What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness offers us away of relating differently to our struggles. The difficulties will not necessarily go away, but by being with them more gently, things can feel easier and steadier.

Being mindful is to be aware of the detail of your experience as it is happening. So as you sit here reading these words, you know that you can feel the weight of your body supported by the seat of your chair - and you are aware of the contact of your feet on the floor. We learn to bring particular awareness to physical sensations in the body to underpin what we are experiencing.

Mostly, we are not aware. We tend to wander back, dwelling in the past - or run forward, anticipating the future. We can be driving a car, but functioning on automatic and only partly aware of the passing landmarks, whilst worrying about something about to happen, or thinking about something someone said earlier.

The practice of living more mindfully offers ways of learning to appreciate things more - to feel more alive and present to our world. It helps us to slow down from such a frenetic pace, and we may be able to find again for the things that we enjoy. We discover the capacity to be open and kindly. We can learn to love again - to find joy and contentment in the simple things.

Mindfulness also helps us learn to respond differently to difficult situations. Instead of reacting, in a knee jerk way, immediately imagining the worst - we learn to stop, and come back to the direct experience we are having now. This changes things and gives us an opportunity to find other ways of managing what is challenging us.

Websites for further information

Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice (CMRP) www.bangor.ac.uk/mindfulness
Center for Mindfulness, (CFM) www.umassedu/cfm
Oxford Mindfulness Centre www.oxfordmindfulness.org
Exeter Mindfulness Network www.exeter-mindfulness-network.org

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