What is Mindfulness?
One of the most well-recognized Western definitions of mindfulness comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the central founders of the field and creator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (1979):
"The awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment and non-judgmentally in the service of self understanding and wisdom"
Kabat-Zinn’s use of the term mindfulness has become the landmark definition but similar conceptual definitions also include:
An open and receptive attention to, and awareness of, what is occurring in the present moment
An attention that is receptive to the whole field of awareness and remains in an open state so that it can be directed to currently experienced sensations, thoughts, emotions, and memories
Waking up from a life lived on automatic pilot and based in habitual responding
The basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us
Philosophy of Mindfulness
Allows one to be non-judgmentally aware of thoughts and feelings so that they are felt and accepted
Mindfulness is an inherent human capability that belongs to anyone irrespective of race, creed, gender, you name it. It is our birthright.
Accepting negative emotions instead of resisting them
Bringing a 'beginner's mind' to experiences as though you are seeing something for the first time
The ability to be on the spot—aware of what’s going on inside, outside, and all around, connecting with others—is part of being human.
No need for change -- we already have the capacity to be present. But we do need to cultivate these innate qualities
Mindfulness is an evidence-based practice validated by scientific research that is has positive benefits for our health as well as relationships
What mindfulness is not
Not having a blank mind
Not becoming emotionless
Not withdrawing from life
Not seeking bliss
Not escaping pain
Not converting to a new religion
Developing mindful awareness of the present moment can connect us to experiences, interactions, emotions and thoughts without the interference of judgment, bias, beliefs or distractions. We can 'Just Be' in the present moment, even if it is too exciting to contain or too painful to tolerate. Accepting the present moment for what it IS can be considered the crown jewel of mindfulness.
Meditative exercises and/or mindfulness meditation can be the first step to learning Mindfulness. When we focus our attention on our breath or curiously explore sense activation like sight, hearing or taste we are developing our brain's ability to attend to the present moment. We do not need to clear our mind of thoughts while we are meditating as it is our ability to frequently come back to our attention or breath and away from distracting thoughts that develops our ability to be mindful.