What is Mindfulness?
“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness is a fully-conscious state of living that enables us to relate to our experiences with higher clarity. It involves being acutely aware of our thoughts, emotions, and why we do what we do. It means being aware, paying close attention to what is happening in the here-and-now instead of focusing on our memories or future predictions.
Mindfulness encompasses two key aspects: awareness and acceptance. Awareness is the knowledge and ability to focus attention on our inner processes and experiences. Acceptance is the ability to observe and accept, rather than judge or avoid those streams of thoughts and emotions.
Today, mindfulness helps us to be grounded in the fight-or-flight moments in our current society. It helps develop our ability to overcome unfavorable emotions, limiting thought patterns, and unhelpful attitudes and habits.
The Science Behind Mindfulness
How Mindfulness Works?
The Art of Practicing Mindfulness
Humans time travel, and we do so with our minds. We spend a lot of time thinking about the past and daydreaming about the future. It is very tiring to the mind and can cause us to feel anxious, stressed, worried, angry, or sad. Thinking about the past or future can cause many of us to react as if it were real. Often, we are not even aware of all the thoughts buzzing around our heads and how it affects us.
Mindfulness is about recognizing our thoughts and emotions and responding calmly and logically, instead of unconsciously reacting to them. As much as we would like, we cannot push away thoughts. It takes training, focusing, and grounded awareness to notice our thoughts, and we do that by repeatedly coming back to our present moment.
Mindfulness was formally introduced as a medical intervention in 1979 by Jon-Kabat Zinn to decrease stress, depression, and anxiety. Our minds are always in auto-pilot mode. Applying mindfulness meditation techniques in our daily lives allows us to clear our minds of past and future thoughts, thus helping us to stay fully conscious, aware, and grounded in the present moment.
Scientifically Proven Benefits
Builds a healthy and sturdy brain
Heightens learning and increases concentration and memory
Enhances emotional intelligence and regulation
Increases the overall sense of well-being
Increase self-awareness, self-esteem, and compassion
Foster social and communication skills
Gain patience and is less reactive.
Foster good habits.
Improve attentiveness and impulse control.
Decrease anxiety, stress, and depression.
Promote joy, kindness, and gratitude.
The Science Behind Mindfulness
To build this positive change, let us explore how our brain works. The modern sciences of psychology and neurology have shown an establishing relationship between the mind and the body.
Neuroscience has shown that our brain rewires itself with every experience we encounter. This process is called neuroplasticity. In the saying from the work of psychologist Dr. Donald Hebb - "neurons that fire together wires together." It means, when we practice doing something regularly, the more connected are the neurons in our brain - the more we practice, the stronger the connections are with our neurons - the faster the messages travel, the more automatically they become. This process is how habits originated. Research shows that almost half of what we do is habitual. It becomes automatic. Often when we are in auto-pilot mode, we tend to react to the same environmental queues or circumstances instead of responding consciously.
Practicing mindfulness is like building up muscle in our brain - the more we exercise it, the stronger it becomes. It strengthens the mind like a mental push-up. Mindfulness is both scientifically and experientially proven. When we sustain our practice for some time, we will likely become calmer and less irritable as we now are more aware of our feelings and mental states. We become less stressed when triggered. As we continue to get comfortable with the practice, we will eventually learn to apply the techniques and skills into our routine and use them to cope with difficult situations.
Mindfulness has proven as a foundation to de-stress, navigate difficult emotions, be less reactive, more focused, and ultimately nurture kindness and compassion.
How Mindfulness Works?
Mindfulness practice acts as a strategic intervention.
Strong emotions do not just arise by themselves. Feelings are a mental state - a psychological perception. A triggering factor referred to as a ‘stimulus’ activates the arising of thoughts and creates strong emotion to form our perception. Rather than respond, we are most likely to react and make snap decisions. The diagram below shows how a stimulus can create strong emotions and lead to probable actions in our hard-wired nervous system.
When we are not fully present in any given circumstance, we are likely to respond reactively and unconsciously. Often, it is not the current circumstance that triggers our responses, but how we feel about the situation - our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of what happens with an inactive state of mind. Research also shows that almost half of what we do is habitual. Often when we are in auto-pilot mode, we tend to react to the same environmental queues or circumstances instead of responding consciously.
The objective of this intervention is to provide us with a foundation life-skill encouraging us to make conscious choices and decisions rather than reacting unconsciously (ie. emotion-driven actions). Mindful intervention supports us with a space to respond, allowing us the time to make choices and respond in a composed manner. The diagram below shows how practicing mindfulness allows us the space to relate to the stimulus.
The more space between the stimulus and the response means more autonomy, more wakefulness and choicefulness ultimately better decision making. However, training is important and required to develop our mental fitness. The ability to intercept, stop, and think is a skill which we can develop through mindfulness meditation.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In that response lies our growth and our freedom” - Viktor Frankl
With sustained practice, mindfulness is how we relate to what we are experiencing. It is our ‘attitude’ towards the stimulus and how we choose to respond.
Mindfulness provides us with a skill when practiced regularly - promotes internal organization, increases their self-regulation, and promotes their overall self-awareness and well-being.
With sustained practice, we can activate the neural factors of present-moment awareness. Over time, this beneficial mental state can be gradually hard-wired into your nervous system as a positive trait creating a positive habit.
Psychologist Dr. Rick Hanson, put it this way - “You can use your mind to change your brain to change your mind.”
The Art of Practicing Mindfulness
Mindfulness is both scientifically and experientially proven. Science has proven that mindfulness promotes internal organization; self-regulation and self-awareness. With increased self-regulation, we are able to intercept, stop and think before responding; and with increased self-awareness, helps us to understand and know ourselves better.
The psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, intentionally and in a non-judgmental way encompasses what we see, do, hear, smell and feel; whatever our sensory organs receive as our five senses can only take objects in the present moment. While the mind, known as the sixth sense can take objects of the past, present, and future.
As such, mindfulness comprises, not only awareness of the present but in all aspects of human experience. This approach is based on the principles of the Noble Eightfold Path to cultivating mindful awareness and loving-kindness, known as the Yin and Yang of Dharma Practice.
The practice of mindfulness helps us to :
Understand our thoughts and emotions.
Reprogram our mindset through direct personal experience.
More accepting and forgiving of oneself and others.
Easier to let go, and therefore more content and happy.
Practicing mindfulness enables us to develop composure. Developing composure means without being distracted by thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. With continuous practice of mindful awareness of the present moment, we bring our attention to focus on our five senses, we learn to accept what is happening in the here-and-now, acknowledge and let it go without getting caught up by our thoughts. With that, we develop composure which leads us to clear awareness. In other words, we are practicing intelligent consideration, discretion, and wisdom to evaluate and understand our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.
Meditation is the practice of training, directing, or focusing attention in a deliberate way. It is our human capacity to open to perspectives larger than the ordinary consciousness or the small separate sense of self. This practice allows the gentle opening of our heart-mind, not to stop our human experience rather to consciously pause with the quality of our compassionate heart to hold all experiences with loving-kindness, thus returning to our true self of who we really are, our Buddha nature.
“And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” T.S Elliot.
The objective of my coaching is to provide you with a foundation of life skills to make conscious relationships with yourself. Allowing you space and time to make choices and respond in a composed manner.