What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the awareness of one’s own experience with the attitude of acceptance, openness and curiosity.
Mindfulness is a set of methods and techniques which help us develop mindful awareness.
Mindfulness is a process of familiarisation, acceptance and transformation.
MINDFULNESS AS AWARENESS
Mindfulness (pali sati, sanskrit smrti, fr. pleine conscience, germ. Achtsamkeit) is the way of acknowledging our own experience with the attitude of acceptance, openness and curiosity. When we are mindful, our attention is directed towards the experience of the present, as it unfolds from moment to moment. We are aware of our thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations and intentions, as well as of what is happening around us, without trying to avoid, cling on, or in any way modify our experience.
MINDFULNESS AS A SET OF PRACTICES
Mindfulness is an inner ability of every individual. But the term is also used to describe a set of methods and techniques, used for systematic development of this kind of awareness. It consists of a) formal practices (meditations), such as mindfulness of breathing, body scan, simple awareness and mindful movement, and b) informal practices, where we apply this mindful awareness to all our daily activities, like brushing the teeth, conversation, driving a car, waiting in a queue, walking around town, riding on a bus, etc. All these practices are designed to increase the level of mindful awareness in our lives.
MINDFULNESS AS PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
Mindfulness is more than just a technique, it is a process of familiarisation, acceptance and transformation. It is a way of being, which is reflected in all aspects of our life. Increasingly clearer perception and awareness of what happens within our experience open up opportunities for personal growth – the process, which is unique to each individual. We can, for example, start noticing a personal narrative, telling us who we are, what are we allowed to do and what should we be. This awareness allows us to break our set behavioural patterns and permit ourselves to experience something new.
Research has shown that regular mindfulness practice leads to the development of long-term, profound experience of inner stillness, wellbeing and heightened self-evaluation, together with lessening practitioners’ stress, anxiety and depression (more in Černetič, 2005; for meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies look: Gotnik, et al., 2015; Khoury, et al., 2015; Hempel, et al., 2014).
Mindfulness is also important in psychotherapy, where it is known under corresponding terms, such as ‘free-floating awareness’ and ‘observing ego’ (in psychodynamic approaches), awareness and contact (gestalt therapy), adult ego state and autonomy (transactional analysis), exposure and systematic desensitization (cognitive behavioural therapy), etc. (more in Černetič, 2011). It is one of the central features of personal development, mutual to many psychotherapeutic approaches.
Gotink RA, Chu P, Busschbach JJ, Benson H, Fricchione GL, Hunink MG (2015). Standardised mindfulness-based interventions in healthcare: an overview of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of RCTs. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0124344. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0124344.
Hempel S, Taylor SL, Marshall NJ in sod. (2014). Evidence Map of Mindfulness [Internet]. Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs (US). Dostopno na naslovu: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ books/NBK268640/