The Origins of Mindfulness

The Origins of mindfulness

Mindful meditations originates from Buddhist practices that are over 2,500 years old. Prince Siddhartha, who became the Buddha, dedicated his life to finding the cause of suffering and he recommended mindfulness as a way of overcoming grief, sorrow, pain, anxiety and of realising happiness.

In 1979 mindfulness began to be used therapeutically to help those with terminal illness, chronic back pain and HIV. Many of the participants were suffering from depression and anxiety as a result of their conditions.

The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programme run by Dr John Kabat-Zinn promotes meditation practices and mindful movement. Through these practices participants discover a different way of being with their suffering. It also cultivates qualities such as patience, acceptance, and equanimity, which enables them to deal with stress, chronic pain, and illness with greater ease, skill, and wisdom.

Clinical research has shown that beneficial physical changes occur in participants completing the course, including a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, and shifts in the way the brain deals with difficult emotions.

In 2001 Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy was developed by Mark Williams, John TEASDALE, Zindel V. Segal. It was developed specifically for the treatment of depression, but has since been adapted for other clinical conditions, including anxiety, eating disorders and addictions. The results have been similar.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is when we are thinking about what we are doing right now, aware of what is happening within us and around us with a clear focus of attention on moment-to moment experience that enables us to be fully present for life.

Ignoring the past or the future, we just think about the present. With mindful awareness it allows us to sense and observe what is going on around us with clarity and openness.

Enabling us to be receptive to external signals from other people and our larger community. By consciously focusing on the present moment and drawing our attention to the breath, we can reduce stress and optimise the learning capacity of our brain. We can learn to observe rather than react. We can learn to be receptive and non-judgemental of ourselves and others.

Mindfulness is about deliberately paying attention to your experience, without judgement as it unfolds- noticing what is happening physically in the body and where.

It is also being aware of what emotions are arising and the tone of these feelings, as well as noticing what is happening, not why it is happening. We use our senses to explore our experience. If at any time the mind wanders, we can simply bring our attention back to the physical sensations of breathing.

Mindfulness can help us Achieve Joy and Happiness

Mindfulness can help you develop joy and happiness whenever you want. With the energy of mindfulness you can also handle a painful emotion or painful feeling. If you do not have mindfulness you may feel overwhelmed by the pain and suffering inside.

There are many types of mindfulness. When you practice breathing in and out mindfully, that is called mindfulness breathing. There is also mindfulness walking, mindfulness eating, mindfulness listening and so forth. The energy of mindfulness generated by awareness of breathing or awareness of your steps while walking, helps bring your mind home to your body, and when mind and body are together you are in the present moment. Joy, happiness and peace are only available in the present moment. It is at these times that we can really appreciate our lives.

Questions we can ask ourselves while practicing mindfulness are:

  • What am I feeling physically in my body?

  • What am I feeling emotionally?

  • Where am I feeling this emotion in my body?

  • What thoughts are arising?

  • What stories am I telling myself about my experience?

Remember mindfulness can be practiced anywhere and at any time. Keep it simple and perhaps focus on just one practice to start with. Be gentle with yourself for beginning your journey, using mindfulness.

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