The difference between being mindful or not is the difference between looking someone in the eye during a conversation, taking note of their body language, tone, and cadence, fully engaging your entire being on their every word, versus absentmindedly checking your cell phone while they speak.
Historically, the practices that cultivate mindfulness have spanned continents and millennia, originating with influences as storied as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism. In the modern age, it has been stripped to a secular level with the ever growing popularity of Mindfulness Meditation, in addition to other contemplative practices.
But what is Mindfulness Meditation? Dr. John Kabat-Zinn defines it in his 1991 national bestseller, Full Catastrophe Living, as “The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” Kabat-Zinn is widely considered the godfather of Mindfulness meditation in the West.
We are in an age of mindlessly using phones and other technology to escape from our present reality, of going through our days and not being present or engaged within our own bodies, minds, and relationships. It is up to us to change this by bringing awareness to our actions, thoughts and attitudes, so that we may live with intention, purpose and meaning. To be mindful is to be aware of how our cognitions affect our behavior, how dissonance between our beliefs and our actions not only affects our day to day living, but also our moment to moment existence. A great first step in adjusting our dispositional focus is to simply cultivate a daily mindfulness practice.
According to several empirical studies, it may also be great for our heath. Dr. Britta Hölzel, of Harvard Medical School & Technical University of Munich, stated “Cultivation of mindfulness, the nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment, produces beneficial effects on well-being and ameliorates psychiatric and stress-related symptoms. Mindfulness meditation has therefore increasingly been incorporated into psychotherapeutic interventions.”