Mindfulness is a Western, secular approach to ancient meditation practice. I had practised Buddhist meditation for a number of years and enjoyed it on many levels, finding it particularly helpful for increasing my levels of calm. When I first tried Mindfulness, to be honest, I missed the Buddhist teachings, the mantras and the Eastern esoterica. However, I soon began to appreciate the systematic approach of Mindfulness and began to see what a powerful 'tool' it is, particularly for Westerners who demand an 'evidence base' for any intervention they are considering.
Mindfulness has been used with great effect to alleviate anxiety and depression and has been widely researched in this area.
“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” – Sylvia Boorstein
I had been practising Mindfulness for a few years and had become struck by the fact that more and more of my patients seemed to be experiencing symptoms relating to a sympathetic nervous system dominance - in lay terms, being overly 'revved' a lot of the time and struggling to switch off. These patients might have walked through the door of my clinic with any number of conditions - migraine, hormonal issues, insomnia, exhaustion, weight-gain, muscle tension - the list is endless, but what became apparent, during the consultation, was that their hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) was out of balance and was a significant factor in their dis-ease. These patients would be 'on the go' all the time, get all their validation form their achievements and would inevitably neglect real relaxation. The difficulty with this is that that describes so many of us! Because of my own experience, I became quite militant about encouraging 'active' relaxation in many of my patients and explaining that, in our society, really unhealth levels of activity and achievement are encouraged and are completely normalised, so that we need to truly value quiet, down-time and actively schedule it, because otherwise, for many of us, it just won't happen. It really is of primary importance as so many conditions are driven by HPA axis dysfunction.