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  • Tesia Bryski, MEd, RP

What is Mindfulness?


Mindfulness, Mind-Body Connection & Mindful Self-Compassion. Curious? This informative blog is intended to provide you with a short and sweet definition of these sacred practices.


Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake in the present moment. The origin of mindfulness meditation as we know it today stems from ancient religious traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Zen philosophy from nearly 2600 years ago (Smith, 1991), but has since been introduced to Western culture in medicine and psychology with the work of Ellen Langer (1990) and Jon Kabat-Zinn (1994, 2005). Mindfulness is a very tricky practice to define. Simply put, it is the practice of inviting your awareness to the present moment, being open to sensations, emotions, or thoughts, whether pleasant or unpleasant, and practicing equanimity, compassion, and stillness in the face of distress.


Mind-Body Connection

Positive or negative experiences physically manifest themselves in the body. This means that our bodies react to many forms of mental mistreatment, including negative self-talk and avoidance of feelings or emotions. The practice of Mindfulness explores the four platforms of our experience: Body, Emotions, Sensations, and Thoughts, stemming from the ancient Buddhist roots of exploring Body, Feeling, Mind, Perception. Essentially, our minds can affect our body’s state of being, and a healthy lifestyle begins by fostering a healthy mind-body connection. Mindfulness is not about clearing the mind, it’s about responding to what is present: positive or negative. Learn to cultivate a healthy relationship with your thoughts and how to respond according to what is present.


Mindful-Self Compassion

Mindfulness is an awareness of being immersed in and engaged with the present moment. This requires opening to your experience to be with both the pleasant and the unpleasant. Mindfulness can be difficult to practice for many, simply because it is challenging to be mindfully aware to suffering. However, mindfulness has the power to transform the core sense of self and your relationship with the world, and positive emotions will be generated as a result of embracing the negative ones.

In today’s day and age, self-compassion has been construed as being a selfish, or self-absorbed, practice towards oneself. In our performance-based, high-achieving and high-pressure western society, we tend to veer away from basic acts of self-compassion by simply placing our careers, willingness to achieve success, or the innate drive to please others in the forefront of our lives. The values placed at the vanguard of our society include academic and career success; high-paying jobs to support a consumerist way of life being the ultimate measure of observable success. Thus, time and energy invested in the outward realm are in turn removed from that which is needed to be invested in the inward realm: the self.

The core belief of “not having time for (my)self” is what needs to be challenged in our society. Self-compassion is a practice that ought to be embodied, and cultivated in intentions, choices, and actions. The idea of self-compassion as a task or chore is erroneous: self-compassion needs to be understood as a vital value in order to be embodied in daily life. Incorporating practices of self-compassion will increase clarity, perspective, and equanimity. An introspective and compassionate regard on the self will also transform your relationship with the world. Self-compassion implies a compassionate stance towards the self, no matter the experience. Being compassionate towards yourself in times of suffering will develop the ability to be with someone who is suffering – honestly and empathetically so. In fact, acknowledging suffering is imperative in the practice of self-compassion. By extension, improving your stance towards yourself, and being compassionate by opening your experience to include suffering, will cultivate values-based intentions.