Mindfulness is a relational discipline: we are cultivating the means to be in wise and skilful relationship with ourselves, with others, and with whatever circumstances we may face in life, however unpleasant or difficult. This process begins with learning to be with things as they are now, without our habitual reactions of craving, avoiding, resisting, compulsively fixing, or analysing. Through an ongoing practice of developing curious, attentive openness to our experience, mindfulness creates the internal conditions for approaching whatever life throws at us with greater ease and equanimity.
More than thirty years of research confirm that mindfulness practice leads to:
- lower levels of physiological stress
- enhanced immune function
- healthier perspective-taking in times of difficulty
- greater self-compassion and self-awareness
- less emotional volatility
- an improved ability to concentrate
- a higher tolerance for the risk associated with stepping outside one’s comfort zone, and
- an increased capacity for eudaemonia, the durable state of happiness that isn’t dependent on circumstances.
Practiced consistently, mindfulness cultivates well-being and resilience.
The Buddhist philosophy in which mindfulness is based makes a distinction between pain and suffering. Pain in life is unavoidable and includes all the losses and uncomfortable situations we cannot control, ranging from an annoying colleague to the death of a loved one. Suffering refers to the unskillful ways in which we (often unintentionally) deepen or amplify our pain. In stressful conditions, to varying degrees, we all feel vulnerable. It is how we respond to our internal experience and the challenges facing us that makes the difference.