Breaking Down Mindfulness

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” ~Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness is a type of mental training often accomplished through meditation. The purpose of practicing mindfulness is not to change your thoughts, but rather to change your relationship with your thoughts. As such, an elementary principle of mindfulness is the idea that you are not your thoughts.

During a mindfulness meditation, you allow your thoughts to pass through your mind without judgment or criticism. As we saw in the clip above, you become an observer of your own mind. What does this do? In the short-term, it allows you to observe what’s going on around you, in the present moment, without bias.  It provides a buffer which calms your emotional and physiological reaction to stressful thoughts. Over the long-term, mindfulness can not only prevent depression, but it can positively influence the patterns in the brain which underlie stress, anxiety, depression, and mood swings. Negative emotions don’t just disappear (nor should they), but they dissolve away more easily.

The next time you have an argument with a loved one or you’re stuck in a traffic jam or you feel overwhelmed with stress, take a moment to put yourself in a frame of mind where you are not worrying about your own interests in the argument, you’re not trying to make a point or waiting for your turn to speak, but merely taking a second to take everything in and accept the situation before you.

A moment of mindful contemplation of the senses, of the world around you can lead to a frame of mind where you’re no longer concerned with your own personal fears and worries, with the problems and challenges of the day. A moment of true mindfulness can lead to a true appreciation of life. As it says in Buddhist scripture, “Develop the mind of equilibrium. You will always be getting praise and blame, but do not let either affect the poise of the mind: follow the calmness, the absence of pride.”

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9 thoughts on “Breaking Down Mindfulness”

  1. I often find myself jumping forward to the future, especially while at work. Even when having conversations with coworkers, I’ll be thinking of what my wife and I should make for dinner, who’s going to drive our kids to soccer/basketball/hockey practice, etc. I thought the video made an excellent point about missing out on things in the present when you’re, as the video cleverly said, “time traveling” in your mind. I appreciated that the video pointed out and acknowledged the difficulties of mindfulness. I would very much like to try it, and knowing that it’s a difficult practice will hopefully prevent me from getting less frustrated and make me more willing to stick to it. Seems like the benefits of mindfulness are very great!

  2. I enjoyed this article. I can relate to losing control with my emotions and thoughts on a daily basis. I think it’s quite obvious as we get older and our lives become more complicated and even routine, this failure of being fully in the present happens all to often. I love how Buddhism in general eloquently addresses this in it’s usual lofty approach. I think we all need to take a good deep breath and listen to ourselves instead of ranting and raving in the external. I like the idea of meditation, I just wish it seemed easier. Maybe it’s my own noisy mind, constantly drifting off which would explain the difficulty. I think the idea of mental training is something many of us easily overlook.

    • Yes I have the same experience with meditation. Maybe it’s not for me but I can’t seem to enter that “zone” of total relaxation or to clear my mind of the daily concerns and problems. I find work is especially powerful as I tend to be ever proactive in planning ahead.

      • Same here;) Did you ever see Ellen DeGeneres, the comedian talk about this issue? seems it is widespread and she was saying how her mind during a meditation class would always sing these ridiculous commercials! Very funny but so true.

  3. This is a very powerful technique in dealing with daily issues, especially high stress careers and is even perfect for parents. It is a shame we don’t exposure to this kind of practical training in the secular world of western society. I mean outside of learning this practice from Buddhism or having a guru or yoga devotee for a friend, most of us living in westernized societies do not have healthy and productive means for dealing with our stress. It is no wonder we have such high rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and numerous other control related stress inducing disorders. I read before that in the US alone, we have the world’s highest percentage of people on psychotropic drugs and in therapy. We also have the world’s largest prison population. There has to be some obvious correlation. Society and it’s productive citizens must find more beneficial ways at coping with life’s difficulties. Meditation and techniques such as mindfulness is not only essential but seriously mandatory in our current state. This is so relevant for many of us and seems simple on the surface, but in practice I see many of us resorting to our “old” reinforced and unhealthy ways….

    • Agreed, it will take serious practice before it becomes habitual. Then again, it seems what we gain will be worth it in the end.

  4. This is so true and I also find myself constantly doing this around many situations. Work yes! I have a habit of especially drifting while on the phone with clients. It can get so embarrassing at times because I will have to pretend that there was some noise on my line or that my cell phone lost reception temporarily! Reminds me of being in college in those huge 101 courses in some medieval humanities course in western civilization for an elective credit….everyone dozing off or day dreaming:) I think the hardest part is allowing these thoughts to exist but changing the way we interact with them so we avoid the usual habit of becoming self absorbed, losing touch with our present reality. Great article and I love the advice on remaining calm in any situation.

  5. I think if we took a step back before engaging a situation and refrain from acting or jumping at the first response which is almost always, emotional, we will continue to make those kinds of mistakes we regret. Arguments almost always seem to progress from terrible to worse as people lose complete control of what they say and do and unfortunately have to regret it later, after some time and reconciliation. This is good advice, taking a moment to change your perspective and frame of mind. To put oneself in another’s view and see through there perception. This way we remove our personal bias and become more partial observers. This is almost a perfect description of how Buddhists always have cultivated their inner harmony that they project to the external world around them. It is a beautiful way to live one’s life.

  6. I like the idea that when practiced over time this can be preventative. You can avoid depression and being moody in the sense that you feel unable to control the negativity in your life. I think this would be great to practice and put in motion with a partner or loved one. This way both of you being mindful and aware can easily counter each other’s weaknesses as an issue or problem arises.
    Sometimes as they say it takes two…and this is one method that would benefit two people in a relationship as they can be mindful of each other as well as themselves. Not to mention you get to see your progress by having someone on the outside observe your new approach to life:))

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