Mindfulness

           

mindfulness, mainstream

Definition

Mindfulness means intentionally focusing attention in a non-judgmental way on the conscious experience of the present moment. In the scientific sense, mindfulness is an active problem-solving coping strategy or style. Through the consistent direction of attention to the experience of the present, every moment is realized as completely as possible with all of its facets. In the process, the current thoughts, feelings, and body perceptions are neither processed nor analyzed. Instead, they are simply acknowledged without any judgment.

Related Concepts         

  • Reflexive consciousness
  • Presence without any intentionality
  • Awareness
  • Self-perception
  • Uncritical self-observation(Freud)
  • Attention directed toward present experience
  • Inner observer position (passive, benevolent, and non-judgmental)
  • Staying in the here and now (without preferences, expectations, or wishes)
  • Non-judgmentaland accepting state of consciousness

 

 Mindfulness means questioning the constant compulsion of

 

  • thinking
  • differentiating
  • judging
  • interpreting or
  • feeling compelled to take action.

 

Degrees of the Mindfulness Practice

Depending on how intensively or extensively we do the mindfulness practice, we can obviously also attain various abilities and profit in different ways from this practice. Mindfulness can be seen as:

 

  • A method of directing attention (degree 1)
  • A discipline of consciousness (degree 2)
  • An inner attitude (degree 3)


Contexts of the Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness has a significant value as:

 

  • An elemental component of lived spirituality
  • A therapy option  
  • A contribution to more quality of life and well-being

 

The Basic Consideration

Unmindfulness is the normal state. Mindfulness requires an active effort.

 

Let us consider an emotionally stressful situation. It is related to an aversive feeling, which means our rejecting attitude toward this unpleasant situation. The physical result is an overstimulation of the central and autonomic nervous system. In turn, this triggers automatisms in the form of inner experiences and outer behavior that occur in a stereotypical manner.

 

cutout fuse

Thinking, feeling, and behavior that have become automatisms determine our emotional world and our actions to alarge degree. As long as we do not actively switch off this “mental autonomy center”, it decides the direction for us. If we want to regain our self-determination, it is necessary for us to see through this process and gain experiences in selectively (in cases where it harms us) switching off the mental autonomy center. This act of switching off occurs through the specific application of individual mindfulness technique. These are summarized in seven steps as the mindfulness cascade on the page "MBPT" .

Application of the mindfulness cascade helps in recognizing negative states of mind in due time and leaving them behind.

User Group and Preconditions

Mindfulness is open to anyone and can be practiced independent of cultural, religious, or philosophical background. Since we are dealing with a learning process, the extent of the progress is less a question of talent and suitability than of personal effort (in humorous terms: this is less a matter of inspiration than of perspiration).

 

It places some demands on the user:

 

  • Openness for unknown perspectives
  • Decisiveness  
  • Personal responsibility
  • A certain amount of devotion, effort, and discipline 
  • Patience with our own rigidity and laziness
  • Trust (in our own “inner wisdom”)
  • Endurance despite recurring obstacles and setbacks

 

Above all, two preconditions are indispensible for the success of a mindfulness practice:

 

  1. The willingness to look into our own inner workings (the mental and emotional world) without preconceived opinions as to what we should find there.
  2. The willingness to explore new paths through the consistent use of the mindfulness techniques.

 

Development Through the Millennia

Buddha

The mindfulness practice has its origin in Buddhism. It was developed and perfected there in order to relieve suffering and promote insights into the true nature of things. In the late 1960s, it found its way into Western medicine and was used to favorably influence various physical and emotional states of suffering. A pioneer role was played in this process by the American professor emeritus for medicine and founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic in Massachusetts, Jon Kabat-Zinn. He primarily used the mindfulness ­practice for stress reduction and developed the MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) concept that has already been applied around the world for the past few decades.

 

With increasing knowledge, experience, and demystification of mindfulness, it became part of the treatment for many somato-psychological disorders. In some cases, it has even advanced to become the first choice for treatment.

 

In recent times, the topic of “mindfulness” has received increasingly more attention due to scientific research in recent years. The most urgent question was: What are the specific effects and mechanisms of action?

 

Scientifically Proven Effects

Effects that have been proven are less attachment (wanting to have or cling to phenomena) or aversion (rejection or wanting to get rid of phenomena), less avoidance strategies, improved affect tolerance, less physiological reactivity, and a more intensive and clearer perception of feelings.

Active Principle

First step:

Development of an attitude and competence

conscious, lack of intention, present, non-judgmental

 

Second step:

Experiencing things in a new way

- New way of dealing with feelings, thoughts, and memories

- Non-intentional realization creates change

 

Third step:

Changed way of coping with stressful emotions

Slowing down, letting go, and finding balance

 

This process reveals the reliable and reproducible positive effects of the mindfulness practice on the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social aspects of health.


 

Components of Mindfulness

In addition to the didactic considerations such as communicating mindfulness step by step, the individual components of mindfulness also serve the diagnosis when attempting to filter out which of them requires special support.

 

1. Attention: Present

 

2. Attitude: Non-judgmental, lack of intention, and accepting

 

3. Perception: Clear perception of processes within us and around us


4. Insightful understanding: Looking at things with an inner distance; disidentification

 

Possible Results 

  • Slowing down
  • Inner peace (stillness and contentment versus absentmindedness and dissatisfaction)
  • Insights (“clear mind”)
  • Relaxation (side effect)
  • More intensive and conscious life (we experience every day as “brand new”)
  • Serenity in stressful situations
  • Leaving the battlefield instead of waging war
  • Abandoning strategies that aim at getting rid of an inner event

 



Copyright Dr. Peter Tamme and Dr. Iris Tamme

Last update: August 2, 2012