Mindfulness Therapy, also known as Mindfulness Meditation Therapy, originally developed by Peter Strong, PhD in the 1980’s, describes a very promising new approach for helping people overcome long-standing problems with anxiety and depression.
Other mindfulness-based methodologies such as Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) developed by Professor Mark Williams and the very popular Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn have brought mindfulness into the limelight, and rightly so because the power of mindfulness to promote and facilitate emotional and psychological healing is profound.
What is mindfulness exactly?
Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as, “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness involves developing greater conscious awareness of our experience as it in unfolding in the mind and it means experiencing directly, without the interference of any form of secondary thoughts such as judgment, naming or labeling as good or bad. This is what makes mindfulness quite different from standard awareness, which really describes our reactions to experience rather than the direct experience of things.
This willingness to look directly without judgment becomes invaluable when working with the mind. In fact, one of the main factors that sustains emotional suffering, whether that takes the form of anxiety, depression, OCD, guilt, PTSD and emotional trauma, is our habitual tendency to react to our painful emotions with aversion, self-criticism, labeling and self-judgment.
We are clearly not mindful when it comes to our emotions and without the presence of conscious awareness, emotions are unable to change and heal. Consciousness is actually essential for healing. As we say in Mindfulness Therapy, “no consciousness, no change.”
Mindfulness Therapy is the process of bringing more direct consciousness to our emotional suffering to facilitate it’s healing. It counteracts our habit of avoiding and suppressing painful emotions. Most of us run away from our anxiety or depression and of course, it always catches up.
We also fall into patterns of suppression, trying to not think negative thoughts, trying to keep busy, or drowning our sorrows through addiction and substance abuse. But, the fact is you cannot escape unresolved emotional pain and it demands our attention so that it can change and heal.
In fact, we understand in Mindfulness Psychology, that emotional pain is simply the mind’s way of trying to get our attention and to bring conscious awareness to the source of suffering so that it can heal. Our habit is to do the exact opposite.
However, there is more to mindfulness than just becoming aware of our thoughts and emotions. It also means to care about them, to see that the emotion, the anxiety, the depression is itself in pain within us and we choose to respond to it with compassion and friendliness. I define mindfulness as compassionate awareness (Mindfulness = Awareness + Compassion). If it is lacking either, then it is not mindfulness.
Working with people over the years has made it abundantly clear that there is nothing that promotes healing more than this quality of compassionate awareness. When you embrace anxiety with mindfulness it heals; when you surround depression with this space of friendly consciousness, it heals; when you “sit” with your anger or fear with this bigger space of loving kindness it resolves itself.
During Mindfulness Therapy we actually learn how to meditate on our emotions. Mindfulness Meditation means that we focus the unique qualities of mindfulness on the anxiety, the depression, the fear or the anger.
We learn to make friends with our emotions.
Instead of ignoring them we welcome them in; instead of suppressing them we treat them with kindness and respect. You know the power of love and acceptance in relationship to people; now we need to apply that within, where it is really needed.
We learn to love our self, which means we learn to love our anxiety, depression, negative thoughts, anger and fear. Love heals, never hatred or ignorance, and mindfulness meditation is how we cultivate this love within, by just choosing to be totally present with our emotions.
During mindfulness meditation we create the right inner conditions that promote transformation and healing, so if you are suffering, I encourage you to learn how to meditate on your emotions. It is without doubt one of the most important skills you will ever learn to promote well-being both within the mind and also in your relationships, which, of course are directly affected by the state of your mind.