What is Mindfulness? Simply put, mindfulness is the practice of enhanced attention. With this enhanced attention, you will see things more clearly and become free of the causes and conditions that lead to stress. By paying mindful attention to your breath, body, emotions, and thoughts in a way that isn’t caught or influenced by judgments and comments, you’ll learn to have more control over your life.
Where Does Mindfulness Come From? Mindfulness is not a new practice. Also known as insight or Vipassana meditation, it was the main practice of the Buddha 2600 years ago and has come down to us from the Buddhist tradition as a tried and true method for achieving a greater understanding of ourselves and acceptance of the great truths of life. These include profoundly realizing and accepting impermanence and change, not taking life so personally, and recognizing with growing compassion that life is stressful. The ultimate goals of this practice are freedom from suffering and the development of an open heart.
Is There Proof That Mindfulness Works? There are many specific benefits to the practice of mindfulness. From a scientific perspective, practicing mindfulness alters the neurochemicals and hormones in your brain and body, like cortisol, contributing to stress. The practice emphasizes the prefrontal cortex (front part of the brain) rather than the deeper, older parts of the brain (basal ganglia and amygdala). Click here if you are interested in seeing hundreds of scientific papers supporting mindfulness practice.
What Else Do I Get? From a more practical perspective, the practice of mindfulness helps you concentrate more, promotes emotional intelligence, resilience, and clarity of vision, and facilitates critical thinking and discernment. Mindfulness has been linked with human health, well-being, and enhanced decision-making, and it has been shown to stave off burnout, anxiety, and feelings of helplessness.
What About Meditation? Since mindfulness does not come naturally, we cultivate mindfulness with meditation. While there are many different types of meditation, mindfulness meditation is not a concentration meditation. Instead, we pay attention to an object (the breath, for example). When our attention wanders (which it does for everybody who has tried to meditate), we simply accept that our attention has wandered and gently return it to the breath.
Give it a try:
Where Can I Learn This? Our Basics of Mindfulness class is a gentle introduction to the practice. You will learn how to deal with difficult emotions and thinking, and we will also introduce the practice of loving-kindness meditation. We hope to see you in class or among the many sitting groups at Open Door Sangha. Just click Programs above.
A Few Books for Mindfulness Beginners
Mindfulness in Plain English, by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
Peace is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh. Bantam Books
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
No Time Like the Present by Jack Kornfield
Radical Compassion by Tara Brach
Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg