Mindfulness is an innate capacity. It’s useful largely because it’s the exact opposite of ruminative thinking, which causes us to become anxious and distressed. Instead of rehashing the past or rehearsing for the future, we wake up fully, to the present moment. We learn to simply see our thoughts as mental events that come and go, like leaves on a flowing stream.
As you read this now, perhaps you might be saying to yourself, “sounds easy enough”.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is world-renowned in the field of mindfulness. Professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society in the US, he describes meditation as the “hardest work in the world”.
In his article titled Why Even Bother? The Importance of Motivation, he says this is because our habitual tendencies are so ingrained that, initially, a strong technique and effort are required to support our wandering minds. However, he believes “each moment missed is a moment unlived”.
Truth about mental health
Most people embarking on an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program are motivated to end their pain and suffering. As humans, we tend to perpetuate our own suffering, by being attached to our narratives, thoughts, and unpleasant emotional states.
What this does is prevent us from seeing the “truth” of what is really going on in life.
Motivation to restart
The motivation to get to the bottom of things has, at its heart, a willingness to move from habitual conditioning to a state of wisdom and insight. With this comes deeper compassion for others and for ourselves. However, there needs to be a commitment to practice.
Prof Mark Williams is the former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre in the UK. To him, mindfulness means “knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment”.
He adds: “Mindfulness could extend your life in two main ways. First, by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which make physical illnesses more severe and life-threatening… Second, and more importantly, mindfulness allows you to notice more of the life you already have. It allows you to see it as if for the first time. Mindfulness allows you to let go of the tendency to ‘sleep-walk through life.”
Teach your mind
As a practice, mindfulness teaches us how to be more skilled in our internal environment. We don’t try to fix the internal environment. Instead, we come to understand that each state or felt experience is as it is. Our minds have a tendency to wander. The work is not so much to change the thoughts but to see clearly the way we relate to them, and to the attitudes, we hold towards ourselves.
Through cultivating this practice, we develop an acceptance. This can be defined as coming to terms with the true reality of any given situation.
Mindfulness is a life skill that enables you to be awake to your full experience. It’s a faculty that, if worked on, will develop incrementally.
Journey towards mindfulness
However, the practice is not for everyone. We are all currently facing severe challenges. Sometimes we have the resources to meet these challenges – we feel resilient. At other times, our resources are overwhelmed. Be aware of your capacity. Most importantly, find a qualified professional to support you as you begin your journey towards mindfulness. Make sure you are in safe hands and be kind and gentle with yourself.
Who is the author
Mandy Johnson is the founder of Introspect Coaching & Facilitation, which offers various Mindfulness-Based Interventions geared towards transformation and insight. She is a Mindfulness-Based Coach, Supervisor & Facilitator with an undergraduate degree from UCT in Industrial Psychology and Sociology. Mandy completed her Graduate Diploma in Counselling (Coaching) through Sacap (South African College in Applied Psychology) in 2011.
She has Master Practitioner (CMP) Coach credentialls. This required 250 hours of training and over 2000 hours of coaching. Mandy is registered with both the Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA) and HeartMath South Africa as a HeartMath Coach. She specializes in training biofeedback tools to enhance stress recovery and self-regulation, focusing specifically on heart rate variability.
Mandy has completed additional training in Emotional Intelligence through the EQ Institute in 2004. She also completed an internship in Shadow Therapy with Evan Klisser, the Founder of the EQ institute. Mandy has completed the Nancy Kline Thinking Partners training with Trish Lord and Depth Facilitation with Helene Smit. She attended training in Non-Violent Communication and has worked as a Biofeedback Technician assisting a Psychologist with Neurofeedback training. In 2019, Mandy qualified as an Accredited Enneagram Practitioner.