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     Mindfulness has gained a lot of positive traction in psychological research as well as in the media. There is now lots of evidence that mindfulness can decrease stress and improve wellness significantly.

     How does mindfulness work? It’s very simple. Almost so simple that it could easily be dismissed as too simple to make a difference. Don’t be fooled though, as simple as the approach of mindfulness is, it is (a) challenging to maintain (for those who love a good challenge) and (b) the positive change in your state of wellness is big.

     Mindfulness works by shifting one’s attention into the present moment, specifically things happening in the present moment. Typically, this includes sense perceptions which can include anything we are doing or sensing in this moment, body sensations including emotions, our inner body, and our breath.

     What happens when we shift our attention to the present moment? Thoughts disappear or slow down, we are more alert and the link to repetitive negative thought patterns is broken for as long as we stay present. Initially we may notice physical aches and pains and/or painful emotions in our bodies when we first practice mindfulness. Not to worry, these were there already but just not in conscious awareness. With curious attention placed on what’s happening in you, these sensations can be worked through. It's helpful to work with an experienced helper on this part.  

     Once we get some practice with mindfulness, we begin to feel calmer and better and our body returns to natural, healthy functioning. With enough present moment practice we may realize that most of our suffering is due to not being in the present moment – in other words a lot of our suffering is due to being lost in thoughts of either the past or future most of the time. Read more about how mindfulness is used in counselling.

     Spirituality focused counselling, without any religious connotations or connections, goes a subtle step further. It asks, “who is the one who is able to observe all these things? Who is the observer? (who am I?)” It’s not a question anyone can give you the answer to, nor can you formulate an answer to it as a thought. But you can know the answer with certainty.

     Not everyone is interested in asking this question. But for people whose suffering is intense or prolonged, who themselves or loved ones are facing death or other circumstance that brings one's meaning and purpose into question, this question may be the most valuable inquiry possible. It has the potential to provide the peace that passes all understanding – which means inner peace in the midst of outer suffering.

     I bring in mindfulness practices and questions that act as pointers to the deeper “I” into counselling when it is appropriate and welcomed. I also offer mindfulness and spiritual counselling for those who would like to make that as a focus of their counselling. Learn more about spiritually focused counselling.

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