Spirituality & Mindfulness
Since earliest times, Spirituality has focused on core human concerns such as love, kindness, compassion and freedom from mental and physical suffering. Mindfulness is an important practice in a number of different religions and is often seen as a spiritual practice and hence part of Spirituality. Both Spirituality and Mindfulness have shown themselves to be good medicine in terms of healing emotional pain, awakening us to the present moment and promoting gratitude, awe and emotional wellbeing.
Spirituality and Mindfulness enable us to accept our suffering so that we can open ourselves to being with it, honouring it and healing it. In facing our suffering and accepting it in a loving way, we come to the realisation that acceptance is an important aspect of health and wellbeing. Ours is a time when neuroscience can back up the claim that Spirituality and Mindfulness make a significant contribution to psychological health and wellbeing.
“Spirituality is understood to be an innate wisdom of the human heart
that enlivens a zest for life, a search for meaning and purpose,
a love for all that is good and beautiful, a passion to create a better world,
a sensitivity to the life-energy (God, if you wish) that permeates the entire cosmos.”
Spirituality may be defined as an intense awareness of being alive, of being present in this moment of all moments and this place of all places. Spirituality informed approaches in therapy are practices that teach reverence, gratitude, receptivity, forgiveness, service, charity, love and compassion, promoting a sense of meaning in life. Spirituality involves a way of thinking and viewing that is nonjudgmental and inclusive.
Carl Jung was one of the first to see that many of his patients’ problems were spiritual in nature, which required them to develop their own personal spiritual perspective during the healing process. In these cases, therapy may be understood as having a spiritual dimension.
The task of both therapy and Spirituality is to accept and redeem rather than avoid, deny, cast out, eradicate or exorcise our ‘demons’. By bravely facing our inner ‘demons’- those scary, shameful, primitive, uncivilized, irrational emotions, passions and tendencies we most fear, avoid, and are obsessed or haunted by – we resolve them, befriend them and transform them into helpful spiritual energies. During this alchemical process, we discover that the ‘demons’ that we flee from, disown and reject turn out to be a rich source of renewed vitality, creativity and authentic spirituality.
Mindfulness is based on the belief that everyone has within themselves the resources they need to move forward in terms of handling their problems. We learn in therapy to find our ‘inner strength’ in order to explore a different relationship not only to our thoughts, but also to our feelings and bodily sensations. Through Mindfulness, we learn to notice when our attention has strayed to anxieties, worries or depressed thinking and become skilled at bringing our attention back to the present moment.
Fighting unwanted thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations generally creates more stress, tension and inner turmoil. Rather than ‘feed’ the tension, Mindfulness teaches us to turn our gaze inwardly and ‘welcome’ and accept the difficulty and ‘observe it calmly,’ without judgement, and without reactivity. By purposely stepping back from the problem and letting go of any attempts at problem solving or fixing it, we are able to see the problem more clearly and decide what needs to be done.
Through Mindfulness, we learn that it is not necessary to change our negative thoughts and feelings. Rather, healing comes from changing our relationship to our automatic negative thoughts and feelings. This means recognising that thoughts are just thoughts, not facts – and that feelings are not reality. Such realisation promotes a greater sense of being in control of our lives.
To facilitate this, we may be taught awareness of posture, yoga stretches, mindful walking, non- judgemental acceptance of thoughts, seeing or hearing meditations, along with changing our frame of mind from ‘doing’ to ‘being’ and from ‘problem solving’ to ‘allowing’. Gradually we learn to adopt a gentler and more compassionate approach to ourselves and to enjoy the gift of the present moment.
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