RMIT University, Counselling Service: 6 A.C.T. Conversations

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Introduction SectionAudio Section

Mindfulness and being present

Welcome to Chapter 4 of 6 ACT Conversations - an audio program from RMIT University Counselling Service designed to help you live a balanced and fulfilling life while completing your program of study. The program uses concepts from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or "ACT" for short. But it is not meant to take the place of counselling, psychotherapy or mental health treatment. Although you can listen to the program in any sequence you wish, you should listen to the "disclaimer" and "about this program" files before starting.

This session, Mindfulness And Being Present, will have the smallest amount of discussion material of any of the six chapters. And the reason for that is simple - mindfulness is something to do, rather than something to understand. So for most of this session I will be leading you through exercises that you will practise in real time.

At the start or the end of each exercise, I'll say a little about how, when and why you should practise each one. As I've mentioned so often in the other sessions of this program, it's more important that you do and experience these skills and exercises than that you just know about or understand them.

Jon-Kabat Zinn, author of "Coming to our senses: Healing ourselves and the world through mindfulness" says "Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally." So when you are being mindful you are purposefully and deliberately using your attention, right now and without evaluating anyone or anything. That's very different to the way minds are used to working, as we have discussed in Chapters 1 and 2 of 6 ACT Conversations, and that's why the practice of mindfulness can be difficult. Your mind just isn't used to it.

So then why practise mindfulness? Over the last twenty or so years, psychologists such as Kabat-Zinn, Zindel Segal, Marsha Linehan and Steven Hayes have developed new forms of psychotherapy that incorporate the practise of mindfulness. These new approaches to psychotherapy are getting very good results in treating people with depression, anxiety, chronic pain, eating disorders and even personality disorders. So mindfulness appears to help people with mental health problems. However many people who aren't seeking psychological help practise mindfulness simply as a way of meditating, or of resting or focusing the mind. Within Acceptance and Commitment Training, mindfulness will help you to be aware of emotions and thoughts that you normally want to avoid, and it will help you get in touch with and hold onto the values and ideals that are most important to you. Being mindful of your feelings and thoughts is also the first step in two important processes that are part of ACT - defusion and acceptance. Defusion is used with troublesome thoughts and is discussed in Chapter 2 of this program. Acceptance is used with troublesome feelings and emotions and is discussed in Chapter 3.

For you to achieve noticeable and worthwhile results with mindfulness, you will need to practise. And if you've listened to the other sessions in this program, you've no doubt heard me say it before - trust your experience and learn from it. And to learn from your experience you've first got to have one. That is why I am advising you to practise these exercises daily - so that you get plenty of experiences. When you do, the other components of this program will make much more sense and you'll be able to practise the exercises from those other sections more beneficially.