Practicing Mindfulness

Originally derived from the Buddhist tradition, but increasingly applied to a wide spectrum of Western modalities for mental and physical well-being, mindfulness is the practice of bringing your awareness to what is emerging in the present moment. This refers to what is occurring for us internally (our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs) and externally (the environment around us) from moment to moment. It is a radical wake-up call to become conscious of all parts of ourselves, bringing to awareness the unconscious behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs that have been running us.

Developing “mindful awareness” allows us to improve our life at all levels. This gives us a fresh perspective from which we can non-judgmentally witness whatever is arising for us in the present, internally and externally, from a place of curiosity and openness. When we encounter the present with new eyes, we are less likely to identify with unconscious feelings and beliefs. This opens the door to new perspectives. The more mindful we are, either by nature or by practice, several benefits will result:
  • We are less reactive to thoughts and feelings as they occur.
  • We notice, observe, and attend to our sensations and perceptions.
  • We make better decisions when we are self aware.
  • We increase our ability to communicate calmly.
  • We become increasingly non-judgmental.
With enough practice, mindfulness can become a trait of being, rather than just a transient state of mind as it is when we first begin to practice. This will profoundly affect the functioning of our body and brain, our thoughts and feelings, and our relationship with ourselves and others.


Simple Steps for Developing Mindful Awareness

If you are a newcomer mindfulness practice, taking a kind attitude toward yourself is an important part of the process. For many of us, our minds are used to running very quickly in many directions, so it will take some time for the capacity for focus to emerge. As you approach your practice each day, coming to it with an open state of mind, without expectations about how it will go relieves the additional tension that comes with pre-judging the experience.

Here’s a traditional, meditation exercise to help develop mindful awareness:

  • Sit down in a room where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing.
  • Become aware of yourself inhaling and exhaling.
  • If you become distracted from your breath just regain your focus.
  • Practice until you’ve developed the ability to sustain focus on your breath for a period of time.
  • Continue to focus on your breath and expand to allow thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and bodily sensations to enter your awareness, receiving all experience with an attitude of openness.
Developing mindful awareness isn’t just limited to meditation exercises like this. Mindfulness and tapping into daily self awareness can be beneficial in many ways to your personal and professional life. Any activity can be an opportunity to focus on staying in the present moment while allowing the richness of experience to change the way we perceive and behave.


Making Mindfulness a Way of Living

Managing our life in a productive way requires making mindfulness a way of living, as we remain aware of our bodies, feelings, and beliefs from moment to moment. When we live from a mindful place new possibilities, perceptions and solutions will emerge reclaiming the full power of who we are. The challenges and conflicts that once overwhelmed us and ran our lives no longer threaten us. Our mindset changes and we’re able to give ourselves the space to enter the fullness of the present moment, the source of our calmness, creativity, and inspiration. This is true freedom.


Mindfulness in Organizations

In the U.S. business world, many companies are providing training programs in mindfulness. Some of these companies include Procter & Gamble, Monsanto, General Mills, Comcast, BASF Bioresearch, Bose, New Balance, and Nortel Networks. A professional-development program “Mindfulness at Monsanto” was started at Monsanto Corporation by its CEO, Robert Shapiro. Another corporation Sounds True, an audio recordings company has mindfulness as a core value recognizing the importance of silence, inward attention, active listening and being centered. Sounds True begins its all-company meetings with a minute of silence and maintains a meditation room on-site for employees to utilize throughout the day.

Also, Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation hosted a workshop on Mindfulness.  Police officers in Los Angeles and in Madison, Wisconsin, have received mindfulness training. Mindfulness has been taught in prisons, reducing hostility and mood disturbance among inmates, and improving their self esteem. There are over 240 mindfulness programs in hospitals and clinics throughout the U. S. Many government organizations offer mindfulness training, including the Army. In 2000, The Inner Kids Program, a mindfulness-based program developed for children, was introduced into public and private school curricula in the greater Los Angeles area.


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