Mindfulness is the act of bringing your attention to the present experience on a moment by moment basis. It is analyzing your thoughts and purpose, and focusing upon them without judgment. I think many people hear the term “meditation” and the wrong image enters their heads. I had the very same conclusion when I first heard of mindfulness meditation. I thought it was monks in Tibet chanting and sitting in the lotus position. It is nowhere near that, and I wanted to show some examples of how mindfulness meditation is being used. It is a very useful practice that has had many useful benefits to many groups:
The military has been using mindfulness meditation with returning veterans with a great amount of success. Veterans returning from overseas combat have been using mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques to help alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 47% of all veterans who have been practicing MBSR have seen significant clinical improvement in alleviating PTSD. Within the past few years, the Army has been trying to improve the psychological fitness of their soldiers to better cope with combat stressors, and has been utilizing meditation with positive results. More information on how the military has been utilizing mindfulness can be found here.
The University of Massachusetts Medical School was one of the first clinics to use MBSR techniques to combat stress, anxiety, and chronic pain and illness. It was founded by John Kabat-Zinn in 1979 and has since treated over 18,000 patients. It provides extensive training in mindfulness meditation, and helps patients to integrate mindfulness principles into their daily activities to combat the challenges and stressors of everyday life.
They have found that their course had helped their patients experience:
• Lasting decreases in physical and psychological symptoms
• An increased ability to relax
• Reductions in pain levels and an enhanced ability to cope with pain that may not go away
• Greater energy and enthusiasm for life
• Improved self-esteem
• An ability to cope more effectively with both short and long-term stressful situations.
There have also been many other medical studies that suggest that mindfulness meditation can provide many other benefits from protecting against high blood pressure and arthritis, to reducing stress, and improving learning, memory, and emotional regulation.
Mindful leadership courses are being taught at business schools all over the country. It uses mindfulness meditation to allow future business leaders to analyze the present moment, and improve their decision making by practicing nonjudgmental thinking. The benefits of mindful leadership can best be summarized by Bill George, faculty member of the Harvard Business School:
“The practice of mindful leadership gives you tools to measure and manage your life as you’re living it. It teaches you to pay attention to the present moment, recognizing your feelings and emotions and keeping them under control, especially when faced with highly stressful situations. When you are mindful, you’re aware of your presence and the ways you impact other people. You’re able to both observe and participate in each moment, while recognizing the implications of your actions for the longer term. And that prevents you from slipping into a life that pulls you away from your values.”
Mindfulness meditation is a very useful practice and can help improve your brain function, minimize stress, and even improve your leadership skills. It is a useful tool that allows you to maximize the present and see the long term implications of your decisions and actions. I strongly encourage everyone to give it a try, and to follow this blog as I continue to explore how mindfulness meditation will help you to create the space necessary to live a full and rewarding life.