What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is paying attention in the present moment, without judgment. It is knowing what’s on your mind, right here and right now. Jon Kabat Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) explains more here.

Street

Why do you need mindfulness in your life?

Do you ever struggle with stress, anxiety, depression, pain, or insomnia? Are you overwhelmed and burned out from living in 24/7 information overload? Does the persistent, habitual use of technology weigh you down? Do you find that comparing yourself to others, the pursuing perfection, and being obsessed with increased performance and control leave you even more unhappy?

A consistent mindfulness practice has the potential to transform your life. You can expect to experience positive changes, such as:

  • Calm and tranquility

  • Focus and mental clarity

  • Emotional resiliency

  • Compassion for self and others

  • Decrease in aggression and anger

  • Better sleep

  • Decrease in chronic physical pain.

 
lotus-1889735.png
 

What happens when you practice mindfulness?

Scientific research shows that when people meditate, they are, in effect, changing the shape of their brain by flexing the muscle of attention. This is similar to working on a particular muscle at the gym. Meditation is not to be confused with daydreaming. When practiced regularly, the very act of focusing the mind changes the brain. Neuroplasticity is the current scientific term for this.

Dr. Sarah Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, has demonstrated through mindfulness studies that you can change the shape of your brain after just 8 weeks of meditation for 20 minutes a day (published in the Journal of Psychiatry Research). You can learn more about her work in this Washington Post article.


So in other words, mindfulness is ordinary, everyday moments. It’s not having a mind empty of thoughts, and neither is it a big golden halo of enlightenment. Being mindful is living your life to the fullest, and being with the ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows that are available to us in this moment. An open hearted awareness, a full embodied being in the now.

Mindfulness in their own words…

It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death, ought to decide, indeed, to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. —James Baldwin

I always think, “What does Martin Luther King want me to do today?” Then I decide what Martin Luther King wants me to do today is to go out into the world and in every way that I can, small and large, build a beloved community. —bell hooks

Be a lamp unto yourself. —Buddha

Mindfulness is like having a friend inside. —Mira, first grader

I only want to live in peace, plant potatoes, and dream. —Tove Jansson

All that’s visible springs from causes intimate to you. While walking, sitting, lying down, the body itself is complete truth. —Dogen

Discovering the sacred within all moments is the hallmark of awakening. —Rodney Smith

Autumnal—nothing to do with leaves. It is to do with a certain brownness at the edges of the day. —Tom Stoppard