Mindfulness: the Western answer to living in the present by wendela wolters

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In my august’ web log I wrote about the pressure of the never ending in-box and I gave some tips to deal with this. Today I would like to continue with a different way of inhabiting the present moment. Through participating intimately in life as it is unfolding, being fully aware of whatever is happening in the present moment, without filters of the lens of judgment.

As being present and mindful is an important concept in many spiritual traditions as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Taoism it has expanded its spiritual roots. Mindfulness has become mainstream in the West and is being applied in a variety of contexts, including medicine, neuroscience, psychology and education.

Also many leading business schools like Stanford and INSEAD have been incorporating mindfulness and meditation into their curricula to prepare students for learning to cope with the everlasting stress of daily life.

Physicians are prescribing training in mindfulness to help people deal with stress, pain and illness and to improve emotional well being.

Before I started my mindfulness practice I hadn’t realized how busy I was with rehearsing, worrying about the future and rehashing my life. It just went on and on, in a never ending cycle, leaving little space for creativity or playfulness. 70.000 thoughts each day, most of them the same as the day before.. .and  the day before (I always wondered how did they count the thoughts?).

This knowledge alone was motivating enough to continue my 8 week course*. Sometime it felt uncomfortable, I felt restless and jumpy. Observing my own thoughts was sometimes quite confrontational! But after learning to integrate the practice into my daily life I gradually become more at peace and coping with stressful situations became easier.

As the ancient Buddhist text the Dhammapada says, “ mind is the forerunner of all…conditions. Mind is chief; and they are mind-made” (Thera 2004,1).

This statement makes it clear that paying attention to, or being mindful of, your own mind is of utmost importance. It is said that the intention is the crux of all action- that our intention shapes our thoughts, words and deeds.

I would like to end this blog with some fresh food for though; read over the following progression a couple of times and take a moment to reflect on it; 

  1. Intention shapes our thoughts and words.
  2. Thoughts and words mold our actions.
  3. Thoughts, words, and actions shape our behaviors.
  4. Behaviors sculpt our bodily expressions.
  5. Bodily expressions fashion our character.
  6. Our character hardens into what we look like. 

* Jan. 21, 2011 — Participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. In a study that will appear in the January 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers report the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain's grey matter.

Ref: A mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Workbook, by Bob Stahl, PH.D. and Elisha Goldstein, PH.D.