What is mindfulness?
Quite simply, mindfulness can be described as turning up and paying attention to your life. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who developed mindfulness based approaches at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, describes mindfulness as: “The awareness that arises from paying attention, in a particular way: on purpose in the present moment and non-judgementally.” Most of us don’t live our lives like this at all. Think about it; how many times do you open the fridge door only to forget what you were looking for, or drive to work without any recollection of the journey? Mindfulness training is based on centuries old concentration and meditation practices which have been adapted for use in a variety of settings; pain relief, stress reduction, depression. It would be a mistake, however to imagine that here has to be something wrong with you before you can benefit from mindfulness training. It is all about increasing the enjoyment and quality of your life, whoever you are and whatever your circumstances.
Mindfulness is best thought of as a capacity we all possess by virtue of being born a human being. Other capacities we posses are things such as intelligence, compassion, empathy, creativity, imagination and so on. We are mindful every day of our lives. Whenever you try to reverse into a tight parking space, you are being mindful. The trouble is, we tend to allow this capacity for mindfulness to weaken as we get older. We learn to automatise lots of areas of our lives and filter other areas out. We might end up being fully present in our lives for maybe a couple of hours a day - and that is being generous. This means we miss out on a lot of the things that make life worthwhile. By engaging in a programme of mindfulness training you will learn to increase the number of mindful moments you can experience throughout your life and make them longer and deeper. It takes practice and a lot of commitment but the benefits can be huge.
What are the benefits?
Whenever you learn a new skill, whether it's bricklaying or learning to drive, your brain changes. In the same way mindfulness training literally changes the structure of your brain and in an entirely beneficial way. The obvious benefits are that you will learn to be more focused, aware and present. But there are other benefits as well, not least for the people around you, your family, friends, work colleages, clients and organisations.
Having completed one of our courses these are some of the benefits people have reported to us:
- Can concentrate and focus better
- Can recognise their own internal states more accurately- thoughts, moods and emotions.
- Can handle stressful situations better
- Learn more about the habits that shape their lives and relationships
- Are more flexible and creative in the way they approach problems
- Feel more in control of emotions rather than being driven by them
- Can relax better and improve sleep
- Have a greater capacity for compasssion and kindness, especially self compassion
- Can feel less tired or discouraged
- Relationships and communication improve and are less self centred
- Feel more engaged with the world about them
- Can recognise when moods are dropping and take action to stop that happening.
We can't guarantee that you will experience all of these benefits but we can say, with a certain amount of confidence, that, if you attend a course and practice regularly, every day, you will notice a difference. And the course is only the beginning; we hope that it will represent the beginning of a lifelong journey.
What does it involve?
Firstly, it is not a relaxation technique. Neither is it therapy. It does not stop difficult things happening in your life. Instead, it changes the way you relate to these things. In mindfulness training you will be taught a number of simple practices which, if done regularly, will help you respond to the challenges of life with greater confidence. It involves quite a lot of commitment and practice but the benefits can be enormous. Mindfulness is normally taught in an 8-week course although whole-day courses are a good alternative for many people. One-to-one training is possible for a limited number of people.
In the class we will teach you a number of core practices; things such as the "body scan", mindful movement, sitting meditations and short, bite sized practices you can integrate into your daily life. You will also be taught how to develop everyday mindfulness - ways of making every moment in life a mindful moment. We do this over a number of weeks and we encourage people to allow the learning from the course to unfold, gently over time.
Most of the real work is conducted between sessions and you will be given homework to do each week which will form the basis of the next session. Normally this will involve 30 to 45 minutes a day. This can be quite a challenge for many of us to fit in to our busy lives but it is essential if you are to get the full benefit of the course. It's a lot like going to gym to build up your physical fitness; doing the course, in a sense, is like building up your muscle of mindfulness. So don't expect instant results but eventually you will notice the benefits - even after eight weeks people have reported real differences in their feelings of wellbeing and ability to manage stress. And this is not surprising; the research demonstrates significant changes in the structure of the brains of people who practice mindfulness meditation regularly, even if only for 10 minutes a day. This training really can "change your mind". Try our sample meditation practice and see for yourself.
Then check our events and courses page for information on 8-week courses throughout South Yorkshire. We also do occasional whole day events and can provide bespoke training for organisations and community groups who want it. We will gladly come and talk to your group and explain what we do and how we can help you. We are dedicated to spreading the word of mindfulness to all corners of our community. As such, we subsidise places on courses for people in difficult financial circumstances, from the proceeds of our full-price courses. We occasionally offer free places to people in the most need and run courses on an expenses only basis for voluntary or third sector groups.