What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness, as understood in this book, is a set of methods (meditation among them) focused on learning how to more effectively manage attention. Through different techniques like breathing, self-awareness, sensory perception or body awareness we are trained to achieve a more effective management of attention, allowing us to stay in the present moment, with complete attention and acceptance. This state when one pays attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally is also referred to as mindfulness.

We can track the origins of Mindfulness in the Buddhist, Hindu and other traditions. In fact, mindfulness is the translation of the Pali word “sati”. There are two figures that have popularized mindfulness in the West: Thich Nhat Hanh, zen master born in Vietnam in 1926 and Jon Kabat-Zinn from the USA who began to popularize mindfulness in the 70’s, fundamentally in the hospital field, after being introduced to meditation by Zen missionary when he was still a student.

Thích Nhất Hạnh has been an activist for peace for more than four decades and was nominated for the Nobel Prize. He currently lives in France, in a Buddhist teaching community called Plum Village founded in 1982, near Bordeaux. He is a promoter of engaged buddhism, which seeks ways to apply the insights from meditation practice to situations of social and environmental injustice. He travels constantly around the world teaching and lecturing  in addition to having written more than one hundred books.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is an former teacher of Medicine of US origin. His Zen and Yoga practices as well as his studies with different Buddhist masters led him to integrate parts of those teachings with the Western science, creating the technique of Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).

Today, mindfulness is increasingly popular, with a growing number of practitioners around the world. More and more scientific studies strongly suggest that mindfulness practices influence brain activity, decreasing stress, increasing concentration capacity and increasing self-control.

These studies point to the positive effects on physical and psychological disorders (anxiety, attention deficit disorder or hyperactivity), as well as improve performance in professional, sporting or educational environments.

The activities that you will find in this book hold a “mindfulness” dimension, that is, they require participants to exercise self-awareness, observation, meditation, body awareness or sensory perception.