Although the term“Mindfulness” often invokes an image of a monk sitting on a mountain chanting “OM,” neuroscience is proving this ancient practice is worthy of exploring today. Your true power lies in this moment. If you understand who you are and your emotional processes you live not only an authentic life but also an empowered one.
Mindfulness is really a brain thing and could also be referred to as attention training. Mindfulness means to pay attention on purpose in a particular way and to do so without passing judgment. It means to be aware of your thoughts,feelings, and sensations and still be at peace in that moment. Some of the core practices include; mindful breathing, mindful listening, loving kindness, and a body scan.
Stop right now and take a moment to notice your breath. Notice where your awareness lies, notice thoughts, notice sensations, notice sounds. Now, practice paying attention to your breath for 2 minutes and whenever your mind wanders bring it back to your breath. Make note of how you feel. You have just started mindful breathing by paying attention to your breath.
In 1979 Jon Kabat-Zinn (PhD,scientist, writer, professor, Founder of MBSR and often referred to as the Godfather of Mindfulness) put Mindfulness on the map in the western world when he founded the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts.The program was developed for chronically ill patients that were not responding well to traditional methods and has been highly successful. Essentially Jon Kabat-Zinn took the Buddhism and Voodoo Woo-doo out of Mindfulness Meditation when he created the program. He said; “ I bent over backwards to structure it and find ways to speak about it that avoided as much as possible the risk of it being seen as Buddhist, new age, eastern mysticism, or just plain flakey. “
Since that time neuroscience has shown us compelling evidence suggesting a regular Mindfulness Meditation practice leads to chemical and structural changes in the brain that allow for you to experience the benefits. One of my favorite studies is from Sara Lazar who is Harvard neuroscientist that accidentally came across mindfulness and experienced such profound benefits that she did her own studies and now teaches mindfulness herself. You can read about her findings here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/05/26/harvard-neuroscientist-meditation-not-only-reduces-stress-it-literally-changes-your-brain/?utm_term=.5e82c61d4416
Mindful Schools of California(and many other industry leaders) teach the neuroscience of mindfulness. Mindfulness practices deactivate the part of your brain responsible for stress(amygdala) which in turn allows you access to the part of your brain responsible for all higher levels of thinking (pre-frontal cortex). There are 9 aspects of well being that are developed through a mindfulness practice/attention training/pre-frontal cortex activation: bodily regulation, insight, attuned communication, empathy, emotional regulation, fear modulation, response flexibility, intuition, and morality. (Gratitude may make this list soon)
You can begin to see where the aspects of well being developed could lead to things such as increased confidence, greater compassion, improved health, more fulfilling relationships,higher creativity, better success rates, and happier daily living.
Mindfulness equates to self-awareness. They are the same thing. One vital aspect of self-awareness is emotional awareness. You can’t accurately know yourself if you do not know and understand your emotional processes.
Emotional Intelligence may be defined as the capacity to be aware of, recognize, understand, and express emotions as well as the ability handle relationships non-judgmentally and empathetically. This is key to all personal and professional success.
Often referred to as“practicing the pause” when you have developed emotional intelligence you will begin to intuitively respond to people and situations as opposed to emotionally react. Imagine how many arguments you will save and how much less regret and guilt you will feel? This is truly a space of self-empowerment where you have the opportunity to think, speak, and act in line with your values. This is where you have the ability create change, be authentic, and live intentionally.
There are countless ways to begin to develop emotional intelligence including; mindfulness/attention training practices, self-assessment, journaling, learning to scan your body, and affect labeling (naming the emotion you are feeling).
The problem that often arises is difficulty in sticking to a practice so it is necessary to make it a priority, schedule it, get help, get a buddy, and be kind to yourself on the journey. The processes and awareness are the focus not the end result. Enjoy the journey.
Certified Life Coach andMindfulness Meditation Teacher (and so much more)
Amy McCae is a Life Coach and Mindfulness Meditation Teacher in Omaha, Nebraska. She is passionate about healing and helping others and especially about mindfulness and emotional intelligence.
Amy spent her childhood dreaming of being a doctor only to watch her other die of cancer when she was 20. Her life took an entirely different direction after that and she spent much of her 20’s sick with chronic illnesses.
One day Amy was too sick to take care of her newborn baby and she had to crawl to the phone to call for help. Amy then went on a quest to heal and looked in places she never knew existed before that day. AND she healed largely through fitness, nutrition, and meditation.
The experience allowed her to rediscover her passion for healing and helping others. Amy now holds numerous certifications allowing her to be of support to individuals and organizations. Mindfulness Matters is an accredited 8-week online course rooted in science and inspired by her desire to help others develop emotional intelligence (especially leaders and those struggling with self-doubt and overwhelm). Please contact Amy for more information and to sign up!