Mindfulness Meditation Gainesville FL
Don’t believe everything you think!
We have all had the experience of having thoughts, feelings, and sensations that seem out of our control. Sometimes we have repetitive or ongoing moods (e.g., depression, anxiety, anger), thoughts (e.g., worry, a sense we’re no good, belief some should be different), or sensations (e.g., tenseness, pain) that we can’t shake or deal with effectively.
It’s not enough to know intellectually that we “shouldn’t” be having the thought, feeling, or sensation. We need ways to really work with those experiences. This is where mindfulness and meditation come in. They can help us work with our minds in ways so that we gain more freedom – so we don’t have to believe everything we think!
Why learn about mindfulness and other awareness practices?
Mindfulness and meditation are tools that can help us gain insight into how our mind works, and can help us change our experience and take charge of our lives. They can help us increase our skills in self-awareness and self-management, and improve how we relate to others. In short, mindfulness and meditation skills can help you increase your emotional intelligence, improve your resilience and happiness, and increase your effectiveness. And they are tools that you can practice anywhere and apply in all parts of your life.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a kind of awareness that emerges as you pay attention, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. Mindful awareness is an exceptionally valuable “mode” of awareness, and mindful awareness can very much be a part of our everyday life, whether we actively meditate or not. There is, however, a particular kind of meditation that is referred to as mindfulness meditation.
What is meditation?
Meditation is, fundamentally, a systematic way of training your attention and awareness – and it offers time for relaxation and heightened awareness in a stressful world where our senses are often either overstimulated or dulled. Generally, meditation involves taking a specified time of contemplation, usually for the purposes of pursuing some benefit or goal, such as relaxation, increased awareness, intellectual fulfillment, or spiritual meaning.
Mindfulness involves awareness of the present moment – and can be a part of everyday life. Mindfulness can also be a specific kind of meditation practice, but meditation is a broad term that encompasses many different practices. All meditation practices train you to direct or use your attention and awareness in some explicit way – typically for the purposes of personal insight and development, or for the relief of suffering and to increase of happiness.
There are two broad kinds of conscious experience – focal attention and open awareness – and they relate to two kinds of consciousness training (meditation)
All forms of awareness training require some combination of the processes of focusing down (stabilizing attention) and opening up (broad awareness), but some practices emphasize one of these two processes more than the other – leading to two broad kinds of meditative practices. These two modes of experience are analogous to focused vision and peripheral vision.
- Focusing down (concentrative-based) practices stabilize attention and tend to emphasize focusing over and over on some particular experience, idea, feeling, or perception (e.g., focusing on a word/thought/sensation, focusing on kindness toward yourself or others), but this does require a degree of open awareness to allow other thoughts, feelings, sensations to arise and pass so that attention can be returned to the topic of focus.
- Opening up (awareness-based) practices tend to emphasize a more holistic and nonjudgmental awareness of our ongoing experience (e.g., letting our thoughts, feelings, sensations be there without changing them), but this does require a degree of stable attention in that we return over and over again to open perception of what is happening in and around us.
Focusing down practices tend to be stabilizing and promote serenity. Opening up practices tend to provide insight into how we operate and unhook us from that experience. Mindfulness (whether in everyday life, or as a meditation) requires a combination of stable focused attention and open awareness.
As noted, mindfulness is both a method of meditating and a way of interacting with your experiences in daily life (being open to what is happening without judgement). Thus, we can talk about mindfulness meditation, or we can talk about being mindful in one’s everyday life. These, of course, can overlap.
Mindfulness and other forms of meditation can be practiced in secular ways that are not attached to particular religious or spiritual traditions, and are often viewed as cognitive tools that can help in recovery from distress as well as build resilience and self-regulation. This is, in fact, how these tools are commonly taught in many stress management and mindfulness classes, as well as in counseling and therapy. Mindfulness and concentrative meditations are tools you can learn that help you work more effectively with your brain and mind – so you can feel better, happier, and live freer.
How are mindfulness and meditation used in counseling and therapy?
Mindfulness and other meditation techniques are heavily researched and have been incorporated into counseling and psychotherapy in a variety of ways – to help people with many different kinds of struggles. The use of meditation or mindfulness in therapy may range from learning breathing techniques or relaxation skills, practicing mindful awareness, or focusing on a particular experience (e.g., an idea, kindness for the self, acceptance) to develop certain qualities or to build stability and resilience.
Mindfulness and its benefits have been the subject of substantial research – and mindfulness has been integrated into several forms of educational and therapeutic programs, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
What are the benefits of mindfulness and meditation?
Mindfulness training can be particularly useful in easing the distress of both depression and anxiety, and people with post-traumatic stress may be able to reduce intrusive thoughts and flashbacks with meditation. Those struggling with substance abuse may find that mindfulness helps reduce their cravings, focus on healing, and increase self-awareness and self-esteem. Meditation can also potentially help reduce asthma, allergies, high blood pressure – and can be very useful in the treatment of pain (e.g., back pain, migraines) conditions.
Research also suggests that mindfulness meditation has the potential for more than just temporary stress relief, but can offer very positive changes in our lives, experience, and sense of self over time. Meditation can, over time, improve our physical wellbeing and emotional health. Meditation and mindfulness have been shown to reduce rumination, reduce stress, decrease pain, boost memory, reduce emotional reactivity, and increase cognitive flexibility and relationship satisfaction.
In addition, over time, we find ourselves less reactive and more at ease, developing an expanded vision of ourselves and the world, and becoming more able to experience the moment and act spontaneously.
Mindfulness, the Body, and Personal Development
Note that body psychotherapy typically integrates awareness practices (e.g., learning to feel what you feel without judgment or trying to change it). Meditation – mindfulness or otherwise – is really just a more structured way to practice and learn awareness skills, and meditation is a practice that you can do on your own, anywhere!
Mindfulness and other meditative practices do sometimes play a role in a person’s larger view of themselves as being (and wanting to tap into) something deeper and broader than their everyday sense of self. Thus, mindfulness and meditation practices may also play a part in the lives of people who have interests in other psychospiritual practices – or in experiences that fall in the domain of transpersonal psychology and therapy (e.g., consciousness, integral development, spirituality, being, the nondual). Awareness practices in these contexts are sometimes referred to as practices for awakening.
If you want to take back your attention, take back your life, increase your happiness and effectiveness – and you want to learn how meditation, mindfulness, and therapy can help – schedule an appointment with Dr. Charles Martin.