A tool for life? Mindfulness as self-help or safe uncertainty
Moss D., Waugh M., Barnes R.
This article reports on a flexibly designed study evaluating the experience of participants with a range of health and life difficulties in a community-based mindfulness-training group. We describe the way we set up the group explicitly as a 'facilitated self help' group over 20 weeks in the environment of a community centre, with inclusive membership. We show similarities and differences in this approach with other mindfulness groups, in particular highlighting our desire to avoid presenting mindfulness as a "treatment". A thematic analysis was applied to transcribed audio-recordings from multiple talk-based data sources. The analysis showed that participants found the group to be a safe and productive space in which to learn and consolidate a new skill. Participants also described both the group and mindfulness itself as, at times, an uncertain and difficult challenge, partly connected with what could be described as the slippery nature of mindfulness. Participants reported the positive impact of mindfulness in facilitating both enhanced appreciation of everyday life experiences, and greater resilience in the face of difficulties. In the concluding sections we explore the implications of this "slippery-ness" and of our approach both to the group itself and the research process, and ponder the uncertainties and paradoxes of mindfulness as a "tool for life".