All of us live with difficulties of one kind or another. Life is not always kind and it is not fair. Sometimes it seems as though difficulties pile on top of us when we’re already down. Mindfulness doesn’t take away the difficulty but it helps us cope.
The main mindfulness skill that we learn on an 8 week course is how to meditate. Mindful meditation involves learning how to be aware of what is happening in our mind and in our body. Sometimes when we are stressed, our brain senses the stress we feel, and does its’ best to have the body ready for action by tensing up certain muscles – the ‘fight or flight’ reflex. If we are under pressure for long periods, these muscles do not get the chance to relax and this can lead to pain or discomfort.
Mindfulness teaches us to recognise tension in our bodies. Where we feel tension is different for everyone – one person may have a headache while another has a pain in their neck, or even their stomach. As we learn to meditate, we learn to recognise very subtle signs in our body that we are becoming more stressed. If we can recognise the early signs, we may become able to prevent the build- up of stress.
One of the key mindfulness skills is mindfulness of breathing. This teaches us to be aware of our breathing patterns but without trying to change them. Once we are aware, we can use our breathing as an ‘anchor’ to help us in times of trouble. For example, when we realise that we are getting carried away by thoughts and worries, bringing our focus back to our breathing can be very helpful.
One of the recent participants on a Living Well Mindfulness course told me how she used the Mindfulness skills she had learned on the course to help her when she had to go to hospital for a scan:
‘I am usually so uptight in a hospital that even just visiting, as a child, used to make me feel sick. Since adulthood I find my mind won’t concentrate and I shake all over. I have had some pretty unpleasant experiences, which is probably the reason for it. This time I decided to try the body scan meditation: it worked a treat and I became very relaxed. I am convinced that mindfulness is helping me to handle things more calmly, I just have to think ‘’stop and breathe’’ when I start feeling uptight. There is no doubt it has been a life changing experience for me.’
To learn mindful meditation takes practice over a period of time and it helps to have guidance and feedback. It really helps to learn to meditate with other people, because you can learn a lot from other people’s experience.
To find out more about how mindfulness could help you, book onto a free mindfulness taster – they are running in the Newbury, Thatcham and Reading areas this week-end and next. For dates of upcoming 8 week courses see www.livingwellmindfulness.com
Sheila Bond, Living Well Mindfulness
Chartered Physiotherapist and Mindfulness Coach
01635 873335/07990 584078