“Simply put, mindfulness is moment-to-moment non-judgemental awareness. It is cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moment’s thought to. It is a systematic approach to developing new kinds of agency, control, and wisdom in our lives, based on our inner capacity for paying attention and on the awareness, insight, and compassion that naturally arise from paying attention in specific ways”. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living
Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the first Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)Training in 1979, so this is no hype as some people perceive it to be. Initially MBSR was used to treat mostly Chronicall illnessess, Depression, Addictions & Stress with great success.
Since then Mindfulness has not only been used for the above, but also to improve communication, (self) compassion, relationships, parenting, teamwork and is used in many different areas of health care and schools.
I think we have all arrived home from work, or at the supermarket or a friends house, not really realizing how we got there. Or during a discussion at work or at home overreacted to a comment somebody made without actually knowing why. This is our automatic pilot is full mode. Not always a bad thing as this autopilot allows us to live our lives without overthinking each step we take. The autopilot can become an issue when you stop responding to situations, but you are only reacting without thinking what is actually best in that particular situation.
Mindfulness is a skill and can be trained & strengthned by practicing meditation and intergration of Mindfulness in daily life. This practice does take commitment as with any new skill you want to learn, you need to put in the hours and practice, practice, practice. I often use the metaphoor of training for a marathon: you need to train a couple times a week a certain distance, you may not like every training you do, but it is needed to build the stamina for that final run.
“What can I expect when I start practicing Mindfulness?” This is one of the most asked questions and also the most difficult one to answer since there is no receipe for a guaranteed outcome. As we are all different, we have different automatic patterns, behaviours and brains. But if you commit to the practice, keep an open and curious attitude you can find a couple of the key insights people have after having started practicing Mindfulness below:
- Being more present in the here and now leading to experiencing more calm and peace
- Increased awareness and insight into your own thought patterns, reactions, actions, emotions and moods (and a choice to deal with it differently)
- The ability to take some distance from problems
- Deal with stressful events or moments when things do not go as you’d like
- Concentrate (more focus and less distracted), doing one thing at the time
- Set boundaries (more awareness)