“ Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the moment and non-judgmentally”.
For those of you who don’t know of Jon Kabat-Zinn , he is a famous teacher of Mindfulness Meditation and founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Programme at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre.
As humans we spend so much of our time not living in the present moment, but at a distance from ourselves, lost in the past or future fantasies, day dreams and worries. We are most of the time living on automatic pilot disconnected from the ‘now-ness’ of our lived experience. Mindfulness meditation helps us re-connect with our moment-to-moment experience. It helps us observe our thoughts and feelings without criticism, with compassion and to learn that they are transient. We are not our thoughts. They come and go of their own accord, it’s what minds do. However, through mindfulness practice we learn that we have a choice about whether to act on them or not. Mindfulness helps us to notice negative thought patterns before they take us into a downward spiral.
With time and practice mindfulness helps bring about long term changes to mood, levels of happiness and wellbeing. Studies have shown that people who meditate regularly have decreased levels of anxiety, depression and irritability. Memory and creativity also improves, reaction times become faster and mental and physical stamina increase. Studies worldwide have shown that meditation reduces key indicators of chronic stress, including hypertension.
Answers to some typical questions about Mindfulness
- Meditation is not a religion. Mindfulness meditation is simply a method of mental training.
- You don’t have to sit crossed-legged on the floor. Although you can if you want to. Most people who come to classes meditate sitting on a chair. However we can practice mindful awareness during any point in the day, walking, eating, driving, sitting on the bus and even at work.
- Mindfulness practice does not take a lot of time but patience is required initially until you have integrated it into your daily life.
- Meditation is “simple”, it is not about success or failure. Even when it is difficult you will have learned something about yourself and how your mind works.
- It will not undermine your drive or ambition, in fact because you learn to experience the world with more clarity and in real-time (in the now), you can take wiser and more considered actions to change the things that need to be changed. Mindfulness meditation helps you cultivate a deep and compassionate awareness that allows you to assess your goals and to recognize the ‘inner critic’ which can get in the way of your path.