What is Mindfulness?

what is mindfulnessA technique? A technology? A lifestyle choice? A therapy? Arguably all these things – so no wonder many people are confused about what it is and whether it’s worth pursuing. But people are pursuing it. We find mindfulness at universities, elementary schools, hospitals, and government institutions.

A contemporary definition of mindfulness describes it as a technique, not affiliated with religion (i.e. secular), used to reduce “negative experiences”, such as those related to stress, pain, depression, anxiety, or chronic illness. It’s described as a method to cultivate our focus on the present moment – and after days of scheduling, planning ahead, trying to recall details of the past, how could this not be a welcome relief?! Contemporary mindfulness is also about meeting our experience in the present with openness, curiosity, and kindness.


Who Tries Mindfulness?


Though most people who try mindfulness recognize that it reduces these “negative experiences”, we often seek out mindfulness for the first time in hopes that it will enhance our “wellbeing”, such as increased happiness, life satisfaction, and improved relationships. But increased wellbeing associated with mindfulness practices can also improve focus, memory, and much more.

Interestingly, fewer than 6% of people who try mindfulness do so for the purpose of “spiritual cultivation”. In fact, a good portion of Western mindfulness researchers appear to resist acknowledging the practice’s Buddhist origins. Our culture is still susceptible to the misperception that spiritual practices are inherently unscientific, or that knowledge from outside the Western paradigm is somehow also unscientific. However, meditation practitioners and Eastern philosophers might suggest that pursuit of self awareness (i.e. cultivating awareness of our thoughts and mind) is itself, a disciplined scientific pursuit.

Maybe that’s why Mindfulness is a perfect tool in our integrative clinic: Mindfulness is a great bridge between science and spirituality. It integrates a wealth of knowledge from many cultures (Eastern and Western). Mindfulness and mindfulness research makes it clear that our concern for who we are, where we’re going, and why we’re here, is essential to our health. And it starts in the present moment.


How Mindful Are You?


The Mindful Attention Awareness Scale is a quick, well-researched tool (a questionnaire) designed to measure a person’s inherent mindfulness attributes or capability. For example, some people focus easily on tasks at hand while others move through daily tasks on “autopilot” or in a distracted way. People who score high on this scale tend to report feeling more happy or confident and less likely to feel anxiety or depression. This questionnaire is a great way to see where you’re at now, and then again after you’ve adopted a mindfulness practice for 4 to 6 weeks.


Mindfulness At KIHC


Despite the myriad of different claims to a “correct” way of practicing mindfulness, we suggest that there is no one way. It’s a flexible practice that’s evolved in response to individual, social, and cultural, needs – a true integration of wisdom from the ages and scientific knowledge. And perhaps most relevant to you, it’s a process that you engage with and develop as aligned with your personal values and integrity. You get out of it what you put into it.


Editors note: Please see Lisa Sabatini‘s upcoming online Introduction to Mindfulness mini course, 3 evenings starting September 15th, 2021. 


Additional Resources & Free Mindfulness Downloads:

Oxford Mindfulness Centre, University of Oxford, United Kingdom and their Youtube channel resources

Bangor University, Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice, United Kingdom

Jon Kabat Zinn books: Wherever You Go, There You Are and Full Catastrophe Living

Meditation, stress

Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND

Dr. Sonya Nobbe is a Naturopathic Doctor and Director of Kingston Integrated Healthcare Inc. She has been practicing in the Kingston area since 2007. Dr. Sonya maintains a family practice, with a clinical focus on complex chronic disease, including Lyme disease and Fibromyalgia.


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