Mindfulness is nonjudgmental awareness of experience as it unfolds, moment by moment (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). Through the practice of mindfulness, we exercise the “muscle” of our attention in order to focus intentionally on the only moment in which we have any control—right now. While mindful awareness can be practiced on an informal basis throughout each day, periods of meditation are the primary vehicle for cultivating focused attention on the moment.
Mindful awareness can dwell on a variety of present-moment experiences, including:
Mindfulness is an ancient practice that is a component of all major world religions, including Christianity. In the United States, it is typically taught from a secular perspective. The goal of mindfulness is to cultivate compassion towards ourselves and others, and to accept the reality of each moment's experience with curiosity and openness.
Why practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness has benefits that are emotional, physical, spiritual, and cognitive. A recent surge of interest in mindfulness meditation within the medical and psychological communities has led to widespread research on the effects of the practice. Results of this research suggest that consistent mindfulness meditation leads to neurological changes (Silverton, 2012) that decrease stress, ruminative thinking, and anxiety while increasing spiritual values, empathy, and self-compassion (Chiesa & Serretti, 2009). Practitioners of mindfulness often describe feeling happier as a result of their practice—less anxious, more comfortable in their own skin, more content in life, and more connected to others. They also describe better concentration, resulting in improved performance within a variety of contexts, and increased impulse control. Mindfulness practice increases healthy immune response to illness, decreases the impact of chronic pain, and improves heart health. Due to the many benefits of mindfulness, mindfulness training is being offered increasingly in medical centers, schools, psychological treatment settings, and athletic training centers around the world.
Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress
reduction for stress management in healthy people: a review and
meta-analysis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine , 15(5), 593-600. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice , 10(2): 144-156. Silverton, S. (2012). The Mindfulness Breakthrough: The Revolutionary Approach to Dealing with Stress, Anxiety, and Depression. London: Watkins Publishing.