The Power of Being Present
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment. It involves acceptance for what is – meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judgement. We release the notion that there is a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. Practicing mindfulness allows us to tune into the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. Which in most cases leads to negative thought patterns that become our constant state of being.
Jon Kabat Zinn
Jon Kabat-Zinn is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Bring Your Whole Heart, Mind, Intelligence and Soul
The image to the left is the ancient Japanese representation of appamada. This kanji, the adopted logographic Chinese characters (hànzì) that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana and katakana, is composed of two simpler characters, and the Japanese word for it is nen. The top character means “now, today, this present era, this moment”. It looks like a peaked roof, or a mountain. The bottom character, shin, is usually translated as “heart” or “mind.” A more complete meaning of this character is “heart, mind, intelligence, soul.”
So this whole kanji actually represents bringing your whole heart, mind, intelligence, and soul into this very moment, into right now, and into this modern era. Being in present moment awareness is a protection (a roof) or a stable foundation (a mountain) for our heart, mind, intelligence, and soul. In turn, this liberates us to be a benefit in the world, through our energetic, mindful, care.
Backed by Science
Mindfulness increases resiliency to stress and boosts our immune response
The electrical activity of participant’s brain were measured before and after a study conducted by Drs. Richard Davidson and Jon Kabat-Zinn , and then again 4 months later. The research found that the meditation group had significant increases in activity in the left side of the brain’s frontal area, as compared to the control group. This region of the brain is associated with emotion regulation and positive affect. Davidson’s research showed that individuals with greater activation in this region recover more quickly following a stressful event
Mindfulness practice leads to increases in brain gray matter density responsible for perspective taking
In the study by Drs. Britta Hölzel, James Carmody, et al, MRIs were obtained from 16 healthy, meditation-naïve participants before and after they took the 8-week MBSR program. Analyses in a priori regions of interest confirmed increases in gray matter concentration within the left hippocampus.
Mindfulness can decrease emotionally reactive behavior
A study by Julie Brefczynski-Lewis et al. in 2007 found that in long-term expert meditators (those with 10,000 or more hours of meditation training), emotional sounds caused lesser activation in the part of the emotional brain known as the amygdala than novice meditators. Additionally, the more hours of meditation training the expert had, the lower the activation of the amygdala. This is important because the amygdala acts as our brain’s sentinel, constantly scanning the environment for threats to our survival. The amygdala plays an important role in anxiety and stress and responsible for processing fear and aggression. The results from this study suggest that a long-term meditation practice may be associated with significant decreases in emotionally reactive behavior.
Attitudinal Foundations for Mindfulness
- Taking the stance of an impartial witness to your own experience.
- Noticing the stream of judging mind .. good / bad / neutral… not trying to stop it but just being aware of it.
- Letting things unfold in their own time
- A child may try to help a butterfly emerge by breaking open a chrysalis but chances are the butterfly won’t benefit from this help.
- Practicing patience with ourselves. “Why rush through some moments in order to get to other ‘better’ ones? Each one is your life in that moment.”
- Being completely open to each moment, accepting its fullness, knowing that like the butterfly, things will emerge in their own time.
- Too often we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we ‘know’ stop us from seeing things as they really are.
- Cultivating a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time
- Being receptive to new possibilities… not getting stuck in a rut of our own expertise.
- Each moment is unique and contains unique possibilities.
- Try it with someone you know – next time, ask yourself if you are seeing this person with fresh eyes, as he/she really is? Try it with problems… with the sky… with the dog… with the man in the corner shop.
- Developing a basic trust in yourself and your feelings.
- Trusting in your own authority and intuition, even if you make some ‘mistakes’ along the way.
- Honor your feelings. Taking responsibility for yourself and your own well-being
- Meditation has no goal other than for you to be yourself. The irony is you already are.
- Paying attention to how you are right now – however that it is. Just watch.
- The best way to achieve your own goals is to back off from striving and instead start to really focus on carefully seeing and accepting things as they are, moment by moment. With patience and regular practice, movement towards your goals will take place by itself.
- Seeing things as they actually are in the present. If you have a headache, accept you have a headache.
- We often waste a lot of time and energy denying what is fact. We are trying to force situations to how we would like them to be. This creates more tension and prevents positive change occurring.
- Now is the only time we have for anything. You have to accept yourself as you are before you can really change.
- Acceptance is not passive; it does not mean you have to like everything and abandon your principles and values. It does not mean you have to be resigned to tolerating things. It does not mean that you should stop trying to break free of your own self-destructive habits or give up your desire to change and grow.
- Acceptance is a willingness to see things as they are. You are much more likely to know what to do and have an inner conviction to act when you have a clear picture of what is actually happening.
- Letting go is a way of letting things be, of accepting things as they are.
- We let things go and we just watch…
- If we find it particularly difficult to let go of something because it has such a strong hold on our mind, we can direct our attention to what ‘holding’ feels like. Holding on is the opposite of letting go. Being willing to look at the ways we hold on shows a lot about its opposite.
- You already know how to let go… Every night when we go to sleep we let go.
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