What Is All the Fuss About Mindfulness and What Is It?

Kalynn Potter, LLPC, MBA

I first learned about Mindfulness about fifteen years ago, when a friend led me to the book section in Border’s by Thich Nhat Hanh (known as Thay). Martin Luther King called him an “Apostle of peace and nonviolence”. The media has referred to him as the Father of Mindfulness. Thay, has led events for the US Congress, parliamentarians in the UK, Ireland, India and Thailand. He has addressed UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in Paris. Thay has addressed the World Bank, and the Harvard School of Medicine. Mindfulness has moved full force into the academic realm where one can earn a master’s degree in mindfulness. Today, mindfulness is being taught in corporations and in the classroom.

So, what is it? Thay explained that through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace. Mindfulness can be defined in a variety of ways, however, they all basically come down to the following: “paying attention with flexibility, openness and curiosity”. First, this definition tells us that mindfulness is a process of awareness, not thinking. Do you get tired of the thoughts that constantly run through your mind? Mindfulness is about paying attention to the experience in the moment. Not being caught up in thoughts! Second, mindfulness involves a particular attitude: one of openness and curiosity, even if the experience of the moment is painful or difficult. The key is to be open and curious versus running from or fighting it. Third, mindfulness involves the ability to embrace flexibility in the moment. To choose to direct or broaden your focus.

So, how do we accomplish this? Do we need to use meditation which is part of most mindfulness models? The answer is no. There are other mindfulness skills that can be learned. This is good because for many meditation is hard to sustain. However, meditation is not the guru in yogi pose that may come to mind. Meditation can be in the form of walking meditation. Or done for only a few minutes. Whether mindfulness involves meditation or not is up to you.

So why has mindfulness gone viral? Could it be the unrelenting hold on our attention today? Stress has bombarded people from business leaders on a 24/7 schedule to kids who feel the pressure to succeed even before puberty. The response is directly related to stress. There is an increase in the level of suffering and an acceleration of the violence in the world. Through media we are intimately affected by images, sounds and pain like never before.

So, if you desire a personal world where you slow down to get more done, reduce stress, build better relationships, and are happier and healthier, I encourage you to seek out more knowledge about mindfulness. I invite you to explore the many resources available that can help you, or you and a significant other, or you and your family. It is literally at your fingertips. If you desire professional guidance, it is available through Rochester Area Counseling Services. Mindfulness has proven effective with a variety of conditions including social anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as workplace stress. We use mindfulness skills within the context of values and goals. Clients learn to identify, clarify and connect deeply with their core values, and then to use these values to set goals and guide the changes they make in their lives. Mindfulness not only helps clients to overcome the psychological barriers to change, but also to engage fully in the ongoing process of values-based living. Mindfulness to me, is and always has been, “Living Consciously”.

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