When I ask people if they know what mindfulness is in their first session I am always intrigued by their answer. When I started asking clients this question less than half said ‘yes’. Over the last few years of practicing mindfulness with virtually every one of my clients, mindfulness seems to have exploded into the collective consciousness of North American society, from the school and health systems, to employers and so much more. The research showing the benefits of mindfulness for the human brain excites me beyond words! Since the increasing interest in this ancient tradition, more and more clients have answered my initial question by not only knowing what mindfulness is, but by having varied amounts of experience and practice.
For those of you not familiar with mindfulness, no problem. It is certainly not a prerequisite of beginning a guided practice or of entering therapy with me. Mindfulness in simplest terms is just noticing. This might sound oversimplified but it is true. Mindfulness is noticing and observing the present moment, whether that is your external or internal experience, using your five senses. This also includes noticing and observing your emotions and your stream of thought. Mindfulness allows for a grounded presence within your experience. Some of the benefits over time include increased:
- Mental clarity and focus
- Living in the moment rather than in the past or future
- The ability to accept and be curious about your experience with less labelling, avoidance, cravings, and judgements
- Acting with intention versus reaction
- Compassion towards self and others
- Issues being carried in the body and the emotions coming into awareness and being let go
Mindfulness takes various forms in sessions with me based on the needs of each client, and there is both structured and unstructured mindfulness practice. One thing I will guarantee is that it is less about forcing anything (such as internal silence) and and more about allowing and accepting experience so that it can do what it is meant to do – come and go, rather than stay and lead to suffering.
Through years of my personal practice and the experience I have gained as a therapist and in trainings, I have learned when to use what mindfulness techniques and with whom. Sadly, many of my clients who had tried mindfulness before our sessions had not had positive experiences, or believed they were incapable of being mindful. It is a mission of mine to advocate for mindfulness education and practice. Over time I will be adding more and more resources to my Resources section in support of accessible practice for all.
If you want to experience how mindful-experiential counselling can improve your mental health, request a free 20-minute consultation today.