Mindfulness Therapy is the act of training your brain to let go of negative cycles by focusing on the simple act of breathing and gaining distance from the circumstances of your suffering.
What is Mindfulness Therapy?
Mindfulness Therapy is based on the mindfulness of meditation and the Buddhist tradition. The whole idea of mindfulness therapy is being present and allowing your thoughts to come and go without judgment. Much of mindfulness therapy is focusing on your breathing or some other physical thing to the point where you become so engaged in the present moment, and in the flow of that moment, that your troubles seem to melt away. Mindfulness therapy is a very important and powerful method for people with anxiety, personality disorders, or who have suffered trauma, particularly those who struggle to regulate their emotions.
If you go back to the history of of the Buddha and Buddhism itself, it was commonly believed that the condition of being human is a condition of suffering; that we are either suffering because there's something we want that we don't have, or there's something we have that we're afraid of losing. So, we’re in a constant state of misery. Meditation and mindfulness are the remedy.
How do you use it in Practice?
When we talk about “being present” with mindfulness therapy, we’re talking about being in the present moment primarily through some form of meditation, often through some form of breathing meditation. One of the simplest ways to meditate is out of the Buddhist tera vaada tradition and the natural tera vaada. There are three parts to this meditation:
Breathing. When we breathe and exhale, our diaphragm rises as we release air. In this form meditation, through either your heart or mind, as you're exhaling, you're saying “rising” and when you inhale, you're saying “falling. ” You simply continue this pattern and soon you become so immersed in that flow and in that focus that you tend to report feeling better immediately.
Following your thoughts as you breathe. As you continue with rising and falling while breathing, thoughts will come to mind. Take one thought, give it a word and repeat it over and over again in your mind. With continual rising and falling, along with the repetition of one word and thought, you’re now practicing the powerful technique of mindfulness, allowing yourself to feel more calm and present.
3“Self observing ego” or the “witness state of consciousness.” This technique of mindfulness is very helpful to many people with anxiety who feel overwhelmed by their emotions. When someone is in a state of upset and experiencing negative feelings, exercising “self observing ego” or “witness state of consciousness” allows that person to view their own behavior as an outside observer, either through their mind or body. You imagine stepping out and away from your current self, and then looking back, you now get to watch yourself. You have a dual presence. Through this observation and enlightenment, you activate more of your conscious mind allowing yourself to slow things down so you can heal.
How do you combine it with other therapies?
Mindfulness therapy is a useful tool in practicing other therapies I help practice. The simple act of breathing and becoming more aware of your body is quite useful when practicing Somatic Therapy, wherein the participant is attempting to access the wisdom of their physical body. Consequently, by practicing mindfulness therapy and turning that focus inward, my patients can practice the art of Transpersonal Therapy, the act of focusing on one’s own energy and spirit and how it relates to a higher power of your choosing. In practice, mindfulness therapy is both a powerful standalone tool and a stepping stone to further understanding of yourself and your circumstances.
What are some examples of this in practice?
The act of mindfulness therapy as it extends on its path can yield different results depending on how far along you take it, what focus you take and, most importantly, what you're trying to accomplish. Suppose you are suffering from a generalized anxiety, or a feeling of unease. You may have stress at work, a relationship that is becoming strained or you may just be feeling stalled in your life.
You begin with the basic breathing exercise. Sitting down in a quiet place you begin breathing in and out slowly. When we breathe and we exhale our diaphragm rises and lowers, as you're exhaling inside you're saying either, in your heart or your mind, rising and then you inhale and you're saying falling. You simply continue exhaling and inhaling, saying falling and rising, and you become so immersed in that flow that we begin to lose focus on our troubles as we focus on the simple act of rising and falling. To some, this provides the peace they were seeking. For others, they must continue further.
As you grow more accustomed to focusing on your breath, you may find that your mind wanders to things that bring you peace or joy. A thought pops into your head about a good friend. You give it a word, name it, so you could just repeat the word over and over “Friend, Friend, Friend”. As you focus, your association may draw up another word. For example your friend makes you feel happy so you might just say happy repeatedly until one of two things happen: you either circle back to ‘rising’ and ‘falling’ or you allow yourself to explore the words and follow this positive association path and by doing that you can begin to just feel more calm. But for some there may be need to go one step further.
Through the act of breathing and focusing, and by allowing yourself to be taken along a path of meditation, it becomes easier to see yourself as a third party observer. You can step outside of your circumstance and apply a more objective viewpoint. So rather than feeling personally victimized by a circumstance or a person, you can step outside and begin to visualize the problem as a whole. This allows you to make decisions based in reasoning and not succumb to simply reacting, which comes from an emotional response.