The term “Mindfulness” was coined by the British scholar T. H Rhys Davids in his effort to translate the Pali word “sati” (Thanissaro, 1987, as cited in Dhimam, 2009)
Kabat – Zinn (1998, as cited in Chaskalson, 2011) defined mindfulness as a means of paying attention with purpose, to the present moment in a manner that is non- judgmental to whatever arises in the present moment and in the field of your current experience.
Mindfulness is also defined as our ability to pay attention to the present moment, to oneself, to those we are interacting with at that moment and to our surroundings.
As stated by Shapiro, Wand & Peltason (as cited in Reb & Atkin, (2015)) Mindfulness consists of 3 core elements Intention, attention and attitude, these are not separate processes instead they are 3 intertwined elements of a single cyclic process. In mindfulness, Intention knows why we are paying attention, the element of attention means attending to what is happening in the here and now and the third element of attitude includes curiosity and open mindedness. Making no endeavor to change our experience instead to accept our current experiences with openness, curiosity and care.
We spend much of our time regretting all the mistakes of our past or being nostalgic about the good things of the past that we pass by the present without enjoying the moment. Or we worry about the future or day dream of how great the future is going to be that the opportunity to make the best of the moment passes and we don’t even realise that we lost the most precious moment of our life.
It doesn’t mean that we don’t create purpose for life or have compelling goals. It means that while we live with purpose and pursue goals we live mindfully by focusing on what we can do at this moment in order to get us one more step closer to our goals. This does not only mean our private life but it also go for our KPIs and objectives set by the organisations.
Life becomes simpler when we live mindfully and focus on getting the best out of this moment.
Make life simple live mindfully!
In the recent past Neurosciences have made some incredible discoveries regarding our brain this is a far cry from John Locks “Tabular rasa” to what we know today about our brain. Today it is known that an infant’s brain develops and thrives from the feedback that it receives from the environment. The experiences help an infant’s brain develop in to a thinking and emotional organ. Neurosciences also reveals that the brain undergoes an increased growth spurt soon after birth constructing trillions of neurons and neural paths each day promoting rational and creative thinking, promoting moral values, language development and many other skills needed for successful survival.
It was thought that the brain degenerates with age and does not regenerate new cells if neurons are damaged. With the development of neurosciences research has proven that our brain has inbuilt plasticity and thus the more one utilises the neural pathways the more it grow and changes. It is worth discovering what neuroplasticity is and how it connects back to mindfulness. A simple definition for Neuroplasticity means that as one takes up new experiences the organization of the networks and their functions also change to support us in this function. Just as the formation of biceps requires continuous physical exercise if you want your brain mass to grow one needs to keep using the particular neural path over and over again.
The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that is most important to support us increases our level of effectiveness. This area of the brain situated just behind the forehead is the area that is responsible for thinking, planning, organizing and decision making. While the brain utilizes the largest amount of the body’s energy the prefrontal cortex consumes most of that energy utilized by the brain it also drains energy fastest. Anytime that you spend time focusing the prefrontal cortex keeps a tight grip on the brain ensuring that it stops the mind from wondering off on a tangent like a “drunken Rhesus monkey”. It pushes away intruding thoughts and emotions, and other intruding stimuli from the external environment. When the prefrontal cortex is highly strained and isn’t functioning at its optimum the individual tends to become overly emotional, forgetful, disorganized, struggles with attention deficit, distractions and demotivation. On the other hand when our prefrontal cortex is functioning at its best an individual becomes highly focused, aware and attentive. All these are dimensions of mindfulness. Our mind which generally equated to a drunken rhesus monkey needs to remain focused in order to achieve focused results and effectiveness.
The biggest challenge of modern living is our need to achieve more in less time resulting in our need to multitask. The prefrontal cortex which is designed for focus, attention and awareness has a huge challenge because the prefrontal cortex is designed in a way that it focuses on one task at a time and each time the person keeps switching tasks the prefrontal cortex has to shift operations as well and this causes more confusion in the pre frontal cortex and the more energy draining it becomes. These results in the individual feeling drained mentally and physically even though they haven’t accomplished anything to completion. In order to study the effects of multitasking Professor David Meyer (2010 as cited by Brann, 2013) carried out an experiment where participants were involved in solving mathematical problems and identifying shapes, Initially they carried out one task at a time but when they had to switch between the tasks both their speed and accuracy were effected. Some of the individuals participating when they had to participate in multi-tasking took upto 50% more time than when they carried out one task at a time. His conclusion was that multi – tasking effected the speed and the accuracy of performance and in addition it also effected the fluency of the performance and the gracefulness of performance as well.
The research results bring to light a key factor that slow is fast. Thus for long term sustained results one must focus on one thing at a time. And the key to improved results is focused attention. This indicates that in order to get the best results out of anything one must be fully present in the moment.
Another part of the brain plays a crucial part in mindfulness and is known as the hippocampus. During infancy many Pediatricians advice parents to create routine for their infant as they say that infants are creatures of habit. This is true even in their adulthood, humans are creatures of habit and the brain likes predictability, even so todays humans are constantly plunged into chaos and insecurity. Given that we are unable to supply predictability our mind looks for it or creates ways and means to bring predictability. The hippocampus is involved in processing information regarding new experiences. The hippocampus if stimulated with new ideas go through a production of new neurons and this is called “Neuro Genesis”. This process makes the hippocampus larger and healthier. This adaptation helps humans deal with uncertainty much better. And the only way that this can continue to take place is to ensure that we are aware and present for those experiences instead of going through them mindlessly. Thus empirical evidence indicates that the more experiences we go through the more equipped we are to be able to successfully deal with continuous and never ending change.