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Spirit Rising | Megan Fowler | Benefits of mindfulness for stress reduction and healing

About Mindfulness

“Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn (1990)

To begin, we could say that mindfulness is both a capacity that each human being already has (simply by way of being human) while it is also a practice which we can refine and strengthen.  And although the idea of simply paying attention to the present moment might sound fairly easy, it is quite possibly one of the harder things we human beings can endeavor to do.

The practice of mindfulness encourages us to pay attention to the nature and process of our experience—not just the content and story we can all too easily become caught up in, or the outcome that we can become so easily fixated on.  We learn to explore, possibly even with a little playfulness and curiosity, the actual experiences within life unfolding moment by moment, while taking a small step back from the opinions, expectations, judgments and desires that can easily consume how we experience the moments of our lives. In other words, mindfulness practices help support our ability to be more fully present to what actually is--to what arises in the moment, experiencing it just the way it is, while being aware of our internal terrain of thought, emotions and bodily sensations.  In so doing, we begin to become very intimate with our habitual patterns of reactions to everyday occurrences and in and through this awareness, the possibility for change.

Mindfulness leads the mind back from the endless abstractions and thought--future musings or past rehashings--to the situation of experience itself. Overtime, we're able to better recognize our own prejudices, opinions, projections and expectations in order to free ourselves from the “straight-jacket of unconsciousness” (Varela, et al. 1991).  As a practice of wakefulness, mindfulness is inherently related to awareness and liberation: as we expand our ability to hold awareness around the nature of our experiences, we are capable of intentionally creating changes in our life--at both large and more granular, microscopic scales--that align with our deepest values, heartfelt intentions and that provide for greater balance, health, compassion and ease.

Research and Science of Practice

A growing body of scientific research  points to the numerous benefits of mindfulness practice. In essence,  studies demonstrate that mindfulness enhances physical and psychological resilience, improves cognitive functioning and supports our ability to connect more positively to self and others.

More specifically, mindfulness may impact individuals by:

  • Improving sleep and ability to relax.

  • Reducing perception of physical pain and an increased perception of being able to cope with chronic pain.

  • Reduction of stress biomarkers and improved ability to deal more effectively with life stressors.

  • Improving immune functioning.

  • Encouraging better eating habits.

  • Improving quality of sleep and ability to manage insomnia.

  • Increasing energy, attention and working memory functions.

  • Enhancing motivation and learning.

  • Promoting greater openness to ideas and possibilities.

  • Improving problem-solving and decision-making.

  • Fostering increased emotional regulation.

  • Increasing empathy and prosocial behaviors.

  • Enhancing effective interpersonal communication.

  • Reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression and emotional reactivity.

  • Fostering self-compassion, which can decrease self-criticism and negative thought patterns.

  • Increasing sense of connection with others, which can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Spirit Rising | Megan Fowler | Meditation links heart and mind, mind-body integration, promoting health and wellbeing, healing and calm

I find it important to respectfully make note of a few considerations here.  Contrary perhaps to some opinions, mindfulness is not inherently religious, nor does it entail some fixed spiritual underpinnings: mindfulness refers to an innate capacity that all individuals have, simply by way of being human. Although inherent and innate, it can also be strengthened and cultivated--like a muscle.

Many historical and contemporary wisdom and faith traditions have taught meditation or mindfulness as cornerstone practices, essential for the liberation of humanity from delusional, disconnected ways of perceiving and engaging the world towards more interconnected ways of understanding self, others and world.

MBSR, as the earliest mainstream application of mindfulness in Western medicine, is constructed and taught in a manner that is secular with the specific intention of making mindfulness teachings available for the support of all humankind, regardless of cultural, religious, spiritual or ethnic beliefs.


With profound recognition of the inherent tension that exists between honoring the cultural and historical legacies and diverse faith traditions associated with meditation practice and seeking to offer teachings in an accessible and secular way for the benefit of all sentient beings, regardless of religious/spiritual affiliations, these teachings are humbly offered...

Mindfulness in a Western Cultural Context

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