All kinds of things become trendy for a little while and then fade out of the public consciousness. Fidget spinners. Leisure suits. Beehive hairdos. The list of fads that were all the rage and then seemingly disappeared overnight is long and varied. What about being mindful?
But as it would turn out, mindfulness has been around for a long, long time. In fact, its central premise can be traced to Buddha, a spiritual teacher who lived around 450 BCE:
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
Being present in the present is at the heart of mindfulness practice. When we ruminate about the past or worry about the future, we run the risk of missing out on the joys of the present moment.
This idea of staying in the present moment seems, upon reflection, both simple and impossible. After all, our thoughts have a way of running off on their own much of the time—and they often wallow in our regrets or our worries.
So how can we get a better handle on this mindful concept? We’d like to offer some quick quotes from four mindfulness masters that, taken together, might bring the goals and idea of mindfulness into sharper focus.
Mindful master Thích Nhất Hạnh was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 by none other than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a Buddhist monk who did much to spread the ideas of mindfulness. He offered many thoughts and aphorisms about mindfulness practice:
To think in terms of either pessimism or optimism oversimplifies the truth. The problem is to see reality as it is.
Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.
The feeling that any task is a nuisance will soon disappear if it is done in mindfulness.
Live the actual moment. Only this actual moment is life.
Mindful master Jon Kabat-Zinn was one of Thích Nhất Hạnh’s students and is often credited with bringing mindfulness into the Western world. He founded the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Among his thoughts on living a mindful life:
The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.
Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.
The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness.
Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.
Mindful master Jack Kornfield and two others founded the Insight Meditation Society in 1975, increasing the profile of the practice in the West. Kornfield emphasized the importance of knowing oneself, a goal that mindfulness can support:
Much of spiritual life is self-acceptance, maybe all of it.
When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another – and ourselves.
Wisdom says we are nothing. Love says we are everything. Between these two our life flows.
Everything that has a beginning has an ending. Make your peace with that and all will be well.
Pema Chödrön is a Buddhist nun and the director of the only Tibetan Monastery for Westerners. She has written a number of books about mindfulness. Some of her thoughts on the mindfully lived life include:
You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.
The essence of bravery is being without self-deception.
Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.
Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts.
From a Series of Sayings to Actual Practice
If you would like to start practicing mindfulness as a way to support your mental health, there are plenty of resources available to you, including a variety of books, apps, and videos, and more. You may be able to join a mindfulness class in your community, or you can practice on your own. No matter what resources or approach you use, the goal remains the same: live your life fully aware of each moment so that you don’t miss it while your thoughts are elsewhere.
Keep in Mind That We Can Help
At Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health, we are committed to helping individuals improve their overall mental health—and providing the tools and support necessary to maintain those improvements. If you are struggling with a mental health disorder of any kind, our Colorado facility can provide personalized, compassionate, evidence-based therapy that can help improve your quality of life.