You probably can’t walk into any store where magazine racks stare you in the face and not see someone like Jon Kabat-Zinn or Pema Chödrön staring at you with knowing eyes and smiling faces. It’s because they know and they’re happy that they’re looking at you like that—as far as I can tell, there’s not much of an ulterior motive going on.
So how long has mindfulness been around anyway? Jon brought the famous Buddhists teachings to the West and started something called theMindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program in 1979. But the Buddhists had already been practicing stuff like that for a very long time, of course.
So why has this type of work begun to go mainstream? What initiated the leap into people’s everyday awareness?
My guess is that people found that doing the techniques actually worked for them. And you know how it is when you feel hopeless, like nothing you do matters, or anything you try just doesn’t work out? Imagine feeling like that, then giving yet one more thing (mindfulness) a try and to your astonishment, it works!
You tell everyone you know, because someone as lost and hopeless as you thought you were is suddenly noticing those pesky thoughts that tell you you’re lost and hopeless, and you realize you don’t quite buy into that line of thinking so much anymore. Super cool!
So what exactly is mindfulness? Well, it is becoming very conscious of your thought process. And, without judging it harshly or bashing it somehow, you enter into a state of softness around your thoughts. Maybe, as Pema suggests, you “lean into the sharp places” and you notice that the feelings and thoughts and sensations lose their sharpness and painfulness in that process. You begin to see the thoughts for what they are: insubstantial—like, thoughts! Duh.
There are actually specific tools to use, so many amazing ones really. I recommend taking any of Pema’s or Jon’s trainings. Pema has a number of online courses that are indeed excellent, as well as books and other programs.
The landslide doesn’t come from the promotional efforts of these great teachers, but rather the people who took a chance on some of their promotional efforts, and then they themselves became the walking talking adds for mindfulness and the teachers who expound on it.
You are the reason such things are so popular. Now you might be saying that such a thing isn’t possible—you never even heard of it until you read this blog. Well, it’s in the collective consciousness more than ever now. And it is you that I’m talking to and about—you brought this out into the daylight and now everyone’s benefiting.
What’s more astounding to me is that we are all entwined in the workings of this world—yes, that includes what we love and what we dislike about it. While this last sentiment may give you some pause, I encourage you to be mindful in your rumination, as perchance you will see yourself thinking about something rather than acting. In that moment (or even this one) you can bring your conscious awareness back to your breath and to this moment.
Category: Author's Notes