Mindfulness is a life skill which involves training the attention to our present moment experience with an attitude of curiosity, equanimity, and compassion. Rooted in Buddhist psychology and philosophy, mindfulness has more than thirty years of clinical research behind it demonstrating the beneficial effects of the practice. People who practice mindfulness have lower levels of physiological stress, a more flexible and optimistic outlook on life, greater self-compassion and self-awareness, a reduction in the intensity of negative emotions, an improved ability to concentrate, and a higher tolerance for the risk associated with stepping outside one’s comfort zone. Practiced consistently, mindfulness cultivates well-being and resilience.
With mindfulness, we learn to stop investing endless energy in trying to change thoughts and feelings from bad to good, often an unsuccessful enterprise, leading to yet more frustration, anxiety, or self-criticism. Instead we learn to recognize and accept the natural flow of emotions, build tolerance for their intensity, have compassion for ourselves and others, and take constructive action in the direction of what we genuinely value in life. That is to say, we develop the capacity to willingly experience difficult internal states and still get on with what really matters.
Buddhist philosophy makes a distinction between pain and suffering. Pain in life is unavoidable and includes all the losses and uncomfortable situations we cannot control, ranging from an annoying colleague to the death of a loved one. Suffering refers to the unskillful ways in which we (often unintentionally) deepen or amplify our pain. In stressful conditions, to varying degrees, we all feel vulnerable. It is how we respond to these feelings of vulnerability and the challenges facing us that makes the difference.
Mindfulness-based Psychotherapy. One-to-one professional support during times of stress, anxiety, depression, relationship conflicts, personal loss, or life transitions.
Mindfulness for Stress Reduction. A course based on the standard curriculum of the eight-week Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program developed by Jon Kabat Zinn, and including aspects of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).
- Week One. Simple awareness: centering awareness in the present
- Week Two. Attention and the brain: the cognitive neuroscience of mindfulness and brain states
- Week Three. Stress — responding vs reacting
- Week Four. Dealing with negative thoughts/cognitive distortions
- Week Five. Dealing with difficult feelings
- Week Six. Compassion for self and others
- Week Seven. Cultivating ‘calm abiding’ in everyday life
- Week Eight. Half day mindfulness meditation retreat
This course develops both formal and informal skills. Formal skills include sitting mindfulness meditation, walking meditation, and the body scan. These practices are the cornerstone of mindfulness and the foundation on which self-awareness and equilibrium are built. Informal skills relate to mindfulness in daily life; i.e., practices including compassionate awareness of thoughts and feelings, emotional self-regulation, recognition of unhelpful habits of thought and behaviour, effective conflict management, centering in present moment experience, and cultivation of a resilient attitude to all life experiences.
The next MBSR course will begin in mid-September 2016 in central Rome.