In a society that desperately needs it, mindfulness cultivates inner awareness. With this awareness comes a resilience of mind, and a very different take on the importance of material objects and external events in our lives.
From a neuroscientific point of view, mindfulness makes sense. It has passed close scrutiny with flying colors as a very effective means of benefiting from the brain’s capacity for change(neuroplasticity). By directing awareness inward and to the present moment, one is able to live more fully and better understand their own functionality as a mind and being. As attention is more often put to use in this manner, it becomes more natural to do so.(1)
While many people believe they possess perfect understanding of themselves and their minds, this is merely an illusion. Conscious thought processes depend entirely on underlying causes which are themselves not conscious or controlled.(2)
Our minds and subjectivity are incredibly complicated. They were first molded by factors we had no control over. The culture we grow up in almost entirely shapes our worldview. False truths are often accepted without consideration, and we learn to see normal in terms of everybody around us. This mode of mind is incredibly limiting. There is a better way.
Mindfulness helps deprogram cultural influences and build a mental perspective outside the traditional thought process. As opposed to being a thought, one learns to perceive it as an action of the mind. As a result, thoughts seem less consuming, and attention can be more easily focused and re-directed. By applying a mindful methodology and tools such as meditation, meta-cognition, reading, and journaling, one is able to better regulate their mind, and remove culturally imposed perceptual limitations they were unaware they even had.
Mindfulness also cultivates attention directed in the present moment. All too often, minds run rampant and people miss what’s right in front of them. The more a mind dwells in the past or future, the less it’s experiencing the moment. Mindfulness practice has proven to lower day-to-day stress and anxiety, allowing more attention to the joy of being.
Eastern contemplative cultures definitely got some things right. Mindfulness takes power over subjectivity away from external factors, and puts it back in our hands. Attention can be harnessed in many creative ways to create our lives and legacies. Mindfulness is a bridge to new possibilities of mind.
Free your mind, Neo.
Neuroscientist and Author Sam Harris on Mindfulness and divorcing it from religion: http://bigthink.com/videos/sam-harris-on-secular-meditation-2
Renowned Psychiatrist David Epstein on Mindfulness: http://bigthink.com/videos/mark-epstein-on-mindfulness-and-mental-health
Evidence Based Research on Mindfulness: http://evp.harvard.edu/book/where-can-i-find-evidence-based-research-mindfulness
Beginners guide to meditation: practicalmindsight.wordpress.com/beginners-guide-to-meditation
(1) Norman Doidge, MD, The Brain That Changes Itself, Chapters 1-3
(2) Sam Harris, Neuroscientist, The Moral Landscape p. 106