Mindfulness: What and Why?

Mindfulness is a state of moment to moment non-judgmental awareness; cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily do not pay attention to.  It is the ability to be aware of what arises internally or externally in the present moment without becoming snared by judgment or wishing for something different. Originally developed in the Buddhist tradition, mindfulness has become an accepted and scientifically proven approach to develop new types of control and insight in life. It builds our capacity for relaxation, awareness, insight and attention.

Mindfulness has been used to develop stress reduction approaches, perhaps most famously Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center’s stress clinic.  There a people with a variety of medical problems, cancer, HIV/AIDS, back pain, to name just a few, learn “the how of taking care of themselves” as a complement to medical care. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work has grown beyond the walls of the medical center to touch many people who deliberately decide to “work with the very stress and pain” in life to better understand it and bring it under personal control. His book Full Catastrophe Living is a practical guide for people seeking to transcend personal limitation and move towards grater well-being and health.

Mindfulness helps to promote acceptance of one’s experience and decrease the tendency in most of to avoid painful or difficult experiences, cutting yourself off from the full experience of living. The inevitable sorrows and dilemmas are as much a part of rich fulfilling life as pleasure and happy memories. You become an observer of the ebb and flow of thoughts and feelings without clinging to ingrained narratives especially those narratives that are unhealthy or unrealistic. To do this you must turn off the autopilot and switch to manual.

Practicing mindfulness techniques you become better able to respond to situations and circumstances by choice. You do not automatically slip into old patterns or habits.  You are less likely to have our buttons pushed.  Your state of mind is flexible, adaptive coherent, energized and stable. You can identify you current patterns and make choices that better serve your well-being, fulfillment and happiness.

“Mindfulness is the miracle by which we can call back our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.” Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness

Some resources:

 

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