What is mindfulness? With the growth of mindfulness meditation as an intervention for stress, anxiety, depression, pain and many other common ailments, this is quickly becoming a big question arising all over North America.
So what is mindfulness? From my experience, it is a way of being purposefully aware of what’s happening in the moment and this state can be applied to everything that we do, bringing a fullness of experience, understanding and presence to our actions. A direct definition of this “quality of being” for what is mindfulness, is provided by a pioneer in the growing movement in the West Jon Kabat-Zinn; “the awareness that arises when you place your attention in the present moment, non-judgementally.”
Much of the science we know today about meditation has derived from an academic model of training mindfulness that was developed at the University of Massechussettes Stress Reduction Clinic (now known as the Center for Mindfulness) by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
The question of what is mindfulness should also address that it is not a religious practice, but has gained significant popularity through buddhist meditative practices that heighten our ability to cultivate mindfulness in our everyday lives.
It’s interesting to note as well that the definition of self-awareness as described by Harvards Daniel Goleman is very similar to mindfulness – it is the ability to notice the physical uprising of our emotions in a neutral way, using this information as a tool to respond skillfully i.e. the gut feeling we have when we are jealous, tension when we are stressed, etc.
Something interesting to note out of Yale Universities neuroscience center’s GoBlue project, is that at first it takes some work to be mindful, but then a point comes in your practice where it becomes effortless – our brains actually shift from wandering and constantly chattering to a brain that is in the present moment experience of whatever’s happening – relaxed yet focused.
To show the relevance of mindfulness in todays society and to help answer the question of what is mindfulness, here are a couple of infographics to help.