The terms mindfulness and meditation are often heard these days. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.” Bill Wilson (the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous/12 Step) referred to the process of meditation as “an individual adventure, something which each one of us works out in his own way”.
Meditation usually happens during a specific time set aside for contemplation whereas mindfulness is about being aware of what is happening throughout the day in the “here and now”. My meditation practice is something I focus on doing most mornings (although sometimes I goof off). I spend 20 minutes or so sitting in my chair, concentrating on my breathing. When my mind wanders off (as minds often do) I simply come back to my breath; sometimes I use additional techniques, depending on my mood that day. For some of us, walking meditation feels more comfortable than sitting, others might prefer yoga or running, whatever works as long as you are present. and attending to your breath.
Mindfulness involves bringing my meditation practice out into the world and remaining aware throughout the day. When I find myself getting distracted or feeling “off”, I come back to my breath; sometimes I just take three deep breaths. I find it helpful to do this when I am driving on the 405 freeway.
My meditation practice enhances my clarity in the room and sustains me when my clients and I are sitting with difficult feelings. I am able to remain present in my body and mind so that I can be there for my clients. Some of my clients enjoy learning how to incorporate mindfulness techniques and meditation into their own lives.
Dr. Ellen Langer, a social psychologist and a professor in the Psychology Department at Harvard University, has done extensive research on mindfulness and well-being. Here is a link to her talk on The Science of Mindlessness and Mindfulness.