Conversation 4: Mindfulness & Being Present

What is Mindfulness?

What is Mindfulness? – a recording of Julian McNally (2:52 min) 

(What is Mindfulness? by RMIT Counselling and Psychological Services, Six ACT* Conversations, RMIT University is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Jon-Kabat Zinn, author of Coming to our senses: Healing ourselves and the world through mindfulness, says “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

So when you are being mindful, you are purposefully and deliberately using your attention, right now and without evaluating anyone or anything.

That’s very different to the way minds are used to working, as we have discussed in Conversation 1 and Conversation 2 of Six ACT Conversations, and that’s why the practise of mindfulness can be difficult: Your mind just isn’t used to it.

So then, why practise mindfulness? Over the last twenty or so years, psychologists such as Kabat-Zinn, Zindel Segal, Marsha Linehan, and Steven Hayes have developed new forms of psychotherapy that incorporate the practise of mindfulness. These new approaches to psychotherapy are getting very good results in treating people with depression, anxiety, chronic pain, eating disorders and even personality disorders.

So mindfulness appears to help people with mental health problems. However, many people who aren’t seeking psychological help practise mindfulness simply as a way of meditating, or of resting or focusing the mind. Within Acceptance and Commitment Training, mindfulness will help you to be aware of emotions and thoughts that you normally want to avoid, and it will help you get in touch with and hold onto the values and ideals that are most important to you.

Being mindful of your feelings and thoughts is also the first step in two important processes that are part of ACT – defusion and acceptance. Defusion is used with troublesome thoughts and is discussed in Conversation 2. Acceptance is used with difficult feelings and emotions and is discussed in Conversation 3.

For you to achieve noticeable and worthwhile results with mindfulness, you will need to practise – and if you’ve explored the other conversation in this program, you’ve no doubt read me say it before – trust your experience and learn from it. And to learn from your experience, you’ve first got to have one.

Without wings I can feel free. An image of a person in a sunset reflected in water
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

That is why I am advising you to practise these exercises daily – so that you get plenty of experiences.

When you do, the other components of this program will make much more sense and you’ll be able to practise the exercises from those other sections more beneficially.

In this conversation, we’ll do five mindfulness exercises. You can replay these segments of the program any time you want to practise mindfulness. After the five exercises, I’ll describe some other exercises you can practise without a recording and also where to find even more mindfulness exercises.


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