By Michalis Chatzis
The experience of mindfulness meditation is an intense practice to focus on our inner dimensions of being. However, it may cause sensations of physical or mental discomfort. These are considered physical reactions, which should be treated with kindness and compassion. Nevertheless, when we practice mindfulness meditation, a cautious eye should be kept on each participant both during and after the session in case sensations of discomfort or general distress arise.
It is usually assumed that participants taking part in the sessions are healthy individuals, not having been diagnosed with any specific mental illness. For this reason it is important to receive a verbal or a written consent from each participant concerning any mental health issues they may have or any form of treatment (eg. medication) they may be undergoing. This should be conducted privately, before the enrolment of any participant.
In the event that there is a highly motivated individual, who is undergoing any mental treatment, advice by his/her mental health provider on the appropriateness of the practice is highly recommended.
Setting the scene
The activity should be conducted in an area sufficient to ensure space for each participant. They could be seated in a circle or even randomly. During this time, it is suggested that the facilitator remains silent while the participants find their place and settle down. It is also advisable for the facilitator to promote a silent attitude and maintain it until the end of the practice.
Before the mindfulness practice
Propose that the participants find a comfortable and alert position, keeping their back and head in a straight line. This position should be maintained throughout the duration of the practice and -as faras possible- should not be modified.
It is good to promote a non-judgmental, accepting attitude to all sensations of discomfort or any other kind of disturbance that could lead to a desire to change position. It is important always to keep track of the position of the body and the intention of its movements.
Setting the intention
The intention, which each individual brings to the practice, is an important aspect of how a participant will navigate through the duration of the practice. It is advisable to remind the participants of this element, which may help them to be present and alert during the activity.
Awareness of possible distractions
Propose to the participants to reach out to what is attracting their attention at the present moment such as their anticipations, beliefs and pre-fixed opinions about the practice of mindfulness meditation or whatever may arise at the moment. Make this a starting point to observe what their intention is, rather than finding the words to describe it.
Remind the participants to focus their attention solely on being present here and now. They may want to reflect and express an opinion about the practice but this should be done after it, not while it is happening.