Have you ever wondered who coined the term ‘mindfulness’? That was Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. He describes it as “paying attention on purpose with a non-judgmental attitude.”
“I take an enormous amount of pleasure in actually not trying to get anywhere” —Jon Kabat-Zinn
Partly because of his work and research, this concept of ‘mindfulness’ has become mainstream. We see it at colleges, small businesses and large corporations, and—perhaps most notably—in medicine (Kabat-Zinn also founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School).
In Tami’s interview with Kabat-Zinn on Insights at the Edge, the two begin asking: Why is mindfulness gaining popularity in the first place? In the process, they explore what’s simple, profound, and relatable about it.
AGE OF MINDFULNESS
“Once you realize that we are completely embedded in an interconnected world … the only real response is a sense of profound appreciation or affection for the fact that we are not separate”
Mindfulness has always been a part of humanity. It has been called different names and interpreted by different lenses, but the concept of some greater unity of which we are all a part—that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
So, even if it’s a trend, couldn’t there be more to it? In a way, mindfulness seems to take on the breath of intuition, not necessarily logic or reason. It is truly the air of possibility.
YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS
You cannot get rid of your thoughts. But when you create distance between yourself and your thoughts, you can let them wash through you. You do not have to fight to maintain them or believe them. And, you do not have to fight to let them go.
“Suppose the sky is awareness. If a bird flew through, then the sky would know it. … [The sky] has its own sort of ground condition of just being the sky, just being awareness”
He describes this awareness not as a state of being, but as a shift in seeing. There was always space there. We just needed to rotate a lens.
Have you ever retreated your vision while meditating, so that you were gazing out from between your two closed eyes? Like that. That field of awareness stretches infinitely—as conscious beings, it weaves us together.
This feeling is both humbling and terrifying in its awesomeness. When the sky is so big, we don’t know what we are. But we can accept this uncertainty. Our minds, our egos, our bodies—can expand with it.
WE ARE ALL GENIUSES
Homo sapien sapien literally translates from Latin to “the species that knows and knows that it knows.”
In the episode, Jon and Tami talk beautifully about mindfulness’s fundamental humanness. There is an utter connection between our feet grounded on this Earth, and the spaces we don’t understand.
“There is something about mindfulness that is absolutely core to our humanity … the final common pathway of what makes us human”
Sometimes, meditation helps us feel the truth of this. Once we know this awareness is there, we can integrate it into the ways we think and make decisions.
FEAR OF AUTHENTICITY
We reach for purpose; we wish to understand our place in the universe. (It isn’t weird for us to do this. If I were an alien, and I heard humans were doing this, I would be like, well, yeah.)
Yet, we are afraid to be ourselves. We don’t want ourselves to disappear. So we keep inside our deepest sorrows, anxieties, and emotions.
The parts of us we try and protect so carefully end up banging on the walls inside of us, stuck.
“It’s not like we can never suppress that shadow side … but if we can come to understand it in a deeper way, then I think there is a potential … [to] elevate what is most beautiful and good about all human beings”
What if we gave all of it—ourselves, and our connection to the world—the space to breathe?
(And the possibilities begin to shimmer.)
ABOUT JON KABAT-ZINN
Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, is professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society in 1995, and its world-renowned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Clinic in 1979. His trailblazing research has helped bring mindfulness meditation into mainstream medicine. He is the author of 10 books, including the bestsellers Full Catastrophe Living; Wherever You Go, There You Are; and Mindfulness for Beginners.
Take a look at Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book and accompanying CD of guided practices, Mindfulness for Beginners, published by Sounds True!
★★★★★ Easy to read and informative as well as inspiring. —gus c
★★★★★ In my opinion, a must-read for all humans. —Yves N
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When she isn’t writing, playing music or teaching, Dani Ferrara blogs at Sounds True and researches the alchemy of healing. Explore her art at daniferrarapoet.com.