Remember Nightingale lamenting that science knew little of the human mind?
“…It is extraordinary that, whereas the laws of the motions of the heavenly bodies, far removed as they are from us, are perfectly well understood, the laws of the human mind, which are under our observation all day and every day, are no better understood than they were two thousand years ago.”
Nightingale F. Notes on Nursing. London: Harrison & Sons, 1859, p 7.
Things have changed since then.
Now we have mind body research teaching us how our brain, mind and body interact.
Self-help, Self-development, Self-care programs are incorporating mind body science at every turn.
And clearly all of these programs speak to nurses and nursing.
As the world becomes more in sync with the mind, body, heart, spirit aspects of health,
So Too Are Nurses
There are several consistent pathways that provide foundation for all self-development.
Self-Awareness is one of those.
The purpose of self-awareness is to identify which of our thoughts, feelings and
emotions are dominating our lives and need to be heard.
Emotional intelligence, resiliency, joy, forgiveness, etc. all begin with cultivating
self-awareness as the first step.
How to grow self-awareness?
The evidence directs us to Mindfulness practices as the most effective way of
What is Mindfulness? And how is it different from Meditation?
This question has become important to me because my inner journey started with Transcendental Meditation (TM) decades ago when I first learned how to meditate.
I pursued this then because I was a three year nurse working registry in critical care units all over San Diego. And I knew then that I, as a nurse, was becoming mired in deep social and emotional issues in my work experiences that required deep self-healing practices if I was going to stay healthy.
How I found TM I do not know!
I had no friends who meditated! And certainly, none of my nurse friends were meditating! But I do recall, that TM was the only organized meditation program course around, and the course cost $150.! I do remember that. I had to work an extra shift to pay for it.
Over time I have become lost in the plethora of all the different references to mindfulness and meditation in my readings. Even though, I did study the research on MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) when in school* in the early 2000s.
It is the importance of Self-Awareness that has drawn me to mindfulness at this time.
Self-awareness is the window into …
- who we are vs. who we think we are;
- the forces that contribute to our inner suffering and self-limiting behaviors,
- our barriers to love, joy and inner peace.
So here is a bit of history …Both meditation and mindfulness are ancient traditions based in spiritual practices originating in religion. Meditation predates ancient times in prehistoric religions involving rhythmic chants and mantras.
Later, different forms of meditation came up through Hinduism, then Buddhism and Taoism. The focus of these meditation practices was on spiritual growth and transcending emotions. Once in the West in the 20th century, meditation became aligned with modern, secular society.
Meditation is the larger, all encompassing practice of reaching ultimate consciousness—through compassion, love, patience and mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation focusing on bringing awareness to the present, on purpose, and non-judgmentally. It is bringing the full mind to an object or action, such as breathing. This practice expands awareness and leads to inner growth.
These practices are useful to nurses.
Jean Watson teaches the practice of Centering as a requirement in the development of being fully present. Centering is the process of going within, creating quietude. This is how we become focused, open and available to self, others and each situation.
“This simple exercise, done as a formal practice or as an instant connection to stop, breathe and let go, is foundational to authentic presence required for professional practice.” p 54, Watson, 2008.
Nightingale and then Watson have known this for years.
I’m trying to listen.
* One study involved a 3 part study of nurses using MBSR on nurse stress and burnout. Holistic Nursing Practice, 2004 – 2005 by J Cohen-Katz et al.
Licia Bushak. Mindfulness Vs Meditation: The difference between these two pathways to well-being and peace of mind. accessed 3/10/16 from Medical Daily Vitality.
Nightingale F. Notes of Nursing: What It Is and Is Not. New York: Dover Publications; 1969.
Watson J. Nursing – The Philosophy and Science of Caring, Revised Edition. Boulder: University Press of Colorado; 2008.