What is mindfulness meditation?
Jon Kabat-Zin, defines mindfulness like this:
Mindfulness is the intentional focus on moment-to-moment experience without being swept up by judgments or preconceived ideas and expectations.
Mindfulness is an ancient practice that dates back to 5,000 to 3,500 BCE. Many religions have adopted the basic concepts of meditation including Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity to name but a few.
Over the last 30-40 years principles of mindfulness meditation has been integrated in western medicine and psychology. One of the reason’s mindfulness might have become so popular in western culture is that we understand more about how the brain works. Naturally, as humans we have a ‘negativity bias’. This is the tendency to be more aware of threats and obstacles in our way than of positive things in our life. This makes us humans very good at having everything and still being unhappy. On the other hand, being happy, is one of the main things we try to achieve in western culture.
We also have a skewed idea of what ‘happiness’ is, thinking that it is the absence of pain or difficulties. Therefore, we often try to avoid anything negative in our life and since we have our negativity bias, we pick up on a lot of things we therefore need to avoid. Often this avoidance leads to more difficulties and thus more suffering.
Through mindful practices we can learn to carefully examine situations to help us understand how we create our own suffering. This then can help us to undo the conditions that create suffering. Becoming more aware of unconscious reflexes and drives in turn will help us to change them.
Mindfulness meditation tries to teach intentional focus on the present moment. Like the saying ‘Stop and smell the roses’, rather than just running past them worrying about the next thing we need to sort on our to do list.
Mindfulness also asks for a specific way of focusing. It is not enough to just focus, we also need to focus non-judgmentally and with an open mind to allow any experience, no matter what it is. Being able to focus in such a mindful way is not something we often do or are encouraged to do in our culture. Too often we are too busy to pause and become present or try to avoid negative experiences as soon as they arise rather than looking at them with an open mind.
Being mindful can have a lot of benefits. A summary of research into the benefits of mindfulness on the website of the American Psychological Association (APA) shows mindfulness has been linked to reduce ruminations and stress, can boost working memory and help with better focus. Mindfulness practices have also shown to be helpful in better managing emotions and increasing cognitive flexibility. Research even found that people’s ability to be mindful has a positive effect on their relationship satisfaction. These research results show clearly that practicing mindfulness regularly can have a great positive effect on someone’s well-being and vitality.
At Zest Infusion we try to pass these benefits on to others by exploring in-depth what mindfulness is, increasing peoples insight and awareness of their ability to be mindful and teaching formal and informal mindfulness practices in our workshops.
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