Frequently asked questions
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is ’a natural human quality, an accepting awareness of the constantly unfolding experience of our everyday lives.’ Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yet most of us live a great deal of our lives without paying attention to what is happening right now. We tend to chew over what has happened in the past, or spend time worrying about the future. Becoming more ‘present’ can have a positive influence our working lives, our relationships and our health. The good news is that we can become more mindful, more often, simply by practicing particular forms of meditation.
Mindfulness is not a set of techniques, it is a way of being, knowing and loving. It should not be confused with relaxation, although it may help us become more relaxed. When we learn to practice mindfulness regularly and integrate it into our everyday lives, we can experience many health, social and work benefits.
Since the earliest times, humans have learned that mindfulness is beneficial and can be cultivated through the practice of mindful meditation. Although in the past we have tended to associate mindful meditation with religious or spiritual practices, for the last forty years, mindfulness based approaches (MBAs) have become secular methodologies used extensively in medicine, psychology, leadership and management training, sports training and other fields.
Mindfulness based courses are self care programmes based on the integration of learning from the disciplines of psychology, neuroscience and philosophy. They combine our understanding of human behaviour, our knowledge about the plasticity of the human brain and our philosophical exploration of what it means to be human.
Recent research using MRI technology demonstrates that when we practise mindfulness based approaches for just 30 mintues a day for 8 weeks we increase the concentration of grey matter in the areas of the brain that help us: learn and remember; manage our emotions skilfully; appreciate others' perspectives and understand our own reactions and experience more fully.
How can mindfulness help me at work?
Lots of studies have demonstrated that practising mindfulness can help us at work by:
• enhancing our focus and attention
• helping us respond appropriately to work-place stress
• increasing our self-awareness and our awareness of others
• raising our levels of resilience
• helping us think more clearly
Any other reason why I might want to be involved?
Mindfulness based approaches to stress, depression, chronic pain and illness have been clinically proven to help people deal more effectively with these difficulties. Mindfulness can’t take away emotional or physical pain, but it can significantly alter our relationship with that pain, making it possible to live fuller, happier lives.
So can it be taught?
Yes! We can all be mindful quite naturally in our everyday lives, but modern living involves a lot of pressure and distraction which can lead to us becoming less mindful. Developing and sustaining a mindfulness practice helps us deepen our awareness and encourages us to slip more naturally into mindful states in our everyday lives.
What do you mean by a ‘mindfulness practice’?
I mean regularly employing a range of formal meditation practices, and using these practices to become more aware of our patterns of thoughts. The formal practice helps us extend the periods when we are mindful in our everyday lives.
Do I have to be religious to meditate?
Popular images of meditation can give the wrong impression. Anyone can practice mindfulness meditation as part of their everyday lives. You don't need any special equipment. You don't have to have any religious belief or philosophical conviction. And you certainly don't need to sit cross legged on a cushion looking blissful!
• Mindfulness meditation does not mean you have to twist your body into positions that are uncomfortable for you – it can be done sitting in a chair, standing or lying down.
• Mindfulness meditation can be practised by people of all faiths or none.
• Mindfulness meditation is not a set of techniques – it is a way of being, knowing and loving.
• Mindfulness meditation is not relaxation, although you may find it helps you relax.
• Mindfulness meditation is not ‘emptying your mind’ or ‘switching off from life’; instead meditation encourages you to become more deeply attuned to your life and to be more profoundly aware of your thoughts.
• Mindfulness meditation is not about getting to somewhere else, or reaching a perfect state. It is about the present moment.
• Mindfulness meditation can be practised formally, by laying special time aside each day, and informally, as part of your everyday life.
So couldn’t I just learn all this from a book or the internet?
Developing mindfulness is essentially practical. You can learn all about swimming from reading a book, but sooner or later you have to get in the water! We strongly recommend learning with others. It’s more supportive and it can help you keep going with the practice. On the other hand, if you cannot manage to a class, you can distance learn through telephone tutorials and have the benefit of individual attention.
So what happens on the course?
During the courses we practice focused attention, using mindfulness of the breath, the body and thought. We meditate lying down, sitting and through gentle movement. Attention is given to the effects of stress on mind and body, seeing thoughts and emotions as events in the mind. We explore how the interpretation of our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations affects us through discussions and some direct input from the tutor.
Do I have to share personal stuff?
Absolutely not! This is not therapy! It is entirely up to you what you choose to discuss and there is no need for you to speak at all during the course. I will suggest that you keep a journal as you do the course, but this is entirely for your own use.
Will I feel results immediately?
Developing a personal mindulness practice takes time and patience. You may feel worse before you feel better, because practicing mindfulness meditation can bring to the surface painful emotions we have buried for some time. However, you will be given the tools to manage such discomfort and to learn from the process. We invite you to see the eight week course as not an end in itself, but the beginning of a lifelong change in how you manage your life.
Does mindfulness replace other ways of keeping myself well?
Certainly not! If you are taking medication, continue to do so in consultation with your doctor. Mindfulness complements other things we know keep us well, including getting enough sleep, eating healthily, drinking responsibly, exercising and maintaining our connections with others.
Anything else I should know?
The course takes place over eight weeks and each session last 2 hours. When you apply, we will ask you to fill a personal information form providing relevant medical details. This helps us know whether the course is suitable for you at this stage, and how we can best provide for any difficulties you may experience. We may call you before the course starts to discuss if the course is suitable for you at this stage. You will be given a course handbook and a CD with guidance for home practice. You should feel free to call us before the course starts so that you can talk through any concerns and ask any questions. We will also send everyone a welcome email with more detailed information shortly before the course starts.
I'm still not sure if this is for me in my situation at this moment - how can I find out?
You may wish to discuss it with your medical practitioner, or give us a call.