Where did Mindfulness come from and My Story

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”  ― Henry David Thoreau

This article is inspired by Alka, Katie and MvU, three dear people that all asked what I was doing with this “Mindfulness thing” and wanted to know more. Many thanks to all of you and I hope you start your journey’s soon.

History of Mindfulness:

Mindfulness is a term that was coined by an American doctor, Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn. He founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the late 1970’s. Over 20,000 people have completed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme run at the university, with many 10,000’s worldwide. The MBSR programme that Jon developed helps with conditions as diverse as chronic pain, heart disease, anxiety, psoriasis, sleep problems and depression.

In the 1990’s, Professor Mark Williams together with John Teasdale and Zindel Segal, developed an eight-week program of mindfulness training to prevent serious recurrent depression. This was based on the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. It is called Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). They show that in patients with three or more previous episodes of depression, MBCT reduces the recurrence rate over 12 months by 44% compared with usual care and is as effective as antidepressants in preventing new episodes of depression. Professor Mark Williams subsequently opened the Oxford Mindfulness Centre in 2008.

Mindfulness definitions

Jon defines Mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”.

Mindfulness is a set of simple, yet powerful practices that can be incorporated into daily life to help break the cycle of unhappiness, stress, anxiety and mental exhaustion and promote genuine happiness. It’s the kind of happiness that gets into your bones. It seeps into everything you do and helps you meet the worst that life can throw at you with new courage.

How I came to Mindfulness

Sometimes you follow a path of breadcrumbs without realising where they might lead. This was the case for how I came to Mindfulness. In the past, a Sunday morning was spent relaxing, surfing the web. One Sunday, I was browsing the YouTube and came across a video of Ruby Wax talking at a School of Life event. She spoke about issues of the mind, her own battles and how by doing a course at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. Connection crumb! I wanted to find out more and had a look on Amazon to see what books were available. At the top of the list was a book written by Mark Williams on Mindfulness. Connection crumb! So I bought the book and when it arrived, I started reading it. Little did I know that it is in fact based on the 8-week MBSR – Mindfulness Stress Reduction Programme that Jon Kabat-Zinn developed and Mark Williams further enhanced.

I followed the book, reading a chapter on a Sunday morning instead of surfing the web. I did the practices every morning and evening and by about week six, the family were starting to ask, what I was doing as they were noticing a more positive and mindful Martin.

I completed the 8-week programme and have continued to practice Mindfulness every week since. Monday to Friday is Mindfulness days. Saturday and Sunday are reading, writing and reflection days. Further, I wanted to see if there was a group that practiced Mindfulness and through Meetup, came across the Mindfulness Chiltern group. I now go to their monthly sitting group, run by a lovely lady called Jane. I even, for the first time, did a day’s retreat this year and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

So if you have heard of Mindfulness, seen a programme or read an article and are interested, I hope in some small way, this article has helped you. Buy the book, watch the video, or search out a group near you that you can join. There are 8-week courses that are run all over the place. Why not sign up and follow the programme. You might be surprised how much you will change and how many people will notice you have changed.

My journey continues and will continue for the rest of my life.

References:

YouTube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_DgOoKrkDA

Book: Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Professor Mark Williams and Doctor Danny Penman

Montlhy Sitting Group: https://www.facebook.com/MindfulmindsChilterns?fref=ts

I leave you with the following quote:

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” ― Thomas Merton

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