The Art of Paying Attention
January 30, 2019 at 1:15 PM
Mindfulness can be described as ‘present moment awareness’. Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as taking our attention into the body and connecting with our senses. Through continued application of mindfulness techniques, we gain the ability to direct and sustain our attention. Once we have increased our capacity to sustain attention without reaction, our ‘field of attention’, or personal interest in something, expands to include thoughts and emotions, as does our ability to more consciously respond to day-to-day challenges.
Scientifically Proven Benefits
Mindfulness and meditation have been practiced for thousands of years and in different cultures across the globe. These days, modern science helps us understand the specific benefits of meditation and how these occur. Simple mindfulness techniques practiced regularly have been clinically proven to have a calming effect on the central nervous system. Research shows the positive impact these routines have on the frontal lobe, the part of the brain responsible for a range of functions including body regulation, emotional balance, developing empathy and managing trauma.
‘MRI scans show that after an eight-week course of mindfulness practice, the brain’s “fight or flight” center, the amygdala, appears to shrink. This primal region of the brain, associated with fear and emotion, is involved in the initiation of the body’s response to stress’.
‘As the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex – associated with higher order brain functions such as awareness, concentration and decision-making – becomes thicker’.
Scientific American, June 2014
How we Practice Mindfulness
Like any discipline, achieving a level of success requires practice. Where mindfulness is concerned there are two kinds of practice – formal and informal.
The formal practices of conscious movement, breathwork and meditation play a vital role in developing mindfulness by systematically cultivating body awareness. Without increasing our ability to ’pay attention’ to our senses, little can be accomplished in regard to mindfulness. For this reason, it is essential that we establish a consistent formal practice. The ultimate goal, however, is to maintain constant, or moment-to-moment awareness. In order to achieve this, we must also develop an informal practice.
No matter what activity we are engaged in at a given moment, we can do so mindfully. Take the work environment for example; whether at our desk, having a discussion with a colleague or addressing a group, we can choose to be fully present with that experience. When starting out, a good way of developing an informal practice is to take our attention to those habits that are most routine, such as brushing our teeth, taking a shower or eating a meal. Simply taking our full attention to the sensations associated with any one of these seemingly mundane tasks can provide not only a pleasurable experience, but will serve to cultivate the habits required to live a mindful life.
Our Mindfulness Course
The course we offer at Auckland Physiotherapy is an 8 Week evidence-backed course blending traditional and contemporary approaches to health and wellbeing. Having run several courses since we introduced them almost three years ago, course attendees have reported a range of benefits including better quality of sleep, improved relationships, a more positive outlook, improved concentration, an enhanced ability to manage pain & a greater ability to relax.
The following are typical of the kind of benefits gained from course participants:
One participant in the course was suffering from chronic back pain, which they had been living with for many years. Whilst progressing through the mindfulness program, they were able to change the way that they thought about their pain. They reported that over time the severity of the pain lessened, as did the amount of time they spent thinking about it. Their pain had not disappeared, but their relationship to the pain had completely changed and the negative impacts of their condition lessened substantially.
Another client came to the course with a clear intention to improve the quality of their sleep. After completing the program, their sleep habits had changed substantially; they no longer needed taking sleep medication to fall asleep, and the quality of their sleep had dramatically improved. They also reported increased clarity of thinking, a renewed level of energy and a positive shift in their approach to the stresses of day-to-day life.
Throughout the course, emphasis is placed on developing a mind-body connection through gentle movement, conscious breathwork, and meditation. Each week participants will be introduced to a new topic related to mindfulness and guided through a practical exploration of these ideas. Participants will be guided in a safety-conscious and relaxed environment towards achieving sustainable health and wellbeing.
Heyes Johnson, Mindfulness and Yoga Instructor
Heyes has completed specialist Yin and functional yoga training with Paul & Suzee Grilley in the U.S. and in 2015 completed a Diploma in Yoga where he gained an in-depth knowledge of the history & philosophy of Yoga, anatomy & physiology, Ayurvedic medicine and a wide range of yoga, mindfulness, and meditation practices. Courses are accessible to all ages and levels of experience, placing emphasis on the safe exploration of breath awareness, and mindfulness.