From an interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn in MINDFUL magazine he explained: “And nonjudgmental, by the way, does not mean that you won’t have any likes or dislikes or that you’ll be completely neutral about everything. Nonjudgmental really means that you’ll become aware of how judgmental you are and then not judge that and see if you [can let go], for a few moments at least, the restraining order that filters everything through our likes and dislikes or wants or aversion.”
Functional MRI brain scans have demonstrated increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, insula and anterior cingulate cortex. These areas are important for the executive function of our brain including awareness, concentration, decision making, memory, emotional regulation, coping and self-referencing. The brain’s “fight or flight” centre, the amygdala that is associated with fear and emotion decreases in activity in response to mindfulness. There is a decreased connection between the amygdala and other parts of the brain and increased connection with higher brain areas. There are also structural changes in our brain with thickening of our cortex. Therefore as we meditate we change how our brains work that results in greater calm, loving kindness, compassion, equanimity and self-regulation. As we practice mindfulness ultimately the practice does us!
– Phil Blustein
Mindfulness is a unique way of how one relates to each moment. Normally we operate like robots controlled by unconscious habitual patterns. These come predominantly from conditioning from our parents and society. We want to feel loved and safe. We primarily function from the drive to grab onto something that we want or push away what we don’t like. Mindfulness cultivates being present in each moment with awareness, acceptance, non-clinging and non-attachment.
We are always trying so hard to get it right! We start off meditating with a goal in mind. I am going to maintain a fixed concentration on the breath. I am going to get this right! I will develop a constant awareness of the breath that will never waver. There is such striving in our practice. Meditation is all about making an effort without striving for an outcome. One is just trying to bring awareness to the present moment in a concentrated fashion. It is about ALLOWING what will happen to unfold as a consequence of your practice without expectation of outcome.
– Phil Blustein
The breath is a great object to start to establish mindfulness. No one breath is the same as another breath. Every inhalation and exhalation comes to an end. We don’t tend to personalize a breath and call it our own. In examining the breath we are able to see the true nature of reality. It is always changing and impermanent. Can we also develop the same self-less awareness of the breath for every other object?