Mindfulness is just about learning to relax – or is it?

There are currently hundreds of mindfulness courses and workshops available up and down the country. But it is worth asking whether they are all the same and of similar quality. Dominic Cogan unpacks the meaning of mindfulness.

“The majority of these courses are basic in nature, offering participants a chance to dip their toe in the water as it were, to discover for themselves the experience of a guided mindfulness meditation. Very often the focus in these classes is on relaxation, which is fair enough given the numbers of people who feel tense and ill at ease. But there is a lot more to mindfulness than just becoming relaxed. So I’d like to just explain a little about what mindfulness is beyond relaxation or meditation. A popular definition of mindfulness is that it is: paying attention, on purpose, to things as they are, with curiosity and kindness.

“Notice that there is nothing here about learning to relax or even to meditate. Nor is there anything about trying to change the way we feel about a situation. A key insight in mindfulness is that we create suffering for ourselves when we resist how things are in any given moment. If things are going well for us we don’t want them to change. We might be really enjoying the weekend and when Sunday night comes along and we start to think about work on Monday morning there may be a real sense of wanting to hold on to what is pleasant now. In contrast, when things are not going well such as being stuck in traffic or we are preoccupied by money worries, the tendency is to wish things to be different and reject our present moment experience.

“In both of these situations mindfulness invites us to really notice our reactions and allow things to be as they are just for now without judgements. When we drop the judgements about how things should be, we begin to make friends with our experience and with ourselves.”

To find out more about mindfulness please visit www.dominiccogan.com


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