"In the practice of Mindfulness, we cultivate the capacity to see a thought as thought, an emotion as emotion, a habit as a habit and begin to take the 'I' out of the process" *
Mindfulness is a general term that we use for awareness. It is the activity of our mind when we are intentionally paying attention in the present moment with curiosity and kindness in an accepting and non-judgmental way. The negative judgments add layers of suffering to our experiences. We gain more ease as we learn to step back, to realize that we are more than our thoughts, emotions or body sensations.
Mindfulness opens our mind and our heart. In the practice of mindfulness, we observe ourselves, the experiencer, as if it was another person. We acquire a sense of self which is not defined only by experiences, thoughts and feelings, but where we understand ourselves as the experiencer and the witness. We can step back from our thoughts and feelings to seek a greater understanding of the nature of our experience and ourselves. We awaken our mind and heart to the human condition, cultivating connections and engagement with what is important to us. Mindfulness has been found to develop empathy for ourselves and others but also is a way to cultivate self-compassion. Compassion is the way we relate to the suffering of others with the desire to alleviate the difficulties. To be truly compassionate to others we also need to develop self-compassion.
We are easily distracted and have a habitual way of thinking. Learning to become more aware of our thoughts, feelings and sensations, where we can stand back, suspends judgments and self-criticism can have a very beneficial impact on our lives.
The practice of mindfulness is to cultivate the art of living in the moment, with non-judgment and acceptance, where we are paying attention in a conscious way. We observe what is truly happening in the moment so we can interact more intentionally: we become aware of our thoughts, feelings, behaviours, sensations and urges in a way that we can let go of what is unhelpful. We also improve our ability to focus, to concentrate and to develop wider cognitive functions.
Mindfulness does not eliminate the stress, struggles and pain but it helps us to respond in a calmer way. As an individual, we become more connected to our body, mind and heart. We can recognize our habitual ways of reacting, stepping back and choosing again to respond in a skilful way, more aligned with our values and intentions, enabling us to improve our lives at home and at work.
Mindfulness has numerous benefits from improving mental clarity, concentration and memory to creating more inner peace, calmness, relaxation, self-control and equanimity. Mindfulness has been found through numerous research to reduce insomnia, stress, anxiety, depression, pain and many other conditions as well as promote better relationships. Mindfulness is a great tool to learn to manage our emotions and tolerate our distress with more ease. It enables us to direct our mind in a positive way to open our heart; to savour, to appreciate, to value ourselves and others so we can create a better life. It helps us to cultivate positive relationships, promoting healthy ways to relate to others, to be present and available to others, to listen truly, to see the good, to create connections and engagements with others in a way that is mutually fulfilling.
1. Observing to become aware of our thoughts, actions, body sensations and surroundings in a non-reactive way.
2. Focusing, paying attention in the present, in the here and now, by suspending judgments and unhelpful ways of thinking.
3. Attending to the experience as it is, just being with it in the moment, stepping back from automatic thinking, de-fusing from thoughts, sensations, feelings and stories.
4. Seeing what is truly there, creating a mindful pause, "a break", a space of awareness between our thoughts, experiences and events.
5. Choosing the attitude, choosing the response, being intentional, conscious in our thinking and actions, being discerning, acting in line with our good values and intentions.
6. Understanding the nature of both the experience and the experience and acquiring resilience, equanimity and wisdom
7. Empathizing with ourselves and others; opening our heart; have a greater sense of who we are as a member of the human race. Evolving into the compassion of self and others.
8. Beginning again and again. Slipping... making mistake is part of being human. When we become aware of ways we can improve... we let go of the past and begin again....
1. Curiosity: exploring what is there, investigating with an open mind
2. Kindness: adding understanding, perspective and compassion in our awareness
3. Beginner's mind: cultivating a sense of discovery and playfulness to our experience
4. Non-judging: postponing judgments of good or bad, seeing the experience for what it is, as it is...
5. Patience, tolerance: allowing time for the experience to unfold at its own pace
6. Trust and faith: having confidence in our own strengths and inner knowings, asking ourselves questions and waiting for the inner wisdom to arise...resolving problems as they arise while focusing on positive outcomes with courage...trusting that we can learn and grow to be who we want to be
7. Non-striving: letting be what is... accepting what can't change, resolving the possible gradually
8. Acceptance: being with what is with compassion for yourself and others
9. Letting go: coming back to the here and now and letting go of what is unhelpful and choosing again wisely
10. Equanimity: having a sense of balance, not seeking extremes, cultivating equilibrium, being calm, cool and collected especially in times of stress...being a mountain....being a rock.
We are inviting you to listen to the free mp3 audio mindfulness exercises published on our website (click here to access audio) designed as practices and strategies to assist you to restore balance, to become calmer, more aware so you can ease stresses and struggles in your life.
The research indicates that when you practice mindfulness for 20 minutes or more, everyday, you actually change your brain. That is the part of the brain that is responsible for the stress reaction such as anxiety, anger, disgust and sadness becomes less active while other parts of the brain responsible for relaxation, calmness, comfort as well as curiosity, interest, perspectives are activated more easily. Mindfulness allows you to access more of all of your brain functions.
As you become more familiar with the practices, that we are presenting in this website, you can include them more readily in your day to day activities in a way that feels right for you, modifying them, making them your own. Initially, we recommend to listen to the exercises everyday and then to put them into practice in your day often as a matter of routine so that in times of needs they are more effective. Like any skills, the more you practice, the more easily you can apply the strategies in your life when you really need it.
There are two main types of mindfulness practices: formal and informal. The formal practice is the meditation which means that we set aside a specific time of the day and length of time (10-30min) to sit silently to develop mindfulness awareness, often choosing an anchor such as our breath, our senses, our body, a thought, a phrase or an activity such as walking. This is akin to going to the gym where we build the muscles of "attention" and "awareness".
The informal practice is when we bring mindfulness to our daily activities, taking a few seconds to a few minutes, to stop, to be aware, to come out of automatic mode, to be present, to wake up to our lives, one moment at the time and to choose to think and respond in a way that is helpful. Both types of practices reinforce each other, and are opportunities to relate to ourselves and experience in a different way; to re-wire our mind, being conscious of our negative bias, to re-think, appreciate and take in the good in our lives. Over and over again we become more present, aware, observing in a non-judgmental way what is there. Both practices promote clarity and awareness, strengthening concentration, focus, to “be” in the moment, to gain more perspective, to calm ourselves, to savour, to appreciate our life as it is.
Mindfulness promotes understanding, insight and wisdom. Like everyone else, as you set your intention to focus on your breath or some other point of focus, you will find that your mind has a tendency to wander. Very normal, so we attend to our mind with patience and tolerance. When your mind wanders, it is a great opportunity to have a peek at your automatic mode of thinking or default mode of focusing on problems, rehashing the past, anticipating the future, analysing, fantasising, and dwelling on the sense of self. Your wandering mind shows you how your mind operates. During the meditation, you are focusing on your anchor and as the mind wanders, you become the observer of your mind; the witness defusing from your thoughts and feelings...observing... being aware... waking up to the moment. In this way you becoming present again and again, standing back from your thoughts, being discerning, enabling you to guide your mind more skilfully.
The wonderful benefits of mindfulness, meditation and self-compassion on mental and physical health have been well documented in research, but we also know that mindfulness is not appropriate all the time, for everyone. There are times when those practices may not be advisable.
Individuals who suffer currently from severe depression, anxiety, post traumatic conditions or those who have psychotic or schizoid tendencies need to seek professional advice before listening to the following audio. If you have any doubts or concerns please contact your health professional for guidance. The following mindfulness practices are educational in nature and they are not meant to replace psychological or medical treatment but rather can be used as an adjunct to therapy.
If as you listen to the following meditation audio you have unusual or distressing experiences please stop and seek professional advice from your general practitioner or psychologist.
You can access additional Guided Audio Meditations on the Free Mindful Meditations page
Complete Mindfulness Meditation (32min)
This is a complete mindfulness meditation which includes breath awareness and body scan.
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