This week I'm exploring five common beliefs that people often hold about mindfulness.
2. Mindfulness is only for buddhists.
Mindfulness has it's origins in ancient buddhist meditation practices but in modern times, a secular kind of mindfulness practice has entered the mainstream, largely through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. He launched a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusets Medical School in the 1970s and since then a body of research has been built up that shows the benefits of mindfulness and MBSR in particular for many people.
3. Mindfulness is about blocking unpleasant thoughts.
In my experience, the more I try to block unpleasant thoughts, the more they persist. Mindfulness is about allowing all thoughts, emotions and sensations to come and go and observing them, rather than trying to push them away.
4. I haven't got time to do mindfulness.
I used to think that mindfulness was a discreet task, something to add to my daily 'to do' list. I was confusing mindfulness with the regular meditation practice that many people use as a way to become more mindful in their day to day lives. Being mindful is something that we can do at any time, simply by paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment without judgement.
5. I won't be any good at meditating.
In the group meditation sessions I have attended and in those I have led myself, beginners have commented that they think they 'won't be any good' at meditation practice. I often respond that it's called practice for a reason! When I started practicing meditation, I found it hard to sit still for any extended period of time and I noticed that my mind was constantly drifting off with one thought or another. With practice, I am now able to sit for longer periods, although I have found that short session of meditation can be just as beneficial as a long session. I also now realise that thoughts will always come and go, I will never have a blank mind, that's not what it's about. But with practice, I am more able to let thoughts come and go, rather than jumping on that train!
Jo is a director of Mindful Future and an accredited Breathworks Mindfulness Teacher. Breathworks is one of the leading Mindfulness organisations in the UK