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mindfulness

About mindfulness – well, I’ve experienced that there’s quite some stigma around this whole meditation / mindfulness thing. A lot of people probably think it is a kind of weird /esoteric thing to do. Honestly, that’s what I thought of it for most of my life, too. But man, things have changed.

My Yoga teacher training was the first time I’ve really came into contact with meditation. During that time of training, we spent about an hour every morning meditating. (Yes, you’ve read correctly: one hour.) Let’s be honest: I’ve hated it.
Sitting still is not for me (especially not that early in the morning, when you’re still sore and tired from the last day of training)
So basically I learned to sleep sitting upright in these first weeks.
I just couldn’t wait for the meditation to be over and to start the more physical Asana practice.

Only during my time traveling India and enjoying a Yoga retreat there I came to love meditation. My hate transformed into fascination and curiosity. I wanted to know more about it, not spiritually, but in a scientific way. I guess it was faith when I was allowed to write my bachelor thesis about mindfulness.

Since my major is a so-called Bachelor of Science writing a thesis involves searching and reading and citing studies that use quantitative data (means numbers and calculations and statistic stuff) and drawing a conclusion from that. Most people aren’t really into that jazz, so here’s just a quick summary of what I learned about mindfulness and meditation.

During the last decades the public got more and more into eastern traditions and cultures – with that occurred the interest in mindfulness and meditation (and researching it)  [1; 2; 3]. When I started writing my thesis I’ve never thought so much research had already been done about mindfulness and meditation. And I am talking about real scientific research, controlled studies and that kind of stuff.

But let’s start right where it all began: The basic idea of meditation dates back a couple of thousand years in the tradition of buddhism [4; 5]. Mindfulness practice has been around for about  2500 to 2600 years [3; 5; 6]. The oldest written records of mindfulness are part of the so-called Pali Canon of the Theravada tradition of buddhism – today this tradition is mainly practiced in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos, Kambodscha and Thailand [4]. The well-know traditions of Zen Buddhism originate from this tradition [5].

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We meditate for a bunch of reasons: dealing with stress, disease and illness, to find ourselves, for spirituality and much more  [5]. But not only we, professionals find great use in practicing meditation, for example in clinical psychology – especially when dealing with stress  [7]. Today’s research suggests that practicing mindfulness meditation is a way to deal with a lot of physical and psychological diseases  [2].

But what exactly is mindfulness? It’s easy to say what mindfulness is not: contrary to what many people believe, mindfulness meditation does not mean to empty your head of all thoughts and not have any thoughts at all [10]. I had to learn the hard way during my research that there is no definition of mindfulness the scientific community can agreed upon [8; 9].
Since there was no common definition I put up a little summary of all the points that are found in most of the definitions.
So here we go:

 

  1. Mindfulness does not just occur by itself – the practitioner has to actively strive and work for it  [11; 12; 13].
  2. Mindfulness takes place in the present moment or refers to it [11; 12; 14; 15; 16; 17].
  3. mindfulness allows us to switch of our “auto-pilot” and quit automatic behaviour  [12; 13; 17; 18].
  4. Through the practice of mindfulness a state of purely observing and experiencing a situation can occur [11; 12; 19] …
  5. … in which there is no judgement or evaluation of the situation [12; 14; 15; 19; 20]

So that’s it, the concept of mindfulness. If you’re now wondering about mindfulness practice you might want to check out my blogpost about practicing meditation.

“I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the monkey mind. The thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl. My mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined. You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert

I hope you like this little summary – what are your opinions and experiences with / about mindfulness? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Be kind!

Julia

 


Sources:

  1. Bishop, S. R., Lau, M., Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., Anderson, N. D., Carmody, J., . . . Velting, D. (2004). Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11(3), 230-241.
  2. Chiesa, A. (2013). The difficulty of defining mindfulness: Current thought and critical issues. Mindfulness, 4(3), 255-268.

  3. Hayes, A. M., & Feldman, G. (2004). Clarifying the construct of mindfulness in the context of emotion regulation and the process of change in therapy. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11(3), 255-262.

  4. Rosch, E. (2007). More than mindfulness: When you have a tiger by the tail, let it eat you. Psychological inquiry, 18(4), 258-264.
  5. Schmidt, S. (2011). Mindfulness in east and west–is it the same? Neuroscience, consciousness and spirituality (pp. 23-38): Springer.

  6. Coholic, D. A. (2011). Exploring the feasibility and benefits of arts-based mindfulness-based practices with young people in need: Aiming to improve aspects of self-awareness and resilience. Paper vorgestellt im Rahmen von Child & Youth Care Forum.

  7. Vago, D. R., & David, S. A. (2012). Self-awareness, self-regulation, and self- transcendence (S-ART): a framework for understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of mindfulness. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 6, 296.

  8. Holas, P., & Jankowski, T. (2013). A cognitive perspective on mindfulness. International Journal of Psychology, 48(3), 232-243.

  9. Rempel, K. D. (2012). Mindfulness for Children and Youth: A Review of the Literature with an Argument for School-Based Implementation. Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy(Online), 46(3), 201.

  10. Moulton, C.-a., & Epstein, R. M. (2011). Self-monitoring in surgical practice: Slowing down when you should Surgical Education (pp. 169-182): Springer.

  11. Brown, K. W., Ryan, R. M., & Creswell, J. D. (2007). Mindfulness: Theoretical foundations and evidence for its salutary effects. Psychological inquiry, 18(4), 211-237.

  12. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Context: Past, Present, and Future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 144-156. doi:10.1093/clipsy.bpg016

  13. Salomon, G., & Globerson, T. (1987). Skill may not be enough: The role of mindfulness in learning and transfer. International Journal of Educational Research, 11(6), 623-637.

  14. Glomb, T. M., Duffy, M. K., Bono, J. E., & Yang, T. (2011). Mindfulness at work. Research in personnel and human resources management, 30, 115.

  15. Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness- based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of psychosomatic research, 57(1), 35-43.

  16. Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of clinical psychology, 62(3), 373-386.

  17. Stillman, C. M., Feldman, H., Wambach, C. G., Howard, J. H., Jr., & Howard, D. V. (2014). Dispositional mindfulness is associated with reduced implicit learning. Conscious Cogn, 28, 141-150. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2014.07.002

  18. Kang, Y., Gruber, J., & Gray, J. R. (2013). Mindfulness and de-automatization. Emotion Review, 5(2), 192-201.

  19. Zylowska, L., Ackerman, D. L., Yang, M. H., Futrell, J. L., Horton, N. L., Hale, T. S., . . . Smalley, S. L. (2008). Mindfulness meditation training in adults and adolescents with ADHD a feasibility study. Journal of Attention Disorders, 11(6), 737-746.

  20. Teper, R., & Inzlicht, M. (2013). Meditation, mindfulness and executive control: the importance of emotional acceptance and brain-based performance monitoring. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 8(1), 85-92.

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