Jon Kabat-Zinn (the founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programme) describes mindfulness as…
“…paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”
But what does that really mean and what does it entail?
Do you ever feel like you’re merely existing? Drifting through life like a zombie or in a state of mild panic most of the time with endless chatter in your head? Essentially missing the important, beautiful things in life with a look in your eyes that says you’re not really engaged, not fully present?
I have felt that way many times in my life. Feeling like a scrap of myself getting through the day with my amygdala (fight or flight part of the brain) on constant alert ready for attack.
Mindfulness helped me to wake up to the present – actually noticing and truly experiencing what is around me. It has brought me a sense of calm and resilience helping me to cope with stress better.
Mindfulness is essentially guided meditation with some serious backing by neuroscience. This is why I am so passionate about it – it is not too ‘fluffy’ or ‘out there’ as some may think! Harvard professors are singing its praises and proving that mindfulness can actually reshape the brain. After an 8 week MBSR course participants’ brains were scanned with key parts increasing in size such as the hippocampus (responsible for learning, memory and emotional regulation) and the temporo-parietal junction (responsible for empathy and compassion). The amygdala (emotional regulator – the fight or flight stress response/alarm bell) actually decreased in gray matter. Take a look at neuroscientist Sara Lazar's Ted Talk on 'How Meditation can Reshape Our Brains' (available on You Tube).