10/04/2014 11:08 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Is Mindfulness? 10 Answers From 10 Teachers


Sometimes I think there are as many ways of describing mindfulness as there are brands of shampoo. This can be confusing. So we asked many of the experts we interviewed to put it in their own words. Here is what they told us.


Tara Brach: "Mindfulness is a pause -- the space between stimulus and response: that's where choice lies. "


Rick Hanson: "Mindfulness is the capacity to steady your attention and keep attention on something useful OR move your attention from something that is not useful like worry or self criticism. It is an accepting and allowing self awareness that doesn't shame any part of yourself."


Sylvia Boorstein: "Mindfulness is attentiveness, moment to moment. What's happening right now and what's coming up in me in response to what's happening right now. Importantly, this is in the service of being able to choose wisely so that I avoid complicating my own life and the lives of others."


Craig Hassed: "Mindfulness is a form of meditation. We are using the body and the senses as a resting point for the attention. It helps to bring the mind into the present moment... so it is not just a form of meditation, its also very much a way of living. To live with attention and engagement is really to live mindfully."


Christine Carter: "Mindfulness in my own life means putting a little bit of space in between the action and the reaction. Having the ability to slow things down."


Sarah Napthali: "When you cultivate mindfulness of your thinking you learn what the things are about how your mind works that make you suffer. With awareness of what those causes are, you have insight and you can often just let go of the lines of thought that are not helping you to live a happy life or to live in harmony with those around you."


Barbara Fredrickson: "The thing you get with mindfulness is the ability to stay with the present moment. And with loving kindness is an ability to approach that present moment with kindness and compassion and curiosity."


Penny Fenner: "Being attentive to the moment. Not fast-forwarding. Not rewinding. How am I reacting to this? Is this serving me? Is there another choice I could be making right now? And actually finding that kinder, more connected choice, rather than going into my own reactivity."


Kristin Neff: "Mindfulness is a kind of balanced awareness where we see what is happening clearly but we don't exaggerate it -- or avoid it or belittle it. Mindfulness is absolutely core at the foundation of self compassion. Mindfulness involves the ability to turn toward our pain even if we don't want to even if we would rather resist it or avoid. If you don't turn toward your pain, if you don't recognize or acknowledge it, you can't open your heart to yourself."


Polly Young-Eisendrath: "Mindfulness, first of all, gives people some skill in being able to work with their own emotional impulsivity. It gives us the ability to take ourselves around and have a pretty friendly manner towards our experiences. That includes concentration, alertness and what in Buddhism is called equanimity -- a kind of relaxed attitude towards what is happening."

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