What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness seems to have become somewhat of a buzzword in this day and age.  From companies beginning to instill mindfulness practices in the workplace, to a plethora of mindful mobile apps being produced, you’ve probably heard the term a time or two on the internet or in conversation.  However, I have a feeling that a lot of people (through no fault of their own) don’t actually know what mindfulness is.

This lack of knowledge can often lead to misconceptions regarding the mindfulness practice.  These misconceptions can sometimes turn judgmental.  Over the past few months of my journey with mindfulness, I’ve come to realize that for as many people who embrace the mindfulness practice, there are just as many who are skeptical of it.  This is most likely due in part to the buzzword mentality of the mindfulness practice.

Therefore, my first goal in starting this blog is to clear up any confusion on what mindfulness actually is.

First, I resorted to academic articles to find the answer, and I found an encyclopedia entry on mindfulness.  One thing that struck me about the entry was that mindfulness was deemed “an individually defined attention-training practice.” In other words, the definition of mindfulness is up to your own interpretation.

 

Well, that makes this easy doesn’t it?

 

Regardless, I’m still going to give a few other “interpretations,” but keep in mind that these are just that: interpretations.  Mindfulness in its modern form is relatively new and is a constantly evolving practice.

In speaking of the modern form of mindfulness, maybe it would be best if I explain the origins of mindfulness in order to better understand its implications in today’s society.

While mindfulness did originate in Hinduism, most other religions also have a history of using it in practice.  However, I think it’s important to note that mindfulness does not have to be religiously based.  Anyone and everyone can practice mindfulness.  Some sources say that an essential part of mindfulness is believing in a higher power, but I feel that mindfulness is more about living in the moment and letting things be the way they are in a nonjudgmental manner.  While some people may prefer religious meditation, it’s certainly not the only option.

Now back to the modern form of mindfulness.  This modern form was created by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  In addition to being a professor he also founded the first modern clinical center for mindfulness.  He’s also wrote many books, one of which, Wherever You go, There You Are, was a book I read for a mindfulness class I took that was extremely insightful.  At a later time I will be writing a profile article on more of the works of Kabat-Zinn, so stay tuned for that.

Once Kabat-Zinn kicked off this modern mindfulness practice in the 1980’s, mainstream culture really latched on to the idea. Classes are now being held on college campuses, much like the one I participated in, and as I stated before there were countless books, websites and apps that have been developed since.

Now you can see that mindfulness isn’t just some religious ideology.  While it may have it’s roots in religion it has been well received by many different cultures and has been taken in a more modern direction by scholars and psychologists alike.

I hope you learned a little about mindfulness today.  What do you think about the history of mindfulness?  Do you have any questions about my interpretation? Do you have a different interpretation?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Mindful Musings

A mental health journey through mindfulness.

Photo licensed through creative commons

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