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Learning about Mindfulness

I was introduced to the idea of mindfulness in a NAMI course called, "Peer-to-Peer," back in 2009, when I became certified to mentor the course with peers who also live in recovery from mental illness. We performed an exercise of observation- I won't go into detail because I do not want to ruin the experience for those of us who will participate in the class.

My understanding of mindfulness from friends is it revolves around the idea of focusing on the present moment. Concentration on breathing patterns coincides with the habit of mindfulness. In fact, I have a couple of friends who practice mindfulness. One friend studies it in a class setting while the other performs extensive research alone, and uses it occasionally. Also, I've heard from others who engage in some forms and practices of Buddhism that they also exercise mindfulness. Each of these individuals also live with mental illness. Because it seems popular among the mental health community I am interested in it as another coping skill.

Although I have little understanding of mindfulness I tried to practice its form of observing in the present moment and deep breathing. A couple of nights ago I did a brief mindfulness exercise or my understanding of it. As I was sitting in front of my laptop I stopped working on it and closed my eyes. I concentrated on the sounds around me, the laptop and refrigerator dominated the sounds of my environment. I took a few deep breaths and realized I was tired- mentally and physically- I told myself I needed a break. Therefore, I called it quits, temporarily for the few hours while I slept. I know there is more to mindfulness than that so I did some research to have a better understanding of the practice.

I learned that mindfulness is based on Buddhist philosophy and was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn who is "a famous teacher of mindfulness meditation and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center."

In fact, his definition of mindfulness: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

In the beginning the practice was used to help people with a range of medical problems, however, it is not only for people who have illnesses, it can be used to help improve the quality of life for everyone.

Mindfulness incorporates a range of principles and activities:

  • Acceptance
  • Breathing
  • Consciousness
  • Non-judgmental attitude
  • Observation
  • Present tense
  • Stretching
  • Yoga
After learning more about mindfulness I would like to learn to practice it the right way to take advantage of its full benefit.

Here is where I received my information on mindfulness:

How familiar are you with mindfulness? How were introduced to the practice? Do you practice it regularly, if so, why?- What does it do for you?

To learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, NAMI, Choices in Recovery, or Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).


Kate Kiernan said…
Hi Ashley. Thanks so much for reading my last couple of blogs and commenting. I am excited to hear that you are encountering people who are applying a few Buddhist practices to their lives. I first encountered the practice of mindfulness through listening to a few audio programs by a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. From there I discovered Jon Kabat-Zinn. He wrote a wonderful book called "Wherever You Go, There You Are" which was turned into a meditative audio program, which is excellent.

Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced me to the value of stopping. It wasn't easy to do at first; I had been conditioned by others and in turn conditioned myself to believe that I had to be doing something most of the time. I still have trouble stopping, but not as much as before. Now I take time out to sit or lie down and watch my mind at work or just enjoy existing without thoughts.

My Buddhist practice has transformed me over time. I am more accepting of myself and others and generally more at peace. I'm more self-reflective and less reactive. I don't dislike or hate anyone. I send prayers out to friends and strangers daily and this has been quite healing to my spirit. Gratitude has played an important part in all of this. Gratitude brings you back to the present moment and supports you in having a really good attitude, an attitude that can face whatever trouble comes your way.

Thanks so much for writing about this topic. I hope more people come to embrace mindfulness regardless of what religion they adhere to. All it is is being aware in the moment and really appreciating all that you have. There really is so much good in the world that we too often ignore and shouldn't.

Stay well Ashley. You are in my prayers, too.

Kate : )
Ashley Smith said…
Hi Kate,

I want to experience peace too. I will look into mindfulness and Buddhism, it seems to work for my peers maybe it will work for me!

Thank you for the prayers.

Take care.
Anonymous said…
Hi Ashley! I would check out any book on the topic of mindfulness/buddhism by Tara Brach. "Radical acceptance" and "True refuge" are great and compassionate books that are easy to read and have a profound message of hope within them. Take care, All the best, Charlie.

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