(TORONTO, ON) – Mindfulness. My interpretation. Yes, I have now completed 42 hours of mindfulness training at both experimental and traditional mindfulness courses, offered by Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. The traditional session was mega meditation peppered with handouts of quips from mindfulness experts and advice from the teacher.
So, after all this, can I describe what mindfulness is?
Well, it is not easy. And, many books have been written about it. But, from a student’s perspective, let me try to explain.
Mindfulness focuses on many different types of meditation, whether it be walking meditation, breathing spaces, difficulty meditation, sitting meditation, and stretching meditation, to name just a few. The purpose of the meditation is to focus on the present moment while using the breath as its central grounding point.
Any deviation from focusing on the breath is called a wandering mind which, for a novice, should be noted before attention, compassionately and in a kind fashion, is brought back to the breath.
Mindfulness concedes that the mind just wanders continuously because that is what minds do. The trick is to bring the mind back to the regularity of breathing. It’s a form of discipline that is the foundation of mindfulness for the novice.
Once the wandering mind is detected and brought back to the breath, and the ability to do so is cultivated, the seeds of mindfulness have been sown. At this point that special ability to feel the body in its entirety and noting its sensations is the next step of mindfulness.
Beyond that would be an ability to move from the breath and identify the thoughts of the mind, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, and simply note their presence.
The last rung on the mindfulness ladder is to focus on these thoughts and develop ways of dealing with them in a constructive way, instead of simply habitually reacting to them.
The end result of all this should be a sense of calmness, an ability to respond instead of habitually reacting to situations, and a deep sense of self respect for one’s individuality. Life will continually present difficulties, so it is how one responds to them which will determine the calmness of the self.
One is also equipped with the ability to take mini meditation breaks throughout the day to avoid habitual reaction, and breaks to deal with difficult situations and assess them as primarily mental thoughts, as opposed to facts and reality.
If they are thoughts, you have the mental ability to recognize they may not be true and that you are reacting to them as if they are true. If those thoughts are negative, such as, “I’m really bad at problem solving. I just don’t have the intelligence to deal with this problem” mindfulness will tend to guide you through these issues.
It is not the panacea of all problems in life, but simply one tool for dealing with the stresses and anxiety we feel in life.
You can read all you want about mindfulness, but unless you actually take a course you’ll be lost in pages of fluff and good intentions.
For lack of better words, you need a Guru to guide you through this philosophy. There are both private courses and a referral through a GP or psychiatrist which may also lead to mindfulness courses at various Ontario hospitals which will be covered by OHIP.
In the big scheme of things, this course may be a mere 24 hours of your life that could change you forever. Not a bad investment.