With the ushering in of mindfulness—a relatively novel idea in the secular realm—arises an abundance of explanation and instruction. But what do experts have to say on what it really means to be mindful?
DOING WITHOUT STRIVING OR ARRIVING
In addressing the constellation of what mindfulness encompasses, grand misconceptions often beg corrections: Mindfulness isn’t just about meditation. And it’s not a matter of declaring, “I am mindful.” Mindfulness doesn’t just happen. To be mindful requires refined attention and repetition. Ultimately, it involves cultivation that necessitates a doing of sorts, albeit subtly. Practice is ‘the practice.’
ADJUSTING RELATIONSHIPS WITH THOUGHT AND SENSATION
Jon Kabat-Zinn titled his 2018 book with a phrase he uses often, “falling awake.”1 Imagine it an abridged description of mindful experience. Despite a seeming hint of humor, the implication is nearly literal: falling awake as the converse of falling asleep. In more precise language, Kabat-Zinn puts forth an operational definition of mindfulness: “awareness that arises through paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”2 He and his peers are talking about deliberate attention.
The University of California at Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) explains mindfulness as “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.”3 Both Kabat-Zinn and the GGSC are referring to decided noting and acceptance of what is at a particular instant. Those who apply mindfulness acknowledge the ephemeral nature of each moment of joy, pain, and everything in-between.
Likewise, mindfulness suggests allowance, paired with appreciation of every moment— without regret, striving, or worry. “Self-aware, humans can imagine spaciousness within. “
We may permit what arises. And with reception and gratitude, we can nurture loving-kindness for all beings, including ourselves.
FROM BASICS TO BROAD BENEFITS
We’ve only scratched the surface. Researchers and laypeople dig deeper, further unearthing emotional, cognitive, and physical benefits of mindfulness. Once we understand mindfulness in simple terms, we’re open to reaping its bountiful rewards.
1”falling awake” can be found in countless texts and videos, including: https://meaningmindfulness.com/jon-kabat-zinn-coming-to-our-senses/ Social Work Treatment: Interlocking Theoretical Approaches edited by Francis J. Turner, pg. 328
2JK-Zinn’s 0perational definition of mindfulness appears in numerous texts and videos/lectures, including his 1990 book, Full Catastrophe Living as well as the website Mindful.org https://www.mindful.org/jon-kabat-zinn-defining-mindfulness/
3Greater Good Science Center’s definition of mindfulness: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/mindfulness/definition
About Our Author
Julie Pearl volunteers as a freelance writer and editor. She has contributed content for small businesses, including organizations that address female audiences and speak to different facets of women’s empowerment and well-being. Julie’s passions lie in supporting awareness of and pro activity in matters of mental and physical health. Also a poet, Julie’s work appears in several literary journals.