What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist meditative practice that works to achieve self-enlightenment. The term mindfulness can often be used to refer to a psychological state of awareness. The use of mindfulness is about awakening the body and mind and living within the moment. The practice of mindfulness consists of two components.
The first component of mindfulness focuses on self-regulation of awareness; causing one to target the immediate experience. While focused on immediate experience this allows for heightened perception of mental events of in moment experience.
The second component involves adopting a certain orientation towards ones involvement in the present moment. The practicing individual must learn to accept their own mind stream without judgement.
How Was Mindfulness Integrated Into Western Culture?
Although its roots originated in Buddhism, mindfulness is typically taught separately from religion. Within the last twenty years mindfulness has generated a great deal of attention. A major contributor to this recent western practice is Jon Kabat-Zin who obtained a phD from MIT in microbiology. While Kabat-Zin was on an American retreat led by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher and author. Kabat-Zin first identified the applicable use of mindfulness in medical practice. Kabat-Zin adapted Hanh’s teachings and founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979.
What is Self-Development?
Self-development consists of activities that aim to improve one’s awareness and identity. Through these activities quality of life is improved and the individual feels more empowered to achieve dreams, aspirations and goals. Self-development isn’t limited to the individual it also includes interactions with society to build positive meaningful relationships.
How Are Mindfulness and Self-Development Intertwined?
In our hectic modern day lives we can become so overcome with the stressors caused by employment, family, financial difficulties and school that we often forget who we truly are. Sometimes we become incredibly career orientated as we strive to conquer the corporate ladder. We become robots, shells of ourselves. And, in this process we neglect ourselves. Society’s pressures can cause us to critically analyze ourselves; creating negative self-judgment. Negative self-judgement is toxic to our self-esteem and general well-being. Mindfulness can be used as a tool to relax the mind and take a step back from the methodical day to day life and simply live within the moment. Using mindfulness aids in self-development. We all want to be the best we can possibly be. However, to achieve this we can’t forget the importance of self-care and self-development.
Mindfulness & Psychology
Gradually mindfulness has been used more and more in psychotherapeutic and medical settings. Clients that choose to use mindfulness have the tendency to retrieve deeper implicit memories that aid in discovering their self and attitudes towards others. Mindfulness is also used as a substitute to traditional conversation methods. According to Rob Fisher, a psychotherapist and Hakomi Mindfulness Based Experiential Psychotherapy Trainer.
“Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, Hakomi Mindfulness Based Experiential Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy are just some of the approaches that currently utilize it to address a wide range of issues from depression to anxiety to sleep problems to a general exploration of how your psychological world is structured”.
It is also suggested that when mindful meditation is incorporated into psychological medical practices the client will experience greater cognitive flexibility. This mindful meditation practice aids in activating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenalsystem that responds to stressful situations and negative emotions. When HPA is triggered the stress hormone cortisol is released; this allows us to deal rationally with a stressor. By tapping into this emotion we are better equipped to deal with unforeseen stressful situations in our daily lives. Rob Fisher sums up the benefits of mindfulness in practice stating:
“The use of mindfulness in individual, couples, family and group therapy provides depth by accessing implicit models of the world, self and others from immediate experience, fosters earned attachment, and can access an internal drive that organically moves towards wholeness in the individual’s psyche”.
Mindfulness meditation is drastically different than typical meditation. Although both forms of meditation usually attempt to achieve the same result, the pathways to accomplish the result are distinctively different. Essentially basic meditation attempts to release the mind, allowing it to rest, rejuvenate and discover oneness with ourselves. Instead of allowing the mind to wander, mindful meditation reins the mind in. With focus on the body and mind, our sensations become clearer and controlled. This phenomenon results in a relaxed state where body and mind are aligned.
Remember, mindful eating is not comparing us to others. It’s being in tune with one’s self.
In our daily lives we become so consumed with the habitual mental patterns, it can become monotonous. “Mindful eating is an experience that engages all parts of us, our body, our heart, and our mind, in choosing, preparing and eating food” (Bays). By experiencing the colours, textures, tastes and sounds of eating our ability to truly enjoy eating is enhanced. There is no science behind mindful eating, rather, mindful eating is the direct product of our own experience. Mindful eating leads to better eating habits, better digestion and self-awareness. Choosing foods that are healthy for your body, that are rich in colour and variety help empower control over your body in very positive ways. It’s easy to grab a bag of potatoe chips, open them, devour them and carry on with our methodical ways. However, choosing to eat mindfully forces us to take a step back and revaluate the experience. When we cognitively ask ours selves about our choices, the likelihood that we make positive ones is increased. When we eat mindfully we can rediscover the pleasure of eating. “Mindful eating also has the unexpected benefit of helping us tap into our body’s natural wisdom and our heart’s natural capacity for openness and gratitude” (Bays).
Healthy Relationships with Food & Mindfulness
Normal eating for many individuals is nothing more than popping a dish in the microwave and pressing a button. This relatively new relationship with food has stolen the enjoyment in eating. For much of history ‘eating’ was a social activity. Royalty would wine and dine in luxury, with entertainment, court jesters, and musicians; these formal events would last hours well into the evening. These formal events have been replaced by ‘grab and go’ lunches, television dinners and fast food drive thrus. Meal times have been replaced by impossible work schedules and societies quick pace. The majority of people enjoying eating or at least think they do, but do they enjoy it to its fullest? To regain ones healthy relationship with food one can take these simple steps!
-Life should not revolve around food. You should feel content and engaged when you are not eating. Eating should be appreciated.
-If you are not hungry don’t eat. Just because you are not engaged in something it does NOT mean you are hungry. Bored does not equal hungry.
-Although some people might disagree it’s okay to leave food on your plate. You don’t need to finish everything. To curb waste, simply serve yourself less J
-Be adventurous and try different kinds of food.
-The weigh-scale is not your best friend, nor is it your enemy. You should not be reliant on it. If you are mindfully attuned to your eating patterns your weight should not be a surprise.
-Don’t obsess over calories.
Food is not the cause for our unhappiness, rather our own mentality and behaviour towards food.
Sometimes it’s hard to fathom how to mindfully cook. Common perceptions are slow methodical methods of chopping carrots, stirring liquids and basting turkeys, however this is not the case. Laura Fraser author of The Joy of Mindful Cooking shares that “Mindfulness…is more about simply being present when you cook, fully engaged with the food and your relationship to it, from the earth it was grown in to the table. It’s being aware of the food with all your senses, and how you transform it with your hands, knives, herbs, and heat-making it taste alive, nourishing yourself and those who eat your meals. Your awareness can be in bringing the activity alive and giving it some energy, vitality, and exuberance.”
The premise of mindful cooking is in the attention you pay to what you are doing. Focus on cooking, and don’t allow your mind to wander on other events that may have occurred during your day. For example, when you wash the lettuce, wash the lettuce, when you stir the sauce, you stir the sauce; don’t become preoccupied.
Fraser also reminds that; “For a lot of people, cooking is a wonderful release from the stresses and strains of your daily life. It’s an escape to get into the kitchen, to make food that is delicious and nurturing and beautiful, and to be involved in that process from beginning to end.”