“Every second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe. A moment that will never be again.” ~ Picasso
Mindfulness has become the new catch phrase for many industries. Everything from self-help books to yoga classes, from neuroscience research to holistic healing centers – the benefits of mindfulness and mindful activities are being boasted everywhere … but what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is simply giving your full attention and awareness to the present moment, as it is occurring without judgment or attachment. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is … and it isn’t. How much of our time is spent thinking about what happened yesterday, last week, last year – or goals and deadlines for some point in the future. Often when we wander into the future or the past, our thoughts about what we did or didn’t do are not always kind. We think we could have or should have done things differently, or better. These are judgments that don’t always serve our growth. We spend so much energy thinking, “When this happens, then I can be happy,” or “When things settle down, I’ll have more time for ___________,” fill in your own blank. The reality is, all we have is right now.
“Attention,” “awareness,” “being present” and “mindfulness” are all sometimes used interchangeably. Whichever term you connect with, the goal of mindfulness is just to notice the mind and its tendencies instead of trying to change it. A lot of the mindfulness meditations will involve bringing your awareness to your breath, to your body, and the facilitator will encourage you to just be present with whatever is going on in your thoughts and in your body.
Mindfulness practice stems from Buddhist tradition and philosophy. In Buddhism, mindfulness and meditation are related, but distinct. Both are part of the Noble Eightfold Path, which is the Buddhist prescription for the relief of human suffering and has been practiced and studied for over 2,000 years. Not so new-age! The benefits of mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation have been studied, researched and documented extensively in recent years with results that suggest improved mental and emotional health, reduced rates of substance abuse relapses, and even patients dealing with chronic pain report improvements in symptoms.
Here is a quick 2-minute video from Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, on some of the basics involved in mindfulness: Intro to Mindfulness
And here is a link from the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA with a variety of meditations for beginners and experts alike. Guided Meditations