of life) will undoubtedly benefit your everyday life. This is what mindfulness is all about:
The First Part of Mindfulness: Present-Moment Awareness
Mindfulness involves centering your awareness completely in the present moment. Most people spend significant time worrying about what happened in the past – what other people said or did, what they should have done differently. They also overthink or worry about what will happen in the future.
Thinking about the past and the future is a natural mechanism the mind uses to learn from past events and anticipate what will happen next. However, it’s easy to overuse this instinct and spend too much time worrying – or trying to avoid whatever it is that’s making you worry.
Focus on the present moment
Focusing on the present moment, completely immersing yourself in the experience of where you are and what you’re doing right now, is a way to quiet the worrying mind and bring a sense of calm.
Of course, it’s easy to see how being fully in the present moment can be calming if what you’re doing is a simple, everyday activity. But, what if the present moment is a stressful situation? Surprisingly, mindfulness can help you take difficult circumstances in stride – so you’re not overwhelmed by them, and so you can take more deliberate action rather than reacting rashly in the heat of the moment.
The Second Part of Mindfulness: Acceptance
Another important aspect of mindfulness is non-judgmental observation. It involves accepting (or, as some people say, surrendering to) the reality of what is. We are constantly judging the people and circumstances around us – and ourselves – and this leads us to 1) label things as good or bad, 2) compare ourselves to others, and 3) obsess over what someone “should” be doing (but isn’t).
Mindfulness practices teach us to observe what is happening without judgment, in order to have a clearer perspective on the situation. Accepting something without judgment doesn’t mean you accept it as OK. It simply means that in that particular moment, you’re not judging. From this place of calm, you can decide how you want to respond, and then make a deliberate decision.
For example, let’s say a co-worker is talking rudely to you at work. You know that this person just failed to get a promotion and is in a bad mood, and they’re taking it out on you. Someone without mindfulness experience would most likely react defensively by being rude in return, or silently stewing about it for hours, perhaps even looking for a way to get back at the person.
With mindfulness awareness, you can accept each of your thoughts and feelings in the moment and allow them to pass on, then choose how to act. The experience might go something like this:
Thought: She’s being rude to me. Really?!
Realization: Oh, she’s probably still upset about getting passed over for the promotion.
Emotion: Anger – because she is unfairly taking her anger out on you.
You accept that your anger is a natural response to being treated unfairly. You give the anger a moment to flash through your body, then it dies out when you don’t give it any additional fuel.
Take a breath, and release your irritation as you
Thought: How do I want to respond? I can tell her it’s not cool to take her anger out on me. I can express sympathy with her about the lack of promotion, then ask her not to take it out on me. I can simply ignore her comment and walk away. I can just raise an eyebrow and give her a “not cool” look.
Action: Make a decision and act on it. (It’s totally up to you. The important thing is that you have options that aren’t going to get you into trouble.)
When emotion goes up, reasoning ability goes down. You know this from personal experience, anytime you’ve regretted something you did in the heat of the moment. Mindfulness helps you get back to a neutral emotional state as quickly as possible so that you can use your full intellectual capacity to deal with the situation at hand.
Mindfulness helps you get back to a neutral state as quickly as possible
Mindfulness also allows you to enjoy the good experiences in your life more fully.
How Can Mindfulness Pave the Path to Happiness?
Mindfulness gets you back in touch with:
Your body: Your body is great at giving you warning signs of trouble – if you’re listening. It is also your doorway to experiencing life fully. The more you pay attention to it, the more you will find your body to be an ally in your life.
Your emotions: Life is an emotional roller coaster. But, when you accept that emotions are fleeting, that they always move on and change, you can become better at managing your emotions so that you stay in control rather than being at the mercy of your feelings and reactions.
What’s good in life: Remember a time when you were young and innocent and enjoyed life’s simple pleasures? You can reclaim that feeling now, even as an adult with a lot resting on your shoulders.
A constant in our lives: The things that don’t change: Some things – sunrise, sunset, breathing, etc. – are constants in our lives. Focusing your awareness on the reliable parts of life provides a much-needed a sense of stability.
An acceptance of what does change: Even when you’re not happy with change, being able to accept that what happened is the first step in allowing yourself to move forward.
Who you really are: Life often sends you the message that you’re not good enough, that you should be more. By focusing on who you truly are in the present moment – your real body, real emotions, real thoughts, real beliefs, real desires – you become grounded in a truth that provides strength to make the choices you want, rather than reacting to what everyone else wants from you.
What You Need to Practice Mindfulness
What does it take to be capable of putting mindfulness to work in your life? There’s just one requirement: Be human.
That’s right, mindfulness doesn’t require any special skills, talent or a degree. In fact, it’s our natural state of being. If you observe very young children, this is how they experience life. To them, it’s all about what’s happening now.
Worrying is something we learn to do in reaction to bad things happening, with the goal of preventing more bad things from happening, but we can take it too far. Mindfulness practices are like hitting the reset button that takes you back to a centered place.
Mindfulness is easy to learn, and if you “fall off the wagon” and start thinking about the past and future, moving your attention back into the present is easy as well. There’s no need to judge yourself, because no one is grading you on this. When you realize you need to return your attention to the present moment, that’s the right time to do it.
You can’t fail at mindfulness. Everyone who practices mindfulness moves back and forth between being in the present moment and thinking about the past or future. Success is simply being able to control where your attention is at will. The more you practice, the better you get.
Common Types of Mindfulness Practices
Be present: This is the simplest form of mindfulness. Focus on how your body feels right now. Move your attention to each part of your body. Notice the temperature, your environment, sights, sounds, smells, and the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe.
Awareness meditation: Sit comfortably, and focus on your breath. If your mind wanders, simply shift your focus back as you notice it, without judgment. Observe your emotions, but don’t judge them.
Walking: As you take a walk, stay focused on your body and surroundings. This is different from when your mind wanders – which can also be valuable, but that’s a different state of mind.
Running: A sport where you focus on your body’s actions in the moment is beneficialExercise: Yoga is commonly practiced for mindfulness, but really any sport where you focus on your body’s actions in the moment is beneficial. (Hint: When playing a competitive sport, don’t allow yourself to dwell mentally or emotionally on that shot you just missed. Let it go and refocus on the action you need to take now. This is especially important in fast-moving sports, where worrying about past or future performance will cause your present performance to suffer.)
Routine work: While washing dishes, sweeping or doing yard work – anything of a routine nature – focus on sensory input as your body does the work it can do automatically.
Guided meditation: Listen to a recording where the speaker leads you through a visualization activity. The objective can be to calm you, or to lead you through experiencing and releasing emotions. Look for these audio tracks online, at your library, or at a local bookseller.
The Next Step: Healing Practices
Mindfulness is specifically about keeping your focus on the present moment without judgment, yet it naturally leads into moments of reflection that then lead to awareness and inner healing. Here are a few practices that you can add after – or in combination with – your mindfulness practices.
Gratitude: Each day (or multiple times a day), think of one thing you are thankful for. When your day is going poorly, try to find a silver lining to give you something good to hold onto. Gratitude is a great way to disrupt negative thinking and keep it from spiraling down into a bad mood.
Reflection and/or prayer: Depending on your spiritual beliefs, you can pray in a manner associated with your religion, or you can simply use quiet time to reflect on important questions – such as what you really want in life, how you might achieve it, and where you might turn for assistance.
Emotional Clearing: It is a good idea to do this with the help of a professional therapist, coach or counselor who is experienced in helping people clear emotional trauma and limiting beliefs.
What does the course consist of?
The course is divided into four 1hour sessions once a week. Although each session concentrates on a different aspect of mindfulness meditation, in essence they are the same.
1) Intro to mindfulness meditation and concentration: sitting, standing and dynamic meditation.
Objectives: Living in the present, deeper understanding of the benefits of meditation and to bring meditation into daily life and all activities.
2) Intro to mindfulness of the senses: Eating meditation (participants are taught how to eat mindfully using nuts) and listening meditation, these are fun.
Objectives: Participants will experience the feeling of time slowing down, deep relaxation and presence. Savouring the moment.
3) Intro to mindfulness of mind: Better understanding of the nature of mind, witnessing the ‘monkey mind’, letting thoughts go.
Objectives: Acceptance, being at ease with what is.
4) Intro to mindfulness of emotions: Tailor-made techniques to enhance the benefits of meditation.
Objectives: To create a calm unwavering positive attitude.
Mindfulness meditation sessions take place on Thursdays at 7.30pm
What are the benefits of mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness meditation has been studied extensively since it was introduced in the Western World. It became very popular as the most effective method of stress reduction but has many other benefits, all of which have been backed up by research.
Mindfulness meditation can:
1) Reduce stress and tension: By focusing on the breath, one can take the attention away from excessive thoughts and ruminations which very often cause tension. Mindfulness meditation was also found to lower the stress hormone cortisol in the blood. Excessive and prolonged cortisol production is responsible for many health problems associated with chronic stress, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, suppressed immunity and suppressed thyroid function.
2) Boost the immune system: By reducing cortisol production and reducing overall stress, studies show that mindfulness meditation can boost immunity which means that one gets sick less often with colds and flu. It can also help one handle symptoms of cold and flu better and promote quicker recovery.
3) Reduce anxiety and depression: Studies show that mindfulness practices can help reduce anxiety and depression, especially the case when these are caused or aggravated by stress.
4) Promote better sleep: There is nothing better than performing 10-15minutes of mindfulness meditation in bed to cure your insomnia. If you find it hard to fall asleep, or you get up frequently throughout the night, practicing meditation before bedtime can help you sleep like a baby.
5) Reduce chronic pain: Research shows that during mindfulness meditation, the body secretes endogenous opiods, which are the body’s natural painkilling chemicals, similar to morphine, thus reducing any type of chronic pain. It also helps chronic pain by reducing tension and anxiety which very often tend to lower one’s pain threshold.
6) Lower blood pressure and improve heart disease: Meditation can lower blood pressure by making the body less sensitive to stress hormones. It also improves diabetes by reducing cortisol and has an overall beneficial effect on the heart, prolonging life.
7) Fight addiction: Whether it is nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or heroin, studies show that mindfulness practices can help one reduce drug consumption and even get out of an addiction or substance use disorder.
8) Help with weight loss: By improving self-control and fighting cravings through mindfulness meditation, one can use this to help with weight loss.
9) Help you get to know yourself better: By practicing mindfulness meditation regularly, one can learn more about their personality and their behaviour in certain situations. This will also result in greater emotional stability and self-control.
There are many more documented benefits of mindfulness meditation and many different studies showing evidence of these benefits. This makes it a very interesting and very exciting new form of treatment which does not involve medication. For mindfulness meditation to be effective, one must learn the proper technique, which can easily be done through a 4 week course (1 hour per week) and then practice it regularly for at least 10-15minutes daily. The longer one practices and the better the technique, the more effective the results will be.
Meditation and Insomnia
We have all experienced having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep and waking up unrefreshed. It may be part of a demanding life style or a one off occasion. Whatever the case it usually resolves by itself after a long deserved rest. However if the symptoms persists beyond a few weeks it is usually considered to be chronic insomnia.
If you are suffering from insomnia, you may be happy to know that meditation can help. There is an abundance of evidence that regular meditation can improve sleep patterns, often dramatically. Research indicates that an overly aroused sympathetic nervous system is an important causative factor in chronic insomnia. It follows that practices that reduce nervous system arousal, such as meditation, can be very effective in relieving insomnia.
The main cause of insomnia is mental stress, that why meditation can be so helpful. During this short course in meditation designed for people suffering from insomnia you will learn how let go of stressful thinking and focus your mind on the present. Learn how to be just here and now and enjoy a restful sleep again.
Meditation can be practiced sitting or lying down and during the course you will learn different techniques designed not only to help you have a better sleep but also to reduce stress, tension and anxiety in your life. Imagine falling asleep like a child again, without a care or worry in the world. We all deserve a peaceful sleep, re-discover how.
Tips to Practice Mindfulness in Everyday Life
This is really just having a go at turning off the auto-pilot mode in which we often go through life, and instead doing things with full awareness. It can be applied to anything – here are just a couple of examples and you are welcome to come up with your own. When other thoughts arise (as they will!) just acknowledge them and let them go like passing cars. It is normal for your mind to wander and become distracted – just be kind to it and welcome it back to focus on the activity you are engaged in. Repeat this as many times as you need to and do not judge it as a failure.
1. Mindfulness of Your Morning Routine
Pick an activity that you do every morning, e.g. brushing your teeth, shaving, making the bed, eating breakfast. When you do the activity, really focus your attention on it fully – the body movements, the taste, touch, smell, sight etc. Notice it as if you are doing it for the first time, with no judgement, but rather with an attitude of openness and curiosity.
E.g. – when you are in the shower, notice the sounds of the water as it sprays out of the nozzle, as it hits your body, and as it gurgles down the drain. Notice the water temperature, the feel of it on your hair, face body. Notice the smell and texture of the soap and shampoo. Notice the water droplets on the shower curtain. Notice the steam. Notice the movements of the body as you wash yourself.
2. Mindful Domestic Chores!
This could be anything – washing up, hovering, dusting, DIY etc. But – rather than doing it on ‘auto-pilot’ really pay attention and notice all of the sensations involved in the task. E.g. when ironing clothes really notice the colour and shape of the garment, notice it’s texture and patterns when creased and how this changes when it is ironed flat and becomes smooth. Notice the grip of your hand on the iron, the movement of your arm and shoulder. Notice the fragrance of the clothes, the steam and hiss of the iron.
3. Pleasant Activity Mindfulness
Pick an activity that you enjoy such as cuddling up to a loved one, eating lunch, stroking the dog, walking, listening to music etc. Pay full attention to the activity using all of your 5 senses and savour every moment.
Mindfulness ‘relaxations’ – or ‘Simple Ways to Get Present’
These are some simple exercises to centre yourself and connect with your environment. Practice them throughout the day, especially any time you find yourself getting caught up and stressed by your thoughts and feelings. It may be best to stick with one technique to start with and get really familiar with it, but it is ok to try the others as well.
1. Take a deep breath and slowly exhale as you plant your feet into the floor. 2. Push your feet down – notice the ground beneath them, supporting you. 3. Notice the muscle tension in your legs as you push your feet down. 4. Notice your entire body and the feeling of gravity flowing down through your head, back, and legs into your feet. 5. Now look around you and notice what you can see and hear. Be aware of where you are and what you are doing.
Notice 5 Things
1. Pause for a moment – take a deep breath and slowly exhale. 2. Look around and notice 5 things that you can see. 3. Listen carefully and notice 5 things that you can hear. 4. Be aware of what you can feel and notice 5 things in contact with your body – e.g. your watch against your wrist, the air on your face, your back against the chair, or your feet on the floor. 5. Finally – do all of the above at the same time and allow yourself to become aware of what you can see, hear, and feel simultaneously.
Take 10 Breaths
1. Take 10 slow deep breaths. Focus on breathing out a slowly as possible until all the breath has gone and then allow the lungs to re-fill by themselves. 2. Notice the sensations of your breath entering and leaving the body. Notice your rib cage rising and falling. Notice the rise and fall of your shoulders and abdomen. 3. See if you can let your thoughts come and go without holding on to them – as if they are cars just passing by on the road outside your window. 4. Expand your awareness – continue to notice your breathing and your body. Then look around the room and notice what you can see, hear, smell, touch, and feel.