Mindfulness meditation courses for everyone

What is mindfulness?

At its simplest mindfulness is the development of awareness.

An oft quoted definition from Jon Kabat Zinn is that: "Mindfulness means paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally". This quote encapsulates the three elements seen as essential to mindfulness - 1) developing our capacity to pay attention to the present moment 2) doing so intentionally and 3) developing this capacity in a gentle and nurturing way.

This may sound easy but often we get caught up in mulling over past events repeatedly, projecting into the future, or wanting things to be different from how they actually are, and we miss the fullness of the present moment. In addition, we can sometimes be prone to running a harsh and self critical commentary about ourselves and our experience.

Mindfulness meditation allows us to practise treating ourselves and others more kindly. It is frequently referred to as a mindfulness 'practice' because during meditation it is usual to find that we have to bring our attention back to the present moment over and over again. Just as as we would 'practise' scales repeatedly if we were learning a musical instrument, we 'practise' being mindful. Noticing that the mind has wandered is, in itself, a moment of mindfulness. 

Benefits of mindfulness

By developing our ability to be aware of all our experiences with clarity, honesty and compassion, mindfulness based approaches can help people to cope better with the struggles of daily life such as chronic pain, difficulty and worry.

It has been repeatedly shown in scientific research that mindfulness benefits physical health and chronic disorders such as back pain and Multiple Sclerosis. It also improves the working of the immune system, heart and circulatory system.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy has been shown to be at least as good as drugs or counselling for the treatment of recurring depression.

When it comes to general wellbeing, participants in mindfulness training report more enjoyment and appreciation of their lives with greater acceptance of themselves and others.

How is mindfulness practised?

Mindfulness practices are often divided into informal and formal practices. Formal practices include sitting meditation and the bodyscan whilst informal mindfulness practice involves bringing a more mindful attitude towards the activities of everyday life that we might usually try to hurry through, such as doing the laundry or waiting in a traffic jam.

Mindful movement enables greater synchronisation of body and mind. and embraces the more formal practices of yoga or tai chi, and gentle stretching, as well as the greater awareness that we can bring to movement generally.