The word Mindfulness has been translated from Latin as “Full Attention”. This ancient practice that has come down to us in the XXI century, helps us connect with our essence and frees us from the thoughts and emotions that kidnap us.
There is a definition that I really like about mindfulness, it was written by Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the introducers of mindfulness in the healthcare environment. Kabat-Zinn says…“Paying attention deliberately, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”
This phrase contains the whole soul of mindfulness, which is nothing more than living in the present. It seems easy to live in the present, but in a time when everything goes fast, where we are hyper-busy, where we have been made to believe that multitasking is possible and even necessary, we live in other times… in the past and in the future.
Living in a time different from the present, confronts us with frustration and uncertainty. Because the truth is that our mind conjures up situations and images that rarely have anything to do with reality, but we tend to blindly believe what our mind whispers to us.
Mindfulness helps us get to know ourselves better because it allows us to understand the content of the mind (emotions, thoughts, beliefs). And little by little we are waking up… turning off that automatic pilot in which we usually live.
Autopilot leads us to always respond in the same way to our emotions, it pushes us to run away when we feel fear instead of staying with it to understand why it arises. And in this way, we feel that we live like automatons… entangled in an eternal cycle of action-reaction. Mindfulness helps us disconnect that automatic pilot to enter the present, replacing the cycle of action-reaction with that of becoming aware.
Contributions of Mindfulness
Mindfulness was born from the teachings of the Buddha. The practice of mindfulness brings us many things:
Pillars of mindfulness: Buddhism tells us about 4 basic pillars: the body, sensations, the mind and objects (obstacles of the mind to live in the present). We can take these pillars to deepen our mindfulness practice.
Equanimity and acceptance: Equanimity is an emotional state of total balance, where we accept everything that comes to us and we do not judge it as “good or bad”. Equanimity means not rejecting what makes us suffer or trying to make what we like last forever. That is why equanimity helps us feel emotional balance, because we adapt to everything that comes to us (emotions, thoughts, experiences).
Beginner’s mind: We can recover this attitude from our childhood to see life as a child does: with curiosity, exploring, observing and learning. This attitude can guide our lives and helps us better understand the world around us and also our inner world. Curiosity is the key to warding off fear.
Informal practice: This is what is called in mindfulness to live in the present in each activity we do. It consists of attending to how we walk, how we eat, drive, shower or how we breathe. Awareness connects us with the present.
Formal practice: Also called meditation. Meditation is a time that we reserve for ourselves, to silence ourselves and connect with our inner world. It helps us to get to know ourselves more deeply and to free ourselves from that automatic pilot that usually guides us.
Physical benefits: The habitual practice of meditation changes the functioning of our brain and also its structures, makes us more aware of our body and reduces the constant production of thoughts. Regular meditation also strengthens our immune system and reduces our aging.
Emotional benefits: Anxiety and depression are reduced due to fewer negative thoughts, improves our attention and allows us to understand that all mental states are transitory and changing. It brings us balance, reduces our criticism and judgments and by living in the present, we enjoy life more.
These are just some of the contributions of Mindfulness to our lives.