what is mindfulness?


Background of Mindfulness

Contemporary usage of the term mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist contemplative practices that outline a systematic form of training of the mind involving meditation. In the classical Buddhist context, the term meditation is used to translate the Sanskrit term bhävana and its Tibetan equivalent, sgoms. Etymologically, the Sanskrit term connotes the notion of “cultivation,” or “causing to become” and the Tibetan equivalent, refers to “development of familiarity”. Thus, mindfulness is originally conceptualized through a framework for developing familiarity with one’s mind.

In the midst of "The Mindful Revolution", it is important for the consumer and patient to properly contextualize what mindfulness is, how it is properly taught, and who benefits from its practice. It is also important to distill hype from scientific evidence. 

The word mindfulness has been literally translated from the Pali root, sati, (or Sanskrit translation, smṛti; Tibetan, dran pa), meaning “that which is remembered”. The term is closely related to the verb sarati referring to the process, “to remember”.

Jon Kabat-Zinn (2005) defines mindfulness broadly in his book , “Coming to Our Senses” as: "moment-to-moment, non-judgemental awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a specific way, that is, in the present moment, and as non-reactively, as non-judgmentally, and openheartedly as possible. When it is cultivated intentionally, it is sometimes referred to as deliberate mindfulness. When it spontaneously arises, as it tends to do more and more the more it is cultivated intentionally, it is sometimes referred to as effortless mindfulness."
A particular set of meditation practices and training in contemplative inquiry fall under the umbrella experience of mindfulness. You can access this systematic form of mental training through modern teachings of Buddhist dharma, through secular trainings in community settings, mobile app delivery, and/or in integrative medicine settings. 
In essence, the systematic form of mental training associated with mindfulness helps ourselves gain awareness of our selves and our mental habits, regulate our most basic impulses, and transcend our  self-focused needs to develop a positive relationship between self and other and increase pro-social dispositions. In this process, one learns to cultivate a continual form of  maintaining [meta-] awareness & discernment without forgetfulness of the relation to all things.