With mindfulness and meditation being popular topics these days, everyone seems to be writing about it - and whilst this raises awareness of what, I believe, to be a great practice, it can also lead to some warped perspectives (especially regarding what it can / can't do AND what it was intended to do / not intended to do).
When I shared with a friend what I would be blogging about this week, she said to me "but won't that put people off?". And yes, there might be some people reading what follows and decide "ah well, its not for me then". But I believe where we (the mindfulness profession) need to work harder is in helping people understand what it is they are entering, the work involved, and the degree to which meditation can help them. Meditation is not a quick fix. And it is only by being up front about this that we begin to address the significant dropout from the practice. This is especially true regarding the "8-week" model (of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy): speaking with other teachers, their guesti-mate is that less than 10% of people are still practicing a year after the course.
So, here starts the myth busting...
“Living mindfully” is high up in the public consciousness – it is seemingly in the press each week: benefits attributed to the practice include the lowering of stress, helping schools engage their children, and even helping businesses thrive. It is no wonder then that it appears in many people's New Year's resolutions list. As many people seek a solution to life's challenges or express a wish to "turn over a new leaf", each year I have receive many enquiries about learning to meditate during the first two weeks of January. This year more than most: we could have filled our first Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction of 2016 twice over (don't worry, we've another course coming in April!)
As a therapist and mindfulness instructor, I continue to face a dilemma as to whether I bring these two practices together in the therapy room with my clients*. With growing public interest in how mindfulness can help mental and emotional well-being, I am receiving a growing number of enquiries for 1-2-1 mindfulness work to help with life problems. Similarly, there is always a great turnout when I run workshops for therapists on using mindfulness. Both sides of the therapist-client alliance are becoming inspired to bring mindfulness to problems and distress.
It is my opinion that there is great value in an individual having a mindfulness-meditation practice alongside the therapeutic process. I believe they are healthy bedfellows: with therapy bringing insight to the reasons for the struggle, and meditation allowing a compassionate place to process that insight, to learn to ‘be with’ the pain. I would encourage therapists working with clients who have an existing mindfulness practice to use any material the client gathers from their time ‘on the cushion’. However, is it the place of the therapist to introduce the practice, or indeed to be the one teaching meditation to their clients?
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