Mindfulness meditation

What is it?

Mindfulness is state of mind that observes the present moment with a sustained, relaxed attention, with purpose and non-judgement. Mindfulness meditation trains one to develop this quality of attention. It encourages observing everything that goes on in the mind “without judging, reacting, or holding on”[1].  It originates from Buddhist meditative practice, and is currently it is one of the most researched types of meditation.

In one of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s inspiring talks to Google employees[2], he talks of mindfulness meditation as just “dropping in” to the moment, to be with oneself with curiosity and kindness.

 

How is it practiced?

The practice starts with quietening the mind by focusing on one point, usually the breath. As the mind inevitably wanders, one acknowledges the cause of distraction, and gently brings the mind back to this point of focus.  As thoughts, feelings and sensations continue to arise, mindful meditation encourages one to observe every such phenomena with curiosity, and then to gently release them from attention. With continuous practice, less and less of such thoughts and feelings arise over time, and one is left with an awareness of the mind that is beyond these phenomena.

Mindfulness meditation is also referred to as open-monitoring meditation. The principles of observing the present moment with openness and curiosity can be applied to any activity, such as walking, eating, or listening mindfully.

Why?

Mindfulness meditation leads to an understanding of how all thoughts, feelings and sensations are transient and separate from the mind. This awareness of things that go on in the mind as separate from the mind, is the starting point of understanding the self.  With continued practice, an individual develops a new relationship  to their thoughts and emotions, so that eventually they are able to recognise and direct them rather than be subject to them.

 

Current application

Since Jon Kabat-Zinn first integrated mindfulness meditation into his Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme in 1979, it has become the basis for different psychological interventions recommended by health organisations, such as such as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Mindfulness-based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT), and Mindful Awareness Practice (MAP).

Such therapies that integrate mindfulness meditation are commonly referred to as mindfulness based therapies (MBTs).

Besides being recommended for health reasons, the corporate world has also taken an interest in it. Companies such as Google and General Electric offer mindfulness courses to employees for its potential to relieve stress and increase focused attention.