Meditation has made me a happier person. It has enabled me to deal with stress better. I want to share this.
The MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) Mindfulness course is a self-confrontational course in which we learn to give ourselves healthy, kind and patient attention. The course offers a toolkit with which we learn to control our stress responses. The word ‘control’ can be misleading. John Kabat-Zinn puts it as follows:
‘You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf them’
We learn concentration and develop compassion for ourselves and others. This basis of loving kindness can lead to improvements in mood quite quickly, though of course life’s challenges don’t just stop. When done well, it can help us gain stability in a chaotic world.
The MBSR course is an evidence based program for dealing with stress, pain and recurring depression. In addition it has the effect, on many people, of becoming happier, more productive and more focused.
Mindfulness has helped me ruminate less, so I can focus my energy more effectively. In stressful situations where decisions have to be reached quickly, this can make a huge difference. In non-stress situations I am more able to relax and enjoy the moment.
I stress the following aspects of mindfulness in my version of the program:
- Experience: mindfulness isn’t about thinking about life, but about learning to experience life differently.
- Reflection: in order to make permanent changes in your life, you need to understand what you’re doing and what you’re experiencing.
- Bodily awareness: within the mindfulness space psychologists have taken over. This means that compared to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s approach, most training-programs have replaced body-focused exercises (like Aikido) with more cognitive exercises: filling in forms to help you reflect on where you are. My approach is closer to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s original program.
This approach reflects my experience that getting in tune with your own processes is the most permanent change that mindfulness can bring. Since these are embodied, awareness of the body is essential. I also feel that as a trainer, I can add more to your process by introducing such exercises. You can always take psychological self-reflection tests on your own. You don’t need me for that.