The economy of mindfulness has become a billion dollar industry! A google search will reveal over 39,000,000 results and it has become a popular colloquial used by athletes, entertainers, politicians, yoga teachers, educators, physicians and even big corporations. In this article, I will share my interpretation of what mindfulness means and advice on how you can do to start your journey towards living a more mindful life.
What is Mindfulness?
What do we mean when we say mindfulness? Although there is no codification that will satisfy everyone, most people describe it simply as an intentional and applied awareness to human experiences. Helpful? Probably not.
That definition is broad enough to include everything, but too vague to have any real meaning. The way that I describe the practice of mindfulness involves two phases. Phase one can be defined as the constant awareness of our thoughts, feelings, environment, and bodily sensations in the present moment. Constant awareness does not mean ‘holding on’ to our thoughts, feelings, environment, and bodily sensations. Rather, when we are mindful we are aware but unattached to, non-resistant of, and non-judgmental about whatever is before us. In this phase we learn to become a witness to our own experience and we recognize every state of being as passing and fluid. We find acceptance for the present moment without the need to wish our thoughts and feelings away or pretend as though they don’t exist.
Phase two builds upon stage one when our awareness transcends to the belief that we have the ability to change. Although mindfulness had not been popularized in the western world in 1946 when Victor Frankl wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, I think he captured the essence of it very well when he stated, “Between stimulus and response there is space.” Frankl went on to say that if we can access that sense of space (phase one) we have the ability to choose how we want to respond in any given situation (phase two). Therefore, when we keep our attention in the present moment we find liberation from the thoughts and feelings that don’t serve our highest good. That’s mindfulness.
Why is Mindfulness Important?
It is estimated that on any given day we have as many as 10,000 thoughts and images running through our minds. That would be fine if most of those 10,000 thoughts and images served our highest good, but unfortunately that is not the case. We have a seemingly unshakable bias towards negativity. Negative emotions, thoughts, and feelings have been attributed as the cause of poor physical health, poor mental health, and many other forms of illness. Mindfulness is the greatest antidote to these illnesses, because it allows us to neutralize and change our negative cerebral associations. If you are interested in learning more about the healing power of mindfulness, read The Biology of Belief. In this groundbreaking book Dr. Lipton makes the compelling case that we have the ability to heal ourselves by retraining our thinking.
Although the popularity of mindfulness is exploding, it is important to remember that mindfulness is not a new age metaphysical technology. Yoga, meditation, qigong and countless other ancient and indigenous practices have always served as the anchors of human health and wellness. We are learning more and more about how to apply mindfulness to all domains of modern life, including our lifestyle and livelihood, how we treat our bodies, our relationships, how we approach learning and creativity, and our spiritual life. When we truly begin to live mindfully it becomes the fulcrum upon which the essence of our entire being is transformed. Websites such as www.mindful.org and www.greatergood.berkley.edu offer many great techniques and tips to help us cultivate and practice mindfulness in every domain. The bestselling book, Wherever You Go There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zin is another wonderful resource with many practical applications for everyday reality.
How Can I Practice Mindfulness?
If you love technology you can find many mindfulness and meditation apps, online videos, and classes designed to help cultivate a greater sense of presence and awareness. If you prefer personal or more intimate experiences, Seattle has no shortage of studios that offer yoga and meditation classes. If communal practices don’t serve you, a private practice or an individually guided experience might be just what you need. Guided and intentional experiences of mindfulness are absolutely necessary, but it is important to remember that mindfulness should be cultivated as a constant state of awareness that is not solely reserved for a ten minute meditation or an hour long yoga class. The intentional experiences are designed to heighten your state of awareness of the present moment and become a gateway to accessing mindfulness in all domains of your life.
In a series of videos to come, I will share more about how to apply mindful techniques to everyday life. I will also respond to questions from readers which can be submitted on the contact page on my website.
Seattle is abundant with Mindfulness centers. Below are some centers in Seattle to practice and receive Mindfulness coaching:
- 8 Limbs Yoga – Mindfulness Intro Series
- Mindfulness Community of Puget Sound
- Mindfulness Northwest Resource Page
- Seattle Mindfulness Center
- Shambala Open Meditation Sessions
- Swedish MBSR Program
[Photo Credit: Mitchell Joyce | CC BY]
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Published on Apr 13, 2016