Defining Mindfulness

“Mindfulness is a gateway into the full dimensionality of being human.” Jon Kabat Zinn

Mindfulness is a word being brandied about the internet, yoga circles, and health spaces. But what does it mean? And more specifically, what do we mean at Frontier when we say mindfulness is a foundational driver of health?

Jon Kabot Zinn & Mindfulness

Mindfulness in the United States was popularized by Jon Kabat Zinn, a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher, who has worked to apply Buddhist techniques to western medical practices. Kabat Zinn developed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program in 1979 to reduce physical and psychological symptoms, increase one’s ability to relax, reduce pain levels, improve self-esteem, and improve one’s ability to cope with stress. He defines mindfulness as, “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” He creates an access point to this state of being, by training people in meditation. Specifically, MBSR teaches people techniques including: body scan meditation, breath awareness, loving kindness, choiceless awareness, and drop-in meditation.

Meditation is a means to mindfulness, a way to get to the state of awareness, a method to utilize mind body connections and to cultivate particular mental habits. The hope is that the formal practice will go on to impact the informal or normal ways you move through your days – a way of “re-minding” ourselves and changing our mindset.

mind·ful·ness

/ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/

noun

  1. 1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
  2. 2. a mental state 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.

Mindfulness is also used to refer to a human trait, a practice, a toolbox, an intervention, a social movement, a research outcome, and an umbrella term. You can read more about all of these usages here. The point is, mindfulness has a plethora of meanings and it is important to sort them out to understand how this concept might benefit your life.

Mindfulness At Frontier

At Frontier Neurohealth, mindfulness isn’t just meditating or silencing the brain. It is about engaging the brain in activities that enhance the focus and the relaxation of the nervous system. Dr. Allen Gee likens this understanding to the concept of flow, a state of mind in which a person becomes fully immersed in an activity, balancing the challenges one faces and the confidence on has in their ability. When we say mindfulness, we are talking about cultivating attention for both the present moment and for the activities, feelings, and experiences that captivate your being.

When it comes to practicing mindfulness, Dr. Gee advises that you explore many options and find what works for you individually. This is not a one size fits all topic, and there are many ways to calm and regulate the brain. For example, Dr. Gee practices mindfulness on his mountain bike where he is completely absorbed in the process of navigating single track. Introspect, investigate, and contemplate what aspects of your life help to cultivate mindfulness – in other words, what pieces of your life bring vibrancy and aliveness to your experiences?

“What mindfulness is saying to all of us is: Find your own way. Listen to your own heart. Listen to your own longing. Because what we’re really trying to do is live our life as if it really matters.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness Resources

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