Mindfulness is a practice of paying close attention to how we are, within ourselves and in the world. We intentionally cultivate the ability to turn towards difficulty. We are not passive. Rather, we are more able to choose, with clarity, how we respond to others and the world we live in.
Absolutely no prior experience is needed. The only requirement is a willingness to engage as fully as possible with yourself and the programme.
Mindfulness encourages us to be curious about and intimate with our thoughts. We learn to notice our thoughts without being caught up in a whirlwind of thinking. We never try to control our thoughts or to stop thinking, but with practice we are able to make choices about where and how we give attention. We are more able to plan without being anxious about the future and to remember without judging our past.
Present moment awareness, non-judgement and the kindness inherent in that, feature in many religious traditions. Buddhism, in particular, holds mindfulness as a central tenet. But mindfulness is not about Buddhism. It is about waking up to each moment as it really is. It is beginning to understand that we can only live our lives now, in this moment. It is learning the how of this. MBSR presents mindfulness as a secular teaching that is accessible to anyone, irrespective of their religious beliefs or affiliations.
Mindfulness is a very good complement to psychotherapy. Please do let your therapist know if you are planning to participate: It would be ideal to do so with their support. We are also happy to communicate directly with your therapist at your request.
MBSR is usually taught in a group setting. Participation in all aspects of the course is always invitational. This includes the mindfulness practices and the process of giving feedback within the group. The experience of many participants is that the group experience deepens and enriches the learning. For some it is initially part of learning to notice and accept the difficult. Some people choose one-on-one mindfulness training. These options can be discussed with the facilitators.
One of the practices in MBSR is mindful movement. This is a gentle form of yoga. From the outset it is vital that you listen to your body and exercise your judgement moment to moment so as not to strain or injure yourself. This is an integral part of practicing mindfulness.
When we choose to look at aspects of our lives we usually look away from, we can open the door to powerful emotions and experiences. Some participants may experience a relative increase in pain, depression or anxiety in the early weeks of an MBSR programme. Throughout the course you are encouraged to work within your own comfort zone and take care of yourself. Many research studies have documented an improvement in these parameters over the eight weeks of the course and well beyond that.
If you are living with any medical (physical or psychological) condition for which you receive ongoing care, we would want to be aware of that and explore it in the pre-course assessment. If appropriate, we may ask your permission to contact your caregiver prior to the course.
There is much research supporting the use of MBSR and adaptions thereof in prevention of depressive relapse but if you are currently experiencing a major depressive episode or are have had thoughts of suicide we may suggest you delay participation.
If your personal history includes recent trauma or drug and alcohol use with fewer than 90 days of being clean, a similar delay may be suggested.