I became familiar with Mindfulness more than 10 years ago when I was living in the Netherlands. At that time, Mindfulness was just starting to gain popularity. Learning and mastering the technique was spread out over an 8-week lasting course. Once a week, a group of ‘students’ were meeting for a couple of hours in the evening, at a small meditation center, and under the lead of a certified mindfulness teacher we learned each week more and more about mindfulness and followed the teacher’s guided meditations.
The method of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, was created in the 1970 by Professor John Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Mindfulness is nowadays widely accepted and incorporated in plans of care in hospitals and other health care environments, and not only. Everyone can benefit from the practice of Mindfulness.
Studies have shown clear positive results when Mindfulness is used to relieve symptoms of pain, anxiety, stress, and depression.
When I was learning about Mindfulness, I remember that the recommendation was to practice for 45 minutes every day. There is a lot to be said about the reasons to practice 45 minutes daily, all good things. I do understand the rushed life of us modern civilized people that have jobs and children and things to do and where 45 minutes to dedicate to meditation may not be very possible.
I am a firm believer that any amount of time is good. If you have 5 minutes, that is great. If you have 10 minutes or 45 minutes that is great too. Do not let the time frames discourage you, the essence is that you start to practice and aim to practice every day.
The cool thing about mindfulness is that you can do it anywhere, you don’t need to be in a meditation studio or on a yoga mat, you don’t need a teacher to teach you through it every time. You can practice mindfulness at any time and anywhere. While driving to work, while picking up your children from school or doing your groceries, while cooking, etcetera, anywhere at any time.
So here is the essence of the 8-week course I have done.
Mindfulness takes you from your head into your body!
That is what it does – it helps you bring your focus back to you, back to your surrounding and your sensations. Instead of thinking thousand of aimless thoughts, ruminating, increasing your anxiety and falling deeper into the blues that you may experience, it takes you from all that to your body.
Mindfulness teaches you to observe your thoughts!
The easiest way to practice is by focusing on your breath and observing any thoughts you have kind of like you would be looking at your own thoughts from the outside. Any thought that you have is allowed to be and you don’t have to do anything about it. You don’t have to resist it, you don’t have to push it away, you only need to see and acknowledge that you have that thought. Here it is how it goes. You think: ‘Ha, this is silly’! Now that you noticed the thought and are aware of it, you label it in your mind any way you want, for example “silly thought”. Or, you think: “I need to go to the store tomorrow and get milk” – you notice the thought and label it in your head “get milk thought”. And so on. Do this for a while and you will find it easier and easier to label your thoughts.
What is the purpose of it? Well, you will start to realize that most of our thoughts are futile and clutter our mind and many times give you a sense of pressure like being busy, or increasing your anxiety. The key is that you don’t have to act on every thought you have and not every thought you have is true or nice or kind or beneficial. Once you realize that they are just thoughts that come and go you start mastering controlling your thoughts and emptying your mind. And that is a good thing to do many times. You reduce your stress, anxiety and depression symptoms by doing that.
Practicing every day for a short time is better than practicing for a long time once in a while!
Practice brings mastery! It’s an universal rule, the more you practice the better you become at something, the better it will serve you. However, it is better to practice short amounts of time every day than it is to practice for 2 hours in a row but just once a week. Keep the practice alive daily. Before you know it, you will realize that it has become a habit that requires no effort at all from you, it’s just something that you do with ease and without too much planning.
The gold standard for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is the guided “Body Scan” meditation and breathing!
This meditation will take you about 30 minutes to 45 minutes if you are just starting out meditating. I noticed that the more experienced I became with meditation I naturally perform a body scan on myself in 10 minutes. This meditation is systematic, you consciously bring your attention to your body from top to toe. First your head, with your eyes, nose, mouth, ears, etc. Then your neck. Then your shoulders. And so on. You bring the attention to every part of your body and you notice how your body feels in all it’s parts. You may feel relaxed in some areas, you may feel tension in others, or even pain. You will learn to describe these sensations in your mind. You will learn to ‘breathe’ into it. You will notice that discomforts leave your body and you literally have the power to alter the sensations of your body.
Try it out and see how you feel about it.
If you want to read the work of the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Jon Kabat-Zinn, here are some books that he wrote and published.
With Love, In Light, For Peace,