|More About Mind Body Stress Reduction|
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
Simply put, Mindfulness is a way of being that cultivates self-awareness, and inner steady calmness. These are abilities that we all possess, but often become disconnected with. In “mindfulness,” we are learning to work with whatever is happening in our own lives, be it stress, illness, pain, opportunity, or any other challenges we face, in our daily lives. We are working with the very stress or challenge that we are experiencing, instead of automatically reacting to it by ignoring, denying, numbing, avoiding, burying it or acting out the suffering in unhealthy ways. We are consciously and systematically looking inward for our own answers, with self-compassion and mindful responses to all of life’s situations.
Most of us can recall moments of “mindlessness,” when we experience loss in awareness by “doing things without thinking,” - sometimes described as “being in a fog.” Many people describe this unawareness as resulting in increased mistakes, forgetfulness, thoughtless behaviors, feeling disconnected from their true self, and having a sense that they are living on a kind of “automatic pilot.” Many of us can feel “switched on, ” getting up in the mornings and going through all the motions – all the obligations for the day, but not feeling much meaning to all this doing. The mind is preoccupied, and we may not even be sure what we are preoccupied with. Our mind can become conditioned to this way of functioning and our behaviors will follow.
All the doing and responsibilities of a more and more hurried and demanding life, seems to supersede meaningful relationships with ourselves and with others we love. As Jon Kabat-Zinn states, “We only have moments to live and we only get them one at a time.” We often miss the rich moments of connection and love with others when we are thinking about the next thing to do, or rushing to get other things done. If we take the time to observe, we find that the mind is often preoccupied with certain thoughts or distracted easily from streams of different thoughts running together. We then can notice that feelings and physical reactions occur while thoughts are present. The mind may contain thoughts and feelings about holding onto or wanting something or of surviving financially, emotionally, spiritually, physically, socially, working our mind and body into a state of increased fear and anxiety. Mindfulness helps us recognize and deal with the thoughts, feelings or physical sensations/symptoms we experience in more effective ways. If we learn to pay attention in each moment we experience, we give ourselves an opportunity for increased clarity, connection and creativity. We learn a way of being in charge of our lives that seems more balanced and meaningful. Each moment builds upon the next moment.
All too often, we lose the moment by becoming preoccupied with regrets of the past or worries or desires about the future. We can become more and more preoccupied with “my problems,” “my worries,” “my illness,” “my stress,” “my pain.” Without really being consciously aware of it, we may strongly identify ourselves as being our illness, our pain, and our stress, which may be occurring in our lives in any particular moment. This unconscious dynamic of perceiving ourselves in a limited way, often leaves us feeling, a loss of control over the specific challenge and/or, perhaps in life itself, as we feel more disconnected from others and alone with our challenges.
Mindful work starts with the belief that your strengths and goodness outweigh any traits, limitations or symptoms that you or others have labeled as being “wrong” with you. You are much, much more than the illness, the pain, and the stress you may be suffering with. With mindful practice you are looking at and working with your entire self - mind, body and spirit. As you learn and practice mindfulness within yourself, it will help you observe and gain an increased awareness, allowing you to experience a more expansive view of what is occurring within and around you. Through your own non-judgmental observations regarding your entire self and way of living, responding and interacting, your own awareness and insight have the opportunity to naturally materialize. A mindful way of being in daily interactions with others and with our own self, helps us embrace all of life with more clarity, equanimity and wisdom.
Mindful living means learning to consciously pay attention in each moment, heightening our awareness—so we can be fully present in each precious moment of life. Through continual practice, we are paying attention on purpose in a non-judgmental way in any given moment. Our attention is focused on what we are doing in each moment, instead of wandering in a stream of thoughts or feelings that are keeping us from fully experiencing the present moment we are in. This way of paying attention in a non-judgmental manner, is not so easy to do, since the mind is conditioned to judge just about everything –from what we like or do not like; to what we can and can not do to who we like or do not like. However, with regular mindfulness practice, we see that it is possible to know where our mind is in any given moment, therefore, allowing us to respond in more thoughtful, healthier ways. So we see ourselves mindfully responding to life’s situations instead of reacting in automatic behaviors or habitual ways that produce minimal results, unhappiness, or worse, harmful and/or destructive outcomes. We get to know how our own mind works and what we experience within ourselves and in our world, when our mind is thinking in certain ways. We notice when we have become prisoners of our own limited concept of who we are, our capabilities and how we relate to others. We then can choose how to respond to the mind’s thinking in ways that lead toward happiness and promote well-being not only for ourselves but for others, as well.
Mindful practice helps us break out of habitual, potentially destructive ways of thinking and reacting to life situations. Even if we decide not to give up old habits, we will still receive benefits from meditation because we are including a healthy, daily outlet for stress reduction into our lives. This in itself makes a positive impact on our lives, and perhaps lead to other healthy changes.
Many people find that when they include mindfulness in all aspects of life, such as work, family, relationships – they experience a positive shift from feeling controlled by people, work or home, to a sense of awareness and confidence about what they are doing, thinking and feeling. They notice they are making more positive decisions in their lives, are following through with more appropriate actions, and are consequently feeling better about themselves. Through these experiences, we can begin to see that the quality of our mind is related to the quality of our existence and our relationships with others. We begin to truly see the connections between mind, body, and heart within our own being and how this realization manifests itself into the world we create and live in.
Mindfulness helps us understand that life is in constant change. It teaches us how to remain steady within change. Everything within us and around us is changing. Many mindfulness teachers describe the similarities between what we can experience externally and internally when faced with pain or stress, to that of the choppiness of the ocean surface, yet underneath the surface there is calmness. We too, can maintain a calmness and steadiness inside us, despite the choppiness and stress that we may encounter in the external world. Through mindfulness there lies a calmness and stillness within us, that may at times feel like it is being shaken by stress or loss, however at the same time even in the depths of despair the core of us remains stable and true. We all possess this inner source of self-compassion, awareness and stability. Most of us can lose touch with this part of us or have not been able to discover it, do to our reactions to life with all of its demands, experiences and distractions.
The regular practice of mindful meditation prepares and helps us learn and maintain mindfulness in our daily interactions and challenges. Mindful living awakens us to ourselves and to others; able to view ourselves in a more broader and connected way, which leads us to a more broader and connected view of others even though we may view them as different than us. Through our own awareness of what is occurring within us and around us, our perceptions broaden, leading us to a greater appreciation for who we are, for others and for life itself.
The Augusta Mindfulness Stress Reduction programs are not founded in any particular religious premise. The information and training provided are based on over twenty years of scientific data in meditation, imagery and other mind-body medicine research, as well as Cindy Foster’s many years of clinical work and her own ongoing mindfulness training and practice.
Mindfulness has been incorporated into many diverse settings. Some of these groups and settings include: Corporate CEOs and employees, educators, students (from grade school through college), attorneys, judges, correctional settings, and major medical centers within the US and abroad.
Many health care professionals in the fields of medicine, psychology, social work, nursing and psychotherapy have incorporated mindfulness practices into their own lives, as well as into their work with patients. Mindfulness has acquired a primary role in cognitive-behavioral medicine, which clearly recognizes the interconnection of the mind and body in its scientific awareness of health and disease.
Mindfulness meditation and guided imagery (visualization) have been used by Olympic and professional athletes, as well. The world champion Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers basketball teams have both used mindfulness.
More and more businesses and corporations are integrating meditation and mindfulness within their workplace environment. Organizations within the United States and around the world continue to incorporate some type of meditative program into daily work routines.
| The results of these endeavors have proven extremely beneficial in both business and humanistic terms. With daily mindful meditation practice, many employees report that they are better equipped to stay focused in the present moment, and their thoughts are less likely to stay trapped in the past or speed too far ahead into the future. Because of an increased focus, employees have reported a drop in making mistakes and/or catching mistakes more quickly and fixing them. Employees report less overall sickness, and consequently have fewer absences from work.
Many employees report feeling more self-acceptance, and notice they are less preoccupied or distracted with the behaviors of other employees. Employees have stated that they notice more patience with co-workers and that because of this better communication occurs, especially active listening skills.
The employees who practice mindful meditation generally feel more calm, and alert as they operate within the context of their assigned teams and/or designated work sites. Many employees who practice meditation on a regular basis, report an awakening of creativity at work and within their lives.
The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society state the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace include:
Experience a Sample of Mindfulness in the Workplace through:Half-Day Workshops or for Retreats
The intent of half-day workshops and/or retreats is to introduce participants within the workplace arena to the benefits of mindfulness. Since experiencing mindfulness is significantly more powerful and instructive than just talking about it, the basis of the workplace program is experiential, interactive, supportive, and educational. The format can be tailored or changed to fit the particular needs of the organization. Here is a general outline of a half-day workshop:
• Mindful Meditation Practice- these include formal practice: guided, silent and dynamic meditations, as well as, informal practice: incorporating mindfulness into daily interactions and living.
• Gentle Stretching and Mindful Physical Motion- simple bodywork suitable for all, which can be modified for physical limitations; promotes individual awareness of physical conditions as they connect with one’s emotional self.
• Breath Work- become aware of the power of the breath in returning to the present moment, by “turning off” reactionary stress patterns and when not needed turning off the “fight or flight” mechanism.
• Time given for further understanding of mindfulness through questions, brief discussions, and by processing experiences.
• Explore potential opportunities for applying mindfulness within the workplace and into daily living.
Note: Specific meditations including original meditative music performed by Robert Foster may be requested. See Dr. Foster’s Biography.