Mindfulness Training & Counselling
Mindfulness is the single most trending word in the world of psychology right now. But it is much more than just self-reflection. It has become a scientifically validated, research-backed, Harvard-Doctor-promoted neuroscience of mental health that not only reduces stress, but has measurable effects on blood pressure, cortisol levels, and emotional regulation.
And though mindfulness has become the gold standard in anxiety and depression treatment, it is also being used in hospitals as an adjunct therapy for cancer patients and chronic pain symptoms, and is finding its way into schools and corporations.
So what is it, really?
Mindfulness is usually described as the sum total of three components:
- Paying Attention
- In the Present Moment Only
- With Non-Judgement
When these things are going on simultaneously – you are being mindful.
Why is it so important? Most of our lives are ruled by habits, patterns, and routines of not only behaviour, but thought and feeling. As we grow up, we become more and more rigid in our patterns and less capable of change. It is not fair to call this unconsciousness exactly, but it is a bit like being on ‘automatic pilot’ most of the time.
While this is essential and useful for simple life processes like the act of driving or making a cup of tea, it can also mean that when our habits are unhelpful that we may not be aware enough of what is going on to make adjustments where they are needed.
Additionally and perhaps more importantly, when more and more of our lives are relegated to mere patterns, we stop being fully alive to the freshness of the moment, and live in the abstractions of past and future, which are dominated by stress: reaching always for what isn’t here and now, and pushing away that which is. This traps us in a life where we can never rest, never feel at peace, and rarely (only in moments of achieving goals) feel joy. The human condition is largely the problem that we have gotten lost in this.
Have you noticed that your moments of greatest happiness are inevitably those when you felt truly present? The open secret here is that you don’t have to wait for conditions to arise for you to have this.
Experiencing mindfulness can help you to see that you don’t have to be pushed around by your thoughts or emotions. You can learn how to tap into the deep joy, peace and aliveness that is always waiting below the surface of your life, not depending on any conditions or people or circumstances to bring it out. You can learn to shift from automatic behaviour to choice, and from a state of constant stress to one of flowing ease. Mindfulness is a skill that with practice, can become the single most important factor of change in your life.
There likely isn’t a single therapist you could find who won’t claim to use mindfulness in some way in their approach to counselling. In fact, mindfulness is embedded in many of the most effective therapies out there – like ACT, MBCT, and DBT. But the number of clinicians who have had formal training in mindfulness is suspiciously low. And the number of therapists who actually practice mindfulness seems even lower. The result of this is, I believe, what I have observed in the many people who are misinformed about the nature of mindfulness.
I have led countless groups in addictions centers, and even more individual sessions of mindfulness, and I can’t tell you how often I have come across people who tell me that either “it isn’t for them” or “it doesn’t work” mostly because what they have been taught has simply not been mindfulness, but some good intentioned person’s idea of it.
So here is a bit of what mindfulness is NOT:
- Mindfulness is not a way to control your thinking
- Mindfulness is not a way to think positive thoughts
- Mindfulness is not a relaxation technique
- Mindfulness is not a way of to make yourself feel good.
- Mindfulness is not the same as “thinking about my life” (which is super, but not it!)
- Finally, mindfulness is not about or even necessarily related to meditation or Buddhism.
I love teaching people the basics of mindfulness and watching as their ideas of it shift, and their lives change. I am passionate about this and feel that I can truly say that my understanding and capacity to guide mindful awareness is proven. I have done the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training by Jon Kabat-Zinn twice, have done Vipassana trainings, extensive time in various contemplative studies, and have had a lifelong, daily practice of meditation and mindfulness that has now spanned decades.
If you are interested in how you can deepen your understanding, or have been thinking about learning mindfulness as an experience and process – which a book will likely never do – then you have come to the right place.