What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being aware of what’s happening inside and around us in the present moment. Mindfulness can seem like a simple concept, but it is not always easy to implement in daily life, either at home or at work.
Mindfulness is a path, not merely a technique. To cultivate this path requires training and practice; it can be talked about in words, but its true transformative power is felt only when it is experienced firsthand.
Why Practice Mindfulness?
Interest in mindfulness has skyrocketed in recent years due to a plethora of research showcasing demonstrated benefits of practicing mindfulness. Ten years ago, there were about 70 journal publications about mindfulness. In 2014 there were over 770.
Organizational trainings in mindfulness are becoming more common throughout all sectors of society. The list of organizations incorporating mindfulness continues to grow and includes fortune 100s such as Google and Ford, educational institutions such as Harvard Business School and the University of Toronto, and even investment firms like Goldman Sachs and Blackrock.
Below we have outlined some of the core benefits of mindfulness practice. Some of these benefits include improvements in stress levels, mental health and work performance. If you would like to learn more about the science behind mindfulness, you can visit the American Mindfulness Research Associations scientific database here.
How Mindfulness Helps
Many people feel distracted at work because of increasing demands placed on their attention. Mindfulness can support focus and clarity at work by strengthening executive functions and decision making skills.
High stress levels are a daily reality for many employees and can lead to burnout alongside other physical and mental health risks. Mindfulness is a way to recover from inevitable stress and develop the skills to reduce overall stress.
Company Bottom Line
Healthy and happy employees translates into enhanced company performance in the form of increased productivity, lower healthcare costs and decreased attrition.
Healthier Classroom Environments
Children learning mindfulness alongside regular classroom instructions have shown improvements in mental, emotional, social and physical health.
Teacher retention has been identified as a 'national crisis' by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (2003). Developing a personal practice for educators through mindfulness trainings can help reduce teacher stress and increase teacher resiliency, reducing burn-out and attrition.
Improved Learning Outcomes
Mindfulness interventions can have a positive effect on test scores, attention, executive function, self regulation, and meta-cognition.
Awareness of one’s own feelings and empathizing with the feelings of others is an integral part of any relationship. Mindfulness increases self-awareness, and promotes skillful responses during emotionally charged situations.
Improved Physical Health
Mindfulness has been demonstrated to have numerous positive effects on physical health, including lower blood pressure, reducing chronic pain and protecting against cold and flu viruses.
Rest and Renewal
While mindfulness is more than just a relaxation technique, it does support improved rest and renewal. Mindfulness can help promote restful pauses throughout the day and lead to better sleep at night.
Elli Weisbaum comes from the mindfulness practice tradition of Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Below are some links and resources for those who might like to connect further with this community to support their own personal mindfulness practice.
Local Practice Communities:
If you're interested in practicing mindfulness with others in your local area, there are many Sanghas (communities) in the Thich Nhat Hanh tradition. You can search Plum Village's international Sangha database here: iamhome.org.
To purchase books on mindfulness you can visit parallax.org, they also have a small selection of bells available.
Popular articles and research in the field of mindfulness can be found at the American Mindfulness Research Association.
Click below for more mindfulness audio, apps, and articles
If you are interested in visiting a mindfulness practice center, there are many options. As a starting point we recommend exploring some of the ongoing programs offered at centers in the Thich Nhat Hanh tradition (worldwide locations listed below). Visitors are welcome year-round and you can visit for a day of mindfulness, a weekend, or longer. They offer specialized retreats throughout the year, including family retreats, and those tailored to certain professions.
During your time at a practice center, you will have the opportunity to practice sitting and walking meditation, to enjoy mindful eating with the community, to listen to talks by monastic Dharma Teachers, and to explore the lovely gardens and nature trails. While at the practice centre you will not need to be 'silent', although you may enjoy the quiet environment of the monastery to the noise of the outside world.