What is Mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the seminal clinic and training program for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction established over 30 years ago at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, says, “…mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally…”
Mindfulness can be a pathway to happiness; a full and open awareness of life, just as it is, in the present moment. Its cultivation can bring about ease, balance, equanimity, insight, and wisdom.
The practice of mindfulness teaches development of a ‘one-moment-at-a-time’ awareness of thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and all activity in the immediate environment, in the present moment; just as it is without any additional story-telling, internal dialogue, or ‘discursive thinking’. This involves an attitude of non-judgmental acceptance of our thoughts as they arise in the mind, without believing they are “right” or “wrong”.
Our thoughts come and go at will; they only stick around when they are grasped or grabbed hold of. Becoming mindful allows sights, sounds, and sensations to be perceived just as they really are…no more and no less…as just phenomena. This develops stillness in the mind and with time, an awareness of inner silence, bringing calm and deep relaxation.
Mindfulness helps us see that most of our thinking is either a rehashing of the past, or imagined stories of what the future may bring. At any time we can return gently to the present moment and see things just as they are…in the moment, with acceptance, balance, and equanimity…less disturbed and less reactive to occurrences. All of this leads to more relaxation, more balance, increased confidence in our actions, and a peaceful and skillful way of working and being in the world.
Over the decades, numerous studies have documented and verified the mental, physical, emotional, and social benefits of consistent mindfulness practice. Research is now showing bio-physiological changes and expressions detected through brain scans that indicate even minimal practice is beneficial, and that long-term practice provides transformational changes that appear to be permanent.
Caregivers, frequently overlooked in many areas of healthcare and self-help support, have found mindfulness, and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Training, to be of great benefit. The practices are simple, easy, and unencumbered by expensive equipment or pricey therapeutics. Programs for training and support groups for encouragement and fellowship are burgeoning.
The internet is awash in reliable resources as “Mindfulness” and “Meditation” has gone into the main stream in this decade. Many traditional therapists and 12-Step oriented counselors have added mindfulness to their clinical toolkits with great benefit.
How wonderful that caregivers no longer have to rely on expensive medical or pharmaceutical interventions alone to deal with stress and burnout! The simple embracing of tried and true mindfulness techniques can bring a renewed and invigorated capacity to provide for our loved ones. Mindfulness employs specific practices for cultivating compassion as a learned and developed skill, with healing capacity for the caregiver and the person receiving care.
Mindfulness is compatible with anyone’s religion or life philosophy. Mindfulness can be our constant companion with which we can truly experience transformation as we bring better care and true peace to ourselves and those we love.