feel free to reach out to me if you have any specific questions. I don't bite (and neither do my dogs!)
There is a wealth and breadth of information out there these days on mindfulness. We are incredibly lucky to live in a day and age where mindfulness and meditation are finally being investigated with the scientific rigor they have long deserved. These psychological techniques have been helping practitioners in the East for thousands of years, however the mysticism and religious beliefs that have long been associated with these practices kept Western science skeptical until relatively recently.
Fortunately, it's very possible to practice mindfulness and meditation without prescribing to any belief system or religion, though of course it can also be practiced within and along with any religious beliefs. In the past couple of decades there has been an explosion of interest and research on these subjects in Western science, and the overwhelming verdict from thousands of studies is that cultivating mindfulness and mediation in our lives has a profoundly positive effect on our mental and physical health.
The man who probably deserves the most credit for popularizing mindfulness in the United States is Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. In 1979 he was given the go ahead to develop a program for patients who had been deemed lost causes by the other professionals at the center. Kabat-Zinn called his program the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR), and the rest is history. He had resounding success with his initial patients, and the MBSR program has flourished and grown massively over the past 40 years. His success, and the thousands of patients who flocked to his program, opened the door for science to really take a a hard look at what mindfulness and meditation can do for our health, happiness, and society at large.
Jon kabat-Zinn on
the MBSR program
Jon kabat-Zinn on mindfulness & self
Study after study has shown the plethora of benefits that mindfulness based techniques can have on our welfare, from improving the effectiveness of influenza vaccines to causing measurable changes in the areas of our brain that correlate with learning, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and compassion. Top companies such as Google, Facebook, Nike, Apple and more have implemented mindfulness into their workplace culture, significantly improving their employees health and stress levels as well as their creativity and productivity. Phil Jackson, who is one of the most successful coaches in the history of the NBA, has made mindfulness a part of his player training since he was the coach of Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. He may have been an early adopter, but these days you can find mindfulness in every professional sport, with athlete after athlete singing its praise.
After more than three decades of scientific study in the West, there is no longer any doubt that mindfulness can improve our lives in a multitude of ways. However, there is still much more research that needs to be done to understand the true extent of the benefits. If you want to delve more into some of the brain and behavior change science on mindfulness and meditation, Dr. Shauna Shapiro does a great job of covering some quick but fascinating basics in the video below. Then I've included a short video from researcher Robert Sapolsky (he is hilarious!) that discusses the psychology of stress and why our stress response has not evolved properly to handle the modern world we live in. His research emphatically points out why we need to learn stress management techniques such as mindfulness if we are going to survive in today's society.
Lastly, here are just a few of my favorite articles on mindfulness. The last link is to the Bhavana Community of Coastal Carolina in case you are a Wilmington, NC local and want to get involved with a mindful community.