There are many modern authorities on, and definitions of, Mindfulness. A westernized concept of Mindfulness refers to non-judgmental thought and present-in-the-moment, awareness (Brantley, 2003).
Bishop et al (2004) referred to Mindfulness as momentary concentration with non-judgmental acceptance. To cultivate Mindfulness one needs to allow each moment to unfold instead of being either combative, or intensely attached, to ones emotions. To paraphrase Jon Kabat-Zinn (1990):
“Mindfulness is the art of relating to the world with friendly curiosity. The more open we are the deeper our understanding of the world.”
But the concept of Mindfulness has been around for thousands of years starting from early Buddhist teachings. Zen masters taught Mindfulness (“awareness”) to enlightened monks in the ultimate passive acceptance of their own existence. Mindfulness has been used in meditative practice where pupils are instructed to pay attention only to their own body sensations (Shapiro &Carlson, 2009).
Therefore, the old vs new definitions of Mindfulness can lead to confusion when reading the literature, especially over the issues of spirituality. Even some modern practitioners of Mindfulness tend toward the spiritual side. However, spirituality is not a necessary part of Mindfulness.
Ask Not What Reality Does To You, But What You Can Do With Reality
Thus, I’m using Mindfulness here (in a westernized, psychological interpretation) as the skill of living in the moment and relating to the world in a reflexive (“friendly curious”), rather than passive or reactive fashion. This is not an inwardly focused mysticism or spirituality, rather it is what you calmly do with reality and not what reality does to you.
Mindfulness is simply an introspective method for grounding your thoughts, emotions and behaviors in the reality you are currently experiencing, so you can stand back, observe, understand yourself more fully and take care of your needs (see our article #13 in Resources tab, or click HERE).
This type of Mindfulness can be used daily, without years of practice, and can be compatible, as well as useful, within almost any modern human activity.
It will take some practice to witness your thoughts popping up and then going away without self-criticism, but it can be achieved by most people without extensive training, just daily practice.
With Mindful practice, you can learn to remove the tendency to jump to conclusions, make assumptions and idle judgments, center and calm yourself, and recognize that your negative or positive feelings are coming from you and not the external world around you.
Mindfulness has been shown to bring calmness and patience to those who embrace the practice. People who practice Mindfulness every day are processing life rather than analyzing its content. The ultimate state of Mindfulness is mental resiliency and clarity. Problems can be embraced and solved with a calm and clear head.
Also, an increasing number of controlled studies have shown that Mindfulness techniques can have significant and reproducible benefits and applicability to psychological treatment (Davis & Hayes, 2012).
Future blogs will apply Mindfulness ideas to common life problems (“Mindful Living”(tm)), starting with Parenting Adolescents, where we left off with the problem of finding life balance when dealing with adolescents and parenting styles (see our earlier blogs).
Be sure to check out our Resources section for my other articles on Mindfulness and Mindful Affirmations. These articles also describe, briefly, how to “do” Mindfulness training (#13).