Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Basic Mindfulness Theory

Mindfulness is a practice gaining greater and greater popularity in the field of clinical(see Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy) and corporate psychology. Originally sprung from Buddhist thought, mindfulness has a simplicity and ease that makes it applicable to a variety of settings, including the workplace. Simply put, mindfulness is a mental state, characterized by calm awareness of one's body, feelings, and consciousness. Mindfulness, as I understand it and apply it, rests on four basic principles that I will include below. Later posts will deal with the "how" of mindfulness, but I thought that an introduction to the "why" would be an appropriate starting point. My very simple understanding of these concepts is this: There is a world of beauty that we miss every day in our drive to be doing. There is a pervasive sense of "always seeking never finding" in corporate America, and this is one simple way to stop and appreciate the greatness we've been ignoring all along. Far from the robes and other trappings traditionally associated with Buddhism, mindfulness provides a practical way to slow life down in a way that has observable, positive impact on our decision-making as well as our quality of life. Without any further editorializing:

Basic Theory:

Excessive rumination – We cannot control the past or the future, only the present. Worrying about things out of our control decreases our sense of empowerment and contributes to feelings of depression, anxiety and helplessness. Keeping life present-focused gives us a sense of control and autonomy.

Impoverished lived experience – Life is full of pleasures that we are not aware of, given the frenetic pace of modern life. Each day is filled with myriad opportunities to be mindful and find goodness, often in places we race past on our way to the next event. A fuller consideration of day-to-day wonders increases our sense of fulfillment and enriches our life experience.

Thought fusion – Our internal process of thinking and experiencing often occurs outside of our awareness, but contributes greatly to the way we view the world. Too often, we fuse our thoughts to our selves, creating a reality and a value system that has not been consciously chosen or thoroughly examined. Mindfulness allows us to become more fully aware of our internal processes, en route to more conscious choices regarding our actions and our worldview.

Physiological Implications – Often, we are unaware of the way our breath, posture, and other bodily considerations impact our mental state. Mindfulness promotes closer consideration of bodily sensations, which can have the effect of returning our bodies and our breath to a state more conducive to calm.

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