Mindfulness practice has become a catchphrase in recent years. It might have been simply dismissed as a trendy buzzword that’s gotten a lot of press as our daily lives have become ever more stressful and hectic. The reason it’s here to stay, however, is because those who regularly practice mindfulness are able to find balance in a world that tends to constantly throw us off balance.
According to the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, mindfulness means “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.” You might think to yourself: but I’m already aware moment-by-moment — otherwise how could I function?
The truth is that what we think is awareness is oftentimes simply going through the motions amidst an unending loop of distracting inner chatter that never allows us to truly stop and simply observe with acceptance.
The benefits of mindfulness are many, from improving focus and concentration to heightening our compassion and altruism as well as reducing stress.
Incorporating a mindfulness practice into your daily life can help you maintain a calmness in a world in which we’re hyper-connected to devices and where the nature of our culture makes us feel compelled to respond immediately to every stimulus and piece of information we receive. This cycle creates anxiety and pushes us further and further from where we’re at in the present moment.
The heart of any mindfulness practice is a form of meditation. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the modern-day father of mindfulness teaching and founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, had this to say: “If you don’t know anything at all about meditation, what it really is, is it’s about paying attention in a systematic way for no reason other than to be awake. Because a lot of the time, if you pay attention to where your mind is at, it’s not in the present moment.”
He goes on to say that, “the conditions are never actually right for being in the present moment,” which is where mindfulness practice comes in: it teaches us to stop living in the past or the future and understand that right now is the only real time that exists. We begin to realize that if we take a moment to stop and simply “be” and observe with compassionate acceptance, we aren’t missing out — we’re gaining a greater awareness of what it means to live each day to the fullest.
You don’t have to implement a full-blown hour-a-day meditation practice to enjoy the benefits of mindfulness. You could start right now with one or more of these resources:
Pocket Mindfulness, a website with great tips to get you going. Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment, and Your Life, a lovely book by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Free Guided Meditations from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation from Psychology Today. And finally, Mindfulness Exercises from Living Well.
With those resources, your mindfulness journey will be off to a peaceful start.