Mindfulness-based practice

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes

The use of mindfulness meditation and mindfulness- based practises has seeped into Western society, albeit slowly, since the mid-twentieth century. Originating over 2500 years ago and practised by Gautama Buddha, mindfulness was introduced to Western society by Jon Kabat-Zinn and is now a major component of psychological interventions such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and Integrative Restoration. Mindfulness can best be described as paying attention on purpose. There are two key principles to remember when thinking about attention. The first, is that it exists on a continuum from simple to more complex forms and functions. Second, attention is a finite brain resource. We don’t have a lot of it and under certain conditions, the ability to pay attention can be depleted very quickly. Mindfulness- based practises allow us to activate what is referred to as top-down attention which originates in higher order brain structures. Top-down attention is much more flexible and dynamic in nature in comparison to bottom-up attention.

Originating in the primitive structure of the brain, bottom-up attention evolved in order to help us scan for immediate threats to our survival. In bottom-up mode we focus on negative information and either ignore or disregard positive information. This is the type of attention that you deal with when depressed unless you consciously shift out of it. Sometimes referred to as the executive control system of the brain, top-down attention enables you to decide how much attention should be allocated to a certain task thus helping with balancing any competing demands for attention. Activating top- down attention mode via mindfulness -based practises allows you to make contact with value- based actions and bring you out of the fog associated with bottom-up attention.