Mindfulness is the psychological process that brings one’s attention to the internal and external experiences unfolding in the present moment. The state attained through this process can be developed by practicing mentation and additional trainings. The recent popularity of mindfulness in the West is considered to have been initiated by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn recruited chronically ill patients who did not respond well to traditional medical treatments. The patients participated in his newly formed eight-week stress-reduction program, which we now call Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Since then, substantial research has demonstrated how mindfulness-based interventions improve mental and physical health even more so than other psychological interventions.
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” says Kabat-Zinn. “It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”
This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity, acceptance of present-moment reality. If we are not fully present for many of those moments, we may not only miss what is most valuable in our lives but also fail to realize that richness and the depth of our possibilities for growth and transformation.
A diminished awareness of the present moment inevitably creates other problems for us; one may find themselves taking unconscious and automatic actions and behaviours, often driven by deepseated fears and insecurities. These problems tend to build over time if they are not attended to and can eventually leave us feeling stuck and out of touch. Over time, we may lose confidence in our ability to redirect our energies in ways that would lead to greater satisfaction and happiness, perhaps even to greater health.
Mindfulness is a way of taking charge of the direction and quality of our own lives, including our relationships within the family, with our work, with the lager world and planet, but most important, our relationship with ourselves as people.
You don’t need to be a Buddhist or a yogi to practice mindfulness. In fact, the most important point in Buddhism is to be yourself and not to try and become anything that you are not already. It has to do with waking up and seeing things as they are. The word “Buddha” simply means one who has awakened to his or her true nature.