The Guardian ran an interesting piece last week about the perils of practising mindfulness without proper instruction or preparation (here if you are interested). This ancient practice, secularised by Jon Kabat Zinn in the States years ago, is presented time and again as a method to (successfully) tackle a range of problems. Research continues to churn out as to how mindfulness can help with a psychological and even physiological experiences such as anxiety, depression, pain, parenting anxst and even birth. Mindfulness courses are proliferating and permeating schools, armies, offices and homes everywhere.
As a practitioner myself (I can safely say mindfulness got me out of a very uncomfortable place a couple of decades ago), I know that taking responsibility for the ruminative and destructive thoughts generated by our pesky brains (wired to find threats and wired to solve them) can be incredibly helpful. I’ve even met people who would say mindfulness changed their lives entirely. However, as the Guardian piece warns, to be of best effect, being mindful doesn’t just mean being technically proficient at the practice. A more profound ‘training’ needs to run in parallel – which involves learning self-compassion. Without this, you may run the risk of the benefits of mindfulness not ‘sticking’. Watching, accepting, labelling our troublesome thoughts, ‘without judgement’ as the practice urges can be a very tough call for someone with a pernicious self-critic or an unresolved trauma.
‘Warming ourselves up’ with deep compassion work helps root mindfulness in steadier ground. Or at least that’s my experience and many others too. Here’s where to learn more.