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  • Writer's picturejon walker

FAQ's. It’s a relaxation exercise, right?

I have been fortunate to learn about mindfulness and self-compassion from a number of wonderful mentors. Through that, I’ve had the opportunity to see how different teachers answer questions posed by participants. Sometimes no specific answer is offered. Instead, a mentor will “answer” by inquiring further into the participants experience so they may be guided to their own insights. This sounds great in principle, but it can also help people understand the practice if you can provide a specific answer (acknowledging that people still have to test out the answer on their own).

Posts under the FAQ heading will cover these questions and answers. Sometimes they are from a specific person or source, and I’ll acknowledge that. But most of them are a combination of answers from different people, including, modestly, myself. I hope you find them helpful.

Here’s one right now:

This is quoted from the excellent book Clinician’s Guide to Teaching Mindfulness by Christiane Wolfe and Greg Serpa. This book is worth reading even if you have no intention of trying to teach this; it is packed with practices, advice and wisdom. If you are interested in teaching, it is invaluable. It provides an easy-to-follow syllabus for multi-week classes created by two teachers with a ton of experience. Here is the Q and A:

You say this isn’t about relaxation, but is that right? Isn’t this just relaxation and the benefits that come with it?

Don’t confuse one possible result, a deep sense of peace and relaxation, with the purpose of the practice. The purpose of our practice is to be fully in our lives and to meet each moment with kindness and discernment. When we disengage from rumination and worry, we might find we become relaxed. We can also notice annoyance, confusion, joy, and a near infinite number of other states. And the benefits of mindfulness go beyond the benefits of relaxation alone. In an experiment comparing mindfulness and relaxation, researchers randomly assigned participants to either a one-month mindfulness training, relaxation training, or a control group (Jain et al., 2007). Both the mindfulness group and the relaxation training group increased positive mood states compared to the control group. But the mindfulness group alone showed decreases in distractions and ruminative thoughts, suggesting that this is a unique mechanism for how mindfulness reduces distress.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

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