Mindfulness

"It is not hard to live through a day, if you can live through a moment.

What creates despair is the imagination which pretends there is a future, and insists on predicting millions of moments, thousands of days and so drains you that you cannot live the moment at hand.” 

~Andre Dbois


Brain and MindfulnessThe Theory

In his work, The Mindful Brain, Daniel Siegel explains how consciousness plays a direct role in the harnessing of neural plasticity (the brain’s ability to alter automatic modes of neural firing which enables new patterns of neural firing to occur.) He writes, “The basic steps linking consciousness with neural plasticity are as follows: Where attention goes, neural firing occurs. And where neurons fire, new connections can be made.  In this manner, learning a new way to pay attention within the integration of consciousness enables an open receptive mind within therapy to catalyze the integration of new combinations of previously isolated segments of our mental reality.” 

One way to practice this “new way of paying attention within the integration of consciousness” is through a mindful practice. While other clinicians are discovering the benefits and have begun to incorporate mindfulness into their own clinical work, some pioneer clinicians have been doing it for years - most notably, Kabat Zinn’s work, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction; Brach’s, Radical Acceptance and Linehan’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy. During trauma, dissociation provides a psychological escape when physical escape is not an option. Quite a gift, really. Another gift for the survivor would be a practice that provided a means for the development of a healthier escape-a conscious detachment and dis-identification from trauma’s sequelae. Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation is such a practice. In meditation, the survivor detaches and observes his/her internal process, as he or she is experiencing it.  Detachment from feelings, sensations and thoughts, allows emotional and physical pain to become more distant, therefore more manageable. Only when the survivor no longer identifies with the suffering, can (s)he transcend or transform it.

Mindfulness is a technique which cultivates an intentional awareness of the present moment. It helps clients experience life non-judgmentally, as it unfolds moment by moment, with curiosity, attention, and compassion for self and others. Engaging in life mindfully helps clients to develop more skillful and creative responses to life – to live with greater balance and ease; to cope with life’s stressors and challenges; to accept the human condition; and to develop an awareness of, and appreciation for, the only time we have: the now. As previously stated, mindfulness is attracting increasing interest among western psychiatrists as a non-pharmacological means of dealing with anxiety and depressive mood states. Meditation affects the body in exactly the opposite ways that traumatic symptoms do. When practicing meditation, heart rate and breathing slow down; blood pressure normalizes; oxygen is used more efficiently; adrenal glands produce less cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline; positive hormone production increases; and immune function improves. In addition, the mind gains clarity and creativity increases. People who meditate find it easier to give up former coping mechanisms, i.e., life-damaginghabits like smoking, drinking, binging, purging, self injury and drugs. Meditation restores the body to a calm state, helps the body to physically repair itself, and prevents new damage caused by the physical effects of every day stress.

Spect Images showing "The Effect of Meditation on the Brain activity in Tibetan Meditators: Frontal and Parietal Lobes" (Andrew Newberg, MD)

According to Thich Nhat Hanh- Buddhist monk, poet, scholar, peace activist and one of the best known teachers of mindfulness today- “Awareness of breathing ....

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