Mindfulness Meditation – what we like to call just “sitting”- is reaching the mainstream here in the West. Part of its acceptance comes from the benefits that comes from the meditation itself and part of the acceptance comes from the western adaptation of meditation that is often secular in nature and does not inherently interfere with pre-existing spiritual or religious beliefs. One also must wonder if yoga has acted as a “gateway drug” for meditation, opening up westerners both physically and spiritually.
What is mindfulness, exactly?
It’s a meditation practice central to the Buddha’s teachings, which has now been adapted by Western teachers into a secular self-help technique. One of the pioneers in the field is Jon Kabat-Zinn, an MIT-educated molecular biologist who began teaching mindfulness in the 1970s to people suffering from chronic pain and disease. The core of mindfulness is quieting the mind’s constant chattering — thoughts, anxieties, and regrets. Practitioners are taught to keep their attention focused on whatever they’re doing at the present moment, whether it’s eating, exercising, or even working. The most basic mindfulness practice is sitting meditation: You sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and focus your awareness on your breath and other bodily sensations. When thoughts come, you gently let them go without judgment and return to the focus on the breath. Over time, this practice helps people connect with a deeper, calmer part of themselves, and retrain their brains not to get stuck in pointless, neurotic ruminations about the past and future that leave them constantly stressed, anxious, or depressed.
This is a great article about the mainstreaming of mindfulness meditation here: