What Is Mindfulness?
The suffering seems to be an inherent element of the human condition. However, it is not. Since the beginning of time there have been people interested in investigating the ins and outs of the human soul and the origin and entrails of suffering. It seems that we are never satisfied, because we suffer in the face of adversity and the moments of adversity are an inherent part of life (but not the way we experience them). We suffer from dramatic or difficult moments but we also suffer when our life is relatively satisfactory because we want to have just what we do not have or because we fear losing what we have achieved or because we have lost what we once had. We also suffer when we try to avoid situations that displease us or when we want more than what we consider beneficial… we never have enough. But life does not attend to our particular needs. Life runs its course regardless of our desires and, as human beings, we have no choice but to take on old age and death, because that is something from which no one escapes. If to all this we add the stress resulting from this our era of super-stimulation, super-production, super-information and super-ALL, where the changes happen so fast that we hardly have time to take them and adapt, mindfulness turns out to be a tool more necessary than ever to stop a moment and become aware of how we are experiencing our life to be able to discern if, indeed, this is how we want to experience it. Children live education as real work days but, when they leave, they continue to over-stimulate their homework and extracurricular activities because, in this era of super-production, allowing children to get bored is almost a sacrilege. And the same goes for adults. We have been educated to be efficient links in the industrial chain so that, when finally comes the time of retirement that should really be a joyful experience to enjoy freely doing what we want to do, people get depressed because they feel they stop being productive. Fathers and mothers do not know how to reconcile professional life with family, social, sexual, personal. It seems that we suffer a kind of collective hysteria that consists of doing, doing and doing more (and thinking and thinking and thinking more) so that stopping produces a vertigo so great that hardly gives us to be slightly aware of the passage of life and our fleeting passage through it. While driving, we think about the shopping list; while we buy, we think about the meeting tomorrow; In tomorrow’s meeting we will think about how to plan the weekend and so, in this vortex of thoughts and actions, we barely enjoy light moments of consciousness to taste what it really means to exist. Mindfulness is a powerful tool, a way to experience life calmly but passionately, moment by moment; It is a journey towards self-knowledge and a method to keep us alert and aware in this fascinating adventure that is to live. How to Practice Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness means living with a total presence in the here and now. It means stopping ruminating thoughts to concentrate on the present moment. It means that, instead of thinking about yesterday and tomorrow while I live today, I keep my mind present on what I do now. To achieve all this, different programs have been developed, the most popular of them all is the MBSR Stress Reduction Program that consists of 8 weeks. The fundamental tool of this type of discipline is meditation, which can be carried out in two ways:
Formal Meditation. It is a form of mental training that consists of sitting doing nothing but focusing the mind’s attention on an object (such as breathing).
Informal Meditation. It is about practicing the same exercise of conscious attention to the here and now, while doing any kind of daily work such as cooking or walking. You have extensive information on the different aspects of Mindfulness and how to practice it step by step in the story how to practice mindfulness.
Benefits of Mindfulness
The abundant and rigorous scientific studies carried out in recent years in the USA report that Mindfulness (meditation) has the potential to bring great benefits in:
Mental Health. Thanks to the plasticity of the brain, areas related to empathy, happiness, joy, serenity, calm, etc., are enlarged. In addition, it has been shown to have a great impact on anti-stress programs and is also being used in clinical psychology in problems such as depression, anxiety or even more severe mental disorders.
Physical Health. Since the brain is the master of ceremonies of the body, by improving mental health, as a result, we can improve the overall health of the body. Clear benefits have been detected in cardio-vascular health and the nervous system and it is also being implanted in treatments against all types of diseases of various kinds when the halopathic treatment can not do anything (this is how the BMSR program was born in the University of Massachusets).
Emotional Health. Mindfulness also affects emotional control, improves impulses and automatic reactions to better manage daily decisions, increases the capacity for empathy and compassion, as well as memory and creativity. In short, mindfulness serves to learn to focus our life.
At present, thanks to these benefits that have been scientifically proven, mindfulness is being applied more and more and diverse areas:
Business. The most important multinational companies in the world have been implementing mindfulness programs among their employees for years to reduce absenteeism and inefficiency generated by stress and lack of physical health. It is also used to stimulate compassionate leadership, improve labor relations, etc.
School. Many are already the centers that establish mindfulness programs among students to improve emotional control, reduce conflicts and aggression, increase the ability to concentrate, etc.
Personal and Family. More and more people and families are choosing to use mindfulness techniques to improve the quality of health, personal relationships or even at the spiritual level to calm the mind and be able to make appropriate decisions that make a deep sense of their lives.
The Power of Mind
The Buddhist psychology is studied and practiced for over 2,000 years and has therefore developed a comprehensive model of the workings of the mind that analyzes in detail the causes of suffering and the way to leave it. According to this model, the mind has more than 50 factors, of which half are considered harmful and the other half are beneficial. Negative states are those that take us away from calm, serenity, balance and conscious presence. Some of them are attachment, aversion, ignorance or illusion. When several of these factors are combined, one enters into an agitated and destructive mental state that alters personal well-being. As with other Oriental philosophies (such as Hindu Ayurvedic medicine or the Yin / Yan theory for Chinese medicine), the opposite forces are used to counteract the negative effects of these mental factors. Thus, negative factors such as those mentioned above, have an opposite that serves to rebalance the mental state. Those positive forces that regulate the negatives are detachment, impartiality, discernment, etc. According to this model, when a group of negative factors dominates the mental state of a person for long periods of time, they become, then, personality traits. That is, reiterative thoughts arise from the depths of the mind and each time they occupy more space until they take control completely, so that they color our vision of reality. Since these thoughts take over all situations, they also do so during meditation. The Meditative therapy lies precisely realize, to observe the changing nature and ephemeral of our mind to so disidentify of our thoughts. It consists in realizing that my thoughts are not me; they are just that, thoughts. During meditation it is not intended to stop having thoughts (for thinking is the proper nature of the mind ) but to disidentify them. Thus, little by little, they stop working until they fade. One of the most relevant attachments in our society (and key in the origin of many psychological illnesses such as depression or anxiety ) is the attachment to think (ruminate and turn over and over again the same things) giving, in addition, a value to those thoughts that is not real. That is, we believe that our thoughts are true, we give them total credibility when they have nothing to do with the real reality. See how to overcome addition to emotions. Realize that our thoughts do not have any essence (that come and go, arise and disappear, that what we thought was irrefutable today seems foolish to us) is the beginning of the path to sanction.
Why Mindfulness Is So Effective
One of the keys to understanding the effectiveness of mindfulness practice is that this discipline supposes an enriching fusion between Eastern and Western thought.
Western science has traditionally focused on the physical world and has studied it objectively, excluding the observer, that is, excluding subjective experience. The West considers and studies reality as something different and external to human thought (that is, things are what they are, apart from me). For example, in medicine, Western science has tried to find remedies and cures for diseases in elements outside the patient (drugs, surgery, chemicals) giving little importance to the therapeutic potential within the patient. Obviously, within the scope of the outside (what is outside the patient) the West has reaped great successes in the technological and pharmacological treatment of the disease.
For its part, the East has considered the human mind itself and the conscience (what is inside) the fundamental axis of research. That is, more than external reality, Eastern philosophy has been interested in the way in which the human mind interprets and experiences reality ; what is the origin of human happiness and suffering. Budha said: ‘All phenomena are preceded by the mind and when it is understood, all phenomena are understood; when the mind is controlled, all phenomena are controlled. ‘ In short, in the East, the star of the sciences is ‘the science of the mind’. In recent decades, several rigorous scientific studies based on Western technologies have shown the effectiveness of meditation in modifying brain activity and thereby improve physical and mental health. Union make force!
Mindfulness in the Present
To understand the dimension of this method that is Mindfulness, it is interesting to know how its expansion and impact in the current world has taken place. For this, it is necessary to take into account the extraordinary contribution of John Kabat-Zinn. This molecular biologist founded in 1979 the Stress Reduction Clinic at the Medical Center of the University of Massachusetts with the MBSR program, mainly aimed at patients with chronic diseases that did not find an answer in the field of conventional medicine. According to Kabat-Zinn, this method comes to cover an important aspect of health that conventional medicine does not know to take into account: the patient’s own involvement in the healing process. The program includes practices yoga and meditation based on Tibetan Buddhism ( Vipassana ), lectures and audio CDs with guided meditations so that participants can continue at home. Check the contraindications and unwanted effects of the meditation. Thanks to its remarkable results, this program spread rapidly (it is currently offered in more than 250 hospitals in the United States). In addition, neuroscientific research on its beneficial effects has contributed to the method’s strong support from the academic and scientific community throughout the world. In fact, it has aroused so much interest that there are more and more studies and publications on the impact of Mindfulness on physical and mental health.
What Does Mindfulness Have to Do with Mysticism?
Many people relate, even today, the word ‘meditation’ with religious rituals and fraudulent or esoteric mystical practices. This is one of the problems with which the application of meditation in Western psychotherapy has been found. That is why the term Mindfulness today has more prestige and credibility than the term ‘meditation’, as they have the same pillars, since Mindfulness tends to eliminate any religious or spiritual nuance in its practical application. But this differentiation is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there are still people who use the mystical aspect to manipulate or earn money self-erecting themselves ‘enlightened’. Obviously these types of people (and organizations) have the potential to do a lot of damage and it is important to make sure that they do not fall into their hands. But, on the other hand, neglecting the spiritual aspect of meditation, we can fall into the error of limiting the potential of such an effective and complete practice. Oriental jargon and rituals must find a universal form of expression that everyone can understand, in order to enable people who suffer, a really useful path, regardless of the cultural elements to which meditation is associated.