What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a simple technique for learning to work in the present moment with the stresses in our lives in a less reactive and more accepting manner. Mindfulness helps us see our lives and our habitual reactions to the unavoidable difficulties of life with clarity, so that we can learn to respond to and cope with difficulties in a purposeful and skillful manner. Thousands of people have found mindfulness training profoundly helpful for managing and reducing stress. Mindfulness enhances our capacity for living in the present to our fullest ability by supporting the development of greater awareness, making it possible to experience and appreciate the richness of life as it unfolds, moment by moment, in any situation.
Who Might Benefit from Learning Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a wellness practice that can help you optimize your ability to handle life’s inevitable difficulties. For those coping with stress-related illnesses, chronic pain, terminal illness, and anxiety, it has been a beneficial addition to traditional forms of medical and psychological care. Caregivers and those in high stress jobs have also benefited. Mindfulness also cultivates the development of awareness in its own right, making it a powerful catalyst for personal growth.
How Does One Practice Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a both a way of focusing attention, and a state of mind that results from mindfully focused attention. Anytime you bring your undivided attention to what you are doing in the present moment, you are experiencing a moment of mindfulness. This is a natural skill that we all possess and have all experienced many times in our lives. Undivided attention makes those moments of mindfulness in life seem fuller, richer, more vibrant and alive. Sometimes it occurs naturally during special moments of joy, sometimes in situations of unexpected grief or surprise.
Mindfulness practice is simply learning to learn to extend and maintain those mindful moments into a state of mindful awareness that endures for increasing amounts of time.
Where did Mindfulness Practice Come From?
Mindfulness practice was first taught in India by the Buddha, a title that means
“awakened one.” He was a real person born in the 6th century B.C.E. as a
prince of a small kingdom in what is now Nepal.
He was so moved by the suffering he saw around him that he renounced his
privileged life around age 30, and spent the next 50 years learning, and then
teaching, how to eliminate suffering by developing our capacity for wisdom and
compassion. All schools of Buddhism in the past 2500 years have taught
mindfulness practices for the fullest development of human
In 1979 a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center named
Jon Kabat-Zinn was asked by medical doctors working with patients who suffered
from chronic pain if he could help their patients cope with the stress of
their medical conditions. Kabat-Zinn, who himself suffered from back pain,
had been practicing mindfulness at a Buddhist Center in Barre, Massachusetts
called the Insight Meditation
and he also practiced yoga to help with his back pain. He
developed the first secular program based in part on mindfulness practice,
originally called the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program, and began
teaching it at the Medical Center in Worcester. The program incorporates a
range of practices including a simple form of meditation, gentle stretching
and yoga, group discussions, and presentation of information about working
Kabat-Zinn, who is now retired but is still active with mindfulness and
meditation research, later changed the name to the Mindfulness Based Stress
Reduction program. The original program is still offered as MBSR at the
Center for Mindfulness
at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester.
For more information, please go to the Mindfulness and Meditation Research