We all know that if we truly want to change our life we must first change our mind. There are innumerable ways to apply mindfulness in our everyday life and loads of benefits of practicing mindfulness regularly. If you’re wondering what you can get out of being mindful, read on to learn what Silvia Natale has to say.
It’s day 3 of a 7-day Mindfulness Meditation Retreat. I am lying on a mat on the floor, head facing up, resting on a cushion. The room is flooded with light; a gentle breeze is coming through the open terrace window, overlooking the desert and mountains.
Our teacher is guiding us though a practice called body scan, leading our attention to various parts of the body, observing the sensations in each part. Simple, but not easy. The meditation lasts 45 minutes. My mind is in turmoil. I am trying to follow the teacher’s instructions but, no matter how many times I attempt it, my thoughts keep on distracting me. Every time I realize I have been day dreaming, I reconnect to the teacher’s instructions, thinking to myself: “this time I will not loose track, it can’t be that difficult!” A few seconds later – yes, seconds, not even minutes – here I am again, lost in my thoughts.
I am struggling. This is not going well. My whole body feels tense with the effort and frustration, and I am starting to detect a sinking sensation in my stomach, as I become conscious of the fact that, obviously, I am not good at this. The previous days have been more of the same. Mindful movement exercises, sitting meditations, breathing practices. Everybody looked so serene and into it and capable. I am not sure how I look but inside war is going on. My mind wouldn’t focus on anything for more than a few seconds; my body won’t relax; my emotions play havoc, ranging from nervousness to sheer anxiety. I am still lying there and I can hear the teacher’s voice, telling us to sense the muscles in our back.
I decide: “OK, that’s it. Enough with this trying, I’ll soon be home”. And something happens. It’s like my inner space all of the sudden becomes so vast I cannot determine its boundaries. Actually, “I” don’t exist anymore, as the only thing there is, is an infinite spaciousness where my thoughts and my sensations float by, scattered and slowed down, like isolated clouds in a summer sky. I am no longer those thoughts, or feelings. I can see them, passing by, there is a sort of distance between my awareness and them, although that same awareness holds them all in a loving embrace. It is the most peaceful moment of my life. I am knowledge, I am acceptance, I am forgiveness, I am love. Except, there is no “I”. Love is the flavor of that space; it’s a light diffusing its color to that timeless moment; its nourishing essence bathing every single cell of my being. My journey has started. Mindfulness is my way.
Two years ago, after 16 years of meditation practice and five years of mindfulness cultivation and study, being trained with the Center for Mindfulness Research and Practice in Bangor University (UK), I have started to work as an Instructor. I am committed to share with others the exercises and the evidence-based information that testify to its effectiveness.
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
The amount of scientific attention that this practice has attracted has shifted its understanding from the spiritual realm to a scientific one. Objectively, mindfulness is a method of mental training, similar to a fitness practice for the brain, that fosters self-awareness and the ability to non-judgmentally, deliberately, pay attention in the present moment. Mindfulness courses involve formal and informal practices that develop focus and concentration, the ability to handle uncomfortable emotions, to let painful thoughts come and go without getting caught up in them, to improve relationships at work and with family, and to nurture self love. However, it is an ancient spiritual practice, approximately 3000 years old, originated in the East and introduced to the west in the 1970s by Jon Kabat Zinn, Professor Emeritus at University of Massachusetts Medical School, who wondered about its potential benefits for people suffering from physical and psychological ailments. He designed the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programme in 1979 and, since then, the practice and the programme have been studied and implemented in hospitals, schools, corporations, military units and wellbeing centers around the world.
The Mindfulness Based stress Reduction Programme is a blend of meditations, gentle yoga exercises and awareness practices that teaches individuals, couples and groups how to take charge of the quality of their lives, being it their outer or inner lives, in a sustainable way. Science has been investigating it for more than 35 years. Research has shown astounding results: those asked report an extraordinary.
8 WEEK MINDFULNESS STRESS REDUCTION
SESSION 1 – SIMPLE AWARENESS
SESSION 2 – ATTENTION AND THE BRAIN
SESSION 3 – DEALING WITH THOUGHTS
SESSION 4 – STRESS: RESPONDING VS REACTING
SESSION 5 – DEALING WITH DIFFICULT EMOTIONS AND SENSATIONS
SESSION 6 – MINDFULNESS
SESSION 7 – MINDFULNESS AND COMPASSION
SESSION 8 – DEVELOPING A PRACTICE ON YOUR OWN
MINDFULNESS HAS BEEN SHOWN TO IMPROVE THE FOLLOWING MEDICAL CONDITIONS:
CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE HYPERTENSION, CANCER, CHRONIC PAIN, FIBROMYALGIA, DIABETES – TYPE I, IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME, ANXIETY, ASTHMA/ RESPIRATORY DISORDERS, PSORIASIS, HEADACHE, DEPRESSION, MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
Improvement in both medical and psychological symptoms, stable over the following four years of check ups. In the corporate world, companies like Google and Intel have ongoing mindfulness Programmes for their employees; from a healthcare point of view, it is now the preferred treatment recommended by the National Healthcare System in the UK to prevent and cure depression and anxiety, being it at least as effective as medications. In general, millions of people around the world are turning to this practice to reduce their stress levels or simply to live their lives more mindfully, learning how to practice mindfulness in drop in meditation classes or 4 week mindfulness courses. Mindfulness is considered a practice that fosters well-being in a sustainable way, as it empowers the individual to gain an understanding of their own habitual behaviors and thinking patterns; this, in turn, stops one simply operating, as most of us do, on automatic pilot. It shows us how our thoughts, emotions and physiology impact the way we respond to life. With this understanding and awareness, we have choices and are able to respond rather than react as situations arise.
MINDFULNESS HAS SHOWN TO HAVE THE FOLLOWING BENEFITS IN EVERYDAY LIFE:
DECREASED REACTIVITY AND DECREASED RESPONSE FLEXIBILITY
DECREASED STRESS & ANXIETY
IMPROVED INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
IMPROVED RELATIONSHIP WITH SELF
IMPROVED JOB SATISFACTION
INCREASED FOCUS AND MENTAL CLARITY
MINDFULNESS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN
As a mother of two, I am thankful to my practice as it enables me not only to keep my stress levels on a minimal scale but also to enjoy with my children in ways that I believe will remain with me till the end of my time. Mindfulness gives me the ability to truly connect to my family life as it unfolds moment by moment, allowing me to soak in my children’s smiles and shining eyes, to sit patiently by their side and observe their interaction with their environment and thus really getting to know them, as opposed to be chasing after the infinite errands that I need to run, both inside and outside my mind. It also empowers me to pause, just a second before reacting to one of my children’s behavior that really pushes my buttons, and choose my response instead: a response that is usually rooted in empathy and love. Mindfulness is such a versatile practice that it has been implemented in several schools around the world, and Dubai, to improve students’ concentration, academic results, emotional and social well-being and their ability to be resilient in the midst of scholastic, social and technological pressures.
Yes, mindfulness makes us wiser, more balanced and more loving individuals, so much so that some people consider it a revolution that may bring about an evolutionary development counter to the one the world seems to be directed towards: a world where unconscious choices and reactive patterns lead to the pollution and exploitation of our planet, violence and unnecessary suffering. Its potential benefits, for us as individuals and as a species, rest on our willingness to try it; on our courage to befriend ourselves wholly on the journey that mindfulness bring about; on our determination to find space and time to cultivate it on a daily basis; ultimately on our trust to see ourselves as masters of our destiny and choose peace.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: University of Massachusetts Medical School, 2005Mindfulness at work, Bite Size Learning Mindful Schools
About the Author:
SILVIA NATALE is a Mindfulness Teacher and Life Coach, working in Illuminations Wellbeing Center in Dubai. She is passionate about empowering individuals to live a rich, meaningful and fulfilling life! Holding a Masters in Engineering, a Degree in Education and an accreditation as a Life Coach with Center for Coaching Certification (U.S.), Silvia started her path as a holistic professional wanting to reunite scientific evidence with spiritual perspective. She knew she wanted to share only what truly works and can be developed by anybody willing to commit themselves to the practice. When she started practicing mindfulness she understood that this is what satisfied both her rational, scientifically-grounded brain and her soul’s innermost longing for answers. After 15 years of teaching and learning, she trained with the world renowned Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice in Bangor University (UK) to share these ancient skills with all wanting to learn.