Minding Our Attention (a.k.a. Mindfulness Basics)

Tina Geithner, Ph.D.

Mindfulness is a concept and related set of practices with foundations in a number of ancient religious traditions such as Buddhism and Hinduism that have stood the test of time, just like The Joy of Cooking (Rombauer and Becker, first published in 1931)! Mindfulness has gained attention and grown in popularity in the U.S. in the past 40 years are so as a result of Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness being published, and Jon Kabat-Zinn, Sharon Salzberg, and Joseph Goldstein’s founding of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) and helping to introduce mindfulness meditation to the Western world. Research on mindfulness practices has shown benefits for both healthy and clinical populations (i.e., those with chronic pain or terminal illnesses), including measurable and lasting changes in the brain’s structure and function; increasing our capacity to respond appropriately in the moment; improve mental, emotional, and physical well-being; and enhancing our quality of life. So, what is this thing called mindfulness, and what can we do to reap its benefits??

There are more than a dozen definitions of mindfulness, and one of the most commonly offered is that from Jon Kabat-Zinn (2017): “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Mindfulness has also been defined as “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment” (Greater Good Science Center, University of California at Berkeley, 2018). Mindfulness can be developed through regular contemplative practices that involve directing our attention for the sake of increasing our awareness and developing a different kind of relationship with that which we are paying attention to: one that is curious, patient, non-judgmental, and accepting.

Let’s start with a fairly simple mindfulness practice that involves focusing our attention on the breath:

Find a relatively quiet space (or put on headphones) and set aside about 12 minutes for listening to this recording. It includes an additional introduction to meditation, a brief guided meditation practice, a way you can add intention to your practice, and some suggestions for establishing a regular meditation practice.

Getting out of our heads and bringing our attention into the rest of our body helps us drop into the moment and be fully present. Noticing when our attention has wandered and gently bringing it back to our intended focus is a fundamental part of mindfulness practice. From here, we can develop the capacity to recognize what’s happening in our bodies and beyond that, to being aware of thoughts, emotions, perceptions, and more that’s going on beneath the surface. This expanded awareness can provide the starting point for recognizing habits that may no longer be of service to us, to responding more effectively in the moment, to reconnecting with our whole selves and forming better connections with others. To entertain well, as Lisa so beautifully does, one of the things we need to do is to focus our attention on what’s important, for example, the overall experience we want to create for our guests and ourselves, including how we are present with them.

Check out one or more of these links for additional information about mindfulness and mindfulness practices. Engaging in a daily mindfulness practice daily such as bringing our attention to the breath, even for just a few minutes, can bring about long-term positive changes in physical health and overall well-being – benefitting us, and can enable us to change how we show up and take action in the world – benefitting others.

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition (includes a mindfulness quiz)




https://www.calm.com (audio meditations)


Until next time, enjoy–

Entertaining An Idea


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