Traditional Buddhist teachings in popular Western culture


The rise of Mindfulness 

Mindfulness is thought to have begun over two and half thousand years ago. Self-induced pain and suffering occurs when we fail to properly respond and deal with personal life experiences; mindfulness helps us to more positively and appropriately respond to these lived experiences. The ancient Buddhist meditative practices, types of thought and concepts of mindfulness have been gaining popularity in Western culture for the past thirty years. Mindfulness teaches us to direct our attention to our experiences as they occur, keeping in mind the need to remain calm, open and non-judgmental of one’s own thoughts and feelings. Positive and negative emotions abound. It is important to recognize that all emotions are good emotions, that there can be no bad emotions; that all thoughts and feelings are valid and should be treated with equal amounts of respect and attention without negative energy dictating how we respond to events of the present, events of the past and how we anticipate dealing with events of the future.

Understood as a state of being aware and present in the moment, mindfulness can be practiced through a variety of mediums; breathing, sitting, walking, eating, talking and simple meditation. Mindfulness can be done at any time and in any place. Studies that capture images of the brain relay to us the impact that mindfulness can have on shaping and dictating the structure and manner in which our brains react and evolve to various stimuli in our physical and emotional environment, including the improvement and the quality of our thoughts, feelings and concerns for others with whom we interact.

Time and again, mindfulness has been shown to dramatically alter the brain’s ability to recover and to help the brain endure difficult and stressful events that occur and reoccur as natural forces in each of our own lives. Studies have shown that people of all ages can benefit from practicing mindfulness on a regular, consistent basis. The simple process of learning has been shown to be more effective when practicing mindfulness techniques than when learning without. Patterns of thought have been shown to appear more clearly to us in our conscious minds while employing mindfulness practices, allowing us to perform better and feel calmer, less depressed and less anxious.

Mindfulness is learned in pragmatic fashion. It is lived and experienced as opposed to simply discussed. Realizing that mindfulness allows us a newfound ability to direct our attention in a focused stream of consciousness gives us strength to flex our mind’s muscles, garnering an ability to increase our span of attention while focusing our attention on breathing more effectively and more consciously. Sensations of the body often overlooked can now be properly analyzed and dealt with proactively when practicing mindfulness. With practice, we can learn to sustain our attention and direct it more purposefully and masterfully. Mindfulness helps us break the grip of negative mental habits, powerful impulses, snap judgments and creates an opening within us for more calm and to be better for others and for ourselves.

Today mindfulness has been adopted throughout schools all across North America. It is no longer a practice done simply by monks, those who meditated and those who tried. Children are being encouraged to try as many techniques as possible as soon as they can to give them an advantage when it comes to dealing with and managing their own stressful life events, including living moment to moment, day by day. It has become an important component of health and wellness in many Westernized institutions, and is now part of daily curriculums, offered to employees by corporate businesses, and used as forms of treatment in hospitals.

Mindfulness seems to be everywhere we look these days. The most recent iPhone update even has a mindfulness tab in the health app. StFX has been offering free weekly mindfulness sessions at the Wellspring Centre from 730pm-830pm on Mondays with the hope of continuing that tradition for the second term of the 2016-2017 school year. Mindfulness has been proven to be an effective method of dealing with stress, treating depression, managing anxiety and helping us to appreciate every moment we’re given. Whether mindfulness has been on your radar for a while or it is a new skill that you’d like to learn, the research seems to suggest that there’s never a bad time to become involved and that you’re never too old to try. Namaste.