What is Mindfulness?

by Roohi

If you constantly feel stressed out, tense, or depressed, the practice of mindfulness may be quite helpful for you.

The practice of mindfulness is considered to be an important step in the path to enlightenment (bodhi) according to the teachings of Buddha. However, these days this Buddhist concept is not just confined to achieving bodhi or a state free of hatred, greed and delusions.

The mindfulness practice is now frequently used in Western psychology to attain relief from various mental and emotional conditions including excessive stress, depression, and obsessive thinking. So, what is mindfulness and how can you practice it in your daily life for relief from stress, depression, or simply for better clarity of mind? Let's find out.

What exactly is mindfulness?

Jon Kabat-Zinn, a famous teacher of mindfulness meditation defines this state as "paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. The definition gives you are fairly good idea of what you need to do in your mindfulness practice.


Basically, it requires you to pay attention to what is happening in your life in the present moment. You focus on the present moment. Thoughts are surely going to come into your mind, as they do for everyone. However, you don't focus on these thoughts and neither do you get upset at not being able to stop these thoughts. You just acknowledge them. Don't judge your thoughts or hold on to them. Then slowly bring your attention back to the present moment.


This means you are not thinking about the past or the future. All that exists is the present moment. You clearly see what is really happening right now, allowing you to make better decisions and bringing about an improvement in your work, relationships, and life in general.

Who can benefit from mindfulness?

Almost everyone can benefit from the practice of mindfulness. Religion, region, caste or creed does not matter here. Western psychology has accepted the benefits of this traditional Buddhist practice. This is why more and more therapists are teaching the practice of mindfulness for problems that range from mindless behaviors such as nail biting to obsessive thinking.


So, if you are getting treatment for any mental or emotional condition, you may want to give mindfulness a try as well. It is not supposed to be a replacement for your usual therapy session or medication. However, you will find that it does tend to accelerate the benefits of therapy, helping you get back to normal life much quickly with more lasting results.


That does not mean that a normal person cannot practice mindfulness. Stress is an integral part of our daily life these days. Relationships don't work. Your work life is hectic. Or you simply just feel that life is heading nowhere.


Mindfulness can help you. Just being in the present moment and being consciously aware of what you are doing can reduce stress, help you approach life with a positive outlook, and reap benefits both in your physical as well as spiritual life.

How to practice mindfulness?

Well, generally you need to start by practicing mindfulness meditation. This is not much different from your regular meditation practice except that most mindfulness meditation teachers will help you learn certain techniques that make it easier to sit quietly, focus on your breath, and let go off the thoughts that arise without being judgmental.


The meditation practice is slowly transferred to various other regular daily activities. For example, you learn walking meditation. This means that you are walking and the only thing that you are mindful is how you are walking, how your feet are touching the ground, and so on.


The practice of meditation is continued throughout the day. This means you are mindful to everything that you are doing, whether you are driving, working, or talking to someone. You are entirely focused on the moment. This allows you to get the best out of your experience.


However, if you want and think that you can, there is no one to stop you from practicing this behavior without going for regular meditation practice. Just pay attention on purpose, let go off your thoughts without getting annoyed or reacting to these, and experience the moment in the fullest.

Start your practice now

Simply said, the practice of mindfulness can really be helpful for each and every one of us. It can reduce stress and depression. If have faced sexual, physical or emotional abuse in the past, this practice can be especially useful in healing and letting go off the past and the painful feelings attached to it. The best thing that it can do is quiet your mind in such a way that it brings benefits for your heart and the rest of your body.


So, how about beginning this practice right now? If you find it difficult, just get a good teacher who can help make mindfulness a part of your life. Keep in mind that the benefits are numerous. You can expect to be calmer, more creative, and achieve more than you have ever had.

Updated: 03/15/2013, Roohi
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