One of the regular presentations I do to corporations or to health institutions is on the subject of mindfulness – specifically titled, “Myths of Mindfulness.” The presentation usually begins with defining the differences between the words “meditation” and “mindfulness.” As with each presentation, it is the audience who stimulates me to make tweaks to my material. I define meditation as a “deliberate act to contemplate or participate in conscious thought.” I define mindfulness as, “paying attention to the present moment.” An astute attendee at my last presentation said, “Isn’t all meditation essentially mindfulness?” She was right.
The past week I have been meditating on the word mindfulness and I began to see why this ubiquitous and over-used word is starting to become a source of frustration and irritation for people. People like me and many other scientists and researchers are telling everyone about the health benefits of mindfulness. We recite studies which show tremendous improvements in physiology, mental health, and rates of perceived stress and most of the studies describe doing a “mindful meditation.” This of course adds further confusion because people are told to be mindful and now are told to do a mindful meditation! As Jon Kabat-Zinn once said, “Mindfulness is not about a doing but rather a way of being.”
I realized that in order to really address the “Myths of Mindfulness” I need to hit home this point by Kabat-Zinn. Mindfulness as a way of being is akin to leading a peaceful life. You choose to be peaceful. You can also choose to be mindful. Kabat-Zinn further says, “If you are thinking that mindfulness is now one more thing you have to do in addition to your yoga or Pilates and eating well…you are missing the point.” Every moment of everyday is an opportunity to be mindful. Eating, walking, reading, sweeping, conversing, and yes, meditation are opportunities to BE mindful. If you are having a conversation with somebody and your mind is jumping ahead to what you want to say – this is not mindful. If you have read this blog and experienced your subconscious mind chattering away saying, “Here he goes again with all this mindfulness stuff….” I respect that and I get that 🙂