Marta Velázquez Gil graduated in psychology from Complutense University of Madrid. Her major topics of interest are clinical psychology and within positive psychology, resilience, grit, courage, mindfulness, and cross-cultural well-being. Her biggest interest is sisu, a Finnish term for the fortitude and spirit which enables people to push through unbearable challenges. Marta's articles appeared here originally on the Spanish language site. Translations into English appear here.
Author’s note: I don’t want to bring out this article without to give thanks to all these extraordinary persons who have participated with me in this experience. Thank you for sharing.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on the Spanish language PPND site. It was translated into English by the author. Thank you, Marta! We are happy to have articles coming to the English PPND site from the Spanish PPND site.
I had just arrived from Amsterdam, landing at the Barajas airport of Madrid and driving to class. I arrived at break time and therefore the room was empty except for Agustín, my teacher. I approached him and asked uncertainly, “Is the mindfulness course here?”
It was July 8, and I had arrived a day late, but that did not prevent both the teacher and classmates from receiving me in a friendly and affectionate way.
Mindfulness: practice, theory and applications was a Summer Complutense School course, carried out by Nirakara Mindfulness Institute and run by Dr. Agustín Moñivas Lázaro and Dr. Gustavo García Diex. I was attracted to the course because it covered both theoretical and practical aspects of mindfulness.“You are there where attention is focused.”
Mindfulness means to pay attention in a conscious way to the present experience with interest, curiosity, and acceptance. This type of attention or awareness helps us to live consciously in the here and now rather than on automatic pilot or following the mind’s tendency to travel anywhere and to fail to pay attention to what is happening in the moment.
A mindfulness practice can become a lifestyle. Jon Kabat-Zinn, renowned in the West for introducing mindfulness as a therapeutic application, considers it a way of being or an attitude to life rather than a technique.
Common ways to react to our mental states can be aversion, avoidance, or attachment. Mindfulness takes a different approach. It appeals to the observation of sensations as we face them without trying to change them. So it does not focus on changing mental states, but on changing the way we relate to them. In this way we can develop a control over the reactivity of the mind and thus a state of inner calm and serenity.Mind Shaping Through the Body
The course consisted of 30 hours of practice that included both meditation and yoga, which helped us to internalize the knowledge acquired in the theory and to experience firsthand the practice.
Although the mind may be lost in clinging to thoughts of the past or brooding over the future, the body is always here, in the present. This offers an exceptional strategy to anchor the mind to the immediate reality.
Spiritual practice is a bodily practice. The lotus posture shows a great balance between the two nervous systems and is a posture of alertness and lucidity. What position is my body in the present moment? What kinds of sounds are appearing right now? By focusing on pleasant and unpleasant body sensations, postures, and breathing, the practice increases the flow of mindfulness through the body.
Guillermo Blanco Bailac helped us understand third-generation therapies, in particular, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. In these therapies, mindfulness is a technique within a battery of cognitive-behavioral interventions.Miguel Ángel Santed addressed the use of mindfulness in therapeutic interactions. He made us reflect on how far it is possible to be the witness, that is how mindfulness is defined while you attend to the patient. He recommended starting therapy with a short meditation, so that both client and psychotherapist begin with adult mindfulness. From here, he discussed being aware of ego states and leading concentration to positive states.
He mentioned the disadvantage that mindfulness training requires additional time over that required for gaining interpersonal skills. There are also questions about what specific training is required to add mindfulness to therapeutic relationships. He had no conclusive recommendations and pointed out the importance of further research.
Compassion in Life and Therapy
Vicente Simón introduced compassion, which is based on two elements: being excited by the suffering and the desire to alleviate it. He pointed out that the compassion concept and the pity concept tend to become confused, but both have connotations that distinguish them. Pity, unlike compassion, contains a slight feeling of superiority over the individual suffering. Compassion, on the other hand, is between equals.
In therapeutic interactions, Vicente contrasted a compassionate position to an emphatic position. Empathy means experiencing what the other person is feeling, as in a mirror, so that this can lead to suffering. Compassion adds the wish to relieve the suffering, and thus generates a balance.
Similarly, he addressed self-compassion, which means not excluding yourself from the circle of compassion. An individual cannot feel compassion for others without having felt compassion for himself.
Freedom is a State of Consciousness
Led by Dokushô Villalba, first Spanish master of Soto Zen, we questioned our perception of reality. Tree is simply a name. The word tree does not bear fruit. This helped us understand that tree is not a physical entity but a mental representation of the thing that we denote. Thus, we realize that reality is a mental construct. Society lives in a collective illusion in which we all participate actively.The attempt to make permanent what by its nature is ephemeral inevitably leads to suffering, affirmed Dokushô. From here we approached to the causes of pain and human suffering by addressing the concept of ignorance, which refers to the existential state in which the mind is clouded, living in a dream, deceived, and deluded. Ignorance happens when we grant to the impermanent the quality of permanence. Everything that appears disappears, and when we do not accept this, the ignorance arises, which is inevitably accompanied by pain and suffering.
Buddhist practice is destined to dissolve ignorance and see the reality as it is through mindfulness. It should be noted, at this point, that the purpose of mindfulness is not the eradication of the disease, but the scope of inner joy.
There is an innate instinct for happiness that every living being possesses. Mónica Cavallé, explains it very well: “A crisis is a symptom that growth is encountering resistance, attitudes, and ideas that need to be questioned. Behind every crisis there is a sign of health, that is, we cannot renounce that impulse that leads to our overall health.”
The practice of mindfulness provides us the necessary tools for our personal and spiritual development. One must point out that power of change lies in the people, and the commitment and motivation play a key role in noticing significant changes in the life of the practitioner. The question that everyone must ask himself is “Do I feel my time has come?”
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2011). El poder de la atención. 100 Lecciones Sobre Mindfulness: Extractos De Vivir Con Plenitud Las Crisis. Barcelona: Karios. (Excerpts of Full Catastrophe Living).
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Delta.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2010). Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief. Music Design.
Moñivas, A., García-Diex, G. y García-De-Silva, R. (2012). Mindfulness (Atención plena): Concepto y teoría. Portularia, 12, 83-89.
Simón, V. y Germer, C. K. (2011). Aprender a practicar mindfulness. Barcelona: Sello Editorial.
Villalba, D. (2000). Siempre ahora. Enseñanzas del maestro zen Dokushô Villalba. Madrid: Ediciones Miraguano.
Video: On the nature of man and the development of consciousness. Video in Spanish
Photo Credit: via Compfight with Creative Commons licenses
Meditation at sunrise courtesy of Moyan Brenn
Lotus position courtesy of brdwrd
Pebbles and flower courtesy of Kathleen Tyler Conklin
Rock cairn courtesy of a_whisper_of_unremitting_demand