What is this thing called mindfulness?

As the summer term approaches, the teacher of our Mindfulness Course, Caroline Waterstone, reflects on what mindfulness is, and how you might benefit.

‘What is this ‘thing’ called mindfulness?! The man who brought it into the mainstream, so that it is now widely practised, Jon Kabat-Zinn, describes it thus: it is paying attention in a particular way – on purpose, moment to moment, and non-judgementally.

How often do we, you and I, live our lives on automatic pilot? It’s great for driving cars and making our usual meals, but not so helpful when that automatic pilot runs us: the tapes of our stories of past failures and fears about the future. I have noticed during years of practising mindfulness that the skill is learning to notice that the tape is about to start and then choosing to switch it off, before it runs away with itself and me! So when your boss, junior colleague, teenage child, spouse, mother or whoever it is that presses your buttons is about to start their tape, you can choose not to play yours and in that moment change is already made.

How do we learn this? By allowing objectivity, a wider perspective from which to meet all that occurs in our lives, people and situations, taking time to pause, reflect and then choose how to act in the best interests of the situation.

By practising tuning into our bodies and learning to acknowledge what’s really going on in our minds and hearts, moment to moment, we can choose to make skilful choices, without reacting out of our old tired stories. We can learn to re-write our scripts to allow us to respond more creatively in the many situations we find ourselves in day to day.

And if we can change how we react to others, how great would it be if we could treat ourselves with greater kindness and compassion, responding to our own needs with humour, patience and courage.’

If you are interested in joining a Mindfulness Course at St Albans Cathedral, email studycentre@stalbanscathedral.org for an application form.


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