The approach state – moving towards challenges using mindfulness
This blog post refers to information contained in an article entitled “The healing power of mindfulness” which is an interesting discussion between a distinguished panel of Mindfulness experts including Jon Kabat-Zinn, Daniel Siegel and Susan Bauer. The article was posted back in 2011 but the ideas are very current.
There are many excellent points made in the article, some of which we have quoted below:
- “Befriend your pain or your fear – rather than feeling that you can’t get anywhere until this thing that bothers you is cut out or walled off or shut down”
So often we try to move away from/challenge/avoid our fears and see them as the enemy. The concept of accepting physical pain/fear and working from where you are at is a useful one.
- “I prefer to call mindfulness a way of being. That gives people much more latitude in what they’re actually experiencing, because it’s not about trying to be in a special state, and if you’re not in that state, then you’re doing something wrong.”
Have you ever seen someone with their arms in the air meditating and thought, ‘not for me’? This is a very important point, mindfulness can be a private process and a way of being which takes time and practice to grow, it is open to anyone!
- “Mindfulness of thoughts allows you to be aware of a thought or strong emotion as a kind of storm in the mind or an event in awareness. Once you see it as an event or a storm it no longer has the same power over you.”
Thoughts are not necessarily facts and the practice of mindfulness can give you some distance over your thoughts so that you can establish which ones you choose to listen to.
- “The real meditation practice is your life and how you conduct it from moment to moment. Mindfulness helps you to take wise and discerning action, which is vitally important if you want to participate in your own healing process.”
Getting back to the point about mindfulness being a way of being, this takes it further – mindfulness brings congruence to the fore – we improve the quality of thought which does not just happen when practising but in day to day life too.
- “Mindfulness practice helps to ground people in what is true for them right now. It helps them break out of the story, to be more centered and less overwhelmed.”
In a way, this is like not getting carried along with the gossip and the drama but seeing events for what they really are, from a clear perspective.
- “This electrical change in brain function is thought to reflect the cultivation of an “approach state”, in which we move toward, rather than away from, a challenging external situation or internal mental function such as a thought, feeling or memory. Such an approach state can be seen as the neural basis for resilience.”
Mindfulness helps you to voluntarily move toward solving a problem rather than feeling forced to face it against your will. The connection with resilience is very important here – a defining characteristic of resilient people is that they see problems as solvable and therefore move forward into that process of finding a solution rather than backing away.