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Jill Yarrow

Integrative Mind Specialist


What is Mindfulness?


Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of modern day Mindfulness who founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the

University of Massachusetts Medical School in the late 1970's, describes Mindfulness as:

‘Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally’.


In its simplest form, mindfulness means awareness.  It is an introspective and contemplative practice to raise our present moment awareness to facilitate and develop a relationship with ourselves.


By raising our awareness and being attentive to our thoughts and experiences in a non-judgemental way, it helps us to reconnect with our senses and in doing so, restores our mind and body as an integrated whole.  It allows us to change our patterns of thinking, behaviour and self-beliefs, where we can step back from unconscious emotional and physiological reactions and view things as they really are and then choose how to respond to them in a more constructive and positive way.


This practise helps us to recognise and acknowledge all of our thoughts, feelings, emotions and body sensations.  Sometimes this can be painful but by practising conscious awareness, we can look at these experiences with a non-judgemental kindly curiosity.  Often our minds are so disconnected  from our body that we fail to notice or feel how our body reacts to these experiences as our minds automatically functions on autopilot.


Have you ever driven along a road and changed a radio station or CD and suddenly realised that you haven’t been concentrating on driving or observing the road ahead or even noticed how far you have travelled?   When our brain is on autopilot, we do things without focus or thinking about what we’re meant to be doing.  Our own inbuilt autopilot is known as the unconscious mind.   It is the part of the brain which carries out all the things we don’t think consciously about, they just happen automatically without our conscious attention.  It is very powerful and can work exceptionally well for us, as long as we are in the driving seat and choosing our own destination. Our unconscious mind analyses, compares, judges and over-thinks and can encourage us to live inside our own thoughts which often leads to feelings of being overwhelmed.


Mindfulness can be a gift to ourselves, a self-help tool to facilitate a place of calmness where we can reflect on situations and problems and learn how to manage our reactions to them. It is not thinking about the past or projecting into the future, mindfulness is being in the present, in the very moment, right here, right now.


One of the most important aspects of mindfulness is when we can learn look at our thoughts rather than from them. Mindfulness teaches us that our thoughts aren’t real.


We perceive our thoughts as fixed, solid and real but we only give them credence if we acknowledge and ingest them.  Imagine a dark, stormy cloud in the sky looking heavy with rain.  If you could put your hand up and touch that cloud, your hand would go right through it.  It may look heavy and solid but it is not tangible, you cannot hold it, touch it, or feel it, it’s just moisture.  That is what our thoughts are like and although they can seem real and be very powerful, we can’t touch them or feel them and yet they can certainly make us feel very happy or equally very sad.  Our thoughts can be our best friend or our worst enemy.


Mindfulness is about accepting the things we cannot change because ‘what we resist, persists’.

When we resist we create a gap between what is and what we would like it to be. This gap is called anxiety.

Mindfulness states that ‘what you accept, transforms’ and amazingly, so it does!


Why practice Mindfulness?


With so much positive research around about Mindfulness and the ever-growing expanding audience of people

practising it, Mindfulness is gaining more popularity as a self-help tool and gives people more responsibility

and control over their own well-being.


Research shows that up to 75% of visits to a GP are actually for emotionally induced illness. That is a non-organic physical illness as opposed to a primary physical condition.  Between 80-90% of illnesses are related to our lifestyle and behaviour. Mindfulness cultivates a calmer, happier state of mind and can restore balance in our often hectic life.


Mindfulness has its origins in ancient Buddhist traditions and meditation practices but the founder of modern day Mindfulness is Jon Kabat-Zinn who founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the late 1970's.  Since then, thousands of studies have reported the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in general and

MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) in particular.


In the UK, NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) recommends MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) for people who ‘are currently well but have experienced three or more previous episodes of depression’.  Mindfulness has been well researched and tested in numerous clinical settings.


Following the current research in Neuroscience, David Sillito, a correspondent for the BBC, researched the growing practice of Mindfulness.  His report shows that after practising Mindfulness, students, including himself were given an MRI scan.  The study showed that Mindfulness alters the structure of the brain and can actually change the way the brain deals with stress, anxiety and managing pain, thus creating a happier outlook and disposition. Even though it sounds inconceivable, to acknowledge and accept our pain and anxieties, lessens their intensity and makes them easier to cope with and manage.


The neurological benefits of mindfulness have been linked to an increase in emotional intelligence, specifically self-regulation and empathy.  Regular practice of mindfulness is shown to increase the brains ability to repair itself and grow new neural pathways and connections.  Just like physical exercise though, we need to practice it regularly to maintain a healthy mind and to help improve our quality of life.


Check out David Sillito’s research and video in the links below:


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16406814  Mindfulness for pain

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12295702  Mindfulness for stress


Mindfulness programs have been adapted and are used in Schools, Prisons, Hospitals, financial firms such as Goldman Sachs in the City of London, the Bank of England, the NHS, even Google and Richard Branson use it!


The Virgin Founder writes in a recent blog

"Mindfulness is one way that many entrepreneurs choose to combat the toll wrought by round-the-clock emails, long working hours and other aspects of our accelerated business culture,"


Mindfulness expert Mirabai Bush, famous for introducing it to Google says

“Introducing mindfulness in the workplace does not prevent conflict from arising or difficult issues from coming up, but when difficult issues do arise, they are more likely to be skilfully acknowledged, held and responded to by the group.  Over time with mindfulness, we learn to develop inner resources that will help us navigate through difficult, trying and stressful situations with more ease, comfort and grace.”


For more information on personal consultations, training or group workshops call

Jill on 01638 742167 / 07712 446264 or email: jill@evokeresilience.co.uk


“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”