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Module 1 – What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is an integral part of many meditation practices, and until 30 years ago was the domain of monastic traditions. So what has this got to do with modern life?

In essence, through the practice of mindful attention to what’s happening in the present moment, we can re-train ourselves to be more focused, less worried about past and future, and more compassionate to self and others.

Extensive research shows that this helps people to cope with stress, get along better with other people, and be happier. In the workplace, it creates more effective businesses and organisations, and reduces time taken off work for anxiety and ill-health.

The modern, secular form of mindfulness was developed in hospitals in the USA in the 1970s. It was used with great success in helping patients with chronic pain and depression, where drugs and other therapies had not worked. GPs in the UK are now prescribing mindfulness courses for depression, as the results are better.

In essence, being mindful means staying fully aware of everything that’s going on now, internally and externally, in a non-judgemental manner.

Mindfulness is natural and takes no effort; it’s already there. You simply allow yourself to experience the full richness of the present moment. Your practice is to learn to stay with it, be patient, be curious, and make no comment.

See notes on Definitions of Mindfulness.

Studies show that people completing mindfulness courses develop skills that are invaluable in the work environment.  Research shows that staff:

  • remain more calm and focused in the face of multiple demands
  • focus better for longer, and communicate more clearly
  • work better within teams, with clients and with other stakeholders
  • exhibit less stress, anxiety, and depression
  • are more productive and take less time off work

Please see notes on Research Evidence

In this process there is only one person who is responsible for it working or not. You. So ask yourself if you’re ready to do it, and why.

There are several qualities that will be critical in maintaining your energy to help you get results.

The first is intention. If you are serious about making changes, and truly committed, it will work. It will help to visualise what the end result of this process will be.

The second quality is interest. This course is an exploration. Treat your mind as the most fascinating subject possible, for a detailed scientific experiment. You cannot know now what will unfold, and the process of unfolding may at times be painful, blissful, dull or amazing. Nothing is right or wrong; but all of it is interesting.

The third, twin qualities are patience and concentration.

You’ll need patience to do the exercises even if they feel odd at first. In particular, avoid avoidance! We’ll work more with this later, but sometimes you just need to stick with the experiences that arise, such as dullness, discomfort or boredom – this may be exactly the experience you need to work with.

Concentration is simply about maintaining this focus. It’s actually about waking up and staying awake; we are naturally focused and aware, it’s just that lots of other stuff gets in the way or distracts us, so we train ourselves to keep on track.

Finally, you need to be clear about your values. If your motivation comes from a desire to create a better world around you, rather than for simply selfish motives, you will progress faster.

See the values chart.