What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is to be attentive to the present moment, with curiosity, openness and non-judgment. It means to be aware of what we are doing while we are doing it, rather than being dragged away in the past or the future, or driven by our habitual patterns, or caught up in thoughts and stories. It is the capacity to be, to act, to speak, to listen, to walk and undergo all of our daily activities with the constant presence of mind or clear awareness. To be mindful enables one to experience life fully, to respond to situations with choice rather than reacting automatically.
Mindfulness meditation has been practised in many spiritual traditions for thousands of years and particularly in Buddhism where the core teaching of the Buddha is called ‘The four Noble Truths: (The truth of suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path leading to the cessation of suffering). The Buddhist understanding of the human mind and some of the skills used to help one alleviate suffering have been used to create contemporary programmes of mindfulness practice, for the people of the West. They have been skilfully adapted to the mainstream, to our busy lives and culture. Mindfulness practice is non-religious, anyone can practice it. The benefits of Mindfulness practice are numerous; they are proven to help with anxiety, depression, physical and mental pain, health, performance as well as general life challenges.
“Keep your attention focused on the work, be alert and ready to handle ably and intelligently any situation which may arise…Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves”. Zen Buddhist Master, Thich Nhat Hanh (“The Miracle of Mindfulness”)
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine emeritus, University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Mindfulness Based Programmes
MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) is a group-based programme, founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre, in the 1970s, for populations with a wide range of chronic health conditions. This programme has then been adapted by CBT therapists Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale, for the treatment of recurrent depression (called Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy). The results and statistics of these mindfulness based programmes have been very successful and promising. They are growing very fast and are now used in several fields such as the NHS, medical and mental institutes, schools, general public, the work place, and even in the parliament! One of the main programmes used in schools for teens is called ‘.b’ and has been written by Richard Burnett, Chris Cullen and Chris O’Neil (The Mindfulness in Schools Project).
Although Mindfulness practice holds its root in Buddhism, and has also been practised in most spiritual traditions, these mindfulness based programmes are non-religious and can be practiced by anyone of any faith or no faith. They are based on ancient approaches adapted to the western world and aim to help the mainstream people to deal with our mind, emotions, situations, challenges, with more ease and skills.