Mind­ful­ness made easy

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - RELIGION - LINDA BLAIR

There are good rea­sons why you should prac­tice mind­ful­ness, re­gard­less of how busy your life is.

Since the early 1980s, when Jon Ka­bat-Zinn demon­strated its re­liev­ing prop­er­ties for pa­tients who en­dure se­vere chronic pain, mind­ful­ness — a dis­ci­pline that helps you achieve fully fo­cused in­ten­tional, non-judg­men­tal aware­ness of the present mo­ment — has been ap­plied in a vast range of set­tings.

Mark Wil­liams and col­leagues at Cam­bridge taught pa­tients suf­fer­ing from bouts of de­pres­sion to use MBCT (short for Mind­ful­ness-Based Cog­ni­tive Ther­apy for De­pres­sion), and found their chance of re­lapse was sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced.

Paul Gross­man at the Freiburg In­sti­tute for Mind­ful­ness Re­search con­cluded that mind­ful­ness can help re­lieve symp­toms across a wide range of health prob­lems, both men­tal and phys­i­o­log­i­cal.

Sarah Bowen at the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton used mind­ful­ness to help pre­vent re­lapse in adults re­cov­er­ing from sub­stance abuse. It has also been shown to help par­ents with autis­tic chil­dren cope more adap­tively with their child’s chal­leng­ing be­hav­iour.

Not only are the ben­e­fits of mind­ful­ness ob­vi­ous, the ap­proach is also easy to learn. There will al­most cer­tainly be a course near you.

Why, then, do so many of us be­lieve it’s dif­fi­cult to find time to be mind­ful? The fault lies with prac­ti­tion­ers who teach mind­ful­ness as a sep­a­rate dis­ci­pline, as some­thing you must set aside time for. Most peo­ple find that daunt­ing.

It’s much bet­ter in­stead to think of mind­ful­ness as a way of be­ing; of do­ing what you al­ready do, but with fo­cus and open-minded, non­judg­men­tal aware­ness.

You can do that by start­ing each day feel­ing calm and bal­anced. As soon as you wake up, sit up in bed and breathe in through your nose slowly and evenly. Hold for as long as you com­fort­ably can, then ex­hale slowly. Do 10 of these, con­cen­trat­ing ex­clu­sively on your breath­ing. This will only take two min­utes. Yet by start­ing your day like this, later on you’ll find it easy to be­come aware of neg­a­tive thoughts or anxious feel­ings. You can then re­bal­ance by tak­ing an­other 10 mind­ful breaths.

Once mind­ful breath­ing be­comes an in­grained habit, you can use it any time and any­where. Then you re­ally can live the life you want — only bet­ter.

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