Mindfulness or How to Mind Your Mind
In this program we will explore together the various definitions and approaches to mindful living and the physiological and neurological changes that result from mindfulness practices. This 16 hours training was developed to systematically increase mindfulness not only through mindfulness practice but also by considering the underlying mechanisms of mindfulness and provide answers to questions like: “What happens when I meditate?” and “Why does meditation help reduce the effect of negative thoughts?”
Attention and the Now: We will start by learning about the two most important building blocks of mindfulness, attention and the present moment. The cultivation of attention to the present moment is at the heart of mindfulness. The most common reason why people fail to pay attention to the present moment is because they are occupied by thinking, often about the past or the future. In this session, we introduce the role of thoughts and their relationship with the present moment.
Automaticity: The goal of this session is to clarify the relationship between mindfulness and automaticity. Most problems that people experience involve automatic patterns or habits. Without becoming aware of these patterns, change is difficult if not impossible. Paying mindful attention to automatic reactions and routine patterns of thinking and behavior is a powerful way to decrease their effect. Awareness of automatic patterns creates room to choose other behaviour than the automatic behavior. You will experience the automatic nature of your thoughts, which in turn automatically cause emotions to emerge.
Judgment: An important element of mindfulness is “open awareness”. Open awareness refers to a quality of consciousness that is not evaluative or actively shaped by pre-existing ideas or intentions but is fully receptive to allowing the experience to simply occur “as it is”. In this session, open awareness is introduced by addressing the evaluative nature of the mind. While open awareness involves non-judgment, countless judgments and evaluations cloud most of our daily awareness. By becoming aware of these judgments, an important obstacle of open awareness is removed. In this session, participants experience the judgmental nature of their mind and learn about the problematic aspects of judgments
Acceptance: In this session, we will look at the concept of acceptance. Mindfulness promotes an accepting stance towards experiences. Rather than fighting or avoiding experiences, mindfulness requires a willingness to experience them. Acceptance, however, is a complex and paradoxical construct. This session aims to clarify the essence of acceptance by learning to apply acceptance to difficult emotions and by explaining the goal of acceptance.
Goals: An excessive focus on the future is perhaps one of the most common obstacles in
the cultivation of mindful awareness. The default mode for many people is a “doing mode|” that is constantly focused on reaching present and future goals and the future. In this session, mindfulness is introduced as the key to finding a balance between being in the present moment and planning for the future. Participants will experience the pitfalls of an excessive focus on future and explore the benefits of a grateful relationship with the present moment.
Compassion: The aim of this session is to introduce self-compassion. Mindfulness involves a kind and self-compassionate stance toward the self. Rather than a self-compassionate attitude, many people suffer from a non-accepting and self-critical relationship with the self. The nature of this relationship is perhaps most clearly reflected by the inner critic: an internal voice that criticizes the self. In this session, participants will become acquainted with their inner critic and by increasing their awareness of the inner critic and practicing self-compassion through meditation and self-caring action, they will learn to effectively cultivate a friendly and caring relationship with the self.
The Ego: The goal of this session is to clarify the relationship between mindfulness and the self. At the deepest level, mindfulness practice cultivates a different relationship with the self. The observing stance that becomes stronger after repeated and consistent mindfulness practice allows participants to take a step back from all kinds of thoughts, including identity-related thoughts. Identity, which can be described as a rather static and thought-based story of “me”, creates a room for a more dynamic sense of self, which can be described as an ever-present observer. This observer is aware of the stories about the self, and it is thus by definition different from the stories themselves. In this session, several exercises allow participants to experience the difference between the self as a story and the self as an observer.
Integration: Mindfulness is a multi-faceted construct; thus, it is essential to understand the inner workings of the different processes that underlie mindfulness. In this final session, participants learn the connection between those different processes. In addition, this session focuses on the ways in which mindfulness can be integrated in daily life. The seven sessions can be viewed as a starting point of an endless journey. In this final session, participants are invited to create a personal plan for sustainably incorporating mindfulness in their daily lives after completing this training.
Pre-registration and Interview Required
(Although mindfulness has been associated with many positive effects, research also shows that mindfulness practices may have negative effects on well-being, especially for people with a clinical background. This includes active psychosis, suicidal thoughts and feelings, high levels of unprocessed trauma, extreme anxiety and PTSD symptoms.)