The idea of Mindfulness has gained so much traction in the last several years, even garnering an exclusive issue of Time Magazine.  We couldn’t be more excited that conscious thought is now a buzzword.  Yet, if we are left to believe that simply “being present” during daily activities leads to a calm mind, we risk moving backwards as a society.  We don’t want people to become frustrated and dismiss consciousness as hogwash (again).

How did the Mindfulness Movement start?  In the 1970s, Dr. John Kabat-Zinn applied principles of mindful meditation to patients in a medical setting.  He developed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program which helped alleviate chronic pain and previously debilitating medical conditions, both physical and mental.  His work studied the benefits of advanced meditation and worked to replicate the results in new comers.

He was indeed successful.  However, most people championing the benefits of Mindfulness shrug off the main point.  Zinn’s participants were successful by following a very strict, medically-tested protocol in a supportive community.  They documented improvements in health markers and well-being after several weeks of consistent study so it is not enough to say “be present while you chew your carrots.”

Mindfulness MovementKabat-Zinn’s work is nothing short of avant garde and brilliant considering that it took place almost half a century ago at a time when western medicine was not receptive to alternative approaches.   He brought eastern thinking into the western medical community and demonstrated results that could be replicated.  If you are truly interested in understanding Mindfulness, then reading his Full Catastrophe Living is a must.  At the very least, watch his videos where he speaks on the 5 pillars of mindfulness (non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving).  Your progress will be less watered-down with this basic understanding.

For more on  Jon Kabat-Zinn and his work refer back to these two essays:

What is Meditation and Why Should I Meditate?

Connecting Mindfulness and Tai Chi