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What is mindfulness?

I first learned to practice mindfulness following a stress related breakdown which left me in hospital. My mind froze like a computer with too many windows open - I couldn't sleep or read anything.


My mission is to help others learn this simple tool for living, so that no one need get as ill as I did before they find for themselves what wonderful things living mindfully can reveal about our every day lives.


Now years after my breakdown I have learned to teach others the skill of mindfulness, at the world renowned Oxford Mindfulness Centre, Department of Psychiatry, Oxford University.


Mindfulness helped me to recover from that breakdown and return successfully to my old position at work as a lawyer. The same stresses surround me, but I now know how to listen to my body communicating with me rather than living solely in my head and relying totally on my intellect. I have learned how to watch thoughts as they pass through my head, without attaching meaning to them as "the truth".


Though Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy  (MBCT) and Mindfulness Based Stress Relief (MBSR) are relatively new, the skills of Mindfulness are as ancient as their roots in Buddhist teaching over 2,500 years old, although to say Mindfulness is Buddhist is like saying Newton invented gravity.


Modern MBCT however has more in common with clinical science than religion, and is a purely secular activity helping those who practice regularly to "fall awake" to what is going on around them "with more notices per minute" just like a sportsman in the zone, or a musician emphasising nuances in a piece of music that show his skill.


MBCT as designed by John Teasdale, Mark Williams and Zindel Segal in 2002 is based on Jon Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness training (MBSR) developed in the 1990s. The way it is taught is traditionally through attendance at an 8 week course of about 2 hours per week, in a small group, supplemented by home practice in between each weekly class. Although best taught in groups of 4 to 8 people as an inquiry into life, MBCT can also be guided on a one-on-one basis using the tools supplied by books and cds available in high street book shops. The best way to learn mindfulness is when guided by a professional.

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