Mindfulness means the intentional cultivation of moment-to-moment attention and awareness. It is the practice of “being present in the moment.”
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present
moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., Scientist, Author, Meditation Teacher, Professor Emeritus of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School
“Mindfulness is cultivated by paying attention – on purpose and carefully – to the contents of this moment in a friendly and allowing way.”
~ Jeffrey Brantley, M.D., Duke Medical Center, Author, “Calming Your Anxious Mind”
What we tell children is:
“Mindfulness is paying attention to your life, here and now, with kindness and curiosity.”
Meditation is essentially a state of poised, highly directed concentration, focused on a single, clearly defined stimulus. It is not about daydreaming, discursive thinking or thinking.
There are two main schools:
Concentration or one-pointed meditation like TM or Transcendental Meditation wherein we typically focus on a single word (mantra), a lighted candle, or the breath.
Mindfulness a/k/a insight meditation is a way of being and includes both a narrow and wide range of awareness developing flexibility of mind. It has to do with refining our capacities for paying attention, for sustained and penetrative awareness. It teaches us how to become still so that we are able to “respond” rather than continue to “react” in inappropriate ways.
Mindfulness allows one to develop and refine a way of becoming more intimate with one’s own experience through systematic self-observation:
– which includes the five senses (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting)
– the inner landscape or what is arising inwardly such as physical sensations, perceptions, impulses, emotions, intentions, thoughts, and the process of thinking itself
– the outer landscape which includes our speech, our actions, how they impact us as well as those around us, and our relationships with others.
It is about deepening the awareness of our direct experience — or what can be called the “context” (what is actually happening physically, emotionally, and mentally in that moment of our lives) versus the “content” of our lives (the stories we tell ourselves about what we think is happening at the moment).
Mindfulness includes intentionally suspending the impulse to characterize, evaluate, and judge what one is experiencing. Doing so affords multiple opportunities to step back like a silent witness and move beyond the well-worn grooves of highly conditioned and largely habitual unexamined thought processes and strong emotional reactivity.