What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is a translation of sati, a Pali term (the language in which the teachings of the Buddha were written), which connotes awareness, attention, and remembering to be aware and to pay attention at each moment. Sati/mindfulness also incorporates the practice of non-judgment, acceptance, kindness, and compassion.
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience. Psychology Today
Mindfulness training has its roots in Buddhism; however, Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine emeritus and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Centre for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has brought the skills and techniques useful in practicing mindfulness to the mainstream. He maintains, and research studies show, that the practice of mindful living can greatly enhance our lives, increase our mind/body connection, and reduce stress and anxiety.
Why do most of us have low-level, daily stress and anxiety?
Most of our stress and anxiety comes from our thoughts and the daily demands and distractions of our lives. When we are not in sync with our mind/body needs and the demands of our daily lives, we live in a state of chronic, low-level stress.
For example, we can be so narrowly focused on the task at hand, or so caught up in our hopes and plans, schedules, and reactions that we seldom live in the present moment. The stress this causes builds daily exponentially, and because we are not aware of it, our days pass with constant frustration, worry, and disconnection in our families and relationships.
The words "live in the moment" draw our attention and we feel desirous of that feeling of "living in the moment."… But how many of us actually "live in the moment?" … How many of us know how to "live in the moment"? Instead, we are always analyzing or ruminating about the past, wishing upon the future and thinking about how to maximize future pleasure and avoid future pain. Our minds constantly compare ourselves with others, and we are inevitably faced with disappointment.
"Monkey mind" is a term that has come about from the fact that our minds are in a constant state of roaming…one thought will lead to another and another. When we observe our thoughts, we notice that when left alone, our thoughts tend to be uncontrolled, unsettled, moving from the past to the future without rhyme or reason.
The practice of mindfulness: how it works
The practice of mindfulness has the following three components: present moment-to-moment awareness, experiencing the present, and acceptance of the experience with non-judgment.
- Mindfulness works by building our capacity to maintain moment-to-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, and to be present in our environment.
- Mindfulness supports our being able to step out of the negative looping that our thoughts can fall into. It frees our minds from the stress of being in the past or constantly thinking about the future.
- Mindfulness brings about an awareness, without judgment, of our thoughts as we're having them, and we can start exploring and learning more about ourselves, look for the essence of who we are by asking the questions about our thoughts; what is causing these thoughts, how are these thoughts helping; why do we feel the way we do?
The practice of mindfulness is a technique and skill that is systematically developed to allow us to be able to have present-moment awareness and to tame our "monkey mind," so that we decide what we are thinking about, we are aware of what we are feeling, we know what our body is needing, and we live life in precisely the present moment.
What are the results of mindfulness practice?
Mindfulness practice has many important benefits in many areas of life including reduction in our daily stress response, increased emotional stability and regulation, increased ability to think clearly and make better decisions, increased ability to focus and pay attention, improved sleep quality, reduced stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness skills are used in various realms in today's society, including health care, schools, and rehabilitation therapies. In psychological practice, there are clinically effective mindfulness therapies designed for people with mental-health conditions, including anxiety, stress, depression, ADHD, insomnia, eating disorders, substance abuse, and addiction.
We have known for a long time that chronic stress has a negative effect on our health and well-being. Current mindfulness research also shows that mindfulness teaches us many techniques to de-stress and improve relationships and performance. It makes so much sense to learn the skills and techniques of how to be mindful in all that we do.