About mindfulness Eliza silk oxford

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is loving awareness of your present moment experience – your thoughts, your feelings and the sensations in your body. By loving awareness, I mean observation with kindness.

How do I observe my thoughts, feelings and body sensations with kindness?

You observe your thoughts, feelings and body sensations by focusing on an object such as the sensations of breathing in your body. When your mind wanders from your breath, which it inevitably will because that’s what minds do, you notice where your attention has wandered – you notice the thought, feeling or body sensation of the moment – and you kindly but firmly guide yourself back to your original focus, i.e. your breath as it enters and leaves your body.

Why bother? What's the point of being mindful?

When you can observe your thoughts, feelings and body sensations, you can see they have a life of their own, like clouds crossing an open sky. It becomes possible to stand back a little from your experience and let it be, rather than getting caught in a downward spiral or trying to escape. Allowing things to be just as they are, allowing yourself to experience fear, for example, is a far better way of enabling that fear (cloud) to pass than getting caught up in it or trying to run away from it. Mindfulness allows you to choose your response to your experience. It’s the ultimate freedom.

What do you mean mindfulness is a 'brain-changer'?

Practising mindfulness creates significant neurological change in your brain. We know from brain scanning that mindfulness decreases activity in the amygdala - the brain’s fear response centre – and increases activity, connectivity and volume in the prefrontal cortex, the insula, the cingulate gyrus and the hippocampus. Together, these brain regions form the centres of emotional regulation and facilitate your capacity to plan for the future and recall the past.

What are the benefits of practising mindfulness for pregnancy, birthing and parenting?

Becoming and being a parent, whether it’s for the first, second or third time, are life-changing experiences. Even when desperately wanted, these experiences can be a considerable source of stress, anxiety and depression in both women and men. One of the most common feelings is being out of control or fearing loss of control. Practising mindfulness will help put you back in the driving seat. It'll safeguard your mental health and wellbeing by enabling you to cope with intrusive thoughts and difficult emotions, and by encouraging you to connect with yourself, your partner and your child (or children). It'll give you peace of mind and help you to nurture the next generation.

I'm terrified of pain. How will mindfulness help me to cope with pain?

Pain is made up of three interrelated components: sensation, e.g. burning or throbbing or aching, thought, e.g. “I can’t handle this”, and emotion, e.g. fear. These components act on each other to dictate the amount of pain you experience. So the more fearful you are, the more pain you experience. And vice versa, the less fearful you are, the less pain you experience. By helping you to control your fears, mindfulness enables you to experience less pain. We put theory into practice in class by holding ice and experimenting with multiple mindfulness approaches, as well as making use of touch and sound. See Katherine's testimonial video.

Where does mindfulness come from?

The integration of mindfulness into mainstream medicine and society began in the late 1970s. However, the practices have been around in various forms for thousands of years and are Buddhist in origin. Today, you don't have to be of any religious persuasion to practise mindfulness, nor does it conflict with any religious belief. The practices are entirely secular and accessible to all.