As Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts, puts it, mindfulness involves learning to pay attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. In other words, mindfulness is about learning to tame your mind long enough to realize that, really, you only live in the present moment. Your past, while maybe haunting or tempting you, is gone; the future, as enticing or frightening as it seems, has not yet happened. All we have is the present moment. Oddly enough, though, we don’t seem to know how to live in it very often. But when we do, we experience less stress, more energy, and a positive outlook.
Like yoga, or wilderness survival, or riding a bicycle, mindfulness is a practice made up of a set of skills, knowledge, and, well, practice. You can be inspired to learn to ride a bike or practice mindfulness by reading books or magazine articles about it, but you can’t really understand it or see how it works in your own life until you actually start doing it.
Mindfulness practice consists of two things: meditation and mindful awareness. Mindful awareness is about living every day as fully attentive as possible to the present moment. This means when you’re eating dinner, just eat dinner (instead of watching TV, too, or fantasizing about what you’re going to have for breakfast!). When you’re having a conversation with someone, listen to what they’re saying (instead of planning what you’re going to say next). When you’re taking a walk, just take a walk (instead of talking on the phone while you walk or rehearsing what you would like to say to that person who cut you off in traffic). It’s amazing how simple – and how incredibly difficult – this practice is. Koru can help!
Although mindfulness meditation of one kind or another is primarily linked to Eastern traditions (Buddhism and Hinduism), it can be found in many religions including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Secular (non-religious) mindfulness, however, is relatively new on the scene. Over the last fifteen years or so, scientific investigations into the health benefits of mindfulness meditation have resulted in a variety of programs (like MBSR and Koru) and techniques that are not religiously based. They are neuroscientifically validated, road-tested by researchers, psychologists, counselors, and other professionals and available to anyone from any background. And coming to you now through Northern Colorado Koru!
Want more? Check out this great video from Dan Harris, ABC News correspondent and author of 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story: