A Simple Life Changing Practice
Mindfulness has become a recent buzzword for good reason. Claims about mindfulness include: better life satisfaction, relief from chronic pain, less stress, better work performance, weight loss, better learning outcomes for students, less conflict and world peace. These claims about mindfulness often seem too good to be true for such a simple practice. There is a growing body of research that is bearing many of these claims out and at the same time there is a growing skepticism and push back about its application.
This skepticism is important to listen to but is misdirected. It comes about because mindfulness is extremely simple. John Kabat Zinn, an MD and major proponent of mindfulness as a treatment for chronic pain, sums the entire practice up in a simple sentence: “Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular kind of way.” So, it is a simple practice which should not be confused with an easy practice. Skepticism should be directed at the pop mindfulness ideas that try to make this an easy practice rather than the roots of mindfulness in many older spiritual and wisdom traditions.
Because I find this a valuable practice in my own life and in my practice of counseling I have worked to find resources for this that I feel good about recommending. The following resources about mindfulness meet my standard for capturing the simplicity and difficulty of a mindfulness practice. The list starts with the most robust, structured, and time consuming resource and moves to less structured less time intensive resources.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
This is a program developed by John Kabat-Zinn at the MIT Medical Center. It was initially created to help people deal with chronic pain and face the stress of terminal illness. As the research and positive benefits of this became more compelling it has been expanded to many settings and taught all over the world. In Charlottesville the UVa Medical School offers this program and a link to that program is provided here:
There is a free online version of the MBSR that can be found here:
If you complete the course you also have access to an online community of other folks who have graduated and are continuing a mindfulness practice. There are monthly emails with information about how to deepen practice and a yearly meeting in Moscow, Idaho.
This is a book written by a Google engineer who has transitioned to teaching Emotional Intelligence within Google. Most of the processes are mindfulness based. This book has many good exercises and breaks down mindfulness in a very pragmatic way. There is a large focus on how mindfulness can benefit relationships and communication with many exercises oriented around this. At first I found the book slightly pompous but by the end I was thoroughly impressed.
This is an approximately 24 lecture series taught by professor Mark Muesse covering the basic tenets of meditation with many exercises to practice and examples of application from his own life.
The story is that people would come from all over the country to see Brother Lawrence complete menial tasks, like washing the dishes, because he did this with such incredible presence. This book teaches mindfulness from the perspective of Christian Spirituality.
This is a book by John Kabat-Zinn who created the MBSR above. This book has a many thoughts and reflections on mindfulness with suggestions for practice. This is a great resource for deepening a meditation practice.
One of my favorite poems by the Sufi Mystic Rumi. I love the modern adaptation by Zen Pencils (and the rest of Zen Pencils is great). This is a lovely reminder of the ongoing practice of mindfulness.
IMCC has a number of offerings. I have only participated in their weekday open mediation at Common Grounds Healing arts. I found this to be a fun and encouraging group in my mindfulness journey.