Mindfulness is everywhere – in the news, on magazine covers, in our schools and all over the internet – which leaves many wondering, where did it come from and why is it attracting so much attention? Mindfulness has its roots in ancient India. Over 2500 years ago, Vipassana meditation was taught by Buddha as a remedy for life’s ills. Vipassana means insight into the true nature of things, to see things as they really are. It is a non-religious meditation practice that aims to eliminate mental impurities so that one can reach a state of happiness and contentment, free from the burdens of the mind that are said to create human suffering.
Although mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years, it has gained its recent popularity in the West in large part due to the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, and his pioneering work in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. As a medical doctor who studied Buddishm, Kabat-Zinn decided to use mindfulness and meditation practices to treat patients suffering with chronic pain. His work and the research that followed have shown that these ancient practices can bring great improvements in both physical and psychological health, as well as changes in attitude and behavior.
Mindfulness is now commonly defined as the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment. In this busy, fast-paced modern world, the ability to hit the pause button and place your full attention on what you are actually experiencing in your body and in your mind, as you are experiencing it, has proven not only to improve chronic health problems, but has also been linked to human happiness.
The practice of mindfulness continues to evolve and new tools are emerging to incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives. At 2bpresent, we have studied with Buddhist monks, psychologists, leaders in the fields of mindfulness meditation and positive psychology, as well as experimented with mindfulness apps and online meditation groups, to better understand how to integrate these ancient practices into our modern world. Twenty-first century technology is being used to conduct research on the brain and the effects mindfulness practices have on our power to change our brain structure and improve its function. There is also new and emerging research that shows the effects mindfulness practices have on children, improving emotional self-regulation, increasing focus and attention, decreasing stress and improving academic performance. There is good reason that the mindfulness movement is gaining popularity, not just as a fad but as a promising new avenue to improved health and well-being.
In light of the soaring costs of medical care and the increasing use of prescription drugs to treat the symptoms rather than the causes of disease and disorders, mindfulness offers great potential to improved health and wellness. It is also a key focus in our quest for happiness. For all of these reasons, this ancient practice that dates back thousands of years is now experiencing a renaissance in our modern world as the mindfulness revolution.