The power of mindfulness has been available to human beings for thousands of years, but the concept of mindfulness is more recent. The historical evidence suggests that mindfulness was first widely taught 2,500 years ago by Buddha. In his teachings, the Buddha talked extensively of sati, a special form of heightened awareness that promoted the end of suffering and fostered happiness and well-being for all. Sati is the Buddha’s word that we now translate into English as “mindfulness.” According to the Buddha’s teachings, mindfulness is absolutely necessary to eliminating delusion and seeing the world and ourselves as they truly are.
Practicing mindfulness helps you appreciate the present moment. So many of us are very involved in work, family, social activities, social media, events, etc. Our lives sometimes feel overly full and complicated.
Mindfulness is a particular kind of awareness; it is a state of conscious, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without placing judgment on them. They are not good or bad. Rather, instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in each moment and awakening to all of your experiences.
Imagine living every moment of your life to the fullest potential, being fully present to all of your experiences, not thinking about the past or the future; simply enjoying every moment of your life without the worry about what has been or what is to come!
It sounds good, right? Living a mindful life and incorporating practices into our daily routines enables us to do just that; allowing us to enjoy a fuller, happier, and richer life.
Most of the time, most of us exist in mindlessness, a state of semi-awareness governed by habit and inattention. This state of mind causes us to suffer – probably more than we are even aware. Many of us find that we miss being present in our lives because we are caught up in thinking, literally lost in our own thoughts. Research shows that we have 20 to 60 thousandth thoughts a day and most of them are negative. We contemplate things that have happened long ago or those that have not even happened yet! Our attention can be taken from one thing to another, we feel as though our attention is being pulled in many directions at once and we often find ourselves caught up in negative thoughts leading to great stress and debilitating anxiety. This everyday mental condition is not unavoidable; there is a cure for it, and it’s called mindfulness, a skill that anyone can learn.
Mindfulness is moment-by-moment awareness; it is the process of observing your experience as it unfolds. The practice of mindfulness helps us train our brain and gradually transform the way our minds operate using practical techniques that bring us into the present moment. Right Here – Right Now.
What are the benefits of being mindful?
- We learn to be more aware and present in each moment, enjoying life to the full.
- It helps us cope better with various difficult emotions; learning to face them instead of avoiding or suppressing them.
- Rather than stay on autopilot, we learn to respond to each situation anew. This gives us the opportunity to create different choices and reactions instead of acting in the way we have always done.
- With mindfulness, you can see how your mind operates and responds to its world.
Running on auto-pilot doesn’t allow us to appreciate what we have now. It also leads us to regret things after they have past thus perpetuating the cycle and creating more stress over the past. There is a research that shows that practicing mindfulness helps people manage pain better. It can help prevent further episodes of depression in people who have already had a depressions. It can also improve levels of emotional well-being and decrease anxiety in young people. In contemporary medicine mindfulness is used in connection with stress reduction and wellness.
One study recently presented to the American Heart Association showed that patients who practiced mindfulness regularly reduced by half their risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death from all causes as compared with similar patients who were only given education about healthy living and diet.
Kabat-Zinn is a famous teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”