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No Judgement Here.

Updated: Jun 28, 2022

If you read our last blog, you now know you have the time for mindfulness and you know the basic premise of mindfulness (The awareness of now) you're ready to deepen and extend your practice.


Let's start with some basic foundations, while practicing mindfulness we must first be aware, non-judgmental curiosity, and in the present moment.


Awareness:


Awareness sits at the very core of mindfulness, first and foremost we must be aware of what is happening to be mindful of it. By awareness we mean you need to notice things and give them your attention. We often live life by doing many things at once, I, myself am guilty of trying to optimise my time by multi-tasking. The reality is though that the brain cannot actually attend to that much at once so we end up missing things and going on autopilot. Or we rush from task to task without stopping to notice our surroundings or inner needs.


Non-Judgement:


This is, for most people, the most difficult aspect of mindfulness. Giving awareness to thoughts, feelings and sensations without judging them can be incredibly difficult, especially when we all have ideas about what is appropriate, positive, or negative. When we practice mindfulness we aim for acceptance, things just are as they are we do not need to judge them as good or bad, they simply are exactly what they are valid experiences. This doesn't mean we cannot identify things as pleasant or unpleasant, however, it's just that we don't attribute these to being good or bad as such. Emotions are a good example of how we approach non-judgement in mindfulness. Take anger for instance, typically judged as a negative emotion or unreasonable overreaction. While mindful we would recognise the anger, and be curious about how it sits and feels within the body, we can acknowledge its unpleasant effects on the mind or body but we accept the anger as it shows up without judgement or justification.


Present Moment:


This is one of the key factors that differentiates mindfulness from other activities such as some meditations or reflective thinking. In mindfulness, we focus on the now, the moments we are experiencing right now. What we don't want to be doing to reminiscing on the past or ruminating on the future. This is usually easy enough when practising for smaller periods of time but can be more difficult when you extend your practice. It is particularly easy to get swept away in thoughts, one leads to another and before we know it the present moment has slipped. That's ok though, when this happens, simply acknowledge the thoughts and gently return to the present through your breath or surroundings. This also presents an excellent time to practice non-judgmental curiosity.


Moving from mindful moments to mindful meditations:


I recommend keeping mindful meditations simple, to begin with, start short (just 5 minutes is enough) and gradually extend the time as you are able to or as your life allows.

Start in a comfortable position, you can sit cross-legged if you want the full meditation experience (use a cushion or bolster to sit on if this position hurts your knees) but any comfortable position will do perfectly. Take a moment first to 'land' in place or register your position and anchor yourself to whatever is supporting you. Close your eyes if you wish to and pay attention to your breath. In and out, however you are breathing is fine no need to change this, just notice the rhythm. If you get lost or start drifting at any stage, you will return to this state.

Now explore your senses, if your eyes are closed you can imagine colours paying attention to how vibrant or soft they are. Notice what you can feel, hear, smell, or taste. If you notice thoughts you can acknowledge them and then return to your senses or breathing, try not to chase them down. If you want to identify any emotions you are experiencing, where do they sit in your body, and how do they feel? I like to always finish by coming back to the breath, you may notice how it might have changed since you started.


There are many ways to practice mindfulness and mindfulness meditation this is just one example of a simple exercise that can be scaled to your available time and energy on any given day. It is typical that some days your practice may feel more straightforward than others, some times it will be more difficult to stay focussed on the present other days your inner critic may be louder. Just accept that small moments are better than nothing and taking even a small moment is beneficial.


A quick note on when caution might be warranted; Mindfulness should be used with caution in people with active PTSD. People with PTSD are predisposed to assessing environments as threatening, if you experience heightened symptoms and/or feelings of unsafety while practicing you should cease the practice and seek support if needed (Need to talk? 1737 is a free 24/7 helpline, or contact your mental health professional).

I also advise people experiencing uncomfortable physical symptoms or nervous system dysregulation (ie rapid heart rate, dizziness, shallow fast breathing, shakiness) to focus on external stimuli such as the room you are in, not how your body feels or is responding. This is because focusing on how your body feels while it is highly dysregulated is likely to make you feel worse.


Enjoy your mindfulness practice, feel free to comment below your experiences. Remember to keep things simple to start with mindfulness doesn't need to be complex.



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