Mindfulness

What comes to mind when you hear the word “mindfulness”?  For some it might be a recent buzzword like “synergy” or "self-care” that has been floating around their office lately.  Maybe a yoga teacher used it during your last sweaty round of hot yoga.  Or, maybe it was on the cover of a recent self-help book.  Wherever you might have come across it, mindfulness as a concept has been gaining in popularity in today's society.  

Superficially, it's being touted as a stress reducer and performance enhancer.  Those more familiar with the practice notice a radical shift in the way they pay attention to the details of life and the way they relate to their everyday experience. The shift starts with the way they relate to themselves.  “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings.”(2) Mindfulness takes many forms but the self-compassion that one exercises in relation to the mental dialogue and physical sensations of everyday experience remains consistent across methods.  Kristen Neff, one of the world leaders on self-compassion reminds us that along the way, “You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals.” (2) The more open and realistic we are with ourselves, the easier it is to practice self-compassion when those moments occur.

It’s likely that you’ve already experienced a profound state of mindfulness. Can you remember an instance when you were totally engaged in an activity?  You might have lost track of time while your entire focus was on the moment.  To be fully engulfed in what you are doing, thinking and feeling is to practice mindfulness.  You may have experienced mindfulness while on a run, when mental chatter surrounding upcoming deadlines and recurring bills subsided and all of your attention was focused in the present.  Or, maybe, in the middle of a musical performance, when you became totally immersed in the music and effort gave way to an unfolding melody.  Some people experience this state spontaneously in nature.  Gymnasts and dancers experience this in movement, while artists recognize it when they are in the act of creation.  For others this experience can be cultivated through consistent mindfulness practice.

This section of the website will take you through the ins and outs of mindfulness, from understanding what it really is to tools and resources to further your practice.

Scroll to the bottom of each page in this section to see a visual navigation of the Mindfulness section, which you can click on to get around.

The mindfulness movement was popularized in the West by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979, although its origins have been around since the dawn of contemplative practices.  Some of the earliest written records of meditation come from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism around 1500 BCE(3).  Modern day mindfulness is derived from the Buddhist practice of Vipassana, translated as ‘insight into the true nature of reality’(4).  Today, Mindfulness is commonly thought of, as most practitioners and Westerners understand it, as a vehicle for reducing stress and anxiety, while feeling more connected to physical processes in the body and life as a whole.  Practitioners claim that over time mindfulness brings about long-term changes in mood and levels of happiness and wellbeing. Mindfulness has been the center of numerous studies in the last decade.  Many claims have been made about the practice including: improved sleep, weight loss, enhanced attention, and curtailing substance abuse.  However, research from recent meta-analysis concluded that while there are some benefits, mindfulness meditation programs are not a cure-all to modern-day ailments. (1)

Mindfulness is a technique and practice for better understanding perception.  Through consistent and long-term practice, you may come to the profound understanding that thoughts and feelings (including negative ones) are transient. They come and they go and ultimately, you have a choice about whether to act on them or not. Mindfulness invites us to become the watcher of sensory perceptions as they arise without getting caught up in them.

 

The practice of mindfulness can be summarized as the faculty of voluntarily bringing a wandering mind back to the present moment.  This is easier said than done.  The technique can be broken down into mindful attitudes to adopt.  These attitudes get at the roots of mindfulness and speak to a holistic way of approaching life.

Now, let's keep learning. You can take a look at some resources like books, links, and videos we've already gathered, or move to the next page.