Miia Chambers (PgDMS, MA) is a mindfulness trainer who has trained in Bangor University Centre for Mindfulness Practice and Research and at Oxford University Mindfulness Centre (more about her below). As a former Finnish International tennis player, she draws from her work in performance sport for her current work to support the development of people’s wellbeing, creativity and performance. Here she talks about mindfulness and a few of its applications.
Mindfulness’s origins lie in the Eastern meditative traditions and was first introduced to a Western audience by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts’s Medical School, in the 1970’s to help people manage and cope with chronic pain, stress and anxiety.
There is now strong evidence for the positive impact of mindfulness on a wide range of physical and mental conditions, as well as social and emotional skills, learning and cognition and people’s wellbeing and quality of life.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a skill, and mindfulness practice involves the training of our attention capacity to be aware of the thoughts, body sensations and feelings that make up our experience of the present moment, without judgement or evaluation. This training progressively strengthens our ability to respond with awareness rather that reacting in an unconscious or automatic manner. It strengthens our connection to the present moment, to our senses, to our environment and to other people.
Neuroimaging studies have shown that mindfulness training results in the strengthening of the attentional and executive command areas of the brain. This alters our habitual responses to emotional challenges by increasing the probability that more adaptive, alternative neuronal pathways are used. Mindfulness has been described as “falling awake”. We are able to act consciously and thoughtfully and from deep inside, rather than reacting automatically.
“Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying intention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment” Jon Kabat-Zinn, 2009
What are some other uses and who is using mindfulness now?
Mindfulness training can help with the increasing stresses and pressures of modern day working and information overload. As such, it has increasingly been taken up by a large number of diverse organisations such as Google, Transport for London, Pricewaterhouse Coopers and the Home Office. Sporting and other celebrities are also known to utilise mindfulness and meditation with beneficial effects. Novak Djokovic, Oprah Winfrey and Ruby Wax have spoken openly about their practice. The Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London is running courses in mindfulness to improve stage presence.
In the government around eighty MPs have taken a mindfulness course. Recently an all-party parliamentary group on mindfulness was launched and David Laws, the schools minister, who said that “mindfulness could enhance children’s learning, motivation and attitudes”. For example, when applied in schools, mindfulness increases both children’s self-esteem, attentional systems, emotional regulation and performance in class.
What do mindfulness workshops and courses entail?
Modern secular mindfulness training programs draw on scientific methodologies and language that are culturally relevant to western minds. They are taught and practised in ways that are relevant to our modern living. Often the format is an eight week course that introduces people to meditation practices and supports people to integrate it into their lives.
Mindful World offers courses for individuals and organisations, including bespoke workshops and courses. We run courses for the public in Waltham Forest, for example, at the Mill Community Centre in Walthamstow. We also offer one-to-one mindfulness coaching sessions for individuals and organisations. If you are interested in finding out more, get in touch with Miia on 07932 040565 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
More about the author:
Miia trained with Bangor University Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice, and at the Oxford University Mindfulness Centre. She works with individual and organisational clients such as the Innovation Unit, Institute of Education, and Mind and runs mindfulness courses for the public at the Mill Community Centre in Walthamstow. She is the founder of Mind Matters (mindmattersdevelopment.com)
and Mindful World (mindfulworld.co.uk) (as of June 2016 this website is no longer working).