Mindfulness-based stress reduction can help conquer the stresses of modern-day living

Have you ever had the experience of driving somewhere and at your destination you honestly cannot remember the trip?  (I mean, who was driving the car ?) 

Or maybe you left your desk for an errand and found yourself on a detour?

Or (my favourite): coming to the end of the meal and not remembering the delicious, lovingly prepared dish, apart from the first and last bites.

In our minds, we may call this justified multi-tasking but let’s be honest, a large part of this particular form of disconnect is a growing inattention to being in our actual experience.

How we spend our moments is of course, how we spend our lives. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.  – Annie Dillard

Dealing with stress through mindfulness and meditation.Zen balanced stones on the sea

Imagine yourself years from now, older and looking back at the movie of your long life. How many moments were spent in front of a screen or lost in self-recrimination? And how much time was spent looking in the face of a friend, a child, a flower, a stranger? 

What do you want to look back on?

Underneath this capacity to “zone out”  might  a growing sense of loneliness, isolation and fear. We start feeling less like a human and more like an operating system. This is stressful. 

Stress switches on the threat avoidance system.  Avoidance is akin to running away, running away is what you do to escape a threat.  This makes sense when there is a sabre toothed tiger about to pounce but less so now in the 21st century.

These days our essential and sensitive survival response has not been designed to switch on repeated for non-survival threats like traffic, insecurity, unwanted emotions, imagined threats, smartphone pings, Facebook alerts. My body might be sat here on a park bench on a beautiful sunny day, but am I really here?

“I have experienced terrible things, and some of them actually happened” –  Mark Twain

The opposite of “zoning out” is tuning-in.  This is where meditation becomes my crutch to lean on. I have learnt over the years to discover simple ways to drop back into this moment, how to tune in. 

Meditation helps me see the larger view of my situation – what is difficult and what comes easy. I get a better sense of perspective.

Given that we all have inherited these jumpy nervous systems – mindfulness meditation training is a wonderful antidote to modern living.

There is a great technology that humans possess and that is the one of our minds and hearts capacity to direct our attention .  

The founder of MBSR Jon Kabat Zinn, defines mindfulness as the awareness that comes from paying attention, on purpose in the present moment- non judgmentally .  This moment now is the only one we have in which to act and live and love according to our personal values.  It is worth learning how to inhabit it!

With gentle practice and guidance it is possible and natural for the body-mind to come home to itself.   I am continually delighted to see how people undertaking mindfulness classes befriend the different parts of themselves and they learn to be comfortable with them rather than try to conquer them.

Life feels workable. Neuroplasticity dictates that change is not only possible, the brain and nervous system exist for change, for adaption and growth.

“…Nature has endowed the human brain with a malleability and flexibility that lets it adapt to the demands of the world it finds itself in. The brain is neither immutable nor static but continuously remodeled by the lives we lead.”

– Richard Davidson, PhD Neuroscience researcher and meditation proponent, founder of the Center For Healthy Minds

Mindfulness-based stress reduction training (MSBR) offers your nervous system a chance to remember how to stop (naturally), how to learn to tune in and then make choices in how you respond in a situation – rather than react impulsively on auto-pilot. 

Respond, not react. That is the goal. It for good reason that MSBR has been called the most popular mindfulness meditation course on the planet.

If you’d like a more detailed explanation of MSBR, you can read more here.