What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness has been practised for over 2,500 years and has recently spread across the globe helping people lead healthier lives physically, mentally and emotionally.
The practice can be seen in two ways: formal and informal.
The formal practice is what is commonly called meditation. It usually involves sitting (not necessarily cross legged!) comfortably, yet alert and aiming to focus the attention in the present moment. Objects of focus include the body, the breath and one's surroundings. But meditations are not always performed sitting down. Sometimes we choose to walk or move or stretch the body, still in a focused manner.
The informal practice is where we bring mindfulness into everyday life. Therefore, simple activities like washing up, preparing a meal, or brushing the teeth can be done mindfully, aiming to keep the attention in the present moment.
So what's the point of this 'mind training' as some meditators call it.
Research suggests mindfulness practice can help people to manage stress and anxiety, boost the immune system, help us respond to difficult situations 'mindfully' rather than reacting irrationally and with anger, and improve communication skills. The evidence supporting the benefits of mindfulness is growing weekly as it is increasingly used to help people manage conditions as diverse as PTSD, cancer, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, addiction and eating disorders. There are school programmes for mindfulness, such as the .b programme (http://www.mindfulnessinschools.org) and even government ministers are enrolled on a mindfulness programme (Adrian was trained by one of their teachers).
Dr John Kabat Zinn considers the main pillars of mindfulness to be: patience, trust, non-judging, non-striving, beginner's mind, letting go and acceptance. These qualities are encouraged not just in our interactions with one another and the wider world, but also towards ourselves. Fundamentally, mindfulness aims encourage us to be more compassionate towards ourselves, which hopefully leads towards more compassion for others, and to a more peaceful, fulfilling life.