Mindfulness for Change
Moving mindfulness from research to application to integration: Embodied mindfulness as a balm for 21st Century issues of mental illness, disconnection, and polarisation.
Many 21st Century issues, from mental illness to climate change, can be seen to have their roots in over-identification with the individualised self construct. This sense of a separated self can be shown to be illusory from many lenses: social psychology, neuroscience, cell biology, ecology, Buddhist philosophy, and through subjective experiences, to name a few. It is argued that mindfulness can help to foster an awareness of this nonseparation through its skilful means of focusing attention away from the discursive thinking aspects of the mind and towards states (and traits) of heightened sensory awareness. Research points us to these sensory states being of crucial importance to mindful emotion regulation and a sense of feeling connected. The next step is to apply this knowledge and build from the ground up: to integrate skilful means of being with sensory experience into our everyday experience, not just individually, but in groups, organisations, and as a society. This foundation of skilful training in sensory awareness provides the foundation for developing and maintaining a sense of connection: with self, with others, with a sense of meaning, and at least for some people a deep and profound sense of connection with all that is. It is argued that weaving this focus on sensory awareness through our ways of being can help us to heal from the dysfunctions of the “century of the self” to develop a deeper sense of empathy and relationship with all beings. Side effects may include increased creativity, increased positive emotionality, increased pro-social and pro-environmental behaviour increased immune system functioning, reduced stress, reduced burnout, reduced depression and anxiety.
Nick Laurence is the founder of Mindfulness for Change, a community of practitioners working towards systemic change in the areas of health, education, public sector, business, social enterprise, justice, and more. He is currently completing his Doctorate of Clinical Psychology at Massey University, and working on The Tech Between, a social enterprise that enables practitioners to create apps for mindfulness, wellbeing, and mental health programmes. A primary area of interest is in the weaving of mindful, embodied wellbeing principles into everyday life, not just for individuals but in the spaces that are created in groups, organisations, and in society.