Mindfulness simply means being in the present moment with an open and non-judgmental attitude. Mindfulness is a popular mental health practice that cultivates a calm, clear, and present way of relating to experience. The concept of mindfulness dates back thousands of years to the Buddha’s prescription for training the mind to achieve freedom from suffering. Thanks in large part to the pioneering work of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, a modern and secular version of mindfulness is now prominent in today’s mainstream health care.
Kabat-Zinn’s success treating complex medical conditions such as chronic pain using mindfulness meditation techniques triggered research interest in the 1980s and researchers began investigating the scientific basis of the techniques.
With the expansion of the field of neuroscience and availability of brain imaging technology, research on mindfulness exploded in the 1990s and 2000s. Today, there is an exciting and extensive body of literature demonstrating that cultivating mindfulness can help treat pain, anxiety, and depression. It can promote cognitive functioning, concentration, stress management, healthy lifestyle habits, emotional wellbeing, and joy. On the strength of these findings, mindfulness is now widely practiced around the world, in hospitals, medical clinics, schools, universities (including medical schools), corporations, and military organizations.
The word ‘mindfulness’ is an English translation of the Pali word ‘sati,’ which translates roughly to ‘awake’ or ‘alert’).
The mindfulness we practice today in our modern Western context is derived from this tradition.