The Origins of Mindfulness

Mindfulness isn’t a new concept, although it’s rapidly gaining popularity in the West, especially in the field of psychology. Mindfulness is now part of both traditional psychology, which aims to help alleviate conditions such as depression or anxiety, and modern positive psychology, which advocates scientifically sounds ways to raise levels of long-term wellbeing and satisfaction

Many consider mindfulness to have its origins Buddhism, but even before the Buddha’s birth some 2,500 years ago, Hindus practiced a range of meditations, some of which involved mindfulness.

Mindfulness isn’t inherently Eastern, just as electricity isn’t inherently Western. Mindfulness is a quality of presence that’s innate in all human beings. Awareness is a natural and beautiful quality of being human that can’t be limited to one particular tradition or country.

Noticing what your judgments of the word mindfulness are before you delve into the practice more deeply is interesting. For the next minute, write down all the words that pop into your head when you think of the word mindfulness. Don’t think about the process. Time yourself for a minute and just write down what occurs to you.

Afterwards, consider the words you’re written. Are they positive, negative or neither? Some of them may be your unconscious judgments of mindfulness, and you may find that being aware of this is useful. Your judgments may be based on what someone else has told you or something you’ve read in a magazine, book or seen on television.

After you’ve discovered your judgments, try to consciously set them aside and consider mindfulness afresh. Suspend your opinions and beliefs until you’ve learnt and practiced mindfulness yourself for some time.

If you didn’t get many words coming to mind, perhaps try drawing a picture or image instead. You may well be a more visual person.

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