The author has confronted the gurus: Anthony de Mello, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Thich Nhat Hahn and Tolle. He presents mindfulness meditation in clear language. You can immediately practise and see positive results through acceptance of where you are now. He explains nonjudgmental awareness and the difficulty of not embroiling oneself in mental mazes. Kindness is shown to be potentially infectious and good for you. Be kind, he admonishes. Maintaining your presence of mind in the moment is a powerful weapon for inner peace is his main message. He asks the reader to be mindful during daily routine tasks in order to instill activity with changing and refreshing energies. Awareness is enjoyable, relaxing, and liberating: this is how to cope with impatience. He demands "mindfulness in relation to the to-do lists with which we torment ourselves".
His methodology comes directly from Buddhism and Hinduism: attention to the breath as the supreme meditation, and also the body scan using the concentration on breath as you scan your own body for tension locations. This can be done while having a relaxing walk, or while standing still. His personal counsel is to build your own Shangri-La of peace amidst the busy world. Such a meditation routine aids sleep, reduces panic and gives more emotional control. Anger and resentment are treated as unmindfulness. Rumination and depression, he treats in the mindfulness sphere of mood and thought. OMorain is addressing the average reader, not chronic cases when he states: "Catastrophising can make current emotional experience worse than it needs to be. It can throw a person into a depression or into a blizzard of anxiety." His comments on memory adopt the Buddhist tenet of alaya: that the storehouse of memories are not all bliss, many needing time to be processed but safer kept locked in the cellar as it were-he might have developed this topic.
Mindfulness entering the arenas of suffering, pain and trauma find him at full stretch. Meditation cannot but offer something positive if practised. It is as old as Psalm 46: "Be still and know that I am God". But he does not force mindfulness as a panacea. It may not work in serious injury, may not palliate every psychiatric disorder; it is not an anaesthetic, is not the answer to everything except for the fairly camper, it might well prove to be euphoric.
- Books Ireland, Summer 2010
Mindfulness is an idea that seems in vogue at the moment in both religious and secular circles. To some it may seem a vague concept and we are not sure that OMorain helps when he defines it as involving "deliberate awareness of the flow of our present moment experiences". OMorain himself is a counsellor and he also writes for various Irish newspapers. He has written one book already, Like a Man : a guide to mens emotional well-being while his Irish Times column has been published as a collection under the title Thats Men. This book is directed at a wider readership and is a guide to mindfulness for both the beginner and the established practitioner. He considers mindfulness in the context of everyday life, in workshops and in sport, particularly tennis and golf. Reading the book one discovers that mindfulness derives from the Buddhist tradition. OMorain seeks to tutor the reader through a series of exercises, mental and physical, and to show how this can help us in times of stress, in our relationships, coping with the hustle and bustle of everyday life and the rest of lifes challenges.
- Books Ireland, February 2010
A timely book, this. People are stressed in recession and need to learn to live deliberately in the now. Mindfulness, the author summarises, is an intentional and accepting awareness of what I experience right now.
No jumping ahead and asking oneself supposing this or that happened, and then, and then? Yes, we have to be calmly sensible in planning ahead, but not catastrophising. Many of the fears into which we put so much energy, never happen. Pay attention to the experience of the present moment. Buddhism made [such] mindfulness central to its practice and early Hindu texts allude to it.
As the author points out, being mindful is not easy. You have to pay attention to whatever is going on for you right now. We need help in learning to wait and give things time. Even in our age of stress, this is possible, actually saves time in the end and is enriching. Padraig OMorain helps us to accept that you drift away and then bring yourself back kindly to awareness. The word kindly typifies the gentleness that should characterise the art of mindfulness.
OMorain gives a simple example of mindfulness in our attitude to the weather. Have I labelled wind and rain as bad? If so, I may face a wet day by being hunched and having a grim expression. Mindfulness enables us to learn the alternative attitude. The goodness of practising mindfulness takes time to become an habitual way of life for us. It helps us to be aware of the ordinary and good to which we may have become blinded because of familiarity or routine.
The author also engages us with the use of mindfulness in sport where people tend to be unduly self critical, worried about failure and fantasising about the result of either winning or losing. Indeed such concerns can affect our socialising about which many of us worry unnecessarily. Sections about mindfulness in anxiety and depression are most interesting. This book could enable life-enhancing experiences in many areas of relationships.
- Angela Macnamara, The Irish Catholic, 4th February 2010
One day about 20 years ago I was browsing in a bookshop at lunchtime when I came across a book on Buddhist meditation. I bought it - I still dont know why - went for a coffee and read a chapter on mindfulness, something I had never heard of before. That day, mindfulness practice became part of my life.
And its a terrific tool to counter daily stresses. For instance, if I am in a blizzard of work my tension levels fall immediately when I deliberately become aware of my breathing, of sounds around me and so on. In relationships, mindfulness has given me that vital space in which to realise it would be better to keep my mouth shut than to say something stupidly unhelpful.
And do you ever drive from Point A to Point B unsure of how you actually got there? Me too - but mindfulness has helped me to cut down the amount of unconscious driving I do and that, literally, is a life saver.
The list goes on but the bottom line is that mindfulness, which costs nothing, has brought me immense benefits over the years and thats what I call a good deal, recession or no recession.
Mindfulness has become widely recognised as a key to our emotional and mental wellbeing. Some people use it to reduce stress, some to combat boredom, some to improve relationships and some to deal with challenging situations at work.
So what is mindfulness? It involves taking your attention away from the past and future and from your imagination and instead becoming aware of what is going on right now
You can do this easily as you go about your daily life.
Notice with your senses:
What you are seeing and hearing.
That you are breathing, standing, walking or sitting or lying down.
The air against your skin as you move along.
Your mind will keep drifting out of the present so you need to keep bringing it back.
Mindfulness has been used for thousands of years in the Buddhist tradition to improve peoples experience of life. It lowers anxiety and stress and provides an antidote to brooding (which can lead to depression).
It also helps you to avoid endlessly repeating distressing or unhelpful thoughts, images and mental scenes. Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now and A New Earth, says we need to "realise deeply that the present moment is all you ever have."
Here is a basic mindfulness exercise.-As you do it, your mind will drift away but just bring it back gently Take a few moments to notice your response after each question:
Whats happening around you right now?
What do you hear?
What do you see?
How do your clothes feel against your body?
How are you breathing - long breath, short breath, rough, smooth?
Why would you want to get in touch with your here-and-now experience in this way? In Buddhist psychology the answer would go something like this: When something happens - a thought, rain, waking up during the night, seeing a colleague at work - we have a reaction.
That reaction is made up of memories, emotions, thoughts, physical feelings. We can get swept away by these, to our detriment. By practicing mindfulness we can spot this happening, free ourselves of our automatic reactions and make better choices. Here are two examples:
- I see my unpleasant colleague at work. Automatically, I cringe. With mindfulness of my breathing and of what I am seeing and hearing I remain self-possessed. My colleague is still unpleasant but no longer has the same effect on me.
- Its the middle of the night. I wake up. Automatically, I torment myself with fears, worries, resentments, regrets. With mindfulness I notice the feel of the bedclothes, the warmth of the bed, my breathing, my tummy going up and down and I have a better chance of getting to sleep.
Mindfulness costs nothing. Try it out and see.
Staying in touch with your actions - Padraigs tip for staying mindful are:
Start of day
When you get up in the morning, and before the usual rush of thoughts hits you, just pause to notice your breathing. As you walk away from the bed, notice your feet against the floor. As you brush your teeth, just notice what you are doing. Each time your mind drifts away, bring it back to what you are doing. This will give you a better start to your day.
Choose one or two habitual behaviours and decide when performing them you will maintain awareness of what you are doing, rather than daydreaming or getting caught up in fears or anxieties.
Examples: Using the telephone, going up or down stairs, using a computer keyboard, tidying, washing up.
Awareness of breathing
As you go through your day, notice your breathing. Are you breathing with your chest or your tummy (abdominal breathing is usually more relaxing)? As you breathe, can you feel movement in your diaphragm? Can you feel the air entering and leaving your nostrils?
- Irish Examiner 5th March 2010
Mindfulness is everywhere. The past 10 years have seen an enormous increase in interest in the concept of mindfulness throughout many countries in the Western world, including Ireland. More specifically, the past decade has seen a substantial increase in both professional :Had public interest in the practical application of rnindfulness-based psychological techniques in everyday life, in order to relieve psychological symptoms, treat psychiatric disorders and enhance individual wellness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is, essentially, a careful awareness of ones own thoughts and feelings. The concept of mindfulness, as the term is presently being used, finds most of its roots in Hindu and Buddhist psychology, where it is known as sati and forms an important element of meditative practice (Brazier, 2003). The aim of mindfulness practice is to promote connection with, and awareness of, bodily and cognitive states and processes. Mindfulness involves observing and her than judging, changing or acting.
There are very many ways to practice or cultivate mindfulness. One simple way is to provide a verbal label for certain predetermined phenomena throughout the course of the day; e.g., one could decide to mentally label the position of ones body each time it changes throughout the day (i.e. "standing", "sitting", etc). Similar techniques can be equally applied to emotional and cognitive phenomena, labelling each one as it is observed but not trying to change, interpret or linger upon it.
In Buddhist psychology and spirituality, cultivation of mindfulness is an important component of meditative practice (e.g., mindfulness of breathing) and is linked with both meditation for the attainment of calm (samatha) and meditation for the development of insight (vipassana) (Kabat-Zinn, 2005). In recent years, mindfulness has also been recognised as a uniquely valuable component in many programmes of psychotherapy, for at least some individuals (Segal et al, 2001; Germer et al, 2005). Therapeutic modalities which now commonly incorporate at least some element of mindfulness include cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) (Kumar, 2002), dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) (Palmer, 2002; Robins, 2002) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) (Hayes, 2002).
Light Mind: Mindfulness for Daily Living
In this book, Padraig OMorain provides an informative and extremely useful overview of the concept of mindfulness and some of its practical applications in everyday life. The first chapter provides an especially useful introduction to the concept of mindfulness, noting that it involves not just an awareness of the present moment and a non-judgmental attitude, but also kindness towards oneself. This is a critical point: Mindfulness involves not only calmness, awareness and a non-judgmental attitude, but also kindness towards oneself and others. Its this combination of qualities that appears to give mindfulness-based practices their unique strength and broad-based applicability across multiple psychological states and across differing cultures and traditions.
In further chapters, Mr OMorain explores many of these issues in greater depth, providing especially involving accounts of the usefulness of mindfulness in counselling, psychotherapy and mental health settings. There are also clear, pragmatic mindfulness exercises for the reader included throughout the book, as well as some very welcome notes of common sense, including the advice that mindfulness, although powerful and extremely useful, does not provide answers for everything.
Overall, this is an excellent book, clearly written and immensely informative, just as one would expect from this author. OMorain is a counsellor who writes regular newspaper columns and also occasionally writes for IMN. In addition, he is author of Like a Man: A Guide to Mens Emotional Well-Being (Veritas, 2007) and Thats Men (Veritas, 2008) - a collection of his columns for The Irish Times.
Light Mind: Mindfulness for Daily Living displays the clarity and precision that one has come to expect from Mr OMorains newspaper columns, as well the depth and breadth of analysis that one expects from his previous books. Above all, however, this is a practical, thoughtful and immensely mindful book, which, white not shying away from the challenges of mindfulness, conveys a clear sense of purpose and value in mindfulness-based practice, and will undoubtedly encourage many readers to try out some of these techniques for themselves.
The relevance of mindfulness to clinical care in Ireland
The practice of mindfulness finds its roots, as Mr OMorain notes, in both Buddhist and early Hindu traditions. And yet, the concept of mindfulness seems as fresh today as it ever was, despite a lengthy history over many centuries in the myriad psychologies of India and Asia. So what, then, is the relevance of mindfulness-based techniques for clinical care providers in 21st century Ireland?
In the first instance, it is readily apparent to most providers of healthcare and psychological services in Ireland, that recent years have seen greatly increased ethnic and cultural diversity in the Irish population in general, and, in particular, amongst mental health service-users and individuals seeking psychological assistance. These demographic changes have created a clear need for greater understanding of different psychological traditions, including non-Western ones (Kelly, 2008).
Western-style psychotherapies have also recently started to incorporate mindfulness-based practice more explicitly than heretofore (Mace, 2008). These therapeutic techniques include, amongst others, CBT and DBT, both of which have substantial roots in various elements of traditional Buddhist psychology, including the cultivation of mindfulness. To date, depression is probably the psychiatric condition for which the role of contemplative and mindfulness-based techniques has been explored in greatest depth. Williams et al (2007), in particular, describe "mindfulness-based cognitive therapy" for depression, which combines mindfulness-based techniques from Buddhist traditions with Western cognitive therapeutic approaches to depression. This involves a combination of mindfulness-meditation, psycho-education and cognitive therapy in order to reduce symptoms of depression and promote sustainable, balanced recovery
In addition, "Buddhist psychotherapy is increasingly practiced by certain psychotherapists and counsellors, and these approaches may, subsequently, offer a different and challenging perspective in more conventional Western mental healthcare settings (Epstein, 2007). This may also lead to a situation where patients of more traditional mental health and psychological support services are engaged in mindfulness-based therapies with other therapists. Background knowledge of the psychology underlying these therapies may be of assistance to psychiatrists and psychologists providing care within the more traditional frameworks.
Finally, recent years have seen increased scientific and public interest in the neuroscience of contemplative practice and, especially, the effects of long-term meditation on the brain (Kelly, 2008; Hanson, 2009). These developments, along with increased interest in the usefulness of meditation for psychotherapists themselves (Simpkins and Simpkins, 2009), suggest that mindfulness-based therapies are likely to be the focus of increased research, teaching and clinical activity in Ireland for many years to come.
- Dr Brendan Kelly, a senior lecturer in psychiatry at UCD, Dublin