Mindfulness Training Support is a resource for people who want to begin cultivating mindful awareness. Regular practice is the best way to develop an ongoing capacity for mindfulness. Set aside a little time to read the materials, do the exercises and practice the meditations using the recordings and follow along as best you can. Cultivating mindfulness is a process. And a worthwhile investment.
The Power of Awareness
According to researchers, stress and coping can be typically conceptualized according to the transactional stress and coping theory of Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman (1984) ). Psychological stress is defined as “a particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being” . Lazarus and Folkman believe, the way a person appraises situations determines both stress reactions and coping efforts. Coping in this situational approach is defined as “constantly changing cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person.”
Dr. Suzanne Kobasa, a psychologist at City University of New York, defined Stress Hardiness not as the avoidance of stress; it is a positive response to stressful situations and the ability to minimize their negative effects. The good news is that you can learn to become stress hardy at any stage of life, and doing so can change the relationship between stress and illness.
By studying business executives over eight years, Dr. Kobasa found three personality traits in those who remained the healthiest as their company underwent a major restructuring. These traits protected some of the executives and managers from the terrible physiological effects of stress. She measured emotional responses, including depressed mood, anxiety, displeasure and anger. She also studied loss of confidence, distrust, despair, worry, unrealistic wishes, inactivity, withdrawal and impatience.
She discovered three attitudes that will increase hardiness: commitment, control and challenge.
Commitment is having a sense of purpose for why you are doing what you are doing. It means being involved in family, work and having a social network. It may also mean that you practice a religious faith or are rooted in strong personal values. Such involvement supports you in solving your problems without letting stress disrupt your goals. Commitment also means dedication to a task and the belief that it is achievable.
The need for too much control can be a huge source of stress. There are two types of control: internal and external. People who have an internal locus of control know that they can’t influence all the external events in their lives; instead they feel they have a choice in how they react to those stressors. Those with an external locus of control believe that they have little control over what happens to them, and that fate or destiny dictates their circumstances.
A healthy perspective on control helps you focus on events you can influence and stop worrying about things you can’t. You believe you can actively chart the course of your life by solving problems and making decisions. Even if things don’t work out as planned, at least you haven’t passively accepted something that makes you unhappy. Knowing that you cannot control every detail of your life and being aware of what you can control can definitely help you cut down on stress.
Challenge is really a mind-set about change. Stress-hardy people are not frightened by change because they regard it as an opportunity to learn and to grow. They view change as a challenge that they want to confront rather than as something to avoid. They are willing to work through difficult circumstances and even look forward to the chance to think creatively.
The eminent Psychiatrist, R.D. Laing, stated that “The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds”
By cultivating a more intimate relationship to both body and mind we raise our ability to “Notice” and noticing what we notice…. Our awareness, our appraisal and our opportunities expand. And so does our freedom. The most time tested way to do this is through mindfulness of body and mind and the practice of mindfulness meditation. Follow the directions below and use the recordings to support your meditation and awareness practice.
PRACTICES FOR CULTIVATING MINDFULNESS
Guided Mindfulness Meditation Recordings
The following audio tracks are from a CD of short guided meditations that are very helpful in supporting your cultivation of mindfulness practice.
Guided Mindfulness Meditation Recordings Track 1 is an introduction to sitting meditation instructions and it may be helpful to listen to this track a few times until you become familiar with the instructions. After that you can just go directly to the sitting meditations on track 2, – 10 minute sitting meditation. If you want to do a longer meditation just allow the track to continue into track 3. Track 2 & 3 are designed to work together to create a 30 minute guided meditation. Alternatively you can play track 3 on it’s own. Track 4 is and introduction to the Body Scan meditation: Mindfulness of the body is an essential component of developing mindfulness practice. This meditation is a great tool to help you develop a more non judgemental awareness of bodily sensations, thoughts and emotions. Which in turn can help reduce stress. Once you are familiar with the guidelines on track 4 you can go straight to working with track 5 – The Body Scan meditation.
When practicing with any of the meditations, please remember that there is no “special state” to achieve. And mind wandering and being impatient or distracted are totally normal experiences while doing these practices. When we notice this is happening we acknowledge the distraction and just return our attention to following the meditation recording without any Judgement – if possible. The judging is also natural It’s all part of the process. Just notice whatever is arising and return your attention to your chosen point of awareness when you notice your focus has wandered. Working with these meditations can produce significant changes in our awareness and the ability to exercise more self regulation.
Mindfulness of Everyday Activities
Pay intentional attention to small regular tasks around home and work. Making tea or coffee, cleaning, showering, cooking, eating without multi tasking or viewing / reading print or electronic media, interactions with others whether online or in person. Pick a few areas where you want to really focus your intentional attention. This helps us build more mindful habits. Let go of any judgement anytime you notice the attention has wandered. It’s not a contest!