Category Archives: Practice

Mindfulness and Mental Health

On November 1st the Social Mindfulness group ran an event on mindfulness and mental health, culminating in a launch for Meg Barker’s new book Mindful Counselling and Psychotherapy.

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The programme and abstracts for the day can be downloaded here:

MindfulMentalHealthDay

The paper which Jamie Heckert’s talk was based upon is available here:

An Other State of Mind

The paper which Jyoti Nanda’s talk was based upon is available here:

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The paper which Duncan Moss’s talk was based upon is available here:

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These are some useful links from Steven Stanley, relating to his talk:

Mindfulness and Mental Health – London, 1st November

Rewriting The Rules

Call for presenters/facilitators/attendees
Mindfulness and Mental Health Day – 1st November 2013, London Camden
Dr. Meg Barker will be running a free event on 1st November for practitioners and academics who are interested in mindfulness and mental health, to coincide with the publication of their new book on the subject. Please get in touch with Meg if you are interested in attending or getting involved (megbarker@gmail.com). Confirmed speakers include Steven Stanley, Duncan Moss, Rebecca Barnes, Many Bazzano, and Jyoti Nanda.

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Sustaining ourselves retreat

Colleagues might be interested in the following event taking place on 5-8 Sept 2013

Sustaining Ourselves V2 2013-1

Tuning out, turning in – Turning out, tuning in

There’s a new post by Meg on how we relate to depression and conflict over on Rewriting the Rules. It includes a lot about compassionate mindful relating to ourselves and others.

5 steps to mindfulness

Here’s a link to a great introductory post by Thich Nhat Hanh about 5 steps towards being mindful.

1. Mindful breathing

2. Concentration

3. Awareness of the body

4. Releasing tension

5. Walking meditation

Owning emotions versus identifying with emotions

I just got asked a really interesting question over email about the mindful approach to emotions. I thought I’d share my answer here.

My friend was asking whether there is a conflict between how we’re encouraged to engage with emotions in mindful meditation and the idea of ‘owning emotions’ which is common in psychotherapy and counselling.

Basically they had understood the mindfulness approach to be that you objectively note things that arise (thoughts, emotions, sensations, etc.) without identifying with them (this is my anger, my thought, etc.), and also noticing them fall away again.

But in psychotherapy and counselling they had come across the idea that it is important to ‘own’ emotions. This is important in terms of recognising that we do experience the full range of emotions (rather than having some we don’t acknowledge due to messages like ‘it’s not okay to be angry’ or ‘boys don’t cry’). It is also important because we often see our emotions as being somebody else’s fault (‘you made me angry’, ‘I’m jealous because of you’). Owning emotions is about recognising them as ours and not somebody else’s, and taking responsibility for what we do with them.

This is my answer to the question that the email posed, but I’d be very interested to hear whether others have different thoughts on this issue:

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Make it the practice: Mindful driving

Meg Barker writes about bringing mindfulness to driving, and the value of engaging mindfully at times when it is most difficult.

Mindfulness is huge at the moment. Tens of thousands of people worldwide have completed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programme of Jon Kabat-Zinn. Counsellors and therapists train in mindfulness techniques in order to offer them to their clients. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends mindfulness therapies for depression. And the amount of research on mindfulness as a treatment for stress, pain, anxiety, depression, and a range of other health and emotional difficulties, has increased exponentially in the past two decades. The word ‘mindfulness’ brings up around 4000 hits on Amazon because self-help books, CDs and DVDs on the topic have also proliferated in recent years.

Meditation: A central focus?

Central to most therapies, programmes and books on mindfulness is meditation. Generally this takes the form of sitting quietly and focusing your attention on your breath. When your attention wanders (to a thought, feeling, or sensation, for example), you bring it back to your breathing. Through such meditation it is said to be possible to notice the kinds of habits that you often get stuck in, such as identifying with a pain that you feel, or telling a story about why you are feeling angry or sad. The practice of bringing your awareness back to the here-and-now of breathing in and out can shift such habits. Such meditation can also expand our attention so that we notice everything that is going on in and around us (rather than focusing on one thought, memory, or sound), and we may also see that everything is impermanent (the thing that was niggling us when we started meditating has gone by the end).

However, the focus on meditation in mindfulness approaches has recently come under criticism. Wakoh Shannon Hickey points out that the Buddhist traditions which mindfulness was drawn from only advocated meditation for monks and nuns, not for lay people, and also that it was generally a practice which was located in a community for ethical purposes, not something that people did by themselves to make them feel better. She, like many Buddhist scholars, questions the cherry-picking approach to ancient traditions, locating it in the history of colonialism. In addition to such criticisms, some of the main leaders to bring their ideas to western audiences have emphasised aspects other than mindful meditation. For example Hickey writes that the Dalai Lama advocates other forms of meditation, or sound sleep, over mindfulness. And Thich Nhat Hanh writes a lot about community work and about practising mindfully in everyday life.

Make it the practice

It is this kind of everyday mindfulness which I have been thinking about a great deal as I write my own book on mindful counselling and psychotherapy. I felt that I should really commit to regular meditation if I was advocating it to other people, so I have been meditating for around ten minutes every night. Whilst there is a lot that I’ve found useful about this practice, for all the reasons mentioned, I’ve also noticed that it is easy to separate it off from the rest of my life: for meditation to be the only point in the day when I’m being attentive in that way.

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New podcast by Martine Batchelor

There’s a great new podcast by Martine Batchelor out. Follow the link.

Details from the website: Martine Batchelor was a nun in a Korean Buddhist monastery for 10 years, where she followed a traditional path of practice and exploration. We speak about her journey in becoming a nun, what the rhythms of that life were like, what practices she undertook, and how she came to integrate, and deepen, the understanding she uncovered during her decade of training there.

The episode concludes with a compelling conversation about the multi-perspectival nature of human beings, and how we’re constantly practicing at a crossroads between various aspects of our lives.

This is part 1 of a two-part series.