Growing Mindfulness

by on 14 July

Mindfulness, and the meditation that cultivates it, is a growing phenomenon in North America and elsewhere due its potential to improve one’s well-being and capabilities. It’s not new in the world - Buddhists have been practicing it for 2500 years. And it’s not necessarily Buddhist - after all, it’s a basic human capacity. But it does play a central role in the Buddhist methods of mental development and purification. And Buddhism has helped to spread its growth in the West. Another major force in the growing practice of mindfulness has been the work of Jon Kabatt-Zinn.

 

Kabatt-Zinn, an American cellular biologist, developed a program in 1979 – Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). He taught meditation and mindfulness at the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre to medical patients who doctors could help no further. After just a few weeks of daily practice of watching their inner experience, his students reported remarkably positive changes in their relationship to their bodies and minds as well as to other people. Scientist that he is, Jon measured and published the results, and continues to do so.

In 1990, Jon published a book which described in detail the MBSR course and the possible application of mindfulness to reduce anxiety (stress) in many facets of our life – stress in dealing with time, sleep, work, other people, our particular roles, food, and world affairs. It was called Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of our Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness.

In the 1990s, Jon began to train other people to teach the MBSR course. And, he published Wherever You Go, There You Are – an easy-to-read gem of a book designed “to provide brief and easy access to the essence of mindfulness meditation and its applications”. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in this topic.

This was followed by a much more detailed treatment of the subject in 2005 in his Coming to Our Senses: Healing ourselves and the World through Mindfulness. Yes, coming to our senses – "be reasonable, man, come to your senses". In the context of mindfulness, this means making greater use of our sense organs to inform us of the reality of our outer and inner worlds, and becoming more skeptical of our thoughts which can create distorted images of our situation and of ourselves which are not helpful.

I witnessed first-hand the world's greater interest in mindfulness last summer. I had the pleasure and privilege to spend a week with Jon soaking up his gift for communicating mindful meditation, along with 207 other people equally keen to learn how to spread the practice. They came from five continents, and 27 countries. One participant, a delightful older lady, prefaced her first comment to the group by saying, “You might be interested to know why someone from India, the birthplace of meditation, has traveled this far.” All of these peoples’ applications to attend the week-long training course were received and processed the previous fall - in one hour. Several hundred others had been turned away.

In 2010, Jon was interviewed by Shambala Sun who asked him “What are some of the frontiers that mindfulness has entered in recent years?” He replied, “The mindfulness work is spilling into areas way beyond medicine and healthcare and also beyond psychology and neuroscience. It’s moving into programs on childbirth and parenting, education, business, athletics and professional sports, the legal profession, criminal justice, even politics.”

In my next post, I will provide examples of how mindfulness is being used in many of these areas. And, then procced to talk about some of my experiences in mindfulness - and how it's improving my life.

1 comment

  • Ronnie Etter

    Awesome blog, going to bookmark it!

    Ronnie Etter Sunday, 06 November 2016 16:34

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.