What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an integrative, mind-body based approach that helps people to change the way they think and feel
about their experiences, especially stressful experiences. It involves paying attention to our thoughts and
feelings so we become more aware of them, less enmeshed in them, and better able to manage them. Mindfulness is also associated with meditative practice to strengthen the ability to recognise thoughts.
Who Might Benefit from Learning Mindfulness?
Mindfulness approaches have been proven to be effective in a wide range of mental and physical health
applications. Mindfulness generally supports health promotion and prevention of ill health. Mindfulness
programmes have achieved significant reductions in symptoms and relapse rates in mental ill health and there
is evidence that Mindfulness interventions can directly benefit physical health by improving immune system
response, speeding healing, and inducing a sense of physical well-being.
How Does One Practice Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a both a way of focusing attention, and a state of mind that results from mindfully focused attention. Anytime you bring your undivided attention to what you are doing in the present moment, you are experiencing a moment of mindfulness. This is a natural skill that we all possess and have all experienced many times in our lives. Undivided attention makes those moments of mindfulness in life seem fuller, richer, more vibrant and alive. Sometimes it occurs naturally during special moments of joy, sometimes in situations of unexpected grief or surprise.
Mindfulness practice is simply learning to learn to extend and maintain those mindful moments into a state of mindful awareness that endures for increasing amounts of time.
Where did Mindfulness Practice Come From?
Mindfulness practice was first taught in India by the Buddha, a title that means “awakened one.” He was a real person born in the 6th century B.C.E. as a prince of a small kingdom in what is now Nepal. He was so moved by the suffering he saw around him that he renounced his privileged life around age 30, and spent the next 50 years learning, and then teaching, how to eliminate suffering by developing our capacity for wisdom and compassion. All schools of Buddhism in the past 2500 years have taught mindfulness practices for the fullest development of human consciousness.
In 1979 a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center named Jon Kabat-Zinn was asked by medical doctors working with patients who suffered from chronic pain if he could help their patients cope with the stress of their medical conditions. Kabat-Zinn, who himself suffered from back pain, had been practicing mindfulness at a Buddhist Center in Barre, Massachusetts called the Insight Meditation Society and he also practiced yoga to help with his back pain. He developed the first secular program based in part on mindfulness practice, originally called the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program, and began teaching it at the Medical Center in Worcester. The program incorporates a range of practices including a simple form of meditation, gentle stretching and yoga, group discussions, and presentation of information about working with stress. Kabat-Zinn, who is now retired but is still active with mindfulness and meditation research, later changed the name to the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program. The original program is still offered as MBSR at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester.
From here and here.