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The mindful way

15 November 2012

In November 2011 researchers from Harvard University looked at many different pieces of research measuring the effects of mindfulness meditation. As a result the authors of the report identified that mindfulness meditation improves immune function, reduces blood pressure and enhances cognitive functioning. This is just one of many pieces of modern research into the ancient practice of mindfulness that have shown it to be a very beneficial pursuit. Mindfulness is fast becoming synonymous with living well and, as it becomes ever more popular, researchers have described what is happening in the brain during mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness meditation entails observing, without judgement, the movements of your mind. It involves quiet time, spent either sitting or lying down, using the breath or letting the mind rest on sounds in the immediate environment to bring the mind into the present. It is a practice that has been taught in many forms across many cultures across many centuries. Now we are understanding the power that it holds.

The researchers from the Brigham Women’s Hospital have identified that the cognitive functions that underpin mindfulness are self-awareness, self-regulation and self-transcendence. All of these neatly come down to the poetic acronym S-ART, or you might even go further to call it the art of the self.

The researchers have broken down the beneficial cognitive process that goes into mindfulness practice further. They say that it begins with motivation to pursue mindfulness. Once in mindfulness practice, the ability to regulate emotions and attention is learned. Then from these skills follow the ability to extinguish negative emotions, and engage in community-serving behaviour and then detachment.

Essentially mindfulness teaches a skill set for dealing with your own internal biases, coping with the external world and nurturing a healthy mind. Is it just me, or is it that a prescription for living a life? No wonder people are rediscovering the way of mindfulness.