Mindfulness has shown to produce numerous and significant benefits, including reduced stress, rumination, and emotional reactivity, and increased focus, memory retention, cognitive flexibility, and relationship satisfaction. Mindfulness can greatly benefit the body, mind, and spirit.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. is a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher engaged in bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society. His definition of mindfulness summarizes this sometimes misunderstood practice.
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”
It is often thought that meditation, or mindfulness meditation, means shutting off or blocking out thoughts. Often people feel discouraged and like they are doing something wrong when their mind starts to produce thoughts. Thinking is what the mind does. It will not stop and we cannot expect it to. Instead mindfulness meditation involves observing those thoughts as they come and go, trying not to attach to them or give them power over us. They are just thoughts, often they are even untrue thoughts.
Meditation is a practice just like any other. Practicing mindfulness meditation will help us to become more skilled at being in the moment, not attaching unhealthily to our past or future; It will help us become more calm, relaxed and able to ride the waves of life. We use the word practice because purposely practicing mindfulness is helping to hone this skill. If you have ever played a sport or an instrument, you will likely recall that your skill level at the beginning was weak. If you persevered and stayed dedicated to practice, I am sure your skill improved. Mindfulness is the same as any other skill development.
I highly recommend investigating the website www.meditationoasis.com for free resources, including guided meditations and podcasts. Dr. Kabat-Zinn has published several approachable and easy to follow books on mindfulness that I also highly recommend:
- Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness (Delta, 1991),
- Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life (Hyperion, 1994),
- Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting (Hyperion, 1997),
- Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness (Hyperion).
- Guided Mindfulness Meditation (audiobook)
- Mindfulness for Beginners (audiobook)