A change I made 10 years ago was to be more mindful as a mental health professional. Working on the Crisis Assessment & Treatment team and employed as a Senior Researcher with the Centre for Rural Mental Health, I was found looking for more from my clinical practice. Starting slowly, I used Marsha Linehan’s Dialectical Behaviour Therapy skills manual to change my clinical approach in working with individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder. This was my first step into mindfulness professionally and, with minimal awareness, personally.
Ten years on… I have a mindful approach in my everyday life. I also apply mindfulness principles in the development of mental health professionals, and am immersed in mindfulness based clinical practices in my clinical roles.
For me, to be mindful is being fully aware; accepting the present moment as it is without judgement. A state of mind or mental capacity to enable experiencing and doing so fully. Participating in the present moment! When used in daily life, mindfulness taught me to slow down. Process what I am doing in the moment not after that moment has passed. A way to live more fully in the present. Appreciating the miracle of life. Have my attention brought into the present. Minimising personal judgements of what my mind is capable of.
My teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay), describes mindfulness as “the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment… the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life… to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing”.
When practising mindfulness, I am not looking to evaluate an experience as good or bad, right or wrong. I am looking to observe my thinking, judgements, or feelings (for example statements / thoughts such as: I should be… I should not be… this is good, bad, nice, irritating), and then move back to simply observing, and describing the experience I am living. This is challenging, and practice, practice, practice is my strategy!
I have found mindfulness is best when not forced… I recall being told, “you need to do this” or, “you need to do that” and “to be a good clinician you need to…” Letting go of achieving anything, or expecting anything in particular is what helped me. Being mindful is approaching an experience with curiosity, with lightheartedness, and with an open mind and as much as possible with kindness and compassion. This is my approach… my approach now.
I have also learnt, initially from Marsha Linehan, that mindfulness is an approach with the intent to stay right where you are, with whatever is there for you in the moment. It is allowing your experience to be as it is, without attempting to alter it’s nature, without reacting to the experience. It is not relaxation (relaxation maybe a by product of mindfulness, but in being mindful we are not trying to change how we feel), nor a technique… it is a way of being, being present in the moment and experiencing the moment as it is. If you are looking on a start in mindfulness a book on mindfulness I have found useful is The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. No matter what your direction, I hope you find useful the links below from the Mindfulness Manifesto.
All the best and I look forward to seeing many smiles from my friends, colleagues and clients throughout 2012.
Getting relief from tinnitus may be mind over matter (ABC News)
Mindfulness behind bars (Greater Good)
Mindfulness meditation takes the goal out of sex (ABC News)
Meditation slows down age-related brain atrophy (Times of India) and Your brain doesn’t look a day over 40, dear (mindful.org) and Does meditation change the brain? Can it slow aging? (Psychology Today)
Good summary of the science of mindfulness (Mindful.org)
Towards a Mindful Society – an interview with Jon Kabat Zinn (mindful.org)
All in the Mind: Stress Special (including Mindfulness segment) (BBC Radio 4)
Mindfulness may ease irritable bowel symptoms (Reuters)
Integrative way: Hope for menopausal symptoms (Bellingham Herald)
How to cure shopping addiction (The Guardian)
Mindfulness and Horse therapy for veterans with PTSD (Daily Camera)
How UK musicians are working with mindfulness (Guardian)
Mindfulness can help us make more rational and compassionate financial decisions(Psychology Today)
Mindfulness can help with some menopausal symptoms. (Washington Post)
Cancer survivors benefit from meditation: new data (mindful.org)
Mindful meditation might ease irritable bowel syndrome (US News)
It’s time for your meditation - More than just an aid to wellbeing, the ancient discipline could soon be used to treat conditions from obesity to multiple sclerosis (Independent)
Meditation prescribed more often as alternative to conventional medicine, study finds(ABC News)
Mindfulness therapy fights stress and depression by teaching you how to ‘own’ the present (Daily Telegraph)
How meditation may ward off the effects of ageing (The Observer)
Meditation may help the brain ‘turn down the volume’ on distractions, through enhanced control of alpha rhythms (Eurekalert)
Meditation makes people more rational decision-makers (USA Today)
Even beginners can curb pain with meditation (NPR) and Meditation ‘better than morphine’ at easing pain (Daily Mail)
Meditation beats dance for harmonising body and mind (UC Berkeley News Center)
How meditation helps beat stress by changing patterns of gene activity (The Times of India)
How meditation may change the brain (New York Times)
TV piece on the latest research on mindfulness from Massachussets (Fox News)
Mindfulness therapy puts the focus on improving the quality of body and spirit (Boston Globe)
Until there’s a pill, “female Viagra” is all in your head - mindfulness and its impact on sex drive (Gay City News)
Mindfulness meditation may strengthen certain brain regions (wildmind)
Jon Kabat Zinn and others discuss mindfulness (BBC World Service)
Mindfulness therapy can treat anxiety, depression, experts say - latimes.com