The evidence that it is something we should be taking very seriously is so convincing. It has had such amazingly good outcome results I don’t think any therapist can now ignore it. Doctors who do Mindfulness meditation burn out less than those who do not. Mindfulness reduces the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and of Multiple Sclerosis. It helps with pain management. Breast Cancer survivors who use it have less depression, less fear the cancer will return, and higher energy. I could go on…
Studies at UCLA and Harvard show there are actual structural changes in the brains of people who practice Mindfulness meditation. For therapists, it is particularly seductive that those changes are in the parts of the brain we need to support empathy with other people.
Outcome and neurological research have combined to convince me that I want some of this and I want my clients to have it, too.
So I have been trying to find out more of what it is and whether everyone means the same thing by it. And I have put a short new getting-started mini Mindfulness audio on my website www.judybyrne.co.uk (right down at the bottom of the home page.) It is less than seven minutes long.
I had a model in my head of using Mindfulness meditation to discover how to regulate my attention and my emotions and to be aware of who I am and what my body is experiencing. And that, as well as using meditation, doing things mindfully, with a present moment awareness of exactly what it is that I am doing, and what I am experiencing as I do it, as a part of the path.
Mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn defines it as: “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, to the present moment and without judgment.” Trauma expert Pat Ogden says it paying attention to particular elements of internal experience (body sensation, movement, emotion, five-sense perception, cognition) considered important to therapeutic goals.
In pursuit of a deeper understanding of what it is and how to incorporate it into our work, my EFT training colleague Richard Mark and I recently went to a workshop on Teaching Mindfulness to Clients and I have been digesting it since. At times it challenged my working definition or Mindfulness. It seemed to be difficult to separate it from CBT. And it has, of course, become big in CBT circles. One particular demonstration that seemed to blur the distinction in my head was having an agitated client retell what had upset her in a completely factual way. No comment. No feelings. No judgment. Just the facts.
I have just had the chance to try it on myself. And I must say the effect it had did surprise me.
It began in the supermarket car park when I pointed out to a young woman with no blue badge that she had taken a blue badge space and there were no disabled parking spaces left free for people who needed them – like a man I had just watched get out of his wheelchair, stow it in the boot, and get himself into the car. She did not think it mattered because there were plenty of other spaces free. She did not get it that disabled parking spaces are not just near the door. They are also wide to accommodate people who need to open car doors wider than the rest of us to get in and out. I am not sure how she failed to get that because her justification for using the space was that she needed a wide bay because she had a baby to get in and out of the car.
I showed her that there was parent and child parking and where it was. She switched from : “How dare you speak to me like this when I have my baby in my arms” to being extremely personally insulting. And when her partner came out of the supermarket, she redirected her abusive rant about me from me to him. She left me feeling extremely shaken, angry, and with all the things I stopped myself saying running round and round my head. As they do. (Especially this bit: Her “How dare you speak to me about this when I have my baby in my arms.” Me: “ I don’t think your baby would have had any idea what I was saying in a quiet and quite measured way but your baby has certainly picked up the feelings of your rage as you scream at me.” )
I tried imagining tapping while I shopped. Since I had no list and was menu-planning and buying for on the hoof, it was not easy to do both at the same time.
So driving home, I told myself the story out loud in a completely factual way. I really felt so much better. I could actually laugh about one bit of it.
My lessons? Whether I would call this Mindfulness or CBT or telling the story Mindfully and therefore either or both I don’t know – but it worked for me. I am glad I had had a shower mindfully before I went. Otherwise I might not have thought to try it.
And if I see anyone else taking a blue badge space they are not entitled to I will say something again. Mindfully, of course.