Dr Gemma Beckley // Mindfulness

Mindfulness was a three day event led by Dr. Gemma Beckley (clinical psychologist and teacher of mindfulness and Transcendental Meditation) and her father, Colin (a recovering addict and founder of the TM trust). Throughout the weekend they gave brief synopses of mindfulness and T.M, and their positive effects on the brain and general mental wellbeing. MRI scans have shown that regular meditation increases the frontal cortex of the brain; this is the area that contains most of the dopamine sensitive neurons, controlling things like personality, decision making, planning and speech.

We are encouraged to visualise meditation as an ocean. Mindfulness is likened to surfing the waves, learning to cope with the swells of chaos and adversity. Mindfulness is one of the tools used to access TM. TM is like diving down into calm, still waters. We are given a raisin and guided through the process of mindful eating by first examining the fruit using all the senses. In doing so we are able to feast and feel sated by that single piece of fruit. I could see that having a mindful approach to eating might have a positive effect on dieting and obesity. Then we are taught mindful breathing - just breathing in and out, clearing our minds of all other thoughts. It is only about the breath, if the mind gets distracted then you bring it back to the breath. To end our session, we practise some simple yawning and stretching. We are reminded how babies stretch after long periods of sleep, as do animals, and see that this is the body’s way to connect with and reinvigorate the self.

Cynics might have us believe that meditation is ‘wacky’ and possibly dangerous. Only today in the I newspaper Richard Vaughan suggests it ‘can cause damage to children who have existing problems, while the focus on happiness can “pathologise” normal emotions like sadness’. However, during periods of extreme anxiety it is hard to see how focusing on the breath, calmly breathing in and out, clearing the mind of all but the breath, can have a detrimental effect. (SE)

- Sandra Elkins

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

The Brain Made Simple - http://brainmadesimple.com

NHS Mindfulness - http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/mindfulness.aspx

Mindfulness at the Mental Health Foundation - https://bemindful.co.uk

Transcendental Meditation - http://uk.tm.org/