“Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, non-judgmentally”. John Kabat-Zinn (1990)
The practice of mindfulness encourages us to pay attention to the process of our experience – not just the content. It is meant to help us “catch” ourselves when we fall into our systematic patterns of responding. It helps us create new path ways of responding to what happens to us in our life. It helps us to be more grateful.
The change comes slowly, and it takes practice. It takes practice to change your behavior not only when you are in class, or when you are in a space where you can focus on practicing your mindfulness, but it takes practicing and remembering when you are in a moment of stress. It’s so easy to behave in the way you are most used to behaving….even when those behaviors are making life and relationships difficult.
Highlighting and recognizing your responses helps you identify your auto-responses, and move to more mindful ones. By bringing your auto-self into the open and working on them can lead to:
- Less time spent in auto-pilot
- More awareness of the details of your life experiences
- Less energy spent on worrying about the future or ruminating about the past
- Greater resilience and an increased ability to moderate our re-activity
- Reduced risk of a long list of stress-related diseases
- An increased sense of presence – really being there for ourselves and others
- An increase in a spacious type of joy which is able to hold life’s ups and downs more fully and kindly, including experiences we do not like.
Developing insight is not the same thing as developing knowledge. Insight is our own inner wisdom. It is what lives in our hearts, but we may not know that we know. Meditation is a perfect tool for developing insight. The more we calm and quiet our minds and go inward without being distracted, the more insights will spontaneously arise. They may be insights into our emotions, our habits or stress patterns. As we develop insight we learn to be more equanimous with the changes in life that are happening inside us and all around us.