What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a meditation practice that involves opening up to a greater awareness of what is inside and around us, without judgment, and by honoring and welcoming all that arises in our experience.
While mindfulness has its roots in contemplative traditions such as Buddhism and other world cultures, in the past 20 years, thanks to the pioneering efforts of Jon Kabat-Zinn's work bringing mindfulness into Massachusetts hospitals, "Secular Mindfulness" has become enormously popular within the United States and Western Europe. Mindfulness is now commonly found in the fields of Medicine, Psychology and Mental Health, Business (Fortune 500 companies), Government, Military, Schools, and Sports.
Practicing mindfulness involves a few core principals, all of which are interlinked:
- Focus and attention
- Noticing what arises
- Acceptance and non-judgment
Focus - In mindfulness, there are several main "focus anchors", or places where we can rest our awareness. These are:
- Body sensations
- The mind (thoughts and emotions)
- Space of our external environment
- Whatever arises in our sense fields (taste, smell, touch, etc.)
A core distinction of mindfulness compared to other meditative traditions is that with mindfulness, focus can be both "narrow" and "one-pointed" as well as "open". "Narrow focus" means to rest awareness in one particular spot, such as feeling the breath in only the tips of the nostrils, noticing one small area of the body, or paying attention to only one sound. "Open focus" means awareness is wide, such as feeling the breath travel throughout the entire body, hearing all the sounds around us, and noticing all the thoughts, emotions and sensations that arise internally.
Monkey-Mind + The Present moment - With mindfulness, we come to a deep understanding of how busy and distracted the mind is, and begin to befriend the fact that the mind is often far from still, and can zip to 10,000 different areas, recalling events from the past, forecasting what might happen in the future, and creating all kinds of random images and ideas. Practitioners of mindfulness begin to have profound insights: that when the mind wanders to the past or future, this is often the root of much of our day-to-day frustrations and stresses, and that it is when we allow the mind to return and rest in the present moment that a greater sense of peace begins to settle in.