Mindfulness is associated with awareness and ‘insight’ meditation which was adapted from the Buddhist meditative tradition and introduced into western society without the religious and cultural components of Buddhism. The process of mindfulness has been defined as the awareness that comes forth from intentionally paying attention in the present moment, non-judgmentally, to the present experience on a moment to moment basis.
The purpose of mindfulness is to provide a context in which to explore a number of potentially helpful strategies in which to accept and reduce suffering at a physical, psychological and emotional level. This is in contrast to being unaware and reacting automatically to negative stimuli by following habitual thought and behavioural patterns that are ineffective and may maintain and exacerbate suffering. When practicing mindfulness, all thought and feelings have equal value, that is, they are accepted and acknowledged as part of the experience in the present moment without emotional reaction, rejection or absorption of the thought process.
During the times when the mind goes into its habitual thought patterns and judgmental self-dialogue the individual does not become involved with the content. Instead, the individual lets go of the thought by noticing it and labeling the thought as “just a thought” or as simply “thinking” and then brings awareness back to the present moment.
Mindfulness practice highlights the importance of detached observation from one moment to the next and the understanding that most thoughts, emotions, and sensations are only temporary.