Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.
The IMISA website describes Mindfulness as a way of waking up in the world. Whenever we bring awareness, without judgment and with whole-hearted intention to the present moment, we are engaging in mindfulness.
Mindfulness Meditation is a practical way to cultivate mindfulness. When practised formally, these meditation practices help us to tap into this awareness more readily. And while formal mindfulness practices are an important foundation, the whole of life is an opportunity to practise mindfulness.
Every moment is one in which we can wake up, become present, and mindful. The more we practise mindfulness, the more aware we are of the distinction between when we are present, and mindful, and when we are on ‘autopilot’ and ‘mindless’. So, with practice, it becomes easier to notice what is typically ‘off the radar’ of our ordinary, everyday awareness – the activity of our minds, our patterns of thinking, and emotions, which drive so much of our behaviour. We begin to notice our habitual behaviour and responses with deepening understanding and compassion. This tempers conditioned reactivity to challenging experiences. It does not mean we do not feel our feelings, or live a pain-free life. Rather it invites a new way of being in relationship to our passing states of mind and body (thoughts, feelings and sensations).
While this might not seem like a lot, experiencing this shift reveals a spaciousness embedded right here within the heart of our experience, out of which new ways of being and seeing ourselves, each other and the world begin to effortlessly emerge. (Ref IMISA website)
The internet has many top-quality articles and formal studies on the benefits of practicing Mindfulness, many of which are referenced on Wikipedia and other sites.
Though it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, a secular practice of mindfulness has entered the American mainstream in recent years, in part through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which he launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. Since that time, thousands of studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in general and MBSR in particular, inspiring countless programmes to adapt the MBSR model.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn the practice of mindfulness may be beneficial to many people in Western society without adopting Buddhist traditions or vocabulary. Western researchers and clinicians who have introduced mindfulness practice into mental health treatment programs usually teach these skills independently of the religious and cultural traditions of their origins.
Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future and has come to be seen as a mode of being, rather than a formal meditation practice, which can be practiced and maintained outside a formal setting.
Benefits of Mindfulness practice
There are many benefits and uses for practicing Mindfulness. These include:
- A greater connection with the body
- Improved personal relationships,
- A greater acceptance of troublesome thoughts and emotions,
- Regular mindfulness practice makes positive improvements to the way the brain works,
- Improvements to memory, concentration and cognitive ability,
- A dramatic reduction in levels of stress and anxiety,
- An improved ability to fall to sleep at night,
- An improved relationship with pain,
- A general feeling of wellbeing,
- A rise in productivity,
- Increased energy and creativity
- Additional benefits according to individual practice.
References: - Wikipedia, The free encyclopaedia; - Institute for Mindfulness South Africa (IMISA) (www.mindfulness.org.za)