After practicing for 40 years and teaching mindfulness for 20 years, I can say with certainty that I found my mission—to help clients bring real transformation change into their lives through a clear understanding of mindfulness practice.
The words “mindfulness” and “mindful” have spread pervasively through our culture; but in themselves, they don’t necessarily lead to meaningful change
. The challenge is to understand how fundamental mindfulness skills weave together into a cohesive mindfulness practice that directly changes the brain
—and how that can transform old habits, patterns, and reactions that undermine our happiness and well-being.
In all the programs and trainings I lead, I teach what I call the five core skills of mindfulness. They aren’t the only skills, of course, but they are fundamental to building a cohesive transformational practice. If clients are not practicing the five core skills, it is unlikely that they are building a solid foundation for growth.
For the most part, the five core skills are not intellectually challenging—but our clients are unlikely to come across them on their own or to figure out how they fit together in supporting change in their lives.
Briefly described, the five core skills—and how you can practice them—are outlined here:
- Clarifying, setting, and reaffirming intentions. Ask yourself, “What am I seeking to transform? What am I trying to cultivate?” This is an important self-reflection practice you can engage in before attending an event, entering or evaluating a relationship, or working on a quality or trait about yourself.
- Cultivating a witnessing awareness. Work on developing meta-cognition: an awareness of the state of your body, emotions, and mind—or better yet—an awareness of your awareness. Avoid making auto-pilot reactions by first paying attention to your inner landscape.
- Strengthening self-regulation. Try to settle negative energies intentionally by shortening the time that difficult emotions keep you suck. Make it a priority to avoid (or recover from) emotional hijackings and bring your whole brain back online.
- Stabilizing attention. Strengthen your ability to hold focus. Regularly ask yourself, “What is it that I want to have as the focus of my attention right now?”
- Practicing loving-kindness. Calm the inner critic and self-judgement. Practice non-judgmental awareness that leads to kindness and compassion for yourself and others.
These five core skills weave together in a way that enables clients to interrupt the disruptive emotions that undermine their lives—stress, anxiety, depressive thoughts, worry, and anger, to name just a few. By interrupting these energies when they are active and instead choosing to invest in new insights, speech, and behavior, clients are literally beginning to change their brain.
With practice over time, they will become less vulnerable to all the old, disruptive energies and can experience more confidence, creativity, and well-being in their lives.
Fully describing this cohesive mindfulness practice—and the neuroscience that supports it—lives is the heart of the programs I teach for PESI. I hope that I will have an opportunity to share these mindfulness skills and practices with you.