Learn how to STOP! and be mindful

I've often been asked what mindfulness is. The mindful state itself is an experience which has no real words that get close to describing it.

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Aug 20, 2015
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Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation’

Aristotle

I've often been asked what mindfulness is.

The mindful state itself is an experience which has no real words that get close to describing it.

Like ‘fingers pointing at the moon’, the words cannot be the thing itself. The mindful state lies somewhere in the gap between perception and rationality, as impartial observation.

The original term for it, ‘sati’ has been translated in English as 'bare attention' or ‘non conceptual awareness’. It is awareness without thought, without memories, labels or concepts and it is always in the present moment. In mindfulness, there is no past and no future, simply’ the now’ of being.

Many describe a sense of ‘oneness’; of being at the interface of the self and consciousness, yet consciousness itself is still a mystery to the neuroscientists.

There are some intriguing theories about the nature of consciousness; of our disconnection from a ‘source’ at birth and our lifelong search for reconnection. Across the religions, there are many reports of transpersonal or peak experiences through meditation, contemplation and prayer.

The practice of mindful meditation itself could not be easier to describe. Put simply, it involves taking a psychological ‘step back’ from thoughts, feelings and experiences so that you are in the position of detached observer.

It's a little bit like ‘streaming’ rather than ‘downloading’. As an observer, we are simply a witness to our experience.


Many metaphors

Some describe mindfulness practice like lying back and watching your thoughts drift by like passing clouds.

Dr Daniel Siegel, author of The Mindful Therapist, favours the analogy of being at the hub of a wheel, with awareness of any element of our inner or outer worlds on the rim of the wheel. From this point, he suggest, we can focus our attention and be open to whatever arises.

I heard a nice description from a colleague whose client was troubled by intrusive thoughts. She encouraged the client to ‘shoo away’ the thoughts, a little bit like when a cat jumps on your lap and you simply encourage it along with your hand, not allowing it to settle.

The image that works for me is to consider the mind as an ocean. Even if there is a storm on the surface, at the ocean bed all remains calm, clear and still.

From these tranquil deep waters, we can observe thoughts and sensations floating past like fish, sometimes in ones and twos and sometimes in shoals.

Simply put, the art and practice of mindful awareness is about ‘focusing our attention’ and, when we do that, with regularity of practice, we enhance and strengthen the prefrontal cortex. This is the area of the brain, which is the modulator between the hemispheres. It inhibits; it is the centre of executive control.


Choices

We make thousands of choices every day; what to wear, what to eat, what to say, what to do.

With every choice we make, we are standing at a psychological ‘fork in the road’ and, with every ‘mindful’ choice we make, we enhance our ability to make good choices. In this way, we are less likely to over eat or indulge in addictive behaviours. We are more likely to be able to let go of instinctive reactions to stressful stimuli.

The STOP System is a quick and easy way to access that ‘fork in the road’ mindset.

Formal mindfulness practice builds the ‘muscles of the mind’, just as gym work builds the biceps and triceps.


A simple mindfulness exercise

Wherever you are, you can choose to stop ‘doing’ and start ‘being’ for a while, by following these simple steps to mindful awareness.

  • Direct your focus to your breath, to the sensation of air as it goes in and out of the nostrils.
  • Notice the warmth or coolness of the breath as it passes over the upper lip.
  • Begin to be aware of the breath in the upper chest and observe the movements as air comes and goes, as it ebbs and flows.
  • Do not force the breath, simply observe and follow, as you continue to redirect your focus into the abdomen.
  • Allow your attention to ‘ride and rest’ where it will, following the column of breath as it enters and exits the body’ observing the gentle rise and fall of the belly as you do so.For many, this one simple exercise is enormously calming. This is why I recommend it to my clients.It's a wonderful way to have better quality sleep at night time if you practice it as an ‘end of day’ exercise and, a gentle way to wake up in the morning… but comes with a word of warning.This morning, as my alarm clock encouraged to wake up with its insistent beep, I thought I would take the opportunity for some mindful breathing…..Two hours later, I awoke, deeply refreshed but beginning the day two hours later than planned.Perhaps I need to use the snooze button next time



Go to the profile of Frances A Masters

Frances A Masters

Psychotherapist, Coach, Writer. Live your best life.

Do you want to be happier and more resilient? Some people seem to just 'bounce back' no matter what life throws at them. We can't choose many of life's events but we certainly do have a choice about how we respond. My passion for mental health began 25 years ago when I suffered postnatal depression and realised the help I needed simply wasn't there. The pills didn't work. In fact they made things worse. What I really needed was to understand how anxiety, depression and emotional ill health can develop. I needed to learn good 'mind management' skills which would act like a 'psychological inoculation' against future problems. When I recovered, I made a decision to find out how and why I had become so depressed and made a personal pledge to do something to provide the kind of help for others which I had needed. I wanted to prevent people suffering unnecessarily. So I embarked on a personal and professional journey and, along the way, developed a brand new approach to health and well-being. My journey began with four years of traditional counselling training, followed by a postgraduate diploma in psychotherapy. I studied cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), hypnotherapy, coaching and cognitive neuroscience. I built up 30,000 hours professional experience which I brought together into the new happiness and resilience programme l named 'Fusion.' I also wrote a book about how to resolve post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), founded a therapeutic coaching charity and trained volunteers to work in this new way. This training programme would later become the nationally accredited Fusion Therapeutic Coaching Diploma and Distance Learning Skills Certificate. Now... The journey continues. Now I want to reveal all my professional secrets about good mind management to as many people as possible through social media and by training Fusion Breakthrough trainers from all over the world. One of them could be you... Something new.. Something different.. Something which lasts.. What if you could experience one day which could actually change your life for good; giving you your own eureka moment; not only helping you create a vision of the life you want to live, but actually give you the real skills to get there and stay there? Fusion is a tried and tested system which combines the best of psychotherapy and coaching into a powerful new formula for lasting change. My aim is to help and empower as many people as possible to feel their best, be their best and live their best lives. Perhaps I could help you too....

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