At the core, mindfulness is about cultivating a deep intimacy with the present moment. It is about being with what is. It is about feeling into the richness of our moment-to-moment experience without distracting or running away. Sometimes what is, is not how we envisioned it to be. Much of our lives are spent living in the resistance to what is, leading to discontent and dis-ease.
In today’s world, we are constantly feeling like we don’t have enough time. We are irritated when our time feels wasted. This discontent and anxiety, stemming from the constant narration of how we think we want things to be different, leads to anxiety, stress, and other mental factors that play a role in the development, perpetuation, and recurrence of illness at both the individual and cultural levels.
As people, we have a profound desire to feel open, content, and connected with of all life. All people desire a sense of inner control, competence, self-confidence, creating and sustaining healthy relationships, having a sense of meaning and purpose in life, increased happiness, and less distress. Meditation and mindful lifestyle practices teach us how to be aware and responsive to the thoughts, emotions, sensory impressions, conversations, and information entering our awareness, rather than repressing, judging, or reacting to them.
Mindfulness meditation involves finding a physical posture that is relaxed, but alert, bringing your awareness to your breath, and purposefully examining the nature of your thoughts, sensations, emotions and reactions non-judgmentally. This practice has been demonstrated to provide measurable benefits to health and well-being, especially for those experiencing stress, depression, and anxiety.
When we embody mindful awareness, we are better able to integrate the cognitive, emotional, somatic, and social aspects of our dynamic experience. We are able to be with what is, whether bliss or agony, and allow it to take its natural course and to move through our experience. Regularly practicing mindfulness meditation begins to generate changes in our presence throughout the day, impacting the choices we make that shape our lives.
Taking a participatory, empowered and socially-responsible approach to our own well-being, through the practice of mindfulness meditation, has the potential to improve both individual and social health and well-being. Learning to practice listening to our experience without distraction or reactivity eventually inspires us to address our most important needs – the longing of our soul for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. When we become willing to be intimately present with all that is, we can truly know our most authentic self. And that is an experience worth our time.
About the Author: Megan Lipsett is a recent graduate of the Integrative Health program at the California Institute for Integrative Studies (CIIS). Megan teaches Mindfulness and Optimal Wellbeing and Sustainable Health and Ecology at CIIS.