What is mindfulness?

By: Nat Roman Mar 31, 2013

What is mindfulness and how can it help me?

Without some sort of mindfulness practice, many of us can become completely uprooted, distracted, and overwhelmed.

Mindfulness is talked about in very different ways in different psychological and spiritual traditions. Generally speaking, the current mindfulness buzz in therapy circles and popular culture comes out of Buddhist meditation practices, but there are practices of mindfulness in almost every religious and cultural tradition. Some Buddhists have been critical of the use of Buddhist mindfulness practices in secular or therapeutic environments, since these practices have have been removed from their cultural and spiritual contexts. Others have built their entire careers on bringing these powerful practices to people who would never have access to them if they were presented with all the cultural trappings.

Mindfulness is the quality of mind that develops as a result of the deliberate and repeated practice of tuning into your experience in the present moment, also referred to as meditation practice. Mindfulness training involves the cultivation of attention and awareness through the repeated practice of holding your attention on one object (e.g. your breath, a visualization, a picture, a body sensation) and bringing your attention back to that object every time that your mind wanders. This practice allow you to develop insight and familiarity with your mind and mental processes and increases your sense of agency in relation to thoughts, emotional experience, and unwanted life events.

Without some sort of mindfulness practice, many of us can become completely uprooted, distracted, and overwhelmed by emotional experiences or painful thoughts. Mindfulness is the opposite of rumination. Rumination is the unintentional dwelling on recurrent thoughts, frequently painful self-critical or angry thoughts. When we are ruminating, it is impossible to keep our mind on anything but these painful thoughts and stories. Mindfulness allow us to focus our attention on something of our choosing, and let go of the addiction to negative mental fixations.

In traditional spiritual contexts mindfulness is a prerequisite to cultivating other qualities that are of more value than self-criticism or judgment of others. Once we are able to have some measure of control over where we place our mind, we can then use our mind to develop acceptance, love, compassion, and empathy for ourselves and others.

While the benefits of mindfulness practices are no secret to those who have practiced mindfulness in their spiritual or cultural traditions, Western psychology has strongly embraced the power of mindfulness in recent years. New studies seem to come out almost daily validating the use of mindfulness as a legitimate therapeutic intervention for a multitude of different life challenges (e.g. depression, anxiety, chronic pain, ADHD etc.) and mindfulness can be particularly effective in combination with other therapeutic work.

Mindfulness is important in my work with clients. While I am happy to offer mindfulness practices and meditation instructions, I prefer to help clients identity mindfulness practices that are consistent with their own backgrounds and work together to make these practices more accessible and effective.

Nat Roman was first introduced to meditation practice 20 years ago within the context of his own therapeutic journey and since that time has studied, practiced and taught mindfulness based practices in Canada and the US. Nat has taught and mentored others within the context of traditional Buddhist retreats, workshops on mindfulness and compassionate communication practices, and individual, couple and family therapy sessions. Nat has also explored these themes in his academic work having conducted experimental psychological research on the effects of mindfulness and emotional awareness in reducing aggressive responses to goal threats as well as exploring how somatic embodied mindfulness practices can be integrated into couple and family therapy. http://www.coupletherapytoronto.com/

Nat Roman has a Master of Science in Couple and Family Therapy and BA Hons. in Psychology. In addition to Nat’s background in Psychology and Couple and Family Therapy, Nat has extensive training in Nonviolent Communication (NVC) processes, community based restorative conflict circles, and over 15 years experience studying, practicing and teaching mindfulness meditation practices. In an earlier stage of life Nat worked as a professional musician and strongly believes that creativity is an essential part of life, whether one is engaged in a formal creative discipline, problem solving, or attempting to get kids off to school in the morning. http://www.coupletherapytoronto.com/