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Mindfulness - a Q&A with Michael Chaskalson

(41 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 22-Sep-14 11:11:54

Recommended by the UK's National Institute for Health and Excellence and prescribed by the NHS, Mindfulness is fast becoming a revered and popular method used by healthcare professionals and lay people alike to help alleviate anxiety, depression and stress.

But how do you get started? Expert instructor, Michael Chaskalson - who has over three decades of practical experience with mindfulness - is here to help.

His new book - Mindfulness in Eight Weeks - uses two of the most popular approaches: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) aand Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and includes chapters such as 'Staying Present' and 'How Can I Best Take Care of Myself?'

Michael has delivered mindfulness training to groups, individuals and organisations around the world including a number of global corporations, the NHS, the civil service and several leading business schools.

Add your questions for him by Tuesday 7 October.

Icyalittle Tue 23-Sep-14 07:29:38

I am interested in the concept of Mindfulness: from what is written above, I am inferring you can learn to do it as 'self help', without a need for a consultant etc. Is this right? And how long per day is it normally practised?

jamsidedown Tue 23-Sep-14 08:01:40

I have tried mindfulness, via cd's ( or rather mp3's) but I find after a while my mind wanders and my body starts itching or aching and I have to start all over again. It is very frustrating. I know you are not supposed to judge yourself or get upset about this, but it is very difficult! Any tips?

Grannyknot Tue 23-Sep-14 11:25:09

Hi Michael. I often ponder about this "mindfulness" thing. The young people at the office where I worked till recently would be all over it, as they say, whilst frenetically running on their particular "life treadmill" whilst simultaneously facebooking every article they could find on the subject of being mindful.

"Don't talk to me about mindfulness" I would say to them. "Go and bake some bread, complete a puzzle, work out a difficult knitting pattern, tackle a recipe with a list of ingredients as long as your arm and make sure you measure them all out carefully. You'll find that during the time you concentrated fully on getting that right, you probably achieved mindfulness". They'd laugh at me of course. And I know it's about more than the above. But when I think of my gran for example, she never knew about mindfulness, and I ponder, how did she achieve her serenity?

I'm not knocking it by the way, I just wonder what did we do before we had mindfulness.

Liz46 Tue 23-Sep-14 11:53:17

Well said Grannyknot. I have stopped myself from saying any more!

Grannyknot Tue 23-Sep-14 12:41:26

... and I've spotted a "till" where I should have written "until" <runs away from pedant police>

Nanabelle Tue 23-Sep-14 18:28:25

jamsidedown - try a yoga class. There is always a time of relaxation at the end and this will help you to clear your mind for mindfulness. Try next time you drive your car to concentrate only on the driving - no radio, no chatting, just think about the driving. We should all be doing that really!
I understood mindfulness to be about focussing on the particular thing one was doing - if sitting in the garden, focus on the sounds around you, the sights you see, the smells you smell. Fill your brain with what is around you and then other annoying stuff shouldn't find a way in!
Trouble with us women is that we multi task nearly all the time. grin

jamsidedown Tue 23-Sep-14 19:25:50

Nanabelle I have been to yoga - the trouble was I was too busy thinking about my aching joints at the end of the session!

henetha Wed 24-Sep-14 14:25:50

Is it just a matter of learning to concentrate and stop our minds from wandering off, or is there more to it than that? I practise it on a small daily basis (when I remember) as a means of making sure I switch things off, lock the door at night, remember to put the rubbish out, etc.
Simply concentrating stops me from having to go back and check six times.

Judthepud2 Thu 25-Sep-14 13:36:01

How can I use Mindfull techniques to stop the windmills of my thoughts keeping me awake? I just can't stop them!

anniezzz09 Thu 25-Sep-14 17:13:02

jamsidedown, I think that finding the mind wandering or the body aching is all part of mindfulness. Great that you noticed, that's it! It's best to start with small steps and to just try 10 minutes at a time and work up from there.
I've been meditating for many years which is a form of mindfulness. I learnt through doing tai chi and also through listening to a teacher called Gil Fronsdal at the Insight Meditation Centre in California - there are podcasts you can download. Some of them are concerned with Buddhism but many of them are simply instructions about becoming mindful.
Although the modern interest in mindfulness is secular and concentrates on the techniques rather than any underlying philosophy, I think the key things you learn either way are patience and compassion for yourself and self awareness of how your mind works.
If you keep at it, you learn to notice thoughts, be they about aches and pains, what you're going to cook for dinner or your family crisis, etc but to let these thoughts go, you don't have to listen to them so you don't get bogged down in them - hey presto - peace!!

BiNtHeReDuNiT14 Thu 25-Sep-14 19:09:37

I would like to know if it is easier for men than for women to achieve mindfulness ? As women always have a multitude of tasks to be completed in any one day whereas men already tend to focus on one thing at a time.

Elsie10 Thu 25-Sep-14 23:11:57

HI - I have downloaded the 'Headspace' App on my smart phone and am learning mindfullness/meditation by logging on once a day for a 10 minute session x 10. Free. You can subscribe for more sessions and it is not expensive. I have done so and am halfway through the second set of 10 x 15 minutes. I am finding it relaxing and helpful.

grabba Fri 26-Sep-14 08:21:20

I was introduced to mindfulness by a fabulous lecturer at Aberdeen University. We can all do it but I think it's something we have forgotten. I find I now read with the radio or television on rather than just read. Right now I am listening to Rip of Britain and sending this post!

GrandmaH Fri 26-Sep-14 09:29:58

I practise Yoga ( when I can get there! says it all really) & although I can relax quickly & easily do find my mind wanders to what I have to do for the rest of the day.
I used to go to an evening class ( for about 20 years)which was better but evenings too busy now & no class really local.
I'm not depressed but as stressed as most busy women are these days.
Would Mindfulness be useful for me?- I have mediatation CDs- is it very similar?
It occurs to me that our Mums were probably busier than we are- ours is often through choice- theirs was necessity as no labour saving devices whereas we often make our own stress by trying to do too much (guilty!)
We are the older version of the 'have it all' generation- I don't know a woman in her 60s who is not rushing around trying to fit it all in & I know a LOT of women in their 60s.

anniezzz09 Fri 26-Sep-14 13:19:44

I do agree with you Grandma H that we are all so much busier than our parents. My mother was certainly busy with housework but she also gardened and knitted and baked and made clothes and my memory of her is of her far less stressed than anyone these days.
The modern world with its internet and instant communication has certainly changed things - some good, some not so good.
What I've learned is that setting some regular time aside, some daily tai chi or a 20 minute session of mindfulness/meditation somehow clears some space so that the rest of the day is easier to deal with.
I certainly think its a powerful technique but I worry that, in many cases, it is just encouraging us to think we can use it to go on doing more and more which rather misses the point that perhaps we need to think about simplifying our lives, appreciating the little things and actually slowing down!

ccat27 Sun 28-Sep-14 12:11:35

I have practised mindfulness for many years and it was a special help when my children were small.I also recommend the complementary practice, loving kindness meditation.You focus attention on a feeling of being well and happy like a holiday.Feel that warmth in your heart and say to your self "may I be well and happy".Then focus on a good friend, imagine a time you had good times, or just feel the love you have for them.Then say the phrase "may my friend be well and happy". Third stage is someone neutral that you don't know very well, like the postman.Wish them to be well and happy and feel warm and kind to them.Fourth is to aim at someone you don't get on well with.Wish them to be well and happy.
At the end, spread the warm feelings to all four people equally.Then spread out to everyone around you.
It works, and helps us remember we are all worthy of love.

Marmight Mon 29-Sep-14 15:39:37

Can mindfulness help when you are grieving? My mind is all over the place and it would be good to contain it and direct it in some beneficial direction! hmm

RingaRingARosy Tue 30-Sep-14 11:41:13

Grieving is the hardest thing to get through, you can only find your own path. Always spend time each day with your loved one who is no longer with you. a quiet time, think happy days, tell them you are sad, tell them all your news, listen deeply to what they say if you need to solve problems. Tell them you love them, then turn to today. Your time together will be so special then the rest of the day will help you move forward one step at a time.

lalaland Tue 30-Sep-14 14:47:23

At the risk of sounding completely ignorant - I'm not really sure what "mindfulness" is - I would love a short and simple summary please!

Jaxie Wed 01-Oct-14 15:16:32

What life affirming advice. If you are a believer, then praying for others, whether one knows them, or be they strangers, comes naturally. I am only a semi-believer, but I find myself regularly being mindful ( however this is interpreted) of anyone who is suffering anguish because of illness or difficult personal circumstances, and I am convinced that some good comes of this. It puts my problems in perspective too.

decor Thu 02-Oct-14 08:49:57

Not sure if on correct path, but I would like some advice on how to stop over thinking and analysing every situation. As I'm getting older I am finding it more and more difficult to be in the moment and enjoy the present - my mind constantly tends to be elsewhere. Not sure if this is something you are able to advise on.

GranNanLyn Fri 03-Oct-14 11:08:51

Is mindfulness just another way of meditating?

Manma1956 Sat 04-Oct-14 18:01:56

Mindfulness has been one of the 2014 buzzwords and it definitely has its place in our wellbeing. I'm prone to anxiety and have needed medication for it in the past when it got a bit out of hand. Mindfulness was something that was recommended to me as a way of coping and it worked to a certain extent.

My view is it's a useful part of the 'armoury' for maintaining good mental health. It's good to be able to accept things as they are in the present - they are what they are - and to limit the spiralling 'what-if' scenarios that can torture us.

But of course we do need to keep a balance. Planning and forethought have their place too. Living in the present is fine, being mindful of the present is good too but it shouldn't be to the exclusion of some realistic anticipation.

There! That's my first post on Gransnet. I'm a new girl.

etheltbags1 Sun 05-Oct-14 20:35:00

I have read and tried mindfulness but I am a constant worrier and worries outdo any good from being calm and restful.
I worry at anyone time that my house will burn down, flood, I will be in a car crash, have cancer, lose my job, home and a hundred other things and that is just worries for me, I worry that things will happen to my family and I wish I could switch off. Is there an illness that causes worry to be constant like mine or is it because I live alone and have no-one to talkt to most of the time.