What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the state or quality of being mindful or aware of something. It’s a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them.
Some synonyms for mindfulness are concentration, watchfulness, particularity, concern, and alertness.
Mindfulness is …
Sometimes when we try to define what something is, we draw a connection or compare the word we’re describing to other things it is like. When defining mindfulness, we may offer synonyms such as consciousness or alertness. Then we may have to further define those terms.
This might be why, in some instances, we define something by pointing out what it’s not – or what its opposite might be. Some of us may even remember Grover from Sesame Street teaching us near and far. Perhaps the opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness. Mindlessness as defined by thefreedictionary.com is giving or showing little attention or care. So, this might help to draw the connection to what mindfulness is.
Mindfulness as defined by lexico.com is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. More closely related to this Mindful Helpdesk blog, mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. Mindfulness used as a therapeutic technique, what’s that about?
Mindfulness as Therapy
Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center (now the UMass Memorial Medical Center) in the fall of 1979. It was there where he started offering his 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) program. It’s been more than 40 years since then and Jon Kabat-Zinn is still considered by many to be a pioneer and master of mindfulness.
Originally, the purpose of the MBSR program was to offer assistance to outpatients who were suffering from chronic pain and other medical conditions. MBSR would help with rewiring their mental and physical relationship to their experiences as a complement to their medical treatments. Since then, many studies have been documented reporting the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness and MBSR.
In the beginning, the medical establishment of the West was perhaps reluctant to fully embrace Eastern practices. Inspired by Buddhist tradition, Jon Kabat-Zinn repositioned the core Buddhist elements of meditation while still focusing on the essential principles and practices. His definition of mindfulness is meant to emphasize its universal appeal and to be more secular and inclusive. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” MBSR restructured an ancient approach to developing wisdom and enlightenment into a straightforward methodology to health and well-being. Jon later founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1995. He is professor emeritus at the medical school and he’s the author of 14 books that have been translated into more than 45 languages. Currently, Jon Kabat-Zinn is teaching a Mindfulness Meditation course on MasterClass.com. He states “Mindfulness helps you manage stress better. It teaches you to become aware of how you’re reacting to the causes of stress, disengage yourself from that reaction, and respond in a healthier way.”
Mindfulness can be achieved through meditation. Jon’s MasterClass course mentions that “the simplest and most accessible type of formal meditation focuses on the breath sensations in the body as a primary object of attention, partly because it’s so intuitive but also because it immediately grounds you in the sensory experience of the body and the present moment.” Jon explains that “mindfulness is a way to tame, train, and befriend the mind so that it becomes more of an ally than an obstacle to well-being.”
It should be noted that during any period of formal meditation, your thoughts, your emotions, and other bodily sensations are inescapable and will eventually – temporarily – cause you to lose touch with the breath. And, when this inevitably happens, it isn’t a failure of your efforts, it’s simply a natural. So, don’t judge yourself and certainly don’t give up. As so many have advised, whenever your mind does wander during meditation, simply become aware of the fact that your attention has moved away from your breathing. Jon affirms that this “awareness is in itself a realization and a moment of mindfulness.” After a session of meditation, try to maintain awareness of the breath sensations, and keep that awareness intact throughout your day. “This is a way to bring a seamless continuity to your practice and your life, reinforcing the core principle that meditation and life itself are ultimately the same thing.” As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “any moment is the perfect moment for being fully present.”
Peace, Love, Gratitude & Mindfulness Meditation
“Mindfulness is about love and loving life. When you cultivate this love, it gives you clarity and compassion for life, and your actions happen in accordance with that.”
“Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.”
“Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.”
“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.”
“Life is a dance. Mindfulness is witnessing that dance.”