FAQ about Mindfulness
What exactly is mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally. It is the attention to the internal and external experience of the present moment. An internal experience can be your breath, bodily sensations, emotions and thoughts. An external experience can be the surrounding environment, people and things. Mindfulness is “being mindful” to the present experiences without preconception or judgement. Being judgmental would elicit emotional interference, hence we would not be able to calm down and observe clearly.
What is the purpose of mindfulness practice?
There are different reasons for people to practice mindfulness. Some enjoy practising mindfulness as it offers space to pause and breathe in a busy day. Studies revealed that attending a formal eight-week mindfulness course helps coping with anxiety, stress and depression, etc. Other research studies found evidences that practising mindfulness boosts one’s positivity and kindness. Furthermore, some found that mindfulness practice improves attention, memory and learning ability. The practices provided on this website do not constitute a formal eight-week mindfulness course. As such, the positive effects might not be as powerful as mentioned in the research findings. Nonetheless, the short practices provide practical guides and offer some resting time for us to calm down and take good self-care.
Are mindfulness practices just a way of relaxation?
Although mindfulness practices do help us relax, that is not the only purpose they serve. In fact, mindfulness is also a life attitude which helps us learn to live in the present moment, to enjoy and appreciate the good things in life, and to respond skilfully to the difficulties we may encounter. However, what we provide in this website is some short mindfulness practices that do not go deep to the level of life attitude. A formal eight-week courses will explain more on how mindfulness practices offer not just relaxation but transcends into a life attitude.
What are the attitudes of mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn (2013) introduced seven attitudinal foundations of mindfulness in his book Full Catastrophe Living, which includes non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go.
||Non-judging: Be aware of the inevitable constant stream of judging and reacting to inner and outer experiences that we are normally caught up in. We observe and step back from this.|
||Patience: As a form of wisdom, it demonstrates that we accept the fact that sometimes things unfold in their own time. We intentionally remind ourselves that there is the option not to be impatient with ourselves because we are feeling under pressure agitated or frightened. We give ourselves room to have these experiences.|
||Beginner’s mind: An open, beginner’s mind allows us to be receptive to new possibilities and prevents us from getting stuck in the rut of our own expertise. Are we able to see the sky, the stars and the trees as if for the first time with a clear and uncluttered mind?|
||Trust: Developing a basic trust in ourselves and our feelings is an integral part of meditation training. It is far better to trust in our intuition and our own authority, even if we make some mistakes.|
||Non-striving: Practice may be pointing us toward a new way of seeing ourselves, one in which we are trying less and being more. Mindfulness is simply paying attention to whatever is happening instead of forcing ourselves to achieve certain goals through practicing.|
||Acceptance: Seeing things as they actually are in the present. If we have a headache, accept that we have a headache. Acceptance sets the stage for acting appropriately in our life, no matter what is happening.|
||Letting go: In mindfulness, we intentionally put aside the elevation of some experiences more than others. Instead, we let our experience be what it is. Letting go is a way of letting things be, without grasping and pushing away, acknowledging that things constantly change, all by themselves.|
What are the basic mindfulness skills?
The foundation of all mindfulness training is the cultivation of embodied attention. By learning to drop attention again and again into our breathing and bodily sensations, we can practise grounding ourselves in the present moment of life experience and not feeding difficult thoughts and feelings that can so easily carry us away. In this way, bodily sensations are a great place to anchor the attention. The first step in mindfulness training is to practise connecting with these anchors and sustaining this connection. It is also important to explore and befriend these bodily sensations with curiosity and kindness.
Is mindfulness practice the same as emptying the mind or stop thinking?
Being mindful is not emptying the mind. During mindfulness practice, we pay full attention to a specific target. It can be the breath, bodily sensations, emotions, thoughts or difficulties encountered. We are not “mindless” but “mindful.” Mindfulness is composed of A, B, and C. A is Awareness. B is Being. C is Choice. Being aware of the present moment non-judgmentally is a way to calm ourselves down. Therefore, we can see the reality and make the right choice with wisdom.
Is mindfulness practice sitting meditation?
There are many forms of mindfulness practices. Sitting meditation is one of them. You can practise mindful sitting, standing or even lying down. Mindful stretching is also included in this website. You may learn more forms of practices in an eight-week mindfulness course.
Is mindfulness “Zen practice” in Buddhism?
The practices we introduce are non-religious. Different religions may have their own mindfulness practice. For example, Buddhists refer mindfulness as “Zen” or “Sati” while Catholics and Christians refer it as “Hesychasm” or “Spiritual Formation.” Some Christians and Catholics would practise mindfulness to calm their mind before praying. As such, one does not need to view mindfulness as exclusive to a particular religion. In fact, mindfulness is a cultural heritage shared by different races, cultures, and spiritualties for thousands of years.
Does the longer the mindfulness practice have the better outcome?
Some may enjoy doing a 40-minute mindfulness practice every day, others may prefer joining a week-long mindfulness retreat and practise continuously throughout the entire retreat. For beginners, we recommend starting from short practices. We offer practices of different time lengths. Some short practices only last for five minutes. Actually, short practices can be effective. For example, the Three-step Breathing Space is short but still has the calming effect. Nonetheless, it takes practices to reach the desired outcome. Practising mindfulness is similar to learning any sports: regular practices lead to better outcome.
Is practising mindfulness safe?
Like most sports, the benefits of mindfulness are best achieved through progressive practices. If you have not tried mindfulness before or feel vulnerable at the moment, we do not recommend you to undergo long or intensive mindfulness practices. No matter the practice is long or short, if you feel uncomfortable during the practice, please do not continue.
Are mindfulness practices suitable for everyone?
Mindfulness practices are not suitable for everyone. For example, for those who have experienced trauma or diagnosed with schizophrenia, the traumatic memories may flash back during mindfulness practice. In this case, insisting on practising does not help. Even if they wish to continue, they should only keep practising under the supervision of a mindfulness teacher with psychotherapy training and experience.
What should I do if I can’t concentrate while practising mindfulness?
It is normal if your mind wanders. When your mind wanders, please do not blame yourself or think that you have done something wrong. Being aware of your wandering mind is also an awareness! You should celebrate your achievement. When you find yourself getting distracted, please be aware of where your mind has gone, then gently but firmly bring it back to your focus of attention. With repeated practices, you will learn to embrace yourself with an accepting, open, loving and firm attitude.
What if I feel bored and irritated while practising mindfulness?
If you feel bored and irritated during practice, please pay attention to your feeling at the moment. See if you can observe the anxious feeling without trying to get rid of it. Please breathe with the feeling without judgement. This is a great opportunity to experience how to focus at the present non-judgmentally with love and firmness.
What if I feel sad while practising mindfulness?
If you feel sad while practising mindfulness, please observe these feelings with love and acceptance. However, if these feelings are too intense that the practices do not help, please do not continue. More importantly, if you are facing huge difficulties, please talk to someone, may it be your friends, family members or helping professionals. Please share and don’t bear it alone. Having a companion is helpful.
If I want to learn more about mindfulness, what books can I read?
||Kabat-Zinn, J. (2011). Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment and Your Life. Boulder: Sounds True. [With CD(Audio)]Teasdale, J., Williams, M., & Segal, Z. (2014). The Mindful Way Workbook: An 8-week Program to Free Yourself from Depression and Emotional Distress. [With CD(Audio)]. New York: Guilford.|
||Williams, M. & Penman, D. (2014). Mindfulness: A Practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world. London: Piatkus.|