“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” -Jon Kabat-Zinn-
What is this thing called “Mindfulness”?
Mindfulness is paying attention to the unfolding of each moment without judgment and with an open and curious intention. It is a way to cultivate a part of our brain that can observe without reacting or the need to avoid or escape what is there in the present moment. In today’s life, we have to deal with a flood of information on a daily basis. We listen to the news while we shower, flip through the newspaper during breakfast, make telephone calls in the car on the way to work, where we experience the usual day to day stress.
During the midday break we eat together with colleagues, our afternoons are filled with work under time pressure, and in the evenings either the family is waiting for us or, we end up in front of the TV. Then, just before going to bed, we check the last few emails on our smart phones. Nice prospects for a good nights sleep!
Through our everyday consciousness we try to overcome the enormous workload of permanent information processing. This is a psychological condition that one can compare to the ‘autopilot’ function in an airplane. Routine things are taken care of automatically, economically, effectively and expeditiously.
Right from our Kindergarten days we have been conditioned to operate in the doing mode of mind, where our minds tend to feel more useful. This doing mode feels familiar and allows our minds to run on autopilot for most of the time.
It is very good that our brains can do this, but it leads to problems as well. On autopilot we might be functioning okay on the outside, in order to get things done, but we are not present. Instead we may be thinking of the past or the future. We experience regrets of the past and anxieties towards the future as if they were happening now and thus miss the real life, the only life we truly have, the present moment.
On the contrary, the being mode of mind purely observes and, what’s even more important, it unties the neural connections in our brains, which stimulate emotional reactivity, e.g. worry, restlessness, anxiety, panic, hopelessness, depression, and many other negative patterns of our mental life. By engaging in the being mode of mind, we create psychological flexibility and hence gain more choices, and more freedom.
Why Practice Mindfulness? Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness, even for just a few weeks, can bring a variety of physical, psychological, and social benefits.
Here are some of these benefits, which extend across many different settings:
Mindfulness is good for the bodies:Studies have found that, after just eight weeks of training, practicing mindfulness meditation boosts the immune system’s ability to fight off illness.
Mindfulness is good for the minds:Several studies have found that mindfulness increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions and stress.
Mindfulness changes the brain:Research has found that it increases density of gray matter in brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, and empathy.
Mindfulness helps to focus:Studies suggest that mindfulness helps to tune out distractions and improves memory and attention skills.
Mindfulness fosters compassion and altruism:Research suggests mindfulness training makes one more likely to help someone in need and increases activity in neural networks involved in understanding the suffering of others and regulating emotions. Evidence suggests it might boost self-compassion as well.
Mindfulness enhances relationships:Research suggests mindfulness training makes couples more satisfied with their relationship, makes each partner feel more optimistic and relaxed, and makes them feel more accepting of and closer to one another.
Mindfulness is good for parents and parents-to-be:Studies suggest it may reduce pregnancy-related anxiety, stress, and depression in expectant parents. Parents who practice mindfulness report being happier with their parenting skills and their relationship with their kids, and their kids were found to have better social skills.
Mindfulness helps schools:There’s scientific evidence that teaching mindfulness in the classroom reduces behavior problems and aggression among students, and improves their happiness levels and ability to pay attention. Teachers trained in mindfulness also show lower blood pressure, less negative emotion and symptoms of depression, and greater compassion and empathy.
Mindfulness helps health care professionals cope with stress, connect with their patients, and improve their general quality of life.
Mindfulness fights obesity:Practicing “mindful eating” encourages healthier eating habits, helps people loose weight, and helps them savor the food they do eat.
Image: Source Unknown
“To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.” -William Blake-
“If you feel lost, disappointed, hesitant, or weak, return to yourself, to who you are, here and now and when you get there, you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong.” -Masaru Emoto- "Mindfulness is about love and loving life. When you cultivate this love, it gives you clarity and compassion for life, and your actions happen in accordance with that." -Jon Kabat-Zinn-