Mindfulness FAQs

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of deepening one's awareness of the present moment, usually through sustained focus (on an object, sound, etc.). By directing non-judgmental awareness towards the elements in one’s inner self (mind and body) and outer environments (or immediate surroundings), one starts to notice the impermanence of these experiences. This leads to reduced identification with thoughts and feelings by letting go of them while focusing on the object of meditation. Frequent meditators often find themselves more connected to their heart in a calm and compassionate way, which in turn leads to a deeper connection with others and their environment.

Recent interest in the potential benefits of mindfulness training and/or meditation for individuals and larger organizations has emerged well outside of clinical studies in the United States. Educational institutions across the country have embraced mindfulness into their communities to strengthen their roots and facilitate an atmosphere of inclusivity, resilience, and receptivity to new ideas.

The root of mindfulness practice can be traced back to Buddhist and Hindu teachings as early as 500BCE and 5000BCE, respectively. However, the phenomenological nature of mindfulness is embedded within most spiritual and mystical traditions of the world, including but not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam (Sufism), Taoism, and Confucianism. According to most traditions, the ultimate goal of mindfulness meditation is “self-realization” or “liberation from suffering” (nirvana or moksha). Beyond the spiritual pursuit, mindfulness practice has also been adopted within Western psychology and is a tool that many mental health professionals introduce to their clients (Source: Walsh & Shapiro, 2006). In this capacity, mindfulness becomes a tool to bring our awareness back to our actual felt experience in the body when we are lost in thought. Bringing our awareness to the embodiment of stress is one of health benefit of mindfulness practice.

To learn more about the use of the word "mindfulness" and the history of the practice, refer to this article.

The practice of mindfulness, in the form of meditation, contemplation and reflection, results in outcomes that are transformational in nature, with implications for physical health, psychological well-being, intellectual performance, and social empowerment. Studies have shown regular mindfulness practice to be linked to

  • Increased concentration and creativity
  • Improved ability to deal with stress and anxiety
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Better learning and memory
  • Increased compassion
  • Improved overall wellbeing

(Source: Altobello, 2007; Holzel et al., 2011; Howell et al., 2008; Shapiro et al., 2008).

At more advanced levels, mindfulness practice has shown to significantly reduce the brain activity in anxiety regions – the insular cortex and the amygdala – and improve their ability to deal with pain (Ricard et al., 2014). For more scientific insights into the benefits of mindfulness, check the “Recommended Readings” Section.

Compassion is the recognition of suffering in oneself and others, resulting in benevolent actions that help alleviate this suffering. Compassion can be developed through mindfulness practices, such as loving-kindness meditation, where one consciously directs love and kindness towards oneself and other beings. Through awareness and acceptance, one can cultivate compassion resulting in increased social connectedness (Hutcherson et al., 2008).

Mindfulness, leading to compassion, can be trained like a skill. The more mindfully aware we become, the more we can cultivate a compassionate response for others and ourselves in the face of adversity for greater resilience and wellbeing. Mindfulness supports humility by enabling us to take a more balanced view of ourselves and others. If we become wrapped up in our internal narratives and begin to feel separate it becomes harder to feel connected and express empathy and extend compassion to others and ourselves. Humility connects us and creates the space for others to feel seen and heard.

More FAQs coming soon...

Have a question? Email Rebecca Harrington or Bharath Ramkumar

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