“Simply put, mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness. It is cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moment’s thought to. It is a systematic approach to developing new kinds of control and wisdom in our lives, based on our inner capacities for relaxation, paying attention, awareness, and insight.” –Jon Kabat-Zinn
What Is Mindfulness Therapy?
Mindfulness therapy teaches people to use mindfulness skills to help manage difficult feelings, worry, stress, relationship problems, and all the other difficulties that bring people into therapy.
Mindfulness gives us a little distance from our feelings and opinions, as it shows us that thoughts and emotions rise up and pass away. When we feel empty and unsure of what to do or how we feel, it can help us access the internal wisdom that each of us has.
Always emphasizing acceptance of the person as they are in this moment, mindfulness therapy can involve short practices done a few times a day or setting some time aside each day for meditation or yoga.
Some of the many ways people practice mindfulness include:
- Daily meditation
- Working short practices into everyday life
- Engaging mindfully in exercise, making art, playing music, or other activities.
- Tai Chi and martial arts.
How Mindfulness Therapy Helps
Most of us get caught, at times, in strong feelings of anxiety, anger, or sadness. Bad habits and urges seem to control us: spending too much money, yelling at loved ones, getting lost on the internet.
Some of us have the opposite problem: we don’t seem to feel “normal” feelings at times when other people are sad, excited, or cautious. We seem to be “in our heads” too much, and if we have feelings, it’s hard to identify them.
We need to “unhook” ourselves from the feelings, thoughts, and mental patterns that seem to control us. How do we accomplish this?
When you regularly practice mindfulness, you start to notice that:
- You can step back from strong feelings that used to control you.
- You can identify subtle feelings you used to miss.
- You can shift your attention away from thoughts, urges, and feelings that create trouble for you or others.
- It is easier to stop and think before taking action.
- You feel less critical of yourself and others.
We can develop these skills through daily meditation, short practices worked into everyday life, yoga, or dozens of other practices. Mindfulness therapy can help us identify methods for consciously using our amazing minds and bodies for the benefit of ourselves, others, and indeed the whole planet.
Under the Meditation section of this website, you will find some simple instructions for learning to practice mindfulness.
For information on drop-in meditation sessions in Washtenaw County, visit the website of the Ann Arbor Center for Mindfulness. You may also be interested in the meditation course offered by the Zen Buddhist Temple in Ann Arbor. The Ann Arbor Rec and Ed program also offers meditation classes.