About Mindfulness Meditation

All of our meditation practices are guided using Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Meditation is like going to the gym for your mind. Just as you exercise your body, it is important to exercise your mind too. Mindfulness is having the ability to consciously and intentionally allow yourself to be in the present moment with curiosity and without judgment. i’mindful Studio allows you to center your mind and embark on a journey to a more meaningful, peaceful and fulfilled life. 

What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about paying attention, in the present moment, to any experience with kindness, curiosity, and patience without judgment. You can think of mindfulness as exercise for the brain, as well as for the body, emotions, and well-being.

Why practice mindfulness?
Life presents a full range of trials that have a vast effect on our overall well-being and sense of balance. From overwhelming workloads to challenging coworkers, and even self-deprecation and unsatisfied spirits, to busy home life, we can experience challenges at work and home that suppress our efficiency, engagement, and joy. Mindfulness can simply be a welcome break to a busy workday, or a relaxing way to de-stress at the end of the day.

Can you provide an example of mindfulness in practice?
As you are walking, running or doing exercise, try taking off the headphones or turning off the TV. See if you can simply notice the sensations of breathing and moving. You might notice your heart rate getting faster, the body warming up, or perspiration. You may also be aware of the muscles working, pain, fatigue, or exhilaration.

How will it change how I live?
You’ll likely notice things about your body you never noticed before—a newfound sensitivity to sounds, movement, taste and how you process your emotions. As you tune into your body and mind, you’ll be able to take better care of yourself in general. Mindful living is like watching life in “3D.”  It’s a way of living that will help you create a sense of balance, joy, awareness, and peace.
 
What do I focus on when exercising or eating mindfully?
You don’t need to focus on anything, per se. It’s more of a gentle awareness of whatever is happening in your body without criticism or judgment. You’ll likely notice thoughts and feelings, too. When your mind wanders off, just notice whatever thought has drawn your attention away and bring your attention back to your focus (exercise, eating, doing dishes, etc.). If an emotion bubbles up, you can acknowledge whatever is true for you. Mindful practice involves managing distraction and being aware of whatever is happening within you, over and over again, without self-judgment.

What is mindful eating or mindful nutrition?
The fundamental principles of mindful eating/nutrition include being aware of the nourishment available through the process of food preparation and consumption, choosing pleasurable and nutritious foods, recognizing food preferences non-judgmentally, appreciating and honoring physical hunger and satiety cues, and using awareness to guide eating decisions to change your relationship with food.

What other changes might I notice?
Overall you’ll be more tuned into your own body, what it needs and what you need. You’ll get to know yourself better. Your body will always tell you if something is a good idea or a bad one. If your body likes your choice, it will respond with relief. If it doesn’t, the body will get tense and rigid. With mindfulness, you’ll be better able to manage the stressful thoughts that drain your energy level and keep you up at night. You’ll also be able to be more in touch with your feelings and emotions and regulate strong reactions so you can respond rather than react in stressful situations. You will find a sense of emotional balance.

What does sitting still with my eyes closed have to do with my job, or my life in general?
Formal sitting meditation is similar in some ways to practicing your golf putt with a cup on the floor, playing piano scales or shooting hoops. Sitting with your eyes closed while paying attention to the breath or sounds is a training; it’s not “the game.” But like other activities we practice with recurrence, it helps to strengthen our capacity to focus. Developing focus is one of the four principles of leadership excellence; without it, we continuously skim the exterior of experience, never relaxing long enough to understand what is truly before us and what response is needed in the now.

How can paying attention to brushing my teeth help? Isn’t it better if I use that time for planning my day?
Most of us have spent years fortifying this habit of not paying attention to our lives as they are unfolding. So, the bigger picture is that you are learning to shift from a habit of repetitively projecting into the future or pondering about the past, to a habit of being aware of what’s really happening now. Training the attention to stay with experience as it is really happening supports the mind’s capacity to see clearly and learn. We begin to see what truly is present, not what we wish or fear is present; we begin to relate with experience as it is, not tinted by our habitual “filters” or unconscious views. We begin to disentangle our struggles with experience, and in doing so, create the space we need to lead from our earnest values. And so, when it’s time to plan your day, you can really be there, with all your abilities, for planning your day.

Yesterday my meditation was easy, and today it was hard: My mind just kept drifting away to my weekend plans. What am I doing wrong?
Nothing wrong with this. This is a very good description of doing the practice “correctly.” Your question shows you now know something about your own mind. You know that the mind you sat down to meditate with today was very different than the mind you sat down with yesterday. You know what “today’s mind” was intent on doing: planning for the weekend. And you know your mind is quite happy to go ahead and do what it intends to do without asking for “your” consent---so congratulate yourself! You have also recognized at some point that the mind had “drifted away.” The practice is to use that recognition to gently redirect the attention back to our intended focus. Some days our mind will throw a lot at us and we get a lot of practice readdressing; others, our mind will be steady and happy to withstand attentiveness on whatever we propose. Either way, our practice is to be with whatever our experience is, with as much self-compassion, kindness and curiosity as is available to us.

How long will it take before I notice a difference?
Not unexpectedly, there is a good deal of inconsistency in how this practice impacts people’s lives and when they start to see those changes occur. That said, it’s rather common for people to report within a couple of weeks of devoted practice that they were able to meet a situation with a new sense of having a choice in how they respond. These are the early signs of cultivating a level of openness from our automatic and habitual inclinations. Something else to consider: Co-workers, family and friends sometimes notice these changes before we ourselves are clearly aware of them.

Can I listen to music while meditating?
This depends on what you are looking to cultivate through this practice. The disposition to put some music on to meditate with, at least in early stages of learning the practice, might be coming from a wish to be relaxed or to “chill out.” In other words, a desire to get away from whatever is happening now. The aim of mindfulness practice, however, is to increase our ability to stay with what is occurring in our experience and to see openly what’s true for us now. Over time, if combining music into formal practice still interests you, then test, remembering to notice if this seems to support your ability to remain attentive and curious, or not.

I can’t sit still for 10 minutes, is it okay if I move around?
Through mindfulness practice, we begin to learn more about the relationship between the body and the mind. Just as we have established the habit for our minds to spend a great deal of time jumping into the imagined future or rehashing the past, so too, we have established the habit for our bodies to repeatedly shift position in response to the smallest uncomfortable feeling, frequently without our being aware of it. Calming the habitual restlessness of the body supports us in directing and nourishing attention, which in turn, strengthens the mind’s ability to focus. So we do our best to not change position automatically and bring awareness to any movements we decide to make.

I’m fine with silent meditation, but once I open my mouth I’m not mindful at all! Does this ever get better?
Carrying mindfulness to communicating is a bit more challenging than paying attention to the sensations of the breath. This is where purposeful pauses can help us: By cultivating the habit to use the collective happenings of our day to prompt us to bring our attention to the present, we are ultimately able to intertwine mindfulness into more multifaceted actions, such as speaking and listening. It’s also beneficial to acknowledge that the attention and focus we bring to these multifaceted happenings is much simpler and broader than the close attention we may place on the sensations of breathing when we are sitting still with closed eyes.

What risks are involved with taking mindfulness courses?
When choosing to participate in a mindfulness class, self-pacing is encouraged and is crucial. For example, the mindful movement class is a possible physical risk of strain or muscle injury, and each individual is responsible for not going beyond her or his comfort. Participants are encouraged to take care of themselves by recognizing their limits without devastating their body.
Some participants may experience increase in pain, depression, or anxiety within the first few weeks of the 8-week program as they begin to “look at” as opposed to “look away” from aspects of their lives they may have been reluctant to discover in the past. Please know that there are always choices and participants are encouraged to take care of themselves throughout the classes. Pain, depression, and anxiety have been found in the research to be reduced by the end of an 8-week program.

What is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a psychoeducational experiential learning program based on the core principle of mindfulness. The program is offered in a group setting and guided by a skilled MBSR teacher as the curriculum unfolds over 8 weeks. The class meets once a week from 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours and is a combination of mindfulness practices, group sharing of experience with practice, and exploration of topics such as mindfulness, stress, and communication. In addition, there is an all day of practice that occurs between the 6th and 7th week of the 8-week program. In addition to the 31 hours of practice in a supportive classroom environment guided by a professionally trained MBSR teacher, each participant engages in an hour of mindfulness practice daily between classes as homework to foster the development of the new habit of mindfulness.

Will mindfulness allow me to control my thoughts better?
Participants will become very familiar with how their mind works. While “control” is not the goal of mindfulness, participants may begin to see they have more choices on where and how they give their attention. The process of mindfulness is building on the skill of noticing where the thoughts go and what emotions and physical sensation may be associated with them.

Will mindfulness disrupt my ongoing psychotherapy?
Mindfulness can be a wonderful complement to psychotherapy. If you are currently in therapy, we do recommend that you speak to your therapist about your intention to participate in mindfulness class. Our preference is that your therapist is in support of your taking the class. We can with a consent agreement and your permission speak with your therapist if you choose as you go through the program.

Do you come to our office or facility? Or do we come to you?
We can come to you, or we can use our meditation studio located in Fayetteville.

How should we set up the room for the sessions, talk or course?
You simply need a place for everyone to sit with their back supported and head free. Plain folding or office chairs are fine. If you can arrange the chairs into a big semi-circle, that is preferred, but rows of chairs or auditorium style seating will also work. Yoga mats and/or cushions will also work.

Is mindfulness linked to any religious practice?
There are types of meditations linked to the Buddhist religion. However, the practice we teach is grounded on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which is 100% secular and non-religious. MBSR helps you learn to calm your mind and body to help you cope with illness, pain, anxiety and/or stress. Mindfulness practice is really just about being awake to our lives as they are and working with seeing our process and ourselves more clearly. This tends to be a good compliment to many religious traditions in ways that you can explore as you develop your practice.

Is mindfulness supported by scientific evidence?
Mindfulness over the past 35 years has shown dependable, consistent, and reproducible major and clinically significant decreases in medical and psychological symptoms across a wide range of medical and psychological diagnoses. It has been recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as an evidenced based program through the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP). Mindfulness is an active area of scientific research with new studies on MBSR being shared on a regular basis.

Is mindfulness good for medical conditions?
Mindfulness has been scientifically shown to be an effective complement to a wide variety of medical and psychological conditions. Below is a partial listing of medical and psychological conditions with citations of some of the benefits of mindfulness practice.
Anxiety (Hoge, Bui, Marques, Metcalf, Morris, Robinaugh, et. al., 2013)
Asthma (Pbert, Madison, Druker, Olendzki, Magner, Reed, et. al., 2012)
Cancer (Carlson, Doll, Stephen, Faris, Tamagawa, Drysdale, & Speca, 2013)
Chronic Pain (Reiner, Tibi, & Lipsitz, 2013)
Diabetes (Hartmann, Kopf, Kircher, Faude-Lang, Djuric, Augstein, et. al., 2012)
Fibromyalgia (Schmidt, Grossman, Schwarzer, Jena, Naumann, & Walach, 2011)
Gastrointestinal Disorders (Zernicke, Campbell, Blustein, Fung, Johnson, Bacon, & Carlson, 2013)
Heart Disease (Sullivan, Wood, Terry, Brantley, Charles, McGee, Johnson, et. al., 2009)
HIV (Duncan, Moskowitz, Neilands, Dilworth, Hecht, & Johnson, 2012)
Hot Flashes (Carmody, Crawford, Salmoirago-Blotcher, Leung, Churchill, & Olendzki, 2011)
Hypertension (Hughes, Fresco, Myerscough, van Dulmen, Carlson, & Josephson, 2013)
Major Depression (Chiesa & Serretti, 2011)
Mood Disorders (Hofmann, Sawyer, Witt, & Oh, 2010)
Sleep Disturbances (Andersen, Wurtzen, Steding-Jessen, Christensen, Andersen, Flyger, et. al., 2013)
Stress Disorders (Kearney, McDermott, Malte, Martinez, & Simpson, 2012)

Is mindfulness a type of group therapy?
No…mindfulness was never considered as group therapy. It is a form of participatory solution where participants experientially learn about their stress, stress reactivity, and how they might be able to respond to their life challenges. It may be better viewed as an educational course where we offer an atmosphere that allows you to explore your own life and patterns and we invite you to explore what you find there. We are not sharing the context of the things that have happened or are happening in our lives rather we are focusing on our own responses and reactions to our existing state of being as we take the class. Our hope is that you will build enough resources to take the tools with you as you leave the classroom and be able to incorporate them into your normal day-to-day routine.

Is it possible to shut off thoughts or gain a blank mind through mindfulness?
Maybe… but this does not align our experience and is not taught as part of our classes. Mindfulness is about being present to what is here. Participants are encouraged to notice instead of blocking or denying thoughts, sensations, and emotions. It is through this “observing” we might begin to find our mind may become more quiet or focused.

I live a very busy life; do I have time for mindfulness?
Sometimes we mention to the people in our classes that coming to the stress reduction program is stressful We are aware that so many of us have very busy lives and that adding a class one time per week and setting aside 30 minutes to an hour for mindfulness practice can be overwhelming. It is important to keep in mind that while time may feel like a challenge adding mindfulness into our lives tends to help us prioritize and become efficient at work. Furthermore, taking time to restore and rebalance can give us more energy reserves to meet the demands of our very busy lives.

I cannot sit still for very long, can I still practice mindfulness?
Yes… Mindfulness is not about sitting still or moving slowly. Mindfulness and MBSR is about bring attention to this moment whether it is stillness or restless. Participants will be engage in many different forms of mindfulness practices which include sitting, lying down, standing, and moving. Participants are encouraged to take care of themselves. If you need to leave the room and walk a bit and then come back, that is an option. The class may also be a good place to explore the edges of our limitations with this and to notice what it is like to stay with this and observe if it perhaps changes over time.

How might mindfulness benefit my life?
The direct benefit is living our lives in this moment with awareness instead of "on automatic pilot" or solely in the past or future.
Participants often report greater joy for the simple things in life, such as a shared moment with their spouse or significant other or a friend or more aware of the change of seasons. We begin to realize that there is more “right” with us than “wrong” with us as we become more engaged in our lives. Many of the side effects of mindfulness meditation found in scientific research include a decrease in psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression as well as greater stability in physical symptoms such as blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Eventually, it is a pragmatic question, and everyone is encouraged to find out for themselves how mindfulness meditation might benefit their lives.

Can children and teens practice mindfulness?
i’mindful Studio offers programs for any age. Children and teens ages 4-17 and adults. However, the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program is designed for adults, and we encourage individuals 18 years or older to register for the program.

Are there conditions or life situations where practicing mindfulness is not recommended?
There are some conditions that participants are encouraged to be under the care of a mental health professional or medical doctor and in still other cases participants are encouraged to delay entering an MBSR program or seek other treatments.
A partial list of conditions or life situations may include a history of substance or alcohol abuse with less than a year of being clean or sober, thoughts or attempts of suicide, recent or unresolved trauma, as well as being in the middle of major life changes. The hope is that participants can complete the MBSR course at a point in their life where they are supported and able to gain full benefit from the mindfulness practices.