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3490 words
Write a synthesis which integrates your personal experience of mindfulness
practice with the rationales which underpin the use of mindfulness as an
approach in contemporary settings.
This essay integrates my personal experience (physical, mental and emotional) of
undertaking an established mindfulness-based learning programme in relation to the
rationale which underpins its use in contemporary settings.
It investigates my personal understanding of how the shift in awareness from an
unconscious, emotionally reactive state (automatic pilot) (Crane, 2008) to a more
responsive conscious state of present-moment awareness (mindfulness) (Kabat-Zinn,
1994) is cultivated and provides physical and mental health benefits (Williams &
Penman, 2011) that validate the use of mindfulness based approaches and
interventions in contemporary settings (Crane, 2008) like healthcare (Baer, 2006;
Didonna, 2009), education (Williams & Kabat-zinn, 2011), workplace (Baer, 2006;
Goleman, 2003; Kabat-Zinn, 2003) and conflict resolution (Goleman, 2003; KabatZinn, 2004; Nauriyal & Drummond, 2006).
Mindfulness/Sati (Pali), historically known as The heart of Buddhist meditation
(Thera, 1962) is part of the core teachings of the Buddha known as Dharma (Sanskrit)
meaning the way things are (Gunaratana, 1992; Hanh, 1998; Nanamoli & Bodhi,
1995).
They point to the inevitability of suffering (dis-ease), stress the importance of its
recognition, of identifying its root cause, description, development/deployment of

pathways to free ourselves from its influences, collectively named the Four Noble
Truths (Fig 1) (Hanh, 1998; Kabat-Zinn, 2005; Thera, 1962).

Fig 1
(Hanh, 1998)

The basis for the mindfulness practices of all Buddhist schools, The Satipatthana Sutta
consists of four foundations to free us of suffering (liberation), mindfulness of body,
feelings, mind (mental state) and dharmas (mental events), all having the same aim: to
be aware of what is (Thera, 1962; www.dhagpo-kagyu.org, 2001).

The contemporary Western psychological mindfulness tradition however, asserts that


Buddhist Dharma at its core is, truly universal, not exclusively Buddhist and neither a
belief, an ideology, nor a philosophy (Kabat-Zinn, 2003), emphasising the nonjudgmental, present-centred nature of mindfulness, bare attention (Kabat-Zinn, 2003)
necessary to better enjoy the present moment (Wallace, 2006).
The modern definition of Mindfulness (Kabat-Zinn,1994), paying attention in a
particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally has been
refined to form three co-emergently arising axioms, On purpose, the axiom of
intention (I), Paying attention, the axiom of attention (A), In a particular way, the
axiom of attitude (A), called the IAA Model of Mindfulness (Fig 2) (Shapiro, Carlson,
Astin, & Freedman, 2006)

Attention

Intention

Attitude

Fig 2
(Shapiro et al., 2006)

Kabat-Zinn (2004) asserts that a mindful state requires the development of 7


interdependent attitudes (pillars):- non-judging, patience, beginners-mind, trust, nonstriving, acceptance and non-attachment that strengthen the ability to rest in the
mindful state when accompanied by commitment, self-discipline and intentionality.

The

recent

explosion

of

interest

and

use

of

Mindfulness-based

interventions/approaches (MBIs, MBAs) is based on nearly 2 centuries of curiosity


regarding Eastern philosophical, religious and medical/scientific thought by
westerners (McCown & Reibel, 2009) and a gradual melding of those within clinical
practice since the 1940s (Speeth, 1982) (Fig 3).

Fig 3
(CMRP, 2012)

An increase in number of scientific papers and use of the term mindfulness since
1990 (Williams & Kabat-zinn, 2011) (Fig 4) coincided with the publication of Jon
Kabat-Zinns Full-Catastrophe Living, a manualisation of the Mindfulness Based

Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme, devised at the University of Massachusetts


Medical Centre, as an evidence-based practice for safe new avenues of research
and practice in academic medicine and psychology (Dryden & Still, 2006)

Fig 4
(Williams & Kabat-Zinn, 2011)

This first universally adopted MBI , MBSR, arising from Kabat-Zinns integration of
yoga and Buddhist meditation (Kabat-Zinn, 2004) and wish to help medical patients
who were falling through the cracks of the health care system through insufficient
or unsuccessful treatment (Kabat-Zinn, 2005), was initially offered through a free
Stress Reduction clinic to help patients and staff cope with stress, anxiety, pain and
illness (Kabat-Zinn, 2004).
This 8 week course consisting of a weekly 2 hour group session and 45 minutes of
daily personal practice (Kabat-Zinn, 2004), informed the structure of the foundation
year course of the Masters in Mindfulness at Bangor.

The overall outcomes of participating in this learning programme are, to


1. develop awareness through formal (body scan, sitting meditation, mindful
movement) and informal mindfulness practice (cultivating present-moment
awareness in daily life (Crane, 2008),
2. cultivate kindness, curiosity, and a willingness to be present with unfolding
experience (Williams, 2008),
3. discover the universality suffering, learn to recognise/step out of the patterns
that perpetuate/deepen it and developed insight/new perspectives which enable
personal transformation (Crane, 2008).
I explored these 3 elements (Crane, 2008) through the 2 modes of mind that underpin
the rationale behind modern mindfulness-based approaches,

doing and being

(Williams, 2008); doing where my mind dwells mainly in the future and past, thinking
and analysing, and being where I experience the direct, immediate, intimate present
(Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002).
Both modes have 7 aspects (fig 5). Each aspect forms the basis for a course session
aimed at cultivating and embedding doing mode within daily living (Williams &
Penman, 2011).

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.

Doing mode
Being mode
Automatic pilot /rumination
Conscious choice
Fig 5
Analysing
Sensing
(Williams & Penman,
2011)
Striving
Accepting
Seeing thoughts as solid & real
Treating them as mental events
Avoidance
Approach
Mental time travel (past /future)
Remaining in present moment
Engaging in Depleting activities
Nourishing activities

Kabat-Zinns original concept, developed and adapted under the umbrella of


Mindfulness Based Approaches (MBAs), is classified by Didonna (2009) as
Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Specific Disorders (Depression, Anxiety,
Addictive Behaviour, Chronic Pain Management etc.) and Specific Settings and
Populations (Individuals, Inpatients, elderly, carers, professional training etc.)
Suitable learning/teaching models have been formulated that meet modern academic
requirements to train MBA facilitators. The training programme I engage in is
structured around such a model, consisting of three interlinking layers integrating the
doing and being aspects of learning (CMRP, 2012) (Fig 6).

Fig 6
(CMRP, 2012)

This model embodies a single day teaching structure; Immersion in direct


experience, Observation regarding immersion/teaching and finally Integrating
immersion and observation with rationale, science/neuroplasticity (Arden, 2010;
CMRP, 2012; Didonna, 2009; Hanson, 2009; Nauriyal & Drummond, 2006) and

Buddhist Background, resulting in a learning system/methodology/delivery process


promoting the development of the 7 attitudes within the learning experience, informed
by a teaching process/delivery embodying these attitudes (McCown & Reibel, 2009).
The CMRP course initially emphasises paying attention to aspects of the internal and
external world and becoming grounded, by learning to pay sustained attention to a
single thing, intentionally (being mind) (Williams, 2008; Williams & Penman, 2011).
Through this process I recognise when I act without conscious intention/awareness of
the present, (Crane, 2008) and developed an understanding of how automatic pilot is
both beneficial and harmful (Williams & Penman, 2011); beneficial when engaging in
familiar learned complex tasks like driving or typing, but harmful when applied to
processing emotional experience (Crane, 2008).
These initial experiences verified how little conscious control over the unaware,
harmful aspect of doing mind I had (Williams & Penman, 2011), confirming why
learning to disengage from harmful doing mode and entering present centred being
mode is central to the programme (Williams, 2008; Williams & Penman, 2011).
The second half of the course focussed on my learning to widen awareness and
recognise when harmful Doing mode is triggered, for me develop responsive, skilful
strategies when overwhelmed (Crane, 2008; Williams & Penman, 2011) and see
thoughts as passing mental events while cultivating acceptance, compassion and
empathy towards myself and others (Siegel, 2011; Williams & Penman, 2011).
I began this learning process resting within anticipation, acceptance, openness and
trust, essential qualities for developing a mindful state (Kabat-Zinn, 2004), when the
sudden sound of Tingshak cut through my rumination (Kabat-Zinn, 2004) and

switched my attention (Shapiro et al., 2006) to hearing/listening/being mode (Baer,


2006), signalling the start of a practice session.
Following the practice guidance, I made conscious choices regarding what to and
where my attentional focus should be directed (Crane, 2008; Kabat-Zinn, 2004;
Williams, Teasdale, Segal, & Kabat-Zinn, 2007), cultivating my capacity to be
mindful (Williams et al., 2007) and finally resting in choiceless awareness (KabatZinn, 2004; Segal et al., 2002; Williams et al., 2007), until the short session ended.
A more vivid experience of the benefits of engaging with my senses mindfully was
invoked during the raisin exercise (Didonna, 2009; Kabat-Zinn, 2003, 2004;
Santorelli, 1999).
Focussing/connecting with each of my senses (Kabat-Zinn, 2004) within narrow
concentrated attentional focus (doing mode) (Williams & Penman, 2011) instantly
reduced my ruminating (Williams, 2008), reminding me of how much living is lost
through dwelling in autopilot (Williams & Penman, 2011).
Feeling joyful, I rested in choiceless awareness (Williams et al., 2007), observing
attention move between direct sensory experience and mental consciousness within a
field of awareness bigger than thought alone (Williams & Penman, 2011), a
receptive state that left me open to new experiences, like the completely unexpected
crackling of the raisin in my ear that invoked the freshness of beginners mind (KabatZinn, 2004).
An everyday object, a 'lowly insignificant fruit that I tend to eat by the handful while
doing something more important (Williams & Penman, 2011), confirmed that
bringing mindfulness to any activity (eating, teeth cleaning etc.) transforms it into a
kind of meditation (Kabat-Zinn, 2004).

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Recognising the mental shift from ruminating, analysing and overthinking (doing) to
experiential discovery (being), (Segal et al., 2002) revealed the reason the raisin
exercise begins the programme and why it is an excellent introduction to mindfulness
for those who are depressed (Segal et al., 2002) or anxious (Kabat-Zinn, 2004).
Even more profoundly, it transformed this everyday sensory experience from simply
focussing (Williams & Penman, 2011) into an ability to see things unfold moment by
moment, a central tenet of the mindfulness programme (Williams & Penman, 2011)
Systematically bringing my attention/awareness to the unfolding sensations in and on
each part of my body during the body scan developed this ability further, (Williams &
Penman, 2011) through

falling awake rather than falling asleep (Williams &

Penman, 2011).
Being fully aware of my experience as it is (Williams & Penman, 2011) I direct and
sustain my attention (Kabat-Zinn, 2005), deliberately engage, disengage and move
from narrow to broad focus fulfilling the practice intention to develop attentional
flexibility (Crane, 2008; Williams & Penman, 2011).
My attention, however, is sometimes caught, rumination setting in until awareness
dawns, reminding me to focus on my body through belly breathing (Williams &
Penman, 2011) and re-establish attentional stability before redirecting my attention to
my body part of choice (Crane, 2008).
Directing my breath towards sensations or body parts was initially challenging, but
tasting the difference between thinking/analysing and sensing mind while being
profoundly relaxed (Williams & Penman, 2011) eventually enabled me to sense the

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itching or direct pain etc., even if disliked and settle into the non-striving / accepting
present-moment experience intended (Crane, 2008).
Moving and directing my attention from a big toe-like narrow focus, to a broad full
body attentional awareness (Crane, 2008) was less challenging, particularly while
resting in this deeply relaxing, highly aware, restorative, meditative state (KabatZinn, 2004).
I initially resisted (avoidance) (Shapiro et al., 2006) unguided practice because
agitation, distraction, time stress and anxiety surfaced (Kabat-Zinn, 2004), but
persistently returning to timeless present centred practice (Williams & Kabat-zinn,
2011) slowly eroded the driven nature of these feelings (Kabat-Zinn, 2004),
reaffirming Kabat-Zinn's (2004) adage that you dont have to like it, just do it.
Through resting within choice and intention (Williams & Penman, 2011), I realised
that the background felt meanings which guide my thoughts, emotions, speech and
actions

are

expressed

through

my

body

(Crane,

2008)

and

that

recognising/approaching them can relax body and mind, reduce fear and pain, aid in
coping with illness (Kabat-Zinn, 2004) and help with depression (Segal et al., 2002)
This beautifully simple practice

is re-integrating my mind and body into a

powerful and seamless whole (Williams & Penman, 2011) enabling me to identify
less with my thoughts, emotions and sensations, seeing them more as mental events
within my field of awareness (Crane, 2008).
I discovered new and spontaneous avenues of exploration within this practice that
gradually gained acceptance (Williams, 2008), making it more enjoyable and
fulfilling, by applying the habit breaking/releasing technique of adopting different
positions, times and places to practice (Williams & Penman, 2011).

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Practicing mindful movement, although mainly enjoyable and fulfilling, surprised me.
I discovered that I was flexible enough to carry out some exercises but my body shape
and health condition limited some of my movements (Williams & Penman, 2011), as
is the case with the elderly, hospital patients and those living with pain (Didonna,
2009).
This gave rise to louder body sensations and a more concentrated attentive
grounding in awareness (Williams et al., 2007), preventing recurrence of physical
problems caused by habitual unconscious tensing of previous stressful mental states
(Kabat-Zinn, 2004; Williams et al., 2007; Williams & Penman, 2011), weakening my
tendency to avoid unpleasant internal experiences arising during the practice process
(Williams et al., 2007) enabling the process of body/mind re-integration to continue
(Williams & Penman, 2011).
Awareness of moment by moment information regarding body parts (proprioception),
strength (kinaesthetic) (Kabat-Zinn, 2003; Teasdale, 1999) and choice of movement
(interoception) (Crane, 2008; Kabat-Zinn, 2003; Williams, 2008; Williams et al.,
2007), led to the realisation that my experience is underpinned by a single mind scale
that simply registers experience as positive, neutral, or negative, acting as my internal
barometer (Williams et al., 2007), a profoundly powerful and significant early
warning system, that allows me to defuse problems before they gather momentum
(Williams & Penman, 2011).
The employment of one early warning practice tool, the 3 Step Breathing Space
(Crane, 2008; Williams et al., 2007; Williams & Penman, 2011) initially felt like a
condensed version of a Tibetan Buddhist Mahamudra tradition shamata meditation
technique (Thrangu, 2001). This mini-meditation however, expands on the technique
while condensing the core elements of the programme into the three steps of becoming

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aware, gathering/focussing and expanding attention (Williams & Penman, 2011),


providing a bridge between longer mindfulness sessions and daily living and a useful
tool to maintain a flexible, compassionate, mindful attitude whatever occurs
(Santorelli, 1999; Williams & Penman, 2011).
This major shift from doing to being mode (Kabat-Zinn, 2004; Williams et al., 2007)
combined with the new and fresh experience of mental flexibility (Kabat-Zinn, 2004;
Shapiro et al., 2006; Williams et al., 2007) dissolved the preconceptions of I know
this, Ive done this etc. (Crane, 2008; Didonna, 2009), reminding me to approach
practice with a fresh/open mind (Kabat-Zinn, 2004; Williams & Penman, 2011).
This practice refreshes and relaxes my striving mind and reduces body tension, useful
when managing difficult situations (Segal et al., 2002). It brings an awareness that
helps me step out of and relate to difficulties differently (Williams et al., 2007), even
dissolving potentially destructive habitual reactions before they emerge (Williams &
Penman, 2011), crucial in relapse prevention for depression etc. (Didonna, 2009) .
Applying the foundational attitudes (Kabat-Zinn, 2004) within the breathing space and
the 45 minute meditation sessions as I follow the directions to contract
(concentration/narrow) and expand (mindfulness /panoramic ) (Speeth, 1982) my
focus within my field of awareness (Teasdale, 1999) has refreshed, enriched and
deepened my practice experience (Kabat-Zinn, 2004).
I now approach my thoughts with warm acceptance, friendliness, patience and
kindliness (Crane, 2008; Didonna, 2009; Segal et al., 2002), observing
(decentre/repercieve) (Crane, 2008; Didonna, 2009; Shapiro et al., 2006; Williams &
Penman, 2011) and letting them go (Teasdale, 1999), skills used in MBIs for a wide
range of psychological disorders and some severe medical problems where clinically
relevant/effective (Baer, 2006; Cullen, 2011; Didonna, 2009)

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Ive noticed that my mind-scape is ever-changing, from the being-feeling tones of


dawn practice to the more frantic doing-feeling tones of daily busyness (Williams &
Penman, 2011) and that each mind state brings a new take on reality, with none
being complete or final (Welwood, 2000), as in the changing emotional reality of my
destructive emotion, anger (Goleman, 2003b).
Initially, anger dominates my field of awareness and due to emotional entanglement
(Welwood, 2000) eventually affects my lower back, shoulder or neck and creates
tension behind my eyes, affirming Kabat-Zinn's (2004) Paradigm that patterns of
thinking and feeling etc. influence my health.
But, by turning towards (approaching) this anger with compassionate mindfulness
(Williams & Penman, 2011) and letting go of the judgement and story lines, I
transmute it, experiencing it as naked living presence (Welwood, 2000).
A recent event clearly demonstrated the benefits of consciously making this modal
change (Teasdale, 1999) resulting in the 7 foundational attitudes arising from within
the mindful state (Kabat-Zinn, 2004).
Wheelchair bound and unable to walk I had to be reliant on others. This induced
Apprehension and anxiety

what will others think?


(Segal et al., 2002; Williams et al., 2007)

Self-judging (self-talk)

How stupid to get in this situation!


(Williams & Penman, 2011)

clarity/insight/beginners mind

the a-ha moment


(Kabat-Zinn, 2004; Welwood, 2000)

Acceptance!

There's nothing you can do

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(Segal et al., 2002)


Non-striving,

Just sit and relax


(Kabat-Zinn, 2004)

Be patient

(Kabat-Zinn, 2004)

Curiosity

Let's see how this feels


(Segal et al., 2002)

Openness

"soften" my response
(Segal et al., 2002)

Trust

in the experience,
(Kabat-Zinn, 2004)
in those caring for you right now,
(Arden, 2010)

Non-striving/relax

you can't go anywhere on your own,


(Crane, 2008; Kabat-Zinn, 2004)

Let go.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2004)

Joyously letting go, accepting and sharing this mindfully with those in the same
situation felt like an act of hospitality (Santorelli, 1999), offering the possibility of
relating to others in the same way, with the realisation that working with whatever is
present is enough (Santorelli, 1999).
Applying this to my everyday activities verifies this, transforming them into
something more vivid, real, fresh, insightful and calming (Kabat-Zinn, 2004) that
changes my mind mode from the feeling there's 'something that has to be done before
we do the next thing' (discrepancy based processing) (Williams, 2008), to inducing
patience and non-striving within them (Kabat-Zinn, 2004).
Mindfulness is a mainly solitary, deeply personal, internal learning process (Crane,
2008) but the interface between fellow group members and exploratory dialogue

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facilitated and stimulated by someone experienced in the learning process (Crane,


2008) helped me cultivate a more non-reactive, non-judgmental attitude toward others,
objects, events and ideas (Carroll, Lange, Liehr, Raines, & Marcus, 2008; Kabat-Zinn,
2004).
It also revealed and emphasised the normality of shared experience and suffering
(Santorelli, 1999), a shift in perspective and attitude that proved a potent and
important part of my learning/development (Crane, 2008).
Our diverse backgrounds offer us a great deal to work with as we explore our
humanness (Crane, 2008) within a safe and positive learning environment (Santorelli,
1999) through discussing individual (vertical inquiry) and shared experience
(horizontal inquiry) (Bernstein, 1999), leading to a more refined understanding of the
learning process that lies at the very heart of mindfulness based learning approaches
(MBLAs) (Crane, 2008).
Directing my attention appropriately (exteroception) (Segal et al., 2002; Speeth, 1982)
while these interactive discussions unfolded enhanced this process (Shapiro et al.,
2006; Speeth, 1982), revealing my true feelings and reactions/responses to their
content and emotional undercurrent (Shapiro et al., 2006; Speeth, 1982).
The intensity of my reactions during inquiry/dialogue as I became caught in my
emotional vortex sometimes surprised me (Williams & Penman, 2011), led to regret, a
lowering of mood and my inner critic blaming me for not meeting my expectations
(Williams & Penman, 2011).
However, the unfolding of this process has made me more respectful and tolerant, able
to speak more freely and openly, more supportive and appreciative of individual input,
aware of others difficulties (empathise) (Santorelli, 1999; Shapiro et al., 2006;

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Williams & Penman, 2011) and able to facilitate a healing relationship through lively
collaboration and mutual transformation (Santorelli, 1999) aided by tutors who have
explored the territory we are led into (Crane, 2008).
The result is, I have befriended myself (Santorelli, 1999; Williams & Penman, 2011)
become self-caring, embrace nurturing activities, have improved health and a more
enjoyable life, the main aim and intention of mindfulness-based programmes (KabatZinn, 2004).
Through regular mindfulness practice I have become more aware and awake (Crane,
2008; Santorelli, 1999) and experience my thoughts, thought processes, feelings,
emotions, reactions and the physical effects of mental processes on my body more
vividly, as Siegel, Germer & Olendzki in (Didonna, 2009) affirm, and reduced the
power of stress reactions and their hold, changing the way I see myself , my life and
the world (Kabat-Zinn, 2004).
My experience of the practices, concomitant with the scientific and psychological
rationales and evidence is, that they are a very powerful and effective set of learning
and clinical tools (Carroll et al., 2008; Crane, 2008; Didonna, 2009; Grossman,
Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2004; Kabat-Zinn, 2004; Segal et al., 2002; Williams &
Penman, 2011) when combined with an understanding and application of the
foundational attitudes (Crane, 2008; Kabat-Zinn, 2004; Shapiro et al., 2006; Williams
et al., 2007).
They help me relate more directly to my mind (Williams et al., 2007) and to the
dynamics of peer to peer, intergroup, student/tutor and daily life interactions (KabatZinn, 2004), reminding me that we are all students and that learning and growing are
life-time engagements (Kabat-Zinn, 2003).

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