Is moment to moment awareness even possible?
Mindfulness, defined as "the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something; a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment", as a topic has been on the rise over the past several years. This ancient practice rooted in Buddhist meditation was originally brought to the forefront of non-spiritual practice over thirty-five years ago at the University of Massachusetts Medical School by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR). Over the years countless studies have demonstrated that this practice is beneficial both physically and mentally resulting in its adoption in hospitals, schools, prisons, addiction treatment centers and more throughout the country. Given this history, it is interesting to find publications such as Time Magazine proclaiming mindfulness as a contemporary discovery, dedicating an entire special edition titled "Mindfulness: The New Science Of Health and Happiness".
So what is it about mindfulness that makes this practice such a hot topic, and what can it do for you? A specific positive result of mindfulness meditation is how it effects the immune system. Documented by several researchers at the Laboratory For Affective Neuroscience, (Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Madison) their study concluded that "a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function... in positive ways". Additional studies have cited increased positive emotions, stress reduction, increased attentiveness and improvement in memory. Given this overwhelmingly evidence you might be asking "where do I sign up for a class?"
You'll be pleased to know, no formal training is necessary! Let's go back to Jon Kabat-Zinn who stressed this thought stating, "It's not really about sitting in the full lotus (a common formal meditation posture), like pretending you're a statue", rather he states, "It's about living your life as if it really mattered, moment by moment by moment by moment". Okay, so how exactly does one go about this then, you may ask. It's really quite simple and can be done no matter where you are, who you are with, and what you are doing. Here is a basic instruction for you to try. As best you can, with full focus and thought, pay attention to every sound, smell, taste, physical touch, emotional feeling, thought and emotion. Allow yourself the experience, good, bad, neutral to arise, be acknowledged, and pass. As best you can, do not become fixated on the experience, if negative reactions arise, take a breath and move on. Likewise, if great pleasure is experienced, recognize the cause, take a breath and let it go. With continued practice you will soon find this becomes more natural and even a part of everyday life. Enjoy!