What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness involves bringing wise, kind attention to the present moment in a way that supports skillful action. Through practicing mindfulness we’re able to respond more skillfully in our personal lives, in our relationships, and in the broader world.
We practice mindfulness to be more fully aware, awake, and present to our lives as they unfold. This includes being aware of outer events (e.g., our surroundings and people we’re interacting with) and inner events (thoughts, emotions, sensations) as they arise.
It’s important to note that mindfulness does not require clearing your mind, achieving a special state of consciousness, or having specific religious beliefs. Rather, it is about practicing being fully present and available to the moments of our lives.
How is mindfulness practiced?
Mindfulness can be cultivated through both formal and informal practices. Formal practices are structured methods of enhancing focus and awareness. They include sitting, walking, standing, and lying down meditations as well as mindful movement (i.e., yoga) and loving kindness meditation. In each formal practice, we choose a specific focus for awareness, known as an anchor. Whenever the mind wanders, we come back to that anchor. Through repeated practice, formal practices train our minds to be more focused, alert, and kind. Engaging in formal practices is a bit like going to the “mental gym” on a regular basis to strengthen our attentional muscles.
Informal mindfulness practice occurs when we intentionally bring wise, kind, present-moment awareness to whatever arises in our lives, moment to moment. This includes being present in conversation with others, when going for a walk in nature, or even shopping at the supermarket. With informal practice, we can practice mindfulness in any moment of our lives
What’s the best way to develop a mindfulness practice?
While each person is different, for most people it is helpful to learn mindfulness with the guidance of a skilled teacher and with a group of other practitioners. We offer a variety of mindfulness classes as well as weekly community meditation groups. Other ways of learning about mindfulness and developing a practice include reading books, using guided meditations, and using apps. For recommendations on these types of resources, please visit our resources page.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
There are many scientifically documented benefits of practicing mindfulness. These benefits include:
Improved physical wellbeing (e.g., improved immune response, decreased pain, and decreased blood pressure)
Improved mental and emotional wellbeing (e.g., reduced stress and anxiety, improved mood, improved focus and concentration)
Improved interpersonal skills and relationship quality (e.g., better listening skills, increased compassion)
Greater resources to make changes, try new activities, and deal with life’s challenges
Greater meaning and fulfillment (e.g., increased clarity about personal values)
For more information on the benefits of mindfulness, see our research page.