Was tempted to title the post as “Minefield of Apps” since the proliferation of resources to support mindfulness present a dizzying array of choices.
The term “Mindfulness” derives from the Pali language language word sati meaning “to remember” but it generally signifies the presence of mind. A 2003 paper by Brown and Ryan defined mindfulness as ….receptive attention to and awareness of present events and experience (Brown & Ryan, 2003). in 2007, another paper by Brown, Ryan and Cresswell described mindfulness as a “quality of consciousness” (Brown, Ryan, & Creswell, 2007, p. 211). Jon Kabat-Zinn writes:
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”10 Feb 2017.
Jon Kabat-Zinn was a student of the exiled Vietnamese Monk Thich Naht Hanh, who presented us with the Five Mindfulness Trainings. In his turn, Kabat Zinn founded a Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine at The University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Much evidence supports the benefits of mindfulness with some researchers suggesting that the therapeutic benefits may be transdiagnostic – ie. beneficial for a range of emotional and physical concerns as well as effective across a diversity of populations ( e.g., Baer, 2007). In this climate of positive expectation, researchers such as Brown, Ryan and Cresswell have suggested that there may be social pressure upon individuals to experience and report benefits. So, has the popularisation, some might say, trendiness of the term “mindfulness” , created it’s own problems or diminished it’s use in stress-reduction and coping with anxiety?
I think that those of us who experience stress and anxiety often require a pretty full “toolbox”, a variety of strategies in order to try to “set the house straight”. Stress, as we know, is very insidious. When stressed, we try to understand what on earth is happening. Commonly, we re-call past stresses and we re -live the pain which tends to intensify the present stress/condition. It is then natural to worry about future stress and in our desire to avoid this we might pre-live future scenarios/disasters – we pre-feel the future. In this way, immersed in anxiety and worry, we miss the now. This behavioural cycle is linked to memory and refers directly to the Pali word “sati”, as cited at the beginning of this blog. Books that you may find useful are:
- Mindfulness – a practical guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World. by Mark Williams and Danny Penman (Piatkus, 2011)
- Full Catastrophic Living by Jon kabat-Zinn (Piatkus 1990)
So – what’s the difference between mindfulness and meditation? This is something that I find difficult to explain myself and am happy to be corrected. Meditation is an umbrella terms that includes practices to acknowledge and self-regulate the mind. It includes elements such as compassion, love and mindfulness. Mindfulness is focus upon being in the present moment and is a form of meditation – You might be mindful of the food that you are eating, of your movement, for example.
The difference is a very fine line and perhaps by combining the two elements- learning about different meditation techniques and being mindful in everyday life we can consciously shift gear, park the car and observe some small pause for a minute or two. In our slow, mindful yoga practice, I feel that we do just that. Jon Kabat Zinn’s book Wherever You Go, there You Are (Piatkus 1994) is subtitled Mindfulness Meditations for Everyday Life. He explains that mindfulness is a simple, but powerful way of getting ourselves unstuck (p5)
The apps. They are helpful tools in establishing a habit of shifting gear. Just as we take time to choose a course, a yoga class or any teacher, we may benefit from investigation and finding one that “fits”. Our habitual use of phones, tablets and devices is generally well established, thus the very fact that we have these at hand might help us to begin to practice mindfulness. Apps which sound a bell periodically throughout the day may help us to stop; others help to establish regular practice of mindfulness meditation. If you would like a list , please contact me. It is not a definitive list but it’s a start. In the meantime, free online courses offered by Monash University might be a good place to start. You can find them on the Future Learn website:
- Mindfulness for Well Being and Peak Performance.
- Maintaining a Mindful Life