Mindfulness is awareness of the present moment without judgment. It involves slowing down and focusing the attention on the body, feelings and mind.
It is an invitation to be in the present moment with our sensations, thoughts and feelings and to acknowledge them, without judging them as good, bad, pleasant or unpleasant. Maintaining attention on the present moment prevents us from becoming lost in regret about the past and worried about the future, thus allowing us to experience a state of calm and peace.
Gautama, a prince who taught 2,500 years ago. He said meditation was a path to enlightenment, the alleviation of suffering and ignorance. After his own experience of enlightenment, Siddharta Gautama became known as the Buddha, a title that means “one who is awake.”
Contrary to the beliefs of some, those who practice mindfulness meditation are not worshiping Buddha as a god but are following a spiritual path toward enlightenment and the alleviation of suffering and ignorance. Persons of all religious faiths can practice mindfulness meditation, and people find it complements their own religious practices and beliefs.
For a number of years, scientists have utilized modern medical technology to study the brains of Buddhist monks. They found increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex of experienced Buddhist practitioners. This area of the brain is associated with empathy and happiness or pleasant feelings. Studies also documented changes in brain wave activity, with increased brain waves that produce calm and peacefulness.
Mindfulness meditation has become a common practice in America, both as a spiritual practice and a secular practice. Many yoga studios across the country offer classes in mindfulness meditation. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course at University of Massachusetts Medical Center in 1979 as a secular practice to alleviate suffering among patients in the hospital. The program is offered at hundreds of locations internationally, including Duke Integrative Medicine and Stanford Hospital and Medical Schoolin Durham, N.C. MBSR teaches meditation and gentle yoga for stress reduction and cultivating a sense of peace and ease.
MBSR has been well researched during the past several decades and has been shown to reduce anxiety, panic and depression. The practice can relieve symptoms related to a variety of medical conditions such as high blood pressure, chronic pain, headache, fibromyalgia, Diabetes Type I, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and more.
Whether practiced in a spiritual or secular way, mindfulness meditators are generally interested in alleviating suffering, and most report increased feelings of peace, ease and wellbeing.
An eight-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course will be offered in Wilmington at McKay Healing Arts on Thursdays, Feb. 2 – March 29 with a day of mindfulness from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 18.
Jennifer Johnson is the instructor for the course. For additional information, visit www.everydaymindful.com/mbsr and to register email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 910-208-0518. Also watch for Jennifer’s upcoming weekly class on Meditation and Gentle Yoga at Organic Yoga in Wilmington.