Mindfulness is the capacity to know whatever is arising in our experience and being with that and making wise choices from that place with a sense of kindness and open heartedness. (My definition)
“Mindfulness is not something that you have ‘to get‘ or acquire. It is already deep within you – a deep internal resource available and patiently waiting to be reawakened and used in the service of learning, growing, and healing”.
Centre for Mindfulness, Massachussetts, USA
Describing Mindfulness is like explaining what a glass of water tastes like! It cannot be explained, you have to taste it and experience for yourself.
Mindfulness is often defined as ‘paying attention on purpose, moment by moment, without judging, (Full Catastrophe Living, – Jon Kabat-Zinn). This means developing the ability to pay deliberate attention to our direct experience from moment to moment. We learn to tune in to what is going on in our mind and body day to day without judging our experience, or know the judging for what it is
Becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings and sensations may not sound like an obviously helpful thing to do, however learning to do this in a way that suspends judgement and self criticism can have surprising results. Many people report finding inner strengths and resources that help them make wiser decisions about their health and life in general.
Most of us find ourselves frequently ‘swept away’ by the current of thoughts and feelings, worries, pressures, responsibilities; wanting things to be different from how they are right now. This can be particularly powerful when we are faced with pain, difficulties and illness that confound our attempts to find a solution or to feel better. Feeling stuck in this way can be draining. Mindfulness can help us to work directly with the struggle we sometimes have in relating to life’s experience and in doing so can really improve the quality of our life.
Mindfulness-based approaches are intended to teach people practical skills that can help with psychological and physical health problems and life’s challenges.
Mindfulness-based approaches are an integration of ancient Buddhist practices and philosophy of mindfulness, with current psychological understanding and knowledge, they are taught in an entirely secular way, and have no religious context at all.
Mindfulness-based approaches are intended to help in pragmatic, practical ways that facilitate us in realising and accessing our existing inner understanding. Mindfulness is taught through meditation skills, which include bringing attention to the breath and the body during stillness and movement – body scan, mindfulness of the breath, sitting meditation, walking meditation and mindfulness movement.
In the courses that are described on this site most of the above meditations will be practiced as well as gratitude and loving kindness. You may wish to listen to Jon Kabat-Zinn leading a body scan practice (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4gZgnCy5ew.)
Usually there is a maximum of 15 people attending a course from all walks of life and all ages, male and female. It is important to set an intention to attend each of the weekly sessions as the learning is built on from session to session. Of course in some circumstances missing is unavoidable but signing up for all 8 is advisable.
Each session is 2 and a quarter hours (at Sharpham it is 2 hours). Home practice forms a large part of the learning and this is in the form of guided meditation practices: Body Scan, Mindfulness of the breath, Sitting Meditation, Mindful Movement and Breathing space.
People will be asked to set aside 30 minutes per day to practice. This repetitive practice firstly trains the attention (like training a puppy dog) and secondly we can start to see the patterns of our mind and the familiar behaviour patterns unfolding before our eyes.
It is important to see our liking and disliking of the practices as part of the programme. Within the face to face sessions there is time for a minimum of one meditation practice, feedback from the home practice and a little teaching, with most of the teaching and learning arising from our own experience(in the group and at home).
It is not a group to share the past or our innermost dilemmas but we focus on “what is happening right now”, “what is happening in the body as you say that”, our present experience.
This can be quite difficult to be with our experience if we are in a particularly difficult place in our lives so check “Is this the right time to be doing this course?”. It is a course in self discovery, of acknowledging and allowing whatever emerges with kindness and compassion, this is about being human and not super-human.