The work that I do with my clients is informed by mindfulness. I often encourage this practice both in therapy and at home for a variety of reasons, mostly because it enriches the overall therapy experience. Here is a brief description of mindfulness to help you start to grasp what this practice is about and what benefits it may offer.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a highly respected teacher of mindfulness, puts it this way: “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. "It’s about knowing what is on your mind.” Simple enough, right? Not so much.
As you probably know from experience, our minds are constantly preoccupied. We live in the past, or the future. We get caught up in our emotional reactions. We may not even be aware of what we are feeling or thinking in the moment. Because of this mindfulness must be approached as a practice. It is something we do often in order to strengthen our ability to access this kind of awareness for the benefit of ourselves and others.
Other ways of defining mindfulness include:
- Fully engaging our life in the moment, without distractions.
- Knowing what is happening inside of us, without getting overwhelmed or carried away by it.
- Having a curious, kind, and open relationship with ourselves, however we may be at any given moment.
- Being able to get distance from our experience—thoughts, emotions, physical sensations—so that we can see more clearly and act more skillfully.
Mindfulness is, in many ways, an essential part of therapy, because it provides us with an invaluable set of skills with which to explore ourselves in the pursuit of greater understanding, growth and healing.
Mindfulness provides us with many opportunities. At the very least, you may find that by simply paying attention to your breath, in each moment, you will notice a slowing down of the mind and body. With continued practice, you may experience an internal quiet and calm you never thought possible. Beyond this, the practice of mindfulness allows for greater understanding of our own “self”; through this understanding we may more effectively work with anxiety, fear, depression or any number of challenges that bring us to therapy.
For those interested in learning more, the following resources may be of interest: