What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness can be defined very simply as skilled focused awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness is also a vast field of information and philosophy, with roots in ancient wisdom including the contemplative traditions of Buddhism, Yoga, and many others. Currently, there is a resurgence of interest in mindfulness and its benefits in many different spiritual and secular areas.

Mindfulness in Medicine

In 1979, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn launched the MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) program in the USA and it fueled the drive to test meditation and contemplative practices in terms of their effects on the mind and body. Both the medical findings of the effects of gentle Yoga and mindfulness meditations over various periods of time, along with the positive subjective findings of many who have tried Yoga and meditation have ushered these disciplines into mainstream arenas.

Benefits of Mindfulness Practice

The benefits vary from person to person. While mindfulness meditation is not necessarily for everyone, on trying a few short practices many people find they appreciate the restful feelings that can come from slowing their bodies and minds down and becoming gently focused. As such, mindfulness can sometimes interrupt the stress response that most of us live in, and, with practice, guide us into less reactive and more consciously positive habits of thinking and ways of being. Many stress-related or stress-induced conditions or habits are affected when we decrease our stress levels.

Mindfulness is not a quick fix, but even a few deep breaths, taken mindfully, and some kind, open-minded attention to a situation as it occurs, can alter the perception of difficulty and unpredictability of life.

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

When we meditate mindfully, we generally begin by choosing a point of focus for the mind. We then keep bringing our attention to the one point of focus, working gently and compassionately with the mind each time it wanders. Often we use the breath, but anything can be a point of focus for a mindfulness practice, including sounds or sensations.

We tend to use the breath as a focus or anchor point because it’s readily available and it helps us come into awareness of the physical body at the same time. The shift of attention to the physical body itself can also produce a feeling of relaxation and self-kindness, and help to release muscular tension.

How to Meditate Mindfully

Throughout thousands of years of contemplative practices, there have been many approaches offered. Many practices are simple and elegant in their nature.

Try a free 10-minute guided breath awareness practice, from our home page. This experiential learning will offer you far more than an explanation can.

Generally speaking, we choose a point of focus and become curious about it, watching it and feeling into it to learn about it. Our awareness will shift and change and we aim to notice these subtle changes. The mind has a tendency to wander, and when it does so, we gently guide it back to the anchor point. This process of paying attention and guiding the mind back is what we call meditating.

Reacting vs. Responding Mindfully

It is not necessary to believe anything or hold to a certain view in a mindfulness practice. Instead, we adopt a continuously caring outlook, and while releasing the need to analyze or criticize what we’re noticing, we simply notice.

We come into a process of being aware. We hold most important the process of being aware and intentionally let go of judging what we find. This creates an inner environment that allows us to respond mindfully, rather than acting out of reactivity.

Recognizing what is happening within us and around us as things happen allows us to reclaim our lives. Rather than missing opportunities for growth, kindness or genuine connection, we become present for what matters to us, and can recognize what serves us better than when we’re stressed, angry or frightened.

Mindfulness with slow+sense & Mindfulness Training Toronto

We offer classes and programs that are experiential and approachable by those who have no experience with mindfulness or Yoga, as well as for those who wish to receive support for their ongoing practices.

Mindfulness Training Toronto is the online resource hub of audio-recorded class overviews, guided meditations and session notes that our students can use for their own personal practice time.

Monica MaurinMonica Maurin has studied mindfulness and Yoga internationally with Sarah Powers of the Insight Yoga Institute, Mindful Schools USA, Sananda Yoga Toronto, and at the University of Toronto. Along with teaching both corporately and in the community, she curates articles for slow + sense and is the director of Mindfulness Training Toronto’s online resources. She develops meditation programs, resources, and CDs, including Mindfulness for the Workday.