Last week, I met a lovely lady who has been suffering with her mental health. She has previously attended a few mindfulness sessions outside of the centre but struggled to achieve what she wanted to from them.
The mindfulness teacher told her that when she manages to clear her mind from all thoughts while meditating, she will be more peaceful, and her mental health will improve.
Without wanting to discredit this practitioner, (I am sure he/she came with the best intentions), I spent some time supporting the lady to understand that this is not mindfulness nor the aim of mindfulness practice.
It is a human impossibility to completely clear the mind of everything. In addition, why would you want to? It is an unrealistic expectation that can only lead to disappointment. The individual will often find themselves frustrated that they have been unable to ‘achieve’ a completely empty mind which further impacts on the stress that they are experiencing.
The concept of redirection is far more valuable. Guiding the attention to the breath or the sensations within the body or to thoughts that are supportive create the space in the mind that is needed.
Mindfulness practice can be used as a tool to notice the thoughts that arise. It enables the individual to distinguish between thoughts that are helpful and supportive and those that are negative, damaging and increase suffering. With practice and guidance, one can navigate a way to introduce more of the supportive thinking and reduce the negative, repetitive thoughts that so often contribute to stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness can support you to recognise triggers for stress. It brings deeper awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations within the body. The individual will begin to develop an awareness of how their mind and body reacts and how they can support themselves in the moment, without judgment to themselves of what arises.
One of the profound and liberating aspects of mindfulness is bringing awareness to these thoughts and distinguishing which are true, which are relevant and which are beneficial. Mindfulness cultivates clarity of mind. True wisdom can develop from practice. The aim is not to stop the mind from thinking.
Over the last few years, it has become more and more apparent that mindfulness has become a buzz word in the western world. With little regulation, individuals can train to become mindfulness teachers within a day, with no previous experience of individual practice required to start the course. A simple google search will highlight just how many courses of this type are out there.
This is potentially dangerous and opens the door for Teachers doing more harm than good. You cannot learn how to teach trauma informed practice within a day. It is impossible to learn the role of the teacher, mindfulness concepts, explore the ethics, safeguarding, assessment tools, mindfulness themes, exploration of the inner and outer, the connection between mind and body etc in just a few short hours.
Our mindfulness teacher training course runs for 12 months, and it is still difficult to fit everything in during that timeframe.
Is it time for increased regulation in the field of mindfulness?