Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a process that is helped many people deal with chronic pain, says “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” 

Paying attention is a rare skill these days. We have so many things around us clamoring for our attention that it’s easy to skip from one thing to another mindlessly. It takes a toll on our mental health. Neuroscientist Richard Davidson’s research has shown that people are less happy when they are not aware of what they are doing. “A distracted mind is an unhappy mind,” he has concluded. Happily for all of us, paying attention is a skill, which means it can be learned and improved through practice.

Cultivating a non-judging mind also takes practice. We are used to greeting each moment with judgment. Do we like it or not? Are we comfortable or not? Is this good or bad?

The body scan (this version is 30 minutes) meditation used as part of MBSR is a great way to practice mindfulness. We bring our attention to a part of our body, experience it with gentle curiosity. We don’t label any sensations as “pain” or “discomfort,” we just experience the felt sensation in the moment.

Suppose we could bring the same kind of spacious attention to each moment. How rich and unhurried our lives would be!

Right now, take two minutes to practice mindfulness. Bring your attention to your body as it sits in the chair reading this. Feel the weight of it as your back and butt press against the chair. Notice the way your arms are resting. Without moving, become aware of your fingers and toes. Notice your breath. The air moves in out of your nostrils. Does it feel warm or cool? Notice your belly moving in and out with your breath. Look at whatever is in front of you. Notice light and shadow, shapes and colors. Rest in awareness for a couple minutes and return to your reading.

Give yourself the gift of mindfulness.

You can participate in an online mindfulness meditation every Thursday through the Center for Meditation at the University of Massachusetts.

There is also an online version of MBSR.

Graphic courtesy of The Art of Lliving