Know a thing or two... MINDFULNESS
LEARN THE BASICS OF THIS SUPER- USEFUL SANITY SAVER
Right here, right now. Mindfulness is simply the conscious awareness of being fully immersed in every moment of life. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who popularised the practice in the West says, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” Some have dubbed it ‘meditation for Westerners’, but in fact it’s part and parcel of meditation. It goes beyond just paying attention to the world inside and outside ourselves: its ultimate aim is pure awareness, free from judgment.
Mindfulness has been entwined with Buddhism and Hinduism for thousands of years. Scholars claim rightly that its roots lie in Hinduism – it’s a vital strand in Vedic meditation techniques. However, Buddhism took the concept of mindfulness and… sat with it. Mindfulness ( known as
sati) is considered to be the first step towards enlightenment and it’s a crucial part of Buddhist practice. However, mindful practices can also be found in a wide array of other faiths, including Judaism, Christianity and Sufism.
Mindfulness broke free of its religious boundaries in the 1970s. Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn was introduced to meditation by Zen missionary Philip Kapleau and went on to study with Thich Nhat Hanh and other teachers. In 1979, he founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Although his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme used techniques from Buddhism, he made the practice totally secular.
Since then, mindfulness has mushroomed. Mindfulness exercises are now taught in schools, in psychotherapy sessions, in hospitals and even in the military. Meanwhile there has been an explosion of apps and books offering mindfulness for every occasion. Mindful colouring books are now so popular, they have their own section in bookstores.
But let’s not get distracted by all this flurry. Let’s take it back to the moment: right here, right now.
Jon Kabat-Zinn aimed to teach his patients how to kickstart their own healing powers. He found that mindfulness could help relieve chronic pain and lessen feelings of anxiety and depression. Patients were even able to clear psoriasis much faster. He went on to instruct people with illnesses ranging from heart disease to ulcerative colitis, diabetes to cancer.
Since 1970, mindfulness has been scrutinised by a huge number of studies. The results totally support Kabat-Zinn’s beliefs. Mindfulness really can lessen pain and it may also ease insomnia, support weight management and help to alleviate depression, anxiety and stress. It is proving helpful in the treatment of addiction and ADHD, and even has benefits for people with psychosis.
Mindfulness can have an effect on our immune systems and may even have the potential to influence how our genes express themselves.
Even if there’s nothing particularly wrong with you, mindfulness can improve your life, summoning up feelings of joy, peace and happiness. It may even help you to discover what you really want from life. Nevertheless, Kabat-Zinn warns that the very act of stopping and listening can also summon up suppressed emotions – some people find they need to work through tough emotions such as grief, sadness, anger and fear.