“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever really have”Ekhart Tolle
So what exactly what is mindfulness?!
The simplest, most basic description of mindfulness is paying attention to what is actually happening for us right now. Observing our thoughts, emotions and body sensations, as they occur, without judging them.
But why would I need to do that?
Because of the design of own brain, most of us don’t naturally live in the present moment, in what’s actually happening. We’re quite often reliving the past, especially the not so good stuff, and planning or worrying about the future. Mindfulness trains us to notice when our mind has wandered (which is a lot by the way – even for Zen monks on mountain tops) and to return it to the current moment.
That sounds easy!
Doesn’t it!?! That’s the kicker with mindfulness – it’s such a simple concept and yet just about the hardest, most challenging work a human can do. *But* all that hard work and brain training is so unbelievably worthwhile.
What kind of benefits are associated with a regular mindfulness practice?
Honestly?! So, so many…
– Decrease in stress, anxiety and low mood
– More emotional stability
– Better concentration and ability to think clearly
– Increased sense of self-worth
– Strengthened immune system
– Reduction in anger and aggression
– Greater ability to manage chronic pain
– Lower blood pressure and general heart function
– Improved interpersonal relationships
– Greater sense of calm and peace
So is it some kind of religion?
Nope, not at all! While obviously deeply rooted in Buddhist tradition, mindfulness has a very solid foundation in the world of science and medicine. In fact, MBSR, the type of mindfulness I’m trained in was set up in the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre by Jon Kabat-Zinn to help those experiencing both mental and physical pain. So anyone of any religious beliefs, or lack thereof, can practice mindfulness. In science, the field of study concerned with the mindfulness is called Neuroplasticity. Which is a fancy pants ways of saying that our brains are changeable, and by intentionally focusing our awareness, we can physically change the structure of our brains! Pretty cool.