Frequently Asked Questions About Mindfulness & Meditation

There are numerous definitions offered by scholars, buddhist practitioners, and mindfulness teachers but a generally agreed upon one as described by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D suggests “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
There’s quite a few reasons why mindfulness is a hot topic these days, but the main ones are due to mounting scientific evidence that mindfulness practice benefits our mental well being, increases our ability to concentrate, bolsters our resilience, can successfully treat chronic pain, and enables us to be more compassionate.
People have been practicing mindfulness for thousands of years and has been adapted from it’s roots in Eastern religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism. Much of my background including my training at UCLA is in what’s called “secular mindfulness”. The focus is not a set of beliefs but rather, on working with methods that enhance well-being.
You can practice mindfulness while eating, exercising or hiking, in conversation, not to mention the dozens of specific exercises I can show you.
These relatively new mobile apps to hit the market can be very useful ways to develop a meditation practice. I look at these as excellent tools and should be used if you’re good about using them! This said, nothing beats practicing together. Mindfulness practice within a group or even 1:1 is where all scientific research lies, and also has a built-in accountability component. If you have an appointment with someone or a group, you’re much more likely to practice. To add, practicing in person gives you the opportunity to have specific questions answered that apps aren’t able to do. You can think of this like yoga practice. You can use an app or a video to practice yoga, and certainly have a great workout but there’s much to be said and learned from practicing together in a studio.
Personally, I was fortunate and excited to notice results in just a few weeks. I started to become less reactive, I was enjoying day to day activities more, I was more attentive in conversations with people, and I felt less and less anxious the more I practiced. Most scientific research has shown that in only 8 weeks, positive structural changes begin in the brain. For more on the science of mindfulness, see the Resources section below.

In the beginning, it’s important to set an appointment with yourself each day first thing in the morning, and commit to 5-10 minutes. From there, you can experiment with adding a few minutes each week until you’ve reached a period of 25-40 minutes. Free guided meditations can be found on YouTube, Spotify, iTunes and on various mobile apps. Try a variety, keep at it, and be kind to yourself!

I’m not a certified MBSR or MBCT teacher. I am however very familiar with both programs, and can support you individually, or in group sessions that I offer throughout the year. The real benefits take place after the 8-week courses end, and it’s far easier to keep on schedule if you’re practicing with one or more people.