Mindfulness is the awareness that comes when we pay attention, and we are not judging what we notice. (Zindel Segal at TEDX UTSC)
There are loads of definitions of mindfulness, however I would very simply say it’s being here now without worry. So simple, so inviting, so seldom achieved!
Mindfulness is an energy of being rather than doing. It’s a natural state that is inside us all, and rather than learning a new skill, we are uncovering a hidden skill that we all have.
It’s not new
Mindfulness is not new; it has evolved and been made more mainstream through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn who adapted it from its Buddhist roots. Despite these roots, mindfulness is secular, available to all and does not conflict with any religion. The benefits are unlocked through the practise of meditation and mindfulness exercises; however, the ultimate aim is to be able to apply this state of being to everyday life.
It’s scientifically backed
There is a growing body of scientifically backed evidence for the benefits of mindfulness which include lower levels of stress and anxiety and increased resilience, increased focus and attention and even slower ageing. The studies have also proven that the benefits can be felt within as little as eight weeks of regular practice.
Mindfulness uses meditation and everyday activities as teaching tools
Formal meditation is used as a training tool to strengthen and condition the mind to concentrate and detach from being lost in thought, however there is more to mindfulness than sitting in a meditative state. It is possible to be mindful when carrying out every day tasks and the ultimate aim is that every waking minute is experienced mindfully.
Breathing is a big deal in mindfulness (and life!)
There is a lot of talk of the breath in mindfulness. The breath is used as an anchor and bringing awareness to the breath helps us to learn to bring our attention back into the present moment. This is about breath awareness rather than breath control. Focus on the breath can also help us breathe more deeply and this causes us to enter into a more relaxed state as it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. This puts the body into rest and repair mode and gets us out of the opposite mode which is stress. Being stuck in chromic stress mode can be dangerous and even fatal.
The term mindfulness isn’t the best name for it
I find the term mindfulness slightly misleading, and a definition of the issues rather than the solution or ideal state. I like to think that we are using mindfulness tools and practices to move away from the mind fulness into heart fulness which is where we can detach from suffering and find joy and contentment.
In Glasgow there is a saying, ‘there the now’ which is used to describe something that has happened right now. I think this, or more accurately being ‘here the now’ is what mindfulness is all about.
It’s available to everyone
I believe mindfulness can bring healing, love and happiness to our lives. Like many valuables in life it needs to be nourished into being. There is no magic pill to make you mindful, instead it is earned through investing time and energy into self. The magic is that if you put the time and energy into it, everybody, regardless of background and situation, can enjoy it’s riches. And it’s free! Furthermore, once you have cultivated mindfulness, you are able to share the benefits with friends, family, colleagues and the world around you, through the compassion and positive energy you will automatically radiate.