Sister Dang Nghiem
“Mindfulness is like the moonlight that we can use to shine onto our suffering. We realize that suffering is not as menacing or threatening as we may have perceived it to be all of our lives. With the gentle moonlight, we can sit quietly and embrace suffering with our mindful breathing.”
By definition, mindfulness is the practice of adhering to “a mental state that is achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Now, that is a formal definition to the practice of mindfulness. Before I begin my future blog posts on the difference aspects of mindfulness and how it can be incorporated into your own life, I want to clear up a few things on what this practice actually is in its most basic nature.
The Origins of Mindfulness
Mindfulness originated within the Buddhist tradition, but I will always mention that mindfulness is in no way, shape, or form a religious practice, nor do I ever want it to be. It is more of a lifestyle than anything else, and you do not need to believe in a deity to accept its practicality.
In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn, a Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program which began the popularization of mindfulness. It literally took patients into a classroom and had them meditate and focus on the “now” as opposed to dwelling on the past and/or stressing about the future. Professor Kabat-Zinn is seen as the modern day father of what people perceive mindfulness to be in today’s society.
Modern Day Mindfulness
In the Western culture, mindfulness has begun to become extremely popular which, in my opinion, certainly has its pros and cons. Obviously the pros include aspects such as people attempting this lifestyle practice in order to better their lives. That is nearly impossible to talk down towards.
However, there are more than a few cons to this practice that I would advise any practitioner or aspiring mindful learner to be aware of. First off, in our modern world, it seems as if any idea can be turned into some sort of profit-generating model, and that does not exclude mindfulness. Personally, I try to stay away from apps or online courses that charge you a significant amount of money because I am a true believer that mindfulness can be practiced on your own. But, if you believe that spending this money will truly help your practice, then by all means, do whatever it takes.
Also, according to Leiden University’s course (free course via Coursera.org) titled “Demystifying Mindfulness”, there are three preconceived notions of mindfulness that should certainly be invalidated:
- Orientalism – the idea that mindfulness is exclusively an Asian/European practice and that the Western culture is simply trying to steal it.
- Secularism – the idea that mindfulness is based solely on religious traditions, and if you practice it, you are a Buddhist and nothing more.
- Trapping – Unless you are meditating at least 20 minutes a day in the lotus position, you are not practicing mindfulness.
My Attempt in Bringing Mindfulness to You
I hope that I am able to convince the reader that mindfulness is truly just a lifestyle practice and it does not, in any way, challenge the ideas of one’s culture, religion, or specific approach to meditation.
The following blogs will show the reader the specific practices of mindfulness and how I incorporate them into my own life. So please, join me in a practice that will not necessarily make you inconceivably rich, or allow you to live until you are 110 years old – but join me in a practice that helps you accept who you are and the life that you are living, and if a change does need to be made, you will be able to make it on your own in as an efficient and effective manner as humanly possible.