Mindfulness Meditation is a western, non-sectarian, research-based form of meditation derived from a 2,500 year old Buddhist practice called Vipassana or Insight Meditation. It is a form of meditation designed to develop the skill of paying attention to our inner and outer experiences with acceptance, patience, and compassion. The University of California Center for Mindfulness, part of the medical school’s psychiatry department, defines Mindfulness Meditation this way:
“(Mindfulness) is a quality, which human beings already have, but they have usually not been advised that they have it, that it is valuable, or that it can be cultivated. Mindfulness is the awareness that is not thinking but which is aware of thinking, as well as aware of each of the other ways we experience the sensory world, i.e., seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling through the body.
Consistent daily practice has been known to promote the development of stability, inner calmness, and non-reactivity of the mind. In turn, this allows us to face and embrace even the unpleasant or painful aspects of daily life. By developing a simple and pure awareness, we learn to disentangle ourselves from our habitual thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and connect with our experience, with ourselves, and with others in a healthier and deeper way.
Since 1967, over 1500 studies have been conducted by over 250 independent research institutes showing Mindfulness Meditation to be clinically effective for the management of stress, anxiety and panic, chronic pain, depression, obsessive thinking, strong emotional reactivity, and a wide array of medical and mental health related conditions.
Mindfulness Meditation programs are being conducted in hundreds of hospitals, healthcare facilities, schools, corporate wellness programs, and prison settings all across the United States, and around the world. In addition to significant reductions in stress, proven benefits of Mindfulness Meditation include but are not limited to:
- Elevated immune system function
- Less frequency and duration of illnesses
- Improved management of pain
- Decreased heart rate and blood pressure
- Improved sleep and digestion
- Increased energy
- Improved mental function, intelligence, and memory
- Improved decision-making ability
- Less irritability, anxiety, and depression
- Improved interpersonal relationships
- Increased resilience to change
- Aid to smoking cessation efforts
Mindfulness for Stress Reduction
According to the American Psychological Association, the six leading causes of death in the U.S. are all linked to stress – heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide, and research has implicated chronic stress as a major contributor to a wide variety of diseases and other health issues such as:
- Suppressed immune system
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sleep disorders
A landmark, 20-year study conducted by the University of London concluded that “unmanaged reactions to stress were a more dangerous risk factor for cancer and heart disease than either cigarette smoking or high cholesterol foods.”
Chronic stress also exerts a strong and adverse affect on the brain even altering brain cells, brain structure, and brain function. Research has shown that unmanaged stress:
- Diminishes short, and long-term memory
- Inhibits the formation of new memories
- Diminishes the ability to learn new things
- Diminishes problem-solving abilities
- Diminishes the ability to concentrate
Through the regular daily practice of Mindfulness Meditation we can completely change our relationship to stressors while at the same time greatly reducing the adverse affects of chronic stress. Every time we sit to meditate we are actively supporting and promoting our own health and well-being in heart, mind, and body.