Archived Blogs 2014

Karen’s Blog Autumn 2014 Is mindfulness dangerous? A colleague recently asked my opinion of the increasing number of articles warning of the ‘dangers’ of mindfulness. For example, an article in The Guardian reported that ‘Mindfulness therapy comes at a high price for some, say experts’ see http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/25/mental-health-meditation. Are mindfulness teachers charging extortionate fees? No, the article relates to ‘troubling side-effects’ of mindfulness. Firstly, colleagues and I think it important to point out that the photograph used in the article is not recognisable as a common scene from the secular mindfulness courses we deliver. For example, many participants are unable to sit on the floor due to the painful conditions, which have led them to mindfulness. However, we agree that the article is an important warning of what can go wrong when inexperienced teachers offer mindfulness courses. As I have discovered myself, the skills required to teach mindfulness cannot be learned over night. One of my teachers compares it to learning to teach a musical instrument. ‘You wouldn’t teach somebody the piano when you have just done your grade one!’ Mindfulness courses tend to be based on either mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) as developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn over 30 years ago, or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) developed more recently by Mark Williams and colleagues in Oxford, or a combination of both. Currently, mindfulness teachers are not regulated, though there are good practice guidelines, and as the article states ‘evidence is (also) emerging of under qualified teachers presenting themselves as mindfulness experts, including through the NHS.’ MBCT is recommended by NICE for people suffering with recurrent depression, a vulnerable group and it is therefore important that MBCT is taught by mindfulness practitioners who also have experience in mental health. In the article some disturbing, though rare, side effects of mindfulness are described. My understanding is that these risks are for people who are acutely unwell and/or practice mindfulness for intense periods, far exceeding the recommendations in conventional 8 week courses. These courses were developed for beginners. My opinion, shared with other teachers, is that participants should be screened for any acute illness before embarking on a mindfulness course as a beginner. Those with serious illness may need to be referred to a specialist for appropriate support or an experienced mindfulness teacher can work alongside specialist support for the participant from a Psychiatrist or other Healthcare Professional.   Another article, http://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/is-mindfulness-dangerous also addresses some of the same concerns, though the description of mindfulness as the practice of ‘observing one’s thoughts as if watching passersby’ is incomplete. As mindfulness expert Michael Chaskalson says in The Mindful Workplace ‘It’s hard to define exactly what we mean by mindfulness- it’s more like a rainbow than a single colour.’ In the comments section following the article, 2 important points are highlighted ‘mindfulness unto itself not the cure-all for everything and need teacher who has had extensive training and committed to personal practice.’ I would also add that the teacher should be supervised. In summary, I think both articles are important in highlighting real concerns over the delivery of mindfulness interventions. Mindfulness has recently been built up as a potential ‘cure-all.’ I agree with Michael Chaskalson, that mindfulness is not necessarily a cure but can always help (from an exchange on Twitter). Other key factors are that participants are willing and able to commit to daily practice. Until mindfulness teachers become regulated, it is essential that people look very carefully at the training and experience of a teacher before embarking on a mindfulness course. 2nd October 2014 For good-practice guidelines for mindfulness teachers see http://mindfulnessteachersuk.org.uk/ Karen Neil
Karen’s Blog Spring 2014 People who have undertaken an 8 week course in mindfulness will be familiar with the practice ‘choiceless awareness.’ This practice can be challenging, as we move away from ‘concentration practices’ such as mindful breathing, to an open awareness during we which we notice what comes up in our experience rather than choosing a specific focus for our attention. I am grateful for the recent opportunity to discuss the practice ‘choiceless awareness’ with Mark Leonard from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre and spin-off company The Mindful Exchange Ltd. Following this discussion, Mark kindly wrote an article describing the practice in more detail and you can read it here. In his article, discussing the spacious awareness we sit with in this practice, Mark says ‘Perhaps this is where we find the refuge of a boundless state of being that is not defined or contained by the ever-changing mindscape of thoughts, emotions and sensations. The more we come to abide in this refuge of boundless being, the more we are free from the ups and downs of the challenges of life. And so we become more confident and patient with ourselves and more patient and compassionate with others in our lives.’ I have found that when teaching this practice, many people are helped by an additional practice which I call ‘mindfulness of a clear mind.’ People with many causes of pain, including arthritis, migraine and emotional difficulties find these practices provide significant relief from their pain. A participant living with an eating disorder said ‘I wanted to say how helpful I found the mindfulness of a clear mind exercise coming from the perspective of having an eating disorder. The space between meals (which I see as a void) is a time of great anxiety for me because of the long held fear that the void will fill with overwhelming emotion. I can see how I could use this clear mind work, especially visualizing the vast space, to fill the void and make it a safe place for emotions to enter. It might sound odd filling a void with a vast space but I think the difference is that the vast space has a real substance to it.’ I hope you enjoy reading Mark’s thoughts on this practice, as I have. We both hope that it helps those struggling with the practice, to gain a greater understanding of it. Karen Neil
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enabling awareness for all 

enabling awareness for all
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Archived Blogs 2014

Karen’s Blog Autumn 2014 Is mindfulness dangerous? A colleague recently asked my opinion of the increasing number of articles warning of the ‘dangers’ of mindfulness. For example, an article in The Guardian reported that ‘Mindfulness therapy comes at a high price for some, say experts’ see http://www.theguardian.com/society/ 2014/aug/25/mental-health- meditation. Are mindfulness teachers charging extortionate fees? No, the article relates to ‘troubling side-effects’ of mindfulness. Firstly, colleagues and I think it important to point out that the photograph used in the article is not recognisable as a common scene from the secular mindfulness courses we deliver. For example, many participants are unable to sit on the floor due to the painful conditions, which have led them to mindfulness. However, we agree that the article is an important warning of what can go wrong when inexperienced teachers offer mindfulness courses. As I have discovered myself, the skills required to teach mindfulness cannot be learned over night. One of my teachers compares it to learning to teach a musical instrument. ‘You wouldn’t teach somebody the piano when you have just done your grade one!’ Mindfulness courses tend to be based on either mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) as developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn over 30 years ago, or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) developed more recently by Mark Williams and colleagues in Oxford, or a combination of both. Currently, mindfulness teachers are not regulated, though there are good practice guidelines, and as the article states ‘evidence is (also) emerging of under qualified teachers presenting themselves as mindfulness experts, including through the NHS.’ MBCT is recommended by NICE for people suffering with recurrent depression, a vulnerable group and it is therefore important that MBCT is taught by mindfulness practitioners who also have experience in mental health. In the article some disturbing, though rare, side effects of mindfulness are described. My understanding is that these risks are for people who are acutely unwell and/or practice mindfulness for intense periods, far exceeding the recommendations in conventional 8 week courses. These courses were developed for beginners. My opinion, shared with other teachers, is that participants should be screened for any acute illness before embarking on a mindfulness course as a beginner. Those with serious illness may need to be referred to a specialist for appropriate support or an experienced mindfulness teacher can work alongside specialist support for the participant from a Psychiatrist or other Healthcare Professional.   Another article, http://bigthink.com/21st-century- spirituality/is-mindfulness-dangerous  also addresses some of the same concerns, though the description of mindfulness as the practice of ‘observing one’s thoughts as if watching passersby’ is incomplete. As mindfulness expert Michael Chaskalson says in The Mindful Workplace ‘It’s hard to define exactly what we mean by mindfulness- it’s more like a rainbow than a single colour.’ In the comments section following the article, 2 important points are highlighted ‘mindfulness unto itself not the cure-all for everything and need teacher who has had extensive training and committed to personal practice.’ I would also add that the teacher should be supervised. In summary, I think both articles are important in highlighting real concerns over the delivery of mindfulness interventions. Mindfulness has recently been built up as a potential ‘cure-all.’ I agree with Michael Chaskalson, that mindfulness is not necessarily a cure but can always help (from an exchange on Twitter). Other key factors are that participants are willing and able to commit to daily practice. Until mindfulness teachers become regulated, it is essential that people look very carefully at the training and experience of a teacher before embarking on a mindfulness course. 2nd October 2014 For good-practice guidelines for mindfulness teachers see http://mindfulnessteachersuk.org.uk/ Karen Neil
Karen’s Blog Spring 2014
People who have undertaken an 8 week course in mindfulness will be familiar with the practice ‘choiceless awareness.’ This practice can be challenging, as we move away from ‘concentration practices’ such as mindful breathing, to an open awareness during we which we notice what comes up in our experience rather than choosing a specific focus for our attention. I am grateful for the recent opportunity to discuss the practice ‘choiceless awareness’ with Mark Leonard from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre and spin-off company The Mindful Exchange Ltd. Following this discussion, Mark kindly wrote an article describing the practice in more detail and you can read it here. In his article, discussing the spacious awareness we sit with in this practice, Mark says ‘Perhaps this is where we find the refuge of a boundless state of being that is not defined or contained by the ever- changing mindscape of thoughts, emotions and sensations. The more we come to abide in this refuge of boundless being, the more we are free from the ups and downs of the challenges of life. And so we become more confident and patient with ourselves and more patient and compassionate with others in our lives.’ I have found that when teaching this practice, many people are helped by an additional practice which I call ‘mindfulness of a clear mind.’ People with many causes of pain, including arthritis, migraine and emotional difficulties find these practices provide significant relief from their pain. A participant living with an eating disorder said ‘I wanted to say how helpful I found the mindfulness of a clear mind exercise coming from the perspective of having an eating disorder. The space between meals (which I see as a void) is a time of great anxiety for me because of the long held fear that the void will fill with overwhelming emotion. I can see how I could use this clear mind work, especially visualizing the vast space, to fill the void and make it a safe place for emotions to enter. It might sound odd filling a void with a vast space but I think the difference is that the vast space has a real substance to it.’ I hope you enjoy reading Mark’s thoughts on this practice, as I have. We both hope that it helps those struggling with the practice, to gain a greater understanding of it. Karen Neil
Spring flowers Spring bloom Autumn Leaves Autumn colours Autumn Bounty
© Mindfulmedicine.co.uk. All Rights Reserved   

Mindfulmedicine.co.uk

 

enabling awareness for all 

enabling awareness for all
Mindfulmedicine.co.uk