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Mindfulness and Mindfulness Training: The Difference. Thursday March 31, 2016

A few people have asked about mindfulness in recent weeks – so this weeks blog is written by my good friend Martin Stepek who has been practising and teaching mindfulness now for over ten years. Les, A Moodscope member.

Sometimes people confuse mindfulness and mindfulness training, and it's helpful to get the distinction right.

Mindfulness is one of the many qualities or states of mind our brain can produce. Other examples are anger, happiness, love, hatred, irritation, forgiveness. It's just not as well known as these others.

So there's nothing special about mindfulness but there is a lot that's special about what it can do for us in our daily lives.

Mindfulness is the skill or trained ability to notice what's actually going on, in a much wider and deeper sense than our usual autopilot sense of awareness.

With this particular skill of mindfulness we can avoid so many of our common poor decisions in life, which are the result of knee-jerk reactions to minor things, which we get way out of proportion.

On the positive side mindfulness allows us to see the potential for beauty or positive outlooks in everyday situations.

Thus we can avoid self-created situations and nurture moments of joy, happiness and kindness. It doesn't take a genius to work out how different that makes the quality of your day, and over time your whole life.

So mindfulness is the skill of noticing moment by moment in a much warmer, more open non judgemental way.

Mindfulness training is what is says on the tin. It trains you to be increasingly more mindful. It does this by stepping out of the busyness of everyday life and guiding us to practice noticing what actually goes on moment to moment; usually focusing on our breath because that's always present, easy to notice, and easy to return to whenever we get distracted, bored or uncomfortable.

We also focus on the mind itself and what state it's in, on how parts of our body feel, on how words and mental images can positively affect how we feel. All of this is good practice for noticing more mindfully in normal life.

Over time our ability to be mindful increases, and this improvement can continue for life so long as we keep practicing and training.

The training is commonly referred to as "mindfulness meditation". To my mind meditation is a troublesome word. Many associate it with spiritual insights such as being one with the universe or God. The Buddha, who devised the techniques we call mindfulness, said his sole task was to teach about "suffering and how to end suffering." I'd be delighted to settle for that.

Martin Stepek
Mindfulness teacher, author, speaker.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Hopeful One Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 6:55am

Hi Martin (if I may)- a cool blog laying out the basic features of mindfulness and its positive effects in our life. Andy Puddicombe in his book"Getsomeheadspace" distinguishes between mindfulness and meditation.He says that when meditation travelled from East to West it came associated with baggage like saffron robes,incense, bells,Buddha etc and practised by wierdoes. When the medical profession in the West realised its potential in the 1960's and its positive effects on a number of mental dysfunctions they were almost ostracised by their fellow practitioners as practising unscientific mumbo jumbo. They coined the word mindfulness to make it acceptable to their fellows..He also says that while one can practice mindfulness by itself it will be a hit and miss affair. To make it solid one has to do some form of meditation.So meditation is acquiring the skill and mindfulness is its application in everyday life

So on to our laugh for the day.

God is tired So he speaks to St. Peter, "You know, I need a vacation. Got any suggestions where I should go?" St. Peter, thinking, nods his head, and says, "How about Jupiter? It's nice and warm there this time of the year." God shakes His head before saying, "No. Too much gravity. You know how that hurts my back." "Well, how about Mercury?" "No way!" God mutters, "It's way too hot for me there!" "I've got it," St. Peter says, his face lighting up. "How about going Down to Earth for your vacation?" God remarks, "Are you kidding? Two thousand years ago I went there, had an affair with some nice Jewish girl, and they're STILL talking about it!"

Les Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 10:09am

Hi HO - You and I have spoken about this before. /// To seek to clarify the difference between mindfulness and meditation let's look at other people's words. /// "When I think of mindfulness — as distinct from the practice or tool of Mindfulness Meditation — I think of a way of being in the world. Living mindfully, living consciously — having a beacon such as love, peace or ease guide our every decision and action, rather than allowing ego to run on autopilot and make decisions from a fear-based, scarcity mentality — is how we apply the non-reactivity we cultivate during Mindfulness Meditation to the rest of our lives." Huffington Post //// I belive there is still a hang over from meditation purists, which is an ego driven need for me. They can stress that meditation is somehow more important or more complete than mindfulness - this is disproven time and time again by research in places like Oxford and Stanford University. //// Jon Kabat-Zin PhD is the 'father' of mindfulness, having studied it for 35 years. His books. web site and you tube videos are for me a go to place. //// "Mindfulness and meditation have both been shown to have physical and mental health benefits, but many people get confused between the two practices. Practicing mindfulness is actually a form of meditation. During meditation, Jon says, many people think something is supposed to happen to them. "There is the biggest problem with it," he says. "They think, 'Oh, if I were really meditating, my mind would be a blank. My breath would be easy. I'd feel so wonderful.'" Mindfulness is simply awareness, something you don't have to practice for 20 minutes at a time. You can be mindful anywhere, anytime and with anyone you like. "You and I sitting here having a conversation, you know, the thought might cross one of our minds, 'Well, when are we going to get down to meditating?'" Jon says. "The fact is, we are." Nuff said.

Anonymous Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 10:24am

Yes I always say to myself let the mindfulness do it's work on its own. Don't try to get results or focus on whether it's "working" or not. It just does. But this is an aside. I don't want to detract from your comment and explanation to Hopeful One. Jul xx

Hopeful One Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 12:46pm

Hi Les and Anon- Thank you both so much for clarifying and teasing out the issues involved.It is most appreciated.

Anonymous Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 1:20pm

That's OK! How are you? is the silver lining still there? Julxx

Oli Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 7:27am

Thank you for the thought about the word "meditation". I like that; I will remember it.

Les Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 11:17am

Hi Oli - whatever you find useful and chimes with you - is right for you.

Anonymous Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 7:52am

What a privilege it is for us to have you write for Moodscope Martin. I read your weekly Mindfulness pieces which come into my inbox and are very welcome and sootihng each week. So it was such a wonderful surprise to see Les introducing you as today's writer.Of course it goes without saying how well you explain Mindfulness and its benefits to us. It has taken me a long time to come round to realising the benefits of Mindfulness for me personally. It quietens my racing and chattering mind. I now know that if ever I become aware of this crazy constant conversation in my mind, I can stop it by focussing on the sounds around me. I may not be an expert but even the fundamentals of mindfulness help me. Thank you so much Martin. I wish you and your family well. And a big thanks to Les. Jul xx

Les Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 11:18am

Hi Jul - no need for 'experts' here....if it works for you at whatever level - it works. Lx

Anonymous Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 8:56am

Thank you Les for instigating this helpful input from Martin, an expert on Mindfulness training. I bought Mark Williams and Danny Penman's book 'Mindfulness' last week. I am now inspired to try to learn mindfulness techniques, in the hope of finding a more effective way to manage depression. Go well.

Les Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 11:21am

Hi A - 'inspire' from the Latin 'spiro' meaning 'to breathe'. And thus to breather life into. Stick with it. There is also a good book 'The mindfulness way through depression' by Mark Willaims. Good luck

Anonymous Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 2:10pm

Thanks for your encouragement and further recommendation.

Anonymous Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 12:02pm

Hello Martin. I took the liberty of looking you up on Google and find you have published some books and give weekly classes on Mindfulness. I was so impressed with your work and writings, background etc. I am very grateful and probably speak for many here on Moodscope that you do not write for us with the purpose of selling your books!! This can irk many of us. Would you allow me to give Moodscopers your website so they can read more about you? Thank you again.

SophieW Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 1:15pm

This is the first time I have commented on a blog. I do try to read all comments each day and the daily blogs. I hope this works. I have only recently come to Mindfulness and would love someone to recommend a simple book I could use. I suffer from depression which started when I had my first child 27 years ago. A long time ago. I will look up the ones others have recommended. I think you have written a book Martin? Thanks to Les for introducing the blog today.

Les Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 9:15pm

Hi SophieW - My recommendation would be to buy a CD and expereince it, rather than read about it, which you cab of course do if you feel you wnat to afterwards. I would recommend Tara Brach - she has her own page on amazon ///// And the Mindfulness Meditations CD is a great start. ///// Good luck

LillyPet Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 11:34pm

Welcome Sophie, it's always good to hear from people who havent commented before. I hope you find the info on mindfulness that you're looking for. In the meantime at any moment that you remember to, just uses your senses to really look, listen, feel smell and taste what you are aware of in that moment and be aware of your breathing. Slow diaphragmatic breathing is the fastest way to calm us from stress but focussing on it helps to prevent our minds from wandering away from living in the present moment. All the best LP xx

LillyPet Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 11:36pm

Typo "uses" should be "use" :)

martin Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 4:11pm

A very big thank you to Les for sharing my latest newsletter. It was very kind of you and I hope it helps some of you who have read it.
I was unaware that Les had posted the newsletter until he emailed me to say so.
Anonymous, I'd be delighted for you to share my website details, and if anyone has any queries just email me at the contact address on the site.
Sophie, I have written three books on mindfulness, one of which is a volume of poetry. I'd recommend you go onto You Tube (if you use the internet regularly) and search for Mindfulness and Mark Williams. He is a lovely guy, Professor of Psychology at Oxford University, and there are a few very short interviews with him explaining what mindfulness is and how to practice it. He has lead the main research on how mindfulness can benefit people with depression.
I'd also echo some of the comments above in recommending his books, especially Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World, which he wrote with co-author Danny Penman. It has the added advantage of having a free CD of practices, eight in all 9but these are also available for free on You Tube).
Any problem finding these short videos and practices let me know and I'll find them and send you the links.
Warmest regards to all and hope you find yourself moving into a better place over time.
Martin Stepek

martin Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 4:18pm

Hopeful One,
Thanks for your very interesting comment about Andy Puddicombe's works and writings on mindfulness and meditation. He is a lovely, authentic person with a great gift for explaining things.
I tend not to use the word meditation as it implies certain things - spirituality, religion, new age, etc - to some people. It's also a very poor translation of the original word in Sanskrit. The word was bhavana, and means mental development. That's what mindfulness does, mentally develop us, so I just use that term "mental development", It makes a lot simpler to people coming to mindfulness for the first time. Instead of thinking "Oh, I have to learn to meditate" they can be relieved to think "Oh, I just need to develop my mind, which is why I'm here anyway".
Warm regards

The Gardener Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 4:57pm

Hello Martin. Huge question, how do I get on first step. My husband has serious Alzheimers disease. He has respite Tuesday and Thursdays. Now, on Thursday, almost from the minute we leave the hospital I begin the dread and stress on how I am going to cope with the next four days. But the time he has asked the same question 5 times before we get home I am already uptight. I put excellent music on - soothes me, and 'shuts him up'. It's the 'revving' myself up for the worst which I want to do battle with.

The Gardener Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 5:03pm

Chap 2! Mr G starts the morning with a moan, usually an imaginary illness. Evenings are pretty grim - can watch videos, and bed time sees me being roundly abused. I take joy in what I can - giggle with friends, the green of burgeoning willows, blackbird song - our great choice of music. We see few people, can't travel with Mr G, and he is now going into a tizzy if anybody is due. My mind needs training to push the niggles aside and have some goal which is practical to aim for. But the 24/24 attention means that mind gets trapped on one thing.

The Gardener Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 5:06pm

Chap 3 (computer problems). I'v nearly always managed to de-stress with physical exercise - useless at yoga - but lawn mowing used to be brilliant - write a 800 word article while mowing the front lawn to perfection. Still have gardening, but age and Mr G (won't stay anywhere for long) preclude getting a really relaxing time for it. This is quite a 'poser' but I am ready to try anything to improve my 'quality of life' and be less ratty

Robert Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 6:56pm

Mindfulness can help mild to moderate depression.I have asked to go on a course a few times ,as I have been told it is not for deep depression

Les Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 9:17pm

Hi Robert - I wouldn't close your mind to anything. What works for you will work for you, regardless of what anyone else will say. Check out the book I mention above about mindfulness and depression by Mark Williams.

The Gardener Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 8:58pm

Everybody seems to have gone to bed early. Mindfulness may not be for me, but reflection is. think I need acceptance, courage wisdom and judgement. First stage, avoid confrontation. Mr G tries to avoid going to bed until we both lose our rag. tonight, quietly but firmly, I said 'bed-time', all quiet, so who knows?

LillyPet Thu, Mar 31st 2016 @ 11:23pm

Dear Gardener, that calm but firm approach, avoiding confrontation sounds good. I can understand how mindfulness is difficult when you're a 24 hour carer, but your calm and measured approach was mindful and positive rather than an automatic reaction. It seems that you already have some acceptance and plenty of wisdom courage and judgement. If I had a hat on I'd take it off to you! Hugs, LP xx

Raj Thu, Sep 8th 2016 @ 7:19am


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