What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is one of the core components of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). Nobel Peace Prize nominee, prolific author and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh describes mindfulness as “the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment…the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life…to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing”

When used in daily life, mindfulness teaches us to slow down and process what we are doing in the moment as a way to live more fully in the present and to appreciate the miracle of life. When mindful we bring attention into the present and reduce judgements our mind is capable of.

When practising mindfulness we are not evaluating an experience as good or bad, right or wrong. We observe our thinking, judgements, or feelings (for example statements/thoughts such as: I should be…, I should not be…, this is good, bad, nice, irritating) and then move back to simply observing and describing the experience we are living.

Mindfulness is best not forced, letting go of achieving anything or expecting anything in particular. Being mindful is approaching an experience with curiosity, with lightheartedness, with an open mind as much as possible with kindness and compassion.

Mindfulness is an approach with the intent to stay right where you are, with whatever is there for you in the moment. Mindfulness is allowing your experience to be as it is, without attempting to alter it’s nature, without reacting to the experience. Mindfulness is not relaxation (relaxation maybe a by product of mindfulness, but in being mindful we are not trying to change how we feel), nor a technique…it is a way of being, being present in the moment and experiencing the moment as it is.

Many of the techniques used in DBT are based on the teaching and inspiration of Thich Nhat Hanh often referred to as the most beloved Buddhist teacher in the West. Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings and practices have wide appeal to people from various religious, spiritual, and political backgrounds. Nhat Hanh offers a practice of “mindfulness” that is beneficial for people of all faiths, by helping us resist and transform the speed and violence of our modern society. His life and teachings have deeply influenced millions of people, including scores of luminaries in different fields: politician Jerry Brown, civil rights champion Martin Luther King, Jr., eco-activist Joanna Macy, and Catholic mystic Thomas Merton – to name a few.

For more information about mindfulness please refer to Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village Practice Centre at http://www.plumvillage.org/

The Australian DBT Institute, established in 2004, provides a range of professional development opportunities for Mental Health Professionals seeking to become proficient in dialectical behaviour therapy-informed approaches. Our team is led by experienced DBT clinicians who have received training, mentoring, and development from Marsha Linehan’s team at Behavioral Tech LLC (2004-8). The Australian DBT Institute has led high-fidelity DBT programs since 2004 through the Essentia Health Clinics in Melbourne, Sydney and Online. Our clinical programs have included comprehensive DBT and modified DBT programs for specific populations including youth, carers, Indigenous Australians, correctional settings and psychiatric emergency settings.