What is Mindfulness?

We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

– Pema Chodron

Mindfulness is a practice of nonjudgemental awareness of our thoughts, emotions, body or breath in the present moment. Underlying this awareness is a general sense of deep curiosity in noticing what is happening, coupled with a great gentleness in observation; that is, the mind is conditioned to judge or try to change the focus of our observation, yet Mindfulness offers a space for simply observing, without attempting to manipulate our current reality.

The roots of Western, secular Mindfulness lie in the centuries old Eastern contemplative traditions of various schools of Buddhism. One must not be a Buddhist in order to practice Mindfulness. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has often described Buddhism not so much as a religion, but as a science of mind. It is this profound curiosity into the nature of the mind, it’s habits, it’s conditioning, that lies at the source of Mindfulness.

Clinical or meaningful research regarding the benefits of mindfulness and/or meditation over the past 5+ years are largely responsible for bringing the practice into the mainstream; today science is proving that this practice is beneficial to us in the same way that it became general knowledge that physical exercise is essential to a human being’s health. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program is widely credited for pioneering much of the initial research in this realm. Today there is a robust library of research supporting the role of Mindfulness and/or Meditation on immune function, neuroplasticity, executive functioning, levels of anxiety or depression, and much more.