By Robert K Stephen
(TORONTO, ON) – The first two parts of this article dealt with an experimental 6-week mindfulness therapy session offered at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. All participants in the six week course were also invited to the so-called traditional 9-week course.
The traditional course focused very heavily on meditation techniques with some emphasis on meditation not being the end-goal of mindfulness. Rather, “cultivating awareness” should be the goal of meditation and mindfulness.
Put simply, being aware of your emotions and feelings in a kind, curious, and compassionate manner and to avoid being beaten up by them.
Getting too tangled up in your thoughts, particularly if they are negative, can overcome you and lead to a hamster wheel of negativity.
There was some focus placed on how best can you take care of yourself. Inventory what nourishes you and what depletes you.
If you can accept that you can’t change certain depleting activities, perhaps you should give effort to the nourishing ones. However, you can’t escape many depleting activities, but you should be aware that they exist and avoid getting caught up in them.
There is always the “breathing space” that meditation offers to find some refuge from distress. Acknowledge the existence of distress instead of running from it or ignoring it. When facing distress, be kind to your body, engage in pleasurable activities, and do something that gives you a sense of mastery, satisfaction, achievement, or control.
Suggested techniques to reach a state of mindfulness would be to meditate on a daily basis, including taking several breathing spaces throughout the day; particularly in stressful situations.
Breathing is an essential physical part of meditation. If you are able to focus on your breathing you become master of the moment and gain the ability to put matters into perspective. As a minimum, complete at least one pleasurable activity a day and a task that you are capable of succeeding and mastering.
Make the effort to sit down and inventory what activities are depleting you and what tasks are nourishing. As a minimum, you’ll have a better idea of where your mind is; what bothers you and what gives you a sense of satisfaction.
If the depleting activities far outweigh the nourishing, you are in trouble. The cup of tea consumed outside in the morning sun may just negate the horrific rush hour drive.
Really now, working 18-hour days, doing the job of four, due to corporate cutbacks, then working on the week-end, instead of spending time with your family and friends, or playing a game of golf, is depletion gone rampant.
Don’t wait for a stroke or heart attack.
Do be careful in selecting any mindfulness course and note that, according to a recent article by David Geller in the New York Times, mindfulness is a $964 million industry.
Geller states, “That is you can’t simply buy mindfulness. In its historical context, mindfulness is just one aspect of a lifelong journey to become more accepting, less judgemental and kinder to oneself and others. Even in its modern incarnation, mindfulness is best understood as a skill, one acquired through hours of sometimes uncomfortable contemplation. “