What the word ‘Spirituality’ means to me personally

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For me personally it begins with my first memories.  As a small child I remembered being somewhere else and choosing to come here to write the book I have now written, and others before and after.

The internal knowledge of this has helped to make me resilient in this life, as obviously, if I remember being somewhere else before here, then this life cannot be a single event, and there is nothing to fear from death, as it is only a step into somewhere else again, some other adventure!

So to me spirituality is about being part of the vast infinite universe and everything in it.  I feel that all plants and animals are brethren, all peoples and cultures.  There is no reason to feel separate from anything; any feeling of separation is only an illusion for us to learn to let go of.  Maybe we have to feel kind of separate first to define ourselves and figure out how we want to live, but then we can open up to the rest, and gradually collapse apparent opposites. In my main book “No Paradox – Living both in and outside the Matrix”, I speak of this theory, and of how we can widen our vision to include stuff outside of the usual net of existence, the limiting beliefs that are often given us from an early age or through narrow experience perpetuated by immersion in a narrow social narrative.  Basically it is about consciously evolving our own consciousness so that we are no longer stuck in a limited reality and can thus ultimately stop reacting to that previously perceived limitation.  In another book “A little book on ‘Mastery’”, I write more on how we can learn to master ourselves to enable us to live more and more often in a higher state of consciousness.  I teach and create meditations to help people, but I think mindfulness is a fantastically simple way to make this whole area more easily accessible to many more people who might find the idea of meditation a bit complicated.  It is fantastic news that it has been so widely embraced, and is being used in so many settings, where I know it can make a huge difference to people’s awareness and wider consciousness.  I think it might even change humanity permanently for the better, especially with the younger generation growing up with it.

I was lucky enough to have my special memory of being somewhere else, so I was always open to a wider reality than most, and I was very lucky too to have an amazing upbringing with lots of travel and usually living close to nature.  Sometimes my family engaged in philosophical discussions after dinner, but mostly they were more logical or science based, and I developed my own sense of spirituality through immersing myself in nature, and through reading.

When I was very young, we lived on the west coast of Ireland and I used to gaze out to sea or run on the beach as a toddler and feel joyful at being a part of it all.  When we went to live in South Africa, I was just 6, and I got really close to nature in the Natal Drakensberg mountains.  Wild animals would come and let me touch them, trees and streams seemed to talk. I was always pretty independent, and although often with my younger brothers, I also spent a lot of time alone.

In later years I became a healer and dowser, and can sense many things going on in the subtle energy fields of people, animals, plants, and other natural objects.  I can even feel things from great distances, such as when dowsing on a map of somewhere on the other side of the world.  One of my brothers is a full time dowser and works all over the world.  He was trained as a Geologist but later discovered this ability, and also taught me, but he is far more able than I am at using this skill.  At times I have worked with him, and sometimes I have worked on my own.  When I have been finding water on people’s land, sometimes they have asked me to also dowse on a historical site for them.  I told them I know nothing about history but they said don’t worry, we will ask the questions, you just tell us what you feel in response.  Well, I found I had a sort of multi-sensory film going on in my head, of the past, including smell and even taste.  Apart from seeing a village with people coming and going, I could also smell the animals and the straw and taste wood smoke, and was able to answer their questions to their satisfaction. When healing someone I can sense a lot about what is going on in the body, where energy is tangled or blocked and how to untangle or release it, or if it is inflamed how to cool it, for example.  I can also often find an emotional reason for a blockage, which the body literally gives me a message about when I am working with a blocked area.  Then when I ask them about this, such as in one example – “Do you have a sister that you have a lot of trouble with?” – the client answered “Oh my gosh yes!”, which then enabled us to explore all that and find answers to help her gradually deal with the issue.  (I did train as a counsellor and life coach soon after I finished my 2 year full healer training.  I found a local healing group which was part of an international organisation that I trained with.  I went on to help train others and act as a regional representative for them, and then also chaired that large group for a couple of years.  Since then I have also done other training such as Nutritional Therapy, and Thai Hand & Foot Massage, all of which helps me help others, and myself, with overall well-being. Now, as I work part time as a carer for PMLD people, I thought Mindfulness in Mental Health would be a good course to add, as I am ever curious to learn more.  I’m also an artist, as well as a writer and poet, so I’m doing the Art Therapy course next.  My poetry and art is also mostly a means for expressing my love of nature, including our amazing bodies and minds, and my sense of a wider spiritual connection.)

I revel in taking notice of nature with all its beauty, and accept that it can also seem cruel sometimes, but it all makes sense if you can step back and view the bigger picture, realise that all sides of the coin are necessary to enable existence of anything at all.  I enjoy even supposedly inanimate objects, such as stones, and feel that they are imbued with energy of some kind, there is energy in everything, which I can feel.  Even man made things contain signatures from those who made them, those who came in contact with them, and from any natural constituents, etc.  

There seems to me to be a current or life force running through everything, but it varies greatly depending on the state of each thing – stones seem to be slow and steady, for example, giving a sense of time, history, and patience. An object linked to a nasty incident, or place where something terrible happened, seems to bear a shocking imprint of that event. If you can stand calm in the face of this, you can glean information from it.  Trees seem to speak to me of their growth, water and wind of their travels, and the earth itself has a deep thrum of life giving energy.  Fire seems to represent passion but also the burning off of things no longer needed to make way for the new, a kind of rebirth.  I adore the sun, and enjoy arid desert territories, as well as beaches, but I also so love being in water, woods, or mountains so very much. Icy cold places do not appeal to me as I feel the cold badly, however there is a profound sense of purity in these landscapes, in a similar way to in deserts, or on high mountain planes – perhaps due to the open unspoilt space common to all of these. Open space is something I am lucky enough to have enjoyed many times in my life, and is the main thing I miss while living in England (plus I really do not enjoy the winters here).  I think that unspoilt open space feels so spiritual to me partly because of my appreciation of it as a kid, but also partly because it is a bit like the open space of the wider universe, which also feels like the open space in our mind we can attain through meditation.  It feels as if the far reaches could expand forever, that there is unlimited potential for life and consciousness.

So to me, this sense of spirituality feels far greater than any religion.  Religion seems to be possibly a small part of it for some people, but not for me.  If I had to choose a religion, it would be Buddhism, but it is entirely against my nature to try to fit into boxes.  To me this spirituality also includes any ideas of both evolution and creation, I think they are both part of one continuing cycle really. To me there is no either / or, everything is interlinked.  When I meditate, first my mind empties of little thoughts, then it opens up to this vast sense of beingness in an infinite universe, which seems to be just as much inside of me as all around me, swirling gently, reassuring me, and giving me access to incredible inspiration, healing energy, and knowledge.  As far as I can tell, a lot of humanity’s breakthroughs stem from this mystical inspiration, since many scientists, such as Einstein, have alluded to it.  (There is a great collection of mystical essays from great physicists collected by Ken Wilber about this.)

I don’t claim to understand how all this works, but my many experiences of using the energy, inspiration and knowledge in diverse situations speak for themselves.  Sometimes I can hardly believe it myself, but I can’t question the results.  It feels loving as well, but as to why, I’m not sure.  Perhaps it is simply that if it is all around me and inside of me, it basically is me, as well as you.  It must be life itself, the source of all.

Maybe for me it is also partly a sense of having come from out there somewhere, a sense of love for my other home.  Strangely I don’t feel a need to try to find out from where exactly, I just feel peaceful about it.  I am happy to have the opportunity to explore the wonders right here, and reflect my sense of spirituality through all my work.  Perhaps I am simply bearing some tiny witness to this extraordinary range of life and environments, and to the energy surrounding, suffusing, and sustaining it all.

Namaste

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Mindfulness Practice including in Mental Health

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A Blog in 2 Parts:  Photo1565three

1     The practice of mindfulness generally
2     
My own experience of the practice in relation to mental health

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Part 1 – The practice of mindfulness generally

I thought that mindfulness was mostly practised by eastern traditions and by western people who were specifically on the spiritual path and/or helping others to get on that path, but it seems that it has already moved much further ahead than I had realised in the western world.

In both the UK and USA I have found evidence of movements promoting this in public areas such as in Governments, Schools, Hospitals, Prisons, etc.

Mindfulness could be described as being the opposite of being Mindless!  It means being present in the mind.

Mindfulness can be used for a good many things to improve people’s lives:

 

  • To focus on the breath for stress relief
  • To focus on getting well after a health issue, and/or on staying well
  • To focus on your body to become aware of areas that need attention as well as gaining insight as to why or what they might need
  • To focus on small beautiful things in life to increase appreciation & gratefulness
  • To focus on positive ways of thinking to improve your approach to and enjoyment of life and its challenges
  • To exercise in a meaningful way
  • To eat in a meaningful way
  • To converse in a meaningful way
  • To increase focus for study purposes
  • To work in a meaningful way, whether on one’s own or as part of a team


In fact Mindfulness can help you feel more in control of your life, your thoughts, your habits, your actions, less anxious, more able to relax, more focused, less isolated, and less reliant on things like medications, alcohol and junk foods.

As you can see, mindfulness can be used for many different things, but the main idea is that the practice helps you to improve life in various ways, basically by increasing awareness, so it helps you to look at things differently and get a better perspective.  On the other hand it can be used in its most simple forms, just to help you relax.

We know that meditation changes your brain-waves and increases activity in some areas of the brain.  There is also some evidence to show that practising Mindfulness regularly can change not just your thinking patterns, but actually physically change your brain for the better!  It is particularly in the pre-frontal cortex that the activity increases, which is associated with positive emotion, and is less active in people with depression.  It seems clear that Mindfulness can help people with depression because of this, if they will engage with it.  It has been shown to also reduce recurrence of depression episodes.  According to www.mindful.org – MRI scans show that after an 8 week course of mindfulness practice, the brain’s “fight or flight” centre, the amygdala, shrinks, whereas the pre-frontal cortex thickens.  Apparently the functional connectivity between these regions also changes, so the connections between the amygdala and the rest of the brain weaken, whereas the connections between the pre-frontal cortex and the rest of the brain get stronger.

Here is some more information from other sites:

From https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/m/mindfulness

“Mindfulness is an integrative, mind-body based approach that helps people to manage their thoughts and feelings. It is becoming widely used in a range of contexts. It is recommended by NICE as a preventative practice for people with experience of recurrent depression.

Mindfulness exercises are ways of paying attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing, and yoga. Training helps people to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and body sensations so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, they are better able to manage them. Practising mindfulness can give more insight into emotions, boost attention and concentration, and improve relationships.

Mindfulness can be practised by children, young people and adults. There are different ways to practice mindfulness. Group courses run to practise mindfulness in person and there are online courses too where you can learn through self-directed practice at home. You don’t need to be religious or spiritual to practise mindfulness. It can help people with or without religious beliefs.”

And from http://bemindful.co.uk/

What is mindfulness and how can mindfulness help me?

Mindfulness is a practice that individuals and groups can do on a day-to-day basis. It can enable people to change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences. As a mind-body approach, it can increase our ability to manage difficult situations and make wise choices.

A growing body of evidence has found that when people intentionally practice being mindful they feel less stressed, anxious and depressed, with the UK Government’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommending MBCT for the treatment of recurrent depression. Research also shows positive effects on several aspects of whole-person health, including the mind, the brain, the body, and behaviour, as well as a person’s relationships with others.

Mindfulness can be used as a tool to manage your well-being and mental health. With good mental health, you can:

  • Make the most of your potential
  • Cope with life
  • Play a full part in your family, workplace, community and among friends

Mindfulness practices are not new and have origins in the contemplative traditions of Asia, especially Buddhism. In the last 40 years they have been formalised into the therapies of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).

“Typically mindfulness practice involves sitting with your feet planted on the floor and the spine upright. The eyes can be closed or rest a few feet in front while the hands are in the lap or on the knees. The attention is gently brought to rest on the sensations of the body – the feet on the floor, the pressure on the seat and the air passing through the nostrils. As the thoughts continue, you return again and again to these physical sensations, gently encouraging the mind not to get caught up in the thought processes but to observe their passage.”

Mindful Nation UK – Report by the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group

There are different ways to learn about mindfulness and how to practise it in your daily life.

In Healthcare & Workplace

Mindfulness training is happening right now and achieving outstanding results! In the NHS Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber region, for example, IAPT patients taking the ‘Be Mindful’ online course are reporting average reductions of 47% in depression and 44% in anxiety, achieving a recovery rate of 69%. In the workplace, companies such as BT and GE are reporting even better results when offering their staff mindfulness training as part of well-being initiatives.  The outstanding results speak for themselves; an RCT from the University of Surrey (published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology) showed significant average reductions in work-related rumination, chronic fatigue, and improvements in sleep quality for completers of the Be Mindful online course – with the potential to increase the resilience of your entire workforce and reduce stress-related absenteeism!   

For NHS IAPT patients presenting with a mild to moderate level of depression and anxiety that meets the criteria for Caseness, the Be Mindful course achieves a Recovery rate of 69% – Significantly higher than the current average Recovery rate of 45% for all IAPT treatments delivered.  We are also a part of PRISM, which enables NHS clinicians and therapists to seamlessly and securely refer appropriate service users onto the Be Mindful course. All related progress notes are then transmitted directly back into the service user’s NHS record in IAPTus, the record management system used by the majority of NHS IAPT services.

Evidence of the effectiveness of Mindfulness in Mental health

The Oxford Centre for Mindfulness has found that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) prevents depression in the service users who have experienced recurrent depression.  For people who have experienced three or more previous episodes of depression, MBCT reduces the recurrence rate over 12 months by 40–50% compared with usual care. (Crane C et al, “The effects of home meditation practice in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy on hazard of relapse to depression in the Staying Well after Depression Trial”, Behaviour Research and Therapy, 2014).

MBCT is as effective at reducing recurrence as antidepressants (Williams et al, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for preventing relapse in recurrent depression: A randomised dismantling trial, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2013).  In the UK, the Government’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended MBCT in their Guidelines for Management of Depression (2004, 2009) for service users who have had three or more episodes of depression.

A research study published by the University of Oxford in November 2013 provides evidence of the effectiveness of the Be Mindful Online course. The study examined the effects of the course for 273 people who had completed it, and showed that, on average, after one month, they enjoyed:

  • A 58% reduction in anxiety levels
  • A 57% reduction in depression
  • A 40% reduction in stress

An RCT from the University of Surrey (published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology) showed significant average reductions in work-related rumination, chronic fatigue and improvements in sleep quality for completers of the Be Mindful online course

  • A 25% decrease in rumination
  • A 26% reduction in fatigue
  • A 33% improved sleep quality

There is some early evidence from randomised controlled trials supporting the use of MBCT for health anxiety (McManus et al, “A randomised clinical trial of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy versus unrestricted services for health anxiety (hypochondriasis), Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 2012) and for adults on the autistic spectrum (Spek A.A. et al, “Mindfulness-based therapy in adults with an autism spectrum disorder: a randomised controlled trial”, Research in Developmental Disabilities 2013).

There is also promising evidence that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) can be helpful in alleviating distress for young people experiencing depression and anxiety (Biegel G.M. et al, “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for the treatment of adolescent psychiatric outpatients: A randomised clinical trial”, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2009).

Ongoing research

Mindfulness can be useful for people from all walks of life and the number of areas that mindfulness is being applied to is growing.

Physical health

One of the most important areas of research has been around the use of Mindfulness within the treatment of long-term physical health conditions. A review of 114 studies (Carlson L., “Mindfulness-Based Interventions for physical conditions: A narrative review evaluating levels of evidence”, International Scholarly Research Notices, 2012) found, in the context of poor physical health, consistent improvements in mental health and well-being, particularly reduced stress, anxiety and depression where a mindfulness-based intervention is used.

Schools

Mindfulness has proven to be effective for children and young people, with school-based interventions having positive outcomes on well-being: reducing anxiety and distress as well as improving behaviour, among other areas (K Weare “Developing mindfulness with children and young people: a review of the evidence and policy context”, Journal of Children’s Services, 2013). Evidence also suggests that children who used mindfulness practices more frequently reported higher well-being and lower stress scores (W Kuyken et al, “Effectiveness of the Mindfulness in Schools Programme: non-randomised controlled feasibility study”, The British Journal of Psychiatry, 2013).

A successful Mindfulness in Schools project was set up in 2007 and is now being taught in 12 different countries. This nine-week course is especially designed for school students, whether they are dealing with exam stress, bullying, or seeking to enhance study skills. It’s being used to improve students’ well-being as well as helping them to learn and concentrate better.

Criminal justice

Mindfulness practice within criminal justice settings is currently being developed around the country. In HMP Brixton a “Mind/Body Workout Group” was established to help individuals to develop their own mindfulness practice. Evidence on the effectiveness of mindfulness interventions in prisons has been gathered mainly in the USA; a study based in Massachusetts found significant improvements in hostility, self-esteem, and mood disturbance following a course of mindfulness (M Samuelson et al, “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Massachusetts Correctional Facilities”, The Prison Journal, 2007).

Pregnancy

A limited amount of research into mindfulness during pregnancy has shown encouraging results on the positive impact of mindfulness, finding ‘significantly’ reduced anxiety (C Vieten and J Astin, “Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention during pregnancy on prenatal stress and mood: results of a pilot study”, Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 2008).

Workplace

Mindfulness in the workplace has been popularised by a number of global companies including Google. However, among smaller businesses mindfulness is not yet widespread. There is growing evidence, shown by initial studies, that mindfulness in the workplace can have a number of positive effects. These include a decrease in perceived stress (Wolever, R et al “Effective and viable mind-body stress reduction in the workplace: A randomised controlled trial,” Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 2012), and an increase in better concentration levels including memory tasks and multi-tasking (Levy, D M et al, “Initial results from a study of the effects of meditation on multitasking performance”, Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems, 2011).

And from – http://themindfulnessinitiative.org.uk/49 Green Lanes, London, N16 9BU, United Kingdom

The Mindfulness Initiative is a policy institute that grew out of a programme of mindfulness teaching in the UK Parliament. We now work with politicians around the world who practice mindfulness and help them to make capacities of heart and mind serious considerations of public policy.

As of January 2017, 145 British MPs and peers, and 250 staff, have completed an adapted 8-week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy course in Westminster. In 2013 we began presenting the scientific evidence on mindfulness to ministers, MPs and senior policy advisors. In early 2014, The Mindfulness Initiative supported parliamentarians to set up a Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG), with co-chairs from the three main political parties, Chris Ruane (Labour), Tracey Crouch (Conservative) and Lorely Burt (Liberal Democrat). The MAPPG was launched in Parliament on May 7th 2014 (see media coverage) with over 150 people in attendance, including more than 30 Members of Parliament and peers. The group’s current co-chairs are Jessica Morden MP (Labour), Tim Loughton MP (Conservative) and Margaret Ferrier MP (SNP).

Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group

The Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) was set up in 2014 with the stated purpose:

To review research evidence, current best practice, extent and success of implementation, and potential developments in the application of mindfulness within a range of policy areas, and to develop policy recommendations for government based on these findings.

All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are informal cross-party groups of UK politicians who join together to pursue a particular topic or interest area. They are essentially run by and for Members of the Commons and Lords, although many groups involve individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities. The secretariat of the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group is provided by the Mindfulness Initiative.

Private Sector Working Group

Following the success of the Mindful Nation UK report, the Mindfulness Initiative channelled grassroots enthusiasm for its workplace findings into a Private Sector Working Group. The group contains advocates from a range of different-sized companies, including BT, Ernst & Young, GE, GSK, Google, HSBC and Jaguar Land Rover. In 2015, group members worked with leading workplace mindfulness trainers to draft the ‘Building the Case for Mindfulness in the Workplace‘ document, which was downloaded over 10,000 times in the first six months.

The group currently meets in London (UK) about three times per year. In addition, there is a senior advisory board for those in high-level positions with a desire to contribute but without the capacity to take on specific tasks, or for those not based in the UK. If you would like to join the group, please contact us.

Mindful Nation UK inquiry

The Mindfulness Initiative helped the Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group (MAAPG) carry out an inquiry into how mindfulness could be incorporated into UK services and institutions.

Bringing together scientists, practitioners, commissioners of services and policymakers together in a series of Parliamentary events, the Mindful Nation inquiry held eight hearings on topics including the workplace, mental health, education, criminal justice and pain management. Working papers from these discussions served as the foundation for the Mindful Nation UK report, which summarises evidence-based recommendations. The report was launched in parliament on October 20th 2015,  speakers at the event included the Secretary of State for Education Rt. Hon. Nicky Morgan MP, Health Minister Rt Hon. Alistair Burt MP and Sport, Tourism & Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch MP.

Key policy implications addressed in the report are :

Education

Can mindfulness in schools influence classroom behaviour, attention and focus, help raise educational standards, and develop young people’s tools for well-being?

Healthcare

Can mindfulness reduce the incidence of mental health problems such as depression, as well as help tackle long-term health conditions and improve public health?

Work

Can mindfulness be a way to reduce stress and anxiety – and develop resilience, emotional intelligence and creativity – in the workplace?

Criminal Justice

Can mindfulness be a way to tackle depression, anxiety, stress in the criminal justice system?

Teaching standards

There is currently no formal accreditation process for mindfulness teachers. As interest in training grows, how can people be pointed towards good mindfulness teachers?

The UK Network for Mindfulness-Based Teacher Training Organisations is a coalition of all leading teacher training organisations in the UK. The dedicated website provides a comprehensive list of resources for those wishing to adhere to best practice guidelines in the delivery of mindfulness-based approaches.

For more information, please visit http://mindfulnessteachersuk.org.uk/index.html#resources

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is best considered an inherent human capacity akin to language acquisition, a capacity that enables people to focus on what they experience in the moment, inside themselves as well as in their environment, with an attitude of openness, curiosity and care.

We are all somewhat mindful some of the time, but we can choose to cultivate this faculty and refine it to ever-greater degrees through practice. Being mindful does not necessarily involve meditation, but for most people this form of mind-training is required to strengthen the intention to stay present and cultivate an open and allowing quality of mind. What is often referred to as “Mindfulness”, therefore, is a practice that individuals and groups can do on a day-to-day basis. It is an integrative, mind-body based training that enables people to change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences. It sounds and is simple, but it is remarkably hard to do, especially in our modern task-focused lives.

Secular methods of cultivating mindfulness have been available since the development of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) programmes for treating physical pain and poor mental health in the 1980s and 1990s. These clinical interventions generally entail eight weekly classes of up to two and a half hours each, however a great deal of innovation over the last decade has led to a proliferation of programmes with varying lengths, intensities and delivery styles developed for very different audiences. It is thought that the deeper fruits of practice are only available through courses of at least six weeks, due to the necessity for participants to start encountering, and working through, their own resistance and reactivity in relation to practice, although this claim has not yet been proven through research.

Although it is not owned by any group, the cultivation of mindfulness can be found in many ancient contemplative traditions and the most comprehensive approach is found in Buddhist teachings. However, according to leading mindfulness researchers, to say that mindfulness is Buddhist is akin to saying that gravity is Newtonian (1).

(1) Brown, K. W., Ryan, R. M., Loverich, T. M., Biegel, G. M., & West, A. M. (2011). Out of the armchair and into the streets: Measuring mindfulness advances knowledge and improves interventions: Reply to Grossman (2011). Psychological Assessment, 23, 1041–1046.

Research

Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) have been shown to improve health outcomes in a wide range of clinical and non-clinical populations [a]. MBCT reduces relapse rates amongst patients who have had multiple episodes of depression [b]. Other research includes a recent meta-analysis of 209 studies with a total of 12,145 participants. It concluded that MBIs showed “large and clinically significant effects in treating anxiety and depression, and the gains were maintained at follow-up” [c]. MBIs have also consistently been found to reduce self-reported measures of perceived stress, anger, rumination, and physiological symptoms, while improving positive outlook, empathy, sense of cohesion, self-compassion and overall quality of life [d].

Mindfulness training is associated with reduced reactivity to emotional stimuli [e], as well as improvements in attention and cognitive capacities [f]. These may be some of the mechanisms by which health and well-being gains are made – by relating to thoughts, emotions, body sensations and events in life more skilfully, practitioners may be less drawn into unhelpful habitual reactions, and more able to make good choices about how to relate to their circumstances.

Neuroscientific studies into the effects of mindfulness indicate that it is associated with brain changes that seem to reflect improvements in attention and emotion regulation skills [g]. The benefits of mindfulness appear to extend to relationships so that practitioners are more likely to respond compassionately to someone in need [h], and enjoy more satisfying personal relationships [i]. There is also some evidence that they take more environmentally responsible decisions [j]. As with any new field of enquiry, there is much more research to be done to understand its effects.

[a] See for example Khoury B, Lecomte T, Fortin G, Masse M, Therien P, Bouchard V, Hofmann S

et al. Mindfulness-based therapy: A comprehensive meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review. 2013;33:763–771. Also de Vibe M, Bjørndall A, Tipton E, Hammerstrøm K, Kowalski K. Mindfulness- Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for improving health, quality of life and social functioning in adults. Campbell Systematic Reviews 2012:3. Also Keng S L, Smoski MJ, Robins CJ. Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review. 2011;31(6):1041–1056.

[b] Williams JMG, Kuyken W. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: a promising new approach to preventing depressive relapse. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2012; DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.111.104745.

[c] Khoury B, Lecomte T, Fortin G, Masse M, Therien P, Bouchard V, et al. Mindfulness-based therapy: A comprehensive meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review. 2013;33:763–771.

[d] Keng SL, Smoski MJ, Robins CJ. Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review. 2011;31(6):1041–1056. Trait mindfulness (how “mindful” a person generally is in their approach to life) is positively associated with well-being indicators such as life satisfaction, conscientiousness, vitality, self-esteem, empathy, sense of autonomy, competence, and optimism, while it is negatively correlated with depression, neuroticism, absent- mindedness, rumination, cognitive reactivity, social anxiety, emotion regulation difficulties, and general psychological symptoms.

[e] Hölzel B, Lazar SW, Gard T, Schuman-Olivier Z, Vago DR, Ott U. How does mindfulness meditation work? Proposing mechanisms of action from a conceptual and neural perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science. 2011;6:6537-559. Farb N, Anderson A, Segal Z. The Mindful Brain and Emotion Regulation in Mood Disorders. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2012;57(2):70–77.

[f] Brown KW, Ryan RM, Creswell JD. Mindfulness: Theoretical foundations and evidence for its salutary effects. Psychological Inquiry. 2007;18(4):211–237.

[g] Chiesa A, Calati R, Serretti A. Does mindfulness training improve cognitive abilities? A systematic review of neuropsychological findings. Clinical Psychology Review. 2011;31:449–464. Ostafin BD, Kassman KT. Stepping out of history: Mindfulness improves insight problem-solving. Consciousness and Cognition. 2012;21(2):1031-6.

[h] Condon P, Desbordes G, Miller WB, DeSteno D. Meditation increases compassionate responses to suffering. Psychological Science. 2013;10:2125-2127.

[i] Brown KW, Ryan RM, Creswell JD. Mindfulness: Theoretical foundations and evidence for its salutary effects. Psychological Inquiry. 2007;18(4):211-237.

How to Learn

Jon Kabat-Zinn began teaching his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course (MBSR) to patients at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre in the late 1970s. Participants were introduced to a range of core mindfulness practices – sitting meditation, body-scanning, and mindful movement exercises – as a way to help them manage the pain and stress of their medical conditions. They were also asked to commit to a daily practice, using audio guides at home. The class-based MBSR curriculum, of eight two-hour weekly sessions, remains at the core of several programmes that have been specifically adapted to deal with different clinical conditions and contexts.

Most significant of these adaptations has been the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) course which was developed by three scientists in the 1990s, as a way to help patients prone to depression by building resilience. MBCT includes basic education about depression, and a number of exercises derived from cognitive therapy that demonstrate the links between thinking and feeling, and how best participants can care for themselves when they notice their mood changing, or a crisis threatening to overwhelm them.

MBCT is available for the treatment of recurrent depression through the NHS, so if you have suffered from three or more episodes of depression you may be able to access mindfulness training through your GP. Another way to find MBSR or MBCT eight-week courses, or other face-to-face training, is to visit the BeMindful website. The site is provided by the Mental Health Foundation and offers in-depth explanations of the differences between MBCT and MBSR, as well as a listing of practising teachers within close reach.

A number of digital resources are also available, including bemindfulonline.com and headspace.com.

 

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Is it for everyone?


Yes – as Mindfulness is best considered an inherent human capacity akin to language acquisition; a capacity that enables people to focus on what they experience in the moment, inside themselves as well as in their environment, with an attitude of openness, curiosity and care. We are all somewhat mindful some of the time, but we can choose to cultivate this faculty and refine it to ever-greater degrees through ‘mindfulness practice’.

Many people are helped by mindfulness practice, in a multitude of ways. But it would be misleading to claim therefore that mindfulness training is a panacea. Every person faces a unique set of circumstances and challenges and, as we might reasonably expect, research has shown from the outset that the effectiveness of mindfulness differs with the individual. Very simply, some people will find the practice helpful – and others will not.

For this reason, mindfulness teachers should be trained to distinguish those for whom there is potential benefit from those who might respond better to a different evidence-based approach, based on knowledge of the individual. The UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines recommend that for patients with depression, MBCT (not MBSR) be considered as treatment only for those who have suffered three prior depressive episodes. Furthermore, UK training good-practice guidelines clearly specify that no one should teach MBCT to depressed patients who is not qualified to do so.

On occasion, participants in meditation groups or retreats report unusual or unexpected experiences. This can prompt a variety of reactions, from curiosity at one end of the scale, to concern or distress at the other. Further research is needed to better understand the origin and frequency of such experiences and how best to respond to them ( e.g. under what circumstances it is appropriate to continue with mindfulness meditation, to change the type of practice, or to pause or stop altogether.) Teachers should be trained to be alert to these experiences, and teacher-training organisations should establish protocols for how best to manage them.

(Drafted in collaboration with the Oxford Mindfulness Centre)

The Mindfulness Initiative

The Mindfulness Initiative is a policy institute that works with parliamentarians, media and policy makers to develop recommendations on the role of mindfulness in public life.

Scientific research is generating substantial evidence of the benefits of mindfulness to well-being. There is great public interest in the field, but access to quality training is patchy. Despite recommendations by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the use of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) to prevent relapse in depression, NHS implementation rates are low, and there is little understanding of how mindfulness could help in other areas of policy.

Parliamentary Group Inquiry

The Mindfulness Initiative helped the Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group to conduct an inquiry into how mindfulness could be incorporated into UK services and institutions.

This resulting Mindful Nation UK report was published in October 2015, following an interim report in January 2015.

We are now working with government ministers, opinion-formers and employers to raise awareness of the report’s findings and recommendations.

Mindful Nation UK (October 2015)

The Mindful UK Report, the first policy document of its kind, seeks to address mental health concerns in the areas of education, health, the workplace and the criminal justice system through the application of mindfulness interventions. The recommendations in this report are evidence-based, sourced directly from experienced implementers, who report notable success in their respective fields and urge policymakers to invest resources in further pilot studies and increase public access to qualified teacher trainers.

New Publication: Building the Case for Mindfulness in the Workplace

One year after the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group released its seminal Mindful Nation UK report, the Mindfulness Initiative has launched a new publication: ‘Building the Case for Mindfulness in the Workplace’.

This publication is primarily intended as a resource for those developing a business case for mindfulness training within their own organisation. It provides an updated summary of the research evidence, narrative rationales addressing different organisational needs, case studies and a range of toolkits to help with programme planning, implementation and evaluation.

The document has been developed by a volunteer working group convened by the Mindfulness Initiative and made up of champions from private sector companies including BT, EY, GE, GSK, HSBC and Jaguar Land Rover, supported by leading workplace mindfulness trainers and researchers. In response to the findings and recommendations of the Mindful Nation UK report, the group has tried to address the lack of publicly available information about implementing best-practice mindfulness training in the workplace, and encourages organisations to evaluate their programmes in order to develop the evidence base.  It will be iteratively developed over time as capacity allows.

Case Studies

In an era dominated by statistics, case studies can really bring to life the potential that mindfulness can have for a diverse range of individuals. From schoolchildren, to NHS staff, policemen, and members of parliament, mindfulness courses have offered significantly improved well-being by reducing stress, fostering compassionate care and providing greater clarity in prioritising the demands of life.

Professional Networks

The UK Network for Mindfulness-Based Teacher Training Organisations represents the leading teacher training organisations in the UK and defines, upholds and disseminates practice standards. The organisation has developed a listing of UK teachers who can sign up to their Good Practice Guidelines.

The Mindfulness Network CIC aims to bring together a network of researchers, mindfulness teachers and health, education and social care professionals. Their core activities are the facilitation of public mindfulness courses and supervision for mindfulness teachers.

Grow Mindfulness CIC is a social enterprise dedicated to supporting a UK wide community of trained mindfulness teachers. Members of the network are collaborating to develop sustainable teaching models, identify creative partnerships and secure funding to deliver courses for those most in need.

The Mindfulness Initiative is also trying to support the generation of professional networks for specific geographic and interest areas, details of which can be found below as they develop. If you work in an area not covered by an existing network and would like to be put in touch with other professionals with similar interests, please contact us.

Schools – Mindfulness is being used in schools, colleges and universities to help teachers, children, and students. Mindfulness helps children, students and…Read More

Workplace – There is enormous variety in the way mindfulness training is delivered in the workplace, from teacher-led courses based on MBCT/MBSR…Read More

Criminal Justice – A significant proportion of incarcerated individuals suffer from mental health disorders. Nearly half the prison population have depression or anxiety,…Read More

Cancer – Cancer is becoming a chronic illness, as treatments improve and people live longer. This is good news, but brings with…Read More

Parenting – Parenting is a life changing and at times stressful event, even in the most favourable of circumstances. Mindfulness can be supportive…Read More

Policing – Policing is unarguably one of the most stressful occupations in the world. The need for constant alertness and threatening situations…Read More

Dementia – Especially for those in the early stages, mindfulness courses have shown to be beneficial for those suffering from dementia and…Read More

Addiction – Mindfulness approaches to addictive behaviours have proliferated with the rising tide of interest in this practice.  Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP)…Read More

Social Change – Mindfulness has a lot to offer people working to promote positive change in society through campaigns, community projects, charity work and…Read More

Military – The use of mindfulness-based practices has two main applications in military populations. The first is to help those in need of…Read More

Pain – Chronic pain affects 31% of men and 37% of women (Health Survey of England, 2011) and it is estimated that…Read More

 

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Then from over the pond –
in the States – www.themindfulnessmovement.comwhere many people are working together, including such personalities as Goldie Hawn and Deepak Chopra – to make a film, and to teach Mindfulness in all areas of life, such as schools, parenting, government, business, etc.

What is mindfulness?  In the most basic sense, mindfulness is simply paying attention on purpose to the present moment in an open and accepting way.  You can develop mindfulness through meditation as well as activities that involve present moment awareness and other skills. Every time your mind wanders and you bring your attention back to the present moment, you increase your ability to be mindful — like building muscles by doing repetitions of an exercise at the gym.  This quiets your mind, increases your ability to focus, allows you to better manage your emotions, and enables you to build more meaningful relationships.

In other words, mindfulness is the opposite of mindlessness — and is the paradigm-shifting antidote to the many sources of stress, distraction, disconnection, and conflict in our modern world!

Mindfulness doesn’t require any type of religious or spiritual belief, and it is definitely not a New Age fad.  Practising mindfulness has been shown in numerous studies to improve people’s physical and mental health by lowering stress, chronic pain, and blood pressure, while increasing empathy, focus, and contentment.  This enables people to live healthier lives and improve their relationships with others.

By showing the inspiring and informative examples of experts and everyday people putting mindfulness into action, The Mindfulness Movement will make it easy for anyone to develop this skill or deepen their existing practice in interesting and fun new ways.

 

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Part 2 – My own experience of the practice in relation to mental health

As I am a Nutritional Therapist, Healer, Dowser, Counsellor, Life Coach, and Stress Consultant, I have been practising mindfulness and meditation myself for many years on my own personal journey as well as helping others, leading groups, and creating visualisations and meditations from scratch. I also create meditations with specific guidelines for people to follow – guided meditations – and these often incorporate things they have asked me to put in. (I sometimes do this live with a group, say in a stress management session in a business, where I put in something special for each person, having asked them beforehand what they might like to get from the session.)  

Mindfulness and Meditation seem to me to be pretty much the same thing, but Mindfulness and the way it is generally taught seems to be easier to put across to people, a sort of more accessible version of Meditation which focuses on the basic techniques and uses. Perhaps it even demystifies Meditation.

Awareness is a word which would be a good synonym for Mindfulness, whereas Guided Meditations have a focus on Intention and Outcome as well as Awareness and Relaxation. I’m also studying Cognitive and other Behavioural Therapies (DBT & REBT) to extend my Counselling skills, and I think this looks a bit like a Mindful way of Counselling, and is probably also making Counselling more accessible in a similar way to what Mindfulness is doing for Meditation. At the very least it is enriching the approach by incorporating more useful tools. In both cases I find these routes very positive indeed for both myself, and for others.

Anyway, over the years it has all greatly helped me, and people I have worked with, to relax, heal, look at life more positively, and find ways of coping better with potential issues, or even to help prevent issues to arise in the first place for example through the use of mindful communication, and non-judgement.

I use mindfulness regularly to:

  • relax / still the mind
  • focus on the breath and/or the body
  • focus on the breath for stress relief
  • focus on getting well after a health issue, and/or on staying well
  • focus on the body to become aware of areas that need attention as well as gaining insight as to why / what they might need
  • focus on small beautiful things in life to increase appreciation & gratefulness
  • focus on positive ways of thinking to improve your approach to, and enjoyment of, life and its challenges
  • I use it to help people understand and adjust behaviour in a way they would want, mostly by helping them to change their outlook, but also by simply helping them to pause and think rather than exhibit negative and/or non-thinking reactions
  • exercise in a meaningful way
  • eat in a meaningful way
  • converse in a meaningful way
  • increase focus for study purposes
  • work in a meaningful way, whether on one’s own or as part of a team
  • focus on a guided path with positive thought patterns and visualisations to help develop ways of helping my/yourself
  • I also use it to gain a vast amount of inspiration for art, writing, business, and any area of life really. When I just relax, clear my mind of dross, and open it to the wider universe, inspiration floods in!

We can relax, appreciate, and become more positive by learning new ideas and through repeating positive patterns. We can even locate issues in the body and reasons for them and how to help solve these, by gently giving our attention to the body; and we can help it to heal too. Of course we need to eat & drink right, exercise, sleep well etc too! Focus on some areas such as the body can tend to make us realise we need to focus on areas such as nutrition as well – be kind to all parts of ourselves – mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.  I’m a holistic therapist already so have many ways of helping people towards overall well-being, and helping them towards mindfulness can certainly help  immensely in all areas.

Good Nutrition and Mindfulness are both crucial to both our Physical and our Mental Health. Unbalanced gut flora situations really do affect your mood, and can actually cause mental health issues in the long term, as the bad bacteria make us crave more of the type of foods they want, which are not good for us, and they multiply while we get worse!  

Mindfulness can help us realise what is wrong and figure out how to turn a corner, but at its best, the practice should stop us from going down that road in the first place.

Mindfulness not only takes good care of mental health in the first place, but would make you realise very quickly if something started to go wrong, and help you figure out what best to do about it. People I have worked with become so much better at managing themselves, because of this mindful awareness they gain as part of their road to well-being.

I encourage people to be mindful in other ways too – to notice the small beautiful things around them say when they are walking to work, to appreciate the good things they do have in their lives, their friends and families, their skills and personal qualities, their opportunities.
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Just noticing a flower in bud before work can change your whole day, as can a smile from a passing friend or a hug from your partner or child. Appreciating the good things about yourself can help you to bring those to the fore and improve your confidence and self-esteem. Being mindful of how you are communicating with your partner, and of course others too, can save many an issue from developing. 


I think that just the feel-good factor of Mindfulness could boost the feel-good brain chemicals. In any case it seems self-evident that practising Mindfulness would surely produce positive experiences for most people, including in the area of mental health.

I have some meditations I have created on YouTube:

Breathe – a Poetic Meditation for gratefulness, forgiveness, and letting go
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUa651EMQfY&t=19s

Recharge and Balance
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bt17a9z89OE&t=35s

Waterfall Meditation to Relax and Cleanse
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rb7ZQQjgoX4&t=16s

Safe Cave Meditation for Relaxation, Renewal, and Confidence
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IXJ6dAOhZU&t=39s

Stardust Meditation
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayTQCZW-Nlg

Power of Logic & AFFIRMATIONS (for anger management)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oNuJxp2Om4&t=12s

Spiritual Coaching 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-xUn7mdkBk&t=17s

I also work part time as a carer in a home with people with profound mental and learning disabilities and although it isn’t possible to actually teach them to use Mindfulness in the usual way, we do help them to focus on small things.  For example we might massage a hand while talking to them softly about it, or show them the details of a flower or leaf, or do some close artwork with them.  They do respond well as they seem to prefer to focus on one thing than try to cope with all the stuff going on around them, so they really relax.  Most of these people can’t even speak, yet It seems that in this way the idea of Mindfulness is even helping them too

I hope to continue to learn a lot more myself, and continue to help others.

Namaste

(note – there might be some repetition between the different sites I have quoted from, but nothing is exactly the same, and I find the small differences of interest)

 

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