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Preparing for Mindfulness: Week #2 and a Half

Mindfulness in a Frantic WorldI’m about to start my eight week programme of deliberate mindfulness practice in an effort to find peace and happiness in the frantic world we live in.

I’ll be working on developing my mindfulness skills, focusing my awareness and testing out my meditation skills.

My husband is convinced I’m about to start down the road to hippy’dom – sitting cross-legged on the floor and ummmmmmm’ing to myself all day long.  There again, considering I wear flip-flops all year round (the only exception being when there’s snow on the ground which means my toes tend to turn blue), I’m probably half way there already!

But why am I doing this?  Well the evidence is overwhelming that mindful meditation can be hugely beneficial to your health and happiness.  Numerous psychological studies have shown that:

  1. Regular meditators are happier.
  2. Regular meditators are more contented.
  3. They enjoy better and more fulfilling relationships.
  4. Anxiety, depression and irritability all decrease with meditation.
  5. Memory improves.
  6. Reaction times get faster.
  7. Mental and physical stamina increase.
  8. Meditation reduces key indicators of chronic stress.
  9. Meditation has been found to be effective in reducing the impact of chronic pain and cancer.
  10. Meditation can help relieve alcohol and drug dependence.
  11. Meditation bolsters the immune system and helps you fight colds and flu.

Then I have to ask – why the heck wouldn’t you want to do it?

Over the next 8 weeks (or so) I’ll be following the mindfulness course laid out by Mark Williams, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow at Oxford University and co-developer of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), in the book co-written with Danny Penman – Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world.

So what will I have to do?  Well for starters I need to commit to completing the whole 8 weeks course – that means putting aside 20 to 30 minutes per day to meditate – at least 6 days out of 7 each week.  I’m going to need to make the time, but the consensus seems to be that it will actually free up more of my time than it uses.

I’ll also be testing out a different ‘habit releaser’ each week to re-ignite my curiosity (apparently it’s hard to be curious and unhappy at the same time!) and these will jolt me out of the ruts I’m stuck in.

If I can’t keep up the required level of practice then I’m going to have to either repeat the week or if I’ve only missed a session or two then I can continue.

The first four weeks of the programme will focus on paying ‘open-hearted attention to different aspects of the internal and external world’ and opening up different gateways to awareness.

The second four weeks then builds on this foundation and will help me acknowledge thoughts as mental events – that drift by like clouds in the sky – and nurture my attitude of acceptance, compassion and empathy towards myself and towards other people.

Apparently I don’t have to find the practice enjoyable, though many people find it pleasant.  I may frequently feel like: I’ve failed; I may get sleepy when my intent is wakefulness (oh yes – been there already and got the T-shirt!); and it may seem difficult, boring or repetitive.  I may feel like I just don’t get it or that it’s not working for me.  I just need to do the best I can, practice my self-compassion and keep going.

And in the end this is what I’m aiming for …

“At the end of the eight-week programme, many people report knowing, deep within themselves, that this feeling of profound stillness, of being happy, content and free, is always available to them – it is only ever a breath away.”  Mark Williams and Danny Penman

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